Black Hawk Down

I’ve mentioned how I’ve recently become addicted to this video game at the Tap Room. Fish jump out of a hole in a frozen lake, and there’s a polar bear who hits them down the lake with a bat. Score is measured in number of feet the fish travel. It’s generally better if they bounce off the ice a couple of times. The top five swings (distance in feet) is taken for any round as the score. If you score over 1,000 points, you get a bonus round.

Up until tonight, the high score had been held by Darrell, or “Night Hawk” as he is known, a bartender there. “NIGHT HK” he abbreviates it. 2090 was his score.

Until tonight. Now, when you look at number-one, you see “PROF PAUL.” “NIGHT HK” is number two. The new high score is 2093.

I promised everyone for weeks, once I mastered that game it would be Black Hawk Down. And now it is.

2006: a transition year?

The time around 1999-2000 was a transition period for me. A couple of elements that were so much of my life that they had become part of my identity were suddenly gone. For one, I quit teaching at the University of Memphis in May 1999. For five years, I had been “Professor Paul,” the computer literacy and math instructor. That truly was the best job I ever had. Nothing against my current job, but there’s just nothing like teaching.

The other thing was, the club where I had hung out 3-6 days a week for a period of about 9 years closed in early 1999. I had made a few close friends there, and a lot of acquaintances who it was good to see once in a while, shoot a game of pool with. When the club closed, we lost our common meeting spot. I found I had nothing to do but sit in my apartment in Midtown. Well, there was actually lots to do, but at the time I really didn’t know where else to go or how to meet people.

So around Summer 1999, I was really a fish out of water. Eventually I met a new group of friends to hang out with, and when the town’s first Starbucks opened a block from where I lived I started hanging out in coffee shops. In 2000 I bought my first laptop so I had a computer to play with while I drank my Frappucinos. (This was years before wireless Internet though – I had to bring my own fun.) The job situation didn’t resolve itself for a while, not until after I got fed up with Memphis and moved to San Diego and subsequently moved back.

Now it’s the summer of 2005 and I wonder if I’m on the verge of entering another transition phase in my life, where a couple of core elements of my identity are shaken up. Over the past few years, I’ve really found my place downtown. I can go anywhere down here and feel comfortable, and I have more friends than I’ve ever had before. A few of my friends have even referred to me as “Mr. Downtown” and I got interviewed for that Downtown Dweller piece in the Commercial Appeal. Trouble is, all the buildings down here are going condo. My apartment building is one of the last holdouts, and I wonder how much longer we have left. There’s no way in hell I could afford to buy my own unit if it were sold.

Yesterday I stopped by Otherlands in Midtown to get some work done on my laptop, and I was surprised that I knew so many people there. I spent more time talking than I did computing. And this morning I woke up and thought, “Yeah… Midtown… I could totally live there.” Now that I have a bike I could ride it to the bars and coffee shops. Rents in Midtown are definitely cheaper, which would not only benefit me financially, but it would also put me among a different set of neighbors, a younger crowd who wouldn’t be able to afford to live downtown. I tend to run with people younger than I am, so that appeals to me.

This Midtown thing is just an idea that has popped into my head. Believe me, when my lease is up in February 2006, if the building hasn’t gone condo I’m going to re-sign for as long a period as they’ll let me so I can stay downtown a while longer. But yesterday was the first time in a couple of years I’ve contemplated living somewhere other than downtown.

Then there’s another key element of my life that’s changing… Mpact. My term on the board ends in November. Although I still enjoy the organization, it’s not the same as it was in 2002-2003. Back then, if you had an idea for an event or program it was easy to run with it and make things happen. That worked well when there were 250-350 members. Now there are over a thousand, and with that many people having great ideas, the organization had begun to seem scattered, and it was hard to tell what Mpact stood for. So, they’re re-focusing their priorities, where the entire organization will be working on a long-term goal.

I think their strategy is absolutely the correct one. The group as a whole needs to stand for something, and it’s particularly important to be focused when asking for corporate funding. But I find I lack a little bit of the passion that I had for Mpact in 2002-2003. For me, it’s always been about the people. This week I ran into three of my favorite people from the group, people I hung out with all the time at Mpact events in the late 2003 time period, but none of them are active in the organization anymore. I miss them – it seems less fun without them. This year I’ve tried to move toward areas of the organization that are more people-based – the Membership Committee and the Social & Sporting Pillar (whose remnants will be reorganized into the Connection Committee, as I understand it). But still, it’s changing and I’m not sure if I’ll play as big a role in 2006 as I have in the past. Maybe I will, I just have to see how the changes will play out. At any rate, I’ll be relieved to be off the Board in three and a half months. At least then if I stay active with the organization, I’ll know I’m doing it because I want to and not out of obligation.

