Timing is Everything

Lately, I’ve been getting a handle on my responsibilities at work. I’ve always been good at what I do and never missed my deadlines, but I always had the sense that a tidal wave was behind me, waiting to crush me the second I stopped moving forward. These days I still stay a little later, but only to maintain a good lead and kill some time so the crowd in the gym thins out. There’s no other reason to linger.

So, on Friday afternoon at a quarter past six, I headed down to the locker room and changed into my gym clothes. It had been a long, tiring week of humid days interspersed with storms, and I looked forward to capping it with a three mile run. I waved my ID badge at the door, disengaging the lock, and entered the gym.

Something was amiss as I entered. All was dark, save for sunlight streaming through the blinds and the glowing red displays on the treadmills. I wondered about a power outage as I filled a cup with water and prepared to exercise in the oddly deserted gym. It wasn’t until I noticed the office door was locked, the interior dark and devoid of any gym workers, that I started to wonder if they had closed early for some reason. I know in the Summer they usually close around seven, and I hoped that diminished attendance of late hadn’t resulted in an earlier closing. The night settings on the door would have been engaged though, and my key card should not have worked. But, after some looking around, I saw a sign on the wall with the new hours posted, and the gym does indeed close at six on Fridays. I quickly got out of there, realizing I was somewhere I shouldn’t be, by about twenty minutes.

Timing is a funny thing. We look back on events, on accidents, missed trains and other occurrences, and wonder about the events leading up to them. What if we took longer doing something, or took less time? How could our day have had a different outcome? On Thursday, for example, I got to the gym a little sooner, because I was giving a coworker with car trouble a ride that day. Close to retirement, with a wife at home recovering from surgery, he was less inclined to work late and had gone to the gym well before five. Old habits die hard, and had he not come back up at 5:30 to remind me, I likely would still have been sitting in front of a computer.

I finished my workout earlier than I normally would, and when we were almost home a torrential downpour hit. Traffic came to a standstill, and I thought if I had left earlier I could have avoided it. When things calmed down a few minutes later and travel resumed, there were some fairly large downed trees that I would have been under if we hadn’t left as late as we did.

The extra time did allow for an anecdote I’d never heard about a couple of my dad’s mechanic friends. One has since passed away while the other is still in business, and it turns out that my coworker knew both of them. He told me about one Christmas when one of the guys asked his mother what she would like. She asked for a lobster dinner, and though he wasn’t sure if she was serious, treated the request as though she were. So he and the other mechanic headed down to the shore where he donned scuba gear, tied a rope to himself, and jumped off a boat while his buddy held the line.

In the murky depths of the Long Island Sound, there’s not much to see. His eyes registered movement and he reached forward. The water didn’t strike him as all that cold, relative to the fact that it was Winter, but it was cold enough. He reached forward, but it was the last thing he remembered before blacking out. Up top, the rope went slack, so his friend hauled him in. It may have been a foolish undertaking, but at least they had the sense to include that one crucial precaution. And, when he regained consciousness, he discovered that not one, but two lobsters had clamped on to his suit. It was like his friend went fishing and he was the bait, and his mom had her lobster dinner.

I’m not sure how embellished the tale was; it was relayed to me by a writer and notorious storyteller. My dad had never heard it, but if true it’s cool that I had the time to find out something about one of his friends. The next time he sees the one that’s still alive, he’ll have to ask him if he really did that, only to be pulled from the depths in the nick of time. In the end, timing is everything.


Soundtrack Slices

This week, Janet asked her readers, ”What are your favorite songs that have come from movie soundtracks?” I thought she might have asked this before, but the last time she prompted me to write about soundtracks, it was in the category of albums that time forgot.

I do have plenty of soundtracks in my collection of tapes and CDs, and I can think of a few songs that originated in films. I'm going to go with a broader definition though, and include tunes that may have existed prior to a film's release, but were either made popular by the movies they were featured in or, on a personal level, those movies brought those songs to my attention. I can't list every song or list them in any preferential order, but I can provide a sampling of what I like.

