Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Old People Got No Reason To Live …

With apologies to Randy Newman and his ditty about midgets (Short People) I present to you this week’s song lyric that sort of has something to do with my comic strip. Though, I suppose the line from the Who’s “My Generation”, “Hope I die before I get old” would make more sense.

Anyway this week our hero Eddie is back and he’s really doing something pretty damn exciting, watering the lawn. And here comes a random old person to tell him that he’s doing it wrong. Typical old person move, they always know how and when do things correctly. And Eddie does what most young’uns do when faced with this sagely advice, they roll their eyes and ignore it.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out for yourself, grandpa. www.room19comics.com

When I was younger, about 10 years or so ago, old people drove me nuts. I had no time for them, thought they were slow and stupid and just couldn’t deal with them on a regular basis. In fact I wanted to run for office and demand that old people retake the test for a driver’s license every two years, as I feel they are way worse than any teenager. As I’ve aged, I’ve mellowed a bit – not about the driver’s license thing. Mainly because I’ve realized that one day, I’m going to get old and I’ll have to deal with sawed-off punks like myself. Hopefully, I’ll remember how it was when I was a kid and not bitch and moan about the youth of today.

Ahhh, who am I kidding I probably will.

In any event, the purpose of this strip isn’t to rip on old people (though that is entertaining), it was done to rip on those jerks who think that they know how to do everything better than everyone else and aren’t afraid of telling people. I went with the old person stereotype because of two reasons: one I didn’t want people to get the idea that this person was a friend of Eddie. I think that would’ve completely changed the dynamic of the strip because it’s always worse when a complete stranger sticks his nose into another person’s business for no reason. And two old people are a lot of fun to draw. Especially cranky old people, with all of their wrinkles, their pissed off looks, their constant unhappiness. Just a lot of fun.

The sad part about this strip is that I based the old person on me. About nine or ten months ago, I was walking to pick up my car. It was about a mile away from my old apartment and I’d pass a lot of people watering their lawns at about noon on a majorly hot day. Each time I’d think that they’re just wasting water (for pretty much the same reasons that the geezer said in the strip), but I never said anything. I got to thinking about it, realized that I probably was going to be an old crank some day, and then I thought of a pretty good punch line.

The rest is history.

As far as the art of the strip, in the third panel, I did something differently than I normally do, I went with silhouettes instead of going with detail. It turned out well and is one of my favorite panels all time. I think it adds a lot of gravity to what the old man says. And I think that works well with the overall absurd notion of the entire one-sided argument. People that get into these sort of fights feel that they’re doing a service to the entire world by pointing out the faults of others. To them, this is a huge deal and something that is worth getting freaked out by. By making this panel more “serious” my hope was to lampoon those people.

And yes, I know that means myself.

Check out the shirt that Eddie is wearing, it features a stapler on it. Guess what movie I was watching when I was plotting out this strip? Give yourself a gold star if you said “The Office”.

I know that I pat myself on the back a lot when I’m writing these Blog entries, but I really think that this is probably one of the better drawn strip that I’ve ever done. I think that the lines are crisp and clean, I pushed the art a bit and the whole piece seems to flow well. The writing may be a little flat, but I think that the art more than makes up for that.

Not much went on this weekend; Aly, her sister and her mom went to New York City to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday, so I had a free weekend. I spent it to doing nothing. I mean, I did some stuff; played FIFA 2006 for a long-ass time, watched a few movies, walked around the neighborhood and touched up the paint. But, it was a very laid back weekend.

If you have a couple of moments, check out the new Blog on the Room19 site, it’s about a guy on SoSH who has quit his day-to-day job as an investment banker and is going to Europe to play professional baseball. It’s the “Have Bat, Will Travel” link. It’s a fantastic idea. This guy was also the Stanford Cardinal tree mascot for a couple of years and has some great stories about that too. Hopefully he’ll write something about that in his Blog too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Take This Job and Shove It ... Ha, ha Just Kidding!

