Time Warner Cable Sucks.

Here is my recent letter to time warner cable. Understand that it is long, because I take the time to explain the lengths they went to in order to make my customer experience with them extra, super bad! Don't worry about spending any more time reading this than Time Warner will, but share it if you want to help me expose their corporate conglomerate evil-ness. Which is substatial. 

As an aside, I got a paper cut folding the letter, so they continue to stick it to me even still. 

Dear Time Warner Cable,

 

Let me start off by saying that it irks me to call you dear. It even riles me slightly to infer that someone on earth might have endearing thoughts for you. That being said, I would like to take a moment to point out that I realize that an individual is reading this letter. Well, an individual or a soulless and hastily programmed evil robot that embraces all of the qualities that its evil nebulous overlords and executives of Time Warner Cable clutch greedily next to their dry, shriveled, black hearts. To aforementioned individual, I apologize for your having to read this, and know that I don’t hate you. You are probably a cool person. We should grab a beer sometime. I hate the company you work for. I hate Time Warner.

 

Now that I am done being overly dramatic, let me tell you a little story. It is a rather long story, unfortunately. Long in the way of tragic relationships that everyone knew, except for the one person in the relationship, should have ended long ago or maybe never even started. It is long in the way that some tales are needlessly tragic and infuriating because of minuscule details missed or minor mistakes being made along the way that history will look at and lament the simplicity with which the tale could have gone so differently. It is long in the way that those “Meet the Parents” movies just keep throwing ridiculous crap in that makes you want to put your own eyes out because of the asinine incredulity of it all.

 

Now that I am done being overly drama…. Oh, wait. It looks like this whole letter is going to be overly dramatic, so sit back and I’ll spin ye a yarn!

 

On August 21st I moved into a new house. Exciting right? I know, it was a really big step for me and a big life change! You know, it was bittersweet and there is a lot of back-story, but hey! I’ll tell you about it later. Well, I am a bit of an internet junkie, and so is my roommate. So, truth time: we set up internet first thing. Even before electricity. We were pretty stoked. So of course I called early to Time Warner Cable to make sure we could get it set up the day we moved in.

 

Well there weren’t any appointments for that day, and the soonest one was for Sunday, August 24th.

 

“Crap.” I thought, “But no big deal! We can wait three days. It’ll be tough, but we can handle it.”

 

I’ll try to avoid the narrative going forward. That little bit was just necessary because it is foreshadowing. OooOoOOoh!

 

Anxious to ensure this would all go according to plan, I called Saturday to confirm. The friendly robot machine told me that we had an appointment scheduled for the next day between 8am and 11pm, and to remember that someone 18 with a valid ID had to be on the premises.  Well that’s goo…. WHAA?!?!

 

The cost of admission for internet is being sequestered in the house for 15 HOURS?! That seemed a bit outrageous to me, and I was starting to feel a little indignant, but my roommate assured me that he would be there all day Sunday and it was no big deal. Sure, no big deal! Paying a monstrous conglomerate money to dictate our schedule and demand that we sit at home for 15 hours in order for the privilege to pay them for a service they offer. No biggie!

 

But he was unperturbed so I acquiesced. I work most of the day on Sunday so it was a non-issue for me. But it quickly became an issue for me when no one had showed up around noon. Now I know the time frame was until 11pm, but you know, I just thought I’d check. So I give a little jingle to the robot line and lo and behold! My account cannot be found. What ho? What ho, indeed.

 

I finally enacted the necessary prestidigitation on the telephonic keypad to speak to a human being, and was summarily informed that my order for internet had never been submitted. Confused, betrayed, and dismayed I stumbled through my consternation quickly and cheerily asked that it be submitted forthwith, determined to keep a good attitude and not ruin the poor man’s day on the other end of the phone just because I had been inconvenienced and a mistake that had been made by another representative of the company he worked for.  

 

He immediately launched into a somewhat-well-rehearsed-and-nearly-well-delivered sales pitch in which he gave me PATENTLY WRONG information in order to get me to upgrade to the next tier of internet speed. I politely declined seeing as how I feel like paying $10 a month for the use of a wireless router, particularly when one of superior performance can be purchased for less than $20, is nothing short of highway robbery, and anyone involved in setting these prices and policies should hang their heads in abject shame and be forced to perform self-flagellation. This is just the writer’s humble opinion. And a hard-boiled fact.

 

I then asked the gentleman if he could offer me the same deal I was previously proffered and give me the price I was previously quoted which was $5 a month less. He informed me, in not so many words, that this was an online only price and that it would be more likely and possible to change the schedule of the tides, and realign the very heavens themselves than it would be possible for him to give me this ludicrous price for a service that costs fractions of a cent on the dollar for what we North American citizens pay for it.

 

I was then informed, in EXACT words, that the time we had spent on the phone, which had been considerable due to setting up the account and all of the sales-pitching, was a ‘waste of both of our time.’ And that I would have to sign up on the website. So that is precisely what I did. We were given an appointment for the very next day! I was feeling good.

 

The following day (Monday the 25th) I called again to confirm. Once again the appointment was from 8am to 11pm, so a WHOLE LOT of room for error.  I decided to run the crucible of getting a human on the line again to confirm. This was around 8pm when I thought the likelihood of actually rectifying a screw up was at least not -1000%.

 

I was then graciously informed by this “customer service” representative, that our service was already taken care of! It hadn’t been turned on today because of a scheduling conflict, but all I had to do was drive to the Time Warner store and pick up my equipment and we would be all set! Glorious day! He said a technician would pop by the next day, between 8am and 11pm to activate the service, and for these all day appointments, they are just activations and no one needs to be onsite! Easy!

 

Here is where every logical brain is thinking, wait…

 

I know, right?! I was SPECIFICALLY TOLD that a person over 18 with an ID had to be present. Not once, but twice. I was given this information by the automated robotic machine woman who answers the phone and is programmed to make you never talk to a human so the fat cat executives can get bigger bonuses. Empirical fact.

 

You can start to appreciate my gregarious and generous nature now. Because at this point, I still had not become angry with a single representative. Instead, I decided my only option is to handle this like a mature adult, and say thank you to everyone and grab my stuff the next day and call it a day.

 

So I did.  I said thank you to the earnest young man trying to do his job and went the next day and grabbed the equipment. I hooked it up in anticipation, and…. bupkis.  Nothing. Surely this is just a mistake. Maybe the technician hasn’t made it out, yet! That must be the explanation.

 

So, I get on the phone. Again. For the fifth time. I was picking up the phone for the fifth time to ask for the permission to pay someone to give me the service they purportedly provide.

 

Now this time, I was told that the technician had come out, but that there had never been cable at this location and that they would have to return the following Thursday the 28th between 10am and 11am. Which would be great, were it not four days after we were originally supposed to initially get service, and IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORKDAY! If this appointment weren’t arbitrarily made without consulting either myself or my roommate, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But it WAS arbitrarily made made without con… okay, you get it.

 

Well, as for me, I was leaving for a week-long trip on Thursday, and my roommate has a normal human job where he works normal human hours, for example: through the 10am hour, and beyond. So the appointment was rescheduled for 6-7pm of the same day. Well, that his that, right?

 

Think again, sunshine. There is more. So the technician showed up, and said that the order was filled out incorrectly and that he didn’t have what he needed to complete the installation. The order had been submitted as “adding an additional jack” when it should have been a full installation. I point this out, because the distinction will be important later.

