Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Book

Obsessed with finding his future wife in seventh grade, our hero unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with dating disasters, vengeful exes and countless other relationship follies in this humorous, autobiographical tale about Debacle’s quest for the girl of his dreams. A Million Little Debacles takes us on a journey through the turbulent dating history of a thoughtful, well-intentioned, charming, yet naive narrator, Debacle, from the time he discovers girls up until his mid-twenties when he “finally” finds his wife.

As I was recounting my debacles on the blog, about three and a half years ago I realized that I had enough material for a book. Now I have a manuscript and I've just started the rejection.... errrr.... (hopefully the eventual) publication process.

Below, I've pasted links from numerous posts containing excerpts from the book.

Hope you enjoy my debacles! :)

How the Book got Started
Here's Looking at you Kiddo
My Life in Front of a Firing Squad
Mom Jokes
Torturous Bounces
Kosher Pizza
Physics Exam
Buttercup to Bubbles in one Date
Bubbles Lasts Only one Round
Speed Dating Five Minutes can be an Eternity
Shadowcat was a Trained Dancer
Shadowcat no More
Job Interviews
Could This ever Work Out
Bad Dates and Insomnia Too
Water Leak
Debacle does 'Yoga'
Scheduling Heartbreak
Food Poisoning
Death Star Returns
Split Pants

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Food poisoning


In the past few hours, I'd lost a lot of fluids. My throat ached like it was cracking along a fault line and my tongue resembled a worm drying out in the sun. I should've known better than to grab the vegetarian special from Copernicus' Bagels when the sign said they were going out of business in a week.


Unfortunately, getting water involved getting up. The 10 feet from the couch to the kitchenette sink might as well have spanned the Sahara Desert. It felt as though someone had wrapped a fifty-pound weight around my forehead and stuck a blender in my stomach. At least I wasn't whimpering from the nausea anymore. Hopefully that meant I was done praying to the porcelain god.


Food poisoning is exhausting. As much as I needed a nap, falling asleep without replenishing my fluids would put me at risk for severe dehydration. If I became seriously ill, it could be days before someone thought to stop by my one bedroom apartment and check on me. Maybe I was exaggerating the danger (especially since my cell phone was in my pocket), but I tried to avoid taking chances with my existence whenever possible.


Mazel leapt onto my stomach and I writhed in agony. My stupid cat gracefully bounded onto the floor and then mewed at me for attention. As soon as he sensed my displeasure, he rolled onto his back and stretched out his front paws. It was his way of saying, whatever I did, I'm too damn cute for you to stay mad at me, right?

Well, at least Mazel had gotten my blood flowing. I sat up and the world swam around me. As soon as the room stopped spinning, I braced myself against the armrest and rolled off the couch. Hunching over like a Neanderthal, I staggered into the kitchenette.

After filling up a red plastic Solo cup to the brim, I made my way back to the couch, not caring that small drops of water were trickling out of the cup with each step. Placing the cup on the shallow carpet next to the sofa, I lay back down. Mission accomplished!

Strider crawled over. He had a bizarre obsession with water that wasn't in his food bowl. If left to his own devices, he'd lap up a couple drops, lean in closer and spill the rest.

"Go away," I said, flicking my hand at Strider like he was a pesky bee. He paused, looked at me and took another step towards the water.

I produced a deep rumbling growl.

Strider whirled around, knocked the cup over with his tail and dashed into the bedroom.


My salvation was a puddle on the carpet floor.

I forced myself off the couch again and repeated my trek with the Solo cup.

This time, I carried the water with me onto the couch. I wished I had a straw so I didn't have to lift my head up to drink. Propping up my neck up with a pillow, I brought the cup to my lips. I must've tilted the back up a little too high, because water shot into my nostrils.

I sneezed, released the cup and soaked my undershirt.

Ugh. This was a wonderful way to spend the second day of 2006. If I was going to get this sick, why couldn't it at least be on a workday? Food poisoning wasn't what I'd had in mind for the bonus Monday of the holiday weekend.

Take three. I made a side trip to the bedroom and put on a fresh University of Great Lakes t-shirt. This time, I braced myself on the kitchen counter and guzzled down a cup of water. Our refreshed hero stumbled back to the couch, finally ready for that nap.

It was a little cold, but I wasn't up for another expedition to the bedroom in search of a blanket. Too bad cats can't fetch blankets, procure straws, or rent DVDs. A back rub and comforting kiss on the forehead would've been nice too.

A couple hours later, I woke up with my arms wrapped tightly around a sofa cushion.

The trek to the kitchen no longer felt like a crawl across a massive desert, but I was still a little too dizzy to stand comfortably. After throwing back some more water, I made my way back to the couch, grabbed my laptop and checked out profiles on Tribe Date.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Successfully Scammed the Scammer

I nearly got scammed trying to get tickets to the Michigan/Michigan State game off Craigslist earlier this week.

Someone was offering $600 for four tickets on the 50 yard line. When I inquired about the tickets, the scammer, using the fake name Dan Brenner, told me he could set up a transaction through ebay using Western Union - where the funds would only be released to him once I received the tickets. He sent a real looking ebay transaction with my user name/address and his user name and address in the UK. He wanted me to send the transaction number (MTCN) and a photocopy of the receipt.

I stopped at a currency exchange and after asking some questions discovered that Western Union functions like a Swiss Bank account in that all you need is a MTCN number to get your cash and there's no way to hold a payment until a transaction is verified. It's a very popular internet scam apparently.

I did some research and found that the London address that this scammer sent me (I felt like a moron trying to buy football tickets from someone in the UK) was an international call center and I found evidence of him using the same address to prey on an LSU fan.

After doing a little more research, I found out that he wanted me to send a copy of the receipt because people often send scammers fake MTCN numbers to mess with them. Thankfully, I found this gem, which provided the template for a fake Western Union receipt.

