Valium Vickie

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Manayunk Bike Race and the Girl in the Pink Pants

Photo credit:

As far as bike races go, "The Philadelphia International Cycling Classic," is a pretty big deal. The race, a 124-mile endurance test that includes a hill so steep it was given its own plaque and designated "The Manayunk Wall," is described as "America's top international cycling classic, and one of the richest and most prestigious one day races outside of Europe."

Because a significant chunk of the race runs right through the heart of Philadelphia's Manayunk neighborhood, local residents celebrate accordingly. Scores of people gather around the course, some shoulder to shoulder in strategic spots, some sipping beers at outdoor tables of restaurants that line Main Street and some atop the decks and rooftops of houses that offer the best views. Bands are set-up in parking lots, acoustic guitarists belt out well-known cover songs outside of bars and businesses hawk their wares on sidewalks in front of their stores. And thanks to an unspoken, one-day reprieve on open container enforcement by the local police, 20-somethings tend to treat Main Street like Bourbon Street.

That's what brought me out on June 11, 2006, the lax open container enforcement. I was celebrating the fact that I’d just gotten out of a year-long relationship that should’ve ended around the four-month mark -- and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. At some point during the day, a TV reporter asked my friends and me to act like we were having a great time so he could get some footage for the news. When the camera was aimed in our direction, I leaned in, flashed some crude rendering of what I assumed to be a gang sign and yelled, “Bike Race, baby!” It was something I’d regret the moment I saw the footage.

By early afternoon, even the straggling cyclists had crossed the finish line hours ago, and I was getting ready to call it a day. That's when I stumbled across Liz, a girl I'd gone to high school with. Liz was wearing bright pink pants, a "Save The Boobies" T-shirt and swigging from a bottle of Yeager. I'd always been attracted to Liz, but the feeling wasn't mutual. When asked what she thought about me back then, words like "annoying," "weenie," "punk" and "loser" were used. But that's only when pressed. If Liz had to pick just one word to describe what she thought about high-school me, I'm guessing that word would be "indifferent."

But thanks to Liz's heroic alcohol consumption that day, she didn't seem indifferent toward me. While we were talking, she'd give my forearm these completely unnecessary touches -- and she didn't only do it when her balance was faltering and she needed my weight to steady herself. Even when we were sitting on the curb passing the Yeager back and forth, the arbitrary touches continued.

By the time I asked Liz if I could buy her a drink, a drink that she wound up paying for because my credit card was declined, I'd decided it was still a bit early to call it a day. And by the time I'd finished the Red Bull and vodka Liz had been forced to buy, a tiny little voice in the back of my head had been awakened.

Initially, the voice was timid and a bit British even: You know, we may want to think about taking the day off tomorrow, friend. But after a few hours and several more Red Bull vodkas, when Liz made it clear that she was willing to see where this little adventure would take us next, the voice became downright belligerent. F#ck that. You are NOT going in to that shithole tomorrow the voice ordered me.

I never did wind up going in to that shithole the next day. For the first time in my brief career at my first "professional" job, I called in sick ... or at least I meant to, but my boss beat me to it. When my cell phone rang a few hours after I passed out, I wasn't particularly happy to be ripped out of my much-needed slumber.

“Where the hell are you?” Rick, my loud and often mercurial boss, screamed. “It’s 10:00! You’re already an hour late.”
“I’m not coming to work today,” I said defiantly. “I’m taking a sick day. This job entitles us to sick time, and today I’m using one of my sick days. My stomach hurts, Rick, and I’m entitled to take a day every now and then.”
“So your stomach is the problem, huh? Well why didn’t you let anyone know you weren’t coming in?” Rick asked.
“That's what I'm trying to do. I just called to let you know …” I trailed off, realizing that it was Rick who had actually called me.
"It doesn't matter," Rick said. "Listen, just take the day and come in here tomorrow ready to work tomorrow. Can you just do that for me?” Rick asked and hung up before I had a chance to respond.

Glad that’s over with, I thought before going back to bed.

A career or ...

Rick asked to see me in his office when I arrived at work the morning.
When I walked into his office, he was sitting at his desk, rifling through documents and looking important. “Have a seat,” Rick said motioning toward the chair directly across from him.
“Thanks,” I said. “So you wanted to see me about something?”
“I did,” Rick said. “Let me ask you something, Jared. Do you want to have a career or do you want to be a drunk college kid?”
I decided it was best to answer the question honestly. “Most of the time I want to have a career, but there are times when I still want to act like a drunk college kid.”

It wasn’t the answer Rick wanted. He shook his head, massaged his temples and tried a different tact. “Is your stomach better today?” Rick asked.
“Much better, thanks,” I said. “Must’ve been like a 24 hour thing. I've been eating a lot of Chinese food lately, and you never know what's going on there, so ...”
Rick didn’t respond. Instead, he hit a key on his laptop, flipped the computer around so it was facing me and waited for my response. The laptop played a video from the Action News website. While Rick watched me, I watched myself on The News. There I was in broad daylight, drunk as a Kennedy, throwing out awkward gang signs and screaming, “Bike Race, Baby!”

I tried to look disappointed in myself, but I don't think I was able to conceal how cool I thought it was to see myself on The News. "Wait, can you play that again real quick?" I asked. Instead, Rick slammed shut his laptop and launched into a passionate lecture.