 

So the order for installation had to be re-re-re-(insert necessary needed number of re’s here) scheduled.

 

And it was set for the following Thursday. From 10am - 2pm. Do you see a strange and disturbing pattern here? I do. I DO! So, from my vacation in a different state I had to call and get as angry as I get with customer service representatives, which is not all that angry, but I felt like a heel. Because to be honest, by this point I was already furious. The normally uncannily unflappable me had been driven to fury.

 

In the course of the conversation with the “supervisor” I asked if an appointment could be rescheduled in order to give me a sooner appointment since my appointment had been rescheduled multiple times without ever consulting me, or notifying me in any way, and no person would be at the house early Thursday afternoon. But of course, it was impossible. There was no possible way in this universe to get a technician out to my house to install my internet sooner than 11 days after it was originally scheduled. The solution that I got was to move it back another day. Soonest possible. No other options. None.

 

I had another concern, and that was that I had already paid for a whole month of service and I had not yet received any service. And my installation date was a full two weeks after the supposed start date, so paying for an entire month would be unfair and inappropriate. The “supervisor” agreed and said that all I had to do was to call back when service was instituted and tell them so they could credit me for the time I didn’t have service.

 

Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate this irony. The people who are able to monitor my service and know what the status of said service is need me to call them to know when my service is active so that I wouldn’t have to pay them for the time that I had nothing but headaches and repetitive calls to them to beg for the service I HAD ALREADY PAID FOR!

 

I asked the “supervisor” where I could make my frustration known and where to file a complaint. He referred me to the website. Do you see what he did there? Go to the website, he said. That’s rich. That is so rich. Because I have no internet, you see. See how it's funny? 

 

So that was that. I had to call back. And the appointment was scheduled later for the next day from 6-7pm. I happened to be there for this appointment after my trip. Not because I was home by Friday between 6 and 7 , but because the technician showed up at 8:45pm. I was honestly just pleasantly surprised that he showed up.

 

And the order was submitted wrong. It was submitted as an internet repair rather that a full installation. The order was submitted wrong, again. The tech looked panicked and I just reconciled myself to the fact right then and there that I would end this day disappointed. To give credit to the first Time Warner employee who seemed to take any kind of interest in actually providing us service in this whole process, the technician actually tried everything that he could in order to get our service set up.

 

I know what you are thinking, but guess what? You are exactly correct. It didn’t happen. I set you up a bit there thinking that maybe something might go differently and work out well. You know, the way it is designed to work? But it didn’t. Despite the technician using my lantern and working in the dark, he wasn’t able to get cable to our house since no cable was run to the address and the technician wasn’t aware or prepared.

 

Now here is an interesting fact about this particular scenario. I called the day before this appointment to make sure that this appointment was scheduled as a full install since we had missed getting internet installed because of an incorrectly set up appointment. I was assured, that yes; we were scheduled for a full installation. Not to worry.

 

So a few things at this point:

 
  1. At no point on multiple calls and lengthy conversations were any notes left on the account. Even when I called using VERY CLEAR language to communicate that I was extremely dissatisfied and upset.

  2. Aside from the wrote sounding scripted apologies of the “supervisor” I demanded to speak to out of frustration and anger, and the technician who seemed sincerely sorry to be standing face to face with an incredibly frustrated customer; I never got a single employee of the company I was paying for service who seemed in the least bit concerned with my plight.

  3. At this point in the process, I have spent a CRAP TON of hours simply trying to get internet at my house from a company who supposedly PROVIDES THIS AS A SERVICE!

The good guy technician actually called back the next day and showed up and finally got the internet hooked up. The modem would not activate at this point. Thanks to the technician going out of his way again and putting my roommate on three-way with his personal phone with tech support, it actually worked. So we finally had internet.

 

I know what you are thinking now.  “Why didn't you just go with someone else?” Yes I know even you, the Time Warner employee reading this letter is thinking that right now. I’ll tell you why. There is no other option for high speed internet at my new house. I am forced to use Time Warner Cable if I want high speed internet.  I would have chosen ANY OTHER company over Time Warner about halfway through this process. But I have no choice. I am stranded on a deserted island of no information connectivity and my only life raft is a leaky chum-covered barrel owned by a starving shark. Or something like that.  

 

Let me give you a little insight into how this process made me feel. Recently I was pulled over for speeding, and given a ticket by a Texas State Trooper. You can imagine I wasn’t too happy about this this, because it just sucks. But hey it was my fault, so I can’t be too upset. As this ticket was being administered, I began to notice that the trooper was giving me really great customer service. He informed me that his job was to keep people safe and that keeping people from speeding was one of the biggest parts of that. He even apologized for taking my time and told me he hoped the rest of my day was safe, and better.

 

I actually left the interaction feeling that the overall encounter was positive. The trooper was concerned for my safety, and apologized for inconveniencing me, and explained what was happening, why, and then delivered what he promised, in the time-frame he laid out. It wasn’t pleasant, but it also was not infuriating. Overall 7/10. Would get ticketed by this individual again.

 

In short, I am more likely to recommend getting pulled over by a Texas State Trooper and being given a ticket to my friends and family than I am to recommend Time Warner Cable for internet service. I don’t write letters about my experience with companies typically. But for this one I will write a letter and do everything in my power to share it with everyone I know. Thanks for a month long headache Time Warner. You suck.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Marchbanks

 

P.S. As a follow-up to this letter, I did what the “supervisor” told me to do in order to submit my complaint about the experience we have had with Time Warner Cable so far. So I did! I’ll give you one guess as to what I found. I’ll let you see for yourself. Go to http://www.timewarnercable.com/en/residential.html and look for the submit a complaint, or contact us button. Still looking? Of course you are. because there isn’t one. So I requested a chat with someone, and being forced t choose a category that didn’t fit my problem, I chose billing.

 

I then started my chat with the billing representative, and explained that I simply wanted to submit an overall complaint based on my experience with the company. The response I got was: “I cannot access that information at this time.”  Huh? That doesn’t even make sense. So I asked for clarification. He explained that I would need to call the customer service line to get the information as to where I would need to send my complaint.

 

I explained to him that I was told to go the the website and that there was no link there. He told me that since he was with the billing department he couldn’t access customer service information, and that the customer service department was closed.

 

I wasn’t surprised, just further frustrated.

 

Then the following day I received my first bill. I was extremely pleased to see that there was a credit for nearly half of the first month’s bill, even though I had forgotten to call and let them know when our service had started. So that was the first pleasant surprise I had gotten in this process. So, yay!

 

But, lo! sadly there was another unforeseen element of the bill. There was a $29.99 charge for delivery of the quick start kit. You know the equipment that I had to go and pick up. Unless Time Warner is secretly subsidizing my fuel and time costs somehow, I am very confused!

 

So I called. Again. Can we count how many times I have called? Do we need to? Do we all recognize the ridiculousness of it yet? So I communicated my concern to the representative. He explained that this was an installation fee. Then why is it labelled a delivery fee? Easy! He clarified by saying that this service normally  costs $49.99 but they billed it to me as a delivery “as a service” in order to save me $10. That’s great!