My friends, it was on! I created a fake email address for Angelina Graziano and responded to the ad:

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 1:18 PM
Subject: Michigan/MSU football tickets!
hey there! hope im not too late. r u still selling the tix??? i would totally like to buy them.


dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 1:19 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
The tickets are still available.If you are interested to buy them reply me with your full name, address and your eBay id so we can start the transaction.


Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:46 PM
To: dan Brenner
OMG! so excited!

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:51 PM
To: dan Brenner
sorry 4got to add my info!

Angela Graziano
ebayid: Angelove89

10382 Line Dr,
Sterling Heights, MI 48310

Thx!!!!!!!!! XOXO =)!!!

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:56 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Did you received the invoice from eBay how to purchase the tickets from me?

Please read the invoice. You will send the money to an eBay agent. Not to me. eBay will send the funds to me ONLY AFTER you will send them the confirmation that you have the tickets in hand and they are real.

I will wait your reply

Thank You

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM
To: dan Brenner
i didnt know u were in london! Bonjour!!! lol! i was there last summer and saw pierce brozlin (sp?) on the london eye and got so excited i left ipod on the ride. one of your policemen with the funny hats had to help me find it!!!

im on my way to western union now! Thx!!!

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:15 PM
To: dan Brenner
OMG! my roomate says that bonjour is 4 france. you must think im so dumb. sorry...

off to eastern union!!!

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:28 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Did you sent the payment?

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:31 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
still there?

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:33 PM
To: dan Brenner
hey u! i sent the payment!
sorry my scanner is so bad.

the number is: 3804117256

thank u so much! my ex-boyfriend will be so surprized!!!!

dan Brenner
Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:34 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Did you sent the payment for next day or money in minutes?

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:42 PM
To: dan Brenner
money in minutes. why, is everything okay? my ex-boyfriend is so excited!!!!

XOXO. thank u!!!

ps do u have a picture of the tickets? lol. just cant wait to see them!

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Tomorrow morning i will email you the scanned paper from UPS...Please email me once you will receive them.ok?
I am at work right now

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:47 PM
To: dan Brenner
k, enjoy the rest of ur day. u made mine!!!!

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 9:41 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
Please call at western union and see what is the problem. the eBay agent can't pick up the money..i don't know why

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:26 AM
To: dan Brenner
OMG! please don't send the tix to someone else. i sent you the wrong number. so sorry! you must think im so dumb. :( a wrote a 1 instead of a 4! so sorry!!! :(

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:27 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
no problem Angelina..The tickets will arrive tomorrow.
It's ok?

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:29 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
what is the correct mtcn?

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:44 AM
To: dan Brenner
what's an mtcn? is that my sociatal security number?


dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:47 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
Angelina...the mtcn from western union

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:54 AM
To: dan Brenner
im confused. my roomate has a better scanner - should i send you a better copy of the recept?

thank u for being so patent with me. sorry i am so dumb.

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:57 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
Yes...send me a better copy

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:59 AM
To: dan Brenner

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:08 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
:)))) nice..i like monkeys:)))

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:36 AM
To: dan Brenner
i figured he could keep u company while i scan the recept. lol

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:28 PM
To: dan Brenner
sorry it took so long - i have the scan you ready or should i send you another monkey pic. lol!!!!

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:28 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
send the scanned paper

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:40 PM
To: dan Brenner

While I suspect you will continue to troll the internet, taking money from innocent people with this tired Western Union scam - I hope that posting this conversation to every internet forum I can get a hold of will not only alert people to your crap, but encourage them to mess with you and waste your time in new and creative ways.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Broken shoelace, split pants, nothing ever changes for Debacle

As I made my way to services, the heel of one of my shoes kept slipping
off. Moving to the edge of the sidewalk, I started kneeling down to
retie it.

I froze in place as soon as I heard the unmistakable sound of fabric

A woman walking in my direction snorted and covered her mouth. There was
a young couple behind her pushing a toddler in a stroller. The horrified
mother quickened her pace and veered her child as far away from me as

This was not just a rip. Rips don't cause women to rush their children
to safety. My pants looked like tectonic plates that had last fit
together millions of years ago. There was a massive fissure just below
the fly that ran the length of the crotch. The world no longer had to
speculate -- as anyone in the vicinity could tell you -- our hero wore

I had to get home! But how? I couldn't casually walk down the street
with the front of my tightie-whities exposed to the world -- that was
borderline indecent exposure!

People kept snickering to themselves as they walked by and I made it
worse by standing there in a frozen half squat.

After using my healthy wrist to fold the exposed area shut, I stood up.
Of course, holding a hand over the crotch of my pants drew more
attention to my predicament, but at least my undies were no longer visible.

A guy with short greased up hair, giant grey sunglasses and orange
tanning-salon-skin took one look at me and shouted, "Look at his pants!"

My whole side of the street broke into hysterics. The commotion was so
loud that a small group gathered across the road. Thankfully, their view
was screened by the cars parked along the street.

Too bad I didn't have a plastic cup. Then I could pretend I was a street
performer and not some idiot who didn't recognize that his pants were in
danger of splitting when he put them on. At least this hadn't happened
in the synagogue...

As I held what was left of my khakis together and headed back towards
home, I no longer had enough fabric to work with in order to take a full
stride. Leaning side to side, I had to prolong my public humiliation
with agonizingly tiny steps. I have no doubt that Kiddo-style hickeys
were out in force. After all this time, why hadn't I learned how to
recognize when my pants were too tight!?!

I took a deep breath.

What was I so upset about? I knew better than to take myself too
seriously. Still, why was it that these sorts of incidents only seemed
to happen to me?

