Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coming of Ebay Age

I wrote a couple months ago (here, if anyone cares) about how I was selling my friends' comics on eBay (with some surprising results) and how my lack of knowledge of what sells despite my vast eBay experience may be a sign to slow down and take stock. I just had a couple doors left to knock on.

Well, I have knocked on those doors. I have sold almost all of my friends' comics, and I have reached the 1000 positive feedback plateau (Feedback is, of course, the backbone of the eBay community. Without feedback, there's chaos.) I think reaching 1000 is pretty good for a single guy who sells mostly his old crap, with out a store or anything to back him up. Especially when you throw in the fact that some people have never left any feedback, and a few wankers even left negative. However, my personal negative feedback-side looks back and has to wonder a.) where the money went, and b.) why didn't I think ahead and come up with some kind of system to keep track of it all? Maybe then I would know where all the money went. I started out just trying to score some extra cash for my Ken Griffey, Jr autograhped baseball (In '99, when I thought his career was pretty much over), and when that sold, I began looking around my house a little. Next thing I knew, most of my worldly possessions were gone. And so were some of my friends'. It wasn't something I planned on doing. It was just an easy way to make money and I was poor, so that was it. By the time I thought, "Hmmm, maybe I should organize this a little better," I figured I had sold most of my crap and it was too late to start worrying now.

Some of the problem stems from the changes over the years. In the beginning, when checks and money orders were the norm, I would simply deposit them and ship the item. When Paypal came around, I jumped right on board (No waiting for checks to clear! No waiting for the money order to be mailed). However, a friend of mine warned me early on that Paypal was not a bank and had no insurance, so if you had any money in there and the site was to crash or something, there's a chance your money would be lost forever. I had no evidence if this was true, but I was scared enough to always transfer my money to my bank account right away whenever I received a payment. So, transferrring those few dollars every couple days never really made much of an impact on my balance. Also, in the early days of Paypal, they had an option where you could pay your bills online through them. So, my plan was to knock down my credit card bills and pay the occasional cable bill by transferring the money directly from Paypal and not even needing to put it in my bank account. they eliminated this feature pretty quick for some reason, and so my brilliant plan went awry.

*** Now, an astute observer might point out that I still could have just kept track of what I was making on eBay and still just used that money for bills. However, an astute me would reply, "Fuck you." ***

So, here I am, after more than a decade and selling more than 1000 items on eBay, most of them being toys or keepskaes from my childhood, and I have nothing to show for it. That's a lot of packing tape, boxes, padded envelopes and trips to the post office, and in the end, what did it get me? A little satisfaction? Yeah. The thought that it's possible I could be even worse off had I not sold all that stuff? Definitely. But mostly, nothing to look at and say, "See? That's what I got for all those toys."

Kind of a hollow victory, no?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I mentioned it a little in my previous post that I had played kickball over the weekend. Well, I mostly whined about my foot, but I mentioned the kickball, too. I wanted to elaborate a little more on it here because, well, I wanted to.

After Game 1, which we lost by what I perceived as a convincing score of 8-0, I scoffed at the idea of adults playing kickball with such verve and poked fun at the other team for stretching and having a game plan and, y'know, trying. Here I sit, about eight weeks later, backpedaling. And I say "pedaling" because walking is still slightly painful. Hence, the pre-game stretching by the other team.

I need to retract some of my statements from this earlier post after that first game, because I will say right now that playing kickball was maybe the most fun I've had in a long time. After that first game, where we struggled to field a full team, we won our next game by a substantial margin (like 17-8 or something), and suddenly, losing 8-0 with half of the team not being there didn't seem so bad. But there was something else "afoot." This second game was way more fun. Obviously, winning is more fun than losing, and whoever brought the cooler of beer should be thanked, as well, but you could feel that team camaraderie thing happening. Maybe it was the bright red shirts, but we were starting to pull together. We established actual positions in the field and strategies, like what to do when the other team bunts, and even caught the ball. The highlight may have been the huge 14-9 comeback victory after being down 8-2. Okay, okay. the highlight was actually the post-game team meetings at the Bus Stop pub, but the game was a blast, too. And in a real telling moment, the team using the field after our game a few weeks ago only had three members, and thus had to forfeit, but most of our team elected to stay and play for them in a scrimmage, and we helped them attain a moral victory, even if it went into the record books as a loss. The cool thing was that we actually wanted to play that second game, just for the hell of it.

