Sunday, July 26, 2009

Banging the Drum

Several months ago I was standing on the train on my way to work. When the train pulls into my station at rush hour it is already pretty full and I rarely get a seat. On this particular morning there was a man sitting very near to me dressed all in black. His clothing was dirty and a little ragged, and he had several large bags with him. he may have been homeless or just down on his luck.

The most distinct thing about this man was the fact that he had a drum in his lap. It was kind of like a half a bongo, only the top part of it. And he was playing it, banging on it, non stop at 8:30 in the morning, on a fully packed train, on some random Tuesday, and he was showing no signs of stopping.

At first my thoughts were probably the same as everybody else on the train;


It was obvious that people were frustrated. I caught more than one person giving him the evil eye and heard plenty of exaggerated sighs. Even though everybody wanted him to stop, nobody said anything. Maybe because everyone realized anybody playing the bongo on a rush hour train may be a little off and therefore, not worth antagonizing. It takes about 25 minutes to get from my stop to midtown, and this guy didn't look like he was getting off anytime soon.

Let me say that it is not unusual for Bongo playing to take place underground in new York City. In fact I would argue it is a staple of the subway experience. But it is something you usually hear on the platform. A tightly packed train car is the opposite of a good place for a one man bongo show.

I watched him pretty much the whole train ride. It was hard not to. I had a book with me but I couldn't really keep my focus on it. He would play for a bit and then stop for a minute; he would smile to himself as he tried out new beats, or replayed ones he knew well. He would laugh here and there as though a certain particular beat was particularly amusing, like the beats brought back memories.

Maybe they did.

But the longer I stared at him the more my thoughts changed. My frustration changed to curiosity, and then ever so slowly into introspection. It wasn't just the noise of the music of the bongo that got me thinking... it was the guy himself. Something about him and what he was doing spoke to me. And then I realized;

He was my metaphor.

Now I didn't realize it right away, because at first I thought he was just crazy. I kept wondering, doesn't this guy know he's not any good? Surely he must know that or he wouldn't be a homeless man playing bongo on the subway, he would be off somewhere in some famous bongo band.

But no matter how many people sighed or shot him dirty looks, he didn't seem to notice. He just kept right on drumming. It was almost beautiful.

He didn't have a hat out, or a sign asking for money. He didn't ask anyone to make a contribution to his fund. He just sat there, playing the bongo however he wanted, for as long as he wanted. For whatever reason, something compelled him to do it. Until somebody forced him to stop, or he completely lost interest, he would bang his drum. Just like I have been banging my drum for the past 12 months. Except my drum is a blog.

A little over a year ago I was looking for a reason to write more. I had pitched a couple of magazines with story ideas but never heard back. I knew I wasn't going to get better unless I started having a regular reason to write. The word "blogger" had taken on such a negative connotation that I had no desire to create an identity as one. But the more I thought about it, a blog was the best way for me to have the freedom and the ability to write as I wanted.

I thought I had some interesting things to share and some unique stories to tell. Most of all I thought I might be able to make people laugh. The only way to figure that out was to try. And so Boehmcke's Human Condition was born.

I started sending it out.

Nothing came of it right away and still at this point, nothing has come of it. Well, that is not entirely true. I have met some wonderful people through writing and blogging as it were. I have created a tremendous amount of meaning for myself through the process of writing. To say it gives me a sense of purpose sounds too severe, but in some ways it really has. It has given me a drive and a focus I didn't have before. I love to do it, and I love the reception I get, be it positive, negative, or just plain creepy.

But in terms of life changes... I haven't had any really that I can attribute to the blog. At least not yet. No movie offers or book deals. No newspaper or magazines asking me to syndicated myself nationally. No special on Comedy Central. No appearances on the Today Show. And yet, I keep writing.

I do so because I believe in it deep down in my bones. I believe that this is something that is going to change my life. And unlike the other jobs or internships or part time work I've had, this doesn't make me a dime. But I love it. Just the act of doing it makes me feel good.

So I keep banging my drum, sending out my blog week after week. To people I know well and barely at all. To other bloggers and other bloggers' friends. To anybody who friends me on Facebook and anybody who asks; "What types of things do you write?" I keep sending it out.

Like the bongo player, nobody asked me to start. And thankfully, as of yet, nobody has asked me to stop. But I will continue to do it until I have a reason not to, putting my writing out into the world for all who care to see until I have nothing left to write. Hoping that somebody likes it enough to make it worth my while one day leave the desk job behind.

