Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adventures at Starbucks

The weirdos are supposed to be at Dunkin' Donuts. The creepy old man in his blue truck who always stared at me before I bought my 4:45 a.m. iced coffee. Or the other old creepy man sitting on a chair outside the Dunkin' Donuts, slumped over, mouth hanging open and looking like he just overdosed on pills.

I expect that at the Dunk. Not at Starbucks.

Sure, you have your screenwriters, your professionals reading the New York Times, your random musicians. However, recent experiences may require that I carry a weapon or camera so as to protect myself or capture for myself some very strange moments and people. Let's go down the list.

  1. I walked past a woman getting out of an orange car on my way to Starbucks to finish reading my 700-page Lyndon Johnson biography. Didn't think anything of her until I saw her reflection in the black glass of a nearby store. She had no shirt on, just a bra. I couldn't help myself so I shot a very conspicuous look back at her to find this woman, probably in her 30's, with short blond hair, in the process of putting on a dress. Right in a parking lot. At 5:30 p.m. People everywhere. To top it off, she gave me a little snarl, as if to say, "How dare you!" Hey, I'm not the one who mistook a parking lot for the fitting room at Filene's Basement. I did not deserve that look. Not at all.

  2. In the corner of said Starbucks sat a mysterious woman who had unfurled several manila envelops on the table. Nothing out of of the ordinary there, until on further inspection, she reminded me of a towering figure from my past - Mrs. Tanner, the feared 12th grade English teacher at Cranston High School East. Imagine the stern headmaster in any British movie and you get a fair picture of her. This lady had the same face, same protruding chin, same cold eyes, same glasses perched at the edge of her nose and even the same hair style, except Starbucks Tanner had maroonish hair, not black like Cranston Tanner. This poor lady must have wondered why this lanky kid in a Serra Padres shirt was looking at her in abject fear.

  3. A few days ago I was working on my computer, minding my own business and trying to listen to my iTunes. To my dismay, my headphones were broke. I mention this because a first date was going on right next to me and I couldn't help but hear the whole thing. I've well entered my bitter, angry man phase, so this interaction pissed me off. Having to listen to some chirpy couple exchanging annoying small talk in annoying voices really .... annoyed me. The guy regaled the woman about his job as a hypnotist. Yes, a hypnotist. And he was so gosh darn happy about it. The woman spoke in a throaty, high-pitched tone that scaled at my eardrums. They were happy and cheerful and flirty. Grumpy old Sears shot them dirty looks all afternoon. (Really, a hypnotist? He told a story how he learned of his "talents" at a summer camp when he was 12. Shut up.)

  4. Another day, another couple, just not as bothersome. The woman was very beautiful, some kind of foreign. I couldn't tell though. And the guy had a British accent and he was kind of a jerk to her the whole time. They argued about something, and he was winning. I didn't get the particulars since my headphones were actually working this time. But they aren't the crux of this vignette. A hippy-looking kid with floppy brown hair and Rivers Cuomo glasses walked right up to me and asked, "Do you know how to hack into the FBI database in this Starbucks?" I said, "What?" And he repeated his question even louder. The woman next to me shot me a nervous look and I told the kid, "I have no idea." He shrugged and walked back to his friends. I told the couple next to me, "And if I did know I certainly wouldn't tell him." They smiled, but did not laugh as uproariously as I had intended. An elderly man sitting by himself in the corner then shouted to me, "Just a stupid kid. A really stupid kid." He shook his head in disgust and continued reading his book. I will be that man in about 30 years.

  5. Once again, trying to read my LBJ biography and a man dressed like one of the green men at the Canucks games walked in, except his getup was blue. It's been so strange at Starbucks for me recently I didn't bat an eye and kept reading, completely ignoring his prancing around.

Strange enough for you? Some of you could be disappointed that I wasn't vomited on or thrown out by a power-hungry home plate umpire. Still, weird people need to stay away from me. Actually, all people need to stay away from me. I really want to be that cranky guy in the corner of your local Starbucks by 2040.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Back to the Tercel

My days as a semi-normal human being are over ... for now.

A few weeks ago my bosses told me they were switching me back to the night shift. My time as the early, early morning guy ended today a little past 2 p.m. So goodbye, weekends. Goodbye, 4 a.m. alarm. Goodbye, delicious company breakfasts. Goodbye, sunlight.

While getting up at 4 a.m. and going to bed at around 10 p.m. befits a man of 80, it was still as close to normal as I have ever been since college. I felt like I had the whole day to experience. On days off I woke up at 7 or 8 a..m., a full day to waste. And waste them I did.

Now I head back to sleeping until mid-afternoon, the sun almost ready to set by the time I'm ready to go outside. I head back to Vampire Hours.

