Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Mathieu Factor

As many of my friends and family know, I spent many, many years trying to find my true beloved. I tried it all . . .,, It's Just Lunch, speed dating, singles parties, and on and on and on. Now that Nicole and I celebrate almost five months of marriage, I thought today would be the perfect day to reveal a part of our story not many know, yet was a crucial factor in bringing our two lives together forever. The Mathieu Factor.

I met Chris Mathieu many years ago when he auditioned for Comedy Sportz -- the improv group in which I frequently performed in. He was/is hilarious and his presence on stage made me want to be in that scene or game with him with every show. We could always count on him showing up in his signature sweatpants and flip flops and at least one "raspberry"-tongue-spit-take in a show.

The years passed and Chris's calling brought him to his last Comedy Sportz show before he moved out to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. I remember it was a busy time of year for me and my dating life was going nowhere as usual. It was sad to think I may never play on stage again with Chris and when I heard it was his last performance, I made sure I was at least in the audience to see him on stage.

Flashback . . . I briefly met Nicole at one of my Too Many Daves and the Brass SOULution band gigs about six months earlier. Our mutual friend J'ana McCaleb decided to bring Nicole to the gig at Sweethearts in Fairfax that night as Nicole's first night out after major back surgery. I was dating someone else at that time and so there was only a chance to buy her and J’ana a quick Miller Lite and a bit of polite conversation with Nicole before having to pay attention to my “girlfriend”. It was shortly after that gig that I broke up with that girlfriend.

So I arrive to watch Chris’s last show that Friday night from a late day at the office and found a seat in the back. The place was packed. J’ana had sent me an e-mail earlier in the week to say she may be attending because her friend Nicole was a friend of Chris. Wow! What a small world, right? Now, I had known J’ana for many years and knew the odds of her showing up at an event are not always good. So I didn’t expect to see J’ana and Nicole that night. I was happily surprised to see them sitting up in the 2nd row, so I went up to the row behind them and said “hi”. The both greeted me, but Nicole hardly made eye contact. I spoke to J’ana a bit and found out they were attending both shows (early and late) so I suggested drinks at a bar downstairs between shows. I went back to my seat in the back of the room and enjoyed a hilarious and belly-laughing show that was all about making Chris work his ass off on stage.

We went to Chevy’s for a few drinks between shows and I was lamenting my recent dating mishaps as I usually did with J’ana. Nicole was happy to tell me what a fool I was being and how utterly clueless I was when it came to dating women. I did my best to finish my beer and save face in time for the next show. The 3 of us return to the theatre and sit in the back of the audience (again the place is packed). I sat between J’ana and Nicole. Nicole was busy talking to many of her old classmates from grade school and high school in the rows in front of us. Nicole knew Chris through Brian Cooke and had met Chris through that circle of friends. I ended up flirting with Nicole throughout the show and trying to get her to laugh even though it was impossible to compete with what was going on on-stage. We departed with a hand shake that night and went our separate ways, but somewhere I felt reassured we would meet again.

J’ana had planned a happy hour for our small circle of friends the next night at a bar called Lucky’s in Alexandria. It ended up only being J’ana, Jeff Rupp, and myself attending, but J’ana mentioned that Nicole may show up later. Nicole did arrive soon after that and the flirting continued from the night before. There were a few sparks throughout the night and when we left the bar to say our goodbyes I hugged Nicole. That hug was the moment we both look back on as the moment our relationship began.

This love story would not have come true if it weren’t for Chris Mathieu. We celebrate Chris Mathieu’s birthday today by sharing our story and the video Nicole asked Chris to make us for our wedding rehearsal dinner as a surprise for me. Unfortunately, the restaurant where we had the rehearsal dinner was unable to accommodate our audio visual needs at the last minute so most of our family and friends have yet to view the video. Today we posted the video on YouTube for all to see. Enjoy. (If you are wondering about the groundhog thing, see my previous blog post here.)

Happy Birthday, Chris! Nicole and I celebrate you today and the gift you have given us.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Puxatawney Nightmare

So Nicole (my girlfriend) came home about an hour ago, stepped out of her car, and started walking back to the house across the parking lot of our townhouse community. All of a sudden a groundhog comes galloping up to her from under the stoop of a house in the next block. Nicole starts to run towards the house and the groundhog just kept coming after her. She turns and throws her empty coffee thermal cup at it and hits in the head. It shakes it off and keeps coming at her. She starts screaming my name and runs to the door of the house. While continuing to scream my name she turns and starts swinging her heavy backpack filled with books at the varment and hits it. That's how close it got.

I heard her screaming and knew right away what was happening because earlier in the morning I went outside to try and get a woodpecker to stop jackhammering the metal chimney stack at the top of our townhouse. I saw our neighbor outside starting to do yard work and she had said the groundhog had been in her front foliage and had tried to get under our front stoop to hide. I didn't think twice about it at the time because that groundhog family had been living in our neighborhood for years and I've had many sightings. So back to the present . . .

