I am a Penguin, I AM a Golden God

Not to make too fine a point of it, but I am a Golden God.

No, really. Allow me to explain.

I made a startling realization the other day: it’s almost June. That means it’s been eleven months, give or take a couple days, since I’ve been gainfully employed. Yeah, I’ve worked for LA Fitness-nazis and McFatties, but I hesitate to call either of those esteemed placeholders as ‘esteemed.’ They’re certainly not resumé-builders, and once I’m fully ensconced back within the halls of academia I’ll no doubt forget them like those many foggy vodka-induced regrettable nightmares.

Anyway, now that I’m back in the swing of job applications and am surely bound to land a job I won’t be embarrassed to own up to any day now, I’ve spent a lot of time considering my not-inconsiderable talents, merits, and accomplishments. And with each iteration of my resumé and each cover letter, I find myself getting a little bit more excited by my own awesomeness.

Two Masters degrees and a progression of university administrative positions distinguished by rapid promotion and a strong performance record? Yup, that’s me.

Responsible for sponsored project planning, logistics, and coordination; prospective, transfer, and current student advising; creation and distribution of promotional literature, and student progress and database management? Whoa, that’s me too.

Organized and hosted public relations and outreach projects, workshops, recruitment campaigns, orientation, commencement activities and departmental tours? Huh, I guess I did do all that. I pretty much rock!

Well, duh. Right?

The funny thing (or not) about extended under-employment is this: there’s always the possibility that eventually, you might start to forget about your own past glories and future potential. Take penguins, for instance: do they ever take a look up in the clear Antarctic skies at terns and boobies (heh) soaring and wheeling around and have even the remotest inkling that they’ve lost something? Do little tiny lizards ever think to themselves, if only I were a big ol’ fierce dinosaur, I’d show that stupid puny mammal something?

Okay, I know they don’t, but still…

The fact is, eleven months of no call-backs, rejection letters, and dead-end interviews do leave one’s ego a bit worse for wear (yes, even mine…though it’s still admittedly quite large and robust). Yeah, I know we’re in a big whopper of a recession. I know I’m one of three hundred-plus mostly-qualified applicants for every position I submit my name for, and that it’s a small miracle when I do make it to a first-round telephone interview. I know I’m good. The last time I found myself on a terminal contract (which was totally not my fault, by the way), I applied for three jobs, was one of the top two picks for two of them, and landed a good position not only before my contract expired, but with two months and a planned vacation to spare. And that was in an already-faltering economy and in a town with a preciously small and competitive job market. Boo-ya.

And finally, in my last position (shortly before the position disappeared, natch), I received a damned mother-effing university award complete with a shiny plaque with my name spelled right on it for my efforts…and I’d only been on the job for six months at the time. So not to boast too much, but yeah…I fucking rock. And this under-employed thing right now? So totally not indicative of my abilities, character, or anything else.

But still, it’s easy to forget I’m not reading a piece of fiction or somebody else’s job experiences every time I go through my resumé. To some extent, I’ve become that penguin.

Quack.

When I was a wee small high school kid, I had a triple-whammy going against me. I was skinny and ugly, I had poorly-honed social skills and no self esteem, and I had a big-ass brain. One fateful day, I realized it just wasn’t cool to be a smarty (especially one with glasses, a wardrobe, and a personality to match Steve Urkel’s), so the summer after graduation, I revamped myself. No glasses, a new wardrobe, a butt-load of false charm and bravado and shiny new grooming habits got me noticed, and a nerdotomy and new smartass personality got me noticed. So did a healthy addiction to the weight room at the gym. As long as I kept that brain carefully hidden, I was the hot popular kid. Somewhere down the line, that persona just…stuck…for a while.

Why the hell did I need to be smart when I had a rockin’ bod and this face??

Fortunately, grad school came along and kicked me in the seat of my complacency, humbled me a bit, and made me remember that this pretty head was meant for something more than a substrate for expensive hair product. Local hair show and freelance photographer model gigs were cool and all, but they didn’t really impress my medieval lit professor (the stupid douche). Brain, welcome back.

