Archive for June, 2011

Monday Morning

Posted: June 28, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Me & Mine
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If you're up before dawn, it damn sure is a nightmare

I have two 8 am classes for the Summer term and I expect to be pissing and moaning about them for the next six weeks.  I’m not a morning person, and I don’t mean that in the cute, cliched, t-shirt-with-a-yawning-kitten-saying-“Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” sense.  I mean I am really not a morning person. I worked for 20 plus years in bars, restaurants and nightclubs and my standard bedtime lies somewhere in between 2 and 5am and my wake up time is an applicable 7-9 hours later.
For me to make an 8am class I have to wake up at 6am, shower, grunt, slam things around, drink coffee before plodding to the train grumbling to myself.  I honestly don’t start to wake up and behave in anything resembling a reasonable person until after noon. Coffee helps to wake me up, but it is also a tightrope that I walk. I am a generally anxious person and prone to panic/anxiety attacks. Too much coffee and I am bordering on a serious, in-class petit mal, twitchfest, not enough and I am surly, half asleep and vaguely homicidal.
My poor teacher has to start her week looking into the faces of her apathetic class and their chief mopey-pants; me.  First thing Monday morning and she has to gaze upon my irritable, sneering, mumbling, scowling puss.  My face is more than likely reminiscent of one of my former employers perfect frown that I used to make fun of. I always suspected he used yoga facial exercises to achieve that perfectly formed upside down C with his mouth. Due to lots of practice he was able to maintain that frown for hours on end, but it was its most pronounced when the bar was busy and he was making lots of money.
His management technique was simple. 1. Find Fault   2. Scowl and maintain an expression of overall anger and disappointment. 3. Disappear on the rare occasion when he might be needed.  He also did something that I personally found maddening, but to point it out to him would have been a lost cause. He would very often spend considerable amounts of time looking for employees to tell them about some minor issue that he felt needed addressing, rather than taking the 3 seconds necessary to address said issue himself.  He once spent 15 minutes looking for me to inform me that there was an empty beer bottle in the men’s room, rather than simply picking the bottle up and placing it on the bar.
Today in my early morning class on Advanced Redundant BS our teacher wanted us to write a “Personal Assessment Coupled With Possible Career Dilemmas”. OK, I’ll bite. My personal assessment at 8am is that I am grouchy, cynical, annoyed and that I’d rather be in bed.  My biggest career dilemma has been finding a way to make a steady income, have benefits and job security while sleeping ’til noon and watching cartoons for the remainder of the day.
We went around the room and discussed these things. One kid spoke about the interview he had at a “call center” over the weekend.  He had a thick accent and was difficult to understand, so my guess is he was hired on the spot.
The other children poured forth their dream careers and I ridiculed each one silently in my crabby little mind. If I was a teacher then I could be more vocal in dashing the hopes of youngsters.
 That's right, you losers will never amount to anything
“I want to be a singer or maybe an actress” 
Um yeah Beyonce, aint going to happen, get thee to Bed, Bath and Beyond.
“I’d really like to be a sports broadcaster” 
The only thing you will be broadcasting is
“Your total is $24.50, please pull up to the window”.
“I’d like to do ‘something’ with computers” 
Yeah?  Lots of jobs in that field. How is your Hindi
and can you live in Calcutta on .35 cents an hour?
Then the teacher actually said “You shouldn’t give up on your dreams”  It took every fiber of my being to not stand up and exclaim. “Yes, you should, and the sooner the better!”
I have found sitting and scribbling down bitter commentary doesn’t really pass the time so quickly. I am a cancer in the classroom. I am waiting for the teacher to point at me and say “Just think, after 20 years in the workforce you can be a defeated and perpetually disappointed man just like Scott here”.
It is interesting to note that many of the things I complain and later write about, are often the very things I would tell other people “you need to get over that” Don’t these people know that self described, witty curmudgeons are the only ones allowed to have gripes?
Ugggh, a three and a half hour class and I don’t even get a graham cracker and a juice box.
After class I went to the bathroom and there on the wall, between the penis drawing and accusations of homosexuality, someone had scribbled “I wrote on the wall. Take that society”  This was the best graffiti I had read in ages.  I pulled out my sharpie and wrote ” I used to write on bathroom walls, but I gave it up” underneath.
My art class was OK. I am more awake and less grumpy by the time it rolls around.  For some reason it cheered me when my light-in-the-loafers teacher exclaimed. “If you guyth don’t take noteth, I’m going to give you a big red “F”. 
I like him.