Regardless, retelling this incident to Jen was guaranteed to make her
forget how weary she was from her miserable ride home. Let's face it,
there were few funnier, harmless calamities than someone with split
pants. Still, good thing she was generally tolerant of this sort of

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Death Star Strikes Back

On Friday, I left the office a little early in order to get a run in. A
quick three-miler was a guaranteed cure for my anxiety about services.
As a bonus, I hit the blissful Zen-like state of a runner's high just
before I got home. That'd probably be all I'd need to get me through the

Optimus called me at the last minute. He was stuck at work and couldn't
make it. Despite my Zen-like state, I considered bailing. It wasn't like
I had any other good friends who would be in attendance. If The Death
Star pulled---

Our hero was being paranoid.

Arriving at services a little late, I took a seat by myself towards the
back. At six foot tall, with super long hair held back in a ponytail,
Aldy2323 was hard to miss.

I needed to stop identifying Aldy2323 by her Tribe Date username. How
embarrassing would it be if I went up to her and said, How do you do,

Alderaan. Her name was Alderaan.

My intuition had been spot on -- The Death Star had a boy with her. I
didn't recognize him, but the name Grand Moff Tarken seemed
appropriate. As soon as I saw them, I kicked off a rousing mental
rendition of the final movement of Mr. Beethoven's ninth symphony and
relaxed into the service.

After services as everyone exited the sanctuary, I walked past Alderaan
and said, "Hello."

She nodded and her cheeks flushed. "Hi."

Excellent, that was all I was looking for.

As I milled around, chatting with some of the other regulars, The Death
Star greeted me with a warm smile. Why had I been so paranoid? We were
adults going about our business on the most peaceful night of the week.

The synagogue was hosting a free dinner with a speaker. I took my time
kibitzing and was one of the last people to get into the food line. By
the time I got my plate together, almost all of the tables were full. My
one-time ping-pong nemesis, Harry Osborne, was sitting next to three
vacant seats. It wasn't until I put my coat over the chair next to him
that I realized that I was directly across from Alderaan. **

"Hey, Debacle. Any idea what's in the rolls?" asked Harry as I sat down.

I took a bite. "Pork rinds topped with shrimp and... hmm... Munster cheese."

Alderaan chuckled. She smiled at me and looked like she was about to say

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I looked up.

"Would you be comfortable if I sat next to you?" asked The Death Star,
loud enough for everyone to hear.

All conversation at our table ceased.

What the hell was she doing? So much for the extra endorphins from that
runner's high.

If I kept my cool, I could probably avoid making a scene. Laughing, I
said, "Sure, go for it."

"You're sure you're comfortable with this?" asked The Death Star.

Harry raised an eyebrow at me. I didn't acknowledge him.

Was The Death Star trying to embarrass me out of the synagogue?

"You're golden," I said.

After her bizarre line of questioning about my comfort level, it had to
be obvious to everyone at our table that we used to go out. If I failed
to get this situation under control in a hurry, there was no way I'd
ever get to take Alderaan out on the town.

The Death Star waved her boy over and then whispered in my ear, "You're
sure you're okay with this?" While it was nice that she hadn't asked
loud enough for everyone to hear, by appearing to tell me a secret,
she'd made this situation even weirder.

I gave her a thumbs up. What else could I do? It's not like I could
respond, Not anymore! Go sit somewhere else. This is a Death Star free

I braved a look over at Alderaan. She was staring at me, mouth wide open.

Tarken took the final seat.

It was possible that I could still salvage the night by injecting normal
conversation into the table. Turning towards Harry, I desperately tried
to think of something to say. Before I could get a word in, The Death
Star asked, "So how are your cats?"

The Death Star is clear to fire. The Death Star is clear to fire.

"You have cats?" asked Harry.**

People were always taken aback when they found out that I owned cats. It
was probably because the only persona weirder than the crazy cat lady is
the crazy cat dude. As a result, it wasn't something that I
broadcasted. The Death Star knew this. She was out for blood tonight --
in a synagogue, no less.

I gave my usual song and dance about how I grew up with cats, but I
liked dogs too. Given I lived alone, worked full time and occasionally
went away on weekends, cats were ideal pets because they could fend for
themselves. All the while, I was too nervous to brave a look over to the
28-year-old Alderaan to see how she was holding up.

The Zen-state was long gone, but I was still maintaining my poise. At
least I thought I was. For all I knew, my neck had broken out into the
splotches that'd earned me the nickname, Hickey Boy.

"So, how do you two know each other?" asked Tarken.

A small sigh escaped before I could regain my composure. This was
Michael Scott from The Office awkward.

The Death Star looked over at me like she expected me to answer. Why had
she brought her new boy over here without explaining that I was her
ex-boyfriend? I met her gaze and waited...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kapow Kapow pow pow pow

We are corrupting the neighbor's kids with our Wii.

Between Wii boxing matches, they would both request water and then go at it again. It made me feel like their trainer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scheduling heartbreak

Looking at a calendar, I decided to break up with The Death Star after
work on Friday, November 4th . It was a bit further off than I would've
liked, but it was the first date that worked. I wanted to avoid ending
it on a weeknight because we'd both be far too physically and
emotionally drained for work the next day. A Friday night was ideal
because it gave The Death Star a full weekend to recover. I would've
selected the weekend of October 23rd , but I'd made plans that weekend
to travel to a Great Lakes game against the Corn Hawks with my old
friend Baloo. The weekend of the 30th was out because I'd acquired
tickets a while ago to see Star's favorite singer, Bernadette Peters, on
Tuesday, November 1st . That concert was as important to her as a Great
Lakes/Mordor State game. I'd feel awful devastating her a couple days
before it.

On our way to the Bernadette Peters concert, The Death Star mentioned
that I'd been distant lately. I told her that we'd talk about it later.
She tried to bring it up when we got back to her place afterwards, but I
knew that if we got into it, we'd break up that night. Not only was it a
weekday night, but dumping her after the concert might cause her to
associate Bernadette Peters with heartbreak. I pretended to be overtired
and suggested we go to bed and get into it another time.

