Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flesh and blood

I apologize to all of you out there for not posting more frequently, but quite frankly these last few weeks have been hectic. I've been working a lot, plus I've spent a lot of my time at home working on applications, so that leaves me very little time for posting either to this blog or to the film blog. And to compound matters, I just found out last week that my dad has to get triple-bypass surgery. So as you might expect it's been pretty tense around the house since then. The surgery is tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and while I'm not really fearing the worst (I can't even bring myself to type out what "the worst" actually would be) it nonetheless gives me pause. I know my dad's in good shape, heart notwithstanding, but anytime they cut a loved one open one is bound to be concerned.

I had a conversation with my dad about this earlier tonight, and he asked me how I felt about the whole thing. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to feel. My dad had a mild heart attack about ten years ago, yet this still didn't quite feel real to me. Bypass operations are for old people, right? Well, not exactly. The truth is that heart trouble runs in his family. His dad has heart problems, and now he does. And what has really hit home is that, in terms of body type, I'm very similar to how my dad was at my age. Add to this the fact that I had a great-uncle who died of a heart attack when he was 29- yeah, I'm a touch nervous.

The other emotional issue I mentioned to my dad was that I figured out a while back that I'm the kind of person who get more frustrated when something bad happens beyond his control than when something happens that he (at least partially) caused. This is unfathomable to my mother, who is the "no sweat, it's all out of my hands" type, but my dad knew where I was coming from. I guess it's the control freak in me, being disturbed more by powerlessness than by responsibility, but it's just the way I am. And now when it comes to my own health, I feel more powerless than ever before. As my dad said, "I could probably have eaten salads for every meal and this still would have happened eventually." Even if this is a slight exaggeration, my dad's gene pool has a tendency toward heart problems, and that's part of the legacy he's left to me. Now let's see if I can do anything about it.

But in spite of the tension, the plan for tonight was to get the family together for one more nice sit-down dinner before my dad's surgery. I had the day off work, so I prepared a nice meal, but alas, the plans came crashing down. From my vantage point, my brother was to blame, but I should accept at least some responsibility for it happening. The story as I remember it: I'm in the kitchen making dinner, and my mom's changing out of her work clothes. My dad comes home and changes, then comes out to the kitchen, and we start talking. My dad comes calls to my brother to come upstairs for dinner, and eventually my brother comes up. My dad and I continue our conversation in a fairly innocuous manner, and suddenly my brother seizes upon a harmless thing my dad says to sneak in one of his infamous offhand digs, this time at my dad. The conversation screeches to a halt, and I get PISSED. I tell my brother that I'm getting really fucking pissed at his need to tell jokes at the expense of others, especially his family, and he starts getting all defensive. "I'm just telling a joke! That's the kind of jokes I always tell!" he says. And I tell him that we were trying to have a civilized conversation, and that his humor is best kept to himself. And he starts getting pissed at me, so I reach for the nearest knife, although I fail to get a good hold on it, and it goes tumbling across the floor. But even without a knife, I start yelling at him (by this time mom has come out of the bedroom and is trying to make sense of it all) and my brother decides to get the hell out of Dodge. But, this being my brother, not before he can get in one more feeble remark- "Dad, good luck with your surgery. Paul, go fuck yourself." And the door slams.

I felt suitably guilty for my actions, of course, but the weird thing wasn't that I didn't feel guilty so much for attempting to draw a knife on my brother as I did for breaking up the nice family dinner we had planned. But why would I, a person who considers himself to be a peaceful sort, impulsively pull out a knife when my brother crosses me? Well, I've been thinking about that all night. I suppose a lot of it had to do with my dad. The whole point of the night was to give him a pleasant send-off before tomorrow's surgery, and after making dinner I wasn't about to let my brother pull his usual mouthy shit. But I also think that it's the culmination of three tumultuous months of my brother living with us. Simply put, all of the bad things I thought about him before he moved back have only been exascerbated by experiencing them with great regularity. Would you live with a roommate who lied, consistently made jokes at the expense of you or your housemates, left half-full glasses of soda sitting around the house, had piles of filthy dishes in his bedroom even after they started to get moldy, inserted inappropriate language or jokes into polite conversation, actively antagonized the mistress of the house, and watched television late into the night, loudly laughing heedless of the sleep schedules of everyone else? How much are we supposed to forgive just because he's family? Yet I've practically been a saint up until now. He's come to me numerous times, cornered me while I was busy with something and engaged me in insipid hour-long conversations about which I could really give a shit, and I've done my best to humor him even though I don't really want to, all in the name of keeping everything smoothed over between us. But now this. A knife, drawn on my own brother. True, it never would have made for much of a threat, not only because I dropped the knife but also because the knife I pulled out was a serrated bread knife, and lord knows that couldn't have done much harm. But still, it's the principle. Nothing good can come of this.