Fast forward to now, and…I guess it’s just sorta happened again. I’ve become the snarky smartass writer who blogs about vodka-induced shenanigans (but they’re so fun!), lawn maintenance mishaps (but leaf blowers are so fun!), and the ever-constant quest for better abs (but they’re soooo friggin’ hot!), and who pays the bills slinging fries and selling burgers.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. It’s just that I’ve been out of the smartly-dressed professional role for so long now that it’s easy to forget that I’m pretty friggin’ good at that, too.

And now that I’m hitting the job market hardcore again, it’s time to remember how goddamned golden I am.

I promise I won’t let it go to my head…much.

Rock-a-Bye Boyfriend

If you’ve hung around for a while, you probably know that to say I’m not a morning person is a wild understatement. In general, my early-morning routine consists of the following:

Wake up.

Grumble.

Slap the snooze button.

Grumble.

Throw a pillow at the bird cage, possibly uttering a few choice words that are no doubt largely contributory to Dino’s increasingly profane vocabulary.

Slap the snooze button again.

Hurl a pillow at Sierra, who views any sign of movement as an indication that kitty kibble is surely bound to appear in her dish, and, to expedite the process, sticks a whisker or two in any available facial orifice.

Grumble.

Slap the snooze button again, grumble again, swear at the cat and/or bird and/or sun again a few hundred thousand times over.

When I finally get out of bed, I half-slouch, half-lurch into the kitchen, where my large, shiny industrial-power coffee MACHINE (a gift of appeasement by an ex-ex-boyfriend who feared my morning exhaustion-fueled furies might lead to ritual sacrifice) awaits. After hitting the magical button that starts it burbling and hissing and brewing pure caffeinated goodness, I slouch-lurch back to my bedroom, grumbling all the while about the massive and monumental unfairness of having to be up so despairingly early (even if it’s approaching noon). Then I shower (and grumble), shave (grumble), pour myself a steaming cup of caffeinated morning goodness (grumble), iron my hair (double grumble if I burn my head), dress, and possibly start the entire process from scratch if (a) I’ve forgotten to put coffee in the filter and made myself coffee-flavored water, or (b) I’ve put toothpaste in my hair and hair goop on my toothbrush (yes, this happens).

Lee, on the other hand, is a marvel of friskiness, perkiness, and all other forms of annoying-ness in the morning, often rising at five or six on weekend mornings (to his credit he has to get up at four-thirty every weekday) to encourage Dino and Sierra in their early-morning hooliganery.

Because it’s neither very nice nor probably legal to lace his nightly glass of water with a potent large-game tranquilizer, I’ve tried all manner of methods to break him of his early rising. Yesterday, determined to spend at least one day this weekend snoozing past six, I figured I’d tire him out. I got my ass out of bed early, dragged him on a forty-minute run before breakfast, put him to work weeding the backyard with me in the hot sun, and ended the day with a brisk hike in the mountains (where, should either of us be bitten by the rattlesnake I disturbed up there earlier in the week, I figured at least I’d probably sleep well that night).

Then, just as Boyfriend was starting to yawn and blink sleepily, I popped in a movie too hysterical for him to possibly snooze through (My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s amazing Nia Vardelos in Connie and Carla, if anyone needs a dose of campy hilarity to keep their beloved but early-rising significant others awake at night).

And guess what? Baby was out like a light the instant I switched off the TV nice and late, and I drifted off to sleep content in the knowledge that poor exhausted Boyfriend would sleep long and hard and I could sleep in.

It worked. Kinda. Bitch didn’t get me up til seven.

Sigh.

A Leaf Blower Is Not A Sex Toy (And Other Landscaping Lessons)

‘Tis the season for outdoor projects, folks. It’s perfect – the sun is out, fruity summer beverages are flowing, and hawt shirtless guys are playing with their dogs in the park behind my house.

Also, the last update Google Street View did of my neighborhood showed a nice aerial view of a dark tangle of weeds and overgrown vegetation that would do Lost Island proud. Considering this is a desert climate, that’s quite the accomplishment. Lastly (and this might be the most important thing), the two foreclosed houses down the street finally sold and have been cleaned up, threatening to leave the title of least-kept front yard on the block to…me.

