Thursday, December 24, 2009

"I still have Santa's phone number. Capisce?"

And that, friends, is the best threat to a screaming toddler I have heard not just this holiday season, but for all time. Those of you with young children, feel free to steal it. I'm sure the frazzled mom who uttered it won't mind. ;-)

Random Tales from the Bullseye, Part 2:

-- Once, my freshman year of college, I wrote a check (remember those?) for 48 cents. The 21st-century version? Somebody ran through a debit card for 52 cents.

-- Dozens of inches of snow on the ground. Freezing rain. Miserably cold temps. And yet? There are bikinis on sale. In December. In the Upper Midwest, which means, inevitably, that you can buy one in a camouflage pattern. I *LOVE* this place! ;-)

-- Why people insist on asking me for fashion advice (stop laughing), I do not know. I have had a multitude of people ask me if I thought this top goes with those pants or whatever. I offer an opinion, but this is my disclaimer: If you (or your kid) ends up looking stupid, I'm not to blame, as I am strictly a Tshirts and jeans kind of girl.

-- Yesterday, as I was bagging somebody's stuff, I felt this insistent little tap in the general vicinity of my posterior. Annoyed, I turned around to find Miss Cindy Lou Who -- who was no more than 2 -- and wanted to know if she could have an empty crate (which formerly contained clementines). She was just tickled pink when I handed it to her and announced proudly to one and all, "I got a box!"

You gotta wonder where the creativity and sense of wonder goes as you age.

-- Then there was the "hey buddy! Nice to meet you!" I overheard while doing something else. I glanced over to find a 6-year-old (at best) boy greeting a newborn. THAT caused an outright guffaw.

-- Dept. of "I'd Rather Not Know": -- the chick who bought 25 boxes of candy canes ... and a pair of socks.

And then there have been the people who get that it's not all about buying stuff. Like the disabled gentleman who was out shopping not only for himself, but his neighbor (and paying for her, too). I said it was nice of him to go shopping for two (especially because a wheelchair's gotta be tough to navigate in this weather), and he said, "well, she can't get out. She's 97."

Then there was the woman who said she was buying bakery items because she'd been so busy working she hadn't had time to do it herself, and she didn't know if her kids were going to come anyway. Her husband dumped her after 30 years, remarried as fast as he could, and convinced their adult kids that she was the problem. So none of them came for Thanksgiving, either.

"How sad!" I said.

"It will be what it will be," she said. "God didn't promise me that my kids would love me, but he did tell me I have to love them."

Amen, peace out, and Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

influences and advice and stuff

Or, "I miss you, Joe McGuff."

I have an ancient, yellowed Guindon cartoon that says "Nostalgia is only bad if it causes you to go back through life." But remembering the little things that ended up being turning points isn't so bad.

I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. In first grade, I wrote a story centered around some blob figure my sister cut out of green construction paper. I'm sure it has been lost to the sands of time now, though I did know where it was for many years. It centered on a family named the Burstein-Applebees (Kansas Citians of a certain vintage, and particularly those familiar with Metcalf South Mall in that same vintage, should be grinning right about now. B-A was a record store on the mall's lower level). Other than that, basically all I remember is that Mr. and Mrs. Burstein-Applebee were getting a divorce. I think that was probably a wish I didn't know how to articulate otherwise, even at that age, but we won't go there.

In second grade, for some reason, there were a few days I was well enough to go to school, but not to go outside for recess. So I stayed in and wrote "books." Illustrated 'em myself, too, stapled them together and scrawled "BESTSELLER!" across the top in big red letters.

But fourth grade ... Fourth grade is when my dad took me to my first Royals game. He had gotten tickets through work, and my brother had something else going on, and my mom wasn't interested. I remember not caring much that I was last choice.

The Royals beat the A's, who in the mid-'70s were a helluva team -- Gene Tenace, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers -- wow. They won a pile of World Series and were the Royals' biggest rivals, next to the Yankees. But that night, John Mayberry hit one into the fountains, the Royals won 5-3, and when my dad said "so what'd you think?," I said, "when can we come back?"

Next morning, he handed me the sports page. I looked at it and had one of my first Eureka! moments: I could go to baseball games and GET PAID TO WRITE ABOUT THEM. That pretty much solidified my career choice.

In 9th grade social studies, we had to do a unit on careers. Part of it involved interviewing someone in your chosen field and then giving a report to the class. I chose Joe McGuff, who was sports editor of the Kansas City Star.

At the time, he must have been in his 50s, and he was remarkably patient with dumb-kid questions. And he also gave me some of the best advice I've ever gotten: Read everything you can. It'll all come in handy at some point.

A couple of years later, I read an interview with Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury. He said the trick to his success was to know just enough about a topic to make it look like he knew a lot, and that this trick not only got him through college and cocktail parties, but writing a daily strip.

I bring all this up because I've been doing a lot of auto-related writing lately. Do I know diddly about cars? Well, I know how to stick the key in the ignition and turn it. That's pretty much the sum total of my knowledge. And yet, the people I talk to for these stories, and then the people who read them, are all utterly convinced I am a car fanatic. It's kind of amusing. :-) All I can say is, god bless the Internet, and thank you, Joe McGuff. You taught me a lot, not only by reading and absorbing your stuff, but by suggesting learning both happens outside of school and should be continuous.

Monday, November 30, 2009

no one here gets out alive....

Or, life and death and the ever-increasing awareness of mortality in between.

Today is the birthday of one of my nieces. It is always a day of much reflection for me (whether you know it or not, Miss C), for reasons I'm not willing to get into publicly. Ask if you wanna know.