Anyway, my dad. I hope he comes out all right. He'll be home for the next month or so, so I'll see plenty of him then. I'll be in the hospital with my mom tomorrow morning, trying to keep her level. I wonder if my brother will show up. Just in case, I'll leave the cutlery at home.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Can't depend on anyone these days...

- I don't regret taking that promotion to management a few months ago, but man does it ever have its drawbacks. Foremost among them is my disillusionment with the majority of my theatre's staff members. Problems that would have seemed miniscule to me back when I was a staff member have become glaring. The issues have been there all along, far as I can tell, but the difference is that I can no longer ignore them. When someone continually shows up late for a shift, I have to deal with it. When someone consistently wants to take off on Saturday (as a rule, our busiest day) I have to convince him to change his mind. Or at least TRY to convince him. The problem I have with so many of my staff members is that they're so damn ungenerous. They whine and whine about how they don't make any money, how we don't give them enough benefits, and waa waa waa. But they don't really want to work unless it's on their terms. They want a 40-hour work week, but they don't want to work the peak hours. They want to be scheduled, but they can't be bothered to keep busy when they're on the clock. Perhaps they didn't get the memo, but working a service-oriented job like this is about being a member of a team. On a team, you have to think of everyone, and it's about give and take. Which does NOT mean that everyone can keep taking without giving anything. Because the giving has to come from somewhere, and more often than not it comes from me and the other two managers. And frankly, I'm getting sick of it. Something is wrong when I get annoyed just from SEEING almost every single person on the staff. I'm working on hiring some new people, but until that time I can't get rid of the old ones, barring any really problematic behavior (stealing, etc). And we really need to get some people out of there- one of the most popular staff members among his peers is a lazy, whiny asswipe who flaunts the rules and regularly guilt-trips managers, trying to make them feel bad for disciplining him. Yet this same non-worker is beloved by most of the other staff members, to the point where if we let them vote for staff member of the month, he'd be a shoo-in. I'm also reckoning with the conflicting impulses which are inherent in a job like this- I want to be a nice guy (I'd like to think I am a nice guy), but I also need to be a good manager, commanding respect and not allowing staff members to walk all over me. ARGH!

- Work isn't all bad, I suppose. Last night, we were paid a visit by none other than Tommy "Tiny" Lister, who was in Akron making a personal appearance and came to see a movie afterwards. I saw that he was here, but was inclined to leave him alone until he and his manager approached me and asked if they could have something sent to our fax machine. Naturally I said yes, and after the fax came through I took the liberty of asking for his autograph. Turns out that earlier that day I impulse-bought a copy of JACKIE BROWN (it was on sale), and since he's in that awesome movie playing Max Cherry's assistant Winston, I couldn't not ask. He was pretty cool in person- a big guy, as you might expect, but soft spoken and genial. The biggest surprise was that he wears glasses, which I guess shouldn't be a surprise since he is cross-eyed, but it was still a little odd to see. He signed for some of the other staff members and got a picture with my boss, whose head came up to Tiny's chest.

- Ladies and gents, the battle rages on. It's Irony vs. Sincerity- the Merchandising Years! In this corner, wearing the white trunks... Mr. Dick Van Patten! And in this corner, wearing the blue trunks, the People's Champ... Mr. Vincent Gallo! Who will win? My money's on the spooge.

- I took the GRE on Monday, and now that it's over my mind is at ease. I did well (610 verbal, 760 math, with writing results to come), but I really had to work for this. I took a fair number of practice tests to prepare for this, as well as checking a bagful of GRE-prep books out of the library. Remember when I could do well on the SAT and ACT without breaking a sweat? That was awesome. I guess it's like when you don't lift weights for a long time, and then you have to pick up something heavy- the muscles are still there, but you haven't used them and they're out of shape. That's how I felt during the test. Ah well, glad it's over. Now I can move on to applications. Oh yeah, I decided to apply to film school after all. If I don't get in, I'll try again next year.