Clearly, this could not be allowed to happen. Therefore, these past few months have been a whirlwind of Extreme Home Makeover, Yard Edition. Not only have I obliterated all those weeds that sprung out of nowhere this winter – when it was cold and rainy and I was therefore too lazy to do anything, despite Willow and Lee constantly reminding me that they’d go to seed and be ten bazillion times worse (and they were right, dammit) – but I’ve trimmed shrubberies, pruned bushes, fertilized cacti, and blown all the assorted leaves and debris clean out of my yard and into Mr. Ass-Crack of Death’s yard next door.

And since I’m such a nice and sharing guy (I’m so sharing I let Lee do over half of the work) and have really learned quite an astounding bit about landscaping these past few months (hey, did you know organ-pipe cactus spines are really effing sharp and spiny and painful???), I figured I should pass on a few nuggets.

Without further ado, I present Zach’s Most Important Landscaping and Gardening Tips (or, Don’t Be Like Dumbass).

Landscaping Tip #1: When Boyfriend is attaching new head fittings to the irrigation system, do not play around with the timers and settings on the sprinkler box. This may or may not result in Boyfriend getting a faceful of Phoenix tap water, which is not a good thing – there’s a reason we get bottled water around here. Also, this means Boyfriend will be in sour mood and not feel sorry for you when a cactus thorn becomes impaled in your butt several hours later.

Landscaping Tip #2: Beware cacti bearing thorns. Especially when free-balling in basketball shorts. ‘Nuff said.

Landscaping Tip #3: When getting a nice ambitious start to the morning in order to beat the heat and sun, do not blast that Miley-Gaga-Justin Bieber iPod playlist out the open front windows. I don’t think Mr. Ass-Crack appreciates it as much as you do at six in the morning on a Saturday. Or ever, most likely.

Landscaping Tip #4: Before attacking the front yard with the leaf blower, it might be a good idea to move the freshly-washed-and-waxed-and-buffed-to-the-tune-of-forty-friggin-dollars car off the driveway. If you don’t, you fully deserve to have Roommate come along and write ‘Dumbass’ in the dust on the hood. Along these same lines, don’t blow pebbles down the sidewalk toward the neighbors’ Jaguar. They get all squinty-eyed about it.

Landscaping Tip #5: Unless you want a sunburn visible at night from the moon, put on sunblock before going out for that ‘quick’ little project. Four hours later, death might feel preferable.

Landscaping Tip #6: Speaking of leaf blowers (and death), they are great for hurricaning dust and pebbles off the back patio and out of the river rock and landscaping gravel out front, but are not so amazing when it comes to blowing junk out of the tiny gravel in the back yard. Unless you want to have a giant dust cloud blocking out the sun over your house for three days. This is probably a fair approximation of how the dinosaurs died.

Landscaping Tip #7: If you leave dog poop alone in the Arizona sun for a day or two, even the biggest Great Dane dookies desiccate and shrink down to the size of Chihuahua chips. Then you can blow them into the corner behind the citrus trees with the leaf blower until Boyfriend discovers the pile and makes you bag them up four months later.

Landscaping Tip #8: When you chase the dogs around the yard with the leaf blower, they don’t like it. They so dislike it, in fact, that they don’t run up to give you feel-better kisses when, while chasing them, you trip on the cord and embed gravel in your knees.

Landscaping Tip #9: Though bougainvillas are very hardy plants, they don’t especially like it when you forget to plant them for two months. Also, they don’t stuff well into tiny impractically-sized cars. And finally, they have big-ass spines, a fact they conceal from you until the moment you try to wrestle them into that tiny impractically-sized car. At this point, they viciously launch their inch-long daggers straight at your tender fleshy parts, exactly the way city folks figure porcupines throw their quills.

Landscaping Tip #10: Finally, when the landscaping is cleaned, the bushes trimmed, the new plants put in, and the yard generally looking kick-ass, don’t suggest to Boyfriend that you’re so glad it’s done and you don’t have to worry about any yard maintenance for the next eight months. Because aside from getting that twitchy thing going on in his right eye, he might very well pour what’s left of the industrial-strength weed killer into your next margarita.

There. Now that I’ve shared my hard-earned lessons and landscaping tips, I encourage you to put them to good use. In my yard, next season, when it’s time to do this whole process all over again. Told you I was good at sharing!

