Friday, February 15

The Walking Dead Friday - 'The Suicide King.'

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Season 3 - Episode 9: 'The Suicide King.'

It's been over two years, but The Walking Dead Friday is finally upon us once again. We have much to discuss.

You know, some of my favorite episodes of Lost were the ones that took place before a major climax or plot reveal. The ‘housekeeping episodes,’ as I call them; the scripts that function more in a utility manner than anything, quickly shuffling and moving characters into their correct positions for an exciting (and no doubt violent) showdown somewhere down the road. What you’re left with is a decent (but not great) episode that did its job to create tension and anticipation for the future, but didn’t really introduce new facts or resolve anything.

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(Let's be honest. Atlanta was like this before the apocalypse.)

I like housekeeping episodes. Partly because I literally enjoy housekeeping, but also because I enjoy a show that understands the delicate dance of dishing out equal amounts of information, plot movement and soul-crushing conflict. For the first half of Season 2, The Walking Dead understood this delicate dance about as well as a double amputee. Then, they magically got their swagger back, remaining nearly perfect for the next 15 episodes. At this point, I think that Season 3 of The Walking Dead ranks among the very best dramas on television, having reached the distinct honor of ‘Appointment Television’ in the Zeinert household.

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(The Governor, having recently lost all depth perception, successfully shoots out eight windows and a cow before finally hitting his target.)

The act of watching a television show has, in the 21st Century, become ripe with options: We can stream shows off of the internet, we can have our DVR copy them for later, or we can just watch entire seasons on DVD. However, ‘Appointment Television’ is that one show (or shows) that must be watched the night (and usually the moment) they are first broadcast. It’s the show where you invite your friends over (the ones that don’t have cable), make snacks and hypothesize during the commercials (ONLY during the commercials, Ben). In an era where you can essentially watch whatever you want whenever you want, Appointment Television is a rarity reserved for the most treasured of shows, and for me, The Walking Dead was conceived for precisely this method of consumption.

So with that being said, let’s make fun of it. For the first time in over two years, here comes The Thick And Meaty!

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The action begins in Woodbury, where the Dixon Boys (a future WWE Tag Team if I’ve ever seen one) have been ordered to fight to the death. Now, I assume this is something Merle and Daryl have had to do at least a few other times in their lives in order to escape a sticky situation, so they pretty much take it in stride, hatching out an escape plan while pretending to fight quasi-restrained walkers (again, the WWE would love these guys).

I, on the other hand, would refuse to punch a zombie in the face under any circumstances. What if you knick a tooth? Even if you knick a living human being’s tooth you risk deadly infection. Too filthy; no way.

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(You know, that Merle’s a real troll. In fact…hey…wait a minute…)

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(I KNEW it!)

Rick and Maggie save the day, however, by firing shots into the crowd, creating enough of a fracas that they can escape. The Governor seems pleased with the sudden influx of anarchy, because as we’ll soon see, he sort of sucks at being a leader (but is awesome at shooting people in the facehole).

Them Dixon Boys (patent pending) meet up with Rick, Maggie, Glenn and Michonne back at the car, which immediately causes the crew to go apeshit at Merle’s presence. After all, this was the guy that nearly beat Glenn to death and nearly murdered Michonne. However, he shows up with buffalo chicken dip, so he’s accepted back into the group with minimal fanfare.

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(So Beth, how old are you? 15? 30?)

Actually, Rick hastily throws him out and Daryl tags along with his big brother. I assume we’re going to see them soon in some sort of Dukes Of Hazzard-esque spinoff.

“Just the Dixon boys,
Never meanin’ no harm,
Daryl’s missing Carol, keeps a crossbow for their peril,
Merle is missin’ an arm.”

Meanwhile at the prison, Tyreese and company are explaining their story to Carl and Hershel about how they came to be in the area. Later on, Allen (one of Tyreese’s crew) hatches a plan to overpower Carol and Carl in order to take their weapons, but Tyreese and his sister (Sasha) refuse to cooperate, and for good reason. At this point, referring to Carl as a ‘kid’ is like referring to Theodore Roosevelt as a ‘man.’ There are levels to these sorts of things. Dude killed his mother, for Christ’s sake. If Allen wants to keep this loser talk up, he’s as good as dead, along with any other non-black member of Tyreese’s group.