Had I never run into Liz at The Bike Race on June 11, 2006, I can guarantee with one hundred percent certainty that I would've dragged my ass to work on the twelfth and suffered through the agonizingly slow cycle of a hungover Monday.

But I did, and one drunken, chance encounter affected a lot more than just my job, it actually changed the entire course of my life.

Sharing a bottle of Yeager on the corner of Main and Jamestown with Liz set off a chain of events that eventually led me to where I'm at right now: A married guy with a child on way who no longer works for the mercurial boss but who's still on strange and wonderful adventure with the girl in the pink pants.

Monday, August 03, 2015

4 Places My Boston Terrier Has Been That My Grandmother Hasn't

My grandmother was the youngest of seven children. Her father fell through the outdoor bathroom and died when she was four, forcing her older siblings to drop out of school and find work so the brood could survive. Whether it was a youthful optimism or stubborn pride, my grandmother said she never felt poor as a child. But the government disagreed, and the money her brothers brought in from the coal mine (and didn't drink away) was supplemented by welfare checks. As soon as my grandmother was able, she too entered the workforce. The man she married wound up being a scumbag who decided not to support his family, so my grandmother become the sole provider. As single parent, she spent decades working long hours at Northeastern Pennsylvania factories to provide for her son and stretching her resources as far as she could. In short, my grandmother's life hasn't been easy, and she's seldom ventured far from the town in which she was born and raised: Ashely, Pennsylvania.

My Boston Terrier's experience, on the other hand, has been the exact opposite -- and she's not even two yet! Conceived lovingly and sensually in a dung-filled pen by King and Amie, Judith Weiland Bilski was the only brindle Boston in her litter of six. As a result of her unique markings, oversized ears and the fact that she's a real sweetie, my wife and I have spoiled her rotten since day one. Because we're always going places, Judith always ends up going places, too.

Some of Judith's favorite haunts

Here are four places Judith has been that my grandmother hasn't:

1. An airplane. For the price of six glasses of U.S. Airways Merlot, you can buy a ticket for your dog to fly with you provided it: A.) is under 15 pounds B.) stays in a regulation size pet carrier, and C.) sits on your lap during the flight. Because my wife and I knew our 15-pound Boston would've have any issue with sitting on our laps in her little bag for a five-hour flight, she made a trip out to San Diego to visit my sister last spring. When my grandmother heard that Judith had flown cross country, she couldn't believe it. "Judith went on an airplane!? I've never even been on an airplane!"

Thanks for letting me have the window seat y'all!

2. A Mexican restaurant. For more than eight decades, my grandmother's inherent distrust of the Mexican people* has prevented her from enjoying one of the most satisfying types of cuisine on this planet. Judith, however, doesn't factor race into the equation when it comes to food. For our canine, it doesn't matter if the meal was prepared by a black person, a brown person or even a vegan albino, as long as she can get the food that falls from our table down her gullet, she'll enjoy it. Because of Judith's progressive views on ethnic food, I've taken her to a number of authentic Mexican eateries that I'd never dream of bringing my grandmother. In fact, Judith had her first experience with autentica comida mexicana when she was just four months old and, as you can tell by her Yelp review, "Judith loves La Chancla."

How can you not love people who make food this good? Judith LOVES La Chancla!

3. A comedy club. Comedy clubs are dark, cramped places where people can go to laugh and, for a few brief moments, to forget the fact that they're moving ever closer toward their own impending deaths. But my grandmother wouldn't know this because she's never had the pleasure of losing herself in the a road-grizzled headliner's signature bit about how almost shitting his pants in an Arby's parking lot led to an existential crisis -- and a helluva catch phrase ("Ka-Boom bitches! That's why Ricky always packs a spare!"). The same can't be said for Judith. This young Boston has already been to seven established comedy clubs and a handful of open mics. In fact, if Judith could talk, I'm confident she'd be able to do my entire act word for word. Though she often sleeps through entire shows, I'm sure just being around this type of environment has contributed greatly to the spot-on time of Judith's physical comedy. Because my grandmother's aging body won't allow her to stay up past 7:37 pm, she's yet to see any of the heartfelt material I've written about her.

I'm at a Days Inn telling dick jokes for 9 people so, yeah, my career is going great asshole.

4. My wife's ultrasound. When my wife and I told my grandmother that we were having a baby, Gram never even asked if she could accompany us to the initial ultrasound appointment. Judith, however, made it clear -- by charging through the door and parking herself next to the car when I went to leave -- that she wanted to be there for this important life milestone. So I loaded my dog into the same pet carrier we used to transport her across the country and strolled right into the doctor's office without anyone batting an eye. Normally Judith's bag acts as a sedative. Much like a bird the moment a cover is placed over its cage, Judith shuts it down as soon as we zip up her portable travel quarters. At least most of the time she does. But during the ultrasound she made a low, lonely wailing noise that was loud enough to cause the doctor to look at me. Without many options, I smiled, patted my stomach and shrugged. Had my grandmother been there, not only would she have experienced the miracle of her great grandchild's heartbeat, she could've also served as a great distraction. After all, doctors expect aging bodies to make all type of strange, concerning sounds.

If I don't like the baby, we can get rid of it though, right?
* My grandmother doesn't really distrust Mexican people, just the effects of their food on her body.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Italy Through the Eyes of an Ignorant Comedian: Introduction

So exhilarating to stand in the very same building where that kick-ass Russell Crowe movie was made.