And granted I don't read my blogs aloud on the train at 8:30 in the morning, many mornings I am thinking about them. The link is there. This bongo player and me, both unpaid, same train, both doing something that makes us happy, doing it until we run out of steam, until the gods of our art and our craft put a stop to our drumming. Until there is a reason not to.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Living with people after high school hasn't really been something I've had much success with. Growing up at home was pretty normal. I mean the standard conflict about my messy room, or having not cleaned the bathroom existed, but that was pretty basic. And aside from those things, I survived without too much drama.

Once I left for college however, it was a whole new ballgame. I was not aware that some people could be so otherworldly oblivious, or that 2 people could have so many different things to disagree on. Here now, is a brief history of my college roommates.

My first college roommate took it up on himself to let his friend sleep in my bed the 3rd night I knew him. I came home late to find a strange woman sleeping in my bed. It is not nearly as cool as it sounds.

I left that situation after 3 weeks to get my own room, but I had a suite mate whose friend would take Adderall and bang on my window like a savage at 4 in the morning. I was too scared to even open the curtain.

Then my next roommate liked to smoke pot. So much so that he got taken out of our apartment in handcuffs by the police. I think that he thought I called the cops because the next day he took the TV out of the living room and moved it into his room. I never told him that the cops had been walking past our balcony and heard him say, and I quote, "This is some really good pot!"

Then I had roommates in Italy. One of which dropped a giant glass beer bottle next to my bed while I was away one weekend and didn't tell me until I found a shard of glass on the floor the size of a shrapnel grenade. I asked him what happened. He said he didn't remember.

So it stands to reason that by the time I left college I was done with roommates. (Aside from the 2 extra years I lived with my parents, which is a story for another time)

When I finally moved into my own apartment last year it was the greatest relief of my life. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and never had to worry about about anybody else cramping my style.

One of the benefits of having your own apartment is being able to open up your home to your dear close friends who need a place to stay when they come to visit. I have been more than willing to offer my pullout couch to the half dozen or so of my friends who have been brave/masochistic/desperate enough to spend a couple of nights at my place.

As I started preparing my apartment for my guests to arrive, I began having flashbacks to cleaning my room when I was a kid. My mother was so emphatic about every inch of the house being spotless before our guests arrived.

Did you vacuum under your bed?

No. Why? Will our guests be sleeping under the bed? Are they trolls?

Did you dust?

What do you mean did I dust? Of course I didn't dust. I never dust. Why would I dust?

All of this effort seemed extremely unnecessary. Would I ever really care if my home was that clean?

The answer of course, is yes.

I did not expect the neuroses I would develop about having my apartment being clean enough so that my friends wouldn't think I was some kind of filthy hippie when they arrived. I immediately began channeling my mother and putting everything away.

I found myself refolding the clothes that were already in my closet. Like my guests were going to throw open my closet doors, find unfolded shirts and say... "What is this? Unfolded shirts? I am outraged! I am leaving this dump!"

But some things can't be hidden. Things like 10 pounds of protein powder in a giant blue keg. I couldn't really put that away. What would my friends think when they saw that ridiculous purchase? Or the PedEgg in my bathroom? Try as I might I still can't find a great reason for owning that.

I tried to remember what it was like when I stayed at my friend's place in California last year. She is so sweet and when I arrived she told me to make myself at home. But instantly I knew she couldn't possibly mean that.

Even though we were good friends, I think she would have been quite shocked to find me sitting on her couch in my underwear at 2 in the morning drinking out of the OJ container while watching Britney Spears videos on YouTube.

I mean it's just a hunch.

Not that it is a normal nighttime activity for me, but ya know... sometimes.

But I didn't act like myself when I got there. I acted like a really awesome version of myself. And I did that by being as agreeable as humanly possible. I become a yes man. In order to make it easy as possible on my host, I just go along with everything.

Hey Rich I don't have a spare bed. Would you mind sleeping on our unfinished deck full of rusty nails and rabid cats?

No problem.

Hey Rich I wake up at 6 am and scream like a banshee for half an hour, do you mind?

Not at all.

Hey Rich for breakfast I always eat half a sheep brain, would you like one?

Give me a whole!

And sure enough the friends that came to stay with me were extremely flexible. Even though my neuroses had me making sure everyone had a different colored towel to use so nobody would get confused and use the same towel, my hosting screw ups went nearly unnoticed.

