Lost Dog

It’s the middle of the night and I’m browsing Craigslist when I see someone is selling their 3-month-old Beagle.  This puppy’s face is so damn cute, I instantly fall in love with her, and before I know it, I’m emailing the owner with a bunch of questions.  I want to know why they are getting rid of her, stuff about her medical history, and all the other basic queries one might have in this situation.  

beagle

The face that stole my heart

While I’m typing, in my head, it’s already a done deal.  It almost doesn’t matter what the owner replies with.  I’ve calculated it, and spent the money I don’t really have to spend on this dog.  I’ve already picked her up and taken her home with me.  I’m visualizing the Facebook photos I’ll share, the walks we’ll go on, and all the hours spent romping around the house.  I’ve even got a new name picked out:  Lucy.  Me and Lucy are gonna be best buds, and I can’t wait for everyone to meet her.  

Then, the reply comes from the Beagle’s owner…and it’s clearly a scam.  This woman says she lives in Cameroon, works a lot of hours for an international conglomerate or whatever, and needs to ship her dog back to the United States.  But do not worry, because if I’ll only cover the following fees, jump through a couple legal hoops, and then await transport, this beautiful dog will be mine!  I know it’s bullshit right away, but still I wanted to respond in the hope that, somehow, it would all turn out to be legitimate.  I fought that urge and didn’t bother.  The whole situation is a punch in the gut.

I close her stupid email and sit there moping.  I’m almost crying.  An hour before, I wasn’t even looking for a pet, and I’m not looking for one now, yet there I was feeling teary-eyed and alone.  

While the dog in the photo may well exist somewhere, it’s certainly not Miss Cameroon’s to sell, and thus not mine to buy.  I’ll never post those pictures to Facebook, we’ll never go on those walks, and the hours we would’ve spent romping around the house will probably just be replaced by late-night television and snacking. 

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m sad at the loss of a dog I never had.  Crazy, that puppy love.

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Dear Mr. Korbus

Faithful readers may recall that I posted a remembrance of a friend I had growing up named Leo on the page here late last year (you can find it by clicking this link).  Leo was older than me, as well as being mentally challenged, but he was also a kind and generous person whose death affected my buddy Adam and I greatly.  To this day, we think and speak of him often.

It turns out that Leo’s cousin found that blog post of mine recently, and wrote me a kind message in reply. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since that day, so it was nice to hear from her. The thoughts she shared mean a great deal to me. If you have a moment, I’d like to share part of that email* with you now:

Dear Mr. Korbus,

I just saw the heartwarming piece on the internet that you wrote about Leo. Leo was my 1st cousin and I am probably the cousin who greeted you at the funeral home. My name is Patti and I made the funeral arrangements and helped my Uncle during this horrible time as did my other 1st cousins.

I and my family appreciate your friendship to Leo and we loved your kindness in coming to the funeral home and sharing your memories with us.

It has come to me in all the days that followed Leo’s passing that he was very much loved in the neighborhood. More than one would ever know. In spite of any of Leo’s problems he had a heart of gold and was constantly wanting to help people or give things away. I loved him and miss him. To know he had friends like you and your friends and that you still remember him gives me the pleasure of knowing that his life meant something. Sometimes people were unkind to him but to know how many lives he touched makes me feel at peace.

Thank you again.

Seriously, how great is that?

I was overwhelmed as I read her email, and though my head was swirling, I quickly responded.  I told her how wonderful it was to hear from her, and that I have never forgotten the warmth and kindness she showed towards Adam and I at the funeral home those many years ago.  I told her that, while Adam and I do not live as close as we once did, and haven’t seen each other in well over a decade, we do use Facebook to keep in touch, and Leo seems to be a part of each and every conversation we have.  Truly, we will never forget him.

We all get beaten down by life from time to time.  Hell, I know I’ve had my share of days where I just want to sit down and cry for a while.  But I have to tell you, hearing from Patti brightened my day, and really made me feel good about myself again.  I know that the relationship I had with Leo was special, but receiving her email reminded me just how much it all meant to his family, too.

I’m all smiles today, friends.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that kindness isn’t magic.