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(Rick is an amazing protector, but his kung fu is terrible.)

Back at the car, Glenn bitches at Rick for bungling the Woodbury raid. Rick is showing some signs of PTSD, and Maggie attempts to diffuse the situation before Rick decides to scoop out Glenn’s brain and devour the tender goop within. Remember, kids: Real-Life PTSD is not funny in the least, but Zombie Apocalypse PTSD is acceptable of satire. Now, let’s continue.

At Woodbury, the unrest is massive as the Governor has gone Howard Hughes in his apartment, leaving folks agitated and ready to leave. However, all the bellyaching attracts walkers, a few of which find their way inside and attack a couple of residents on the street. OH GOD, NOT EISENBERG! He was the very lifeblood of this community!

The Governor then makes a five-second appearance by showing up to euthanize Eisenberg (SERIOUSLY, WHY GOD?), then calmly walks away without saying a word to the crowd. He either has a stew going, or he’s got some shirts to iron or something. Point is, the dude’s got a lot on his mind. He eyeball fell out; cut him some slack.

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(This is what happens in Madison if you say you’re not into Roller Derby.)

Andrea asks the Governor to calm the townsfolk, but he essentially says “The money’s on the dresser,” and tells her to pound sand. He also takes a hard, “No more barbecues and picnics” stance, which I’m sure will come back to haunt him come reelection time. Milton speaks first to the crowd, reporting the facts before Andrea spouts some inspirational nonsense about brotherhood and unity. I guess that Andrea has made so many horrible decisions since entering Woodbury (and since the Governor’s been entering her), that I guess she was due for at least one speech about compassion and perseverance. Good on her.

At the prison, Rick holds Judith, who spittles and bawls in his presence. I had assumed he was used to this behavior, having been married to Lori for so long, but to no avail. He sets the baby down, wandering into the middle of the prison and slowly beginning to trip balls.

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(“If we don’t live together, we’re going to die alone. Come on, didn’t any of you losers watch Lost?”)

The rest of the group start to discuss if Tyreese and his group should stay, with Rick finally going out to talk to them. Rick seems to be in a panicky position of getting rid of those who pose the most threat to him, while at the same time ostracizing those who would be the most useful to him when the shit hit the fan. He’s slipping as a leader, and the rest of the group is starting to notice it more so than ever. Rick says that Tyreese and company should go, starts to hallucinate that his wife is back from the dead, and justifiably freaks right the hell out.

I don’t blame him. Some nights I wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty and screaming. Then I remember that Lori Grimes is still dead, and I’m able to dream peacefully once again.

Smash Cut, episode over.

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(Say what you want about the Governor, but he did decriminalize marijuana.)

Okay, so it didn't necessarily set the word on fire, but like I said, I think it was a decent housekeeping episode for the inevitable Woodbury showdown set to take place within the next seven episodes.

This one's for the old school CDP fans: Let's Break It Down!

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1. The first thing I want to talk about is the jaw-dropping ratings juggernaut this show has become, not just as a Nielsen statistics nerd (which I am), but to attempt to put The Walking Dead’s numbers into perspective (which is nearly impossible to do, because they’re nuts).

Simply put, The Walking Dead is the most-watched show in the history of Cable Television. In a world where it’s all but assumed you will lose half of your audience transitioning from Episode 1 to 2, The Walking Dead premiered with a rating of 5.35 million viewers (a big number in its own right) on October 31, 2010, only to have that number balloon to 12.3 million for Sunday’s mid-season premiere in February of 2013. A number like 12.3 million is not only a rating that a weekly cable television show is never supposed to see (typically high-rated cable shows pull around a 4 or 5), but a number that made it the most popular show in ALL of television for the week, cable OR broadcast.

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(Suddenly and without warning, two zombies appear right behind Andrea.)

Think about that. Not The Big Bang Theory. Not Two-And-A-Half Men. Not NCIS. The Walking Dead. This is not supposed to be happening. These are Gretzky numbers; a statistical anomaly that absolutely nobody saw coming, including AMC (their six-episode Season 1 order was proof of their hesitancy). When you watch The Walking Dead, you are actively participating in television history. How cool is that?

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(I know the USPS has fallen on hard times, but shipping live infants?)