Bitch Be Goin’ Down!

Dear Boss,

Good news! Soon (very, very, very soon, I hope hope hope), the glorious world of academic administration will come to its collective senses and offer me a wonderful, fabulous job. At that point, I’ll be out of your poorly-dyed brown, red, gold, black, and fuschia hair forever, and you can go back to hiring poor saps with nothing better going for them who you can bully, threaten, intimidate, and illegally coerce into doing your exact bidding. Never again will you have to deal with an employee who is actually educated, not easily cowed, and who won’t call you on little trifling things like business practice standards, state employment regulations, and federal laws.

To make your job a little easier post-Zach and as a peace offering of sorts, I’ve got a few suggestions. After all, I don’t have your twenty-seven years of experience with the McFranchise, but I do know a thing or two about working with people. It’s, like, my actual career and stuff.

Suggestion #1: hire more of your pregnant teen daughters’ boyfriends. The one you’ve got supervising the kitchen now does a bang-up job, when he shows up sober (or not exhausted from balancing diaper duty and junior high). Since they will be working to support their own growing families, they’ll work hard. And since they’re practically your family, they might even put up with you. And finally, since they were stupid enough to impregnate your nasty skanky-ass daughters in the first place, they clearly have no standards or expectations in life and will make perfectly pliable kitchen drones.

Suggestion #2: knock it off with the prescription drug dependencies. Not only do your pills make you a manic, twitchy bitch to the highest order, but folks notice. That cute tax guy who comes in all the time (and probably, FYI, didn’t need to hear you speculate on whether he was a ‘faggot’ and enthusiastically tell me I should ‘nail him’) once actually looked down at his coffee after you’d made it, screwed up his face like he was afraid to touch it lest the insanity be contagious, and asked in a whisper whether you really were the store manager and if you were on drugs. Seriously. I shit you not. Clean that mess up, you effin’ tweaker.

And on that note, Suggestion #3: stop hysterically bitching out and swearing at your employees in front of customers. The parents of the few remaining three-year-olds in this world who don’t yet know the phrase “motherfucking shitfaced fucking fuckhole” probably don’t want their kids to learn it from you. That’s just a guess, though.

Suggestion #4: hire more of those little brown folks. I know it’s confusing and tricky keeping up with their bi-weekly name changes and annoying when they want their paychecks in cold hard cash, but their highly limited English-language skills mean they’ll probably give you less of a hard time than us too-literate, multi-degreed types. But that’s illegal, you say? Oh, stop it. Don’t be such a sissy. You do LOADS of other stuff that the FDA (and every lawyer’s office in America) would freak out about, and you’ve never let pesky little immigration laws keep you from winking and looking the other way in the past. Right, Ricardo…er…Hector…er…Ernesto?

(A NOTE FROM OUR SPONSORS: the author of pro(zach)nation neither condones nor condemns the Anti-Immigration measures currently sweeping Arizona. Yes, peeps should go about getting here legally. Yes, they’re breaking the law. But on the other hand, have you seen Mexico lately? /END CHEESY DISCLAIMER)

And finally, Suggestion #5 (and this is the most important one. You might write it down so you can remember it when you finally come off that pharma-trip): do Suggestions 1-4 very quickly, because the day after I finally take my long-awaited exit to McStage Right, I’ll be sending a nice note to your boss, the owner of the franchise, the corporate office, maybe the local Chamber of Commerce, and possibly – just possibly – the Sheriff’s Office and INS. In that letter, I might – and there’s that word again, might – bring up a few of those above-mentioned indiscretions of yours. Remember that time my register came out short, you insisted I make up the difference out of my paycheck (despite the fact that the girl who counted it before my shift has the counting skills of a pre-school dropout), I fussed about it in front of your boss, she told you you absolutely would NOT be taking it out of my paycheck, you visibly recanted but later gave me the option of being fired or paying it out of my pocket despite your boss’ decree, AND you took punitive action for my little rebellion by demoting me to the back of the kitchen for a week? Yeah, I remember it too…and I have documentation that I repaid the amount in compliance with your directive, all signed and dated by myself and your assistant manager. I also have a calendar chock full of dates you did similarly questionable things. AND I know the residency status of your kitchen employees. You think Sheriff Joe and his vigilantes might swing through for coffee and documentation one of these beautiful mornings?

