Sunday, August 28, 2016

your circuit's dead, there's something wrong

Sometimes, I catch myself acting like a real idiot. Just this week, as a matter of fact, I behaved like an idiot of the highest (or lowest, depending on your gauge) order.

For years now, Mrs. Pincus and I have gotten into the habit of falling asleep with the television on... and leaving it on all night. At one time, we had one of the first televisions with a sleep timer. That was great. We'd watch TV. I'd set the timer on the remote to shut off in ninety minutes and everything was fine. After a while, I'd forget to set the timer. Then, the timer button on our remote stopped working altogether. Then.. ah, screw it! We just left the TV on all night. Surprisingly, it didn't bother us. We kept the volume low. The light from the television was better — and certainly more entertaining — than any nightlight. It got so we couldn't get to sleep if the television wasn't on all night. We didn't limit this ritual to our home either. We'd leave the television on all night in hotel rooms while on vacation. When we visited my wife's cousin Juniper in Virginia Beach, she graciously offered us accommodations in a spare bedroom in her apartment. While the room was equipped with a queen-size bed, alas, it was without a television. Talk about roughing it. It was like camping.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to Comcast's (or Xfinity or whatever they're calling themselves these days) fabulous and innovative X-1 platform, the greatest thing to happen to television since Morton Downey Jr. died. We bought a 32" flat-screen, high-definition television to replace the big, square dinosaur that previously was perched upon the high bureau in our bedroom. Now, my wife and I are gently lulled to sleep by the soft, panoramic glow of our Samsung Model UN32J4000AFXZA. Every so often, I wake up in the middle of the night and I'll switch the channel from the harsh reality of CNN to the friendlier tones of a fifty-year-old rerun of I've Got a Secret on BUZZR. Then, I'll just fall back asleep. 

Sometimes, I am awakened by the lack of sound. Startled, I lift my head from my pillow and, not wishing to feel around for my glasses squint at the silent television. I can barely make out a message on the screen instructing me to restart the cable box for a software update. I force myself out of bed, careful not to wake my sleeping missus. I unplug and immediately re-plug the power cord from the back of the box and, after a series of messages chronicling the status of service, my television comes back to life and I go back to sleep. This happened a few nights ago... with much different, much scarier results.

Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
In my sleep, I could sense an eerie quiet in our bedroom. There was the low, white noise hum emanating from the small fan on my wife's dresser. The television screen was bright but silent, an image of a local weather forecaster frozen in mid-point filled its oblong surface. I got out of bed and shuffled to the TV. I fumbled around for the connection at the back off the small cable box and yanked the cord out. The room was plunged into darkness. Again, I felt around and plugged the cord back in. The blue light on the front of the box blinked in an irregular pattern and the familiar and comforting "Welcome" message  appeared on the screen, as it had numerous times before after performing this simple procedure. I slogged back to bed and lay with my eyes closed, waiting for the sound of the television which should be arriving... any... second.

Nothing. A few minutes went by. Long minutes.

Still nothing.

Instead of the usual "Connecting to the X1 Platform" message that appears within a few minutes of powering up, my poor television had this splashed across it:

Did it, did it and did it.

Eeech! I don't want to see this. Instantly, I thought of a trip to the local Xfinity office to exchange my (possibly) faulty cable box. Would they be open when I got home from work? Would Mrs. Pincus have to interrupt her day to return the box? Ugh! I hate to be inconvenienced. I turned the TV off in disgust.

At this point, my alarm went off and I had to get up for work. I went into the den and hit the remote to turn the TV on. The screen flashed to life, displaying a frozen image of a CNN anchor, poised mid-read, her lips locked in an unnatural curl, her right eye slightly closed. I unplugged the cable box and exercised the same procedure on this cable connection as well. 

As part of my usual morning routine, I went to the third floor of my house, to our computers, to post the daily celebrity death anniversaries on Facebook. (Give a "like" to my Facebook page so you don't miss out.) With a touch of the mouse, my sleeping computer awakened to tell me there was no internet service available. I glanced over at the router/modem combination (a "gateway" is was XFinity calls it) and saw that the "online" light was out. Only the "power" light was lazily blinking at the top of the stack of indicator lights. No cable service at all? I panicked. I mean real cold sweat, throbbing temples, can't-think-straight, end-of-the-world panic! (Okay. I might be exaggerating, but not as bad as Ryan Lochte, but, I was really panicked!) I looked at the display screen on the nearby telephone and saw the "No Service" message. (We have the Xfinity "Triple Play" package and are forced to maintain a land line, otherwise our cable bill will skyrocket higher than the ridiculously high cost we are already charged.) No TV. No internet. No telephone. Oh my God! I was stuck on Gilligan's Island except there was no Professor to fix the problem with coconut shells and salt water!