 

It is great except that they advertised the installation as $14.99 when I signed up for my service and NO ONE IN THIS PROCESS TOLD ME DIFFERENTLY! I am pretty over this at this point. I don’t know if I need to keep pointing out ironic and egregious ridiculousness, but there is more!  

 

So my next question for the lucky built-in buffer against the corporation getting any actual feedback or having any accountability to its customers due to actual interaction with them was;  where I could send a complaint. He told me to go to the website. Isn't this a neat system they have? No accountability at all!

 

So I explained that I had tried that and had no luck, so he said that he would be researching the issue and would get back to me. He did a wonderful job managing the hold times and informing me of what I should expect and what he was doing. After coming back and checking in with me twice and informing me that he was also unable to locate a place to submit a complaint on the website, he went back to other resources and eventually came back and gave me a physical address where I could mail my letter.


Here is yet another example of EXTREME AND INANE discrepancy in this ridiculous process. The communications conglomerate does not have an email or web form where I can submit this information. I have to mail a letter. Guess what my confidence level is that anyone will read this? Based on my experiences, it is about as likely as Tupac and Elvis both still being alive, hanging out in Branson, MS enjoying the hot springs.

Okay, new job.

Which I have been in since the first week in November, and just now in the last week in December I am writing about it. It is about time. Life has been a whirlwind, and I have not been taking time to write anything. But now you will have it! You will have something. 

I will start from the very beginning because as I have heard, it is a very good place to start. Well maybe not the very beginning. When I was in highschool, I felt like I was being called to ministry and in my limited view of the world I took the path that I thought was the only one. I started working in a church and went to college for religion. It wasn't working out so great. I found myself in a few situations where church politics and bad working relationships didn't give me the best experience. It wasn't for me. 

Then I found theatre. It was like I suddenly felt at home. I had found my passion and it was eye opening and empowering. I needed to create and to conceptualize and build and work and make things be that weren't before. I had a great mentor in a professor there who taught me a lot and inspired me. I've told you stories about Mac before. I Learned and grew and had my whole life start to feel like it was beginning to line up and things were falling into place. I fel like I fit, and that the things I had been given as talents and abilities were starting to make sense. I had found my calling. 

But this felt like a bit of a departure from where I thought my life was supposed to go. So I vascillated for a few months. Then I graduated, and I had to pay rent. So I followed the calling of my landlord and got a job that gave me a paycheck. It led me to a string of jobs that I was good at and vaguely thought of leaving once or twice a year but felt that I had gotten myself into a path that was hard to escape.

I forgot about this idea of calling, or fullfilment in work, or feeling like I was doing a thing that mattered. Who needs all that stuff anyway? Me. I need those things. I need to create things and make a difference in the lives of people in some way. But I felt like this was not a possibility. I had a "career" now and I was tied into it.

But then Mac came by one night to catch up. We were eating spaghetti and he was talking about his new job at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Highland Park, Texas. We chatted and caught up and as he was leaving he mentioned that I should apply for the job of the guy who worked under him becasue he had recently left the job as lighting director. I thought, "Yes! I will apply for this job with my wealth of experience in the last eight years and take this responsibility and have no problems!"

So I applied. I was terrified becasue I was unqualified for this position and hadn't had experience with most of the systems they used and hadn't done lighting in years. After a three month application and interview period, I had written it off and expeted nothing. When I heard that they were wanting to offer me a job, I was shocked. I was gob-smacked. I had no idea how to proceed. So I just proceeded. Then they offered me a job, and I took it. I took the job. It was bonkers. 

I had managed a Gamestop store for eight years and I didn't know anything else. I was good at it, I was respected, and I was comfortable. I didn't like it and I got nothing out of it, but I was good. There is comfort in that, and there is reward in that. But I was fading away doing something that gave me no real reward. I felt trapped and unsatisfied. 

These all seem like quibbling complaints and non-problems. But I suddenly felt like coming home again. I was going to be able to come to work and make things, and design, and light, and be creative and solve problems and be part of all of those conversations with other people of like minds. It is a revelation, and a solice. 

There are many stories I could tell about my new job, and proabably will do soon, but I will say it has been amazing. I am limited with how much time I have tonight, but I will show you a thing that we did that I am proud of. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and rewarding and fantastic. 

To tell you a little bit about what is happening here, we used an app called Wham City Lights and had people in the congregation download the app at the beginning of the service and it creates a link with users cell phones and synchronizes them whith a pre-recorded light show that we made for this song. It was a really cool effect.

 

Hi Guys.

It has certainly been a while hasn't it? So I realize it has been about three weeks with no communication from me about any of the things I have been working on. Truth is I have been incredibly busy with work and life and all of the things, but I have been working. I haven't been finishing things, but I have been working. I am planning on making up for some lost time as much as possible in the next few weeks. I have been stressed and I have not been feeling particularly creative. My brain has been far too occupied. 

So almost finishing the video of us flying my phone into the air on balloons has been fun. It will be silly, and fun and it taught me basically how to use Sony Vega. I have some Spartan basics down, and it makes me feel like I might be able to actually make some good quality videos eventually. And I have dome some work on the pod cast that I am working on with Lance. Show notes for another episode are done, and sound checks and technical details are being ironed out. We should be recording a second episode tomorrow. I am excited about this whole process, it is fun and it makes me feel like I am connecting to people who are not listening yet, and may never. But we are reaching out, and soo it will be where someone can reach back. 

One other thing I have accomplished some headway on is something I may or may not have mentioned here in the past. I have decided over a long course of events, that I want to try to put a stand-up set together. Doing stand-up comedy is something that I have thought about doing since I was in high-school. And then again so many times since then, but I have never thought that I had an actual way to do that. But I recently discovered that I live six miles away from an improv club that has an open mic night on Wednesdays and just anyone can sign up for that and holy crap I am considering DOING STAND UP! It terrifies me, and I am so worried that I will completely bomb, or worse yet, I will never be able to put together a set to begin with. 

But seriously, I think I can. I really want to . I may or may not have had a little bit of a break through with that recently. I think I discovered a little bit of what may become my voice for comedy. It may also be unfunny and lead to nothing, but it feels like I might be on to something.  I will keep you all posted, and I will update you if we get the pod cast recorded tomorrow. For now I will sleep, but perhaps I will write more tomorrow. Good night internet.

Catharsis

And why we need it. 

I am a theatre nerd. Look at the way I spelled theatre. I refuse to spell it differently, because you see, I am a theatre nerd galore. I was recently having a discussion about reality television shows and why I am so passionately against them.  I understand reality TV, and why it exists. It is cheap and easy to make and you don't need writers and it sells. It sells lots. It is more than the current trend, it is the current mindset, and people are demanding more and more and we will get exponentially more than we are demanding because when consumers start asking for a cheap, easy to produce product adamantly, we will get it in spades. Now don't mistake this for me hating on reality television. I am not making a judgment statement on reality TV or those who enjoy it. It is a valid source of entertainment that some people enjoy and get to experience vicarious emotions and relational experiences through. It is a form of entertainment that serves a purpose.