One final point to put this into perspective. The final season of Lost was watched by an average of five million viewers a week. The final season of Lost! A massive show, on free television, backed by all the money and pop culture hype we could possibly throw at it. Not even the resolution of perhaps the greatest drama of the last 20 years could pull half the numbers our little zombie show is drawing. And on AMC, mind you. A network that no less than five years ago played black-and-white films around the clock, and had no original programming to speak of.

It’s goddamn nanners, and I don’t care what you say in the contrary.

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(“Do you remember how old Beth is? 15? 30? They got a pool going out there.")

2. Despite being the sort of throwaway show you only watch live (or not at all), you should really check out Sunday’s episode of Talking Dead, if only to see the depth and research Steven Yeun puts into Glenn’s character. If you think it’s all mindless fun, dirt-baths and Maggie-kissing (which it usually is), there’s actually a surprising amount of work Yeun put into his current, post-Woodbury mindset, work that’s difficult to appreciate until you truly notice it.

Also, Kevin Smith was on, and he was pretty funny.

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(I’ve seen some depressing Christmas photos in my day, but man...)

3. One of the funnier Easter Eggs of this week’s episode happened early on, during Rick’s argument with Daryl and/or pleading Daryl not to leave. A few walkers were seen nearly hundreds of yards away in the background, slowly getting closer each time the scene cut back to their frame. It’s little touches like this that make hardcore fans love the series, and it also reminds us that Rick and company have survived in this for so long that a Walker in the distance barely registers as a threat anymore. The Missus LOL’d.

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(Laurie returns from the grave just to tell Rick she’s still having sex with Shane in Hell.)

4. This exchange between Tyreese and Axel:

"I must be the first brother to break into prison."
"Then I must be the first white boy to not want to break out.

…Is the single worst piece of dialogue to ever air on The Walking Dead, a show not exactly known for it’s Shakespearean prose to begin with, mind you. One of things that always embarrasses me about the comic (which I think is great, however) is that Robert Kirkman isn’t all that great with dialogue. And while the above exchange could have been moderately acceptable within the panels of a comic, it was downright cringeworthy when experienced in living color. Not in a racial way, mind you. Just in a stupid way.

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("I should buy a boat.")

5. One last thing in regards to the ratings. Talking Dead, AMC’s version of a postgame show, retained 4.1 million viewers immediately following the premiere airing of ‘The Suicide King.’ 4.1 million people (the Zeinert household included) stuck around to watch Chris Hardwick go over shit we just saw. It’s a dynasty, this thing. They can lose half of their audience and still be the most popular show on cable television.

I’m going to reiterate this every week until your mind is sufficiently blown out your ass.

Well, The Walking Dead Friday has come to an end, and so has the work week, so sound off in the comments section, enjoy your weekend and let me be the last one to wish you a very happy Valentine's Day.

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Thursday, February 14

The CDP's Top 5 Albums Of 2012.

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Hey, just because I was incommunicado on here for a calendar year doesn't mean I stopped listening to music. So please enjoy this truncated (and extremely late) list of my favorite albums of last year. As usual, it's not meant to be anything other than the albums I purchased and found the most enjoyable. Quick and dirty; let's go.

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#5 - Teenage Bottlerocket - Freak Out!

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#4 - Classics Of Love - Classics Of Love

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#3 - Japandroids - Celebration Rock

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#2 - Masked Intruder - Masked Intruder

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#1 - P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here

Cleansing. Felt good. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The Walking Dead Friday makes its long-awaited return in less than 24 hours.

Wednesday, February 13

This Ain't No Victory Lap.

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I think that amongst all the hubbub of The CDP returning and whatnot, I forgot to mention that The Walking Dead Friday will make its triumphant return as well.

This Friday, and every Friday until the end of Season 3.

Although it doesn't seem like that long ago, it's been over two years since my last one. Am I still funny? Only time will tell. For reference, here are links to every Walking Dead Friday from Season 1. Take a gander, for old time's sake.

Season 1 - Episode 1 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 2 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 3 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 4 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 5 Review.
Season 1 - Episode 6 Review.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Tuesday, February 12

I'm Rocking My Peers, Puttin' Suckas In Fear.

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The walk through the Dane County Courthouse to my wife’s office takes you through a weapons screening station, and for a good reason: The courthouse is where they take criminals before they go to jail (little sneak peek into the Justice system for you, there). Furthermore, a lot of clientele happen to be armed round-the-clock, and it’s in the best interest of every County employee that they can work a 9-5 shift without the constant fear that they’re about to be capped by someone sick of paying child support.