Late last night, I learned of the death of someone I admired and who had provided me much-needed help (of various sorts) and encouragement at a time in my life where I really, really needed some extra TLC and a *whole* lot more belief in my basic worth as a human being. That he survived some really horrible crap that life threw at him in the last several years was inspiring in itself. I always knew him to be kind and generous with whatever resources he had to offer that he thought you needed. Those who disagreed -- publicly, doing much damage -- surely contributed to the stress that eventually killed him via a heart attack at a relatively young age.

Same thing happened a few years ago to someone else in the same profession who always went above and beyond for me, although I just heard from him the other day and he sounds upbeat and well. It's a risk you know is out there when you become a professional caregiver, I guess. And although the ones I've known decided to do what they do for a living partly to heal themselves, they also all genuinely have been compassionate people who wanted to help others through painful times and get to reasonably OK ones. Takes one to know one, etc.

I'm at that particular life stage where I'm thinking about this stuff a lot, anyway, wondering what dreams may come when I shuffle off this mortal coil. Sometimes I miss being 22 and thinking I'm invincible and that I have all the time in the world. Enjoy it while you can, birthday girl.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A cornucopia of thanks

A cornucopia is a horn-shaped basket filled with food such as fresh corn and wild ucopias. -- fakeAPstylebook

Inspired by an old (in terms of decades known -- we're not really OLD, yet, Suz, right??) friend, herewith, my list of things to be thankful for in 2009.

In no particular order, I am thankful that:

  • Very soon, I am going to get to hug my beautiful, wonderful, 20-something boy for the first time since he was 5 days old, and that he was raised lovingly and brilliantly well, as I wish I could have done for him.
  • The wonders of technology have helped me to reconnect with old friends -- even if they live on the other side of the world now -- and make new ones. I had a chance to go home this summer and do some catching up, and it's the first time in years that I actually felt like it was "home" again and I had some roots there. Even if some of my favorite people were Indian Creeps. (NALLWOOD KNIGHTS, BABY!)
  • I have a roof over my head and utilities that aren't constantly in danger of getting shut off, and that as much as we can annoy each other, Vic comes through for me every time. And that Rich puts up with me, although I know he'd rather not.
  • The cat-in-law tolerates the occasional hug and smooch without complaining too much that I'm ruffling her Supreme Feline Dignity. In return, I let her wake me up meowing at obscene hours. I think it's fair.
  • The kitties at the shelter are much more snuggly than the cat-in-law and love the hugs and smooches and petting. Happiness is a warm fur-baby, of whatever species.
  • I once again am getting a chance, if only part-time, to do what I love best, and that the person paying me to do so (in both money and compliments) has gone from total stranger to friend in the space of a month. You rock, Ry.
  • You too, John, but I've had a lot more years to tell you that. Doesn't make it any less true, though. Thank you for giving me a chance when no one else believed in me, for always offering to bail me out when it seems like I could use it, for understanding the days when I am nonfunctional, and for your infinite patience with same. If you gotta be crazy, it's nice to have a shrink for a boss. ;-) Thanks for getting it.
  • You too, Gregory. It is a rare thing in life to meet someone and know the second your eyes meet that you are not only going to get along famously well, but end up as very good friends for a very long time to come. You have done my heart, soul and brain so much good over the years, whether by making me laugh, snarking with me over ANTM, or being tenderhearted enough to cry with me and not worry what it looked like. As humanoids go, you are one of the finest.
  • As much as I complain about it, I have a reason to leave the house and something to do with most of my days for at least a few hours a day. You have no idea how depressing it gets to face endless days of nothingness.
  • The Viqueens are the ones having to put up with Benedict Brett's ego. (Yeah, I don't CARE that you're 9-1 and he's on fire. We'll see how you all feel once the annual retirement drama begins in the offseason.)
  • Even though my first bunch of students at Marquette, who were mostly 18 then, are mostly turning 30 in 2010, I'm still around to hear from them (and students from later years) reasonably often. I'm especially grateful that many of them have written *me* recommendation letters for jobs -- it's a good feeling to know you've made a difference. It's an even better feeling when I think back to 4 years ago around this time and how close to the edge my continued survival was.
  • Which makes me thankful for Dr. Hake and Dr. Fenske and everyone who did what they had to do to pull me through a critical illness -- including not telling me what my actual odds of survival were. (I found that by reading my chart, like an idiot.) Scary stuff. And although I still have my share of "why bother" days, all in all, I'm glad to be around still.
  • I've gotten to travel some, and live in different places, and be exposed to different cultures and ways of doing things, whether those different cultures were as far as Germany or as near as northwest Wisconsin. (Trust me -- it's a lifestyle all its own there.)
  • I have not only gotten to meet Jake and Peg Leinenkugel, who are lovely people and very committed to their community, but that I still regularly get to drink their tremendously tasty brewskis on a regular basis.
  • Even though it cost me a fortune and has done me absolutely no good in the well-paid job arena, I have two diplomas that I'm really damn proud of, from two really good schools that I worked really hard at. (Well, sorta, at the 2nd. I'm thankful that I was Dr. Thorn's golden child and could get away with whatever I wanted, including doing very little to actually earn my RAship. ;-)
  • The friends I made there (hi, Nic and Marie and Mike, especially!) have been with me ever since. And the friends I made in greater Milwaukee, my adopted hometown, know me better than almost anyone and still like me, even if I met them at work (deadlines make me cranky).
  • Even though it's freakin' cold and we haven't seen the sun in a million or two years, when you open the door leading out onto the deck, you can get lungsful of that yummy wood fire scent.
  • I have had the opportunity to fulfill my dreams and meet my heroes. Not many folks can say one or the other, much less both.
There's undoubtedly more, but it's a start. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tales from the Bullseye

Random weirdness that I jot down to comment on when I have the time:

-- If you've never seen me before in your life, you're younger than me, and you don't have the personality that will allow you to get away with that sort of affectation, you had best not be calling me "dear."