Over the course of 12 long, exhausting and amazing days, I had the opportunity to see Italy for the first time. My wife and I crammed in stops at Venice, The Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso), Pisa, Florence (with a Tuscan wine tour a few miles outside of the city), Rome, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Positano and Ravello) and Naples. While you really should allow at least a month for a trip like that, we didn't have the time. My wife has burn victims to treat, and I have a daunting backlog of prank emails to send.

Instead of basking in the beauty of our foreign locale, we trained, bused, boated, walked, ran and climbed at a frantic pace, stopping only for essential three-hour, multi-course meals. From the crack of dawn (8 or 9 am) until well after midnight (11:30 pm at the latest), we saw as much as we possibly could at each and every place we stopped. Plus, thanks to Rick Steves, the European travel guru and owner of what my wife calls "boyish good looks," we did everything very efficiently.

I'm going to be documenting every stop of the Italy trip over the next few weeks, but first here are some general thoughts on a country Rick Steves says offers "Europe's richest, craziest culture."

Italy feels like many extremely different countries

While I regret not being able to wander around a bunch of European countries, I'm glad we settled on Italy as our one European destination. From the surreal labyrinth of interconnected streets and narrows streets of the  "City on Water" in Venice to the dominant background of the modern world's first dome -- The Duomo -- in Florence to the exposed ancient ruins of The Forum in Rome, Italy is rich in unmatched historical beauty. The stark differences in the scenery, food, culture and people from place to place made it feel like I needed to get my passport stamped at each stop. Sure, our country has some plenty of contrast but, with all the chain restaurants and Walmarts in proximity to practically everything, it  all still feels like America ... except for maybe Texas. 

Italy just feels disjointed, and it has its reasons. For one thing, it's new -- even compared to this place. Italy didn't even become a unified "country" until the mid-1800s. Prior to the unification, Italy was a hodge podge of city-states just trying to do their own thing and avoid being conquered. And if you want to go even further back, Italy was basically Rome or the Roman Empire, one of, if not the single most powerful empire in the history of the world. Of course, Rome essentially fell because of its penchant for orgies and primitive selfie sticks. Mix in an artistic, cultural and scientific Renaissance period we haven't seen the likes of since, a god-awful plague, an interesting relationship with Christianity and Catholicism, and religious devotion to a proper meal, and you have yourself a very memorable country. Where did I learn all that? St. Paul's Catholic School in Norristown, PA? No, from the man who gave us the 80 euro, 30-minute gondola ride.

I thought the middle-aged Asian man with the self stick would make for the better photo.

Italians defy the aging process -- or the American idea of it

To save money, I'd finish the uneaten crustaceans that tourists left on their plates.

Because Italy is renowned for its world-class cuisine, I was expecting a country filled with people resembling that obese pizza chef cartoon, waddling through the streets and stopping every few steps to catch their breath. But the lack of fat people in Italy is staggering -- or the lack of fat Italian people in Italy is staggering, anyway. There were plenty of fat Americans everywhere. There were even some fat Germans, fat Asians and fat people of ambiguous ethnicity, too. The native Italians, on the other hand, were all slim, trim and remarkably nimble (the middle-aged guide of our Florence bike tour effortlessly navigated the hills of the city in skinny jeans). I've been told there's no escaping the saggy, beer-belly body that virtually every middle-aged American man morphs into eventually, but the Italians convinced me this doesn't have to be the case. If I want to stay fit, all I have to do is walk everywhere and maintain a diet that consists of a cappucino for breakfast, a large lunch and light dinner, and between 34-75 cigarettes per day.

That's the other thing about Italians. They LOVE their hand-rolled cigarettes with a fierce, unbridled passion. In Venice, I saw an older man with a baby in his outstretched arms and a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth. When he puffed on the cigarette, the smoke would float right to the baby, instantly causing the future smoker to brighten to a pure and radiant smile.

If you could see the pure joy on this baby's face when the delicious, unfiltered tobacco hit his little nostrils, you'd probably be hard-pressed to believe anything bad ever happened to a person just because of cigarettes. I was so moved by the sight of this that I got out my phrase book and asked the old man, in perfect Italian, if I could please blow smoke at the baby, too. The man obliged, and I took the baby and one of the man's cigarettes and went to work. There I was, more than 5,000 miles from home in some crowded alley in Venice, partaking in the time-honored Italian tradition of blowing smoke in the face of a baby -- Fumatori il bambino -- and thinking to myself, "This is it. This is the real Italy I'm experiencing right here."

Anyway, if you love cigarettes, then Italy is the place for you. Italians are always smoking -- and they're doing it everywhere. For locals, every task seemed to require a new cigarette, and finishing a meal without a smoke break was the exception. Most restaurants would ask if we wanted to have a cigarette before looking at the dessert menu. While there are "rules" about not smoking in certain areas, those rules have plenty of wiggle room. For example, you're not allowed to smoke on a moving trains. However, you are allowed to smoke on a train during the 10 minutes or so that the passengers are boarding because, smoking in the middle of a train with its doors open is basically the same as smoking outside.

Italy isn't for germaphobes 

If you're one of those people who needs to use Purrell before, during and after everything you do, then Italy probably isn't for you. The whole fear of germs thing hasn't really caught on over there. My wife was constantly talking about how nobody washed their hands after using the bathroom, and there certainly weren't any of those ubiquitous signs you see over here about what employees must do after a trip to toilet.