I ran to the front door opened it and see her swinging at this groundhog that is just a couple of feet in front of her. I do what every strong, verile boyfriend would do and yell, "GET!!!" I was really surprised how close this mangie thing was to her. So I grabbed Nicole and shoved her inside and immediately followed her. The groundhog starts to try and get under our stoop to hide, but did not fit. By this time Nicole was hysterically upset. I console her and try and calm her down.

We finally both calm down and go back to the front door and look out safely through the glass storm door to see where the groundhog went. Nicole spots it rummaging in some trash that some inconsiderate neighbor had left out on a non-trash-day. At this point, the postman pulls up and starts to distribute the mail in to the multi-box from his vehicle. The groundhog is about 12 feet from the vehicle. The postman points like "look at the cuddly groundhog" and makes a noise to get its attention. The groundhog looks up and starts to charge the postman. He jumped a bit in his seat and the groundhog goes right up to him and slips under the truck, comes out the other end and saunters up the hill across the street.

We continue to watch the groundhog and lose him in the brush at the top of the hill. Nicole states that she is not leaving the house until the groundhog is removed from the neighborhood. She calls animal control and the guy on the other end says, "are you sure it wasn't just a raccoon?" Just a raccoon?? Nicole, says, "no, it definitely was a groundhog. it was very close." The guy says they will send someone out shortly.

Soon after we spot the culprit in the street again and he's heading back to the same stoop he started the chase from. We watch him go under the stoop which is obviously his home. We continue to stake out his location from afar and continue to try and calm down from the adventure.

The animal control van pulls up. I go out to greet him and Nicole walks over tenatively after a minute or so. I start telling the story and let Nicole continue when she arrives . . "so I threw my mug at it and . . . Dan? Dan Burger?? Hey, how are you?" Nicole and Dan B. the animal control officer went to George Mason University together and had just become friends on Facebook a week earlier.

So after the short reunion. Dan B. tells us that the behavior could be rabies, but it is mating season so he may be just protecting his brood. Nicole made some reference to her menstrual cycle at this point and we all chuckled.

We pointed out the location where the groundhog was hiding and Dan B. walked over to investigate. He takes out a telescoping poking instrument and roots around under the stoop. After about 30 seconds he stands back up and turns to walk back to his van and the ground hog crawls out from under the stoop and starts charging Dan B. The Animal Control Man. I yell, "there he is!!" Dan B. turns around and starts walking backwards and the groundhog keeps coming at him. He wacks the groundhog in the side with the poking thingy really hard. The groundhog tries to attack the stick but then goes after Dan B. again. I look over at Nicole really quick to make sure she was alright. She just stood there astonished.

POW!!!!!! I turned back to Dan B. and he's holstering his gun and the groundhog ran towards the stoop and tried to crawl under. Nicole looks at me and says, "must've been a blank to scare him off." Dan B. quickly runs over and stomps on the back foot of the groundhog and starts pulling on the tail. He points to me and motions me over. He digs in his pocket and holds out the keys to me. He says, "it's got rabies. go into the side door of the van and grab the metal tongs tool in the cabinet and a cage." I run over and try to unlock the van, but can't get it unlocked. I look over and Dan B. is struggling to keep the groundhog from escaping. I finally figure out the lock and get in to the van. I'm looking everywhere for the tongs. I look over and there's a pitbull in a cage about a foot from my face. I stop for a second and then say, "hi, puppy." I remember he said cabinet and I look over and open the cabinet and grab the tongs. I run over and hand him the handle to the tongs and put the cage close to him. I look back at the van and Nicole is aying hello to the pitbull which begins to bark wildly at her. She asks, "do you have the keys?" I nod and she closes the door of the van.

I step back and watch Dan B. wrestle the groundhog from under the stoop. The groundhog is almost out and starts screaming in a high pitched squeal. Dan B. picks it up by the tail and finds a way to drop it in to the cage and close the door. He ties the door shut narrowly averting being nipped by the angry groundhog.

Dan B. scrapes at a hole in the grass with the toe of his shoe and just chuckles a bit. I said, "don't worry about that. This yard sucks anyway." I didn't realize at the time that he had actually shot at the groundhog and only grazed it. So the hole in the grass was actually a bullet.

The groundhog had mud caked on its furr and I mentioned that it is smaller than the one I saw wandering the neighborhood in the past. Dan B. tells me that since the groundhog was sick they will lose their mass quickly and that typically animals with rabies will only last about ten days before they die. He also said, that groundhogs typically keep themselves very clean, so the caked mud is a sign that it had rabies too. He said, this one definitely has rabies and will be put down.

Some neighbors were loitering about at this time and we told them about the adventure. We're very glad that no kids were out playing or pets were running around or this could have had a much worse outcome. I'm glad Nicole was strong enough to fight off the groundhog and recognize the strange behavior quick enough to do something about it.

So the moral of the story is . . . trust your instincts and call animal control if you think an animal is acting weird. I never would have thought there would be a rabid animal in my neighborhood, but it happens.