With respects to Johnny Paycheck, I am back with another brand new cartoon. I know it's been almost a month, and I really feel bad, but real life sometimes steps in the door and there's nothing you can do about it. In this case, real life being buying a condo and finishing up my first ever web site. You can check it out at www.boston-braves.com

Ok, shameless plug over. I'm not turning Room 19 Comics into a cheap Dilbert clone, Dilbert already does that well enough. Whoa! Where did that jar of burn sauce come from? I've never been a big fan of Dilbert or comic strip office humor in general. Most of the jokes are pretty cliched by now and that staleness just gets repeated over and over again.

Hopefully, I've tred on some new ground here with a real-life experience at my very first "real" job out of college. I know that this is going to sound like some really bad lines from a teenage prostitute from an ABC After School Special, but "I was young, needed the money and had no idea what I was getting myself into." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was a fund accountant for Mellon Bank.

Hey now! Teenage prostitutes, Boston Braves, Dilbert. This sounds like the makings of a terrific afternoon! Want to see what all of the fuss is about? Check it out here: www.room19comics.com

The time was the spring of 1997, Massachusetts was days away from the infamous "April Fool's Day Blizzard" and a company hired me to work on the books for a couple of clients. Never mind that I was terrible at math, took zero accounting classes at school and owned about three ties. I took the job because a. I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do with my life and b. they were actually going to give me a paycheck and benefits.

The first day I knew that I was over my head, but I decided to tough it out and see if I could pick up the lingo and what needed to be done. Fast forward to July and I was still no closer to knowing what the hell I was supposed to do than the day before I started. Combine this with a shitty commute (there were actual times I wished that I'd get into a car accident, so I didn't have to go to work), a posse of friends who hated their jobs as much as I did, and this was not a good cocktail.

Finally, I burst; I went into my manager's office and completely fell to pieces. I told him how much I hated this job, how lost I was and how miserable my entire had become and finally I said the words that I'd long to say, "I QUIT." It felt awesome walking back to my desk, sitting down and realizing that after two weeks, I would never have to come to this hell hole again. Then I realized that I still had to make car payments, I was moving out on my own in a week and beer to be bought. This was not a good idea at all.

How could I save myself? The next day, I walked back into work with my tail between my legs. Ever see that episodes of the Simpsons, "And Maggie Makes Three"? This was the one where Homer quits his job to work at the Bowlerama, but then Maggie is born and he has to get his old job at the power plant. He has to crawl into Burns' office and beg to have his shit ass job that he never wanted, back?

That's exactly how I felt. It was the most humiliating experience in my life and they only agreed to let me come back because I never wrote a resignation letter. I promised them that I'd try harder, get on the stick and become the best damn fund accountant ever.

The promised lasted a grand total of two weeks, tops. I hated my job more than ever and the worst parts were that I felt as if I would never leave there and everyone probably thought I was insane for quitting than coming back. As the summer turned to autumn, my attitude got worse and worse, until finally my boss asked me to come into his office for a talk.

I knew exactly where this was going, they were going to give me the old, "Straighten up and fly right" speech, but I was done, a beaten man. No matter how much I was getting paid (which wasn't that much to begin with) I just couldn't take it anymore. I told Jim that I quit and that this time, "I meant it". From my recolection, he was really surprised ... at least more surprised than I thought he was going to be. He asked me if I was serious and I wanted to think about it, but I was sure of my move.

This was not a good fit for me, so I was getting out when I had the chance. The thing is I spent the next four months unemployed (save for a job at J. Crew, 25 miles away from my new place ... that was even worse than the Mellon Trust job). In March the following year, I was hired by the Revere Journal and worked with some great people and enjoyed the hell out of life again. The pay sucked, but sometimes it's not all about the Benjamins, no matter what P. Diddy says.

In this cartoon, I did a few things different; for one it is a five-panel piece. I haven't done one of these in a long time and if I remember right, this might only be the second one I've ever done. I think it came out pretty well. My favorite part of this cartoon is the third panel.

I think I nailed my cube down (that's what it looked like, exactly) and I think the expression on my face coupled with the thoughts floating around in my head bring the gravity of the situation home. Yes, it was a major life decision, but in all actuality I was making myself miserable for beer, chicks, and other material things. That stuff would've still been there, but I needed it then.