I wish I can tell you that I didn't pee in the one on the left when I was drunk.
For the record, I don't think Italians are any more disgusting than us. I just think they're more free about their bad habits. I actually saw two men engaged in a lively conversation when one of men brought his hand to his nose and started digging ferociously in his nostril without breaking eye contact with his conversation partner. When the nose-picker got what he wanted, he simply brought his hand down and wiped mess off on his pants. The other man didn't show any type of reaction, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary about the pickers' actions.

Maybe it's a cultural thing. Maybe unlike over here, picking your nose isn't something you need to hide or be ashamed of. Italians may be a bit lax about the cleanliness of their hands, but they're meticulous about their assholes. The number of bidets in Italy is impressive. I saw a bidet at a fancy (i.e., pay) train station restroom and thought, "Who decides, 'Well, I've got 10 minutes to kill until the next train arrives, so I may as well give the old starfish the once over ..." Who knows, the Italians may be doing it just right. Maybe if we all spent a little bit more time worrying about the state of our buttholes, we wouldn't be so afraid of the germs that come in contact with our hands.

Those are my first impressions of Italy and its people. Now it's time to get into the specific places I visited. First stop: Venice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Obligatory Proposal Story: Part 2

If you read Part 1 of this series, you already know how I actually proposed to my current wife, Liz. If you haven't read that part, go here and take a minute to do so. As I mentioned in the previous engagement-story post, my tale was lacking a number of the critical elements included in all the epic proposal stories that wind up on sites like or

What the real story lacked was a sense of adventure and danger.

Luckily, like many things that happen to me, just because the story took place a certain way, it doesn't necessarily that's the version people are going to hear. What's the fun in that? After all, I'm a part-time entertainer or a full-time pathological liar, both of which are essentially the same.

So when the kind woman who was so instrumental in designing my wife's engagement ring emailed me about the proposal, I took a few liberties with the truth. What follows is the story I sent her via email. I've X'ed out her name and email as well as the name of the company, out of respect for her and her employer. I doubt she'd want to be associated with Valium Vickie, anyway.

How he should've asked 

From: jared bilski [] 
Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 10:25 AM
Subject: Re: jared bilski shipping 123456789


So I'll be sending a few pics over shortly, but first the story. 

Quick intro: To say my fiance and I are unusual would be an understatement (I tried to sound completely professional -- i.e., normal -- during our correspondence, did it work?). So our engagement story is a little out there -- and it reflects the quirkiness of our relationship. 

Let me know if it's "appropriate" before I go ahead and post it on GENERIC JEWELRY COMPANY'S Facebook page. Enjoy!

Once I got my GENERIC JEWELRY COMPANY'S setting, I went right to the family jeweler. Vito the Bear (a pet name my Aunt gave this iconic jeweler) put a rock that has been in our family for generations into your custom-made wedding band. Then it was up to me to seal the deal.

XXXXXX, I've always had a flare for the dramatic. In fact, I met my finance while I was traveling the country as the host of a Gothic burlesque show. I learned more than a few tricks during my time in the world of Burlesque, and I knew my proposal had to include at least some elements of suspense.
So I rang my old friend "Bird" and asked for a favor. I went to school with "Bird" (aka Warren Lichenstein III), and I was selfishly hoping he hadn't grown up. Luckily for me, Bird hadn't. When I knew Warren in college, he was a low-stakes pot dealer. Since then, he's graduated to Adderall, which he sells on a much larger scale. I told Bird that I needed his help and that I needed it to look legit, and he was more than happy to oblige. Here’s what went down:

Liz and I had made plans to see Scorpion Red Eye that night, a local speed-metal outfit with a touch of misogynistic-existentialism. But I had something else in store for her. As soon as we stepped out of our front door, a van came roaring up our driveway. It screeched to a stop right in front of my Camry, blocking any chance of escape.

Out stepped a man donning a black ski-mask and brandishing a handgun. He pointed the gun in our direction and ordered us to get down on our knees. The man, who my girlfriend assumed to be a legitimate criminal but I knew to be a dear old friend, bound our hands and placed a blindfold over our eyes.

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t your neighbors notice? Luckily for me, it was dark out. You see, XXXXXXX, most of my neighbors are elderly individuals who are quietly biding their time until my man Charon comes by to take them on that one-way trip across the River Styx if you know what I’m saying. I’m sure these people were inside watching the Wheel (Wheel of Fortune) or taking their fifth nap of the day. But I digress.

In the car, I could hear my girlfriend whimpering softy beside me, and I almost broke down and told her what was really happening. But I’d already come this far, hadn’t I? Anyway, Bird was instructed to bring me to the roof of a friend’s luxury apartment building where I had painstakingly laid out all the essentials for private romantic dinner. No big deal.

For the most part, things went right according to plan … except for one minor hiccup. During our planning, I’d given Bird permission to improvise if necessary. When we’d climbed the 23 flights of stairs in the fire escape and arrived at our destination, Bird thought it was necessary to go “off script.” So when I said, “Whatever you do, please don’t hurt her,” Bird promptly pistol-whipped me across the mouth, which resulted in the loss of one tooth and the loosening of two others.

I was bleeding heavily after the blow, but nothing was going to stop me from proposing to the woman who once told me she could be happy to spend the rest of her life traveling from town to town watching me infuse Gothic burlesque shows with my manic energy. So I snapped my fingers three times, which was Bird’s cue to untie us. Then I got down on one knee, spit out the aforementioned tooth and, with a stream of blood cascading from the spout of my mouth like a crimson waterfall, I asked Liz to marry me.