The problem that I have is that reality television takes away money and time from dramatic, comedic, or romantic programming that I might be able to experience if it were being produced and marketed. I believe that we need to have these shows and movies in order to live the experiences that we don't have as a culture anymore. We get to live experiences that we would never have the chance to live. I will never get to slay a dragon, or marry a princess, or defeat evil aliens, or say goodbye to my estranged father after twenty years of him not being in my life. I get to magically have these emotions through the lives of characters that I relate to because of the writing, and directing, and acting, and music, and imagination. We can live lifetimes and loves and victories and sadness and defeats that we might never be able to bear or handle in our own lives. And more than life them, we really get to feel these emotions and life them in reality. Our brains and hearts get to have these emotions and it is a release, a freedom. Because we are free to feel, and experience truly, and live these lives and moments without being broken. Because on our own we would be broken. But we have the safety of these things being just a single layer separated from us. We are not in the experience after we turn it off. We only have it for as long as we need to feel, to triumph, to be broken, and furious, or lonely. We can be in love for just as long as we need to. 

I don't blame reality television for destroying chances to have these experiences, but I hate the fact that every reality show produced takes time and resources from these type of experiences being created. I do not miss the fact that we get some of this in reality TV, but lessened cheaper, and more banal. The experiences that we get through theatrical production, when done well, are heightened and elevated and saturated and produced and beautiful and thought out and above this life and let us elevate our emotion and experience. 

I don't want to discount what is a bit of a golden age of television that we are going through lately. Because with shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead (Thanks AMC for making amazing television!) Weeds, Dr. Who, and Game of Thrones. And awesome comedies like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Community and Big Bang Theory, there are some amazing shows out there that are in the limelight of popular television culture. But the emergence and popularity of reality TV is being more and more widespread. I don't find as much value in reality TV, and I wish it wasn't as prevalent. 

TV can do some great things for us, much like movies and theatre. They can help us live fuller, more actualized lived lives. We need them. I challenge you to live in the feelings that you have the next time you are watching a television show that you are thoroughly enjoying. It is a vital part of living. Get out there and watch, it can help you live your life.

Weeks and things...

Well, it has really been a couple of weeks with no things. One week, I let my thing be learning Sony Vegas (a little) because all of the time was spent trying to do that. But last week I had no thing. I am sad and ashamed, but to be fair I was sick, and I slept a lot more than I normally do. I took a week off. So sue me! 

But I am happy to say that this week, WE RECORDED A POD CAST! Hooray and saints be praised we actually recorded an hour and it looks like we will be doing that from 9-10 pm on Wednesdays going forward. The G1G (Gen 1 Gaming) pod cast is becoming a thing and I actually think it was pretty good stuff for those who are a fan of gaming and gaming culture. I am proud of it, and I enjoyed doing it. I think it is a great creative outlet for me, and something that people who like games and things will enjoy.

I am still going to attempt to work on video stuff today, because it is the only day this week that I have available, but I will likely not get anything finished tonight. I will try, but these things take time, and I don't have a lot. I will continue working and plugging away. I really want Gen 1 Gaming to be a thing that we can all collaborate on and contribute to and have fun with. It is greatly gratifying to be able to get together with my friends and talk about the things that we love and have ideas and produce them and see them coming together. It is wonderful, and satisfying. 

The act of creating a thing and putting it, and opinion in the world is great, and getting feedback on it is phenomenal. So here is me telling you about the things I am doing and creating, and here is me writing about the process of doing those things. I hope that one or two people read this and get a slight bit of entertainment from it, or something positive in any form. I am glad to be creating and doing things. I am relieved, even. 

Everything has a thing.

And here is the thing about thing a week lately.  I am doing things! I have learned of a principle of creating things, and it is this: creating things takes time and creating better things takes even more time. I finally got Sony Vegas Pro, and I have spent a LOT of time trying to learn how to use it. It is hard. It is a lot harder than I expected. 

So I have spent far more time that I have wanted in the last few weeks trying to get software to work and trying to learn how to use it. It is frustrating and decidedly not creative or very gratifying. But I am accepting it as a part of the process that I want to go through with my life. I want to make things and create and let other people consume it and let it run its course in their lives and change this world however it might. I have to put in the work, and I will.

Work can seem sometimes like nothing more in life than a means to pay rent and hinder me frim doing what I am passionate about. It feels a bit silly to say I am passionate about making silly videos and writing stories about crickets and what-not, but I want to work the creative muscle in my body and put things in the world for consumption. I want to make connections with like-minded people and I want to exchange. I want to exchange with a community that I am part of and actively involved in, but not connected with just yet. 

I feel bogged down by the process that I am going through, but I do feel like it is necessary. I am working on it and moving towards it and making a slow and methodical progress. I am turning myself into a different person, and part of that change has included spending much of my free time working and improving and gaining ground on this goal  that I have instead of reading and playing games and larking about. 

It seems to bee a part of the process for me. Play less, work more. My output is not enough. My goal is to remedy that. I need to produce more, and learn less, but producing is a learning process as well. I am learning to be the me that I want to be. Hopefully I will see you on the other side. As for me, I have to sleep now. I still love you, internet. Goodnight. 

Weekly things!

I forgot to blog about the thing last week. It was outlining the book. I almost finished the book outline, and I was stuck. Now I am a bit stuck again but the process of doing it has been helpful for me. I am intent on finishing things, and the hardest thing has been finding consistent time to work. When I am working on a peice that I have not worked on in quite some time, I find myself losing steam, and losing my place. I need to focus. I need to schedule more time for writing. This is what the thing a week has been about for me. 

I am going to try to focus on things I can do myself becasue at the moment coordinating other peoples schedules and motivating them is harder than I would like to admit. So the next couple of weeks I will be doing indivisual projects. 

That being said, I want to share this week with you the amazing music that my brother Paul made for the Pep & Night script I wrote. This is going to happen people! But it might be a while before I can light the necessary fires that I need to in order to make it happen. I am committed to it though! 

This week, the thing I am working on is a video that we made this past Sunday as a family. I got a great idea from The Geek Dad. Geek Dad is amazing. DO check out the website. He is aweome and tries to give parents ideas to share their geek interests with their kids. Well he had an idea to take a bunch of baloons and float a camera with them. 

Eli and I decided to try this over the weekend. We took 62 balloons and tied the iPhone to them. It ony went about 50-60 feet in the air because, holy cow it takes so many helium ballons to float a thing! But we got a vool video and Jessica filmed from the ground with the camera. I am going to try to get the videos edited together and up this week as the thing. You guys will love it, I know. 

I had to get this post out describing last week's thing. I am convinced to make the thing for this week to work. I am dedicated to creating new things. I am holding myself accountable to  you internet. I will make things for you. I love you. 

A new thing!

This week, I have a little change of pace. So I mentioned before that my friends an I are working on making content for a new website (already registered and made, but not ready for consumption yet) and I have been wanting to make comedy sketch videos with my friends for ages. well I recently had an idea through a few different happenings. They are these:

I watched the movie Black Dynamite for the first time recently. It is nothing less than amzing. One of the funniest movies I have seen in ever. Watch it. As long as you are not offended by R rated hilariousness that is a parody of blacksploitation films. Well the style of that movie has me in a certain comedy headspace.

Then My friend Lance was telling me of how he likes to chase his cat around his house with his Lee Enfield WWI era rifle making machine gun noises and holding like a bazooka and things like that. It cracked me up and we started riffing on that idea and came up with this concept. The idea is to make a video and keep it under five minutes becasue the internet has a low attention span. I am going to share the script here because who the heck is going to steal this crap? Here it is in all of its brilliance. I hope you have Microsoft Word because that is how you are getting it. ENJOY!