 

 

*I edited only for clarity, and removed some names to protect the privacy of the family

A Packrat’s Junk Drawer

I am something of a packrat.  I hold on to stuff that many people would call junk, but that I’ve attached some measure of sentimentality to.  I have movie tickets from nights out with friends that date back decades.  The ink has faded off to the point where I can’t make out the film titles anymore, but still I keep them.  I also have a pencil and scorecard from a mini golf outing that I used on a date.  The relationship never went anywhere (perhaps Putt-Putt wasn’t an ideal first date location) but there’s no way I’m getting rid of those souvenirs.  I even kept an envelope a friend sent me a collection of Canadian candy in.  Why?  I don’t know, it doesn’t make any sense.  It’s just special to me.

Tonight I  was rummaging around and came across a couple of my old work ID badges.  In case you’d like to take a look, I’ve snapped a few pictures so you can see how I’ve changed over the years.  Personally, I think I look slightly more like a manatee than I used to, but I’ll leave it up for you to decide.

img_1494This first one was from Convergy’s, where I did internet tech support for At&t broadband internet service.  I was at that job about 3 years, and it closed shortly after I left.  But I met some great friends there.  People I still keep in touch with.  We had such incredible times together and so many laughs, both in and out of work.  Honestly, it was some of the best times I’ve ever had, and occasionally I miss it.  Technically, I was supposed to turn my badge in on my last day there, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I’m pretty sure I remember this picture being taken, and I don’t think I was ready.

img_1495A few years later, I was back at a customer service related job, this time working for the local cable company.  Here I did sales and service for the television and telephone products.  One of my old supervisors from Convergy’s ended up having made their way over as well, so it was nice to see a familiar face.  But I was never happy here.  I didn’t feel like I fit in.  Even the fact that employees received free cable packages couldn’t do it for me.  While I didn’t end up staying long, I still managed to hold on to my old ID badge.  I don’t remember this photo being taken, but I do remember losing the badge the day after I got it.  I ended up finding it later in a mud puddle at the curb out front.

img_1497Finally, here’s a badge that doesn’t really fit into the packrat motif, because it’s the one use at work today.  The photo you see here was taken early on in my week of orientation at Maritz Research nearly 7 years ago.  I haven’t worked anywhere as long as I have here.  This place has burned me out, pissed me off, and made me sick to my stomach.  But there’s other days I enjoy it immensely and know how lucky I am to be there.  The schedules are flexible, and it fits really nice with my preferred nightowl lifestyle.  Do I think about leaving?  All the time.  But would I miss it?  Absolutely.  Some of the supervisors have been great, and I still hang out occasionally with one or two who have left.  Best of all, I work with a lot of terrific people, and count a couple as some of my best friends.

So those are a couple of my old work swipe cards from over the years, and one I use now.  Look how I’ve changed!  Funny, that.  I see myself in the mirror everyday, and I still think I look the same.  I’ve definitely gained some weight, but am happy to report I can still fit into the Maritz shirt from 7 years ago.  I think I’ll wear it again on my last day.

Do you have odd little keepsakes you have stowed away like a squirrel over the years?  If so, I’d love to hear what you’ve kept and why.  So, if you stumble across this post, and feel like sharing, please leave a comment, or email me at ConfidentialKorbus@gmail.com

Be seeing you.

7 Plans I Have To Own 2016

I’ve been meaning to return to the blog here and write down a few things I plan to do to own 2016. I know I have to make some changes in my life, and sometimes writing it down helps to make it official. So, we don’t have to call these resolutions, or even plans, exactly. They’re just a few things I want to do or change about my life as the year goes on.

1) Get a new job
The place I work now has become pretty stressful, especially over the past year or two. I’ve worked in customer service jobs for the past 15 years, and while much of it has been great, and I’ve enjoyed the comradery of my co-workers, much of it has really become stressful. I dread going into work lately, and literally was on the verge of a panic attack when I started getting dressed today. It’s not any one thing causing it, it’s that I think I just need a change. Unfortunately, the job market kind of sucks right now.  Still, I’m keeping my eyes and options open.