Liz’s first words were a type of incomprehensible babble because she was both sobbing and trembling heavily, which was most likely due to happiness and a bit of shock; her next words were, Of course; but the third thing she said was, My God, this ring is perfect. And that’s all you (and GENERIC JEWELRY COMPANY'S), XXXXXX. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but we did finish dinner in time to catch the end of Scorpion Red Eye’s set, and the band even dedicated their cult hit “Reverse Birth” to their “newly engaged friends.” XXXXX (and the entire GENERIC JEWELRY COMPANY team) words can’t even express how grateful I am to you for the role you played in our engagement process.

One Satisfied and Newly Engaged Customer!
Jared Bilski

P.S. Pictures to come shortly!!

Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 
jared bilski []

Hey Jared,

Yes, yes I did receive your email…apologies, it’s been a bit crazy around here! [Emailer's Note: I sent the email multiple times to ensure a response.]

I think you take the cake for the craziest proposal story I’ve heard!  I shared it with some of my fellow designers and they agreed…though most of them couldn’t believe how well Liz responded!  I think it would be fine to post the shortened, tamer version of the story on our facebook page.  I think this highlights the creativity and unique nature of our client base, but I don’t know if the WHOLE story will work for the internet masses, if you know what I mean ;)  I personally think the full story is awesome, but I’m a bit more of an oddball than most!

That being said, I trust your word smith skills can craft a snappy post suitable for a wider audience   I hope that is helpful; let me know if you need anything else! 

Best Regards,


Sunday, April 26, 2015

11 Things That Got Me Through The Most Difficult Valentine's Day Of My Life

If you're reading this right now because you were hoping to enjoy a nice uplifting tale about the tactics one brave, heartbroken man used to get through the first Valentine's Day following the untimely -- not to mention gruesome -- death of his wife and soul mate, well, I'm afraid you'll be terribly disappointed with this post. I'm sorry to have deceived you, but it's good to know that sentimental click-bait headlines do work as advertised.

My first Valentine's Day as a married man was supposed to be spent telling tasteless jokes like these to a bunch of strangers at a sold out fundraiser event. Unfortunately, weather concerns led to the event being canceled. That left me with a choice. I could either:

  • A.) scramble to pick up another spot at a comedy club to fill my insatiable need for approval and acceptance from people I probably wouldn't like if I got to know them, or
  •  B.) put together a romantic dinner to surprise the wife who was expecting to come home to an empty house after a 12-hour shift caring for burn victims.
I chose the latter.

For dinner, I prepared a lemon-seasoned chicken breast topped with a caramelized onions, Monterey Jack cheese and strips of greasy bacon; tomato basil couscous; and a huge Caesar salad. This sounds like a good husband adjusting extremely well to his newly married life, right? On the surface, I guess that's true. But in between preparing an artery-clogging masterpiece for my own true love, I was furiously firing off break-up texts to random phone numbers.

The White Knight

 I hit a home run with the first random text I put out there. Not only did this righteous man respond to my ridiculous message, he -- or possibly she, but I think it's a he -- also felt compelled to engage in a conversation and criticize my actions.



'Good luck with whatever your going through'

Of course, not all of my random texts were successful. I probably sent more than a dozen messages without getting any type of a response from the random number. Many of these messages were the "I hate to do this is this way but ..." intro that got the white knight to bite. But I did try a few variations, such as:

  • I just can't do this any more ... I can't pretend that everything is ok just because it's fuckin Valentine's Day.
  • Happy Valentine's Day baby! Guess what I know all about Steven the Twink! So you can just cut the shit about working late. I'm gonna make your life miserable you lying piece of shit.
  • Happy Valentine's Day ... It's not your baby! How does that feel you lying piece of shit!?
And here are some of the other brief interactions I had with random numbers:

Me: I hate to do this in this way but I think we both know this is going nowhere. It's over ... I'll cancel the reservations. I hope you didn't get me anything, cause I didn't ...
Random Number (RN): What
Me: Please don't make this difficult ... Neither of us has been faithful

RN: I think you have the wrong number ...
Me: Oh Jesus Christ ... I'm so sorry I knew I should've just called her
Me: Hope you're having a better Valentine's Day than me.

RN: No problem ... Good luck with whatever you're going through
Me: Thanks man! I gotta stop dating hos and find a girl I can introduce to my mom


Me: I hate to do this in this way but I think we both know this is going nowhere. It's over ... I'll cancel the reservations. I hope you didn't get me anything, cause I didn't ...
Random Number (RN): Who is this?
RN: ??

Me: Please just be an adult ... Neither of us have been faithful
RN: Listen I think you have the wrong number
Me: Wait ... shit!
RN: Yeah .....
Me: So sorry ... I took some MDMA happy valentine's to me
Me: Hope you had a better day than me bro ... My fucking arm is numb


Me: I hate to do this in this way but I think we both know this is going nowhere. It's over ... I'll cancel the reservations. I hope you didn't get me anything, cause I didn't ...
Random Number (RN):
Who is this?
Me: What?
Me: You mean that philosophically ... Like who is this person?


Monday, March 30, 2015

Melatonin: It's Natural, So It Can't Be Bad For Me ... Right?

