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THE SITE HAS MOVED

That’s right – I have a new domain and a new look. It’s the same MattOnFire taste without all the “.wordpress.com”.

Check it: MATTONFIRE.NET

That’s dot NET for all you kids keeping score at home. mattonfire.NET.

Me: I think I’d like a sandwich. 
Dog: Can I have one, too? 
Me: No. You have dog food. Why don’t you eat that like a normal dog. 
Cat: Yo, what up, beotches? Can a kitteh get some vittles up in here? 
Me: Dammit, I just fed you an hour ago. 
Cat: Yo, calm down, whiteboy. I just want a slice of that turkey. Is that turkey? That’s turkey, right? Can I get a slice? 
Me: Get off the counter! 
Dog: Hey, cat! Grab me a slice of that turkey! 
Me: Dammit! Get out of here, both of you! 
Cat: Oh, snap! That shit ain’t turkey! Homeboy got some thinly sliced chicken breast up in here! Holla! 
Dog: This is soooo not fair. I have to eat processed chunks of cornmeal and beef-flavored horse meat. I demand a decent meal – or at least a snack – every once in a while. You know how I like chicken, too. This is preposterous. 
Cat: So… I’m just gonna take this here piece of chicken and… 
Me: NO! GET DOWN! [picks up cat and throws him in the other room]. 
Cat: DAAAAMMMMMNNNNNN! 
Dog: You’re a real asshole, you know that? 
Me: This is MY food. I paid for it. With MY money. That I made. What the hell have you ever done to earn your keep around here? 
Dog: Oh, I don’t know. How ’bout not let burglars and murderers in the house? Ever think of that? 
Me: … 
Dog: That’s right. Remember that kid selling magazines the other day? Total burglar! I scared him away. 
Me: You just barked a lot because he’s black and you’re a flaming racist. 
Dog: Well… whatever. He might have been a burglar and you weren’t going to buy Golf Fancy Monthly anyway. Just give me some frickin’ turkey! 
Me: It’s chicken. 
Dog: WhatEVERRR. Damn. You’re a dick. 
Me: [Goes to the fridge to get the mayonnaise. Yes, I eat mayo.] EAT YOUR OWN DAMN FOOD. 
Cat: [secretly climbs his way back onto the counter and starts licking the chicken breast] Guess who’s back up in this mofo! Dayuummmm! This is some good-ass chicken! What is this, Boar’s Head? What, What! Hey, Dog, catch! [nudges a side of the sandwich into the gaping mouth of Dog.] 
Me: SONOFABITCH! Get out. NOW! [opens the back door. Cat & Dog laughing hysterically race outside. Dog is doing the moonwalk and the cat is thrusting his pelvis like he's violently humping the air.] 
Cat: Yeah, booooyyyyyy! [singing] We gots the chicken. It be nice and tasty. I ate that chicken. Whiteboy be crazy. 
Dog: I’m gonna go pee on the lawn mower.

Oil Change and a Prayer

Being a super busy, always on the go and devastatingly handsome young professional, *cough*, I tend to overlook the daily nuances and hassles that regular non-busy and non-handsome folks have to think about. Did I feed the cat? Did I put on clean underwear? Did I forget to wash my hair in the shower? When is the last time I changed the furnace filter? Did I leave the dog in the car on a swelteringly hot day for hours and now he’s dead? You know – stuff like that. I chalk it up to my adult-onset ADD and the fact that I lived near Love Canal when I was a baby. True story.

Anywhoosies, there I am, pumping gas into my empty tank (yeah, I tend to forget that automobiles need gas. Luckily, I haven’t run out of gas while driving. Yet.), when I happen to glance at my inspection sticker on the windshield. Two months overdue. Yikes. And with my track record of being pulled over and hassled by The Man, I was lucky to have not yet been given a ticket.

I immediately pulled out the ‘ol iPhone (shameless Apple plug in the hopes that they’ll send me a new MacBook Pro) and began searching through my contacts to find my shop of choice, the Saturn dealership. That’s right. I drive a Saturn Ion. Shut up. I’m a practical man. Leave me alone. It’s a good car. I scheduled the inspection for the following day and – what the hell – let’s throw in an oil change because I’m about 8,000 miles past the recommended service mark.