NYC, Media, Service and Myths

Posted: June 26, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life
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I am approaching my 20th year of living in NYC.  I am a New Yorker now.  I may move when I get old, but who can say.  My ex girlfriend and I moved to Miami for one winter after I had spent my first Autumn in NYC.  After spending only a few short months there I found myself missing NYC…the food, the people, the attitude.  People in Miami had an attitude, but it was totally unjustified in my opinion. Miami in 1994 had just gone through a brief stint as a models Mecca, and no one told the flock of overly confident beautiful people that it was over as quick as it had begun.  Suffice to say everyone in Miami was bar tending or waiting tables simply to pass the time until Gianni Versace saw them opening a beer and signed them to an exclusive contract.People with these kinds of attitudes do not make good hospitality employees. I remember going to the 11th St Diner in Miami and the waitress getting every single aspect of her job wrong…painfully wrong.  We were seated at a filthy table.  We sat there for a while before the “waitress” came and took our order. Then she immediately disappeared to the bathroom to gaze upon her loveliness and it was another 20 minutes before the busboy (another aspiring model) cleared our table.  A few more minutes passed before I saw our “waitress” off in the distance and I called her over to ask if we could have some water and could I please have an ashtray.  She rolled her eyes and flounced off. 10 minutes later, no water, no ashtray. I asked again if I could have an ashtray. She rolled her eyes again and heaved a sigh before reaching over to another filthy table, grabbing a half full ashtray and slamming it down on our table.  Everyone got served at different times, and everyone’s order was wrong. The bill was wrong and they added a 20% gratuity to it.  This was common practice in Miami due to the number of European tourists. It also meant that there was little to no incentive for the servers to be pleasant or to do their job with an ounce of professionalism. I wanted to sit the waitress down and explain a few things to her in the manner of a parent telling their child for the third time not to stick a fork in the electrical outlet.   “Honey, I know you think you’re Kate Moss, but in reality, you’re Flo . You work at a diner. And a shitty diner at that!”

Back in NYC you’d get a fun, brassy mother of 3 at a diner who called you “toots” or “hon” and told you to “hold your water”, but not in a mean way.  The food was fast, and good.  Make no mistake, waiting tables is hard work and often many factors are beyond a waitress’ control.  I appreciate and applaud servers, bartenders, taxi drivers, and anyone who has to depend on the general public for how they earn a living.  They earn every cent, and there is a toughness there that is to be admired.
I got to thinking about this while watching the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail on cable today.  I honestly couldn’t make it all the way through the film. It is about a young man (Cruise) fresh out of the army who comes to NYC to make a fortune on Wall ST (It was the 80s)  After he is told that he needs an education he enrolls in school and while passing by a TGI Fridays notices a “Help Wanted” sign. He applies and gets a job where his mentor (Bryan Brown) teaches him about bartending, women and doles out cutesy pearls of wisdom found only in Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts films. 30 seconds later Tom and Bryan are throwing bottles up in the air and pouring unbelievably weak drinks as the ever so patient NYC barflies cheer and applaud because it’s so entertaining to watch and surely the beer they want opened and placed in front of them can take another 20 minutes. Tom and Bryan have the time to throw bottles because they never actually ring up any of the drinks into the cash register. The clientele are amazingly attractive, successful and witty for a TGI Frdays and one day a man sitting at the bar says “I run the hottest saloon in town and I want you guys workin’ for me!!!”  Whoever wrote that bit of dialogue must have been the apple of their screenwriting teachers eye.  So Tom and Bryan go to work for the “Hottest Saloon In NYC” which is called “The Cell Block”.   Believe it or not, there are no men in butt-less leather chaps and handlebar mustaches at the Cell Block. Amazingly, the clientele at the Cell Block is equally enthralled with Tom and Bryan’s throwing bottles around and making approximately one drink every 45 minutes. I changed the channel to a Spanish language soap opera when Tom hopped on the bar, the music stopped and people came out of the bathrooms and abandoned their cocaine to listen to him recite poetry.
It made me think of other myths about NYC that people see on TV or in movies and then move here thinking that’s the way it’s going to be, when we, the residents, delight in smashing their not-so-realistic Sex And The City, Friends, or Cocktail fantasies. You want a realistic portrayal of NYC?  Watch Taxi Driver. Seinfeld is pretty on point too. Even if you do happen to become successful and famous, you will still have annoying neighbors, neurotic friends and live in a small, one bedroom apartment frequently eating cereal.
Sex And The City did the most damage in terms of skewing reality. All those cosmos, all those men, all that sex and not a single case of herpes, identity theft or date rape. The only accurate bit in SATC are the bitchy gay male friends who give appallingly bad but funny advice.  That is very true. Every New Yorker has at least one. It’s the law.
So by all means, please move to NYC.  We like to keep things vibrant and fresh despite the efforts of the last two mayors. Just don’t expect to live like Carrie or Samantha.  Expect to live like Ralph and Alice Kramden.

What did I just get myself into?

