Tuesday, February 19, 2008

After Party

Rolling out of bed, I slip into the jeans and shirt from the crumpled pile on the floor. The shirt smells vaguely of stale beer and cigarette smoke. Slipping on one flip-flop, I search half-heartedly for its twin. I find it behind the nightstand. In the bathroom, I see some mouthwash under the sink and manage to rinse the top layer of apeshit off on my tongue, then splash my face with three ice-cold handfuls of water. I'm starting to realize that I am, indeed, human.

The house is almost completely quiet as I descend the stairs. There are at least ten people in this house, but I'm the first up and moving. Behind one of the doors I hear a snore that's almost like a fingerprint. He won't be up for another couple of hours. Behind door number two I hear some shuffling around and a muffled female voice giggle. I don't recognize it, but I grin and shake my head as I move on down the hall. The mystery will reveal itself in time. The sun has been up for just under an hour and it already looks like it's going to be a beautiful day.

I rinse out a cup in the kitchen, pour half a cupful of OJ and down it. I glance around at the job that needs to be done in here. Cups of all sizes and shapes and at various stages of emptiness crowd around both sides of the sink, each looking at the other wondering who'll be the first to jump in. Looking around the kitchen, you can almost see the conversations that happened last night. More folks congregating as the night wore on and the night grew colder. Those that didn't stay the night deposited their cups by the sink on their way out the garage door. They stopped for a moment to chat with the group of mostly women gathered in the kitchen, or checked on the four guys playing spades at the table in the breakfast nook. There are dead soldiers lined up on the table beside a partially finished hand of solitaire, obviously one of the spades players didn't want to stop playing when his opponents and partner did. Looking at the score sheet, someone got their ass handed to them, but both teams kept playing. A lot of blind-nils were bet and missed, but I'm sure none of them cared. Socializing was the real event, the cards were just something to do. I pour a full cup of juice this time, grab a trash bag from under the sink, and start out of the kitchen toward the back deck, forgetting the mess in the kitchen. I hear someone flush a toilet upstairs and I know it's that loveable, snoring, OCD bastard coming anyway to clean the kitchen to an obscene degree. I'm pretty sure he'll fix us all some sausages and eggs, too. He got up sooner than I thought. I'd better get going.

I pause just outside the back door and admire the wooded area of the back yard. I breathe in the cool morning air. This is how every morning should taste. I see the keg floating in the trashcan to the right of the deck. Nice job, people! I begin picking up cups and cigarette butts, stuffing them into my bag. I undo the circles of chairs, breaking up the ghosts who are still having conversations about the meaning of life, the top 10 prison movies of all time, or the stupidity of big government. I laugh to myself as I remember having a conversation with a cute, dark-haired girl about how the downfall of society began with the passing of the 19th Amendment. She got so angry, but she finally realized that I was just trying to yank her chain. I think she came with that group from the Lawyer's office. What was her name?

I find a clean cup near the keg and put it under the tap. Well, well, the keg ain't quite dry, but almost. Still cold, too. I light up my next-to-last cigarette. As if on cue, the door to the house opens behind me. In the doorway with no shirt on and in a pair of ratty gym shorts stands a man I've known for years. Behind him I see that cute dark-haired chick from last night walk by. She's wearing his shirt and not much else. I raise an eyebrow at him and smile. With a smirk on his face, he says, "Gettin' an early start, ain't ya? Got another?" Whether he means the beer of the cigarette, it doesn't matter. I pour him a cup with a lot of head (probably the last from that keg) and I toss him my last smoke. "Let's get this shit cleaned up," he says with a laugh, "We gotta leave for the football game in about an hour 'n' a half."

It's gonna be a good day.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Every day we each make choices, the majority of which are inconsequential. However, now and again we are required to make a choice that will determine what path we take in the future. Periodically, I hope to give you some insight into the reasoning, or lack thereof, behind some of the choices I've made over the years. With any luck, knowledge of this will help you to understand what has made me the man (or asshole, depending on your POV) I am today.

Way back when, I made a decision to enter Pharmacy School. For the longest time I thought that this was the worst decision of my life. You see, in high school I knew that I was going to go to college. I also knew that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the only college I wanted to attend. Other than that, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. During high school I worked at Phar-Mor first as a bagger/stock boy, then as a video clerk, and eventually, as a pharmacy technician. (For those of you who don't remember Phar-Mor, it was in heavy competition with WalMart in the late '80's, up until one of the higher-ups in the home office ran away to the Caribbean with a sack-o-cash and the company went bankrupt.)

So, I applied to two schools; UNC and N.C. State. I applied to the latter because it was in my hometown and I wouldn't have to go far to wash clothes. (I was 17 years old! Give me a break!) I also had an application to Western Carolina sitting in my desk in case I was not accepted to either of these. I got in to both schools, went with my heart, and became a Tar Heel. I was happier than a pig in shit, but I still had no idea about what direction I was going to take with my education.

It turns out that there comes a time at college where they do not allow you to major in "Undeclared". Using my past experience as a pharmacy technician as a jumping off point, I figured "What the hell," and began on my track to Pharmacy School. After 5 incredible, wonderful years at the most beautiful campus on the face of the earth, I graduated from UNC-CH with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. I then went on to pass the Boards and became a Registered Pharmacist for the Great State of North Carolina. It was at this point that I began to realize that I did not want anything to do with the profession.

Like most new graduates, I went straight for the money. Since I had no real idea as to how to contribute to the betterment of the profession, I figured I might as well get paid while mulling it over. I worked 2 years in the 5th circle of Hell, also known as Revco (now CVS). This solidified my view of the profession while helping me to understand that the general public is as smart as a sack of hammers. I have since left the retail world and am trudging through the Pharmacy profession as a hospital pharmacist.

Now, I told you all of that to tell you this: I think that going to Pharmacy School was the best choice I ever made. Please don't get me wrong. It is a thankless, dying profession that is only a good choice for women who want a good paying job that'll let them take extended periods off (for maternity leave and such), or for men who want a decent paycheck with no possibility of career advancement or fulfillment. However, it has finally hit me that if I had not chosen to go to Pharmacy School, had I chosen a career path more suited for me, I would have ended up at some technical or engineering school, like (God forbid) N.C. State, and never set foot in Blue Heaven. I wouldn't have been on Franklin Street on April 5th, 1993. I would have never met some of the best friends a sorry ass like me could ever have. And, most importantly, I would have never met my awesomely understanding and forgiving wife, who is also the mother of my beautiful children. My job sucks, but my life is full of love and wonderment.

It's all about choices.