Thursday, June 25, 2009

Being Impulsive


Downtime and relaxation are key to my survival. As my family and friends can attest to, I can become a bit of an angry buddy if there's too much on my schedule. It causes me to do crazy things, like disappearing from phone contact for several weeks at a time or quitting my job to pursue a career in unemployment (it's not as profitable as you may think).

Many may (and have) called this "laziness", but I don't think that this is entirely true. I enjoy getting things done throughout the day, and feel good every time I cross something off of my to-do list. The longer the list, the better I feel when I've accomplished each of these tasks. More than anything, if I can complete things in an expedient fashion, allowing myself to fully take advantage of my relaxation schedule, the more victorious I am. That way, when moms calls me lazy for lounging on the couch, I can point to my to-do list, and shove it in her face. Take that Moms!

In the last couple of months, I've found myself needing to dedicate significant time and energy into making some tough decisions. Searching for an apartment, buying a car, deciding on health care coverage, and making travel plans for the summer all made appearances on my daily schedule throughout the spring and summer. For many people, these situations would require significant research and energy, causing certain amounts of frustration and anguish. By the time they make their final decision, they have exhausted all other possibilities and know that they have made the best choice possible for their particular situation.

I, on the other hand, in the name of efficiency, have been taking each of these decisions head on with extremely impulsive, and often error-laden choices. Instead of taking the extra time to feel confident with the end result, I will say "yes" to the first option that comes my way, allowing me to watch an extra episode of "Weeds".

These recent, quick decisions have not worked out exactly according to my master plan. Here is a quick breakdown:

Health Care: I enlisted in the first plan that I found, at the cheapest rate possible. Within a week, I contracted pink eye from a mystery location (I blame the dirtiness of my hood), and found that my health plan didn't cover the prescription or the office visit. After $150, my pink eye was gone, but my unemployed bank account had taken a beating.

Summer Travel Plans: I spent approximately 10 minutes looking for flights home this summer, quickly purchasing moderately priced tickets. I randomly checked the same flight a week later, only to find that it had dropped by $50. Curse you and your convenience Orbitz!

Apartments: I was ready to move into the first apartment that Nick and I visited. There was nothing special about the place, but it was acceptable in my eyes. Thankfully, Nick, and his ridiculous list of qualifications, prevented this from occurring. Otherwise, we would have been stuck with a small, overpriced place that still had Halloween decorations in its side yard.

Car: The biggest error in all of my impulsive decisions was also the most expensive. The car that I purchased was actually the second one that I looked at, only because the first one was a salvage vehicle. It is a Honda Civic that had been dropped a couple of inches, had an air intake valve installed in the engine, and a bubble muffler that caused it to earn the nickname "Vroom Vroom Pow" from my friends. I was only a few neon lights and a set a spinners away from fully converting into a 17 year old Asian. Thankfully, I've had the muffler replaced recently and I am slowly recovering some of my suburban-ness.

Some might think that a moment of self-reflection would hit me after writing about these errors in impulsiveness. I would start completing extensive amounts of research, studying Consumer Reports, and feeling confident in all of my purchases. That would be the smart move, however, I can guarantee that I've learned nothing. I will continue to live on razors edge of informed shopping, and persist in making excuses for my mistakes.

I guess that relaxation, and above all else, tv programs are that much more important to me. Don't judge me, or I'll shove my to-do list in your face.

-More to come...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moving On...


Over the last several months, I've been crafting a top secret plan to move out of the ghetto. Days spent at the beach, Tuesdays at PB Bar and Grill, and the desire to take up permanent residence in the Silver Fox have all played into my strategy. After planting the idea within Nick's (my roommate) mind grapes since March, I've finally managed to convince him that moving from the hood is a good idea. We put in our 30 day notice at our current residence last week, found a place on Monday, and signed our rental agreement today. The best part of my entire plan; Nick thought he had a choice in the whole matter.

No longer will I be able to rub extremely dirty shoulders with the homeless of North Park. I'm leaving behind robberies, shootings, fire extinguishers, and junkies and entering into the world of cheap tequila shots, beach cruisers, drinking games, and college-aged neighbors. Rather than embracing the eclectic nature of uptown San Diego, I'm moving into the epicenter of doucheness and brosephs, also known as Pacific Beach.