When asked about their extreme schedules and lack of sleep, motivated, type-A people tend to say "I'll sleep when I'm dead!" That statement has always bothered me. "I'll sleep when I'm dead" How can you be so sure? What if you can't sleep at all when you're dead? What if when you're dead, you're just dead? Or, worse yet, what if when you die, some foreman/general/afterlife liaison immediately approaches you and says, "Hope you got enough sleep on earth, because you've got a lot of work to do, and we don't do the whole sleep thing here ..."?

The point is, people don't know what happens when you die. If people actually knew with 100% accuracy that you could indeed sleep when you're dead, I think two things would happen:

  1. A lot more insomniacs would commit suicide, and 
  2. People would be a lot more understanding about suicide.
When people heard about a friend taking his own life they'd say things like, "Makes sense, Steve looked like he could really use some sleep."

While we're on the subject, here's something that really bothers me: Suicide notes. Isn't this final message important enough to warrant being called a suicide letter? Note sounds like some origami-type thing that high-school girls pass to one another. Like the person who discovers the body is going to find a neatly folded triangle of notebook paper that asks the reader to check the appropriate box: "Did you notice any of the warning signs?"
Yes No Maybe

 As someone who's had trouble sleeping since high school, I will never take sleep for granted. I'll never subscribe to the I'll-sleep-when-I'm-dead mindset because I value sleep more than virtually any of the activities I do when I'm awake. There's actually a brief moment right before I fall asleep at night where I consciously think, "It's going to happen now; I'm going to fall asleep!" That instant right before drifting off into unconsciousness is more enjoyable to me than sex or drugs or sushi or anything else I can think of, probably because it's been so inconsistent for such a long time. If heaven actually exists, I imagine it has to be something like that pre-sleep recognition moment.

In Catholic school, my teachers always used getting left out of heaven to scare us kids into following Catholicism's long, detailed set of seemingly meaningless rules -- Go to church every Sunday, never take the Lord's name in vain (e.g., "Jesus Christ" or "Goddammit" or "Jesus H. Fucking Christfucker FUCK!"*), don't eat meat during Lent, don't use birth control even if you're super fertile and the only chance you have of taking care of all of the kids you shit out is by landing a reality show about you having a football team worth of kids because your religion won't let you use birth control, etc.

Heaven was always sold as a place where you were reunited with all of your dead family and loved ones for all of eternity. That sounds nice and all, but it was never quite enough to convince me that following all those ridiculous rules was worth it in the end. Now if I'd been told heaven was like that moment right before you realize you're about to fall asleep, well, then, it may have been a different story. Instead of spending my Sundays wandering through WaWas hungover, I may have strung together a Ripkenesque streak of Sabbath masses by now. Instead of using "Jesus Christ" as my go-to expression of anger, incredulity, joy, surprise and disappointment, I may have rushed to confession every time I uttered those words in a non-reverent way.

The truth is, I consider sleep more sacred than any aspect of the Catholic faith. If sleep is my religion, then Melatonin is my savior ... but I'll get to that in a second.. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I've had varying degrees of Insomnia (both not being to fall asleep and waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back to sleep) for the better part of my teenage and adult life.

What didn't work

Starting in high school, I've experimented with a number of sleep-inducing remedies including, but not limited to:

  1. Tylenol PM: Monday through Friday for about two semesters -- worked until I built up a pretty ridiculous tolerance.
  2. Ambien: Prescribed to me during my sophomore year of college. I'd take a pill, pick out a short story from the Norton Anthology and, within 15 minutes, I wouldn't be able to tell if I was asleep and dreaming or really zoned in on the story. Ambien is beautiful product, but it's just a bit pricey.
  3. Lunesta: What can I say about the butterfly pill. Lunesta is to getting sleep what Coors Light is to getting drunk. It can do the job, but it takes massive quantities to get it done.
  4. Caffeine reduction, deep breathing exercises and consistent pre-sleep routine: BORING. Actually, I gave this an honest try, and it just didn't work for me.
  5. Clonazepam: During my junior year of college, I was prescribed a small dosage of this anti-anxiety drug in the morning and a larger dose at night. Penn State has this free, public transportation system called The Loop. True to it's name, The Loop circles the campus all day and a good chunk of the night. The first morning I took this drug, I became so non-anxious I passed out before I reached my stop. Conservatively, I did six loops on The Loop before I came to. By then, I'd already missed the class. I didn't take clonazepam for very long.
  6. A little Bourbon right before bed: A short-lived exercise I tried Junior year of high school until my dad noticed the missing whiskey.
  7. OTC sleeping pills: If Lunesta is the Coors Light of sleep aides, then over-the-counter pills are the Malt Liquor. Sure, you'll get some sleep, but you'll feel so shitty the next morning you'd may as well have gotten none at all.
  8. A brainwave-altering CD: It was a series of sounds set to some frequency that was supposed to alter your brainwaves until you drifted off into a peaceful sleep. What is actually did: Made me lie around like an asshole for a half hour going, "Wait, I think I can feel that ..." until I finally gave up. It reminded me a lot of the time Vance (name change) bought some fake mushrooms and sat in a park for an hour and a half smoking cigarettes and asking each other if we felt anything yet.
  9. Benadryl: Works pretty well on its own, but works even better with wine.
  10. Red wine: I love this sleep aide, but getting the dosage right can be tricky. Too much can have the opposite effect. Just a few too many ounces of this Dionysian elixir can mean the difference between an early, restful night and the decision to have another three or four glasses and watch Stone Temple Pilots' YouTube clips well into the morning hours.
  11. Trazodone: Technically, trazodone is an anti-depressant, but in many cases, doctors prescribe it as a sleep-aide for geriatrics. Unfortunately, it didn't work as prescribed for a 26-year-old me.