I scrambled downstairs and checked the Xfinity website on my phone, reluctantly eating up precious data units on the 4G network since my WiFi was out. After logging into my account, I was told there was a full service outage in my area. The anticipated restoration of service was in the 10 o'clock hour. 10 o'clock? That was four hours from now. I ran up and down the stairs checking and rechecking all of my many cable connections. And then I checked them again.

I finally went downstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee and fixed a bowl of cereal. I carried my breakfast up to the den and sat in front of the giant screen of my cable-less television, staring at my own sad reflection in the black glass. The only sound I could hear was the crunching of Cheerios in my mouth and the occasional sipping of coffee. No local news. No Today Show. No iCarly. No television entertainment of any type. Time dragged. I sulked. It was pathetic.

Suddenly, the clock on the cable box activated on its own, displaying the correct time. I grabbed the remote and hit the power button. The huge television screen brightened and — oh yeah! — I was connected! Connected to the wonderful world of mindless visual stimulation! My cable was back!

I thought about this little episode and my ridiculous behavior. I played it over again in my head. Disconnecting the cable boxes. Running up and down the steps like my house was on fire. Checking all of the connections like I suffered from an advanced case of obsessive/compulsive disorder.  If I was being watched, I'm sure I would have come across as looking like an idiot.

Well, I may be an idiot, but, I'm an idiot with cable.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The 2016 Summer Olympics just wrapped up for another four years. My wife is a fan of the Olympics and looks forward to watching. I, on the other hand, am not a fan. However, this year I watched more Olympic competition than I had in my entire life. Every evening, beginning with the head-scratchingly odd opening ceremony, Mrs. P and I sat on the sofa opposite our new, high-definition, flat screen TV and watched every prime-time broadcast. Actually, it was on the television and we glanced up when we heard cheers or gasps. Mostly, we fiddled with our phones. She played Candy Crush and checked the status of her various eBay auctions. I checked Instagram and tweeted sarcastic observations about the Olympics. Mrs. Pincus went to visit family in Virginia Beach during the second week of the Olympics and I didn't watch a single second of the games, choosing instead to catch up on a few bad movies I had DVRed. However, when she returned, we again watched together until the closing ceremony.

I'll tumble 4 U.
I am fascinated by women's gymnastics. I can't figure out how a young lady, standing barely four-and-a-half feet tall, can exert enough power to bound on to a "horse," launch herself into the air a distance of twice her height, spin around in all directions and land gracefully on her feet. Only to have some judge knock off a few points because her right heel stepped back three inches. Hey, I'd like to see the judge try that. We marveled as 17 year-old British gymnast Ellie Downie flipped and fell on her neck during her floor exercise performance, her head crumpling underneath the full weight of her body. (Granted, it's only 117 pounds, but — jeez! — it's still 117 pounds!) Obviously shaken, Ellie attempted to continue her routine, but was soon helped off the mat by her coach. Moments later, she emerged from the training room to participate in the vault. Her coach cautioned her to try one vault. She waved him off, explaining, "If I can do one vault, I can do two." Ellie Downie, despite her petite stature, can kick your ass.

All together now.
One evening, Mrs. P and I watched something called "men's synchronized platform diving." an event I didn't know existed until I began watching it. Two toned young men in skimpy bathing suits leaped from a cement platform, twisting, flipping and turning all the way down until they broke the surface of the water, creating only the slightest of splashes. The whole display reminded me of the famous Groucho/Harpo "mirror scene" from the classic film Duck Soup, only not nearly as funny. I noticed when the divers emerged from the pool, they made a bee-line for the showers situated just behind the tall diving platforms. Every one of them. They stood for a long time under the rushing stream of water, making sure every inch of their exposed skin was rinsed. Some massaged their own scalps rather vigorously. I didn't think too much about this until I saw that, over the next few days, the pool used for diving had turned a bright and nauseating shade of green. The official cause was... actually, there were several explanations offered and several fingers pointed. Everything from improper chemical treatments, to lack of chemical treatments to contractor issues. This is the Olympics, for crissakes! The world's athletic stage. NBC is sinking nearly 11 billion dollars into this thing. International companies are paying top dollar for sponsorship. Can't you get a guy with one of those long-handled nets and a bucket of chlorine to clean that shit up?