Also, my boss really looked like the characture that I drew. He was a real Alpha-Male type, except he was at least 5'4" on a good day, so he had the Napoleon complex thing going for him. I remember how he used to brag about being in high school and playing baseball. He was normally a righty, but when it was time for him to bunt, he'd bat lefty so he'd get an extra second out of the box. He acted as if he was Connie Mack. Just a real tool to deal with.

BTW, if you've made it through this post and want to read some more ramblings about my new job, keep reading. I made a post yesterday and it's all about my new job and leaving my old one. I forgot to put this in there yesterday, but I think that the reason why I was actually sad leaving HCPro was because so many things happened to me while I was there: I bought a house, met and married Aly, moved six times, dated and broke up with Debbie, went a bunch of places, did a bunch of things and the one constant was my job. Now that constant has changed ... that's why I was so freaked out.

Tomorow is a new step.

Monday, February 20, 2006

This is the End, Beautiful Friend, the End ...

When I lead off with a lyric from the Doors, you know that this is going to be a good entry. Theoretically, it should be pretty good anyway. After five years and exactly one month, Friday was my last day at HCPro. It was a very strange experience as I’ve only had three “real” jobs since I graduated and both times that I left were under different circumstances.

When I left Mellon, I hated the place and just quit (check out the explanation and the cartoon about this on Wednesday) and at the Journal, I gave my two-week notice and the next day we were bought out and everyone was canned. This was actually the first time that I left a job that I enjoyed for a better one.

The strange thing about last week was that I was getting nostalgic just about every day, as I made sure to hit all three spots I normally went for lunch: the light house and both sides of Deveraux Beach. As I was eating my lunch those days and staring at the ocean, I realized that the life that I have now (predictable) was about to change. For example, if I was still at my job, I could tell you exactly what I was going to be doing a month from today.

Now, I am casting myself off into the great unknown of Needham and Tech Target. Overdramatic? You bet. But the fact is when I walk into my new job on Wednesday, I’m not going to have any idea what I’m doing and what they expect from me. That’s a daunting experience. Forget about my day-to-day responsibilities, I won’t even know where a good place to eat my lunch or which shop has the best subs or where I can go and grab some of the daily essentials. Things like that.

As much as I hated Marblehead (and I mostly hated the people and the overall geographic location) it was almost like a second home to me. I knew that Marblehead Munchies had the top sandwiches in town, Vinnin Square’s Fantasy Island had the best crappy Chinese food, the Indian guy at Richdale’s would some times let me get away with out paying him. BTW, my last day I swung by Richdale’s and said good bye to the Indian dude (the only reason why I’m mentioning this is because I wrote a bit about him in June) and he seemed pretty sad to see me leave.

The strangest thing about this whole experience is that a lot of people seemed pretty sad to see me go. I knew that people at work knew who I was, but I didn’t think that anyone really cared. Like I’ve said on numerous occasions, I purposely didn’t make a lot of tight bonds at work, but I got a lot of nice words from people; pats on the back, job well dones, and good lucks. It was unexpected and I felt awesome.

Like I told Aly on Friday after I left, the feeling that I can compare it to is the last day of school when you and everyone else is rushing around trying to get your lockers clean and stuff picked up so you can move on to summer vacation. The only exception is that I was the only one that’s moving on. Tomorrow people are going to go to work at HCPro and after a while, I’m just going to be a memory.

There are going to be a bunch of people that I’m going to miss from Marblehead, but in the end, it’s time to move on.

You would think that a life change like this would bring upon a wild weekend. That didn’t happen, Friday night Aly and I got a pizza and watched “In the Name of the Father”, which was an awesome movie. Both the writing and the acting were terrific, if you haven’t seen it, I suggest that you go and rent it right now.

Saturday, we went over to Keri and Byrnie’s house and met their new daughter Maeve. She’s a very cool and cute baby; she barely made a fuss at all. Unlike a lot of new parents that we know, Byrnie and Keri were pretty chill about having a newborn in the house. They weren’t negligent or anything, but they weren’t hovering over her. It’s hard to explain, but they held her, fed her, changed her, did all of that stuff, but they weren’t all about the baby. They talked about a lot of other stuff too.