2) Read more books
I do a fair amount of reading each day, but it’s mostly articles online. Not enough, maybe, but likely more than the average person. What I’ve really slacked off on lately has been reading books. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, and because of that, I end up buying a couple dozen books for every one that I read. So my “to-read pile” is just getting ridiculously high. I’d like to make a dent in that as the year goes on, and, more than that, I want to read books (and articles) that educate me, as well as challenge my viewpoints about the world.

3) Write more
I know, I know. I’ve said this a few times on this blog recently, but it really is something I want to do. Truthfully, I do feel like I have done a better job of it lately. True, until this post here, I hadn’t written anything in nearly a month. But, before that, I was writing somewhat regularly. I don’t feel any pressure to pump out a blog every day, or even every week. But if I can put something down two or three times a month, at least, I think I’d be pretty satisfied with that. As much as I’d like to write a few opinion pieces, I may want to focus more on personal stories and “confessional” type writing. This is Confidential Korbus, after all.

4) Make time to meditate
It’s not exactly a secret, nor is it something I talk about regularly, but I have suffered with a fair amount of clinical depression and anxiety in my life. I’ve seen different doctors, been on and off medication, and yes, even read a bunch of the so-called “self-help” books. In my mid-twenties I began to study Buddhism and got into meditation, specifically Samatha to help calm my mind and, to a lesser extent, dabbled in Vipassana as well. I feel like I got a fair amount out of it, too. But, like a lot of things throughout my life, I didn’t keep up with it, and eventually I fell out of practice altogether. Though I definitely do not see it as a substitute for medical help, I’d like to get back into a routine with it, if not daily, at least a few times per week

5) Eat less
Hard as it may be to believe, I was once in decent shape. Granted, it was many years ago, when I played organized baseball, but still! It happened! Though there were small signs of mental illness at the time (I always called them my “quirks”) as I got deeper into my teenage years, they began to take on the form of weight gain. Eating was something I did when I was lonely or sad, or even when I was happy. I ate when I was celebrating, I ate when I was bored. I just ate, period. Even now, when I go to a restaurant, I look at my dinner like a challenge: eat it all, regardless of whether you are even hungry or feel full. Just a couple weeks back, for instance, I was halfway through a burrito at a local Mexican restaurant when I could feel myself hitting a wall. Instead of asking for a container to take the rest home, I pushed myself to finish everything. It was stupid. I was so uncomfortable that I could barely get back to the car afterward. In 2016, I want to stop looking at food like a challenge, like it’s some obstacle to be overcome. Instead, the challenge will be to slow down. Pace myself. And, by all means, not to be afraid to ask for a take-home container.

6) Do more yoga
As a treat for myself around my birthday a couple years ago, I bought a DDP Yoga DVD set. Right away I took to it, and I actually enjoyed it. Within just a few days, I could feel results. For one, I felt stronger. My knees felt better. I seemed to have more energy. After working with the program regularly for a while, I took a weekend off. That weekend turned into a whole week. Next thing I knew, I hadn’t done my workouts in months. I still haven’t. But that laziness ends now. I’m going to clear a space in my bedroom, roll out my mat, grab my yoga block and strap, and get back to work. My goal with yoga isn’t actually to lose weight. I simply want to feel better. If I lose a few pounds as a result, great.

7) Take walks
I spend a lot of time inside.  It’s way past time for me to get out more.  And while I can’t say I live in a nice neighborhood, it is an area I feel safe in both day and night. This little community I call home has a lot of side streets with cute names, and a longer winding road that circles them. All of which provide plenty of room for walking. There’s a park area nearby, along with a playground, and there’s a few interesting characters that plod along around here as well. There’s Teddy, an older gentleman who I kid is an aging mobster responsible for “taking care of business” in the neighborhood. He doesn’t know it, but I refer to him as Capo di Teddy. There’s also a man who I just call “the Philosopher,” for no other reason than that he walks along with his hands clasped behind his back and his head down, as if lost in thought. I don’t know what my nickname will be once I start taking more regular walks, but I hope it’s something cool.

So, there it is!  Are there more things I’d like to change?  Yeah, probably.  But I think these seven things provide a pretty solid foundation.  I’ll be pleased to make progress on all of them as the year goes on, and hopefully continue developing positive habits further on into the future.

How about you?  What are you doing to own the new year?  Leave me a comment on the blog, or drop me an e-mail to let me know.

