Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Dear Eric Muehlhausen,
Do you remember Wildcatter? Those old computers sure managed to entertain the hell out of us. It didn’t matter that cyan, magenta, black, and white were the only colors they could pull off, clumsy pixel by clumsy pixel. Drilling for imaginary Texas oil on ancient buzzing computers drove my lifestyle until I hit puberty. That and preposterous heavy metal songs by cartoon men with frizzy perms. Same as you. I know.
I was considered a smart kid. You know, the one who could skip all the homework and still ace the test to pass the class. My teachers adored me. Unfortunately, I was (and am) a lazy shit who thought he could coast through with minimal effort and still reap all the rewards. It wasn’t until I leeched onto politics that I realized life is a cruel bitch. Dad always told me life ain’t fair. I had to learn that myself. This was years after I last saw you.
You knew better. I don’t know if that came from your parents’ teaching, their genetics, or was something you knew by instinct. I suspect it was a combination of all three. When I dropped out of high school to smoke pot and rebel gloriously, you kept on, skipping grades, teaching yourself Cobal and C++, torching the so-called competition. You worked hard. You loved it. I could tell.
Last I heard, after you made Eagle Scout, you joined the prestigous Illinois Math & Science Academy. At the time, I was probably taking my first sip of hard liquor. After your dad got into his first motorcycle accident, he talked to my father. He told my dad you moved to Japan, married a Chinese girl, and now you work for Motorola, busting programmers’ balls for incompetent coding. I’m proud of you.
I did okay for a lazy shithead, I guess. While the rest of our class was graduating on schedule, I was an arrogant dropout accepting a job with Digital Equipment Corporation as a shipping clerk. I got promoted within a year to facility supervisor. There I was, working for a global computer company, 18 years old, doing a job that had absolutely nothing to do with computers. Go figure. I kinda lost the thread after DOS died and operating systems evolved to graphic interfaces. I loathed Windows 95 when it got big. I was always more comfortable with hexidecimal and text computing. I certainly never caught up to you, and I never will now. I’m okay with that.
That job didn’t change much during the five years I spent there, but the company name sure did. Digital got swallowed up by Compaq, which then got swallowed up by Hewlett Packard. I was a contractor, and the company I worked for, a facility company out of Pittsburgh called Affiliated Building Services, got bought by Enron. Yes, that Enron. The criminal energy vampire bastards that raped the retirement accounts of a hell of a lot of folks. When that scandal went down, ABS managed to separate from Enron. Supposedly we were merely partnered under the Enron name umbrella, but not really one of their cogs. We didn’t get liquidated. I remember getting letters from Kenneth Lay encouraging me to buy stock. I never invested my complimentary stock options. I wasn’t 21 yet. Lucky me. I still have the option certificates.
Now I work for a little company in Schaumburg, our hometown. I fix restaurant registers and order closed circuit cameras. We’re informal, very family oriented. I like it here, even if I am perpetually broke.
I finally learned to drive when I was 22. I moved out from under my folks roof the same year. I ended up going back a little more than a year afterwards, right after I left Hewlett Packard. Being back under my folks roof was rough. I was attacked by fleas. Dad was attacked by unemployment. And prevailing alcoholism. You knew he was a drunk, right? We all got evicted. We all split up. It was ugly. Now I live with a roommate in River Grove, right on the edge of Chicago, next to O’Hare Airport.
I’m starting to find myself, finally. I love writing. So that’s what I’m doing. At first it was easy, but lately it’s been frustrating. I like that frustration. That challenge. I know now that anything that comes easy is cheap crap. Sometimes I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall, leaving skin and eyebrow where I impact red brick. When that happens, I step back, take a deep breath, and write a letter to somebody I haven’t seen in years. To put words out. Therapy.
Hello, Eric. What’s new with you?
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