...and it was all yellow.
While looking up "Olympic swimming" on Google (I was sort of getting into this), I came across a very disturbing article. Very, very disturbing. Several swimmers, divers and other water-sports athletes were asked if they "pee" in the pool. The overwhelming reply was "yes." Wait. Let me amend that. The overwhelming reply was "Of course!" As though it was the obvious answer with absolutely no alternative. They said there is no time to constantly get out of the pool for a bathroom visit. It would drastically cut into training time and be detrimental to their performance. One Olympian even went so far as to say, "If a swimmer tells you they don't pee in the pool, they're lying," Didn't they listen to Mom? Or the lifeguard? Or the code of decency? Or common-fucking-sense? The question was answered with pride. Like peeing in a swimming pool was some sort of "rite of passage." That's not all. I found out, later in the same article, that the unmistakable smell of "swimming pool" is not the natural scent of chlorine (as we have always been led to believe). No. That smell is chloramines, which is created from a reaction of chlorine mixing with urine. Yes sir! People have always been peeing in pools! Chlorine has no smell. It has to be pissed on in order to smell like chlorine. Also, that burning sensation you get in your eyes when you go under water in a pool? Yeah, that's chlorine's reaction to piss, too.

Lie detector.
Recently, Mrs. Pincus and I returned from our fourth cruise in four years. While packing for each of those trips, I never considered taking a bathing suit. Hell, I don't even own a bathing suit. I haven't set foot (or any other body part) in a public swimming pool in years. Years! My feeling was: I wouldn't want to bathe with a bunch of strangers. When you think about it, how different is swimming in a pool from bathing? Some people actually feel that the two concepts are interchangeable. I always shunned swimming with the excuse: "There ain't enough chlorine in the world to get me to go into a pool with a bunch of strangers." Now that I know chlorine is actually the tattletale for pool-pissers, I stand by my reasoning. Except now, the reason has changed.

Still think a dip in the pool is relaxing?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

we're a happy family

This month marks 29 years since I became a father. I have to admit, though, that before I became a father, I had no interest in being a parent. None. Zero. Zilch. However, once my son was born, my feelings took a complete one-eighty. With inspiration from my wonderful wife, I immersed myself into parenthood. Our life had changed. We knew things would be different. We were now responsible for another life, for teaching our son right from wrong. We would be giving love and comfort and guidance and knowledge to a human being that we consciously decided to bring into this world. We were now a family. We would do things as a family. And we would love being a family.

Every part of my son's life was the best part. I loved watching him grow up. I loved watching him learn new things. I loved seeing him beam with pride at all of his accomplishments through the years — an "A" on a test or a gold star on a school project. I loved going on family vacations. My son and I saw Niagara Falls for the first time together. My wife and I, veterans of many trips to Walt Disney World, experienced the theme park from a new perspective during our son's first visit. We cheered him on when he boarded the bus for his first summer at overnight camp — and we fought back tears knowing how much we would miss him during his eight-week absence. We wrote to him — sending four and five letters a day. (The mail room at camp hated us.) We rejoiced in his graduation from high school, then college and were overjoyed when he landed his dream job. He recently bought a house with his girlfriend.

Mrs. P and I like to think that we laid the foundation for our son's life. We hope that our conduct and decisions have influenced him by example. I suppose it has, because he has made us proud many, many times over.

So, I am infuriated by the overwhelming number of parents that I have witnessed bitching and whining and complaining about their children. I cringe when I hear "I can't wait! No children for the whole weekend!" or "It's adult night! Children-free! Woo-hoo!" I hate to see Facebook posts that say "Dropped the kids off! Now it's ME time!" On a public forum? Really? I don't understand this sentiment at all? Why on earth did you have children if you can't wait to get rid of them? Didn't you fully understand the commitment involved when you decided to have children? It's not an obligation because your parents wouldn't shut up about "making them grandparents." Having children is a big responsibility. It is a life-changing responsibility. And if you are not ready to alter your life, then you should have put more thought into what is actually involved in having a family. Your children are your responsibility. Not your parents', not your babysitter's, not your kid's teacher's.... yours. Grow the fuck up and start acting like a responsible adult and parent. And stop being selfish.