Anyway… it just occurred to me today that some big changes could be coming up in my life. Whatever happens, though, I know I can handle it. I came out of 1999-2000 okay, and I have tons more confidence and people skills now than I did then. My 2005 life would have seemed like a dream come true to the 1999 me. Makes me wonder where I’ll be in 2010.

So, for once, I’ve made a thoughtful, serious post. Hope I didn’t disappoint those of you who came here looking for “What the Bums Are Drinking this Week,” “Drunk Post #37469” and lots of stupid blabbering about tube tops. Don’t worry – this journal will morph back into the crap-fest that it usually is before you know it.

Pint Night at the Saucer – 10pm

I’ve made plans with some friends from my building and from Mpact to hit the Flying Saucer about 10:00 for Pint Night. Anyone who wants to meet up is welcome to join us.

Summary of this past weekend: Rode in Raiford’s limo and stayed out until 4 in the morning, lost a bunch of games of pool, got hit up for money by at least 30 bums, drank enough alcohol to fill a swimming pool, talked to a pretty blonde in a tube top at Earnestine & Hazel’s, drank beer at the Tap Room and received an hour’s worth of unsolicited relationship advice from two of the least qualified people on earth to be giving it, got addicted to this stupid video game where a polar bear hits fish across an icy pond with a baseball bat.

So, you can see why I was too busy to post any journal entries.

Fun with crackheads

Last night I was at the Flying Saucer, playing darts with one of my neighbors. Out the window I could see one of the neighborhood crackheads begging passersby for money. I’m so sick of seeing those guys downtown. They give people from other parts of the city the impression that downtown is unsafe, and they bother tourists who are here to have a good time.

So I waved and got his attention through the window. He came over and looked in, and held up a sorry-looking daffodil that he had picked from one of the city’s flower beds. I pointed at the daffodil like I wanted it, then took two dollars out of my wallet and held them up. He nodded with excitement. Then I shook my head and put one of the dollars back in my wallet, and held up the other dollar and pointed at it. Now he knew I was interested – I had negotiated him down a dollar! He was practically jumping up and down by this point.

I made a gesture that communicated “one minute” and pointed at the dartboard. Then I went ahead and continued playing. He stood outside the window and watched. And watched and watched. He watched through the window as we made futile attempts to shoot a bullseye. He watched as I went to the bar to get another beer. He watched as I talked to a friend of mine at the bar, a cute redhead who was looking extremely hot last night. He watched as I came back to continue playing darts. By now about 30 minutes had passed and he was starting to wonder if I was ever coming outside. He held up the flower again. I nodded and pointed at it and waved the dollar around some more. I was still interested! The crackhead was happy. He stood by the window and continued to watch the game.

Another 20 minutes passed. His interest was starting to wane. He disappeared for a couple of minutes as he attempted to bum money from other people walking out of the Saucer. But he kept coming back to the window. There are two windows near the dartboards, and every few minutes he’d go from one to the other and look in.

About 1:00 we decided it was time to head home. The place was clearing out, and the cute redhead had left. Probably not enough time for another game of darts before closing. So we handed in the darts and paid our tabs. I looked out the window and saw the crackhead walking up Second, wondering where we went. “Take a hard right as soon as you get out the door,” I told my neighbor, figuring we could cut down Peabody Place and Main Street and avoid him.

But we weren’t fast enough. He came running after us, or more like staggering as fast as someone who lives on a diet of crack rocks and Lord Calvert can possibly stagger. “Sir!… sir… sir… hey… look here… you was… uh… uh… the window… uh… dolla!” (Brookstone sells hand-held devices that translate Spanish to English, French to English, and German to English. Wonder if they have one that translates Bum to English.)

After I got home, I felt a little bit bad about it. The poor guy had spent an hour at “work” trying to cultivate a key customer relationship, and in the end had nothing to show for it. It’s as if I had gone to a restaurant and run the waitress around for an hour getting my food, and then stiffed her on the tip.

But then, waitresses perform a useful function that makes the world a better place. Crackheads, not so much.

Okay, I don’t feel bad anymore.