With the offerings of bars, restaurants, and the beach, PB is an extremely attractive option for many San Diego residents, which makes it ideal for ridiculously priced rental properties. Nick and I spent three full days touring various locations, seeing every variety of apartment that you could imagine. There was the converted garage that smelled heavily of hippie perfume. The very nice condo, with functioning fireplace, that was located in the alleyway behind the domestic abuse house. The large apartment on the second level of the building that housed the corporate headquarters of a clothing company called Vicious Enterprises. This company offers "a variety of lingerie, costumes, stockings, rhinestone jewelry, and pet accessories." Mmmm classy...

After our extensive search, we managed to find a place that was described as LG/2 BR/2 BA in its ad. It's within our unemployed (or nearly unemployed) price range, has a secret passageway, a nice courtyard area, and a living room counter that is excellent for drinking games. It's closer to being in the Crown Point neighborhood than PB, but it's within a bike ride of the ocean and bars, and a short walk away from a park on Mission Bay. It's nothing extraordinary, but fairly solid at the same time. The neighborhood is really quiet, and there were no visible signs of bums. No rusted shopping carts or used needles anywhere in sight.

As soon as Nick gets back from the blessed land known as Minnesota, we are going to be loading up the moving trucks, singing the Jefferson's theme song, and saying goodbye to El Cajon Boulevard for the last time.

Fair readers, if you ever find yourself in the San Diego area, come visit us at the beach. There are couches, courtyards, and quarters tables waiting to welcome you.

More to come...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comment Boxing


In light of the fact that I received an anonymous comment on one of the posts from last week, I am going to dedicate an entry to the discussion and present my rebuttal. In case you missed it, here is the comment:

Track suits still are cool. Troll dolls and NKOTB, not so much. Who was your favorite New Kid?

I have to start by thanking Anonymous for the material for another blog entry. Without you, none of this could have been possible. I would also like to thank Google Image search, as it has provided a wide range of visual stimuli that I will use in this discussion.

Onto my first point: Track suits are cool...

I will agree that tracksuits have evolved into something acceptable to wear today, however, there was a period of the late eighties, early nineties that brought us retina-damaging colors and sonically-offensive sounds that were completely uncalled for.

At that time, tracksuits were made of some sort of shiny, almost reflective nylon material that would make the pffft pffft sound as you walked. I would be sitting my elementary school classroom, attempting to not move, so that I wouldn't be overpowering the teacher's lecture with my pffft pffft's.

In addition, the tracksuits were often very bright and very coordinated. If you had a swatch of florescent green on the shoulder, you were most likely going to have a matching swatch on the lower pant leg. Color symmetry was very important. If you ever were trying to sneak up on someone, the worst outfit you could have chosen was a 1990 era tracksuit. Not only would they hear you approaching, but they could make out the colors of your outfit from a mile away.

One last thing. For some reason, the suits were cut in a very odd way. They generally had normal sized wastes, with an extended crotch section, that would then narrow down as the pants approached your ankles, often ending with an elastic band. Think Hammer Pants. Throughout the day, my tracksuit pants would start to creep up my lower leg, causing me to fight a constant battle of pulling them back down to my tubesocks. It was an irritating affair.

There is no part of me that thinks this looks cool.

In the end, I knew the exact moment that I had to give up wearing my tracksuit. I had received some for Christmas the previous year, and had proudly rocked it throughout the hallways of Westview Elementary. In the following year, my grandmother received a tracksuit for Christmas that was eerily similar to one that I owned. Upon returned home, I immediately buried my collection in the back of my closet, never to be worn again.

Point number two: Troll dolls are not cool...

When I was in fifth grade, I received a troll doll from my first girlfriend for Valentine's Day. He had pink hair and a tuxedo. I think that I gave her a mood ring and a packet of sweet hearts. It was the most romantic point in my life...

I will agree that troll dolls are no longer cool for someone of my advanced age. I couldn't justify having a collection of them sitting in my room now, but I can't say that they aren't cute. I could see how they might still be appealing to someone much younger than I.