My sleep savior

The search for the perfect sleep aide seemed hopeless, but then along came Melatonin. I didn't discover this beautiful product until my late twenties. I won't bore you people with the complex details of the staggering amounts of information I've amassed from reputable medical sources like Wikipedia, labels of Melatonin bottles and insomnia sufferer messaging sites (like Tinder, but with the objective being sleep), but here's the gist: Melatonin is hormone that animals (like humans and dogs and vegans) manufacture to control sleep and wake cycles. The greater the amount of melatonin your body produces, the easier it is to fall asleep and stay that way.

A creature like Judith Weiland, my Boston Terrier, must produce an inordinate amount of melatonin because I've actually seen her fall asleep while taking a shit. A person like me, on the other hand, has so much trouble producing this hormone that I have to regularly purchase the 'All Natural' pill version that is sold in any grocery store or pharmacy. As you get older, you generally produce less melatonin. So I'm guessing my melatonin production will be virtually nonexistent by the time I hit 65. It's just as well. That gives me yet another reason to start shooting heroin the moment AARP begins mailing information to me. I've always said I can't wait until I'm old enough to use the senior-citizen discount for a Fish-a-majig sandwich at Friendly's -- and to do heroin.

For right now, though, I have to sleep -- and that's where my melatonin ritual comes in. Virtually every night, I'll take a "natural" pill, climb into bed, read a few pages of some book and wait for that heavenly recognition of sleep to flood my body. This has been the most consistent and effective sleep routine I've had since before the problems started more than a decade ago. Is it healthy? I'm not so sure. I've heard a lot about the virtues of melatonin -- it's safe, natural, non-habit-forming chemical that your own body actually produces! That may be true, but I can also buy it at Acme -- and I don't believe anything in that store is completely natural.

Plus, natural or not, I'm way too dependent on this product. It may claim to be non-habit-forming, but there have been plenty of late nights I've spent frantically rummaging around my house for melatonin screaming, "Liz! Where are the mels*? Where are my goddamn mels?!" I've even run out in the middle of the night to score a new bottle of mels when these searches proved fruitless. Nothing seems safe or natural or healthy about a grown man in pajamas rushing out to a 24-hour grocery store at three in the morning and walking up to the supplement aisle with the same look of relief as an addict who sees his dealer approaching moments before withdrawal symptoms kick in. But it's better than any of the alternatives I've tried so, as long as this ritual keeps allowing me to sleep as much as possible before I'm dead, I'll keep riding this thing out.

*Mels are how we refer to the Melatonin in the Bilski household.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Transcript of my chat with a unique flask company

 I'm a lucky guy. My wife doesn't expect me to spend money I don't have on fancy, shiny, unnecessary, expensive gifts. In fact, her favorite Christmas present this year was a flask. Granted, the flask I gave her wasn't the standard silver thing guys give to their groomsman as a token of appreciation for being in the wedding. This flask specifically designed to avoid detection in any situation. How? On the surface, this alcohol receptacle looks exactly like an ordinary tube of sunscreen. Thanks to this clever device, my wife can avoid paying outrageous prices for captain and gingers at upscale bars, sporting events and rest assured knowing she'll never have to endure another tedious jury duty session completely sober.

When I thought this Christmas gift wasn't going to arrive in time for our gift exchange, I took to the company's useful chat feature. Below is a word-for-word transcript of the conversation:

Get live personalized customer service

[Venessa] Welcome to ATG Stores. How can I help you?
[Jared Bilski] Last Page Visited:

Hey how are you?

[Jared Bilski] I placed an order yesterday
[Venessa] Can I have the order number please?
[Jared Bilski] Are you there, Ven?
[Jared Bilski] #XXXXXXXX
[Venessa] Yes , I am here
[Venessa] I will look up your order
[Jared Bilski] I kind of have an emergency
[Venessa] I have the order up now and how can I help you ?
[Jared Bilski] Well, here's the thing. When I ordered I accidentally hit 2-day shipping
[Jared Bilski] By the way, is that your pic in the right corner or is that a stock photo?
(Note: Regarding the above question, I was referring to a stock photo of a customer service representative that appeared with the Chat function.)