The next day, I called The Death Star and asked if we could "talk" on
Friday. While the can we talk bit was necessary to avoid pulling an
Axis of Evil and catching her completely off-guard, the
pre-breakup-breakup was not a great alternative because she'd end up
worrying herself sick over the next couple days. Unfortunately, there
was no good way to ask, "Hey, can we schedule some time for me to
devastate you on Friday?" As expected, The Death Star broke down from
the very suggestion, begging me to at least sign up for relationship
counseling. I lied, claiming that I'd think it over.

On the day before the breakup, Xena called me shortly after I got home
from work. Apparently, The Death Star had been repeatedly calling her
cell, hoping that Xena could provide the necessary magic formula to
avoid losing me. Behind the scenes, Xena supported my decision, knowing
how bothersome I found The Death Star's anti-social grumbling. After
Xena relayed The Death Star's desperate messages about how much she
loved me and wanted to be with me, I encouraged Xena to remain friends
with The Death Star. She had a way of bringing out Star's old charm.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Debacle Does Yoga

Hoping that a balanced chi would not only extinguish the pain and
anxiety, but allow me to get a good night's sleep, I gave Yoga a shot.

Even though I was the only person who consistently lost his balance
attempting basic poses (especially when they involved standing on one
leg), after each class I felt as though there was an invisible cloak
wrapped around me, minimizing all my anxieties. However, by the time I
went to bed, my chi became destabilized and it was a tossup whether or
not I got a good night's sleep. When I told the instructor that I wasn't
getting better, having only managed a couple hours the night before, she
offered to give me a free private session after class.

Unlike the quacks I'd wasted my time on, these yoga people really wanted
me to get better!

Once everyone finished the end of class ritual -- drinking tea and
briefly discussing what was on our minds -- the instructor led me to a
tiny room with old wooden floors and an overpowering smell of incense.
She mentioned something about being a healer and had me lie down on a
mat in the center of the room. After telling me to close my eyes and
relax, she began twisting me about, shaking my limbs and torso. It
seemed bizarre at first, but before long a powerful vibration rippled
from the center of my chest through my outstretched fingers, drowning
out the anxiety and muscle pain.

I hadn't felt this good in months!

Following the massage, the instructor had me remain on the mat and she
gave me this Korean electronic device that was supposed to encourage my
brain to produce the wavelengths of a natural sleep cycle. I put on the
headphones and these grey plastic glasses that looked like a knockoff of
Cyclops' X-men costume. Once the instructor turned it on, red lights
flashed out of the corners of my eyes and there were these repetitive
buzzing sounds as though a whole beehive was drumming in unison.
Whatever that crazy device was doing, it must've worked, because I fell
asleep shortly after turning it on. Four hundred dollars later, I came
home with my very own Korean brain wave thingy. My insomnia troubles
were over!

A week later, the Korean sensory device was buried in my nightstand
drawer for good. There's no way that piece of junk actually helped. If
anything, the annoying flashing and buzzing noises kept me up longer.
I'd probably conked out during my appointment from a combination of
sleep debt and the relaxing massage. Unless the instructor was willing
to offer those massages regularly, I was done. When I told the
instructor I was dropping out, she said, "Before taking yoga, I had
similar problems to you. It's up to you if you want to get better. At
least consider a weekend seminar."

After researching the yoga studio, I found out that centers all over the
country had been accused of encouraging members to take out loans to pay
for expensive seminars and worthless brain wave devices. In fact, the
studio only added yoga to its name in the past few years to take
advantage of the national yoga craze.

You know you want to read more.... but wait until Debacle memoir is
published ... (soon?)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Water Leak

Apart from Xena and Star, who had become really good friends themselves,
I didn't surround myself with anyone else. How could I make new friends
when I spent my days fearing that I wouldn't be able to sleep? Sure, the
person who woke up everyday and went to work had my history, my face, my
friends and my background. However, the real me joked around and had a
laid-back disposition. I didn't want people to know me as a shell of my
former self.

The only significant additions to my life were the two kittens I'd
adopted. They were brothers with medium length black hair. I named one
Mazel -- Yiddish for luck. I'd need plenty of it. The other I named
Strider, because looking at his thick pitch dark fur reminded me of
Strider from The Lord of the Rings silently sitting in the shadows at
The Prancing Pony. I knew that dudes with cats had a negative cultural
stereotype and that naming a cat after a king from a fantasy series was
super dorky. However, I had companionship. In the loneliest hours of the
night, Mazel was always up for being scratched behind the ears and
Strider could be counted on to flop onto his back and request a belly rub.

Friday October 22nd started off as one of the most promising days in a
while. I only took half a sleeping pill, but I still managed to get a
long, sound night of sleep. One of Star's friends was throwing a party
that night and I told Star that I didn't care how late we stayed. In my
former life, I'd been out late plenty of times and I'd be damned if any
of this sleep stuff was going to hold me back. It was the first time I
felt empowered in a long time.

On the way home from work, I relaxed into the back of my plastic bus
seat and took in the start of the weekend. As always, my body ached, but
I was determined not to let that dampen my enjoyment.

My cell phone rang. It was Xena. She probably wanted to know what Star
and I were up to. "Hey, what's up?" I said.

"Heyyyy," she said. "I don't want to alarm you, ummm... but there's
water leaking out of your room."

"What!?!" The woman next to me shot me a look and got up and moved to a
different seat. Ugh! I'd become that guy who shouted into his phone...

"The carpet's wet in the hallway outside your door."

"Is it leaking into your room?" I asked as my heart thumped away.

When I lived with Clark Kent, our room had flooded. On a winter morning,
the next-door neighbors' window had blown open. The sprinkler pipes had
frozen, causing water to explode out of the damaged ducts. We got off
easy, as only our carpets were soaked, but none of our belongings had
been ruined. However, a waterfall soaked our downstairs neighbors in
their beds, destroying many of their possessions in the process. The
crooked management company had claimed that the windows couldn't have
opened on their own (even though they did all the time) and they'd tried
to get anyone whose property had been damaged to sue my neighbor.