Monday, March 23, 2009

a lemon of an economy

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But what if life gave you only one lemon and you're expected to use the same lemon over and over to make lemonade to survive.

response to Marketplace story

I liked the skydiving analogy used at the top of the show. However, you left out the fact that all of the golden parachutes had been grabbed by the "first class" passengers and flight crew that "bailed out" safely and landed safe and sound without a care about who they left behind. The new Obama/Geithner crew are left behind to help us sew up the remaining parachutes and go two at a time out the door to lighten the load of worthless cargo left behind by the navigators that had a bad flight plan in the first place. I'm just hoping those of us that may still be in the plane without a parachute will have a safe landing. I hope Geithner has taken lessons from Capt. "Sully".

Standup material

I was skeptical but I finally bought into the whole Daylight Savings Time and ended up losing an hour. Damn economy.

I was abducted by aliens the other day. Damn Mexicans.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We're All Suffering

I'm standing in a long line at a Subway sandwich shop realizing that if they had scheduled more than two workers then I wouldn't have to wait 15 minutes to get a sandwich with as much meat in it as a Kraft lunchable. People need jobs but businesses won't hire because of the added expense. What a waste of time. Gotta go now my two scoops of tuna are waiting.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Loss Prevention Part 1

When I first moved to the Washington DC area (Northern Virginia really) in 1992 I stayed with my brother and his then girlfriend in a one bedroom apartment in Fairfax, VA. This happens alot in the DC area because housing prices are ridiculous here. I got a position as a Manager in Training at the Sam Goody music store (The Musicland Group went bankrupt a while back.) The hours sucked but I learned alot about retail management and ended up with a pretty decent jazz cd collection due to samples and the employee discount. So as part of my management training I was taught how to identify characteristics of shoplifting. We'd constantly find evidence of swiped CD's and Cassettes in the store and we had to catalog everything we found to try and track what type of losses we incurred.

My first encounter with preventing this type of loss (actual shoplifting) was on a very busy weekend during the holiday shopping period. I was stationed in the middle of the store and was mostly there to help folks find what they needed and keep the CD browsers organized. I was doing a typical scan of the store when I noticed three teenage girls snickering in the back of the store at the rock t-shirt rack next to those stupid poster panels that you flip one at a time to see different ignorant posters. I was good at blending in with the crowd (that's just the way I roll) and so I stood and watched them for a minute or so and all of sudden there it was. One of the girls slipped a shirt off the hanger on the rack and stuffed it in to her large shopping bag. I couldn't believe my eyes. I was such a trusting and naive soul back then. So I glanced away and looked back and one of the other girls did the exact same move with a black long sleeved t-shirt. Just then one of our part-time workers walked by me. I grabbed her arm, stared her directly in the eye and said, "go back to the office right now and tell Dale to meet me at the front of the store immediately." Her eyebrows raised and she said, "ok."

Dale was the Store Manager and he was a cocky guy that loved to chew tobacco. It was difficult to like the guy. The office was an elevated office in back with a one way mirror window so managers could watch the crowd but the customers can't see in the window.

I kept my eye on the three girls and made my way to the front of the store and stood at the large open doorway. The girls were making their way to the front from the side aisle to try and avoid being noticed. Just as they got to the front I moved closer to the group and as soon as they stepped out of the store I said, "excuse me!" in a loud voice. They stopped dead in their tracks. I stepped up to the closest girl reached for her shopping bag and said, "can I see your receipt for the items you have in your bag?" She stood motionless with the fear of God on her face. One of the other girls bolted into the busy mall. The third girl hesitated, looked at her friend standing next to me, looked at me, and I just shook my head as to say, "don't do it" (I used to be a junior high band director in a public school. The look comes in handy every so often.) She backed up a bit and I moved closer to her and reached for her bag. She stopped and I motioned for them to step back in to the store. By this time, Dale had made his way to the doorway and took the bag from me and I said, "these girls have items in their bags they did not pay for." Dale looked at them and said, "let's go back to the office." He told me to stay on the floor and manage the store while he dealt with the girls. The part-time workers all knew what was going on and they looked at me like I was the man. Little did they know how true that statement was.

About 15 minutes later, two mall security officers showed up with the second girl (the one that bolted into the mall) who was balling her eyes out by now and made their way to the back of the store to the office. They were in there for about 10 minutes when the cops showed up and made their way back there. 20 minutes later we had a trickle of store managers from around the mall coming in and out of the store. About an hour later three sets of parents showed up.

The girls, parents, and cops all left out the back utility door and Dale finally emerged from the back office. He walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and told me the girls had ripped off close to 20 stores in the mall in one way or another and had about $5,000 worth of inventory in their bags. I couldn't believe it.

So what was my reward for this good deed?

I ended up having to drive clear across town several times to provide my testimony to a judge/mediator of the case. The parents asked me to go easy on them and I just looked at them and said, "it's not up to me." "I'm just telling how it happened and what I saw." I never found out what kind of sentences they received, if any, and I've never really cared.

Sam Goody did promote me to Manager of another store soon after the holiday rush was over, but because they only raised a worker's salary based on longevity, I only got a $2,000 a year raise from $13,000 to $15,000. That's right. I was working about 70 hours a week and making just over $4 an hour.

Well, soon after becoming manager of the Springfield Mall Sam Goody, my second encounter with shoplifting came to pass . . . .