Spend time with your children, as much as you can. Be patient with your children. Be loving with your children. Be involved in their lives and in their interests... even if they are not your interests. Give them direction and encouragement and discipline and praise and assistance. If you don't like the way your kids behave, guess whose fault that is?

Didn't you learn anything from "Cats in the Cradle?"

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

baby come back

I have been collecting autographed photos of "celebrities" for over twenty years. My collection includes some famous names, like Tom Hanks, Charlton Heston and Gene Kelly. But, It mostly consists of mid- to low-level actors who were most famous for a single role on a long-forgotten television program or film. To get these inscribed photos, I have attended numerous collector shows and conventions. You know the type. They are usually themed to one specific interest, like baby boomer, science-fiction, or even as ultra-specific as Star Trek. They are usually held at a large hotel and spread out among several ballrooms and meeting rooms. The rooms are filled with vendors offering everything from T-shirts and DVDs to custom artwork and figurines. Some of the larger conventions encourage attendees to come in costume. But the draw for me is the roster of celebrities that have been contracted to sit behind a table laden with stacks of glossy pictures, a few vintage posters and perhaps even a thin, bound memoir — all waiting to be inscribed and personalized for a paltry sum (a sum that has escalated at a steady rate in twenty years time). 

After a three year absence, I attended the Monster-Mania Con in nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I used to go to this biannual event regularly, despite a steep admission fee that grew steeper with each subsequent show. I was never particularly interested in the items for sale in the vendor rooms, although I would always stroll through the packed aisles to peruse the wares. I was there solely for autographs and to spend a few minutes with someone who I had only seen as image flickering across a movie or TV screen. 

Until Christopher Lloyd ruined it for me. 

Mr. Lloyd, the Emmy Award winning actor equally recognized for his roles as "Reverend Jim Ignatowski" on Taxi, "Judge Doom" in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and "Doc Brown" in the Back to the Future trilogy, made an appearance at Monster-Mania three years ago, This was a pretty big coup for the promoter of the long-running convention and I was anxious to meet Mr. Lloyd and add his photo to my collection. I lined up at his table behind a dozen or so other fans. When I got close enough, I selected a photo — a close up of Christopher as "Doc Brown" with a large, geometric contraption on his head. A man seated next to the actor informed me that a signed picture would set me back sixty bucks. Holy shit! When I started my collection, pictures with a signature and a bit of quality time with the signer cost ten dollars. (Actually, Butch Patrick, child star of The Munsters, charged a five-spot and Mrs. P and I were the only ones there to see him.) For a long time, the going rate rose to — and then stayed at — twenty dollars. Lately, most celebrities charge thirty, with a select few (with bigger egos, no doubt) asking forty. But, sixty dollars! That was just ridiculous. I flip-flopped on a decision in my mind a few times until I fumed and reluctantly handed over three crumbled twenty dollar bills. When I approached Mr. Lloyd, I smiled and said, "Hi. I'm a big fan. I loved your work in Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future." — gushing like a giddy teenager. He didn't even look up. He just quickly scrawled his name across the lower portion of the photo, smearing the "C" in the process. I thanked him and he still offered no reply. Not a word. I thought, "You son of a bitch! Sixty bucks to write your fucking name and you can't even muster a 'Hi?' What an asshole." I was done with this show. It was expensive. It was crowded. I have to park a mile away because the tiny hotel lot fills up quickly. I just wasn't enjoying myself anymore.

However, I still continued to check the list of guests for upcoming Monster-Manias. When the new guest list was posted for Monster-Mania 34, I decided to put my grudge on hold and go back one more time. But this time, I'd go about it differently. First, I went on a Sunday, the final day of the show. It was also only twenty dollars to get in — ten dollars less than the previous two days. Next, I got to the hotel an hour before the show opened. It was great. I had my choice of parking spaces. Once inside and in the lobby, I watched the hotel staff marvel at the costumed, mohawked and heavily-tattooed attendees milling about. When the not-so-friendly staff dropped the velvet rope and the show officially opened, I headed straight to the autograph room where the "celebrities" were just arriving at their tables, unpacking their Sharpies and setting up their photos. There were no crowds, no hassle and no lines.