How could I have been so stupid? I didn't have renter's insurance to
protect me from a lawsuit. If I'd flooded other apartments, I could be
out tens of thousands of dollars that I didn't have! Still, it was
relatively warm out. The pipes couldn't have frozen. In fact, the only
time I could remember turning on the water that morning was when I took
a shower. Whatever was going on, this couldn't have been my doing.

"No, it isn't leaking into my room," said Xena. "Do you want me to open
your door?"

"Yes, please do." I'd given her a spare set of keys to feed the cats
when I went home over Labor Day weekend.

"Okay, I'm going in," said Xena. I could hear the door creak open, and I
was pretty sure that Xena gasped. "Debacle, don't panic."

"What?" I asked, shifting in my seat.

"The bathroom sink was on," she said. "I just shut it off."

Oh shit! That sink didn't drain well. I'd been meaning to mention that
to maintenance for a few weeks. Why was it on? I must've forgotten to
shut the water off after I'd brushed my teeth. "How bad is it?"

"Well..." Xena hesitated. "Don't panic."

"How much water's in the room?"

"It's about an inch deep."

An inch!?! If an inch was standing in my room, my downstairs neighbor
must've been experiencing a torrential downpour!

"How are the cats?" I asked.

"They're on the desk. They look upset, but I think they're okay."

"Oh my god!"

"It'll be okay. I'm going to go get someone. I'll see you soon. Don't
worry, it'll be okay."

Pain exploded across my neck, chest, jaw and upper back with a
vengeance. So much for feeling empowered. It wasn't until just before I
got off at my stop that I realized I'd been rocking in place. No wonder
there were so many people on the other side of the bus.

I raced home and found Xena standing outside my open door with a
maintenance man. Beside him was an industrial sized water suction device
that resembled R2-D2.

Xena gave me a hug. "It'll be okay," she said.

"This room yours?" asked the maintenance man with a thick Eastern
European accent.

"Yeah," I mumbled. I poked my head in the open doorway and was assaulted
with heat. My apartment must've been 100 degrees! A light mist rained
down from the ceiling into the inch-high pool below. My pile of dirty
clothes in the middle of the floor was drenched.

The kittens sat wide-eyed at the high ground on top of my desk, their
hair sticking straight up and their tails wagging furiously. Strider
made eye contact with me and let out a soft, pathetic, mew.

Water sloshed against the maintenance man's feet as he wheeled the
suction device into my room. As soon as he turned it on, the grinding of
the motor caused both cats to curl back and lower their heads onto the
wood as if to say, Haven't we been through enough already?

A drop of water drizzled onto my head. Looking up at the wet ceiling, I
said to Xena, "The water must've come from upstairs."

"It was your bathroom sink."

"That's not possible! The ceiling can't get wet from the bathroom
sink!!!" No matter how upset I was, it wasn't right to take it out on
Xena. I couldn't imagine how I would have reacted if I'd opened the door
to my place without her warning. I sighed. "Sorry, I..."


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bad Dates and Insomnia Too

I debated taking a sick day, but who knew when I'd start sleeping well
again. Perhaps I'd have to learn how to fight through the workday
without sleep. While no one seemed to notice that I was a little off, I
got little accomplished that day -- spending the majority of my time
obsessing about my inability to sleep.

While I wasn't feeling well during my date with Star, I blocked out my
issues well enough to go out for dinner, rent a movie and end the night
with a series of passionate kisses. Still, the experience was hollow.
Instead of becoming absorbed in the excitement of the moment, I was
merely going through the motions required to secure a wonderful
girlfriend. As soon as Star left, the anxiety returned and I knew I was
in for another rough night.

For the next month, I began living a dual life. At times I thought about
how lucky I was to be with Star. We were falling in love and even
beginning to openly wonder if we had a future together. At others, I was
overwhelmed with anxiety, fearing that I'd fall asleep at my desk one
day and find myself in an unemployment line. As the physical pain
worsened, spreading across my jaw, temples and upper back and sometimes
even muffling my hearing in one ear, I wondered how much my body could
take before it fell apart. Would the resulting anxiety not only rob me
of joy, but also shorten my life?

The worst part of my insomnia was that I couldn't take a break from it.
No matter where I went or what I did (shy of poisoning myself with
methamphetamines), I couldn't take time off from my circadian rhythm and
come back to it a week or two later. My days were haunted by fears of a
rough night.

Even though I can't imagine where I'd be without Star, I hated bringing
all this sleep and anxiety baggage into our relationship so early on.
What could I do? I couldn't pretend I wasn't going through a difficult
time. Apart from Xena, I had no one else in the city.

Star responded like a champion. When she wasn't spending the night, she
made a point of calling to talk for a half hour before I went to bed.
Once I shook this insomnia, pain and anxiety, I knew I'd be the kind of
boyfriend she deserved. The kind of boyfriend I would've been at any
other time in my life.

When Star asked about my past relationships, I told her all about The
Axis of Evil and The Gozerian. She thought the stories were funny, but
insisted upon hearing good things about my exes. I told her all about
the "endless" email I would trade back and forth with Goz and how Eve
and I spent long summer days in the Arboretum. Star seemed relieved that
I could humanize my exes. I appreciated that Star wouldn't let me get
away with just telling stories that painted them as one-dimensional

As Star asked more questions about my prior relationships, I explained
that the biggest problem with both exes was their inability to deal with
stress. When adversity made them moderately uncomfortable, they became
emotionally incapable of handling themselves. "You're not like that,
right?" I asked.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Could This Ever Work Out?