By the end of the season, Team Hangover was 4-2, losing only to the two teams who ended up undefeated (and we really should have beaten that Green team). In the playoffs, it all came full circle and we were soundly trounced by the same team that defeated us on week 1, who eventually went on to win it all and take home an actual trophy (Well, they didn't take it right home. They took it to the pub and filled it with beer first. Did I mention that kickball was fun?). I still didn't like their win-at-all-costs attitude and their small-ball strategy ("Small ball" is right on the money. Even the men were bunting), but they had fun at it, too, so to each his own. Maybe the most gratifying moment came after the game, where, despite what I would consider some poor playing - by me, mostly - one of our opponents came over to us and said that we were the best team they had faced and played them tougher than anyone else all season. Cold comfort, but it did make me feel better. As did the cold pitchers of beer afterwords.

I guess what gets me is that a lot of people snickered (myself included) when I told them I was spending my Sunday afternoons playing kickball. I find it strange that a sport that is basically a combination of soccer and baseball gets bemused so. In fact, there are elements that are superior to baseball (no walking, no striking out), and truly, you don't need to be a very good athlete to play, but the fact it is played by children (or was. Who knows what kids are into these days?) makes people laugh at you when you play it as an adult. I don't know why kickball doesn't get accepted and yet lacrosse does. And wouldn't most people rather watch kickball than golf? Is it the simple fact that my generation refuses to grow up at all that makes this debate even possible? With some minor tweaking, can kickball be saved and brought into the mainstream someday?

Interesting questions all, and ones I don't have an answer for. but I do know this; I'm saving my red shirt, and if I am still physically capable, I'll be on that field next season.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A 33 year-Old Problem

I wrote a post on my birthday about 33 being the perfect age. That I was right in the middle of everything and right where I needed and wanted to be.

What a moron.

Sure there have been some fun times, although maybe not as unadulterated as years past. I still have that freedom to do and go whatever I want, but it's starting to feel different. I realize that I am usually the oldest person doing whatever I'm doing at any point in time. This isn't really so bad, because let's face it, I'm not that old, but it can lead to some trouble.

The other day, playing kickball(!), I was sprinting from third to home on a ball that was eventually caught anyway and somehow pulled something in my foot (Remarkably similar to an injury I suffered while playing softball a couple years ago). I shook it off as one of those things, and the next day I awakened to searing pain that I haven't felt since I split my head open when I was nine, and at least then I got a Transformer. Let me stress again that I was playing KICKBALL, a game that I should probably be watching my children play at this point in my life.

The very next day, I was trying to tough it out, but it was bad enough that I got this e-mail from my friend, "Hey, gimpy, Want to go to the bazaar at 11?" So it was bad enough that I got called "gimpy." the bazaar was being put on by BU for some charitable cause, but I really only went to see if there was something I could maybe sell on eBay for fun and profit.

While at this bazaar, with my foot feeling like it was on fire, I bought my first tennis racquet. It may seem silly for a man who can't physically play tennis (in my condition, or ever, really) to make such a purchase, but I had been meaning to buy a cheap one somewhere, as my friend recently asked me if I wanted to give it a try. I'm sure it's fine to pick up tennis at 33. I assume it's pretty much just like Wii Tennis, right?

Anyway, the woman from whom I bought the racquet seemed delighted, giving me two bucks off the ticketed price and even taking my picture with it. The racquet was in excellent shape, in fact, and she said she would not be selling it if the injuries hadn't begun piling up. I had to sympathize. She was definitely older than me, but probably not as much as I thought, or hoped, and here she was giving up a hobby that she enjoyed because she simply could not do it any longer. This, I realized, was not something I am ready to do just yet.