At a certain age however, having a close relationship with dolls are stuffed animals becomes unacceptable. You may think that you have a cute collection of Pound Puppies or Cabbage Patch Dolls, but the rest of the world finds you uber-creepy. See visual evidence below.

This guy would do terrible things to your stuffed animals.

This is somehow different for middle-aged women. When the Beanie Baby movement hit a few years ago, I would see women driving around with hundreds of the dolls in the back window of their car. I never understood why this was occurring, but it was somehow acceptable. The lesson here:

40 year old woman with dolls - Hobby.
40 year old man with dolls - Run away as quickly as possible.

In the end, I would say that troll dolls could still be considered cool for young children. If I were 10 years old, would I shun the gift of a troll doll from my girlfriend? Probably not.

If a gorilla digs them, then so do I.

Point number three: NKOTB is not cool...

NKOTB 1990

I never considered New Kids on the Block to be cool. I always considered them a little weird, even as a young child. They brought quite a number of questions to mind:

Why was that one guy so angry all the time?
Why was the 12 year old humping the microphone stand?
What's with the pelvic thrusts?

That didn't mean that I didn't listen to their music, or attend their concert when I was in third grade. Far from it. I embraced NKOTB because that's what everyone else was doing. I may not have had a lunch box or a picture of Joey on my wall, but I didn't shun them. At the time, I enjoyed the cool stylings of the California Raisins and the Stand By Me soundtrack far more than "Hanging Tough", but I wasn't going to let my peers know that.

But that doesn't mean that they weren't cool, or aren't cool today. In fact, New Kids have reunited and are coming out with a new album. I've had friends go to their concert. Maybe it's a little bit of a novelty act, but they can still evoke enough emotion to sell out arenas. And for that, New Kids, you are cool.

NKOTB today

Point number four: Favorite New Kid...

I have to go with Donnie. Mainly because I couldn't imagine how difficult it would be to constantly maintain the bad boy image. In every picture that he's in, he's mean-mugging. It's impressive, earning my respect and the title of "Micah's favorite New Kid." That sounds awful.

That's all I've got. Thanks again to the Anonymous poster. More comments = more better. Make your voice heard!

-More to come...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Must Love Dogs


I have no problem with dogs. Generally, I'm a big fan. I grew up with a successive trio of cockapoos*.

*Quick side note; the cockapoo is possibly the worst dog breed for a middle school aged boy to own. The name still makes me giggle. Cockapoo...tee hee hee. So hilarious.

I loved each of our family dogs. I enjoy spending time with friend's dogs. If a random dog approaches me in the street, I will regularly give them a little scratch behind the ears and speak to them with a strange dog/baby voice. "Who's a good boy? You are. You're a good boy."

Dogs express joy better than any other creature in the world. The overjoyed look on their face, the entire body wagging, and the occasional peeing of themselves when they see their owner is unrivaled in the animal world. There is no other pet that could best the reaction of a dog. Cats may appear when you enter the room, if only to deliver a "Oh, it's you." or a "You should be wetting yourself to see me" look. Fish have no idea what's going on. A bird will chirp at unbearably piercing levels. I'm unsure about ferrets, or hamsters, or pigs, or monkeys, but I'm going to guess that they aren't delivering the same amount of enthusiasm as a dog.

Regardless of appearance or likability or beliefs, they will provide companionship for people. There is a crazy lady that has started to make appearances around the hood, collecting broken umbrellas and avoiding the constraints of a bra, while constantly having a golden retriever by her side. The golden retriever doesn't realize how bat-crazy this woman is or judge her for talking to the fence posts outside the AM/PM gas station. All the dog knows is that this woman will occasionally feed it, and supply a warm body to sleep next to while in the streets.

For these reasons, and others, I love dogs. The joy, loyalty, and companionship that they provide make them easy to adore. It makes me start to wonder about getting a dog of my own...

...and then, one half second later, I immediately shut down that line of thinking. I spent the weekend dog sitting for my friends, receiving a small taste of exclusive dog ownership. They have two dogs, a black lab and a boston terrier, who are a generally good mannered pair. Bucky and Sheeba are not puppies. They like to sleep. They don't whine very often and seem to entertain themselves. Here are a couple of pictures.

And yet, even with all of this, my laziness and self-obsession become very apparent when I'm the caretaker of something other than myself. The following are actual conversations that I had with the dogs this weekend.