Feeling like I accomplished a big adult-esque task, I decided I would reward myself by going home and taking a nap. Being responsible is tiring. Fortunately, a fellow gas pumper threw himself in front of my idling Ion before I could speed away. He yelled something about me forgetting to remove the pump from my tank. Oops. Thanks, buddy. Good lookin’ out.

Then next day I woke up extra early to take my babe magnet Ion into the shop. The Saturn dealership shop may be a little more expensive than going to the JoeSchmo auto shops, but they’re quick and have a nice waiting area – complete with pissy coffee and expired pre-packaged muffins. After handing my keys over to Sal (his name is totally Sal), I took my place in the waiting room. I’m sitting in a faux-leather (fancy!) chair across from the TV. Old people, mothers with children and a smelly guy with a big glasses and suspenders abound. Guess I’ll get out my extra-awesome iPhone (wink wink, Apple) and surf the twitterz. Maybe listen to some musiOH CRAP. I forgot my headphones. Well, at least there’s quality morning television programming to watch, right? Wrong.

Oh, sweet baby Jesus, it’s CBN news. You know, the Pat Robertson show with all the white people and subliminal messages of hate and intolerance? Whatever, I’m not discussing the merits of the show or the batshit craziness of those who watch it in this blog post. To each his own. It’s a free country. Worship as you will. Especially you, smelly fat guy in suspenders and extra large glasses. Matter of fact, why don’t you take this seat RIGHT NEXT TO ME when there are about 15 available chairs which are not right next to me. Good lord, sir. You smell like salami and Aqua Velva. Maybe if I bury my nose in my book I can shield some of the stench froOH CRAP. I left my book in my car, which is now hoisted up on one of those car-hoister thingies. A “Lift”. That’s the word I was looking for there. My car was on the lift.

Well, I’m certainly not going to sit next to Mr. Lunchmeat McAftershave, so I casually do one of those go-stretch-my-legs-oh-hey-look-at-this-thing-over-here-wow-pretty-cool-okay-now-I’ll-sit-somewhere-else. From my new vantage point across the room, I see a good portion of the customers intensely watching the God Hates Obama Show. They’re nodding along to some of the most insane stories, for example, there was a story about injecting God into the G-20 summit and how all the world’s problems would be solved if the crazy Muslims and Jews would embrace Christianity. Simple! Um… that type of attitude may actually be the CAUSE of some of the world’s problems, but whatevs. Again – I’m not talking about it here.

Admiral LargeGlasses SuspenderStink is mumbling. No, wait. He’s praying. Yes, he’s praying. I can tell by how he’s raising his hands toward the TV. Aaaand now he’s kneeling. Eyes closed. Arms raised. Palms open. Mumbling something about “world leaders coming into your light”. Gotta go stretch-my-legs-oh-hey-look-at-this-thing-over-here-wow-pretty-cool-okay-now-I’ll-go-stand-outside.

All this happened in less than 45 minutes. Not bad, eh? You know what? That Saturn dealership is on point! An oil change, inspection and tire rotation in 45 minutes. Free muffins, too! Booyah.

According to my calculations, (yes, I know how to do calculations thanks to my iPhone’s calculator function) September 2009 will be the month that I make more money than I ever did during any month working for The Man(s). For the first time since my untimely departure from a Richmond meat factory media conglomerate in April, I’ll be pulling in grown-up wages with grown-up decimal points and grown-up commas. Okay, just one comma. But still – there’s a comma in there and I likey.

I’ve packaged my skills into a nice little writing/blogging/communication machine and I couldn’t be happier with the work I’ve been doing or the connections I’ve made. Next stop: business license. At some point, I’ll need to make it legit. Who wants some of this? Come get it.

I had a chat last week with someone who is quickly turning into my business mentor (whether she accepts that role or not) about turning unemployment into a business. Selling yourself. Being the business. Doing what you love and putting yourself to work, despite not having a ‘traditional’ job. Following your heart and being happy. It’s real, folks. People do it all the time – sometime’s they’re forced into it because of unemployment (like me). Some people need a push. Some people will never be able to truly pursue happiness because they can’t grow a pair and put forth the effort. I’m happy things turned out the way they did for me. It’s still very much a work in progress, but I think I’m on the right track. The rough thing about freelance writing is that the work can always stop coming in. The good thing, however, is that there is always more work to be found.