I considered writing a book during my sabbatical from dating about a love triangle between two male friends (one of them strikingly similar to our hero and the other a composite of Marty and Indiana Jones) and a girl they grew up with. Through a series of dramatic situations that would hopefully be amusing – “Marty Indiana Jones” would get the girl. “Debacle” would be able to get over his jealousy and remain friends with both of them. The book would close with the three of them walking off into the sunset together, “Debacle” feeling fulfilled because he’s lucky enough to have such good friends.

When I sat down to get started on it, I realized that I had accidentally plagiarized the love triangle from Keeping the Faith. Romantic comedies were my least favorite genre because they usually had unrealistic story lines and predictable characters. Why would I waste my time writing one?

I kicked-off my post-sabbatical search for potential ladies in The City of Wind by attending events in the Tribal community. At these functions, I began the painstaking process of meeting new people. While it’s exciting to be in a room full of unfamiliar friendly faces, making conversation is brutal. Everyone asks the same boring questions. Where are you from? What brought you to The City of Wind? Where do you live? I can’t blame them. What else is the new guy going to talk about?

At one such Friday night dinner, I met a girl named Gozer. With a skinny face, dark hair and sharp green eyes, this girl had little in common with the original Gozerian, except her first name.

I sat next to Gozer at dinner and she cracked me up, telling me about the time she’d locked herself out of her apartment. Unable to get in touch with her roommate, Gozer was somehow able to Spiderman her way up the side of the building. From her balcony, she entered her apartment by moving the air conditioner. The girls in her living room greeted her with a series of screams. That’s when Gozer figured out that she had accidently broken into her downstairs neighbors’ place.

Given how much we talked that night, I was concerned that Gozer was looking for more than just friendship. Even though I enjoyed her company, dating a Gozerian again would be a little weird. Besides, I got a bitter vibe from her. It could’ve been that I was reading too much into her casual cursing, but she was as crass as a middle school boy during a game of touch football. Needless to say, she didn’t seem like the sort of girl I’d want to bring home to show my parents.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Job Interviews

Just another of the million little debacles I faced.... this one on the way to a job interview, with a broken shoelace...

I stopped in the engineering library, hoping that maybe the information desk had some glue. On the way, I happened upon an open utility closet. While I searched for some form of adhesive, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one of those times where I was probably going to make a bad situation worse. There was an old white tube with the label worn off lying on a shelf. Even though it had a pungent odor, I was about to give it a shot when I stumbled across some electrical tape. Perfect! It blended right into the lace.

The shoe held during the interview. I had successfully pulled off a MacGyver (even though getting out of a jam by fixing a shoelace with electrical tape would’ve made for a super lame episode)! After flying me out to The City of Wind for another round, the trading firm offered me a job! Our relieved hero accepted.

On July 12th, 2004 I left The Ace Deuce to start work in The City of Wind.

My only friend in my new locale was Xena Warrior Princess. She still lived in the same apartment that She-ra, Iron Man and I had crashed in a few years ago. Not only was the rent reasonable, she had a view of the lake. It was an older apartment building, constructed back in the 1920s. As far as I could tell, it was well maintained. Once Xena assured me that she’d never heard of another car going up in flames in her neighborhood, I rented the studio apartment next door. Being good friends with my neighbor made me feel like I was back in the dorms!

Work itself wasn’t a difficult transition. I’d gotten used to sitting in a cubicle during my internship last summer. The strangest part of cubicle life is that you overhear conversations between co-workers as if you’re right next to them, but they have no idea who’s listening. You pick up some odd tidbits from time to time. At my internship I’d heard someone say, “Wireless internet is great. After the wife and kids go to bed, I can break out the KY and jerk off in the family room.”

Writing software is equivalent to solving a series of logic problems. I dislike spending nine hours a day in a sterile office, but (apart from being a professional athlete), earning a living tackling logic problems is about as good as it gets. As long as I had enough to do, the day flew by. However, if I ran out of tasks, I was expected to sit at my desk and surf the internet until closing time. Apparently this was standard business practice.

Not long after I started, my manager complimented me on my ability to get work done on time.
The next day, he suggested I work longer hours. As opposed to heading out at 5PM, I’d look at Great Lakes football message boards for a half hour and go home at 5:30. He seemed satisfied.

While I got along with everyone in the office, there was one high-strung socially oblivious guy who tested my sanity. If I wasn’t careful, he’d draw me into meaningless conversations for hours at a time where he’d enumerate various apocalyptic scenarios in which some new project could bring down the firm. Once I started taking alternate routes to the bathroom, I was able to avoid him.

The only difficult adjustment I had to make to life in the big city was to the crowded rush hour bus rides to and from the office.
When I got a seat, I happily passed the time reading a novel. However, when I was squished up against the other standing sardines, I became much more aware of people’s B.O. I would’ve expected people who work in office buildings to have better hygiene.

The worst rides were the ones where someone was screaming into their cell phone.
When the din of a conversation made it impossible to concentrate on my book, I’d make eye contact with all the other annoyed passengers, silently sharing their agony.

The most exciting part of moving to The City of Wind was that it was Summer in the City – as The Lovin’ Spoonful song suggested, it was time to go out and find a girl.
During my last year of school, I’d taken a sabbatical from dating. Since seventh grade, I’d felt that I needed a girlfriend. That mentality had been a perpetual source of bad judgment. In order to be a better boyfriend down the road, I felt like I needed to take time off to become more comfortable with myself. Of course my sabbatical had an Awesome Girl Exit Clause – which I considered a few times, but never exercised.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shadowcat no more

A couple days later, I wrote Shadowcat an email inviting her out to dinner on Saturday night.  She replied with:  
Hey Debacle,  
Things are just crazy busy for the rest of the semester, so I won’t have time to go out.  
Crazy busy for the rest of the semester was a rejection.  Even if Shadowcat really was swamped, she could’ve found a way to make time.  What had happened?  
Sighing, I closed my laptop and lay down on my bed.  Could it have been my poor excuse for a pasta dinner?  Each of the last two times I’d cooked dinner for a girl, I’d never gone out with the girl again.  It was time to cut my losses and retire from the kitchen.  
Perhaps it’d had nothing to do with my cooking.  Had I been too cautious physically? The dinner and salsa date was the third time we’d been out and I hadn’t even gone in for a hug yet, let alone thrown an arm around her.  
Still, it’d seemed like we were so good together.  
Had I been oblivious to the signs that Shadowcat wasn’t having fun – in the same way I’d missed them with The Axis of Evil?  Was I reading only the cues that I’d wanted to see?  Perhaps Shadowcat was simply a better actress than she thought. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Shadowcat was a trained dancer...