-- Corollary to the above: If you've never seen me before in your life, and you insist on calling me by name, repeatedly, just because you can read my nametag, you are a guaranteed annoyance.

-- Corollary to the corollary: The military guys are always just polite as hell, and don't even make me feel old when they call me "ma'am." THAT is more acceptable than "dear," or than plays on my name that amuse you because you clearly believe I haven't heard them all eight hundred and forty-two billion trillion times before.

-- People who come through the "10 items or less" lane with 72 items should be summarily executed. It's no more fun on the other side of the register, particularly because you get to look out onto a sea of irked people.

-- Apparently every pregnant woman in the greater Rochester area shops at Target North. Why they are all also buying KY and condoms I am not altogether sure. It may have something to do with the fact that they all seem to have a passel of kids already.

-- Dude: I closed last night too, but you don't hear *me* telling people to "have a good night" for the entire  *day* when I come in at 9 the next morning. Fewer drugs, more sleep: It's a good thing.

-- Packages of undies that announce in bold caps that they are "WEDGIE FREE!": Too much information? Discuss.

-- Exactly what kind of person finds it amusing to buy a Halloween costume for his or her dog? How is that not animal cruelty? Inquiring minds want to know.

War is war, and hell is hell....

Forward, he cried from the rear,
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side. -- Pink Floyd, "Us and Them"

Not sure if it's the weather, the time of year, or the PMS, but damn, I've been in a mood the last few days.

The Great Bullseye requires us to make conversation with the customers (oh, excuse me, "guests") whether we really feel like it or not. It probably goes without saying to anyone who knows me that I generally fall on the "not" side -- I suck at chit-chat in the best of circumstances. But, you do what you gotta do.

Tonight an elderly gentleman came through my line. He was wearing a Korean War Veterans jacket. I figured, what the hell, it's a point of entry for chitchat -- I comment on the right-thinking Americans who come in wearing Packers gear, might as well chat up an old guy about how my dad fought in Korea too.

The man's face instantly lit up, and he became very animated as he started telling me about his particular role. He was clearly very proud of his history. As he was leaving, he thanked me and told me to thank my dad for his service.

And I lost it.

I have missed him every freaking day of my life for the last 10 years, but at this point, it's usually just the anniversaries that get me. I thought these random breakdowns were long gone.

About 3 "guests" later, an older woman came through. Our point of chit-chat was my having to be at work well before dawn the day after Thanksgiving. I said I had never been much of a shopper and didn't understand people who would willingly get up at obscene hours to go spend money on mostly useless stuff. (One thing I have learned this past year and some is that "it's just stuff," but that's another post.)

She launched into a tale of how her mother's family all live in Kentucky, and she and her husband made the trip there every year for Thanksgiving, and she took "the girls," of whom she was the oldest, out at 4 a.m. on  Black Friday. They (willingly!!) got up at 2:30 a.m., and even when the rest of them wanted to quit and go home and get some sleep, she pulled rank and kept them going, and it was always so much fun.

Except that this year, they can't make the trip because her husband's been unemployed for a long time, and she isn't really sure what they'll do. They've never made their own turkey, etc, and they don't have any family nearby, so there wouldn't be anyone to share it with anyway. She was just heartbroken about it. I felt like hell for dredging that up for her.

Early in my reporting career, I was struggling with a feature on an inspiring (here we go again) old lady. She was in her 70s, had built her own house, ran a greenhouse business, etc. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get across what I found so remarkable about her.

So I emailed my favorite feature writer at the Milwaukee paper. One thing nobody ever catches onto about journos is that we're really all terrible introverts. I tell people all the time, and it's true, that I can chat up anyone for a story, but if you insist I go to a party, I'm headed directly for the nearest corner, and I ain't moving. I've gotten really good at pretending -- so good that I routinely fool people. (My 3rd night at Target, which had been a particularly awful one, someone asked me how it had gone. I said, "terrible." She said, "It'll get better. You're personable, and that's half the battle." All I could think was, "Honey, if you only knew.")

Anyway, the point of that was to say that we're all also terribly insecure, and you can get us to do damn near anything by appealing to our extreme need for positive reinforcement. I emailed this guy and said "Look, I've been a fan for years, I love you to pieces, I study your stuff for tips, but tell me: How do you do it?"

He said, "Every human being has a story. I could interview you for 5 minutes and write yours. Your job is to figure out this woman's story and tell it."

It turned out very well (both the story and the advice, which I continue to use). But that's really what it boils down to: Everybody has a story. I have run into a number of crushing ones in the last week or so (more to come on that). It makes me sad as hell. But sometimes all you have to do to make someone's day a little brighter is let them tell their story, and receive it graciously.

And I still miss the hell out of my dad, and it kills me to think of all that he's missed in my life in the last 10 years. So the reminiscing is bittersweet, as is the imagining, via that elderly vet, of what he might be like if he were still around. But at least I still have part of his story to hang onto.

PS: The quote from the header:

Hawkeye: War isn't Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.
Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?
Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?
Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.
Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them - little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander. -- MASH

And a little note from Bing and Rosie:
it's not my watch you're holding, it's my heart...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

photographs and memories and influences and stuff

The sun is shining and it's disgustingly warm for November here (50s!), but it's managing to be sort of a melancholy day anyway. And when I get melancholy, it's because I've gotten to thinking about something ... which led me to something else ... which led me to something else ... which required me to find a way to tie it all up together.