Tonight I’ll probably head back up to the Saucer to catch The Dempseys. Beyond that, plans for the weekend are undetermined, other than the Sunday Monkey brunch/drinking extravaganza. Duran Duran is playing the Orpheum Saturday night, but I don’t know whether tickets are still available, or whether I’ll go even if they are.

All right. Several more topics are swimming around in my head. There might be another post before the day is done.

Dreams, high school, and writing

Ever notice a recurring pattern in your dreams? Every few months, I dream that I’m back in high school. The latest dream in the series occurred a couple of nights ago. I dreamed that I was coming back to school after being out six days – an entire week, and a Monday. So in the dream it was Tuesday morning, and I really didn’t want to go back.

In this dream – and in quite a few others I’ve had – I had a term paper due for English class. The term paper to me symbolizes the ultimate in useless, waste-of-time busy work. When I was in 12th grade we had to write a 20-page term paper on a subject in British literature, and it couldn’t be about Shakespeare. We had to form a thesis, make three supporting points, and draw a conclusion.

If I had my way, the thesis I probably would have used was, “Making high school students write a 20-page paper about British literature is a sure way to make them hate British literature for the rest of their lives.” Of course, being a senior I was worried about keeping my GPA up, getting into Rhodes and all that crap. So I did what was expected of me and wrote a paper on the development of the King Arthur legend.

I can honestly say I do not remember thing one about that paper, other than the topic. And I can honestly say that I learned absolutely nothing about writing by doing that assignment. I was already a pretty good writer by that time. Know how I learned to write so well? It damn sure wasn’t from anything I did in English class. I became a good writer because, in junior high and high school, I was addicted to professional wrestling. I subscribed to all the magazines – The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and Sports Review Wrestling – and read them over and over again. Whether I realized I was doing it or not, I incorporated the columnists’ writing style into my own.

Of course, pro wrestling wasn’t what I was “supposed” to be interested in. I was supposed to be into Dickens and Beowulf and Jane Austen. That was what the school system deemed important. Trouble was, I HATED that stuff. Oh, I knew how to work the system – I read 22 pages of Pride and Prejudice and some of the Cliffs Notes, inserted a few quotes from the book because I knew the teacher liked that, and got an A+ on the paper we had to do on it. One of my classmates wrote the paper I dreamed of writing – he gave it an honest review, said he hated it and that writing a report on it was a waste of his time. The teacher called it a “temper tantrum on paper” and gave him a D. Schools reward students for conforming, not for original, critical thought.

What’s my point in writing about this? …Hell if I know. Just wanted to write something in my journal, I guess. How’s that for a conclusion paragraph?

What the bums are drinking this week

(Based on the empty 50 mL one-shot liquor bottles I saw cluttering the downtown streets last weekend)

– Seagram’s Gin and Juice
– Smirnoff Vodka
– Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka
– Strawberry vodka, some off-brand whose name escapes me
– Seagram’s 7

Seems like the quality of the drink goes up as the bottles get smaller. A few of those are ones I’d actually drink. Gin and juice though – that’s about as ghetto as it gets.

I have a story about those little one-shot bottles. A friend of mine used to work at a downtown liquor store (not the one around the corner from where I live). One day he closed the store for half an hour, went out on the street and picked up every empty bottle within a two-block radius. He filled up an entire garbage bag. Don’t any of the bums know how to use a trash can?

paulryburn.com blog hits down – why?

Just checked the hit counter. Up through the end of June, this blog was averaging about 30 hits a day. Since the beginning of July, the average has fallen to the upper teens.

I believe that this is due to the end of Tube Top Month. Let’s face it. Tube tops are a topic that everyone wants to hear about. Hmmm… maybe I’ll have to bring Tube Top Month back for August.

Was doing the drunk walk home with one of my neighbors last night, and he commented, “You mention the Tap Room almost as much as you mention halter tops.” Halter tops??? Get it right! It’s TUBE TOPS!!!!! Halter tops only got mentioned because one of our neighbors committed a major fashion faux pas.

All right. NOW I’m headed up to the roof to drink wine.

Mail bag

Time once again to read and respond to the mail.

Subj: Your $640,000 lo an
Subj: Your $210,000 lo an
Subj: Your $330,000 lo an
Subj: Your %RND_TOTAL lo an

What I learned from these e-mails: that someone out there doesn’t know how to use their spamming software, and that “loan” is apparently a compound word made up of the shorter words “lo” and “an.” Must be of Hawaiian origin.

