July 2015

The Family Vacation

by Ron O. on July 24, 2015

I think I'll get this tattooed somewhere - family vacation

I think I’ll get this tattooed somewhere

Nothing gets me excited like a family vacation week at the Jersey Shore!  And yes, I mean THAT Jersey Shore.  My parents bought a house in Lavallette, New Jersey about 25 years ago – about 3 miles north or Seaside Heights – and they’ve been kind enough to grant me and my family a week there every summer.

But this summer is extra special.  It’s the first time we’ve gotten to use the house since Hurricane Sandy hit.  The old house is gone, and a new one, one that sits on stilts 8 feet off the ground, has been built in it’s place.

Side note – if you’re interested in knowing which contractor you shouldn’t hire in the area, drop me a line.  The one my parents hired was not great.

Anyway, I need a break, and I intend to take it.  No silly local politics.  No margin analysis.  No lawn-mowing.

Just a beach.  A boardwalk or two.  Maybe a movie if it rains.  My wife, and my daughters.

Family Vacation Bliss.

An easy walk from our house - family vacation

An easy walk from our house

And since I (wrongly) equate happiness with eating, here’s my vacation to-do list:

  • Dairy Queen Blizzard
  • Pizza from the Jenkinson Beach Boardwalk
  • Cheesesteak from the Seaside Heights Boardwalk
  • Jelly Donut from Donuts Plus
  • Coffee Cake from Donuts Plus
  • Ice cream from some dude selling it on the beach
    • It’s funny, they don’t allow you to bring food on the beach, but they do allow this guy to sell it, and for you to eat it.  It’s the only caveat to the food rule.
  • Pancakes from the Sunny Hunny Pancake By The Sea (Why don’t these places have websites?)

Yes, I like to eat, but I intend to offset it all with lots of playing int he waves with the girls, and maybe even an actual run (or two?) on the Ortley Beach Boardwalk.  Maybe.

So, see you in August, I’m on vacation!

Rono, Friend of Bono, Going to See U2

by Ron O. on July 16, 2015

I’m going to see U2 this Sunday at MSG, and I’m pretty friggin’ excited about it. The new album is great, their old stuff is great, and they always put on a great show. I’m not much of a gushing fanboy about anything, but I guess this is as close as it gets.

I met Bono when I was 11, back in 1984. I was already a big fan back then, when Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day were all over MTV.  You remember, back when MTV played music videos?

Rono-and-Bono

My brother (left), Bono, and me

It was early in the spring of 1984, just months before The Unforgettable Fire was released.  My mom, brother and I were tagging along on a business trip with my dad, in Marco Island, Florida.  It was a beautiful resort, which is probably why we tagged along.  Dad would go to meetings and we would hit the beach, never fully appreciating how lucky we were to be there.

And so, one day we were just doing beach stuff, and there he was, a mulleted and speedoed Bono.  At 11, I did not find either of these things awkward – I was too awed by the fact that this rock star and I were sharing the same sand.

After the starstruckiness faded, and I bravely waded out into the ocean where Bono was minding his own business.  (My brother stayed on shore, because no one had a waterproof camera in 1984.)  My DeNiro level performance went something like this:

Young boy casually swims in the ocean towards a young man in a skimpy bathing suit.  Boy feigns a look of surprise and recognition.

Me: Hey, aren’t you Bono from U2?

Bono smiles, chuckles to himself, probably rolled his eyes a little

Bono: No, no.  Hey, aren’t you Eddie Van Halen?

Me: No…you’re Bono.

Bono: Yes, I am.

He must have shrugged it off, in that familiar way we see Bono handle his celebrity today.  As I recall, he was a bit sheepish about the whole thing.  It was clear he liked being recognized, but it was also pretty clear he wanted to not hang out with some random kid on his vacation.  It continued:

Me: Can I get your autograph when you come out of the water? (Yes, I was this blunt.)

Bono: Sure, but could you just [I can’t remember his exact words, but he very nicely asked me to leave him alone while he was in the ocean.]

The boy swims to shore and stands sentry, awaiting the celebrity’s return to land.  The boy realizes he has no shirt on, and anxiously wonders what this will mean for his photo op with Bono.

That explains why I’ve wrapped myself in a hotel towel in the picture above.

Bono was extremely gracious.  He signed an autograph (Bono, to Ronald), and asked if Ronald Reagan was my father.  I vaguely remember some political comment that went over my head.  This was my first ever experience with a celebrity, and it really couldn’t have gone better.  I was a fan before I met him, and have been since.