[Jared Bilski] So here's why it's an issue
[Jared Bilski] U there?
[Venessa] I see , I can see if I can change the shipping and refund the expedited charge. No that is not my photo , I am much better looking :-)
[Jared Bilski] Hahaha ... Good to know
[Venessa] Would you like me to change the shipping method if possible ?
[Jared Bilski] No I actually meant to hit next day shipping, but I have a question
[Venessa] Ok , what is the question?
[Jared Bilski] When do you think I'll receive the flask
[Venessa] One moment
[Venessa] You should receive the item by Friday
[Jared Bilski] Oh, that's what I was worried about ...
[Jared Bilski] Can I be real with you for a moment
[Jared Bilski] ?
[Jared Bilski] Please don't judge me, OK, Val?
[Venessa] I can see if we can upgrade to next day shipping for you
[Venessa] Would you like me to do that and follow up with you ?
[Jared Bilski] Wait ... just wait on that for one sec. How much will that run me?
[Jared Bilski] Can I just explain the situation?
[Venessa] It looks like the charge for next day shipping is $20.34 altogether and you have already paid $11.62
[Venessa] Yes Sir , what is the situation?
[Jared Bilski] OK, OK... here's what's going on, just bear with me:
[Jared Bilski] I ordered the flask because I'm going to a concert on Christmas .... it's a completely dry concert -- No booze, not even wine or shots
[Jared Bilski] See, I'm an atheist; organized religion makes me ill. But I met this girl ...
[Jared Bilski] And she asked me to go with her. She very Christian.
[Jared Bilski] She's I mean. I also know Christian women tend to be anything but if you humor them, and go to their little events. But the thought of sitting through a 3-hour Christian Rock show without booze, is disheartening to say the least ...
[Jared Bilski] Are you still with me, V?
[Jared Bilski] ?
[Venessa] I cannot advise either way . I can only advise that the order as it stands now should be delivered on Friday as Fed Ex does not operate on Christmas. I can see if there is anyway to expedite the delivery to have the item received by tomorrow . I would need to do this before the item ships this morning .
[Jared Bilski] Oh this is a tough call, V. Money's tight, you know? And I do have a few leftover Vicodins from a recent Triathlon injury. That should get me through the concert, but what if I can't perform that night because of the pills?
[Jared Bilski] If you were in my situation, V, what would you do?
[Jared Bilski] ?
[Jared Bilski] Are you looking something up or serving multiple customers?
[Venessa] I am sorry Jared I cannot advise you either way .
[Venessa] The Christmas concert sounds like a wonderful event
[Jared Bilski] But sober?
[Venessa] Yes sir .
[Jared Bilski] Maybe, you're right ....
[Venessa] It may be odd with sunscreen flasks at a winter Christmas concert
[Jared Bilski] V, I'm going to tell you something that I've never told anyone before OK ...
[Venessa] The flasks are very neat though
[Venessa] Will the delivery date as it is now work for you ?
[Jared Bilski] I NEED this Christmas concert to work for me. It's been a full year since I've been with a women.
[Jared Bilski] Last year, around Christmas I walked in on my Ex
[Jared Bilski] She was in full coitus with Giuseppe "Gyp Bada-Bing" Rosetti, a semi-famous New Jersey EDM DJ
[Jared Bilski] You've heard of "Gyp Bada-Bing" Rosetti, I'm guessing, right V?
[Venessa] I am sorry Jared, I do need to confirm how you would like me to take care of the order.
[Venessa] Please let me know what you would like me to do .
[Jared Bilski] Yes, I'm working my way toward that. PLEASE be patient
[Jared Bilski] You're the only person I've ever told that story too
[Jared Bilski] My parents till think my Ex left because she got a job on the West Coast
[Jared Bilski] You've heard of "Gyp Bada-Bing" Rosetti, haven't you, V?
[Venessa] Our chats are monitored sir and I cannot help you with the other questions.
[Jared Bilski] I understand that, V. But monitoring should affect you letting me know if you've ever heard of "Gyp Bada-Bing" Rosetti
[Venessa] I have not ,
[Jared Bilski] It's just like me asking you, "What do you think of this weather?"
[Jared Bilski] Are you just saying that, V?
[Jared Bilski] Nevermind, I'll believe you ... even if you're only saying that to make me feel better.
[Jared Bilski] Anyway, I think I've made my decision
[Venessa] Great , what would you like me to do with the order shipping arrangement please?
[Jared Bilski] You convinced my that I'd be better off to go to the Christmas Concert without the flask ... that the Vicodain should be enough
[Venessa] I will leave the order as it is and you will be emailed with the tracking and carrier information once the item has shipped.
[Jared Bilski] I REALLY just needed to talk this out with someone. And you're right, V, Vicodan shouldn't affect my performance if I'm truly into this woman -- and, of course, provided I don't overdue it
[Jared Bilski] overdo (Freudian slip)
[Jared Bilski] I can't thank you enough ... These people are lucky to have you?
[Jared Bilski] What are you doing for the Holidays, V?
[Jared Bilski] Can you do one last thing for me?
[Venessa] You are welcome, thank you for chatting in and for the very interesting chat . I will be enjoying Christmas with my family . Can I help you with anything else today ?
[Jared Bilski] Can you just say: "The Christmas Concert Will Be Better Than You Ever Imagined"
[Venessa] We wish you well and a Merry Christmas. Hope you have a great Holiday
[Venessa] I must disconnect our chat now if that is all I can assist you with today for your order.
[Jared Bilski] WAIT
[Jared Bilski] Can you just say this: %u017Byczymy weso%u0142ych %u015Awi%u0105t Bo%u017Cego Narodzenia i dobrze. Mamy nadziej%u0119, %u017Ce jeste%u015B wielkim %u015Bwi%u0119tem
[Jared Bilski] It's what you just said in Polish
[Jared Bilski] Oops, sorry that's a message for the rep in the other chat that I'm having
[Venessa] Have a great day Jared! Thank you for shopping with ATG Stores.
[Jared Bilski] You too, V! You've given me the confidence to get laid with just Vicodan and not booze!
[Jared Bilski] I'll never forget that
[Jared Bilski] So how do we end this thing? This is starting to get a little awkward, V?

The Agent has left the conversation.