Subj: Shoot five times as much

Now this is an appropriate message to send to a Memphian, Memphis being one of the gang capitals of the South. If this e-mail got into the hands of the Gangster Disciples, they’d have a definite advantage over their rivals the Vice Lords. G’s got’s ta know how ta bust a cap with a quickness, know what I’m sayin’?

I have to wonder if e-mail is the best way to reach the target market, though. I mean, yeah, G’s have a lot of disposable income, but they tend to spend it on bling bling, spinner rims fo they rides, gold teethes, and of course, ho’s. I’m not sure how many of them buy computers and get hooked up to the Internet. A better approach might be to print out this e-mail and tape it to sign posts all over Norf Norf Memphris. Anywhere along Chelsea Avenue would probably be good, as would Frayser.

Subj: Lozenges for Sylvester

Sylvester could definitely use some lozenges. You may remember his falsetto voice on the ’70s/’80s hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”, “Dance (Disco Heat)”, and “Do You Wanna Funk.” After singing like that on these long songs (“Do You Wanna Funk” is 6-plus minutes) his throat has got to be worn out. Some lozenges would probably be a good idea. Don’t know why they’re mailing this to me, though, I never met the guy. Perhaps they know I like disco and figure maybe I have a connection to him.

Haven’t heard any of Sylvester’s songs in years, although I’m pretty sure there are a few bars in Midtown where he’s on heavy rotation in the jukebox, along with Cher and show tunes.

Subj: Re: Have leave do solemn tort

I have a Magnetic Poetry puzzle on my refrigerator, and my 5-year-old neighbor occasionally stops by to play with it. She doesn’t know how to read yet, so she has to ask me what sentences she made. “What’s that say, Paul?” she’ll ask. “Can I the your somewhere,” I’ll tell her.

She’ll realize that doesn’t make sense and try again. “Now what does it say?” she’ll ask. “Like this or is it you are,” I’ll read.

Well, it appears that she now has a computer version of Magnetic Poetry, and somehow has got it hooked up to e-mail. I tell you, it’s amazing what kids can do with computers these days. When I was her age we had Pong and that was about it.

“Tort.” Looks like the lawyers in the building have taught her a new word.

Subj: Exclusive benefits

You know, I have a friend/former student who I’m trying to convert into a “friend with benefits.” She doesn’t seem to be getting with the program though. “I’m only going to have two drinks and that’s it – I don’t want to do anything I regret.” That sucks!

So when I saw this e-mail, I hoped maybe she was finally beginning to see the light. But it wasn’t from her – it was from someone named Arturo. I really don’t think I’m interested in Arturo’s “benefits.” Perhaps he’d have better luck shopping his “benefits” around at bars in Midtown that play Sylvester, Cher, and show tunes on the jukebox.

Subj: Viagg-ra is lousy gK

Your spelling is lousy too. gK


Subj: Become one of the low rates

Now here is new-age philosophy at its finest. It’s not enough to go out and get a low rate on your m0rt;gage. You have to BECOME the low rate. You have to step into it, abandon yourself and experience first-hand what it’s like to be a low rate. A few minutes ago I put myself in deep trance, stepped out of my body and experienced what it was like to be a 3.99% APR. And let me tell you, it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Now that I’ve stepped back into physical reality, I can’t wait to go out and get a m0rt;gage on a ridiculously-overpriced downtown condo.

And that’ll do it for the mail this time. Time to head up to the roof for some vino.

Anyone in my building have a Mac?

I know a lot of my neighbors read this blog… got a favor to ask. If anyone has a Macintosh with an Internet connection, could I use it for about 15 minutes to test a website I created? I used a rather non-traditional font and I want to make sure the look and feel of the site I created approximately matches up. E-mail me (paul at paulryburn.com) if you can help. Thanks.

Other news:
– I’ve told some of you individually that my mother had gone to Dallas to have surgery. She had it yesterday (I didn’t even know she had been scheduled, the surgeon had a last-minute cancellation and my uncle and aunt called me) and she came through with flying colors. I can’t say enough how sweet my uncle and aunt have been to her – they’ve made it more like a vacation than a medical trip in the 2 weeks she’s been down there. Haven’t met my aunt yet – she’s new to the family – but I hope to soon.

– 99 bottles of beer on the wall… I drank my 99th beer at the Flying Saucer day before last. Another 101 and I’ll get my plate on the wall. It will probably be 2007 before that happens. Trouble is, now I’m down to the dark beers (which I’m not a big fan of), the expensive beers, and non-alcoholic beers like O’Doul’s (yuk).

– My sober posts aren’t nearly as interesting as my drunk posts, are they?