Monday was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The summer between 7th and 8th grade, we made a trip to visit my brother, who was stationed there with the Army. The two things I most vividly remember? Street-vendor currywurst (YUM, and impossible to replicate at home, although we tried -- Das Bierhaus in Menomonie, WI does a FINE job of it, though) and Checkpoint Charlie. West Berlin was soooo pretty -- huge, tree-lined boulevards, clean, full of life. But at Checkpoint Charlie, you could climb up a few stairs and look over the wall into East Berlin. It was hard to believe the two were even in the same country, much less the same city. East Berlin looked like it must have right after World War II. They didn't appear to have bothered to do any reconstruction.

Between that, and the ACHTUNG! signs telling you what country's "zone" you were in (and the penalties for not following the rules), and seeing the rows of small white crosses marking the spots where folks who tried to get over the Wall were shot dead by snipers in the towers that were all around -- well, it made a helluvan impression on a 13-year-old.

So, happy Veterans Day, Jeff, and Dad (Korea, 3 tours in Nam), and Uncle Joe and Uncle Bob and all the rest of you, and thanks for keeping this country from ending up like that.

Speaking of Veterans Day, Nov. 11 also is Kurt Vonnegut's birthday. Anyone who has known me for more than 2 seconds knows how I feel about K. He left a great legacy, but he was agitating to the end, and I miss his unique take on things and his willingness to speak out against injustice. I just miss him, period. And yes, I did actually meet him once, briefly, at a lecture at Washington University in St. Louis. I can't begin to claim to know him except through his writings and works, but I still miss him, if that makes sense. (And he also was a vet, but I won't bore you with the bio you can read for yourself in multiple places. :-)

Yesterday I ran across a collection of stories by Frederick Barthelme, long one of my favorite writers. I picked it up and read a couple at random and realized why he's always spoken to me: it's the details. If there's one thing I do well, it's observe--I see things other people gloss over completely or just dismiss as mundane and unimportant. Rick is proof that the quotidian can be as compelling as the grandest fantasy. When you weave a lot of small, seemingly insignificant details together, you get one big, telling picture -- but I hadn't realized till last night just how much my style owes to him. Kids are sponges, I guess, and I first ran across him in early high school.

And one thing I suck at? Endings. :-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

i suppose it had to happen.

-- Someone I know came through my line at Target the other day. At least she already knew I was working there, so it was only mildly humiliating.

-- Yesterday, two harried parents of a fussy toddler came through. Kid's name? Miley.

You know what? Miley isn't even the *original* Miley's real name. (Well, she had it legally changed so now it is, but it's not what was on her original birth certificate.) When that 2-year-old girl is a crabby 80-year-old in the nursing home, how's "Miley" gonna go over? Because Ms. Cyrus's 15 minutes are due to be up any second now, much less in 70-plus years.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for eons with girls' names. (Target story #3: Guy looks at my nametag, which has my nickname on it, and says "Is your name Candace?" I say yes. He grimaces and says, "So is my mom's.")

Seriously, folks. I can't complain about creative and unusual names :-), but I'll crab nonstop about trendy ones. Kids have significantly longer lifespans (hopefully) than dogs. If you wouldn't stick your pet with it, why would you do it to your kid?

Monday, October 26, 2009


aka "the Target dog."

Two-year global economic disaster? Check. Completely useless degrees in a rapidly dying field? Check. And that brings folks like me to working at places like Target.

It could be worse, yes: I could have had to resort to the Purveyor of All Evil. Target at least has a bit of a social conscience. (Heads-up, shoppers -- you get a 5-cent discount per reusable bag. Bring your own or buy one there.) But damn, I need a real job soon, because being perky for hours on end is going to send me into a complete nervous breakdown sooner rather than later. I can only be un-cranky for so long. ;-)

So far the most interesting things I've had to ring up are, uh, prophylactics and undies. You know, that is just more than I want to know about people. Then you get that horrible "oh god, my parents have sex" thing goin' on (but with images of the other people) in your brain and ... well ... just ... EWWWW. And the undies ... Men's come in packages, at least, and they're really plain. And you can't tell much from them aside from what his waist size is. OTOH, the size 30 bra for an adult woman -- again, TMI.

When they aren't screaming, the kids are a hoot. I asked one little boy what he was going to be for Halloween. He said, "um ... something." (No decision yet. Halloween's Saturday. Ten bucks says Mom's going to be back Saturday afternoon cruising the picked-over costumes.) One pushed all his family's items up toward the scanner when the conveyor belt decided not to work. I thanked him for being a good helper and he was still beaming when they left. And the toddler who maintained eye contact and just smiled from ear to ear every time I looked at her made my night.

I still maintain that a monkey could run the register -- they've come quite a long way from my days at McDonald's in the '80s. And at least I don't have to wear some stupid/ugly/garish uniform and I look good in red. ;-) I just gotta figure out how to work around this inability to be my usual curmudgeonly self. Maybe I should try to make up for it by being extra-curmudgeonly on my days off. ;-)

In the meantime, I'm filing these characters away with the likes of Dan-Rather-hair-Richard-Nixon-face, who I was stuck on a dead airplane with on the way to Connecticut for my niece's baptism. Never did make it. But the asshole gate attendant who looked at the line of people trying to find different flights and said to his pal, "Are these real people, or are they non-revs?" is going in the book, too. (Non-revs = non-revenue = folks who work for the airline or have family/friends who do and thus fly free or close to it. In other words, when he took advantage of that benefit for himself -- HE WAS A NON-REV! I love the terminally clueless. They make good copy.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

ways to tell you're old

  1. You see a teen or 20-something out walking around in public in an outfit you totally would have worn, without question, in your teens or 20s -- and you think to yourself -- "OMG! How can they leave the house like that? Do they not KNOW how stupid they look?"
  2. The authority figures in your life -- bosses, doctors, whatever -- suddenly all are younger than you. By decades, in a number of instances. Or, suddenly, to a significant group of people, YOU are the authority figure (i.e., really old fart).
  3. You would rather stay in and have a civilized glass of wine and a small, sedate dinner party with your nearest and dearest than go out with a huge group of people -- many of whom you only marginally know -- get blitzed on cheap beer, and snarf greasy pizza at 3 a.m.
  4. You have high school friends who are grandparents already.
It totally has been one of those days. Anybody want to add to the list??