In other words: war? It’s on. In other other words: bitch, you’re goin’ down.

And if – by some remote chance – you someday land a job cleaning my cushy office, I’ll be sure to leave a nice, squishy, smelly surprise for you in my trash can. I’ll leave it to your fervent, drug-addled imagination to figure out exactly what it will be.

Love, kisses, and world peace,

Zach

PS – Mimi from the Drew Carey Show called. She wants the sparkly turquoise mascara back.

PPS – You want fries with that?

The Simple (Minded) Life

Every now and again, curious readers want to know a little more about the charming and enigmatic author of pro(zach)nation (okay, my rotten little readers, you don’t – or at least haven’t told me so – but I’m sure at least one of you has at least once wondered about it.), and whether I’m really as glamorous and put-together as that little picture over on the right would indicate and writing this illustrious blog from a marvelously decorated office overlooking an idyllic window garden or the Grand Canyon while nubile young men feed me grapes from a golden platter.

Sadly, for those of you who entertain such romantic notions, the answer is no: I’m usually mussed, kinda stinky, and wearing the days’ gym clothes when I sit down to work on the blog. Further adding to your (and my) disappointment, the only Grand Canyon you’re bound to see if you look out the window of Casa Zach is the one attached to the back end of my grease-monkey neighbor if he’s outside working on his car.

(The latter of which explains why I’m so often bitter and a little bit caustic when composing my Big Thought For the Week, but is infinitely better than if, say, Mr. Hottie Grease-Monkey down the street were bent over working on his cars in front of my window, since drool has a way of frying laptop keyboards, and then you’d NEVER see anything new on this page.)

For those of you disillusioned by this, fear not, for a change has come our way. No, the Mile-Wide Crack of Ass with his rusted-out dune buggy has not swapped homes with Hottie McClassic Impala Driver (mmmm…yeah…get that big ol’ engine all revved up, buddy), sadly. But instead of coming to you from my nicely-decorated but gym-clothes-strewn booooo-dwar, pro(zach)nation is now coming to you from my pretty new patio.

That’s right. Faint odor of gym socks and Kitten’s Offensive Litterbox, be gone! Fresh summer breeze, gentle scent of citrus trees and jasmine, and melodic birdsong, welcome! As I write this, the evening sun is filtering through the trees, I’ve got a fabulous blood orange martini at arms’ reach, I can hear Little Leaguers battering each other with bats at the park down the street, and, soon enough, strands of twinkling white lights and hanging paper lanterns will illuminate my work. It’s an early summer evening, and life is good. And I’m not even wearing sweaty gym clothes.

Does this more properly suit your romantic vision of your favorite blogger? Yes? Almost? It would if there were another fresh martini in front of me? Well, good. This suits me much better, too.

The things I do for my reader(s).

Now that that’s settled, let’s get on with business, shall we? As soon as I shake up another martini, that is?

Okay.

Life has been busy here at pro(Zach) Central for the past little while. Now that Roommate’s got her groove on and has suddenly re-discovered the opposite sex (but that’s another story – stay tuned, folks!), Boyfriend and I have found ourselves with wads of her cash at our disposal to make this humble abode more company-friendly in part of the ongoing ‘Project Roommate Makeover, Season One’ (more on that soon, too!). We’ve been busy enough, these past weeks, to soooo warrant our own HGTV show (on a lot right across from Color Splash’s David Bromstead’s dressing room window, please. And binoculars? Yes, thanks!).

(And this? Right here? Is pretty much the reason Roommate tolerates me. In fact, had she known I was a latent decorating-gene-equipped homosexical a decade or so ago, I’m pretty sure she would have foregone the hassle of that pesky wedding and simply hired me on as her stylist and married me off to David Hottie McDreamy Bromstead so as to get a lifetime of free painting too, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Anyway.