I'm not feeling any great sense of urgency just yet, but I am feeling the need to do something different with myself. Despite being in probably the best shape of my life (which isn't saying much), and probably better shape than most 33 year-olds in the U.S., I feel like time is running out for me to do a lot of things, or at least for my participation in sports usually enjoyed by children.

The thing is, I do not sense any great changes coming, because I don't know what those changes could possibly be. The obvious answer would be the company of a woman, but that's not something you walk to the store and buy. So what that is in my control can I actually do? In modern society, with the economy being what it is, let's face it, the answer is very little.

So, merrily we roll, and hobble, along.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jurassic Park: Still Awesome After All These Years

Last weekend, I saw 9, the Tim Burton-produced vehicle about odd-looking burlap dolls saving the planet from... whatever the Hell is was that had taken over the planet. It's only been a few days, but I can barely remember the thing at all. All I seem to remember is that the main character (Doll #9) was attempting to save his fellow dolls' souls that were trapped in this machine, and at the end, the dolls were still dead. I guess I thought saving them would involve saving them. That's why I'm a soulless bastard.

More than the movie itself, I remember the conversation I had with my fellow 9-ers. I went with a friend of mine and some friends of his, and one of his friends (who is much more optimistic and jolly than I) said that he likes movies because life is just too hard not to. He loved both live-action Transformers movies for the simple reason that he wanted to see stuff blow up (and Michael Bay movies occasionally feature such things.) Honestly, I cannot blame him. Movies are supposed to be an escape from the drudgery of every day life. However, must we sacrifice quality for explosions?

I pointed out to my friend's friend that J.J. Abrams' Star Trek re-make had plenty of action, and a few explosions, and was an excellent movie. far better, in fact, than anything Michael bay has ever directed. He concurred, yet was not swayed from enjoying Transformers. Which is good, because for whatever reason, I have a tendency to try and convince people that they are wrong and whatever movie they liked and I despised is, in fact, terrible, so I applaud him for sticking to his guns.

We live in curious times as far as our entertainment goes. We may forget that movies, as we know them, have not been around all that long, and yet there are so many of them that the audience takes good movies for granted and now just wants to be mildly amused for a couple hours. Plots, themes, being amazed by the special effects, these are all lost amid giant fighting robots who are mostly indiscernable from each other and super-heroes, who seemingly have to suffer such strife, yet always manage to defeat the villain and get the girl at the end. Of course, people will try to convince me that, sure, the story sucked, but the effects in Transformers were really awesome. Well, of course they were. They were all done by computer programs that we can purchase at our local Best Buy. To me, knowing that, if I had the time and money, I could do the same thing takes a little of the magic away.

This is why Jurassic Park is still one of my all-time favorite movies. There was still an element of "How did they do that?" when it came to the dinosaurs. The special effects wizards behind the Raptors and T-Rexes combined elements of CGI and animtronics to create creatures that actually looked real because they were. The dinosaurs had weight and dimension, things that no Transformer had. That logic, to me, also applies to the story. A man breeding his own dinosaurs opens up a big can of worms (the morality, the idea that they are selling this scientific boon that could probably used for more noble means. Or as Ian Malcolm adequately puts it, "What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.") Jurassic Park takes the first half-hour introducing the premise and developing the human characters before we even see a dinosaur. Transformers didn't waste a whole lot fo time developing Shia LeBouf or Megan Fox (not that she needs much developing). As I recall, the robots landed and the chaos ensued.

I think the same can be said for movies in general.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My City of Ruins

I have split the last 5 years living in Cambridge and Boston. College towns if there ever were. In these five years I have seen The Change that takes place every May (and working at a college certainly helps.) That's when all the students, literally thousands of residents, leave in a matter of days. Suddenly, the trains are empty, the streets are bare, and the bars are filled with adults who are more capable of holding their liquor. It's an amazing thing, really. With the changing of the season come a new era every year. It's like Christmas, and it lasts for three whole months.