Saturday, October 3, 2009

and today's word from Unity is....


One of my junior-year-of-college roommates was a counselor at a summer camp for diabetic kids. She came home at the end of it with little things she'd made for all of us in their arts and crafts sessions. She said that she had taken a lot of time thinking of things that would be totally appropriate for each of us.

I have no idea all these years later what anybody else's was. But mine was a nicely sanded wood block. On it, in bright yellow paint and lovely calligraphy, was painted the word: WHY?

23 years later, it's still as accurate a one-word description of my essence as any.

This isn't the place to divulge the sordid details -- you don't want to hear it; I don't want to tell it; that's what shrinks are for and I utilize them as needed. But Thursday was 1 year unemployed, the rejections keep rolling in, and it absolutely does eff with your head eventually whether you want it to or not.

Cleaning stuff up and out today, I ran across a folder full of emails from readers. These were my two favorites:

I have laughed at so many of your articles and always thought I should write and tell you how much I enjoy reading them. There is nothing funnier than real life and I laughed so hard reading about your experience in a snowshoe race! I've never tried it for all the reasons you gave in your story so I just want to congratulate you for trying and sharing your funny experiences! Keep up the good writing!

I just wanted to write and let you know that I always check the paper and read your articles first! You have a wonderful talent for writing that seems to be down to earth and enjoyable to read! Thank you!
 I went to a networking dinner the other night, and when the woman who invited me -- who I'd done a story about -- mentioned that I was the one who had written the story, I got a completely spontaneous round of applause from the rest of the room.

WHY, with a stack full of stuff like that, and recommendations from DAs and circuit court judges and former students and department chairs and bosses and stuff, WHY the hell am I stuck in neutral? One can only blame the economy for so much. One can only blame the death of the newspaper business for so much. I have GOT to have some transferable skills. Why isn't anyone seeing them?

Oh, and just in case you enjoy irony as much as I do: I got a form rejection via email the other day. It was for a copyediting job.

They spelled my name wrong.

The ability to write and properly punctuate standard English is rolling steadily downhill. SOMEBODY has got to need someone who does it well.

And if I sound self-pitying -- well, maybe some. But it's getting harder and harder to try to be positive and resilient and all that good stuff when all there ever is is more of the same bad stuff instead.

I'm trying, I'm trying .... but there really is only so much rejection a girl can take.

 Ray Lamontagne -- Be Here Now

RL video

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

and yes....

...I've already repeatedly been called Eeyore. ;-) And to you I say....

Count von Count and dentition

Just in case you're wondering: Losing teeth is not as fun at 44 as it is at 6.

For one thing, it's vastly more expensive. For another, by adulthood most people find it considerably less enjoyable to end up minus body parts, no matter how problematic and malformed they may be.

I don't need another self-esteem hit. But I have one. Because really? Opening your mouth to find a gaping black hole is creepy and depressing. And yeah, while for the first time in literally decades I have a cosmetically reasonable smile, it's going to take a little getting used to the idea that I most closely now resemble Count von Count. ;-)

Don't get me wrong -- I have HATED my teeth forever. It's nice to feel like it's not the first thing everyone stares at when they see me. I always tried to smile in spite of it, but that never stopped the self-consciousness. It's just weird, OK? It's weird to look in the mirror and see "normal," but it's just as weird to be able to pop "normal" in and out and look like a friggin' vampire bat.

Oh, BTW: Now that I have my 2 front teeth (front 4, actually) in time for Christmas, I'm getting my biggest wish of all time, ever, and it doesn't get any better than that! (More on that closer to the date of occurrence. :-)

Now playing: Duncan Sheik - Time and Good Fortune
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Un. Freaking. Believable.

Herewith, an email I just received. Names have been redacted to protect the guilty.

Dear ,

As you can imagine, in this difficult economy, hundreds of individuals have applied for our job at [name of organization]. It has been both exhilarating and sad – exhilarating to see how much talent there is in our community and beyond; sad to know how many individuals are seeking employment.

I am sorry that there is not a match between your background and our needs at this time. Thank you for your interest in our mission and in our organization.

Most importantly, the greatest need is to build our membership – media, politicians, and various partners measure our effectiveness based on whether [target group] support the organization. In addition to knowing you are a vital part of supporting our mission, you will receive our international newsletter, access to crisis call listeners and to the invitation-only [name of mailing list], a prescription drug savings plan, and other benefits. You can sign up at [identifying link].

Yes, that's right -- now that we've told you you're not worth hiring, could you give us some money?

This, friends, redefines the word shameless.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

cue Dave Matthews much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to sa-aaay....

Open up my head and let me out...

Random miscellany (is that redundant?):

-- Seen on an anti-gay-marriage bumper sticker: "One man, one women."

This is where it pays to be literate. Unless this person really meant that he or she thinks polygamy is just dandy but civil unions are not. I suppose anything's possible.