Let's rock:

The Faculty
The Offspring
”The Kids Aren't Alright”

Donnie Darko
Gary Jules
”Mad World”

The Cable Guy
Primitive Radio Gods
”Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand”

Chad Kroeger

Pink Floyd: The Wall
Pink Floyd
”Comfortably Numb”
(I'm only going to list two here, but honestly the entire soundtrack qualifies.)

The Departed
Dropkick Murphys
”I'm Shipping Up to Boston”

Antonio Banderas and Los Lobos
“Canción Del Mariachi”

Judgment Night
Onyx and Biohazard
”Judgment Night”

Demon Knight
”Cemetery Gates”

Screaming Trees
”Nearly Lost You”

Pearl Jam
”State of Love and Trust”

The Transformers: The Movie
Stan Bush
(There wasn't actually a video for this, but someone combined it with the trailer for the new movie.)

The Transformers: The Movie
Spectre General(Kick Axe)
”Nothin's Gonna Stand In Our Way”
(Again, no original video and I couldn't find the specific scene in the movie, so we'll have to settle for a fan vid.)

The Transformers: The Movie
Stan Bush
”The Touch”



Live Easy

The timing couldn't be worse. There I was, taking a day off from a grueling job, sitting at my computer. I had achieved level 23 on Ring Pass Not when my dad burst into my room.

“MCF!” he cried over the digital string music, “Didn't you hear me? Your office just called!”

“Damnit, it's my day off!”

“They need you to take care of some urgent layouts, routine but urgent.”

“Can't my boss cover for me?”

“They said he's at the field office today. There's no one else.”

Something was definitely up. I never do my supervisor's job. That just isn't how I roll. Still, I respect my duties, because I'm That Guy. If my pop said there's no one else, there was no one else.

“Almost beat the blasted thing too...” I muttered as I powered down the computer. My cat jumped up on the keyboard to get my attention, but I was already in the other room shaving.


“MCF!! MCF!!” My dad ran frantically down the hall, to the bathroom door.

“I'm OK,” I muttered, stumbling out and glancing at the smoking remains of my bedroom, which shares a wall with the bathroom, “Fortunately, the sheetrock took the brunt of the blast.”

“What the heck happened? Did you get some kind of virus over there?”

“Nah,” I said, cracking a wry grin, “I figure I just installed some bad RAM.”

I didn't want the old man to worry, but someone was definitely trying to kill me. A lot of pieces didn't add up, but some did. My boss and his uncharacteristic disappearance. My exploding computer. Someone really didn't want that catalog to be designed, but I didn't know who or why.

My cat brushed against my legs, casually ignoring the fire on the tip of his tail. Even though he probably triggered the explosion when he walked across my keyboard, he was about as fazed as I was angry with him. I lit a cigar before blowing out his tail. “Looks like I picked the right day to take up smoking.” They tried to get me and missed, and now I would be coming for them. There was no stopping my testosterone fueled righteous vengeance. Never was there a tougher graphic designer. I wasn't just That Guy; the attack had brought out The Man, and nothing could water that down.

“Have a good day! Do good work! Drive carefully! I love you!”

My mom's call from the window faded as I peeled out in my sweet 1989 Mazda 626. What it lacked in air conditioning, it more than made up for in gas mileage. I was badass.

“What the frack? I don't need shock like this today!” I hated to use such strong language, but the construction blocking the road brought out the worst in me. ”Don't call meeee daughter...” cautioned my radio. An old man on a bicycle rode past me, and I had enough.

“Sir! Sir!” I called out, abandoning my vehicle and waving my ID badge, “I need to commandeer your vehicle for a graphic design emergency!” Surprisingly spry, he flipped through the air, drawing a cane and swinging wildly. As I blocked every strike, I surveyed the periphery. An army of the elderly on motorized carts began to surround me. It was so unlikely. “Come in to work,” I muttered under my breath, “Do some routine layouts....”

I ducked one final swing, and hopped on the bike. I pedaled as hard as I could toward a large tree, leaping and rolling at the last second as the inevitable explosion took out my foes. “Looks like nap time just became permanent,” I quipped to a horrified girl on a nearby park bench. I knew she wanted me, but there was no time to get her phone number. It was time to employ something I assume my elementary school gym teacher invented: jogging.