Posted: June 25, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Home
Well, it’s official. I am starting a blog. This is a good thing in many ways, but it also has it’s drawbacks.  This means I have to produce and cannot just write out random blurbs on the idiotic observations I have on everyday life.  People might actually read what I write…and expect more in a timely fashion.  This also means what I write will have to some degree be engaging.  If I’m funny and people like what I write and tell their friends, then I will have to be funny with some regularity.
Today I saw a youtube clip on ‘How to Make Money With Your Blog” and it stressed staying on topic. The person they used in the clip was a nerdy-mousy girl writing about coffee and coffee shops. There are coffee nerds out there. I know, because I’ve met them. They talk really fast. I have written on a few occasions about the hi-jinx of my local Dunkin’ Donuts, but I’m too anxious to run around trying many different coffee places and rating them.  I also don’t like the idea that I might sway people’s opinions on various coffee shops and how the barista obviously didn’t understand what I meant when I said ” a whisper of cinnamon on my cappuccino”  Someone might get fired.
I don’t generally have a topic other than complaint, discontent and overall malaise, and my complaints are usually pretty broad and anonymous. I complain about “old ladies annoying me at grocery stores” and “cell phone users not paying attention to the world around them”. The only time I directly complain is when I have had a bad job interview and feel I was treated badly by a venue. Then I hop on Yelp and other social media websites and write scathing reviews about phantom dinners and drinks I never had there. I am sad to admit this has happened more than a few times. Come to think of it, that is a pretty indirect and anonymous complaint.  Well I never said I was courageous.  When I am in a grumpy mood I go back and reread my bitter reviews and it cheers me up, which says a great deal about my overall lack of character. 
Writing a blog means I might have to leave the comfort and safety of my air conditioned little curmudgeon cave of complaint and go out into the scary world and experience things.  I will have to observe, report and even interact with others.  Then, I have to make it funny and or interesting.  I also live in NYC which although it is a vibrant and entertaining place, many don’t take kindly to be watched by strange little men who then scribble something in a notebook.  It’s kind of a recipe for a beating or mugging.  I shall have to arm myself for these recon missions, or learn to run fast.
I suppose I should compile a list things and places that are good to write about, or where interesting people congregate, or can a true artist work with whatever materials are available to them?  Sadly I don’t think so.  I don’t think I could pack a lunch and grab a notepad and pen and head off to a burn ward or homeless shelter and bang out something funny.  Well, at least not the burn ward.
If I have a blog, then I will have little to no control over who reads my ramblings and how they react to them.  People could write “You Suck” to me and drive me into lengthy episodes of insecurity and depression.  People are generally more rude, or at least blunt in an anonymous medium.  Of course, this is a pessimistic attitude to take.  It’s entirely possible that people might find my writing entertaining and funny and might invite me to speak at their nephews bar mitzvah or at a sweet sixteen. That might be kind of cool

S. Trevor Swenson

Posted: June 24, 2011 by Gow in About

I am a 40 year old, perpetually angry and cynical, aspiring comedy writer.  I am a student, a son, a friend, a bartender, a curmudgeon, a malcontent, a grumpy pants, a bossy boots, a pain in the ass, a Leo with Libra rising and Gemini moon. I have problems with attention and anxiety and I delight in self medicating and self diagnosis

My hobbies and interests include: ridicule, complaint, observations on everyday idiocy. Irony and micro-annoyances. Cooking, music, coin collecting, film, reading, travel, football, boxing, gambling, true crime, vandalism, comedy, history, TV, political debate, wine and whine.

The topics that will be visited and usually ridiculed on here will include:  The human condition, political correctness, family, anit-fashion, cell phones/text messaging, potty humor, poorly behaved children, adults, and seniors, celebrities, lack of common sense, people and things that suck, my strange obsessions: Wonder Woman, Cookie Monster, Beaker from the Muppets, mental illness, and Charo.
Why should you read this? Because I’m funny, unique and I need the attention. If anything I write offends you, please feel free to stop reading.
My heroes and influences include: George Orwell, Gow, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Ricky Gervais, Lewis Black, Cookie Monster, Bea Arthur, Vincent Van Gogh, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Patton Oswalt, Doug Stanhope, Bill Maher, Irvine Welsch, John Waters, Muhammed Ali, Elvis Presley, Stanley Kubrick, My Grandfather, Larry David, William S Burroughs, Johnny Rotten, Terry Gilliam,Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb,William Shatner
People and things I can do without: Paris and Perez Hilton, Reality TV “stars”, celebrity chefs, Dr Phil, Dr Drew, Whoppi Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Dick Cheney, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Anti-Intellectualism, Rudolph Giuliani, Donald Trump, The Westboro Baptist Church, The Pope, The New York Jets, little girl beauty pageants and their pimp mothers, MTV, The Metropolitan Transit Authority, radical/militant feminists, racists and people who scream “Racism” at everything that doesn’t go their way, meter maids, Chevy Chase, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Fox News, rednecks, Lord of the Dance, waking up early, body odor, bars that only hire female cupcake bartenders, violations of my personal space, hip hop videos and “Bling Bling” hip hop “Culture”, yuppies, corporations and sociopathically greedy businessmen, crowds, people who walk too slowly in front of me, self righteousness, dress codes, fashion, modern parents (play dates, time outs and negotiation with children under 10) my former employer, lack of originality, hippies