Like when I forgot to replenish the toilet paper stash before I went to work in the morning. Or when I forgot to turn on the A/C before they went to sleep in my sweltering living room. They didn't seem to mind.

But I did need to acclimate myself to having people in my home. I had to remember to do little things I didn't normally have to. Like close the door when I went to the bathroom, or put on pants when I walked out of my room in the morning.

As it turns out I really like being a temporary roommate to my friends for short periods of time. It is like a vacation from your own life.

And if you'd like to stay with me, I'd love to have you. Just let me know in advance so I can hide my protein keg and practice putting on some pants.

Oh and by the way, I actually wake up at 5 to scream like a banshee. I hope you don't mind.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Agony of Da Feet

When I was 10 the grooming process was very simple. It was barely a process at that. I had soap, I had shampoo, and maybe some hairspray. there was no moisturizing, no exfoliating, and certainly no trips to the store to buy specialty niche items to help me improve my body.

But things have changed a lot for me. In fact I am sure the 10 year old me would be utterly baffled at the amount of crap I have in my bathroom, stuff that I am not even really sure why I own.

Case and point: There is a PedEgg in my bathroom.

For those of you who do not know, the PedEgg is one of those As Seen On TV products that promises to change your life like nothing you have ever owned before. This one promises to do it through exfoliation.

It is a home pedicure device shaped like an egg for reasons I dare not fathom. It looks like this.

Notice the word "Professional" written on the egg. I'm sure this is to prevent people from getting this product confused with all of those amateur PedEggs you have been seeing on the market. Damn PedEgg impostors are ruining our economy. THIS one is the real deal. THIS is what the pros use.

As with most great inventions, I imagine that someone was at home in their bathroom using a cheese grater to get rid of the calluses on their heel when they had a brilliant stroke of brilliance.

"Wait a minute. What if I did not need to repair my gross feet with the same device that I use to shred my Parmesan? What if I had an object that was cost efficient, tiny, and shaped like a... like a... like a EGG?!"

Apparently there was an unknown demand, the the inventor of the PedEgg came up with the supply. The commercial that sells the product seems to be a blend of questionable truthiness. They show the PedEgg blade easily getting rid of the dead skin on the bottom of a woman's foot.

OK that seems believable.

Then they show the same PedEgg rubbing up against a balloon and not popping.


How can that be? A device such as this surely must have blades of ninja sharp steel, sharpened to a microfinish by the finest craftsmen to enable us to smoothen our feet! But for it to not pop a balloon? Blasphemy I say! Witchcraft!

So after I stopped yelling obscenities at my television, I decided to try it.

Having recently spent a couple of weeks walking through South America with a pack on my back, my feet were in need of a makeover. Nay. An extreme makeover. My all female team of coworkers kept suggesting a "team pedicure" but I felt the PedEgg might be a slightly less embarrassing and more successful venture.

Wrong again Boomka.

I wasn't sure where I could find this item. but, as it turns out it wasn't hard to find one. They are located with the impulse items near the register at where else? Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Impulse item? Really? When i think impulse items I think candy and gum and glossy mags with pictures of half naked celebrities. I don't think... foot repair.

"Ohhh look! Flavored jelly beans and OH MY GOD my feet DO need to be scrubbed with a plastic egg!"

So I buy my egg (20% off of course) and bring it home. My excitement gets the better of me and I open it immediately. This would be like Christmas for my feet. Though it seemed unnecessary to do so, I read the instructions. I wanted to make sure this really was as easy as had been advertised.

My elation quickly turned to frustration as I started using the PedEgg.

My first problem with the PedEgg is using it requires my leg to be in a yoga position I can only describe as Crouching Neanderthal. Keeping my leg folded up in that stance for more than 4 consecutive seconds without collapsing and smacking my head on the sink is a miracle of strength and gravity.

I finally managed to get myself into proper... um... PedEgging form by sitting on the toilet and leaning against the wall.

Once I was able to accomplish such a feat I began Pedegging myself. Giving myself a PedEggcure if you will. I started out gently, worrying that I would turn my foot into a bloody stump if I wasn't careful.

But that wasn't enough so I applied a little more pressure.

And a little bit more.

And a little bit more.

And a little bit more until I was scrubbing the bottom of my foot so hard I thought I was going to blow my rotator cuff or need Tommy John surgery. Because as far as the PedEgg is concerned, it appears my feet are made out of Balloons.