Thing this week

I have a new thing this week!  Thing number two!  It is another video. Let me talk a little bit about making tihs video and what it means to me. I love characters nad voices. In addition to this being an attempt to make video content for the upcoming website, I am using the video game gameplay videos as a way to do characters and make sketches. Anyone who knows me relatively well knows that I am a huge fan of doing dumb voices and that I havea constant reel of sketches running in my brain. 

I relate to everything as how it would play out in a movie, play, or comedy sketch. I am constantly doing this. Constantly. My life becomes a running comedy show or movie. I am always recreating things as how they would be funnier in a movie setting. It is just the way my brain works. Well in light of all of that useless knowledge about me, here is another character, in another video. It was fun, I hope it is funny. 

 

The thing a week.

So I have decided, in light of a combination of things, some of which is inspiration by successful people that I look up to and respect, and some of which is encouragement from friends that I look up to and respect; that if I am what I say I am and I want to be what I claim I want to be, I need to start producing work. Not just run-on sentences.  Real actual things for people to consume. Sometimes I think I have it in me, and sometimes I think I am fooling myself. But I have to try. I have to create. 

I may not have anything vital or even compelling, but being creative and making things feels as much a part of my makeup as breathing and drinking water. I am not being true to myself if I am not doing it. I need to surround myself with creative people and schedule times to work on creative projects. Here are the ones that I am currently working on that I am publicly admiting to, so that I can be accountable to the anonymous internet for work that no one will likely consume. 

1.) Some friends and I are putting together a game/nerd culture website that we want t o populate with content. I am going to be working on a podcast, machinima/gameplay videos, forum/community management and writing projects for this site. I really want it to take off, the peope I am doing this with are amazing and a joy to work with. More on this soon.

2.) I have had an idea for a novel since college which I graduated from in 2003. It has been more than ten years since this idea came to me and I intend to be faithful to the inspiration and bring it into the world. More on this soon.

3.) I am writing a short story about a cricket. I really want to finish this short story because it means a lot to me for reasons. That is all you really need to know, but I want to put it in the world. 

4.) I want to blog about this process. I want to document all of it. I need to to keep myself accountable and to be more organized.

All of these things will count toward my thing a week requirement I am setting for myself for the next year. I want to produce one thing every week, for one year and be able to look back at the end of the year and feel like I have accomplished something and built a library of at least one or two things I can be proud of. Here is hoping. Here is to the next year. I love you internet, let's do this thing.

The thing for this first week is two-fold: This blog post, and a video for the website. You may or may not hate it, but it is a freshman attempt. It was as important to me that I made that is was for it to be good. To really get it you need to watch my brother Paul's Super French Series on YouTube. It is a fun watch.

A Call to Arms

About the creative process...  I have been thinking a lot about it lately.  I have been listening to a show recently that deals quite a bit with the creative process and it has made me think.  I am thinking more and more about creating things and developing ideas, and how that  works and what it means for me in my life.  

I have come the the telling realization that I may soon have to start dedicating more of my free time to creating if that is something I truly want to do.  Other than work, I have precious little free time, and writing and creating and brainstorming anything takes a portion of that time. I have to accept that.  I don't want to accept that, but it is a fact that I have to deal with.  Like my good buddy Mac has told me time and again, "Art is work."  I think it is time for me to get to work.

I have fallen into a very predicatable pattern in my life.  My pattern is largely; work, child things, life things and video games.  There is variation to this pattern, but mostly this is the same every day.  I have been litening to The Nerdist podcast lately, which is AMAZING, and Chris Hardwick has lots of guests on that are super talented and creative and gracious and entertaining and INCREDIBLE! Listening to their creative process is fascinating and eye opening.  The first thing that I have to say about this show is that I love it.  The way Chris Hardwick talks to people is fan-diddly-tastic.  He and his co-hosts Jonah Ray and Matt Mira have an awesome exchange with one another that reminds me of dorking around with my brothers or friends to the extent that sometimes leaves the guests baffled or annoyed.  That is when I know he is interviewing a guest that I probably couldn't hang out with. Because the exchange that they have seems like home, it is freaking awesome.

But after the nerdy joke making and micro-roleplaying there is a conversation that is born out of an incredible ability to talk to people on a level that engages them in communicating and opening up about their craft, whatever that may be to an extent that you don't often see in many interview settings. Chris seems to have a way of getting people to engage him passionately about what they do creatively. That is fascinating to me.  It inspires me.  It is unique and it really pumps me up to hear a person be able to get artistic, incredibly talented people to talk about their craft and process so candidly.

Fair warning to the readers out there who mind, this podcast earns its explicit tag every week. If you are easily offended best stay away, but you will be missing out. 

Being a stand-up comedian, he deals a lot with other comedians and being a bit of a comedy nerd I am enthralled by this. The ability to hear legendary comics like Jim Gaffigan, Drew Cary, Bill Burr, Maria Bamford, and Hardwick himself talk about the process of creating comedy, handling a room, developing an act, and evolving a persona, is like a revelation. When I hear people who take comedy seriously, and live it, and make the process a part of their lives feels even a little like coming home. Being a part of an academic conversation, even passively feels incredibly comforting becasue it seems like finding a clan.

One of the most amazing things I have gotten out of listening to the show is the motivation, and ideas about productivity. Many of the guests that he has talked to have a similar attitude towards creating and doing work. They are incredibly busy, because they are amazingly driven and disciplined to their craft. I have content that I feel like I should be sharing with other people. I am terribly undisciplined about making it consumable by other human beings. "I have an amazing idea for a funny thing people should see! I will never do anything with it because I am too 'busy'." This is the most bullshit excuse ever and listening to people talk about creating consumable content for others has helped me realize that.

Rob Zombie was another guest that Chris had on the show who really surprised me by garnering large amounts of respect from me and inspiring me to create and be less lazy. One of the things he talked about was aspiring artists and performers asking him what they should do to get famous. His initial response was, "If you could do it, you would be doing it. You would not be asking me." It really made me think, that instead of wondering how I can get these things in my mind out to other people, I need to just start doing it.  It is time to start producing things that I have been thinking of for other people to experience. This is one thing I can do. This blog is another thing in the long list of things that I need to be more faithful to. I hope the two of you who read this enjoy it, and I am working on things that I hope more of you consume soon. 

Surprising talent and creativity inspire me.  Chris Hardwick and his ability to gather and talk to people of unnatural talent and ability, and his drive and panache for focusing his creativity has inspired me. Maybe the inspiration will lead to creating a bunch of stuff that no one will ever care about, but it is inherently in me and it is necessary for me to share it with the universe at large. Consume it friends, enjoy it brethren. 

Talent inspires me, even if it eludes me.

I grew up, of course graciously and humbly, surrounded by talent.  My entire family is talented, and I was so fortunate to be able to sit for years and take it all in.  I used to try to insert myself into it.  "Yeah guys!" I would say, "Let's make a band!"  All the time not realizing that when they said, "Let's make a band!" they weren't talking to me. Don't worry, I eventually got the hint that music was not where my talent resided. But growing up, my brothers were just natural musicians and singers, and my sister had the singing voice of an angel. They were encouraged by hearing my dad sing and play guitar prolifically and amazingly. My grandmother was a music teacher and chior director as well. We grew up in an environment, a legacy of music. It brought us together. 