While it would be easier to go out to dinner before we went dancing, I wanted to exorcise old demons from The Axis of Evil and cook a meal.  Shadowcat was super enthusiastic when I offered to make dinner.  She even seemed fine with a menu of pasta and vegetables, which is good because that was the extent of my culinary abilities.  
The cooking hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.  I must’ve left the angel hair noodles in too long because they came out a bit mushy.  While I’d stirred the tomato sauce diligently, I’d forgotten to turn on the burner.  The peas gave me no problems, defrosting in the microwave to my satisfaction.  However, just peas was kind of underwhelming.  Why didn’t I think to pick up some fresh broccoli?  I considered stuffing the noodles into the fridge and saying that we should go out for pizza because there was a problem with the stove.  However, Shadowcat knocked on the door before I had a chance hide the food.  
Once I let Shadowcat in, my anxiety melted away.  I’d warned her I was not a gourmet chef.  Mushy pasta was edible and cold sauce was better than no sauce.  The meal would at least be serviceable.   
Shadowcat helped me carry the food to my room, which I’d spend all day cleaning.  We sat down on the loveseat where I’d placed two TV tray-tables side by side.  While we ate, only the warmth of her smile matched her intense eye contact.  A part of me wished I could skip the salsa dancing, take her to her door and get that first kiss out of the way.  
Besides, was going dancing a mistake?  Shadowcat was a trained dancer and I struggled with the Cha Cha Slide.  How could I even pretend to keep up with her?  
However, once the music started, Shadowcat seemed quite content to take on our hero as a project.  She explained and re-explained the foot movements, patiently putting up with my abnormally slow learning process.  While I wouldn’t call what we were doing dancing per se, as my steps were independent of the beat – it was wonderful to feel her tiny hand clasped in mine as I held her around the waist.  I could get used to this!  
I was watching Shadowcat’s feet so closely that I was taken off-guard when someone’s head smacked into my collarbone.  Letting go of Shadowcat, I staggered sideways for a couple steps before regaining my balance.  
Standing beside me was a teary eyed Axis of Evil.  Without a word, she continued towards the door and Dark Helmet jogged after her.  What could he have done to upset her so?  Perhaps he’d tried to surprise her with flowers.  Hard to believe that I’d nearly lost my mind over that girl.  Being dumped by her was a blessing in disguise.  
“You okay?” asked Shadowcat.  
“Great!”  I said as I massaged my collarbone.  “While I may not have the steps down, I’m not crashing into anyone.  It’s comforting to know that I’m not the worst one on the floor.”   
My soon to be girlfriend laughed and we resumed “dancing”.   
The more I spent time with Shadowcat, the more I appreciated just how calm and comfortable with herself she was.  She didn’t even seem to mind that her future boyfriend was hopeless both as a cook and a dance partner.  I couldn’t imagine her allowing a situation to escalate into the drama and absurdity I’d experienced with girlfriends past.  In short, she was a keeper!  

Friday, August 07, 2009

Speed Dating - Five minutes can be an eternity

Speed dating was this new craze that was supposed to help you pre-screen dating candidates. After a bunch of five minute conversations, you could decide if anyone you’d spoken to was “date worthy.” If nothing else, the Valentine’s Day Tribal speed dating program seemed like a fun way to meet people.

The campus synagogue had been filled with over 200 singles. Circular groupings of chairs had been spread out across the room. Which section you sat in was based on some pre-screening form. Despite all the time I’d put into my answers, my form had been lost and I was randomly assigned. The women were seated on the inside of the circle and every five minutes, the men would rotate clockwise.

As the logistics of the program were explained, I faced my first speed date – Uhura, the cancer survivor whose heart I’d broken. No random pairing in that room could’ve been less likely to work out.

Sometimes I mused that the choo-choo-choose you disaster was somehow related to my breakup with The Axis of Evil. Perhaps when Uhura roomed with The Axis of Evil, she had passed on the karma from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and that’s what caused The Axis to run out on flowers.

This was the first time I’d seen Uhura since high school. Unfortunately, she’d only made it through one semester with The Axis because her cancer had come out of remission. Did being back on campus mean she’d fought it off again? Given how open she was about her experience in high school, I was sure she’d be willing to discuss her health. Besides, this speed date was my chance to apologize for my lack of tact in high school and forever put that incident to rest.

As soon as speed dating commenced, Uhura sighed. Fighting back a sneer, she’d asked, “So, how are you, Debacle?”

I couldn’t blame Uhura for not wanting to be on a speed date with me. Back in driver’s ed, I should’ve followed up Uhura’s note with an in person explanation instead of sending her that crappy reply explaining that the joke was on me. Still, why was she this angry? It’s not like that flower incident was my fault… but Uhura didn’t know that. She probably thought I was a party to the prank! It made sense. When Ms. Hoover had questioned me about it the following day, I’d claimed not to know the identities of the perpetrators. At the time, I’d thought naming names would drag out that stressful ordeal. However, I could see how Uhura might’ve thought that I was protecting my co-conspirators. She must hate me – and deservedly so.

“Not bad, how about you?” I’d replied, tapping my foot on the carpet. How could I break through this awkwardness and give her a substantive apology?