I walked right up to Curtis Armstrong, best known as "Booger" in the 1984 college gross-out Revenge of the Nerds and several of its lesser sequels. However, Curtis is also considered one of the world's leading authorities on the music and career of late singer Harry Nilsson (he of "Without You" and "Everybody's Talkin'" fame). Curtis even wrote the liner notes for a series of Nilsson album re-releases. Curtis was casually chatting with a young lady seated next to him at his table. I approached and selected a photo. I then told Curtis of my own fondness for Harry Nilsson's music. He lit up, happy for a conversation that wouldn't include misquoted dialog from the Nerds films. We spoke briefly about the career of the singer, sharing our preferences for individual songs. He inscribed my photo "From one Nilsson fan to another" and capped it with his swashy signature. He graciously posed for a picture with me. I thanked him and headed straight across the still sparsely-populated room.

My target was Adrienne Barbeau. She was the reason I decided to temporarily shelve my boycott of Monster-Mania. I wrote about Ms. Barbeau a few months ago, after Mrs. P and I saw her in a production of the Broadway musical Pippin, so I will try to keep my gushing to a minimum. I have met a lot of celebrities over the years, and while it is always a pleasure (and sometimes a bit of a thrill) to meet someone you've only seen on TV or the movies, there are a few that fall into the category of very cool. Julie Newmar, Shirley Jones, Patty Duke and Karen Valentine come to mind. Adrienne Barbeau now tops that list. I patiently waited for Ms. Barbeau to finish a conversation with two fanboys toting an over-sized poster from the 1982 horror anthology Creepshow. I could not take my eyes off of her. It was one of those surreal moments. Sure, it was pretty cool seeing her as a tiny speck on the distant Academy of Music stage in February, but now here she was, less than two feet away. At 70 (you read that right), she still looks awesome. The fanboys moved on and Adrienne turned to me, greeting me with a big smile and an even bigger "Hello." Trying to gather my thoughts and to not sound like a blithering idiot, I told her that I was a long-time fan and that my wife and I enjoyed her performance in Pippin. Her broad smile broadened. An expression came across her face that said: "Finally! Someone wants to talk about something other than The Fog or Swamp Thing." I gave her a drawing I did of her and Maude co-star and mentor, the late Bea Arthur, along with a couple of Josh Pincus pinback buttons (available HERE.). She was intrigued and asked about the story behind "Josh Pincus." (Oh, there's a story, all right.) She laughed at my little story. I asked if I could get a photo with her and she happily obliged. She got up and came around the table, positioning her small frame close to me. Her assistant snapped off a couple of shots on my cellphone. I thanked her and she thanked me for the buttons and the drawing. 

The room began to fill up and a line began to form for Tara Reid, star of the recent campy phenomenon, Sharknado (and its sequels). I had been here for an hour already and Tara was a no-show. I scanned the room and didn't recognized any of the other "celebrities" offering signed pictures and face-to-face time. I mean I had never heard of any show or movie they "claimed" to be representing. Figuring Tara Reid was not worth my time or another thirty bucks, I started for the exit.

Philadelphia is smack in the middle of a relentless heatwave, with temperatures in the high 90s, coupled with oppressive humidity. So, on my way home, I purchased a 12" oscillating fan for half the price of an autographed picture.

It was a good day all around.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

the ties that bind

I had a very lengthy blog post all set and ready to publish this morning. But I will not. I will publish this one instead.

My original story was long, detailed and pretty pointed in its references. However, last night, I read it to my wife in its pre-publication form. Aside from the numerous typos and grammatical errors (that I have yet to correct) and one totally cringe-worthy reference to Buchenwald, she felt the subject matter may be detrimental to an already fragile relationship with some of the parties of whom I referenced. "Poking the bear" were her actual words. I thought about it and thought about it some more. I decided not to publish my original post out of respect and love. I was not at all concerned about offending anyone that I alluded to in my story. No, I decided to leave the post in my "Drafts" folder purely and solely out of respect and love for my wife.

My wife has a very close relationship with her family. She always has. It was something that, when I met her, was foreign to me. Sure, I loved my parents and my brother growing up, but the level of togetherness and interaction displayed by my wife for her family was something that I never, ever witnessed before. I still haven't. Even through good times and bad times, happy and sad, my wife has remained loyal and loving and devoted to her family.

So, based on Mrs. P's feelings and my feelings for Mrs. P, you are just going to have to wait until I die and my unpublished blogs are published. 