I hope that when Aly and I have a baby and people start to come over and see him/her, we’re not like those obnoxious parents who steer every conversation to the baby and what’s wrong with the baby and how cute the baby is, etc. While expected, it gets boring after a while. After that, we were going to go to Coolidge Corner to check out a movie, but it was absolutely freezing and we didn’t feel like walking, so we watched “Garden State” on HBO.

It was a slower flick than “In the Name of the Father”, but it was still really good. Zack Braff did a hell of a job writing, acting and directing the flick. He was really able to capture the feeling you get when you come home after a long time and you run into a lot of your old friends. The awkwardness, the feeling of being a stranger while being surrounded by people that you’ve known for ever.

Sunday, Aly and I touched up the dining room and the living room and that took a hell of a long time. Like four or five hours worth of painting. Then we went to a restaurant called Dux with her parents and Lauren and Bob. I think Roy had points, so the entire meal was on the house. Anything we wanted to eat. And we fucking ate. Just a gluttonous display of gorging. It was awesome. Beers, martinis, two bottles of wine, I had a gigantic bowl of clam chowder, a Caesar salad, bleu cheese encrusted steak, hashbrowns and dessert. And I wasn’t the only one who ate like that, we all did. It was terrific and just a lot of fun. I think I could get used to eating like that.

Aly was hammered when we came home, so she passed out and I watched “Monster’s Ball”. Aside from seeing Halle Berry naked, I wasn’t that impressed with the flick. It was ok and really, really slow. I didn’t connect with it at all.

Today we’re supposed to finish touching up the other three rooms and then we’re going with a couple of Aly’s friends to the Publick House in Washington Square. That should be really cool.

Oh yeah, if you have a second, check out the two new links on the side of the Room 19 Comics board: Boston Braves Historical Association and the Merry Muses of Caledonia. The first one is the absolute first web site that I've done and I'm actually pretty proud of it. Check it out and let me know what you think. The second one is from Ryan and is a Blog on the Scottish rock scene. He really knows his shit, so you should check it out.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Lookin’ at Some Books

I haven’t done a book review in quite awhile because I haven’t had the time, but now I have a couple of minutes to write a few words about the last bunch of books that I read. I know that this isn’t exactly the most popular feature on this site, but I like being able to keep track of what I’ve read in the last few months.

The first book of the trio is “Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness”. You can blame this book as part of the reason why I haven’t written about books in awhile. This thing was about 660 pages of densely researched text. Donald J. Bartlett and James Steele did an awesome job of culling together every aspect of his life for a scholarly take on one of America’s most enigmatic figures.

The best part of the book is that it was very light on the gossipy Hollywood stuff. It delved into that part a bit, and it had to because that was Hughes’ life, but it really stuck with the facts via newspaper stories, letters and memos from Hughes himself. Since it was a journalistic approach to the man, it wasn’t burdened with an editorial slant either. It laid the facts on the table and the reader was allowed to make up his or her mind.

The reason why I picked up this book was due to seeing “The Aviator” in the summer, I thought that was a fascinating flick and wanted to learn more about Hughes. What I learned is that the movie was very liberal with a lot of the facts of Hughes’ life. Also, the part of his life that the flick focused on, was the more boring part of the book. Yes, he was an aviation hero and a millionaire playboy, but that almost seems like a cliché now (one that Hughes helped to create).

The reclusive billionaire who didn’t trust anyone, sat around naked for fear of germs, a border line racist who lost his grip on both his sanity and his money, now that would make a great movie. Another thing that I learned from the book, when it came to business decisions and business deals, Hughes was not proficient at either. You always hear the stories about what a terrific business man Hughes was and he wasn’t. He ran, or almost ran, a bunch of his companies into the ground, was a failure at speculations and if it wasn’t for his father (who made a copyright on a drill bit) Hughes wouldn’t have been able to fascinate the country.

He’s like a psychotic Donald Trump only with more charm.