-You want to go outside again? I just let you out 5 minutes ago, and I just got comfortable on the couch.
-What do you think about not going for a walk today? How about we just watch some tv instead?
-Stop trying to snuggle with me! It's too hot and your breath smells awful. Go sleep on the other side of the bed.
-I don't want to wake up yet. Stop pawing at my face.

I basically turned into a middle aged married man, griping with my wife. Only that my wife turned out to be two dogs in this case. Instead of being a dog owner, I prefer to be a dog uncle. I like to swoop in, play with the dogs for a moment, and then promptly exit when the real responsibilities kick in. Walks, medication, picking up poop, that's all on you, dog owner. I'll just be over here, ready to throw a ball or give them a treat.

I'm guessing that part of the reason that I'm so averse to dog care is that they aren't my own. If I were the sole parent of another life, I may have more energy to put into the relationship. That's the theory at least. I'm hoping that this is the case, because I would really enjoy earning the role of 'father' some day. I would play catch with my child, teaching him or her the ways of the world, making them laugh at my hilarious jokes, tickling them, telling them bedtime stories...

...and then promptly handing them to my wife if they are crying, need something to eat, or require a new diaper. It's the perfect plan.

-More to come...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Peer Pressure


The DARE program entered into my life at a very influential time. The 5th grade version of Micah would take anything that an adult said as gospel, especially one in a police officer's uniform. If a cop ever said anything in my general direction, I would nearly wet myself, which is a condition may or may not still exist today.

For those that have never experienced DARE, it is a program that sends a uniformed officer into school classrooms to educate kids about the effects of drugs. From DARE's website:

The D.A.R.E. program is more than just drug prevention education; it teaches students good decision making skills to help them avoid high-risk behavior to ensure they grow up healthy, safe and secure.

One of the most important lessons that DARE taught was to avoid the effects of peer pressure. At the time, I fully believed that peer pressure had no effect on me. I would use the tactics learned in DARE to avoid pressure from my drug using friends. Saying no and walking away would definitely work. The "broken record" was fool proof!

Meanwhile I was clapping in a circle and barking like a seal to give my "seal of approval". I was wearing track suits, buying troll dolls for my girlfriends, and listening to New Kids On the Block. I secretly hated all of these things, but they were a requirement for any child that didn't want to be outcast from our rapidly developing social class. Richard has a fluorescent green, tiger print snap bracelet? I need one! Now! Peer pressure was secretly leading every aspect of my life.

Over the years, I've found that I was able to overcome certain aspects of this peer pressure. I'm no longer a slave to brand names or labels (other than puma. I heart you. Kisses), I like my own brand of music, and I've been able to chart my own, unique career path. I'm my own man, dammit! It may have taken some time, but the lessons of DARE seemed to have sunk in. I have resisted the pressure of my peers in order to become my own person...

What's that? You want me to drink heavily? Binge drink, even? Drink a beer bong with a live bee in it? You are going to chant my name in encouragement? Okay!

Although I'm able to resist peer pressure in certain aspects of my life, the one area that DARE seemed to have no impact for me was in the use of drugs and alcohol. The cool kids were drinking in high school, so naturally I wanted to be drinking as well. Smoking weed was fun? Let me give it a try.

I'm convinced that I would have experimented with a far greater range of recreational drugs if I had surrounded myself with a different group of people. I have a great group of friends, all of whom are hard working, successful, and have avoided any serious drug use. On the other hand, each and every one of them loves to drink. In large quantities. Out of bottles, and beer bongs, and bags of wine.

Once I get wrapped up in this world, I will do the same. Once the peer pressure to drink arrives, I am powerless to stop it. If I see someone taking a beer bong, I want to be involved. I want to slap the wine bag alongside all of my friends. We're going to turn this into a drinking game? Yes!

The reason for this drinking testimonial is due to an experience I had on Sunday. I was working at Confidential, serving drinks for a wedding party. The couple had a destination wedding, and were hosting an event in San Diego for all of those people that couldn't make it to Mexico. The event was supposed to be a relatively relaxed affair. There was an open bar for beer and wine, along with appetizers and a slide show from the actual wedding. It was scheduled to last three hours, and there about 150 people in attendance.

