Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taking The Plunge

Briefly, then:

My apartment complex has a pool. I have written elsewhere of the Pod of elderly, obese, Speedo-wearing men that infest it, of their whuffling and spouting. I have written of the small children that never seem to be in the pool, but exist in a constant state of I-AM-ABOUT-TO-CANNONBALL-THEREFORE-I-SQUEAL. I have written of my unwillingness to expose my pasty midsection to the withering glare of my esteemed neighbors.

Today is my last day in this apartment. Tomorrow I move.

I swam today.

The pleasure of finally conquering my self-consciousness contrasted finely with the distaste I felt for Shamu, who very pointedly ceased walking laps when I entered the pool. The exhilaration of not caring how many people see my torso was tempered by the fact that six-and-a-half-foot-tall people must struggle to submerge themselves in pools whose deepest point is 5'. The overwhelming delight I felt in splashing balanced precariously against regret that I hadn't done this sooner.

Carpe diem: for one never knows if the next apartment will have a pool.

It doesn't. And my trunk will be pastier than ever.

Long live the moment!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

As Far As I'm Concerned, They're Just Doing Their Job

I promised myself I wouldn't reference Reservoir Dogs, and I didn't even get past the title. Disappointing.

I work at a coffee shop. We have a tip jar. People put tips in the jar.

Some customers don't tip. They might be paying with gift cards, they might be making a small transaction, they might be out of singles. They might be trying to save money. They might be cheapskates. I don't care. I really don't care when a customer doesn't tip me.

Some customers do tip, in a sort of off-hand fashion. They tip because they feel they should. Or because they don't want to carry the change around with them. Or because they believe tipping is part of the transaction. ("Tip" is slang. "Gratuity" imposes, intimidates, legitimizes.) Some people tip as a matter of course.

Some people TIP. TIPping is where they hold up the dollar and drop it in the jar, very conspicuously. Or they put the coins in one at a time. They call attention to the fact that they're TIPping.

I am grateful for every gratuity that comes my way, but something about the TIPping, the overtness of it, rubs me the wrong way. When a customer TIPs, it's reflexive. To me, TIPping says "look at me, aren't I great? I'm giving you free money! I'm a better person because of that!"

Giving as a means of feeling better about oneself isn't giving at all. It's a transaction: I'll put a dollar in your jar, then I'll feel generous. It's buying self-esteem. When a customer TIPs, it's not altruistic--it's selfish. It's not giving anymore; it's trading.

Before I sign off, let me reiterate that I am in no way ungrateful to customers who tip, or even customers who TIP. A tipped dollar spends the same as a TIPped dollar. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Long live convolution. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Collage

UPDATE: If you're here to read A Collage, my latest nonfiction piece--well, time's up. To minimize the chance of plagiarism (or perhaps merely to soothe my own suspicious heart), I decided to leave it up for about a week.

In that time, I've gotten significant and constructive feedback from multiple and various people. To everyone who's commented, I thank you. To everyone who's given me their input through other channels, I thank you. To everyone who put up with my incessant promotion of this piece on Facebook and Twitter, I thank you.

I'll stop now. But one last point: if you really want to read A Collage, contact me on Facebook, on Twitter (@ThePontificator), or by leaving a comment here on the blog.

Long live The End!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Look Left, Look Right

Back in April, I did something pretty special right here in the Uninformed Opinion. I posted a piece of my creative writing here, in my blog, for anyone to read and critique. It was called Exit Ramp. It was a thundering success, and a powerful learning experience for me.

Now it's summer. And I'm moving. Moving means packing, and packing means I need distraction. Now, over the past 13 months I've kept a haphazard log of my life--my life in this apartment building, my life at the coffee shop, my life in Cedarburg. To call it a diary is disrespectful to diaries everywhere. It's more of a collection of experiences, of impressions, of mental snapshots written down.

I've been working for the past few weeks to wrangle these snapshots into something cohesive--a collage, if you will, a larger image of the last year of my life. It's nonfiction, which is strange; I don't often write nonfiction. It's coming together well. I'm proud of what it's becoming.

Maybe it won't matter to people who aren't me. Maybe it'll be something only I find interesting, or meaningful, or powerful. Maybe not. I don't know. I do know that when I published Exit Ramp, I grew. I like growing. I want to grow again.

So, in ten days' time, I will publish my collage here, in the Uninformed Opinion. As with Exit Ramp, it will only be available for a limited time, to minimize the chance of plagiarism. It'll be published at noon on Sunday, July 15, and it will be removed at midnight on Saturday, July 21.

Start anticipating! Eagerly!

Long live taking not-very-risky risks!

Save Sydney Hih

Every time a building is razed, a tiny chunk of history crumbles to dust. Architectural identity...cultural impact...social significance...it vanishes in a cloud of diesel fumes and rubble. Sure, the building lives on in the memories of those who experienced it. But memory is a poor substitute for reality.

In Milwaukee, there's a complex of buildings called the Sydney Hih complex. The Sydney Hih buildings have seen it all--from showcasing the Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam in the Unicorn to housing Prophet William Blackmon's Revival Center Shoe Repair and Shine Parlor. And now Sydney Hih is on death row: the bulldozers' blades gleam menacingly, the wrecking balls swing like ominous pendulums, ticking away the hours until Sydney Hih will be no more.

A group of preservationists is trying to save the complex, as it has been saved multiple times in the past. They've been fighting to get Sydney Hih designated as historic--and therefore undemolishable. The city of Milwaukee has overturned the historic designation, and unless some savior were to come forward, there will be nothing in the way of the encroaching bulldozers.

I've blogged before about America's illogical approach to political problem-solving. We seem to think that the process has two steps, when in fact it should have three. The popular approach is as follows:

  • Identify the problem.
  • Remove the problem.
  • The third step is nothing. There is no third step.

The correct approach goes like this.

  • Identify the problem.
  • Remove the problem.
  • Provide a positive solution.

There is a solution. John Raettig and his group Raettig Redevelopment have come forward with a positive solution, a way to remedy the concerns about safety and economic impact raised by the city. The process is complete.

There's a petition you can sign (of course there is) requesting the Milwaukee Common Council to have pity on Sydney Hih. This isn't just about history, this isn't just about cultural heritage; it's about rewarding entrepreneurship. It's about using common sense. It's about not missing opportunities.

Sign here, so Sydney Hih can be saved.

Long live citizenship!