The second book I read was “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam. If you’ve lived in Massachusetts for the past six months and haven’t heard of this book, get out from under your rock. In a sentence, this is a very short biography about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Obviously, it’s a bit more than that as Halberstam delves deep into the Belichick family tree and fleshes out the backgrounds of both Bill’s father and to some extent grandfather to see what makes the football genius tick.

Halberstam is a terrific writer and he gets into the nitty gritty of Belichick’s younger life. Curiously, when it comes to his days as a more established coach in the NFL, he glosses over many of the details and battles that made Bill Belichick, BILL BELICHICK.

Like the Hughes book, I don’t want the gossip, I want the facts. I want to know more about his Giants days, way more about his Browns days (where he cut his teeth and learned a lot of lessons on how to coach a football team), his Patriots and Jets days. I want knee-deep stuff. I feel that Halberstam just glosses over that and it’s what stopped this book from becoming an A+ in my view.

Don’t misunderstand me, I thought it was a terrific (albeit very quick) read and I learned a lot about the inner workings of Belichick, but I wanted more. A lot more. Halberstam just pumped this out and it shows, as a lot of publishing tricks were used to make it seem like it was a more in depth book.

I actually go this for a Christmas present, so I can’t say that it wasn’t worth the money, but if I had bought it, I would’ve been less than satisfied.

The last book I read, “A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness” is going to be tough to review not because it's a crappy book (actually, it's the opposite) it's because the author, John Manasso, is my brother-in-law. He also just gave me a pretty kick-ass Christmas present.

So now that you know that, and that I'm not above a bribe =), I can say that I honestly thought that it was a terrific book. John did a hell of a job writing it and more importantly, researching it. You can tell that John is an accomplished journalist while reading this book because he doesn't leave any stone unturned. The reader gets every bit of information rung from this case.

If you’re not sure what the book is about, it’s the true story of the Atlanta Thrashers and their ability to cope with the death of one of their popular teammates (Dan Snyder). The twist in this story is that he died after getting into an accident with the team’s star player (Dany Heatley) ran his car into a wall while going above the speed limit.

Even though I pretty much knew everything about this story, I would talk to him about it now and then and Aly would fill me in on the latest news of the trial, I still found the book engrossing. You should really think about checking it out, even if you don’t like hockey because this book is as much about hockey as “The Old Man and the Sea” was about fishing. Hockey is the backdrop, but there is so much more going on. There are lots of inspirations and life lessons to be learned, but it’s done without being preachy.

The strangest part of this book was seeing John’s face on the dust jacket every time I opened up the back cover and hearing his voice as I read the pages. I don’t know many writers personally, and I assume that this is how I would read their books if I did.

Anyhow, it’s a great book and I suggest you pick it up. Either Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll update you all with the sad state of “Arrested Development” and it’s finale from Friday.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Times They Are A Little Bit Less Than The Same As They Were Before …

As evidenced by the title, I know I have some Bob Dylan in me and now you do too. That’s just the way I do things around here, I give a lot and expect nothing in return.

Things are definitely a lot different than the last time I wrote, which is about two weeks ago. For one thing, it’s no longer January … it’s, GASP!, February! I’m not living at my old place in Brookline anymore, I’m at a new place. Next Friday, I won’t be working in Marblehead, I’ll be in Needham. And I haven’t done a strip in awhile either. Let’s go through this stuff in chronological order, shall we?

First off, Aly and I bought a condo in Brookline a few weeks ago. About two days after my last entry, we moved into it. We’re still not completely unpacked. Our place is not extremely large, but we’ve had a busy few weeks. All I want to do is sleep. Unfortunately, I can’t.

As you probably remember, I hate moving. Absolutely hate it. I think it stinks and it sucks and it stinks and it sucks. You know what I hate more than moving? Painting. That’s what I did for the first three days in our new place. From morning until night, I was in the house with a roller in one hand and a can of paint in the other. The reason? The idiots that sold are house were color blind so we painted every single room a weird and wacky color. Sometimes two stupid colors.

This meant that we had to put on two to three coats of primer followed by a couple of coats of paint. The first day wasn’t too bad because my parents and brother came over and helped us out and we got a big chunk out of the way. The second day sucked. Aly was there at 8:30 (I had an appointment … more on that later) and joined her at 11:00. We stayed in our place painting until 10:30 that night. My dad came over to help, and he did a bunch, but it was brutal.