It's not all bad. I will be able to watch the mediocre Red Sox now. I will be able to watch live sporting events without fighting to stay awake. Staying up for all the Bruins and Celtics game the past month and a half took a heavy toll. Two days ago I returned to my apartment right after work, plopped into bed and decided to nap 'for a few minutes.' When I woke up, three hours had passed.

This move fills me with no joy, but I guess if I wanted a 9-to-5 job I should have chosen a different profession. Don't you worry about Steve Sears. I will carry on. I will still drink coffee, only this time the caffeine will keep me alert at midnight, not 5 a.m. And I will always appreciate my eight-month respite as a normal human being. It reminds me of the time my craptacular 1988 Toyota Tercel needed repairs and I drove a rental car to high school. I forget the make and model, but it was sweet.

Really sweet.

It's white paint glimmered with that new car shine. Unlike my Tercel, it had a working radio and did not spew a mysterious and probably fatal green gas into the atmosphere. (I am the biggest cause of Global Warming.) The seats weren't torn. It reached 50 mph without shaking violently. Basically, I drove a limo to Cranston East for a few days. It was so sweet I should have been allowed to park in the spots reserved for City Hall employees.

The first morning a girl I liked noticed that I wasn't driving a shitmobile that Tom Joad would refuse to be caught dead in. "Is that your car, Steve?" she asked. Did I say, "Yeah, babe. Jump in the back seat and I give you a tour." No, Jean-Ralphio would say that. I stupidly admitted it was a rental. But my high school failing aren't on trial here.

I only had that car a few days, but it was a marvelous few days. I always knew I'd end up back in that 1988 Tercel back in 2000-2001. Ten years later, same old Tercel.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I just don't get it

It's safe to say Bill Belichick knows more about football that little ol' me. Criticizing his selection of players is akin to me criticizing a neurosurgeon during an operation.

Still, I just don't get this draft.

They had a need on the offensive line, which has been dominated in the team's last three playoff losses. Nate Solder could address that. But defensive line/linebacker? They didn't try.

Many love to screech about the unwashed masses who yearn for a pass rusher like we're baseball fans who hate OBP and BABIP, like we're the same WEEI banshees who would call for cutting Carl Crawford.

Yes, it may be a cliche at this point. But we watch the games, and it's a clear as it can possibly be. Opposing quarterbacks have dissected this defense with ease for years. Matt Flynn did it. Seneca Wallace did it. Mark Sanchez's jersey is always a pristine white after any Patriots game, if he sucks or not. Why not? When Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich are your pass-rushers ...

I can't go on. The fact that these two are the main pass-rushers makes me ill. I don't want to vomit on my keyboard. I liked TBC as a guy they brought in on third downs occasionally. I never, ever wanted him to start, to be the main guy.

For many years, we Pats fans have been waiting for the next Mike Vrabel/Willie McGinest. Shawn Crable never panned out. Adalius Thomas was a bust. And in the draft, the Pats aren't even trying. I always hear "so-and-so doesn't fit the scheme." So, for three years not one pass-rushing outside linebacker or defensive end fits the scheme? Clay Matthews seems to fit Green Bay's scheme. If 1980s Lawrence Taylor was available, would New England trade out of his spot to stockpile 14 second-round picks in 2013 because "he doesn't fit the scheme?"

Draft all the corners you want, a secondary of four Deion Sanders clones could not cover receivers if the QB has five minutes to throw. This is what Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi were able to provide. Jerod Mayo is good, but he's not a force in the backfield. Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork are supposed to occupy O-lineman in the 3-4, creating space for the LBs to attack the passer.

Who's going to do that next season? Jermaine Cunningham? Dane Fletcher? Lt. Weinberg? I don't know. But the fact that the Pats aren't even trying to fill this hole frustrates me to no end, as a fan. Going 14-2 or 12-4 is fine. But I don't want my team to become the Colts, completely incapable of making the big play on defense when it counts.

If a sports genie told me, "I grant one of your teams a championship. Pick which one, but only one," I would pick the Pats. The Bruins would be tempting, to finish out the four major sports, but I DESPERATELY want one more title for Tom Brady and the Pats. The last Super Bowl which I am refusing to name still stings. Balancing the scales from that epic, gut-wrenching, haunting disaster of a game is the one thing in sports I want more than anything else.

And Brady is in his 30s now. The end of his career is no longer a decade away. (As for Ryan Mallett, I watched him plenty and he gets the Drew Bledsoe yips when things start to go wrong.) So instead of making sure we have 13 draft choices every season, the Pats should be focused on the now. Go for the Lombardi Trophy while Brady still wears a Flying Elvis. Sell your soul if you have to. Having five or six picks won't doom the team to 3-13.

And getting NFL-capable outside rushers is important. The Ravens have Suggs. The Steelers have Harrison. The Packers have Matthews. The Colts have Freeney. The Pats have Banta-Cain and Ninkovich.

I don't get it.