I spent all of last week working diligently on articles, videos and blogs. I researched, edited, rendered, and created. I did it all from the comfort of my office, sporting gym shorts and scruffy facial hair. I hung out with some of my favorite Richmond bloggers, including 1/2 of this team and this crazy lady on Thursday. The Wife took me out for a delayed birthday dinner at a fancy-schmancy restaurant on Saturday. I worked malljob for a few hours here and there. I went grocery shopping at bought real honest-to-goodness food that doesn’t come prepackaged or in a box with a smiling glove on the front. I hung out with friends and watched football all day yesterday and reveled in a Buffalo Bills victory. I’m keeping extremely busy. If by ‘busy’, you include the time I spend wrapping tin-foil around the cat’s paws then throwing pieces of ham at him while he’s temporarily immobilized.

Tell you what – that cat doesn’t like to be wrapped in aluminum foil. The dog thought it was hilarious, though. Until I covered him in bedsheets and hit him with couch pillows. Now both him and the cat are holding secret meetings in the basement. I think they’re trying to booby-trap the staircase with trip wire and flying paint cans, Home Alone-style. You know how kids get really frustrated with something that they can’t do and start shaking and crying and punching the air? Hey guys, let me know when you grow some opposable thumbs and learn to tie an overhand knot.

I spend a nice portion of my day playing Rambo with those two. God help me when I have children. It’s gonna be like the Saw movies up in here.

I’m 31. Get off my lawn.

I turned 31 yesterday. Not exactly a milestone birthday like 16, 21 or 30. I spent it writing articles, slinging long-sleeved t-shirts and v-neck sweaters and watching my Bills lose a heartbreaker to the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Just take a knee, Leodis. Take a knee. Why couldn’t you have taken a knee?

Anyway, I could depress myself for the rest of the week thinking about how Buffalo came oh-so-close to beating Captain PrettyBoy Brady and the rest of his turd-tastic team. But as a 31 year-old adult, I’m going to forget about it and concentrate on the things in my life that have actual importance, meaning and relevance. Like the upcoming NHL hockey season.

Wifey bought me some much-needed items of clothing as a birthday present, as well as a much-needed pizza. It’s kind of a tradition that I eat Pizza Hut pizza on my birthday. I’ve done it it every year since I was a kid, and the pizza seems to taste worse and get more expensive every year. Seriously? 20 bones for a large supreme? And it tastes like warm ass and rubber tires? We should’ve spent $5 on a Red Baron or at least got one from a local pizzeria. Back in my day, pizza tasted like tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and fresh dough. Now it tastes like pennies and sweat and plastic. “Back in my day.” I can say that now because I’m 31 and I used to have a day way back in the day, back in my day.

Also, what happened to KFC? Another one that used to be good way back in the day. Now I can’t even drive by one without wanting to dig up the Colonel and shove the atrocity they call “mashed potatoes” into his dead, zombie mouth.

The malljob is starting to become more of a hassle than it was a few months ago. I’m at the point in my freelancing where I can’t justify driving 30 minutes each way to a 4-hour shift at a job that pays slightly more than minimum wage. In all honestly, I need those 5 hours to be writing and making real money. I initially got the job as a time-waster – something to get me out of the house and keep me busy for an afternoon. I don’t mind working the malljob one or two days a week because I get a pretty nifty discount on lesbian hiking gear. But they recently had two people quit to pursue better opportunities, leaving us part-timers to pick up the slack. Not a big deal if you want or need the hours. But I don’t. I’m happy working a couple times a week. I’m not complaining, because I’m all about making extra money. However, I can make more extra money by doing additional freelance writing, not from folding t-shirts. I think I’m just about ready to quit malljob altogether and concentrate on the freelancing. Then again, maybe I should wait until I absolutely have enough clients to make that a reality. It’s in the pipeline. We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m going to fire up Word and start another article. I might heat up a slice of leftover cancerpie. I mean Pizza Hut pizza. Then I’m going to have some leftover birthday cake. Then I’m going to find Ronald McDonald and force him to make out with the zombie Taco Bell dog. Then I’ll go to the doctor and he’ll tell me to stop eating like a 9 year-old because I’m 31 and there is something called “cholesterol” that has already begun to kill me.