But I also still had to do the other foot. which means I had to move the PedEgg to my left hand. Now I can barely even wave with my left hand, never mind contort my body into a pretzel while simultaneously sanding off the heel of my right foot. This process took considerably longer.

I checked the results of my effort. Sure my foot was smoother but I was disappointed. If I do a cost benefit analysis on my purchase I come to the conclusion that having a smooth foot is not worth having to pay for a shoulder replacement.

So I just gave up and did what any other guy would have done.

I went and got a pedicure.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Change I Don't Believe In

I'm not a big fan of coins. I mean I like money as much as the next guy, but coins in general are a bit cumbersome. And for someone like me who likes to travel with as few items as possible, heavy metallic change is kind of the enemy.

But I have found myself paying a lot closer attention to my change lately. Perhaps I'm becoming more frugal, or maybe it's my fear of a complete economic collapse, either way, I'm not forsaking my coins any more for their dollared brethren. I am taking care of them, nurturing them, and using them. And it's making me realize certain things.

The first thing I've realized is that using change makes me feel like a child. I'm not sure if this is an insecurity of my own creation as much as it is imposed on me by society.

I keep all of my change either in my desk at work, or at home in an empty Gatorade bottle. When that bottle gets full I take it over to my bank and dump that change into the automatic coin counter.

It is a large machine with a touch screen and a tray that sorts and counts your coins. It then prints out a receipt which you can take up to the counter and exchange for paper money, which is my favorite.

You get some pretty interesting characters waiting in line at that machine. Characters including the creepiest looking people in the world with mugs, jugs, and dirty socks full of coins. So many coins that they often break the machine making us all wait a half our for the manager to fix it.

But it's not the machine itself that makes me feel like a child. It is the instructions. These are given loudly by audio in the voice of an 8 year old girl.


Well I guess they assume, like I do, that the only people trying to buy anything with change must still be in elementary school. They also apparently think I can't read so i have to listen to another smarter elementary school kid tell me what to do.

So as I am shaking my Gatorade bottle full of nickels into the sorting panel, this cartoon brown noser on the screen is shouting to the whole bank;


No I don't want to guess how much I have. How about this guess... Not enough!

And when I finish emptying, and she finishes sorting, she shouts with mock excitement;


Shut up you little snot! I know things are different in cartoon world, but in mine $23.86 is not a lot of money. That's not even half my grocery bill. So stop patronizing me. I don't need you telling me I don't have enough money. What do you know?

About 15 years ago, maybe I would have thought a bit differently. Back when I was a kid the only things I bought were baseball cards and candy. And I always used change, piling my silver on the counter of the corner store like I was a pirate and I had just dug up me plunder.

But at my current point in life, piling change on a counter does not make me feel like a pirate. It makes me feel like an incompetent moron. Like when my drawer at work gets too full of change, I take it downstairs to the hole in the wall coffee shop to buy a breakfast sandwich. And even thought the sandwich only costs 2 bucks, I still feel kind of uncomfortable paying for it with 6 quarters, 2 dimes, and a nickel.

I wonder what the guy behind the counter is thinking.

"Oh great. Here comes the man-child with no real money."

Does he wonder if I am extremely cheap? Broke? Maybe I operate a tollbooth on the weekends and I'm skimming the profits?

Perhaps, because I can put myself in his shoes.

I bartend on the weekends at a place that gets pretty busy. Many people pay by credit card but most people pay by cash. Things usually go pretty smoothly, but there is one situation that always trips me up.

When somebody's bill comes to something like $19.95 and they give me a twenty dollar bill and stand there waiting for the nickel while I go and make change, for some reason it leaves me in disbelief. I pause for a moment and then scream, "Do you really need this you cheapskate?"

And then I fling the nickel at their face.

Maybe not.

But when the tables are turned and I am the customer, I don't really know what to do. For instance, if I give someone a twenty for something that costs $19.95, while I stand there waiting for my change I have a small panic attack.

What does the person behind the counter think about me while I stand there waiting for my nickel.

Do they think I am some scrooge hunting after every last cent? Like I wouldn't dare let any of my tremendous net worth out of my sight. So then I contemplate letting them keep the change.

But what am I supposed to say?

"Hey there friend, buy yourself a nice piece of Bazooka Joe."

How does that make me look? Oh yea I'm so wealthy that you can keep that nickel. Or do they think that I think that I am doing them a favor? I don't know! I think the best thing to do is just walk off like I didn't even notice a nickel was involved. That way we both win.

And maybe as I walk off I can add;


Or maybe not.