And yes, this is a lame attempt to see if someone in the U2 organization will see this post (keyword: U2), and pull that picture above and flash it on the screen on Sunday, July 19th.  After all it is the Innocence and Experience tour, and doesn’t that picture capture a certain innocence?  (U2 people – You have my absolute permission to use that image.)

If you read this, please consider a donation to one of the organizations U2 supports.

Marco-Island

The Importance of Having a Nemesis

by Ron O. on July 10, 2015

thinking about my nemesis

I ruminate best when naked and turned to stone, in a garden

It has come to my attention, thanks to my wife and best friends, that I thrive on negativity.  We were discussing my writing, and they pointed out that I tend to get drawn in by pessimistic events and critical comments, and my typical reaction is to parry and counter-strike to such a degree that my message, and the conversation in general, were rendered impotent.  No man likes that word, and it was a pretty jarring revelation.  Unfortunately for me, after some heavy, brain-hurting deliberation, I would have to agree with them.

This is not to say I’m a negative person.  I think I’m quite the contrary.  I’m downright pleasant in real life.  To me, the glass is not empty or full, it’s merely at 50% capacity.

Negative energy is my muse, is what I’m saying.  Being in a bad mood or hearing lousy news inspires and compels me to write.  This revelation was also helped along by a another comment from my wife.  She explained that when we met, I had piles of short stories that I shared with her, mostly written before we started dating.  As I fell deeper and harder for her, the stories stopped, and they stopped for a long time.

Because – I was happy.

My wife is pretty smart, right?

What does any of this have to do with having or needing a nemesis?  Well, maybe it means nothing to you.  Maybe you’re happy and successful and content without one.  But me, I need opposition.  I need obstacles.  I need drama?  I don’t like to call it that, I call it inspiration, and here’s how it works for me.

The Professional Nemesis

I used to work in Telecom, as a Network Engineer.  I would tell people that, and they would say, “Oh, you put up cell towers?”  No, that wasn’t me.  I was the guy working in the office in a cubicle behind a computer making your phone calls work once they magically transported themselves from the cell tower to the central office.  But, I did work with those guys who did the field installations, and you should know that your ability to watch YouTube videos on your phone is all because of a delicate balancing act of antenna aiming (them) and bandwidth resource management (me).

This is Network Engineering.

This is Network Engineering.

Anyway, we used to have weekly conference calls with all hands on deck to discuss the status of every new site on the map.  And every week this one guy, Siddiqui, a field guy, used to say he couldn’t complete something because of incomplete design of network resources.  His job had nothing to do with the network resources, and I always fumed when he said such things.  I really took it personally, and in my irrational way, Siddiqui became my nemesis.

Mind you, I never met Siddiqui in person, and never spoke to him outside of this weekly call.  I don’t know how good or bad an employee he was.  But his flagrant and blatant and numerous finger-points in my direction drove me to be a better engineer.  Every day, the first thing I would check in my work queue were Siddiqui’s sites, and I engineered the crap out them.  My goal, even though my tasks occurred downstream in the process, was to not give Siddiqui an excuse.

The funny thing is, I got really good at my job because of it.  I figured out how to streamline my own set of tasks, so I could design connections and assign resources for all of the field engineers, not just Siddiqui.  I got way ahead of everyone else’s work queues, often to the point that I had to stop myself.  After all, I worked for a phone company, I wasn’t allowed to be too efficient.

The Nemesis as Inspiration

I viewed my old blog in the same way, where I played the part of the oppressed everyman against the big machine of local politicians.  (Okay, maybe I am dramatic.)  But it worked great as a creative writing tool, and I never lacked for inspiration, even if it was fueled by anger and frustration over the people who run my town right now.  If I had writer’s block, all I’d have to do is wait a day or two, and something would happen.  There would be a town meeting or a newspaper article to comment on.  I might have focused on a few specific people, but as a focus for my blog, my nemesis was the local government.

However, you could argue that I may have taken that particular nemesis relationship a bit too far.  I miss that old blog, but I don’t miss the shadowy anonymity it required.

Sadness, Loneliness, Frustration – these are all powerful and terrible feelings.  It’s easy to view these negative forces as adversaries in your own mind.  Consider the stereotypical moody and angry artist.  The fact that that stereotype even exists validates that my own use of negative expression as something common, and maybe a little hackish.

And so I guess that leads me to my final thought on my nemesis.  Perhaps, for me, my challenge needs to be to take that exasperation and irritation, and to not churn it up and spit it back out.  Maybe I need to hold onto it, consider it, re-shape it like a ball of clay, and turn it into something better than what it was.

So, now that I said all that, I’m in the market for a new nemesis.  Apply at your own risk.