Some of the earliest memories that I have were of sitting on the floor in our living room listening to my mother's old record collection, including a Jackson Five record she had cut from the back of a cereal box when she was as little girl. We must have listened to her single of Ode To Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry 100 times in a row. And then there was Ray Stevens. I don't remember the album, but I remember Along Came Jones. Another one we wore out fully. And of course, the recollection of our musical adventures in from of the old record player would scarcely be complete without our Brucey Baby. My mother had a bit of an infatuation, strictly musical of course, with Bruce Springstein in his Born in the USA Glory Days.  We would listen to those old records for hours on end. We were rapt, and we were tansported. My love for music is abiding and I come by it honestly. 

My grandmother, Jo Ann Marchbanks; my Memaw recently passed away. Here are Memaw and Pepaw. She is missed greatly and our family was and is rocked. But in specific application to this blog, there were a staggering number of people that she had touched, and influenced and made their lives better, mostly through teaching them and sharing with them her love and talent for music. She was an amazing woman, with an amazing talent, and her life touched so many. One of her chior students told me that he would not be the man that he was today had it not been for her turning his life around through youth chior when he was in high school. I was so touched by this. I realized, as a person who has some compulsion to create, and make something for the world to experience, that she had this same compulsion. And through her being faithful to it, she created, and taught, and encouraged, and shared the music in her heart with others. And more than that, it made a huge impact. It changed lives. Music, through the heart of the people that share it with us is powerful. Art has meaning, and people are power.

But what I would really like to talk about now is one of the most musically talented members of our family, my brother Paul. No seriously, here is Paul and his lovely wife Lacy whom he somehow tricked into marrying him. Paul has a surprising ammount of photos of him online that you find quite quickly when searching for Paul Marchbanks in Google because my brother Matthew (no seriously, Matthew) Okay, for reals, he also tricked a quite lovely young lady named Casey into marrying him; is a very talented photographer, and took quite a lot of photos of Paul while they were in college together and afterwards as well.  It makes Paul looks like a vain person, and it makes me laugh.

But silly pictures aside, Paul is incredibly talented, and the thing that kills me is that I think he is not trying hard enough to promote his own music, and I think that he is wasting immense potential. You see, Paul works as a meter reader for Atmos Energy, which made this list for 2012. Musician did not make this list. Let me tell you about Paul, just a bit. He graduated college with a bachelor's degree in music business recently, and his wife is continuing her education in Dallas now. Well Paul figured he needed a job to pay the bills, and he did. But from experience I know, that when you get yourself into that sort of situation, with everyday that passes it is harder to get out. Paul is digging himself into a trap that could be one lifetime deep. I have done the same thing, and I don't want my broski doing it. 

So I have decided that you need to hear Paul's music. It is available on CD Baby right now. I am trying my ass off to get him to make it available on Itunes, but he hates publicity, so he hasn't done it yet. But in an attempt to give him some exposure, I have made the entire first album available here for free and all I ask is that if you like it, please give him some love. Also check out his Myspace music page. Yes Myspace is still up, and actually pretty okay for bands and stuff.  

In short, I spent a long time honing a skill that I have a burning passion for and compelling desire to be involved with, that I had to completely abandon since I needed a job to pay the bills. I feel like a partial, incomplete human. I want better for my brother. For all of my brothers and sisters. Hell, for everyone. I think that my brother Paul may have been put on this earth to make music, and he isn't doing that because he is reading gas meters for money. I want to do everything in my power to help him, and if this is it, fantastic!

I will make his second album available as soon as he gets it done, but in the meantime, please enjoy Birds Say Names.

I don't know why I like this so much!

Ok, I lied I do! As a man, and an increasingly ornery one at that, I hate with a passion that burns with the fury of a thousand suns, going to the store. Practically any store, and the grocery store is near the top of that list. And then you add insult to injury by charging me exorbitant fees for increasingly more complex and pointless shaving razors. I think every man feels my pain. Why do I need four blades, or five?! How unruly is my facial hair? So I have been buying crappy disposables and using them far too long, making shaving this sort of self-imposed torture that I avoid as much as humanly possible, making me look a mix between a shiftless bum and a crazed lunatic most of the time. 

Just grow a beard, they say! It will be easier they say! Well, one does not simply, grow a beard. Not when you are me. My facial hair grows in looking like some sort of diseased rodent, or a poorly glued on, elementary school play beard. Not even as good as the one in this picture. Seriously. 

So obviously I opt for shaving infrequently, and painfully, using a dreadfully dull blade with a peeling, worn miniaturizing strip. Sounds appealing, huh. Well it isn't. And then I found it. Of course I found it through Reddit, which is where I find all things Internet these days. That being said the site is a bit overloaded right now, so it may be a tad sluggish right now. But this is brilliant.

This is a company that will let you choose between three different levels of razor blades. A simple double blade, a slightly less simple triple blade, and a super fancy four blade razor. They send you a free handle for the blade, and they send you all your blade replacements for the month right to your door. The monthly fees range from $1-$9 per month. PER MONTH! If you have ever bought razor blades even once you know that it costs quite a bit more than nine dollars. And even if you buy crappydisposables it is more than one dollar per month. And you have to go to the freaking store.

So long story short, here is the link. Forgive me this is a link that gives you %15 off your first month and gives me a free month if you sign up, I like free shaving more than cheap shaving, trust me it is legit. The commercial is awesome as well, it actually won me over. Check it out on the main page of the sight. Enjoy!

 

Edit: So the link to my account seems to not be working. Here is the link to the site proper.

Hello again.

So through some goading and encouragement I have decided to try to write more frequently.  It is silly that I don't because I enjoy it.  But it is like working out, it sucks and no one should ever do it.  Ever. No, I mean that although I know it is good for me, I actually enjoy it, and I like the results I find it hard to motivate myself to do it after working all week. But here is my attempt to set my resolve, and actually do it more frequently. Since I am reticent to post any of my bad poetry here I will write you another story. This blog seems to be theme-ing itself that way no matter what I do, I don't seem to be able to get away from the fact that I am a consummate allegorist.  

When I left home for college, I had a spiritual experience. Although most of what I say in stories is pretty tongue in cheek and sarcastic, I mean this. I think it was a pretty common transformation that I went through. For the first time in my life I was challenged to define and defend my beliefs without much direction from authority figures. My parents really did give me a fantastic foundation and I am grateful for that, but now I had no mom or dad or pastor with me at all times to help me with a world view. The freedom was a bit overwhelming. I started to find out who I was as a person. I started to believe things because I believed them, not because I was taught them.  

Now I know that every high school senior out there has strong convictions, and deep-rooted firm beliefs. But let's be honest with ourselves; how many of us knew anything at all about life when we were in high school? If you did, them maybe you haven't matured enough to become wise at all. Or maybe I have matured enough to become completely cynical and jaded and you are a prodigious genius and emotional giant.  But you aren't, you were as dumb as the rest of us in high school. I am old enough to know now.

So back to me! It was my sophomore year, and I was in my "cool" phase. You know the one; where you buck conventional wisdom about what is cool, and accepted. I started questioning the "wisdom" of society and traditional values, and started feeling sorry for all the "huddled masses" who were blind to the fact that they were living for all the wrong reasons and wasting so much time worrying about the wrong things. Good grief I was cool. Probably too cool to hang out with you, but don't sweat it, I ran with a pretty selective group back then of like minded hippies and we were cool to everybody. 