-- The truth as only a reporter can tell it, courtesy of Ryan Pagelow. Go subscribe to Pressed. It's truer and (dishearteningly) funnier than most of what's on the "comics" pages these days.

- A plug and a plea for help with my other blog, Write Up Your Alley. Anybody knows someone willing to barter for website services, give me a holler, please. TypePad was kind enough to give laid-off journos 2 free years of hosting, but I don't find their platform terribly intuitive. Plus, my design skills suck.

-- Open question for discussion: Better to keep your mouth shut and suffer mightily because of it, or say something and risk being steamrollered/judged/etc?

All of these things, all of these things, they are such reveries....

Don't listen to me, it's my imagination...

(And, for the hearing-impaired, text below):

Duncan Sheik, "Such Reveries"

you and I in the room with the balcony
you lie on the bed while I stare at the sea
I stare at the sea
on such reveries

and we're riding the ponies in Mexico.
the moonlight leaps through the palm tree groves
oh, wouldn't you know?
we're in Mexico

yes all of these things, all of these things
they are such reveries, ohh
all of these things, all of these things
they are such reveries

the oceans waves loomed as large as could be
they threw us below but you held onto me
yeah, you held onto me
oh such reveries

'cause you are my treasure, a love that astounds
the end of my searches, my looking around
no more looking around
a love that astounds.

yes all of these things, all of these things
they are such reveries, ohh
all of these things, all of these things
they are such reveries

but don't listen to me,
it's my imagination
I don't even know you
it never happened
just dreams in slow motion
they never happened
all that I told you
it never happened ever

'cause all of these things, all of these things
they are just reveries, ohh
all of these things, all of these things
they are just reveries
yes all of these things, all of these things
they are just reveries, ohh
all of these things, all of these things
they are just reveries

so many visions still to see
and many travails before I may sleep
but then when I sleep
oh such reveries

Dave Matthews Band, "So Much To Say":

And my hell is the closet I'm stuck inside
Can't see the light
And my heaven is a nice house in the sky
Got central heating and I'm alright
Yeah yeah yeah can't see the light
Keep it locked up inside don't talk about it
Talk about the weather
Yeah yeah yeah can't see the light
Open up my head and let me out little baby
Here we have been standing for a long long time
Treading trodden trails for a long long time

I find sometimes it's easy to be myself
Sometimes I find it's better to be somebody else

I see you young and soft little baby
Little feet little hands little feet little hands little baby
A year of crying and the words creep up inside
Creep into mind yeah
So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
Here we have been standing for a long long time
Treading trodden trails for a long long time

I find sometimes it's easy to be myself
Sometimes I find it's better to be somebody else

So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say

Open up my head and let me out little baby

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

just shoot me...

As my brother used to say when he couldn't quite wrap his tongue around the actual Spanish: "OUCHIE WOW-WOW."

Up and at 'em early this morning to visit with a woman who runs a moving service for the elderly. Great idea, much needed, she's very dynamic and great to talk to, but hanging out in a "senior living residence"? Yeeeeeah, not so fun.

Some years ago, I did a day-in-the-life story of a parish director (layman who does all the administrative tasks, freeing the priest for sacramental stuff only). Our last stop for the day was a nursing home, where he held a brief Communion service.

Maybe there were 15 people there. Most were in wheelchairs; some were on oxygen; some were drooling on themselves, and even though he was standing right in front of them and practically yelling to ensure they could hear him, several fell asleep.

When we got back to the car, he turned to me and said, "And THAT is why I always know where my son keeps his gun."


Since Oregon requires you to have a physician certify that you are terminally ill and have 6 months or less to live, somebody just buy me a one-way ticket to Switzerland when it looks like I might start heading down that path. (They're not so picky.) I can't stand the thought of having struggled so hard to make something of my life and myself only to revert at the end of it to toddler status. If my mind is mush, I'm not that interested in keeping my body running...I have no desire to pay for the privilege of being stuck in an old people ghetto. (Even though most of those apartments are more modern, not to mention larger, than most of the ones I've ever lived in.)


Monday, August 24, 2009

best laid schemes of mice and women...

....gang aft agley when you go to bed without writing them down first. ;-)

Well, hello, poor little neglected blog. I've thought of so much to write about over the past few weeks, but usually as I'm about to doze off. I repeat it to myself a few times and figure I'll remember in the morning, and I never do, of course.

Now that it's daylight, I actually do have something to write about....later. :-) This really is an excuse to start typing in the hope that it will activate whatever brain cells it needs to so that I can stop staring at a blank Word doc and write a story instead.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mom and Twain

Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else. This is not advice, it is merely custom.
— Mark Twain

My mother was, and is, the queen of "safe places." The constant refrain "But I put it in a safe place!" got to be a running joke in our house. It also meant that whatever couldn't be found probably was lost and gone forever.

Mom also was really good about dropping things down the drain (jewelry, especially rings) or throwing them away (somehow, believe it or not, partial dentures win this category hands down). If you can take it out and wrap it in a Kleenex, and it costs a ton of money, you can rest assured that you will be assigned to dig through the trash several hours later, hunting for it.

Occasionally, however -- and this one took, oh, 30 years to sink in -- Mom had a point. Every time she spent another fortune at the dentist, she would come home with the plaintive admonition to "take care of your teeth!"

Yeah. Well. That presumes you have 1) dental insurance, once you're off the parental units' plan or 2) a job that pays you enough to self-fund the work.

In a word (OK, 2 words): UFF DA.

I'm thinking more about the pain than the money at the mo, but the cost wouldn't be nearly as much if there weren't so damn much wrong due to lack of ability to pay for care.