Of course, when I went through weapons screening, I was ready. I had my belt, cell phone, keys and loose change at the ready, as to not hold up the line. I was making a final slap-check of my pockets when I realized, far too late, that I was carrying a knife.

When I was 17 years old I stole a buck knife from the hardware store I was working at. My dad, a longtime hunter/trapper/Theodore Roosevelt-ian supporter of the Strenuous Life, put it in my head at an early age that one should always have a buck knife at the ready-- not for self-defense or stabbing, but for the myriad other reasons one would need a blade. However, since 1999, the only thing I’ve ever really used it for was opening Christmas presents. Nonetheless, I procured one, and to this day usually carry it on me because it’s part of my routine. If I were ever in a situation where I would need it to defend myself, I would assuredly slit my jugular by accident a nanosecond after flipping it open. Knives, for the most part, scare me.

I have a knife,” I loudly proclaimed to the officer running the metal detector.

Remember, I’m still kind of tipsy. I literally didn’t know what else to do, and thought I was royally screwed no matter what I said. I put my hands up, sure that I was about to be wrestled to the ground and carted off to the nearest lockup (I’m assuming there would be one in the basement). Considering the day I was having, followed by the epiphany that I was probably going to quit my job, I saw no better way for this evening to conclude than by having my wife bail me out of jail with the money we were going to use to buy Christmas presents for our cats.

I was forgetting something, though. Weapons screeners don’t give a damp shit about a buck knife, or anything else for that matter.

Take it out of your pocket, put it in this plastic bag and you can get it back when you leave,” mumbled the cop without so much as even making eye contact with me. I simultaneously felt relieved and terrified for my wife’s day-to-day safety.

On the way home, the Missus and I talked about my snap decision to quit my job. Of course, she wasn’t having it, and of course she was right. Sometimes in moments of vulnerability I tend to jump to the most ridiculous and all-encompassing solution as a way to give up thinking on the whole matter whatsoever. I’m a logical guy, but whiskey and sadness have an ability to make solid decision-making skills circle the drain a bit. I promised her I would take the time to think it over.

It had been a long day, full of emotional turmoil, pity, snap decisions, hard liquor, raving lunatics and museum exhibits. I needed to clear my mind in a more positive fashion. I went to the arcade.

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There’s this place in Monona called Rossi’s Vintage Arcade & Pizzeria. For anyone over the age of 25 (or anyone who enjoys fun), it’s a beautiful mecca of not only the classic pizza/arcade places of old, but for the kind of youthful nostalgia people like me long for and constantly try to capture. Their pizza is outstanding and the toys and decorations are one-of-a-kind artifacts of a Pop Culture-fueled childhood lived well. Most importantly, their one-of-a-kind arcade sports over 50 timeless (and fully operational) treasures of 80’s and 90’s video gaming history.

Quick Rossi’s side-story: They make a 30-inch pizza there (for the cost of around $60 and well worth it), but they had to stop delivering it after discovering that the standard household door wasn’t wide enough to get the pizza through without tilting it sideways. This place is a gift from Heaven.

The Missus and I went with our two closest friends, and I made the mistake of peeking into the arcade area before we started eating. This caused me to do something I haven’t done since I was a kid: I found myself eating my pizza quickly in order to leave the table and play video games. It reminded me of the times I would go to Shakey’s for a classmate’s birthday party, shoveling as much Pepsi and mozzarella cheese into my maw as fast as possible so I could run off and play Skee-Ball for three hours straight. It was a feeling so removed from my current lifestyle that I embraced it with giddiness. I was really, genuinely happy to be there.

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All games were a quarter. Not fifty cents, not a dollar, but a quarter. This meant that, with 20 bucks worth of change in my pocket, I could easily sample every game at least once. And for the most part, that’s exactly what I did. The arcade area had no direct lighting, just lava lamps, Christmas lights and the colorful strobes from dozens of arcade cabinets chirping in unison. It even smelled like an old arcade; the humid lack of air conditioning, the carpeting saturated with decades of foot traffic, nicotine and popcorn butter. It was one of those experiences of youth I didn’t think I’d ever be a part of again as an adult.