I had spent my freshman year trying to recreate high-school and I had an awakening my sophomore year to find that I had wasted so much time! I was at college now, and I should have been making the best of it. No parents to be disappointed with my decisions anymore. I was free from having to live my life for other people. I could really get down to trying to impress my friends and girlfriend.

Now to be fair, I did go to the liberal, rebellion breeding, party soaked East Texas Baptist University; so my rebellious non-conformist phase was pretty mild compared to the average college wild stage that many people go through. Let's be honest, I have never been much of a rebel.

Of course I got involved in the arts, and started doing as much theatre as I could. This was the best thing to come out of the "cool phase" because it has remained a passion and my favorite form of expression. In many ways I feel like I am meant to be involved in theatre and I know I will be again someday.

I had taken to not wearing shoes. My descent into shoeless-ness was a bit of a slow one. It started with me wearing flip-flops. I have to point out that this was long before wearing flip-flops was a thing people did. I don't say this in any way to be some type of hipster. I just need to point out that getting flip-flops was actually quite hard. I went out of my way to get footwear that was non-conformist just to prove the futility of bending to societal norms. I was so freaking awesome! I even made myself some flip-fops out of duct tape

All of my clothing during this period came from thrift stores. The older and more ironic the better. I found some really horrible things and wore them shamelessly. I did find some great things at the Goodwill $.99 sales.

I also stopped shaving and cutting my hair. For those of you who have seen me with facial hair, just know it was actually worse back then and I was rocking it. I also felt like it would be a great idea to wear different colored handkerchiefs as head wear. Just picture a theatrical, shoeless, unshorn, thrift-store-clothing-clad pirate. Which isn't really a thing you can picture because it is not a thing that exists, but that is kind of what I must have looked like.

So now you have a backdrop. It was in the full swing of this that I was stumbling to my 8:00 am class one day. This was after I had learned the pro college scheduling trick of having all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so  that all of my weekends were three day weekends and Mondays were free for doing all of my homework at the last minute. College professional.

It was a bright cold winter day, I was of course shoeless and being far too non-conventional for sunglasses, I was squinting in the sun. Of course I had rolled out of bed at 7:50 to give me ten minutes to pull on whatever clothes were in my floor and walk across the small campus. I was barely awake and almost at my destination when I saw one of the nicest men I have ever met, Dr. Thomas Webster. At the time he was Mr. Thomas Webster and he was the band director and a music professor. As I said he was a wonderful man, universally loved by his students, of which my then girlfriend, now wife was one. Everyone knew Mr. Webster, it was a very small school.

He walked out of the chapel building and waved at me, saying "Hello, Mr. Marchbanks!" I turned my head to him, and raised my chin in my most unaffected "sup" gesture, and said, "Hey Dr. J!" Now everyone called Mr. Webster... Mr. Webster.  His peers referred to him as Tom Webster. I knew him well, and I knew his name. I had been to his house. There was nothing in me calling him Dr. J that was understandable. I was tired, and so tired in fact that I kept looking at him trying to figure out where that had come from.  

The quizzical look on his face quickly became wide-eyed surprise as I walked directly into one of the three foot diameter, knee-high circular planters that were decorating the walkway I was on. His face was actually my first indication that I had hit it, I was that tired and distracted. I fell forward, flat on my stomach on the planter.

I tried to put my hands forward to stop my fall, but my hands were thrust firmly into the pockets of my sweatshirt seeing as how I was freezing, partially due to the fact that I was barefoot in winter. The pockets of my sweatshirt may as well have been a Chinese finger trap for as well as I could get my hands

free. I flailed about like some sort of drunken chicken, flapping my elbows as I laid squarely onto the planter. My backpack filled with a full time course load worth of books for classes that are all on only two days then slid over my head, toward the ground. The weight of my books pulled my head toward the ground, and my feet into the air. 

At this point, I was inverted, vertically, with my head flat on the ground, my face touching the base of the concrete planner, my bare feet kicking in the air.  My momentum carried me over, my feet falling to the ground in a perfectly rigid flip. I ended up laying on my backpack flat on the ground with my hands still uselessly wedged into my sweatshirt pockets. 

The last I saw of Mr. Webster, he was running toward me. At this point I was silently laughing seeing as how the wind was knocked out of me. The next thing in my vision was Mr. Webster's face, literally with tears streaming down it from laughter. He was asking, of course if I was alright, and trying to help me up by my elbows seeing as how I had still not succeeded in extracting my hands from my pockets. 

So after an awkward stumble back to my feet, I thanked Mr. Webster and walked toward my class.  He walked away still laughing and shaking his head. It is an image that will stick with me forever. The blond headed man, wearing a grey suit, with a hand to his forehead, shaking his head, shoulders still shaking with laughter. It made me laugh all the way to class. 

Once I got to class I saw that it had already started and that was all the excuse I needed to skip. Tuesday/Thursday classes are an hour and a half long, so that meant I got a good hour nap before my next class. And that is the story of how I fell down. I can stretch even the most mundane things into a ridiculously long story, can't I?

 

 

A little life story.

I recently had the opportunity to read a story that I wrote at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary as part of the "Oral Fixation" series.  It was alot of fun and I am really grateful to have been part of it.  I would like to put a copy of the story I read here for any who couldn't make it.  

Just a little warning, it contains a bit of off color language.  Also disclaimers; I took a little creative license for the sake of humor or shock value.  My mom didn't really call to make sure we were doing chores, and my Dad never did anything terrible.  Also I certainly never hated my wife.  In case you didn't get this thing it is a bit tongue-in-cheek.  Now I have explained it too much in an effort to make sure I don't offend any one.  Oh well.  Hope you enjoy.

 

When my wife first told me she was pregnant, I thought, “Oh shit.”  She saw it in my face seeing as how my normally unflapped manner was clearly flapped.  The inconsequential words that came out of my mouth were something akin to, “that’s great!”  But they may as well have been, “Screw you!” for the way she started crying.  I cried as well, and I am normally pretty stoic. 

We had lived in our house for less than a year.  Buying the house was a new start for us, our first bold step into independent adulthood.  We were doing it.  The American dream!  Living the lives that would make our parents and grandparents proud.  We didn’t have a clue.

We were in over our heads; we were scared as little ducklings staring down the gaping maw of a wolf.  We had taken on a house payment that would barely leave any money in the bank each month, and locked shut the manacles of necessity that our jobs already had clamped tightly on our ankles and wrists.  We had made a few trips to Ikea for the sensible and attractive furnishings the Swiss provide for us, and made the trip to Home Depot for the appliances and lawn care items we needed.  We were set and completely prepared for our brave new lives as upstanding members of the middle class.  We were members of an HOA dammit!

But a child?  I was going to be a father.  I was going to have a life to mold.  A human being to make from birth to death.  This child would be largely a social and emotional result of the guidance that I gave it.  It was still an “It”.  I couldn’t begin to think of this inconvenient thing that was happening to me as a new human life.  What about my free time?  What about my extra money for stuff that I want?  What about getting a scooter to be the hip, environmentally conscious commuter that I wanted to be?  I can’t tote a baby around on the back of a scooter! 