How I Found Out My Rabidly Anti-Gun Control Friend Actually Supports Some Gun Control

A friend of mine, who I’ll call Chase, proudly proclaims himself to be very anti-gun control. Whenever there is a highly publicized story of a mass shooting, for instance, Chase is one of the first people I know who will say we need more guns, less gun control, and will seemingly share anything on Facebook that makes it appear that President Obama is a gun grabbing tyrant in disguise.

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre here lately, the subject of gun control came up once again. This time, in an effort to back up his ongoing point, Chase posted a meme that included a quote by the actor Samuel L. Jackson.

“I don’t think it’s about more gun control,” Jackson said. “I grew up in the south with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”

samjacksonguncontrol

I verified that the quote was real.  A few years old, but real.  And while I may take some exception to his statement that they “never shot anyone” despite all the guns around (Tennessee, where Jackson grew up, has long had among the highest murder rates in the country, and it’s safe to assume that at least some of those murders were shootings), I decided to reply to the post.

“Even so,” I commented to Chase, “I’m kinda worried about people who don’t know the value of human life having lots of guns, aren’t you?”  Surely, I thought, he could be sympathetic to that.

“They shouldn’t have ’em to start with,” he said, and intimated that that is what the government has been pushing for.

Could it be true? After all this time of anti-gun control Facebook posts, and saying that more people need more guns, was Chase really in favor of at least some limited form of gun control? He seemed to be, even if I’m not sure he knew it. I told him I agreed, and stated my opinion that this is one type of restriction it sounds like we both support.

That’s what gun control is to me. It isn’t about confiscating weapons from law-abiding citizens. It’s about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people. In two quick Facebook comments, then, I found out that even my rabidly anti-gun control friend does, in fact, seem to support some measure of gun control.

So, it turns out, does Samuel L. Jackson.

In the same interview from which the quote in the meme was pulled, Jackson, speaking about the 20 children and 6 adults gunned down during the Sandy Hook massacre, acknowledges that certain restrictions on guns, such as closing the “gun show loophole,” and requiring increased background checks, could help reduce gun violence.

“We need to stop deranged people from getting access to guns,” he said.

I agree, Sam. I agree.

Remembering A Friend

Twenty-one years ago tonight, my buddy Adam and I witnessed the death of our friend, Leo Layton. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. It’s even harder to believe that neither the driver who hit him, or the other motorists who witnessed it, stopped to help. The crime remains unsolved.

LeoObitLeo was a guy many would refer to as mentally challenged. It’s true that he was a little slow, and sometimes couldn’t quite be sure what year it was. But he also had a huge heart and was such a funny guy! He washed the windows of your house, took your garbage cans back, and even handed out dollar bills to kids around the neighborhood so they could get an ice cream at Liberty Cone & Deli. Once, he even tried to set my little brother up on a date with a random girl Leo had met on the bus. Yes, he was practically a pimp!

Because of Leo’s mental condition, there were people who were cruel to him. It was common that people would say nasty things to him and, unfortunately, once even hurt him enough to send him to the hospital. I’m ashamed to say that, early on, I played a stupid prank on him as well. It was pretty harmless, but I still felt so terrible about it that I hopped on my bike the next day to go looking for him and apologize. It was water under the bridge to Leo, and we became fast friends.

How can I describe that friendship?  Sure, there were the hours we spent watching automobiles drive down the street with Leo calling out the year and the manufacturer, for instance.  “That’s a ’89 Chevy ,” he would say.  Or maybe it’d be “a ’92 Olds.”  We were never quite sure if he was right or not, but we didn’t care.  Besides, it was funny when he wasn’t sure of the make and would just say something like, “’94 black car.”  We would holler laughing.

Other days we would just sit around together having a milkshake, talking about whatever.  Admittedly, there were times he seemed confused during those conversations.  He would get to talking about something that might have taken place decades before, but that he believed happened just the other day.  I would just nod, and maybe tell him I understood.  Just that he was opening up was more than enough for me.