As an added bonus, the owner of the place looks and acts like he might be in the Witness Protection Program. In my opinion, there were one too many Italian Mafia artifacts on the wall to be a mere coincidence. But for the love of God, you didn’t hear that from me. I’m not afraid I’ll be murdered, I’m afraid I’ll get blacklisted from Rossi’s; a fate far worse than any death.

As my wife and friends scurried from machine to machine, I tried my luck with the Tempest machine. Tempest was a game that reached its popularity before my time, so I never really had the chance to get good at it. To put it another way, I sucked terribly, but I was having such a good time that it didn’t matter in the least. In my vulnerable state, this little deviation put an incredible amount of things into perspective for me.

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And that’s when it hit me. Hard.

I’m 30 years old. I’ve been an adult for a long time; longer even than I should have been. I have been living with adult responsibilities and decisions since before I could even fully understand the magnitude of them. However, when things got too hard and depression started to make even the most inane and textbook decisions seem like alchemy, I always knew how to balance things out. I never slacked and I never shied away from difficult paths in life, but I always remembered that I needed to be patient and pace myself.

Much like looking at my reflection in the 1990’s Family Room hours earlier, looking at my reflection in the Tempest machine made me remember that I like old video games. I like them a whole lot. I also remembered that I like Pop Culture nostalgia, and I like metal lunchboxes and Saturday morning cartoons. I like action figures and synthesized 80’s music, and I like television and test patterns and monster movies and gumball machines. I like that I can experience all of this stuff through the Internet, and I also like that we live in a generation where a modern-day pizzeria can stay afloat simply by bringing all of this stuff back to me in exchange for my patronage.

I remembered that I forgot. Forgot all of this stuff. For the first nine months of 2012, I had forgotten who I was, and I had forgotten than I can always, always have it both ways. Most importantly, I remembered that I like writing funny stories for my friends, and there’s no good reason I should quit if it makes me and everyone else I know happy. None.

Being an adult, turning 30 (now 31) and wearing a suit to work will only kill you if you allow it to define you, and for some reason, that’s what I did for nearly all of 2012. The homeless guy was wrong; I wasn’t a businessman. I was Ryan J. Zeinert, but if pretending to be one means that I can responsibly continue towing the line between stark adulthood and youthful happiness, then that was a challenge I was willing to accept. I wasn’t going to quit my job; it was quitting stuff that got me into this mess in the first place, and it just ain’t my style.

What a day.

In February of 2012, I stopped writing here (among other things) because I was turning 30 and thought I needed to evolve in certain ways in order to achieve my creative and personal goals. In reality, I stopped doing all the things that defined me, purging the things I used to enjoy because I thought they were hindering me. As a result, any future aspirations were washed away with frustration, anger and depression, and I didn’t evolve a bit. My motives were pure, but after nearly a year of failure, I finally realized that I had made one of the biggest and most personally-neglectful decisions of my life.

I goofed up and I learned from it.

And at the end of the day, that’s who I really am.

Monday, February 11

Don't Call It A Comeback, I've Been Here For Years.

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I’d like to tell you that this was all planned from the start. That I had long ago masterminded the idea of a 1-year sabbatical to recharge my creative batteries and start fresh. Truth is, I really did quit writing online for all the reasons I stated over a year ago: I thought it was getting in the way of writing another book, I thought it was stagnating and pigeonholing me, and I thought I should try something different.

My 2012 goal was to write (or at least nearly write) my third book. And while I have a pretty good outline and a lot of content to work with, it wasn’t nearly as much as I thought I would have produced, considering it was the only writing goal I had set for myself. I mean, the CDP was dead and my literary focus was supposed to be precise and deadly. So why was I spending most of my time doing nothing? If I could write two books in four years while feverishly updating a blog, shouldn’t I be able to write one book in one year without a blog?

The epiphany was frustrating, because it meant I had made a mistake-- The CDP motivated me to write significantly more than it distracted me. This seems painfully obvious in retrospect. It kept me honest and on a schedule. It allowed me constant feedback and instant satisfaction of a job well done (or a job done shittily). Without a constant outlet, I had no desire to write at all, and for the first nine months of 2012, that’s exactly what I did. Nothing. I drank a lot, gained weight, watched more television than even I thought I could ingest, and creatively evolved about a micron.