Saturday was a little bit better as both of our families and some of Aly’s friends came over to help. We knocked the rest of the rooms out in about seven hours. We still have to do touch up, but that won’t be too bad of a job.

Sunday was moving day. Let me tell you guys something, being a pack rat sucks. If you are one, get rid of your stuff because if you move as much as I do (eight moves in ten years), it’s going to come back and bite you in the ass. Hard. As sucky as it was to move last year, this year was almost as bad. The only good thing about it was all of the stuff was in one location.

My brother in law, Bob and Skaus helped out. Ryan was going to, but Quinn was sick and had to go to the hospital. He’s doing ok, but any time a kid is in the hospital, that’s a good excuse for not helping move. BTW, I was named Quinn’s Godfather last week which was pretty freaking cool. I was real happy to do that for Rye, Kris and Quinn.

We got everything moved in in about six hours or so and then the unpacking begins. Ever unpack 60 boxes? Not fun. Not fun at all. Like I said, we’re still unpacking and making sure things fit where they’re supposed to go. The sucky part about moving isn’t the actual moving day … it’s the days following that when you’re looking for a hat or clothes or other crap and you can’t find anything. That’s the sucky part.

Another fun thing that happened that night was I got a call from work while I was hanging up curtains. The wrong sized signs were sent to Washington DC (not my fault, nor anyone else’s really) and they needed new signs for the show. I was dead. Absolutely dead tired, but I had to truck all the way into Marblehead, meet my boss, call FedEx and ship the stuff overnight to DC. By the time I got home (around 9:30) I couldn’t move. I slept the sleep of the dead that night.

That little work story goes well into my next topic, I gave my notice at HCPro on Monday. That’s right, starting two weeks from today I’m going to be working at Tech Target in Needham as a conference marketer. I’m really excited about the job and the fact that it’s only about six miles from my place.

I wasn’t upset with HCPro. Far from it. I enjoyed what I did and I liked the people that I worked with and I liked my routine, but the fact is the commute was killing me. Not so much in the morning, it took me about 45 minutes, but the evening commute was a killer. There were some days where it would take me 50 minutes to get home and others it would take an hour and a half. There was no rhyme or reason to the traffic patterns (outside of a Sox game) and it was tiring to figure out whether I could go home on Storrow Drive or through Somerville.

The thing is, I thought that I’d be excited about quitting. Everybody has the fantasy of walking into the boss’ office and saying, “That’s it, I’m done here.” However, I didn’t feel like that. I actually feel pretty sad that I’m quitting. I think it’s the combination of the facts that I’ve worked here for five years and the people are pretty cool. Another reason is the unknown, I’m pretty adverse to change and knowing what I’m going to be doing for the next six months to a year is reassuring and safe. Two weeks from right now, I’ll be in a completely new situation and won’t know what to do or anyone.

That’s scary.

But I’m ready for the change. I’m looking forward to the new challenges and the new company … some of the perks are awesome and everyone that I met there on the two interviews that I was on were beyond cool. We’ll have to see how things turn out, but I imagine that everything will work out fine.

The third thing is my strip. With the move and the new job, I’ve been busy. With my website due on Monday, I’ve been fucking swamped. Every second of spare time, and there hasn’t been a lot has been thrown to the Boston Braves site. I’m just about done with it too. There are a couple of tweaks that I have to make, but it’s about ready to go.

Next week, I will link to it and you can let me know what you think.

What does that mean for the strip? I doubt that I’ll have another strip next week, but what I plan to do is post some reruns of my favorite strips in the next couple of days. They will change as I write more Blogs (which I plan on doing more of) and with some new exposure; check out three new links: Live From Augusta, Mook Stuff in Manhattan and Sheriff Sully now is really not the best time to be slacking on the cartoon thing.

I promise that after this very short sabbatical, there will be new strips and possibly a brand new redesigned site. I have a couple of really cool ideas that I’m working on and you guys are definitely going to dig it.

Ok, I have to go … more later.