And now, as a new school year begins and the days grow colder, all the students return. It's not all that bad, really. As someone who helps register about 700 incoming freshmen every year, it's fun to see their doughy faces as they start this new chapter. It's fun to see the moving vans, and the parents who are dropping off their children and have no idea where they are going, yet they want to be in charge of that situation. There is life to the city again. And I usually wish I had stock in U-Haul.

Then the moving vans gum up traffic, and there is old furniture and garbage in front of every apartment building. And the trains are packed with loud people. Worst of all, the bars are full of kids, buying their cheap beer and vodka and Red Bulls. "Why are they invading my city?" I always ask. I never get an answer.

Maybe I noticed it more this year, or there were just more people moving, or maybe riding my bike around the city made me more observant, but The Change seemed different this year. More moving vans. More old furniture. More clueless parents. Maybe it's because I feel like a veteran now, or maybe this summer just went by too fast before I could appreciate it, but I was not ready for it. And I cursed those vans.

Like I said, I make my living at a university (two of them, actually), so I'm not complaining. In fact, I see it as a changing of the seasons, and often wonder how people who don't live in a place like this deal with the monotony. It's like living in a different city for three months, and for those months, it's a city where every citizen knows where they are going and how to get there (Well, most of the time.) It's like living in San Diego; Sure, they have the best weather in the world, but it literally never changes. It's 70 degrees every day. Does it get boring?

So, despite the vodka and Red Bulls, I love this place. I've lived here and worked here for so long, I wonder if I could do it anywhere else. Sure, I've thought about trying something new once in awhile, but really, this is where I've wanted to be since I was a freshman in college all those years ago. And here I am. Sure, the rent is high, the T is loud and the drivers are obnoxious (myself included), but this is my city, and I've wanted to live here for a long time. I ain't leaving now.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

When the Weird Becomes Normal

That was the title of my old blog, before I got tired of the three people who read it saying things like, "I read your blog post. You made some interesting points, but why are you so angry?" and "Don't mention me anymore!" Okay, well, nobody said that second one, but I still deleted it because I wanted to rid myself of the bile and anger. I don't know that I have, but the same three people still read it, so I guess it made no difference either way.

In some ways, I think my life has become a lot less weird than it was in the days of the old blog, which is probably one of the reasons I don't write as much anymore (and when I do, it's not something like "This guy I know did this and he's a putz!" or "I went out drinking and snogged someone I don't like" or "Love me.") Maybe my life is the same, while everyone elses' is different than it was. Or maybe, just maybe, I just don't read into things like I used to.

Probably the third option. For example, one of my friends got broken up with via text. Absurd, yes, and I would throttle the guy who would do that to a friend of mine if I ever saw him. But, no long, raving blog post about what society has come to out of me. I just sort of hung my head and sighed. Another friend just helped his wife move to New Jersey so she could earn her degree while he remains in Massachusetts. Not your typical marriage, but I certainly didn't blame him for not wanting to uproot himself at this stage of his life. However, I did not write one word about it here, going off about how people shouldn't judge and a marriage doesn't have to be like it was on The Flintstones. I just helped him sell his comics to make room for his new roommate.

And finally, two of my co-workers are engaged, and they were surprised when i was happy for them. I don't know what kind of ogre they thought I was, but I genuinely am happy for them. And I was tempted to write about it (I, uh, had a very interesting relationship with one of them several years ago), but I never got around to it, and it's really none of my business anyway.

Point is, the old blog would have had pages about it. And maybe it's that I'm trying to respect privacy more (although I would not have used any real names). Maybe it's just that weird has become normal, and why would I write about normal things? Where's the fun in that? So, technically, I did just write about all of them, but it was short and not over-analyzed at all. It was more of a "Previously on the Matt Dursin Show" kind of thing.

Now we're ready to start the new season.