– I’m once again leaning toward the Monkey for Sunday drinking tomorrow. Might stop by Sleep Out’s afterward for $1 PBR.

– And right now, I’m going to go work on that website some more. Hey, the Saucer has wireless, doesn’t it? May be time to knock out beer number 100. After my 100th beer hits the UFO computer I get a free biggy (22 oz.) beer. Any suggestions for what beer I should get? I’m leaning toward Paulaner Hefe-Weizen but haven’t decided for sure. Anyway, I’m out, see you later…

Drunk post #37468

– Both magnums of wine are gone now. Damn rooftop. Time to go to the liquor store.

Friday I’ll go to the liquor store. Tomorrow (Thursday) I’m determined to forego my own rooftop for the first time in a month and go over to the Peabody to hit on scantily clad bimbos. I know some of my No.10 neighbors read this; if anyone wants to come with me shoot me an e-mail or call.

– I saw a falcon. It perched on our roof for a while, then flew over to the Madison and perched there. All the other species of birds attacked it, except the pigeons which are too dumb. A few years ago the city bought some falcons to try and control the pigeon population. From what I can tell it hasn’t worked.

– Here’s a quiz. This will be a learning experience for all of you but for one of my neighbors in particular. Won’t say which neighbor, but I will say that she had a birthday in the past week. Okay, here goes. You’re leaving town, and you have a plane ticket to fly to another city. About 60-90 minutes before the scheduled departure time you should

A) take a nap because you’re hung over from the wine you drank 2 days ago
B) chill out to your Jack Johnson CD
C) GO TO THE AIRPORT!!!!!!
D) go to Memphis Pizza Cafe for pizza and beer, beer, beer.

– I mean, really. How do you FORGET to go to the airport… If they ever bring back the TV show Three’s Company for new episodes, I know someone who should try out for the part of Chrissy.

– I guess then I would have to be Larry, the horny neighbor. Actually, that’s okay, I could totally get into hanging out at the Regal Beagle. I need a good bar to hang out at.

– I mean, other than the Monkey

– And the Tap Room

– And the Saucer

– And Sleep Out’s

– And Swig

– And the Diamond

– And Earnestine & Hazel’s

– And Raiford’s

– (Interrupted this journal entry to go drink two mugs of beer at the Tap Room. But I’m home now, and damn glad that Sam Walton, genius that he was, decided to carry 12-packs of corn dogs in his stores before he died. Mmmm… corn dogs)

– Holy shit! Buckley’s closed! They had some really good steaks, and reasonably priced. The filet with a side of mushrooms… oh yeah. And the Buckley’s Buds? Good stuff. There’s a note on the door: “Thank you downtown for nine years… we’ve moved to 7213 East Bumblefuck Drive.”

– Or was it “Germantown Parkway”… meh, what’s the dif

– And changing the conversation to restaurants not nearly as good… did Taco Bell just totally run out of ideas with this new CrunchWrap Supreme? I mean, it looks like every bad idea they’ve had in the past 10 years, all wrapped into one. And, Taco Bell being part of a corporation, the CrunchWrap was probably one of several potential new items, and it was voted the best by a focus group. Just think how much the other items must have sucked!

– I miss retro Taco Bell… the original Enchirito topped with lots of cheese and a few black olives and onions… the Beef Burrito… the MexiMelt… the Mexican Pizza… that Mexican hamburger thing they had. The Taco Bell menu circa 1985 was damn near perfect.

– Then again… they have innovated over the years. When the 7-layer burrito came out I had to have one every day for about a month in a row. And the chalupa is a thing of beauty. Gorditas, eh, not so much, I could take or leave them.

– According to the Memphis Flyer, the new exercise craze is erotic dancing – dancing like you’re a stripper, with poles and everything as props. They wrote an article on it this week. Perhaps some of my neighbors who are classically trained in dance will consider branching out. It’s important to be well rounded, you know!

– Back to Three’s Company for a minute… Know who I really thought was hot on that show? Not Chrissy, but her cousin Cindy. Remember her? The tall blonde? Her legs went on for days, and she’d always wear those midriff tops what were just baaaaaarrrely long enough – until she got excited and started jumping up and down.

– And then there’s Janet… girl next door who could TOTALLY work a pair of tight jeans. Bailey Quarters from WKRP deserves to be mentioned for the same reasons.

– All right… just finished my corn dog, so it’s time for bed. Aren’t you glad you took the time to read this? Back tomorrow or the next day. Enjoy the rest of your week!