Things were going according to plan for the majority of the time. People were coming and going, giving their heartfelt congratulations to the happy couple, having a drink or two, and enjoying each other's company. It was around the two hour mark that things took a dramatic turn.

At this time, the wife's sister approached the bar and asked if I could make a round of shots. I agreed and asked how many shots she needed. She initially requested three, one for herself, one for the husband, and one for her sister; however, as she looked around the room, the shot number began to increase rapidly. After accounting for the parents, extended family members, and some close friends, I had made 14 kamikazes.

I watched the group take the round of shots and prepared myself for the upcoming onslaught of drink requests. I noticed the faces of people that were not involved in the shot-taking party. There were looks of amusement and longing and even some jealousy on peoples' faces. Peer pressure had started to take hold.

Some of the original shot taking group had not wanted to participate at first, but with some gently coaxing, they were on board. The mother of the bride had staunchly refused my delicious drink to start, but by the end of the evening she was ordering rounds by herself and swing dancing with her husband.

By hour three of the party, everyone in the building had consumed at least one shot, and more requests were being placed. My shot making knowledge was being put to the test, and we were rapidly running out of glassware. The bar owner extended the party another couple of hours, the announcement of which caused a massive cheer and subsequent celebration. The dance floor had become packed and several people were dancing on benches and tables. The sister that had ordered the original round of shots grabbed, twirled, and dipped me as I was passing through the restaurant. I was in the middle of a frat party once again.

Peer pressure was alive and thriving on Sunday afternoon/evening. If people had simply thought back to their DARE training, and utilized the "broken record" technique, they may not have been convinced to drink so much. They would have woken up on Monday feeling refreshed and ready to start their week.

But they also would have missed out on all the fun.

-More to come...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bad Touch


Contrary to the title of this blog, I have been gainfully employed since the end of April. For a couple of weeks I cleaned glassware, scrubbed floors, and restocked beer coolers in a sufficiently competent fashion, leading to a quick promotion to bartender. I would like to say that the promotion was exclusively due to the skills that I had demonstrated as a barback, but that would be a lie. In all honesty, it was more likely due to the exit of a fellow employee that provided this opportunity for me. The employee had been hired around the same time as myself, but started working as a bartender. Within two weeks he had decided that Confidential was not for him and left.

At the time, I thought he had completely lost it. I had been looking for employment for nearly six months before I found this position. I would cradle any tip money that I received, whispering sweet nothings to it as I fell asleep at night. He had been looking for work for a while as well, and he gave up the dream after only two weeks. Two weeks! I couldn't wrap my mind around it.

However, he may have had a vision of what was to come in the upcoming weeks at Confidential. Business has gotten gradually slower with every week that I've been employed there. Starting with his exit, we have lost two chefs, another bartender, three door guys, and a server. They have all left for other jobs at busier, more profitable bars. In the last two nights, we have closed early because there wasn't a single person in the building past midnight. I was making a higher hourly rate writing home improvement articles and acting in educational videos. If only there was an E-3 sequel...

Now, this isn't to say that I'm planning my exit as well. After hundreds of emails and interviews during my unemployed period, I'm thankful for having anything that offers me compensation. If someone was paying me to dance around the streets of San Diego in a gorilla costume, I would remain loyal to them.

More than anything, this loss of business, and subsequent mass exodus, has caused me to question whether I am cursing anything that I touch. Here is a brief list, as I am extremely fond of lists, which demonstrates some of my destructive tendencies:

-Hired at Confidential. Business declines, everyone leaves, building will soon go up in flames.
-Write extensively about the Minnesota Twins. 2008 season ends in heartbreak. 2009 team is mired in mediocrity.
-Started writing about the Minnesota Timberwolves after an incredible January record. Team star is soon injured and out for the season. Team tanks down the stretch.
-Started a t-shirt company for Madison graduates after business partner and roommate sells over 50 shirts in one day. Haven't sold a single t-shirt in over a month.
-Was a member of 5 different intramural teams in San Diego. All failed...miserably.
-Started watching John and Kate plus 8 after viewing it once with little sister. John then cheats, Kate goes crazy, children will soon go on a massive killing spree.
-Moved to California. The state will run out of money in two weeks, effectively becoming bankrupt.