Oh, and there's a really good one I wrote in 2014 about an awful experience I had at a Ruby Tuesday's. But, that one will have to wait as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

please release me, let me go

In 1997, my very first job in the corporate world was obviously drawing to a bad end. I worked for a national publisher of books, magazines and newsletters for the legal trade. It was a great job with a great working environment and nice co-workers. However, for the entire two years of my employment, the threat of the company up and moving to Florida always hung over our heads. There was a small, West Palm Beach office and the CEO spent a good portion of the year there and rumors circulated regularly about the suburban Philadelphia office shutting down. But, we soldiered on.

A black cloud fell on the production department (where I worked laying out over 35 monthly newsletters). There was a drop in morale and a lot of employee turnover. My boss, Babs, suspiciously began arriving late several times a week, until I confronted her, asking if she was looking for another job. She confirmed that she was. I so began to seek other employment as well. 

I came across an ad in the "Job Opportunity" section of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer (may I remind you that this was 1997) offering the position of art director at a start-up ad agency specializing in the real estate business. I called and made arrangements to meet the fellow I spoke with at a restaurant in a hotel near my job, so I could just go into work after the interview had concluded. Along with my portfolio of samples, I brought my years of varied experience — production, design, illustration — my marketing ability and my sense of humor. I shook hands with a guy who vaguely resembled media bad-boy and one-time child star Danny Bonaduce — someone who I seriously despised — but I went ahead with the interview. We spoke at length. I walked him through my work and work experience. He painted a stunning picture of the work he had lined up with a fairly large client — RE/MAX realtors, as well as several small local business. He told me about his previous job at another ad agency and his desire to start his own. He hired me on the spot. I told him that I had to give a reasonable amount of notice to my current employer. he was anxious to get started, so he requested that I give just one week notice. I reluctantly agreed.

I left the interview and drove to work. As I walked across the parking lot, I thought about how I would tell my boss that I would be leaving. I didn't get the opportunity, however, because as I entered my department, Babs was being escorted out by company security. Just a few minutes earlier, she had given her notice and her superior deemed her a "hostile employee" and ordered her removed from the premises. With my boss gone, I gave my notice to the next person up the corporate ladder, began gathering the few personal items I had on my desk and counted the hours until I started my new job.

The Happiest Place on Earth
Monday morning arrived. I took my new, shorter commute to work. I climbed the stairs to my new office, where I was to be the art director for an ad agency — a position I dreamed about since my graduation from art school. I hung a few pictures I brought with me (including a newly acquired framed print celebrating Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary) and tried to make my new digs my own. My new boss — the Danny Bonaduce doppelganger — was anxious to begin work. He explained that we would mostly be producing newspaper ads for a slew of RE/MAX agencies in the Philadelphia area. The more explanation I heard, the more I understood that very little creativity would be involved. These ads would be jammed with grainy, black and white photos of homes, accompanied by a description of the dwelling that would require a translator to read, based on the amount of abbreviations in each brief sentence, (4BR w21/2B, LR, eiK, DtchGr, FnBSM. That means "four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, living room, eat-in kitchen, detached garage, finished basement.") Each ad would be packed with two dozen individual listings, totally devoid of any design, structure or spacing. The idea was: the more homes that could be crammed into an ad, the more money my boss made — based on the "column inch" rate he negotiated with the newspaper. (Column inches are units used by newspapers to determine the cost of an ad. The particulars are a bit complicated, so let's just say that it is very difficult to get a cheap rate from the largest newspaper in the fifth largest market in the country.) My new boss, as I soon discovered, did not fully understand what was involved in negotiating a good rate. He panicked when he realized he had to nearly double the listing content of the same size ad in order to turn a profit. I started to get a bit nervous about the career move I had just made.

Little did I know that my brand-new, padded swivel chair was poised at the fiery portal of Hell.