But nothing was better than the day I found him sitting at a picnic table with his grade school yearbook.  He waved me over, and showed me a photo of himself when he was just a child.  It was touching because I know he didn’t just let anyone see that.  This was special, this was friendship.  “That’s me,” he said, laughing to himself.  “That’s little Leo.”  His tongue hung out of his mouth slightly as he smiled.  I smiled back.  We laughed together.

Adam and I saw him outside of Mom and Dad’s Nite Club on the last evening of his life.  He had on a new jacket, a blue and grey blazer-style leather getup that replaced his everyday red and black flannel coat.  He was cleaned up a bit, looked good, and we told him so.  After a few minutes of chatting, he put his cigar back in his mouth, said goodbye, and stepped off the curb.  He never saw that Chevy pickup speeding right towards him.  We didn’t, either, really.  Not until it was too late.

Time really did seem to slow down.  What all took place in a matter of seconds felt like several minutes.  One moment, Leo was crossing the street right in front of us.  The next he had disappeared in a field of orange sparks.  We saw him get hit.  The impact was so great that he appeared at first to almost be holding on to the hood, the driver having ample time to look directly into the face of the man he had struck.  But then the momentum eventually catapulted Leo’s body over the top of the vehicle and down onto the asphalt, leaving him motionless in the road a couple hundred feet away.  We watched the taillights of the truck get smaller and smaller before they disappeared altogether into the glare and the distance.  It was like a dream.  I don’t know how long we stood there, completely frozen in disbelief, before we came to and ran to the nearest payphone to call 911. Nor could I tell you how quick the EMTs arrived at the scene.  All I can say is that it was all too late.  There was nothing to be done.  Leo was dead.

LeoNewsClipAdam and I gave statements to the police.  The local news interviewed us as well.  It’s mostly a blur now.  I remember writing down what happened in the back of a paddy wagon.  I remember the light of the news cameras in my face.  I was scared and flustered and the thoughts in my head weren’t translating properly into words from my mouth.  I just wanted it to be over, and once it was, I stumbled home, my mind in a daze, and told the story all over again to my parents.

A few days later, we were at the funeral home for Leo’s viewing.  We didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that I wanted to pay my respects, but I also wanted to just be a wallflower and stay out of everyone’s way. I was worried that we somehow didn’t belong. We weren’t there long before one of Leo’s cousins came up and introduced herself. She asked if were the boys who were with him the night he died.  We said we were.  She hugged us and told us how appreciative they all were that we had come.

She introduced us to Leo’s father, and his other relatives in attendance. It was a whirlwind of emotion.  I was overcome by the outpouring of love and gratitude I received from his family, many of whom even expressed how honored they were to meet us.  I didn’t understand it at first.  Honored?  To meet us?  But it eventually became clear as Adam and I spoke to more and more people.  They were honored not only because we had been there with him in his final moments, but because we treated him as an equal.  We were his friends.

The days after the funeral don’t come as easily to mind, but I remember that the neighborhood felt somehow emptier after Leo died.  I kept expecting to see him come around a corner, or show up passing out dollar bills to everyone at Liberty Cone.  Maybe if I looked quickly enough I’d catch him napping under his favorite tree.  Of course, none of that happened.  Leo existed only in my memories, and in the stories I’d tell about him to my friends for years to come.

It’s strange now looking back after all this time has passed. One of these days I’d like to write a book about Leo and the times we shared together. I honestly believe it would be an interesting read, as long as I don’t screw it up. Because the truth is, in a lot of different ways, Leo taught me about life. He taught me compassion and forgiveness, yes, but he also taught me the value of friendship. It’s been over 20 years, but I still think about him all the time.  I’m sure that I always will.

*A shorter version of this was posted on my Facebook page last year.  I have edited and expanded it for use on this space.  As I did then, I invite readers to leave a comment in remembrance of a person or a friend who has inspired you.

Breakdown at the Bank or: What My Anxiety Feels Like

It’s Wednesday afternoon, roughly 4 o’clock, and I’m standing in line at the bank trying not to pass out.  My heart is beating a mile a minute, my face feels flushed, and surely someone has lit a small fire under my jacket because I am just burning up.  While I wait for a teller to become available, I kind of stare toward the ceiling with my neck at an odd angle.  My head is spinning and it’s the only thing I can figure to do to keep myself focused and not collapse on the floor.