“Uh … That’s good.” We had looked at each other in silence for a few seconds before I’d continued with, “So, what are you majoring in?”

Five minutes can be an eternity.

As I’d rotated about the circle, Storm was by far my favorite speed date. It was embarrassing how quickly I’d recognized her. While we’d never met, I had looked at her Tribe Date profile last fall. It was shocking how much I remembered – she was from the State of Peaches, liked country music and had just transferred to The University of Great Lakes. With answers to all the basic getting to know you questions under my belt, I avoided going through the standard rigmarole. Instead we spent our time discussing southern colloquialisms.

“So, can you just always drop in a y’all in place of you all?” I’d asked. “Or are there specific situations that call for a y’all?”

She’d laughed. “You can always use it.”

“So instead of you all right, can you say y’all right?”

While it would have been difficult to stretch the y’all material more than five minutes, I liked the way Storm smiled and maintained eye contact with me the whole time. To top it off, I walked her home that night. It’s a shame that our coffee date hadn’t worked out. So it goes…

My second best speed date was with Blossom. She was only a sophomore – but from what little I could tell she seemed like a nice Tribal girl. I remembered little from our conversation, except that she seemed to get excited when I mentioned that I liked to run. While it never crossed my mind to pursue her afterwards, she seemed sushi worthy.

The worst five minutes of the night were spent with a 35 year old woman who’d driven over an hour to go to a college Tribal speed dating event. The first thing she’d said to me was, “Well, we’re all here for the same reason.”

She had 13 years on me. Easy there Mrs. Robinson!

One nice side effect of speed dating was that I’d been temporarily relieved from my usual inhibitions around women. During a break, without even thinking about it, I’d walked up to an attractive blonde who was standing by herself. “How’s speed dating treating you?” I’d asked.

Before I knew it, we were joking around, comparing notes on some of our worst speed dates of the evening. Her least favorite had been with a dude in his forties who had followed up his hello with a dinner invitation for the following night.

While I still hadn’t discovered this girl’s name, based on the vibe, I knew I’d be seeing her again.

“Speed dating needs color commentary,” I’d said to her. “Someone ought to be watching over the conversations and let people know how they’re doing. ‘You over there, that’s nice. Way to incorporate your family.’ ‘Hey, you, she doesn’t want to hear about your bowling technique. You’re the worst speed dater I’ve ever seen!’”

The mystery girl had laughed.

Before my intriguing lady friend had a chance to put in her two cents, Uhura had snapped, “That’s awful! Debacle, you’re just a sweet as you were in high school.”

How long had Uhura been standing beside us?

The anonymous girl had taken one look at Uhura’s glare, shook her head and disappeared into the crowd.

Uhura had given me a nod, and walked off.


No incident in high school had troubled me like Uhura’s tears after driver’s ed. Seven years later, Uhura had avenged the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. While I’d lost my chance with the intriguing blonde, I no longer had to carry the burden of guilt.

While I’d wanted to catch up to Uhura and give her a high five, it was best to let her have her moment.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bubbles lasts only one round

Oh no.  Was I excited because I liked Bubbles or because I’d kissed a girl who wasn’t The Axis of Evil? 

I was hit with a dizzy spell and got off the phone shortly thereafter. After laying down on the bed, I closed my eyes and replayed my evening with Bubbles. At dinner she’d brought up how homeless people seemed to single her out when they asked for change, her gay dogs and her concern that her computer might have been haunted.

Bubbles seemed nice enough that if we’d met under different circumstances, we probably would’ve been friends. However, had she not contacted me on Tribe-Date via her haunted computer, I doubt I ever would’ve considered going out with her.

The excitement of having someone to flirt with was what had made the night enjoyable. Instead of asking critical questions about whether this was someone I wanted to be in a relationship with, I had let my hormones turn me into a conquistador with the absurd end goal of proving I was over The Axis of Evil.

I’d thought that my recently adopted Fiddler on the Roof Czar policy would forever keep The Axis out of my head. At the beginning of Fiddler, the rabbi claims that there’s a blessing for everything. Some smart aleck asks him if there’s a blessing for the Czar. The rabbi replies, “May God bless and keep the Czar… far away from us.” While I wished The Axis well, her immature batshit breakup had stung so badly that I wanted as much distance from her as possible. However, based on how I’d just kissed a girl I had no feelings for, I had no business laying claim to the moral high ground.

Nonetheless, it was time to take down my Tribe Date profile and end this blind dating experiment. Choosing a girl based on a picture and a couple of paragraphs was too unnatural.

As for Bubbles – how to end it? In fact, what was ‘it’? We weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. What were the rules? It would feel strange to call, have her get all excited and then tell her I was out. Based on how our date had gone, there’s no way she could’ve guessed that I was having second thoughts. Bubbles probably drove away in bliss, anxiously awaiting round two.

What should I do? A non-breakup, breakup phone call sounded miserable. An email was almost as bad as using IM. I decided to stop fretting about it – it wasn’t like I had to get in touch with her that night. In the meantime, my housemates were still up. There was some rotten fruit in the fridge. I grabbed a baseball bat and headed downstairs.

“You’re such a spaz,” said Indiana Jones. “Just a minute ago it was Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles time.”

Setting down the bat and sprawling out on the living room couch, I said, “But I don’t have any feelings for her at all. I only kissed her—”

“How much can you really tell about someone from a single date?” he asked. “If you liked her at all, you should go out with her again.”

“I’d be stringing her along.”

Indiana sighed. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“Maybe I am, but I don’t want to date anyone again until I’m in a situation that feels right.”

“You’ll be waiting a long time.”

“Then I’ll wait.”

* * *

I kept putting off getting in touch with Bubbles.

After a couple of weeks, I knew I’d waited too long. A non-breakup-breakup call would probably only insult her further. Thus our hero joined the cowardly club of weak sauce dudes who kissed a girl and never called her again.