As the days and weeks went on, it was apparent that we were not making the amount of money (and profit) that Danny had envisioned. It was also apparent that Danny had absolutely no idea how to run a business. The more I observed how he did things and how he spoke to various people on the phone, the more I realized that I had been sold a lie during my interview. I came to realize that he was just an account agent (read: salesman) at his previous job and was jealous of the boss, convincing himself that he could be the boss and do, y'know, boss stuff. This was not the job I had been promised. I was not the art director. I was the only one doing any work. I answered the phone. I did the filing. I maintained a hand-written spreadsheet (I'm an artist. I still don't understand Microsoft Excel.) tracking contracted ads and ad placement. While I did this, Danny sat in his office, reclining in his comically large, leather-upholstered chair, feet up on his desk, and spoke loudly on the phone with friends from high school, telling them he owned an ad agency now. After his morning of phone calls, he would go out and bring back lunch — for only him — and noisily slurp it down at his desk. (Once, he even borrowed my car to go get his lunch... and still didn't ask if I wanted anything.) In the afternoon, he would continue his phone bragging, pushing my completed ads aside. Their approval (of which he and he alone determined) would wait until he was goddamned good and ready. Soon, I learned that he had a strained relationship with his wife and dreaded going home. This office — this tiny, second-floor shit hole office — was his sanctuary. He was "king of the castle" here and I was his loyal subject. During the course of an eight-hour work day, he did no actual, work-related work.

I worked quickly. I deftly assembled the ads, tweaking and closing space where I could. My mouse cursor whizzed around my monitor and I tracked it with my full attention. Danny, however, with nothing to do, would wander around the office, sometimes making his way towards me to watch me compose ads. He would stand close behind my chair, his hot breath uncomfortably warming my neck. He would point out errors on my screen, only to rescind them when he saw I just hadn't gotten to it yet. Sometimes, he stood so close to my chair that he kicked the wheeled base with his big feet. By this point, I was barely speaking to him, only conversing when absolutely necessary and only if it was work-related. When he began to kick my chair, I couldn't take it. I bit my lip and politely asked — through gritted teeth: "Could you not kick my chair, please?" He seethed and growled back at me: "It's my chair." He did not move. He stayed behind me, almost daring me to continue this. I did not.

When I left work in the evening, I would come home and have little to say to my family. On weekends, I would silently count the hours until I had to return to work on Monday. At times, I actually fought back tears. After only a few weeks, I actively began searching for another job. One evening, after Danny left, I called another agency who had advertised a position. I spoke to a woman and arranged an interview later in the week. The next morning, Danny confronted me about my looking for another job. It seems he came in early to check the last number dialed on my desk phone. He screamed and berated me, telling me that he pays me well (he actually did pay me very well) and I had no right to look for another job. He made me promise that I would cease my search. He also increased my salary again, as gesture of good faith. "Fuck him!," I thought, as I agreed to his terms out loud.

My torture continued. As a matter of fact, it got worse. Danny was constantly in a foul mood, as his wife began divorce proceedings. The RE/MAX ads grew smaller, thus generating less income. He undermined my designs for brochures. His belligerence almost ruined my relationship with a local printer, a fellow I had known for years.

Finally, I lined up another interview. This one required me to sneak out early in order to drive nearly forty-five minutes, where my prospective new employer graciously offered to stay later for me. I did something I hadn't done since I was a kid. I faked being sick. Here I was — 36 years old — and I was pretending I was ill so I could leave. Danny bought my act and I dashed to my car and frantically drove out to the interview. Once again, and for the second time in my career, I was hired on the spot. When asked when I could start, I replied, "You'll see me on Monday." I came home with a smile on my face, something my family hadn't seen in a while.

I arrived for what would be my final day of the most hellish work experience of my life (and I worked for my father-in-law at one time). I decided I would be nice and give Danny a full two-weeks notice, so he could find a suitable replacement for me. Of course, I would wait to tell him after I got my paycheck. Too bad for him, he waited until late in the afternoon to pay me. As soon as the check was folded neatly and safe in my wallet, I cleared my throat.

"Danny, " I nervously began, "can I talk to you for a minute?"

He stopped mid-step and pivoted around. He didn't say a word. He just raised his eyebrows to indicate that he was ready to hear what I had to say.

"I am giving you my two-week's notice. I have another job."

"You son of a bitch!," he spat, "I thought you weren't going to look for a job. I thought we had an agreement."

"Well, I have another job and I'll stay for two weeks." I didn't owe him any explanation. He was lucky I didn't just walk out.

"Well, what the fuck am I supposed to do? I'm gonna have to close! You can't do this to me!" Then, his tone changed. "How dare you do this to me, you ungrateful bastard!"

Well, Danny's luck just ran out. "There is no way I'm going to take another two weeks of this bullshit," I said. Danny continued ranting as I gathered up my mug and the few small tchotchkes that littered my desk. I never looked up. I could hear Danny screaming as I descended the stairs.

Unfortunately, I left my Disney World poster hanging on the wall. But, that was a small price to pay in order to leave that eight-month nightmare.