Hockey starts in 2 weeks.

This scene takes place at a McDonald’s sometime in 1986, Niagara Falls Blvd, Niagara Falls, NY:

Young Matt: Ma. Ma. Ma. Mom. Mom. Hey, ma? Ma? Mom? Hey? Mom? Ma?
Mom: [Whispering] I’m going to destroy you.
Young Matt: Huh? Hey, ma! Mom! Guess what! Guess what, mom. Mom? Guess what.
Mom: WWHHHHAAAATTTT? …God dammit…
Young Matt: Ma, I want a Big Mac.
Mom: [Clenched-teeth momspeak] You’re getting a Happy Meal.
Young Matt: Um… but I want a Big Mac. I’m too old for a Happy Meal. I’m hungry and I want a Big Mac because I’m having a Big Mac Attack, ma, and I want one.
Mom: [Tightly gripping the leash harness that is attached to my younger brother as he is drawn to the Mayor McCheese slide across the restaurant] I. Said. No.
Young Matt: MA! I WANT ONE! C’mon, ma! Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a ses…
Mom: NO.
Young Matt: WHY?
Mom: Because I said so.
Young Matt: Your FACE. [I probably didn't say that, but I should've].
Mom: Fine, Mr. Bigboy. You want a Big Mac? FINE. GET ONE. But you better eat the whole damn thing and don’t you DARE ask me to buy you that He-Man guy that you wanted because YOU’RE A BIG BOY who is getting a Big Mac.
Young Matt: YAY! I’m getting a Big Mac! Big Mac Attack! Big Mac Attack! Um… can I still get the toy from the Happy Meal?

In reality, I remember throwing a long, drawn-out tantrum before my mother finally relented and bought me a Big Mac. I also remember forcing myself to eat the entire processed burger while my mother stared at me though tearing eyes, forehead veins bulging, although it didn’t taste as good as I had expected. I also remember going to the toy store afterwards and throwing another tantrum about the He-Man guy that she wouldn’t buy me. I really liked He-Man.

I thought of this moment from my childhood because I still become overwhelmed with gotta-have-it feelings when I see something that appeals to me. Something I can’t afford, but want so badly. It’s not because I need it, but because it’s flashy and new and shiny and smells like plastic and metal and electronic-ness or made out of special fabric or the skin of baby elephants. I just WANT it. In my hands. In my house. Available to me whenever I want to use it or look at it or touch it.

I had a ferocious inability to control my spending when I was younger. The little money I made would immediately burn a hole in my pocket and magically turn into CDs or finance my nightlife. When I couldn’t get by on the minimum wage jobs I was working in college, I opened up a line of credit. Big mistake. From that point, up until a few years ago, I was regularly making purchases on credit. Sure, some of the stuff absolutely had to be bought – furniture and apartment furnishings, etc. But I always wanted the NICE stuff from the NICE places. I bought a lot of stuff that I didn’t need and really have no use for. Looking in my basement, I have way too many old football and hockey jerseys that saw only one season of use. And those things aren’t cheap.

In some ways, I think I’ve completely turned myself around from those bad spending habits. In fact, before my unemployment, I hadn’t used a credit card in a couple of years. I had made a big dent in my debt and was finally starting to SAVE money. Of course, the unemployment fairy tapped me on the nose and the debt has again begun to mount.

There is a major difference in my mindset now. The feelings of gotta-have-it still bubble to the surface, but they’re quickly met with nausea and nervousness. In fact, whenever I make a big purchase, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Groceries cost HOW MUCH? The car needs gas AGAIN? This cable bill is RIDICULOUS!

This was a bad week for me, spending-wise. With the release of The Beatles Remasters on Wednesday, I felt drawn to the music shop. I bought 5 albums, and really wanted to get a couple more. I picked up a nice raincoat from malljob (you know, for all those times I’m outside in the rain), and I’m bidding on a throwback football jersey to add to my collection.

Do I need The Beatles remasters? Uh, no. I haven’t bought a CD in years. Besides, I’m sure I could get them online in a somewhat-illegal fashion for FREE. The raincoat? I mean, c’mon. This is a no brainer. I have an umbrella. That should work just fine. The football jersey? I have plenty already. I’ll only wear it a couple times this season to a game or two. Not smart, Matt. Not smart. A moment of weakness, indeed. I have that nauseous feeling, my heart is pounding and my facial pores are giving birth to stress-zits.