Life barreled on giving me little room or time to ponder the horrible things I was being submitted to that robbed me of my independence and individuality.  Things like showers and registries and doctors’ visits.  I was sickeningly being sucked into the life of a suburban “Dad”, and I hated it more than you can imagine.

I saw these assholes driving around in their SUV’s with the ridiculous stick figures representing their families on the back windows and their pretentious bumper stickers telling me what stupid school their dumb kids go to, and how honorably they roll.  I sold video games to them at my retail job while they blew off their kids and texted on their IPhones and paid no more attention to the human spawn at their side that they did the shopping bags in their hands.  Maybe even less. 

I want to say that I promised myself that I would be an amazing father and do better than all of the other shmucks, and that my child would be intellectually stimulated and challenged at every second, but it actually just depressed me.  I barely had time to go and get someone to change the oil in my car, much less time to rear offspring.  I was overwhelmed, and pissed off. 

My wife in the meantime was in a pink chiffon cloudy wonderland dream of ultimate bliss.   I don’t know why the pink chiffon, but it just seems the fabric of the girly, ridiculous, unreasonable happiness being the imminent owner of transferred DNA brought to her.  While more and more, I became the brooding black raincloud of ever looming domestic enslavement that followed around her happy, puffy, pink, magical dreamland of forthcoming motherhood.  I was starting to hate her. 

She was in a cheery blur of preparation, reading her books and giggling with her mother and mine alike.  I couldn’t have been more disinterested.  The chasm between male and female never seemed wider or more impassable to me.  The only positive thing I could think was that there would be at least one member of our family unit that would be emotionally able to provide love to this alien creature medical science would call our child.  I would most definitely have to watch, gob smacked from the sidelines as this new life unfolded in front of me. 

As the pregnancy drew on, complications arose and my wife had to be placed on bed rest.  Now get ready for a shock ladies, and men, get ready to hear what you expect: I was pissed.  Now I not only had to pretend to be excited about the arrival of a life ruining bundle of biomass, I also had to do like 90% of the work around the house.  I had to do the grocery shopping and cleaning and laundry and go getting in addition to my current chores.  I had to change the cat litter!  It was her damn cat! 

The labor, was just that.  We were in the hospital for four days, most of which were preparation seeing as how this nine pound eight ounce “bundle of joy” didn’t want to come into the world.  My wife was uncomfortable and in pain for three days, which made me uncomfortable and in pain for three days as well.  My in-laws were there for the entire experience.  This was a culture shock to me seeing as I come from a family of six kids and childbirth had gotten to the point that Mom would call to make sure we were doing our homework or chores really quickly before she had the kid.  That happened three times in my life. 

Childbirth is a kick in the pants.  I have never been so close to breaking down in my life.  My wife had to have a caesarean so she was under anesthesia during the procedure.  I was on pins and needles.  It doesn’t help that to the hospital, a caesarean is as difficult as making a ham sandwich and they treat it with as much care.  We were hustled and bustled through every step as the 12 year old doctor explained exactly zero percent of what we should expect.  When they began cutting my drugged wife open with knives with no more ceremony than opening a can of Pringles, I almost passed out.  I am not squeamish but the suddenness and severity of the situation was almost too much. 

When they pulled the red-headed invader out of my wife’s body, they put him in my arms before putting him quickly in an incubator.  I didn’t have a magical “I am a Dad now” moment.  I didn’t fall immediately in love with this little bundle of sweat and blood and afterbirth.  I was grossed out.  I was mad that I had spent the last four days of my life bringing this thing into the world.  I was tired from the lack of sleep and I wanted to be at home with my computer and Xbox.  Father of the year, I know. 

When our son, whom we named Eli Greer Marchbanks; Eli because we loved the name, Greer after my wife’s dad’s last name since he had no male children, and Marchbanks because, well it’s my last name, was born, there were more complications.  He was having trouble breathing, and he wasn’t eating as well as he should.  He had to go the neonatal ICU and we were on limited visitations.  He was there with children in such severe need of neonatal intensive care that we were vastly relieved and appropriately frightened at the medically horrifying possibilities of raising a child.  We left the hospital drained.

Having a child at home after that was not the spiritual revelation that so many Reader’s Digest stories and Lifetime movies seem to think it must be.  It was a freaking nightmare.  We got no sleep, we cleaned up biological waste most of the time, and we were constantly worried that lack of knowledge or attention on our part would cause the end of a human life that we were somehow charged with safeguarding.  It was terrifying, and it never ended. 

Eli is three years old now, and something magical did happen in the last three years.  I did not become dad of the year by some mystical replacement of responsibility and selflessness for my childishness and irresponsibility.  I didn’t become Mike Brady overnight or suddenly fall in love with the idea of being a dad.  I did fall in love with a cool kid that I get to make cooler if I work at it enough.  I did fall ass first into being a father. 

I genuinely miss him when he is not around, and there are precious few people on earth that give me that feeling.  I think he is funny and smart.  I am proud of his childish accomplishments.  Hell, he could write his name when he was two.  Amazing, right?  I get to do cool dad things like teach him that when you tickle someone the appropriate thing to say is, “I got you, sucka!”  And I get to use the knowledge that I have gained in life, both shitty and awesome, to try to make his life more awesome than shitty. 

I am not a typical dad.  I didn’t dream of it, I didn’t want it.  Goodness knows, maybe I still don’t.  Holy hell this kid will need to go to college someday!  But I think now it might be the most important thing I ever do.  I screwed up a whole bunch, but if I can give him the tools to screw up just a little bit less, maybe I will be able to consider myself a success.  I woke up one day and discovered I had become a father, and I didn’t hate the thought.

As much I want to promise that I will never do, or always do the terrible or awesome things my dad did, I have come to realize that I will do both.  Some better and some worse, and I will look back fondly and with regret at the choices I made as a dad, as a human, on the upbringing of my child.  But every time I put a Star Wars shirt on him for pajamas and ask him who owns the Millennium Falcon, all I need to hear is “Han Solo!” to make me think this whole fatherhood thing might be worthwhile. 

I feel like I need to say it.

I am in no way trying to make this a political or religious blog, but in light of recent events I feel like it bears addressing. I am a Christian, and the force of that drives the emotional and intellectual response to most things that I experience, do or even think. I may not be the best Christian around, goodness knows at times I am surely close to the worst; but with God as my everlasting witness, I attest to the power of God and His influence in my life, both as a force in the formation of me as an individual, and as guiding force in the continuation of my life everyday.  

The fact that the deplorable recent act in Oslo, Norway was commited, even partially in the name of my God destroys me. I renounce, for my part as a Christian, and as a member of global society, the acts of a political extremist. He was no representative of my beliefs, my God, or my religion.  Please do not be fooled for even one second.

And please Christians, look at this and let it dictate a bit, your attitudes toward Muslims, and Islam.  I fervently hope that no other Christians, or anyone for that matter, would judge a people group, or religious organization by the action of a political extremist who claims to be aligned with that religion. Shame on those who have done just that for the past ten years. It pains me to think that anyone involved with this tragedy would even remotely associate me with the pain, trauma and distress they had to deal with for any reason. I would never want to be looked at with fear or hatred or anger by anyone in the world because of the actions of a fanatical, crazed, extremist, lunatic. So I hope we can stop doing the same thing to good Muslim people.

Here is a really insightful blog that started me thinking about this.