Any good writer will tell you that one must write constantly in order to, you know, write constantly, and the idea that walking away from a major creative venture would somehow motivate me was ill-thought out to say the least. Understand that I had nothing but the best of intentions in mind for you and me both. I want to write funny stories for people, but in an attempt to eliminate distractions, I killed my muse.

Whoops.

So, that was the first sign that I had made a mistake. Then a homeless guy yelled at me.

September 11, 2012 was one of the more pathetically selfish and self-loathing days of my life. I’m probably about to come off as a real sad prick (which I was), but it’s important to understand my mindset at the time. Also note that none (and I mean none) of my depression had anything to do with the anniversary of what 9/11 is more commonly known for. In fact, I was so awash in my own nonsense that I had completely forgotten about the significance of the day.

I took the afternoon off of work so I could walk downtown and drink. I’m not kidding; in fact, it’s something I had done many times prior to this instance last year. I had received a promotion in June, and while it bettered my quality of life in a materialistic way (but just barely), I always showed up to work thinking I might have made the wrong decision in a long-term, mental health capacity. The fact that I was taking the afternoon off to sit alone somewhere may have been a bit of a red flag, but I prefer to ignore warning signs right up until the point where they’re carting me into the hospital. This has a happy ending, though; so don’t feel too bad for me.

Anyway, I took the afternoon off because work was breaking my brain. Problem was, I didn’t have a car. The Missus and I carpool to work, and she didn’t punch out for another four hours, so I decided to walk the two miles downtown to where her office was, spend the afternoon sipping Spotted Cow and just surprise her at work come quitting time. I’m nothing if not a hopeless romantic, and hey, it would save her the drive to come and pick me up. Total win/win. After all, who wouldn’t want their first objective after a long day of work to be responsible for driving their inebriated husband home?

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As I walked into an Irish pub on Capitol Square, I noticed what appeared to be a crippled homeless man parked outside the door in a motorized wheelchair. He had all of his belongings slung over the back in a trash bag, he was slumped to one side like Stephen Hawking, and was feverishly (and I mean feverishly) scribbling onto a piece of notebook paper with a pencil. He’d scribble for a few seconds, stop, erase a bit, then continue right on scribbling. Whatever he was doing, he appeared to be on a mission, so I let him be. I, too, was on a mission.

I walked into the pub, where I drank alone for the next 90 minutes. I had a couple of beers, and when they were gone, I had whiskey. And another. And another. I sat at the end of the bar (as I always do), watched ESPN with the sound muted (as I always do) and frantically checked my phone for any e-mails or incoming Facebook/Twitter messages (as I always do). Of course, there were none; all of my friends were busy working their jobs, because they’re devoted, responsible human beings who understand that one simply cannot walk away from something as important as employment just because it bums them out a little. At 2pm on a Tuesday, the Internet is just as quiet as the streets of downtown Madison, and I felt as lonely as ever, although that’s secretly what I wanted.

At around 2pm, I staggered out into the sunlight and felt absolutely no better. It was just cold enough to be uncomfortable, and I didn’t plan ahead enough to bring a jacket. Also, I was wearing slacks and a tie due to a meeting I had earlier in the morning. Also, I was ripped beyond comprehension on a Tuesday afternoon with at least two hours to kill before my wife could take me home. I had no idea where to go or what to do, and even though I was old enough to know better, I felt that I might feel exactly this way for the rest of my life.

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The Wisconsin Historical Society was a place that always intrigued me, but I was always too busy to pop in when I was in the neighborhood. Not today. I know it sounds sad (and within the context of this story, it’s definitely sad), but I heartily recommend going to a museum by yourself during the day. There’s nobody there; no field trips, no tourists-- shit, there aren’t even any employees there, really. Apart from the dude who took my money, I didn’t see another soul within all three stories of this place until I saw him again as I was leaving. I plan on going back again when I’m not depressed.

The main attraction at the Historical Society in September was a tribute to 90’s Alternative Rock that emanated (or at least passed through) the city of Madison. The exhibit focused mainly on historic venue O’Cayz Corral and the legendary Smart Studios. The memorabilia was incredible, and I thought it would make me feel better, but the knee-deep shitstorm of depression doesn’t work that way. I felt worse. I felt that no music would ever be as good as it was in the 90’s, and as a result, I would never feel as good as I did in the 90’s.