You see, Mom? You should’ve stuck to your guns and not bought me that Big Mac. You should’ve smacked me on the face and locked me up in Hamburglar jail. You also should’ve taught me that Big Macs are bad for you. Then maybe I wouldn’t have eaten at McDonald’s all through college (twice a day during the Monopoly game) and gotten fat. Even though I crave a good McNugget every now and then, it’s not often you’ll catch me eating that crap anymore (unless I’m on a road trip).

You really should’ve given me that He-Man guy, though. He was the one who smelled like a skunk. I needed him for the collection, Ma. Castle Greyskull needed him.

I wonder if I can find him on Ebay…

Me: [Sleeping] Zzz… Zzz… Zzz...

Dog: [Resting his head on the bed mere inches from my slumbering face] Siiiiigggghhhhh.

Me: Zzz… Zzz…

Cat: [Jumps up on the bed, then on top of me and walks the entire length of my body, from toe to head and begins to nibble on my nose].

Me: Zzz… Zzz… ZzOUCH! [Opening my eyes, all I can see is orange and brown fur and feel something cold and wet inside my mouth. It's the dog's nose]. DAAAAMMMMMMMM IITTTTTTTTTT!

[Dog and Cat high-five each other and bolt out of my bedroom]

Me: [mumbling] …wake me up… nose in my mouth… stupid cat face… dog ass all up in my business… trying get some sleep… stupid jerk animals…

I gruffly throw the covers aside and sit up. Rubbing my eyes, I turn my head over my right shoulder to check the clock.

Neck: *CRRRRRIIIICCCKK*

Wincing in pain and unable to return my head to forward-facing position, I hear the muffled giggles of Dog and Cat from the hallway outside my bedroom. It’s 8:32 AM.

I throw on a smokey t-shirt from last night. I pee. I make coffee. I open the back door and step out of the way of the stampeding dog and cat who cautiously, excitedly dart past me like children afraid of being spanked and with you-can’t-catch-me giggles. Jerks.

I drink my coffee from my favorite Buffalo Sabres mug and stare out the back window as I try to massage my neck with my free hand. I watch my pets chew on sticks, pee on bushes and rambunctiously chase each other around the yard trying to bite the other’s tail.

I think about last night and how grateful I am to live in a city where our online community backs up the internet chitchat and holds informative and fun social networking events. The Richmond chapter of Social Media Club had another great turnout. The topic of using social media in your local business’s marketing strategy was something that, I think, a lot of attendees found very informative. Of course, the real fun took place afterwards at Mekong Restaurant, where we enjoyed delicious (and complimentary – thanks, An) Belgian beers and Vietnamese food. I was talking with a fellow freelancer and newcomer to the SMCRVA-scene about how our online community has grown into an actual professional and social network that can generate real business for people like us. Writers talk to marketers. Marketers talk to business owners. Business owners talk to the web developers. It’s not only a great vehicle for shameless self-promotion, but also the perfect place to find collaborative partners with similar interests.

The professional side of networking eventually gave way to the hash brown side of networking when some of us rolled up to the Waffle House. Of course, HashBrownNetworking always gives way to EmbassySuitesNetworking, which is the perfect and most ridiculously awesome way to cap off the night. The gossip flies and the wine flows like wine. Or like beer. No, the beer flows like wine. Whatever. I think we need to have a week-long convention. Vegas, anyone?

But where was I? Ah, yes. Stupid Dog and Cat are now pawing at the door.

Me: No, sorry. I don’t want whatever you’re selling.

Dog: Let us in!

Me: What? No, sorry. I’m not interested.

Cat: Not funny!

Me: No, thank you. I don’t want any.

Dog: C’MON!

Cat: I’m hungry!

Me: Sorry. Can’t hear you. Please get off my property.

[Now we're just staring at each other through the window]

Me: Okay. Bye.

I walk away and pour myself more coffee. I’m thinking about the articles I need to start writing. I’m thinking about how much I enjoy my life right now. Still broke, still *technically* unemployed, but really feel as if I’m on the right track, career-wise.

This is Day 142, folks. Muffled barks and meows coming from the back door.

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