A few minutes later, I was at my office, and I hadn't broken a sweat. No one commented on my blood-stained clothes as they gave me a situation report. “I need a work station, now!” No sooner did I log in, then the power shut down.

“Hello, MCF. Having trouble with that layout, are we?” My screen flickered to life, as a familiar face began to mock me.

Josh Duhamel! I should have known you were behind this. But what did I ever do to you?”

“I'm Timothy Olyphant, you fat bastard, that's what! You want to make this personal, we'll make this personal.” My hands trembled and rolled in to fists as he held my cat up to his web cam. “If you want your little kitty to live, you're going to do exactly what I say...”

I kept my cool, quietly opening another port or channel or whatever computer gibberish they do on 24. I sent an instant message to my best contact, DominicanWizard616, asking him to trace the villain.

“Did you get all of that, Figure? I don't hear any wisecracks.”

“Oh, I got it just fine.”

I had heard nothing, but my online associate had gotten the address. Olyphant was in a movie theater a few miles away. I had to really jog if I was going to get him.

Outside, I noticed a cement mixer in a construction site. It was starting to drizzle, and I knew it was the perfect vehicle. I negotiated traffic flawlessly, hitting very few parked cars. I did get sidetracked and run into a computer store to play some demos, but quickly remembered I had somewhere to be. Lighting cracked ominously across the sky as I drove straight through the front doors of the theater screaming, “Hickory dickory dock, brother trucker!” I don't know why.

“You!” snarled Olyphant, dropping my cat who ran for safety (or snacks) behind the snack counter.

“Yeah, me,” I spat back, “Witty comeback.”

“I...I beg your pardon?”

“Snappy rejoinder.”


“Sarcastic reply coupled with a clever pun that would sound awesome in a trailer.”

“Screw this. Design your catalog; I have to go shave my head, anyway.”

It was finally over. As the authorities showed up and medical experts gave me a cursory evaluation, I nodded to my cat. He nodded back, his eyes darting sideways to direct me to a concerned figure out in the rain. It was the girl from the park.

“No cast,” I told the doctor, shrugging him aside, “I can walk this one off.” Ignoring the pain in my broken arm, I put it on her shoulder, and we walked off as Daughter played from the radios of cars in the parking lot. It was another typical day for this Mysterious Cloaked Figure.

Disclaimer: The preceding is a complete and total work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental. No animals were harmed in the writing of this post. None of these events, nor any portion of this story, in any way shape or form even remotely or infinitesimally resembles reality. My reality is a lot quieter, and I live easy with uneventful family life and office work, coupled with the occasional trip to a movie theater with some friends. As for the movies, that's where over-the-top suspend-your-disbelief fun and action can be found, and I strongly urge you all to jog, not walk, to your local theater and see Live Free or Die Hard as soon as possible.


PBW: A Beautiful Day

It's been a while since a healthy trek was the source of a Photo Blog Wednesday. On Sunday morning, I awoke with ”It's a Beautiful Day” on the brain. I went to church, and afterwards consulted Google™ Maps in search of large green areas I'd yet to explore. And so, I discovered the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve. Once a landfill, one I'd driven past many times on a nearby parkway, it has since become a manmade park boasting one of the highest points on Long Island, and some amazing views.

When I arrived, I was greeted by what I thought were mutant fowl. They had horns and sort of looked like turkeys. I wonder what was under the soil, if a park over a landfill was the safest place to visit. Later research would reveal them to be Guinea Fowl, brought there to keep the tick population down. I journeyed up to the summit, where a windmill spun while birds and fish hung out in a nearby pond. Then I headed down to the other side where I ventured on to a large pier. I must have looked apprehensive of the height of the pier and depth of the water below. An old man with a camera of his own passed by and cheerfully advised me, “Smile! It's a beautiful day!” It was kind of weird that he quoted the song I was thinking about when I woke up that day. I later got a picture of him just to make sure it wasn't a messenger of God or Bobby McFerrin spreading good cheer.

It was odd to find such beauty near a recycling center and parkway and over buried garbage. Still, I got some great pictures and even greater exercise. It was a beautiful day.