Our first major project was a complete redecorating of the living room and kitchen. Too give ourselves due credit, though, ‘redecorating’ just doesn’t quite convey the awesome scope of this project – ‘burned to the ground and started from scratch’ is slightly more appropriate. The second was the re-landscaping of the front yard so that when Marcus (that’s the guy who’s got Roommate’s undies all wadded up on the floor) pulls up in his shiny new Audi, it doesn’t look like he’s a realtor pulling up to look at one of this neighborhood’s several empty and foreclosed properties.

With the rest of the house and it’s environs looking as utterly faboosh as my boo-dwar (can you tell I’m too lazy – or vodka-addled, possibly – to run the spell-check this afternoon?) and a even faboosher (again: hi, vodka!) housewarming party or two wrapped up, it was time to pay some attention to the back patio, a part of the house thus far only regularly frequented by the dogs and occasional dustball. Really, with its big french doors looking right in on the now-fabooshitized (another martini, anyone?) living room, it was high time for it to get its own makeover.

Coincidentally (maybe), Boyfriend and I just happened to be perusing our friendly neighborhood World Market (just like Pier One, but pricier and with super-fun martini mixers!!!) this past weekend. That’s when we found the perfect set of teak-stained patio furniture. It was, for lack of better words, cute. Coming from a guy who once threatened his best friend to never, upon pain of death, utter ‘cute’ around him, that says quite a lot. That means it was majorly cuuuuuuute. In a manly way, of course.

Only two problems existed: it was a new floor model only and the actual product wasn’t arriving until this week, and Roommate had taken the remainder of her allotted home-improvement budget and left for LA for the weekend with the boytoy (and his shiny new Audi, which may or may not be my favorite thing about this one).

And that’s why, early this morning (and by ‘early morning,’ I may or may not mean eleven-thirty-ish), I found myself battling suburban housewives for the very last of the lovely new teak-and-desert-dust-unfriendly-white upholstered patio sets and spent the better part of my allotted job-hunting time this afternoon assembling (without instructions!) what at one point — until I figured out what all the screws and stuff were for — something that was starting to resemble a main character from a Michael Bay film.

So now, dear readers, you won’t smell the faint cloying aroma of sweaty socks when you read my blog, unless it’s coming from your own feet.

Sigh.

The things I do for you.

Now, who wants a martini?

A Tale of Two Rotten Apples

Ahooooooooy there!

After a hideously long and unanticipated hiatus, the good ship pro(zach)nation is once again sailing ahead under it’s own power, right back into the treacherous waters of mirth, snark, and literary mayhem. It’s been a long and tiresome season in drydock, but with the laptops (well, one of them) humming along at full speed again, it’s time some new adventures.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, (i.e. plugged into Zachbook…errr…Facebook), here’s what happened: shortly after my last blog entry, alllll the way back in mid-February, the unimaginable happened. My pretty little MacBook died. Kaput. Ker-blewie. Curtains. Fat lady going la-la-laaaaa.

It was an entirely unexpected and unfathomably tragic (and early) death, and one which I had absolutely nothing to do with. There was no throwing of laptop. There was no throwing of items at laptop. No temper tantrum was involved. It simply…stopped working. Honest to goodness (why does nobody believe this part?).

One moment I was watching Ugly Betty on Hulu, and the next….tick…tick…tick. One hard drive, melted into a pile of goo (or whatever hard drives melt down into). It was eerily similar, in the surreal horror of it all, to the time my car rumbled to a smoking stop on the side of the highway in the Eastern Washington plains.

One moment, we’re humming along happily at 120 mph. The next…ticking and smoking. Then astonished staring. Then cursing. Then more staring. Finally, copious pouting.

It was not a good day.

The next day was not so hot, either. That’s the day when Backup Mac, the trusty old G4, jumped, lemming-like, off a footstool and destroyed itself on the tile floor of my bedroom (a puzzling apparent suicide, I thought, until I saw a blur of black and white and no tail go bouncing off said footstool and realized I’d inadvertently parked Backup Mac in the middle of the cat’s own version of Bonneville Flats).

And that, dear friends, is how the two computers that had served me magnificently for the past six or seven years managed to die within twenty-four hours of each other.

So…now that the pretty Macbook is once again up and running (save for a shiny new hard drive that needs to be restocked with porn…err…important files), it’s time to return to the blog. I’ve got stories to tell, adventures to relate….and folks to excoriate with words.

Welcome aboard (again).