I hate this.  I should leave.  What in hell am I even doing here?

*******

It seemed simple enough, really.  It was a nice autumn afternoon and I was traveling with my parents to a local Mexican restaurant.  I’d also had $200 cash in my pocket for the past week that I kept forgetting to deposit in my account.  I needed to get it in there.  Since a branch of my bank is right next to the restaurant, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get that done, then head right over to have some food.

Except it wasn’t so simple.  Not for me, anyway.  The parking lot was a little crowded, and cars were backed up at the pneumatic tubes.  The ATM, however, was free, and I hoped I could deposit cash through it like I had at other branches.  We pulled up and quickly saw that there was no way to do that.  It just wasn’t set up for it.  I knew if I was going to deposit the money today, I would have to run inside.

My mom follows me in, and it looks like there is going to be a bit of a wait.  My first instinct is to walk back out.  I’m about seventh in line, but she convinces me to stay and get it over with.  Each minute we’re in there feels like an hour.  I don’t want to be in here with all these people around.  Another person walks up in line behind us, then another, and I assume they are silently judging me.  There’s probably cat hair on the back of my jacket, or my shirt is sticking out weird, perhaps my hair looks dumb.  Something.  The guy in front of me is waving and having casual chatter with someone else in the bank he recognizes, and I’m wishing he would just shut up.  Then my mom starts talking to me, and I wish she would shut up, too.  I don’t want to answer her because I feel like it will draw attention to myself, and the last thing I want is to be noticed right now.

One by one the line moves up.  I’m getting more and more nervous.  It’s not just this guy ahead of me, or the growing number of people behind me I have to contend with now.  The teller will be asking me questions soon.  I know I’m going to screw something up.  I don’t even know what to do.  Do I get my wallet out?  Do I need my ID?  Was I supposed to fill out a deposit slip first?  All these questions race through my mind, and I’m sure somehow I’m going to hold the line up.

IMG_0321Suddenly, it’s my turn.  The teller asks if she can help me.  I mumble my way through a sentence about wanting to make a cash deposit, and try to concentrate on her reply because I don’t want to mess up.  She asks if I have my debit card.  I do.  I pull my wallet from my pocket and my tremoring hands fumble to pull the card out.  I put it on the counter, which was apparently the wrong thing to do.  She doesn’t touch it, barely even looks at it.  Do I know my PIN?  Don’t tell her the code, just say yes or no.  I say yes.  Okay, slide my card through the machine in front of me, she says, and enter my PIN.  I see the diagram showing how to do that, with arrows pointing different ways.  I grab my card and do as I’m told.  I think I have it right, and swipe it through.  Nothing happens.  Nothing.  I’ve done it wrong.  It doesn’t matter which direction I swipe, she says, just make sure the magnetic strip goes through the machine.  I had it the opposite way, with the strip on the outside.  I’m an idiot.  She knows it, I know it, the people behind me know it.  They’re probably giving me the exhale of exhaustion behind my back now, fed up with how long I’m taking.

My body temperature is clearly off the charts, and the teller probably notices my face reddening as the moments tick by, even though I haven’t made eye contact with her.  On the second try, I get it right.  I punch in my code and hope I did that correctly.  I did.  I think she asks for my cash, but I don’t even hear her.  My mom nudges me and says, “Jay?”  I pull out of my wallet, put my card back inside, and grab the money.  While this is going on I can hear the teller talking about Thanksgiving, asks what we’ll be having, and all that.  My mom says something, but I don’t even answer.  I feel lost.  The teller asks if I need my balance, I say no, then she prints out a receipt for me.  I take it from the counter and stand there thinking there’s more to it.  There isn’t.  She wishes us a happy Thanksgiving, and I bolt.

I catch up to my mom, take my first breath, and release it.  I can feel the tension leaving my shoulders, and my heart rate slows as I get to the door.  “Let’s get the hell out of here,” I say.  Before I make it outside the tears are welling up in my eyes.  I’m not sad, I just feel dumb.

The air hits my face and dries the tears.  By the time we make it back to the car, it’s over.  No one notices that I almost cried.  We head over to the restaurant, order some food, and have a good time together talking and laughing.  What happened at the bank is old news.  It’s going to be okay now.