So yeah -- prevention is definitely a plan. But so is decent insurance, for *everyone.* Are you listening, Washington?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

passing notes

Yesterday on Facebook I got a message from a high school pal. In the course of catching each other up, he mentioned that he still had some of the notes we'd passed in senior English.

This got me to wondering: Do kids today still pass notes? Because from about 6th grade forward, I tended to get in a ridiculous amount of trouble for it. ;-) Maybe today they sneak-text, I dunno. But 26 years from now, who's going to be able to pull up a really funny text message?

Sometimes "progress" ... isn't really.

Friday, July 17, 2009

life's little absurdities

Loved 'em then, love 'em now, but the Thompson Twins: 3-piece band, one guy, one black chick, one blonde chick, none of them with the actual last name of Thompson. How uber-ironic we tried to be in those days. ;-)

Anyway, a comment made to me earlier today made me dig this up:

No Peace for the Wicked

There's a scandal in the city, lots of rumors flying round
I gave them all my money, what I lost they found
Sometimes I think they're madder than hatters having tea
Setting up the situation to destroy the scenery

(There's no peace) No peace for the wicked
We're dancing till we drop
(There's no rest) No rest for the wicked
And we're all too scared to stop

Oh can't you see the trouble?
It causes me much pain
Cause I don't understand
Why should I stand out in the rain?
Sometimes I think they're madder than hatters having tea
Setting up the situation to destroy the scenery


Satellites spin through the air, suffragettes are everywhere
When the headlines hit the streets they're gonna knock you off your feet
Satellites spin through the air, acrobats of atmosphere
Maybe love will disappear
I wonder if you really care

There's two people on the wire
Making fun of what you said
Say you're looking for affection
Won't you look at me instead?

No peace for the wicked
We're dancing till we drop
No rest for the wicked
And we're all too scared to stop

I've heard the phrase both as "no rest for the wicked" and "no rest for the weary," but the latter -- while it certainly makes more sense to me -- appears not to be the original.

Moving on:

Stopped at Papa Murphy's (a take-and-bake pizza joint, for those unfamiliar) to grab some dinner. Big sign on the window: "WE ACCEPT FOOD STAMP BENEFITS."

Yeeeah. You can't buy toilet paper with food stamps, but they'll let you have all the high-calorie food you like -- and then give a bunch of social scientists zillions in grant money to figure out why poor people invariably are fat. Go figure.

trying to get back in the groove

Oy. Busy few weeks. After an immediate-family reunion in KC, I trotted off to Milwaukee for a couple days last week to attend "job camp." It was held at a casino. About 1000 people came. One of them was the former mayor of South Milwaukee. Times are tough all over. ;-)

It was an interesting day, though, and I learned a lot of things. Such as:

-- Aggro people suck.

-- I appear to be a magnet for the perpetually perky and chatty. Why it is they decide to plop down next to me and start invading my privacy is beyond me.

-- Getting resume advice from a zit-faced 25-year-old is a little surreal.

-- While condom machines in bathrooms are so common as to go unnoticed anymore, the bathroom I went to at the casino was the first one I've ever seen a sharps (biohazard needles) container in. Didn't exactly inspire confidence in the clientele...

--- ... average age, 80. Watch them bitching about how little money they have while pumping coins into dollar slots. The poker room and off-track betting rooms were filled as well.

-- Candidate for unluckiest employee ever: male, late 50s, electrical engineering and MBA degrees, has been laid off 5 times in the last few years and his most recent boss was a former Chilean merchant marine. WOWZA did he have some horror stories.

-- "185" jokes, courtesy of ComedySportz:

185 accountants walk into a bar. Bartender says, "sorry, we don't serve accountants here." 185 accountants got so depressed, they jumped off a ledger.

185 couches walk into a bar in Davenport. Bartender says, "sorry, we don't serve couches here." 185 couches say "well, OK, we'll go sit in divan."

185 jars of mayonnaise walk into a bar. Bartender says, "sorry, we don't serve jars of mayonnaise here." Jars of mayonnaise say "Hell, man, what's your problem?"

I had a bunch of others written down and now can't make out what they meant. That'll teach me to wait this long to post again. :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

hero worship vs. celebrity worship

Let's note from the start that I plan completely to avoid any religious discussion in this post and am using the word "worship" to mean "extreme interest, adulation, etc."

The media frenzy over Michael Jackson is bugging me. I am a member of the original MTV generation, as in, I remember when it debuted and when it still actually played music videos. I was in high school when the frenzy over "Thriller" and all that was going on. I was a sophomore in college when he set his hair on fire shooting a Pepsi commercial. I mean, let's face it, the dude had been weird for a solid 25 years. Whatever you may think of his music -- and I can take or leave it, honestly -- he's going to be remembered more for the weirdness than the tunes. Which is sad.

The last .... whatever you call this outpouring of what, grief? from people who never laid eyes on the famous person -- that I remember being this bad was over Princess Diana. Didn't understand that one either. Definitely didn't understand why Mother Teresa, who died around the same time, and who devoted her life to society's outcasts, didn't get 1/10th the press of a pretty young thing in need of significant amounts of therapy. But I digress.

I wanted to reach through the screen this afternoon and kiss the guy who directed a MJ documentary. He told Keith Olbermann that he really didn't get celebrity worship and didn't believe in it. Me either. Is it the fantasy aspect? Am I just too practical? Because really, I would trade one abnormally attractive person without two brain cells to rub together for 100 bridge trolls with brains and a sense of humor. (It could be my self-concept that's coloring that, I suppose, and Bob DeFeo, if you're out there somewhere reading this, I have never forgotten what you said about me in 10th grade biology, you son of a bitch. But that's a whole other post.) I appreciate reality, and not "reality." The vacuous and juvenile sorts who end up on shows like The Bachelor (BARF) aren't real; nor are they interesting. Attention whores? You bet. Insecure? Absolutely. But not interesting.