I am now convinced that the curse of Micah is alive and well. I'm kissing everything in a fairly deadly fashion. Anyone reading this blog should be extremely wary. I'm not telling you to stop reading. Far from it. Read! Comment! Tell your friends!

Just be careful out there.

-More to come...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finding Inspiration


Everyone has a location that allows them to think clearly. For some, it's long runs or hikes. For others, it's staring out of the window or sitting in a quiet location. Some find inspiration in music or on the beach or in front of a fire place.

Personally, I have two locations that allow me to think outside of the daily grind. Here is a description of each:

The Shower: I didn't realize the power of the long shower until I entered college. I had always been a fan, as my family can attest to. Not only did long showers suppress my general smelliness, but they also warmed up this lanky, high-school aged Minnesotan while growing up.

In the fall semester of my freshman year at Madison, I was taking a math class in the dungeon of the Van Hise building. My professor was a small Chinese man with the most extreme combover I have ever witnessed in my life. As the lecture would proceed, he would become more and more agitated, and his combover would start to slip off the smooth dome of his head. At the end of the 90 minute lecture, the bell would ring, and the six strands of hair that comprised the combover were desperately trying to run away from their perch.

"What does a small Chinese man, and his combover, have to do with the shower?", you might ask. Well hold on a moment, fair reader. I'm getting to that.

Throughout the class, he would ask students questions about some of the problems. If people weren't able to answer his inquiries, he would begin by saying, "Think about it."

If there still wasn't a response, he would repeaditely say, "Take a shower. Take a shower!!!"

It wasn't until the third occassion that he said this that another student asked what he meant by his "Take a shower" comments. In halting English, he said that he did his best thinking in the shower, and it was the best location for us to consider tough math questions.

At the time, this thought caused me to laugh. I'd be lying if I didn't immediately envision my professor, shampooing his combover and solving complex math equations on the steamed shower door.

It wasn't until my next shower that I realized that I did all of my best thinking there as well. Not so much about math problems, or small Asian men, but moreso about creative ideas. I'm in a warm, happy place that is free from any outside distractions. It was where I developed the majority of my humo show and where I think of the majority of ideas for this blog, while getting rid of my smelliness at the same time. Everyone wins!

Pre-Sleep: While the shower is the location that I come up with ideas, the time between laying down and deep sleep is where they are developed. I can spend an entire day thinking about something that I created in the shower, and not be able to take it any further. However, if I'm in bed, trying to find sleep, I will mull over this idea. Before I know it, I will have an entire story arc mapped out and can see the faces of the characters that I'm trying to create. Again, it's a warm, happy place that is free from distraction.

There are two unfortunate side effects of the pre-sleep thinking. One is that I tend to forget many of the ideas by the time that I wake up in the morning. Secondly, some of the ideas will bleed into dreams that I have, turning from legimate ideas to complete ridiculousness. The other night, prior to falling asleep, I had an idea about an alpha male character among a group of high school friends, and the events surrounding their life. In dreamland, this alpha male character ended up leading an army of stick men to battle against Civil War era Confederate troops. When I woke up, I had no idea where my pre-sleep ideas stopped, and my dreamland craziness began.

Each night that I work, I try and take a shower prior to going to sleep. In this way, I can remove the smells and greasiness of working in a restaurant before bed, and maximize my creative thought process.

Last week, I got home and checked a couple of website before hopping into the shower. Posted on one of the sites was the following video:

I watched the video, laughed about it, and hopped into the shower. I continued to mull over the video in my warm, happy place, and started to develop a story. By the time that I laid down to sleep, I was already creating characters and thinking of plot lines for the story. I woke up a couple of hours later, when my dreams had just about ruined my original thought, and wrote down a few of my ideas.

I woke up the next morning and looked at the notepad, next to my bed. I had written down the following:

break in
neighborhood watch
drunk tank

Looking at it now, it doesn't make much sense, but it was enough to remind me of the story that I wanted to create. I started writing some things last night, and hopefully will have something completed in the next couple of weeks.

Inspiration strikes!!!

-More to come...