Actually, depression aside, that’s probably a true statement nonetheless. But let’s move on.

The second and third floors of the museum were more typical Wisconsin museum flair: Native American stuff that we probably should give back to Native Americans, exhibits on the manufacturing boom along the Mississippi River at the turn of the century, Lewis & Clark up the ass, stuff like that. However, just as I was ready to throw in the towel, I spotted something that truly blew my mind.

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What?

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Yes, a 1990’s Family Room exhibit. Yes, it made me feel old. It made me feel like I, too should also be behind Plexiglas, sitting in that recliner. But more than anything, I thought to myself, “Holy shit, that looks exactly like MY Family Room in the 90’s! Did EVERY Family Room look like this?” It was sort of a revelation; I started laughing my ass off in front of this totally surreal exhibit. Good thing I was the only one in the building.

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I started thinking about my childhood. I thought about the kid that I was, sitting in that Family Room, playing video games endlessly, listening to music I loved and not thinking for a second about what the future would hold. I thought about how I would have felt as a kid if I could glimpse into the future and see the man that I would become. Sure, I had some stuff going for me; I had a wonderful wife and a nice home, but everything else seemed distant at best (my writing, friends and family), soul-crushing at worst (my job, my future, the impending desolation of another Wisconsin winter).

I thought about how badly I wanted to jump inside that exhibit and stay sealed off from any adult responsibilities for the rest of my life.

I realized something: I took the day off to escape the reality of my employment and lack of direction, but more than anything, what I needed was a few hours to focus on wholly pitying myself, and damn was I doing a good job. This made me feel a lot better. If left alone to my own sad devices for long enough, Logic usually wins out once I get bored of being dishonest with myself. I consider myself extremely lucky for having that sort of built-in failsafe.

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Downtown Madison, during the day, is a cavalcade of bums, junkies and complete, raving lunatics. Anyone from here who tells you otherwise is merely lying to make this place seem better. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great city, but if you’re out at the right time, you’ll see some shit.

I started making my way towards my wife’s office, doubling back and passing the Irish pub where my afternoon began. There, sitting in the exact place where I last saw him, was the crippled homeless man. He hadn’t moved an inch; still feverishly focused on his notebook paper manifesto, which he continued to scribble and erase as I again approached him.

I didn’t really know how I was going to do it, but I had to see what this man was writing. I just had to know the thing that had kept him so focused and passionate for the last few hours (and potentially the last few days or weeks, I guess). After all the stumbling, wandering bullshit I was doing in order to piss away another day of my life for absolutely no good reason, I needed to see what incredibly important scripture this man was ripping from his psyche. A man who had so many more reasons to feel frustrated than I did.

I sidled about two feet away from his wheelchair, sort of behind him and to the right (his body was slumped to the left, so he couldn’t exactly see me), and peeked over his shoulder. The piece of crumpled notebook paper was covered from top to bottom in random numbers, repeatedly erased and written over and over again. No equations, no symbols, no parentheses. Just thousands of tiny numbers following no rational rhyme or reason. This man wasn’t working hard on anything. He was almost surely insane.

I took a step backward, when my foot crunched on a discarded bag of potato chips. This got the man’s attention, as he stopped what he was doing, looked up and swung his motorized wheelchair in my direction. For a number of reasons, I was absolutely terrified.

I was shaking when he looked up at me. Shaking because I was scared, because I was drunk, because I was cold and because I didn’t know what he was going to do to me. I suppose I could have just run away, but it didn’t feel like a viable option in my present state.

Bidnessman!

My eyebrow raised. “What?

HEY, BIDNESSMAN!

He was pointing at my necktie. He was pointing at my necktie and making fun of me.

HEY, LOOK AT THE BIDNESSMAN!

He said it again as I was walking away. He didn’t see it, but I was laughing really hard. He probably had no earthly idea, but he put nearly everything into perspective for me. The entire day, my entire depressing pity trip had led up to the moment where a homeless lunatic would see me for exactly what I was with no prior knowledge: A fraud. A nobody. A businessman. The tone in his voice suggested I was merely portraying a character. Wearing a costume.

Dude was right. I called my wife.

Hello?
Hey. Just wanted to let you know that I’m a few minutes from your office.
Sounds good; I’m almost done with work.
Great. Also, I want you to know that I’m going to quit my job.

(silence)