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Places, New Faces


Throughout the past 27 posts, I've often referenced meetings with various homeless/crazy people in the hood in which I currently reside. There was the man that digs through my garbage, the multitude of grocery cart pushers, and who could forget crazy Joe? While the North Park homeless population is alive and thriving, I've recently been exposed to an entirely new level of derelictedness in a separate part of the city.

Downtown San Diego brings homelessness to an entirely new level. There is a greater variety and a greater volume of transients that I interact with now on a nightly basis. My current employer is a bar located just off the main street of entertainment in the downtown area. While I'm headed into the office, I rarely notice the homeless. They are disguised by the large masses of people that are headed to their preferred happy hour locale or favorite watering hole. The homeless are like the garbage cans and lampposts of any downtown area. You realize that they are there, but don't take immediate notice of them in the daylight hours.

And then, when I leave work each night, often between the hours of 1 and 3 am, they are as apparent as they are in North Park. There is the couple that sleeps in the alcove next to the restaurant, the group of kids that hang near the fountain, the massive black guy in the parking lot, among others. I have grown to know the regulars, and have become comfortable seeing them on a nightly basis.

Work is just far enough away from my house that I have to drive there for each shift. I have found certain parking spots that are open on a fairly regular basis, which have become my go-to location each night. These spots just happen to be located on the same street as the Greyhound bus station. This is no coincidence, as this is the epicenter of homelessness downtown, and the majority of upstanding citizens avoid approaching this area.

For me, the benefits of an open parking spot outweigh the shadiness of the derelicts. However, I can't say that I've never been in an uneasy situation. There is a 711 that is a block away from the epicenter, and it often attracts some of the homeless that have collected enough change to purchase a hot dog or a Hostess cupcake.

By 3 in the morning, I'm craving snacks like a college burnout. Due to this, I have developed a nasty habit of stopping at this 711 on my way home each evening. In the fluorescent lighting of the store, I can fully capture the visual stimuli that these individuals are providing. There is the man that wears the low-cut, white dress and striped soccer socks, the man with the three foot long beard, and the smelly guy in flannel that reads the prices off of the bags of chips. My personal favorite is this older lady that smiles and says hello to everyone that comes through the doorway. With a shower and a change of clothes, she would fit right in at the front of a WalMart.

The other night, there was a guy that was watching the hot dogs and taquitos cook on the rollers near the check out. He had an impressive pony tail and a beat up Chargers hat on his head. I didn't think too much about him as I approached the counter with my Gatorade and granola bar. I said hello to the employee that is there every night. We've reached the point that we recognize each other, and he asked how my night had been. We exchanged small talk for a moment, and then I left the store.

I noticed the pony tail leave the store after me, and prepared myself for the upcoming interaction. He asked if I could spare any money so that he could get something to eat. I gave him a couple of bucks, hoping that he would head back inside and purchase the taquito that he had been eying up a moment beforehand.

Much to my dismay, he took the gift as an opening to ask for more money. He told me that he had just arrived in the city, and really needed a place to stay. I told him that I couldn't spare any more, as I was nearly homeless myself. I excused myself from the conversation, and walked at a faster pace down the sidewalk.

He must have started following me at some point, because, by the time I reached my car, he was about 15 feet behind me. I fumbled for my keys for a moment, unlocked my car, and got inside, just as he approached the passenger side window. He looked in at me, and asked me for some more money, as I started up the engine.

I don't know if it was my rice-rocket muffler, or the scared look on my face that caused him to back away for a moment, but I took the opportunity to drive away as fast as possible. He didn't look like he had been living in the streets for long, and he probably had some cognitive thought still running through his brain, but that didn't stop me from envisioning him cutting me with a shiv or trying to strangle me.

I would say that I'm pretty comfortable with the homeless population. After years of living in Madison, Chicago, and now San Diego, I've been fairly exposed to a variety of types of vagabonds. Does that mean that I want to hang out with them and learn their life stories? No. Maybe since the Crazy Joe situation, I've become a little more wary of the homeless and slightly insane. Does that make me an intolerant person? I'd like to think not. Just a little more cautious.

I'm still going to maintain my parking spot, and visit the same 711, but I might reconsider interacting with the 1st street All-Stars from here on out. A puncture would in my side is much less appealing than coming home to sleep.

More to come...