So what exactly fascinates people about them, then? I wouldn't be famous for all the tea in China. People have told me for decades that I need to "tell my story." I have responded for decades that I will never write an autobiography because 1, nobody gives a shit, and 2, I am so uninterested in spilling my guts to the planet that my interest is clear off the negative end of the scale. There are people I will tell one-on-one, if the situation -- mine or theirs -- warrants it. Otherwise, therapists exist for a reason. I don't need to write a book to unburden myself and I don't want the attention that comes with it. My fantasies involve things like getting a job that makes me enough money to pay all my bills in full every month. I don't understand the sorts who need to be the center of 6 billion people's attention.

Hero worship, OTOH, is entirely different. Celebrities get worshipped for being attractive and only occasionally for being talented. Heroes are something else again. Heroes DESERVE adulation. Funnily enough, though, they'll usually shy from it.

The definition of "heroes" varies for everyone, I guess, but my heroes are people who live their lives with integrity, stand up for what they believe in, no matter how unpopular they might become for it, and treat ALL people with the respect they earn simply by virtue of being human. All people, from the richest person in the world to the starving leper in a gutter in India, automatically earn basic dignity. Some earn more through good words and deeds; some earn less through bad ones. But some of it is a simple birthright. And most of the time, you never hear about the real heroes. I suppose they have the satisfaction of knowing their lives have been well lived. What do you suppose the people who are worshipped for their looks or their money or their talent do when whatever makes them special disappears? It's got to leave a huge void.

I dunno. I don't get the whole celebrity thing. I don't know how "entertainment" reporters are able to sleep at night (I'm lookin' at YOU, employees of TMZ and Entertainment Tonight and the like). I don't know why something like the death of someone who sang a few songs -- which is a talent zillions of people have, you know -- overshadows "minor details" (sarcasm alert) like genocide and bombing innocent people to death and the inability of the richest country in the world to ensure that every one of its citizens can afford good health care. In a nutshell -- WTF, world?

Duncan Sheik, Earthbound Starlight

What are you looking at, what do you see?
Is it the truth or a strange fantasy?
Whenever you're watching
You're changing the scene
Time is a place, this place is a song
Where mothers are distant and fathers are gone
He too may be watching but he's not letting on

Can't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
Even though he might
And she can't kiss your cheek
As the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
Days, nights, wrongs, rights, earthbound starlight

Hey, are you listening?
What is the sound of things that you lose that you never have found?
You're finding the way
Or turning around
Dancer with destiny
Tempter of fate
The life that you lived is only a taste
Sometimes the sweetest is the time that you waste

I won't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
'Cause sometimes that's the lie
Even if she kissed your cheek
Still the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
Steal your heart
Life is hard
Never easy, believe me

Need no more questions
Maybes are mights
Darkness descends, run out of light
When you go blind
You get second sight
The deeper you dive
The greater the heights

So don't dry your eyes
Or say it's alright
Life is hard
It's a fight
Even if she kissed your cheek
Still the days become weeks
No rewind
No repeats
As the days become weeks
No remind
No repeats
Days, nights, wrongs, rights, earthbound starlight

Now playing: Duncan Sheik - Earthbound Starlight
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

lessons learned, and learned, and learned...till next time....

Periodically, I get really hard on myself for being what I consider a pretty significant failure. At the very least, at 44, I am nowhere near where I assumed I'd be when I was 18-22. (I know, I know, who is, right?)

I look at high school friends who became doctors and lawyers and investment bankers. I look at college friends who have won Pulitzers or now work for national media outlets like ESPN (true in both cases). I look at my buddy Gregory (hi Mr. G, I know you read this :-), who decided what he wanted to do in high school and went straight through and did it, "it" involving the also-lengthy process of earning a doctorate -- I assure you, grad school is no picnic -- so that he could share his wonderfully compassionate and loving self with people in desperate need of same. And then I look at myself, and I feel like shit, because WOWZA did my life ever take some serious detours. Some of them have turned out to be wonderful and some have turned out to be disastrous, but in the end, I'm still at least a decade behind my peers, and I feel it acutely. But then I get reminded that you never really know what other people are contending with, no matter how good it looks for them on the outside.

There was this guy in high school who had friggin' EVERYTHING. He was totally gorgeous (and in fact made a fortune modeling while still in his teens), popular, etc, and the best part was that he not only didn't treat the outcasts like me like shit but had a genuine smile and kind word for all. I mean, I not only wasn't in his league, I wasn't even on the same planet. Most guys (and definitely most girls!) who had all that didn't know the people like me existed, or managed to stare right through me, if they saw me at all. But Bryan was always really nice to me.

Today I found out a bit of what became of him. The looks disappeared, I hear, which, you know, they generally do that. It's just a matter of earlier or later. The much, much sadder part was that he wound up doing prison time for aggravated assault, along with other stuff.

Whoda guessed? Not me. So I looked up the online court records. At one point he was found incompetent to stand trial, which means a bunch of shrinks found credible evidence of serious mental illness. He eventually took a deal that involved him pleading guilty to assorted charges.

A couple of years ago, someone else in kind of the same position -- cute, exceptionally kind, seemed to have it all -- also ended up in some seriously hot water. Difference is that this was someone I had been very close to for years. It blew me away to find out what had allegedly happened; to find out that his perfect life of overachievement actually wasn't all that perfect. His case *did* go to trial, and thankfully, he was acquitted on all counts and is rebuilding his life and his reputation. But to be slapped in the face with the reality that, even through all the problems he tried to help me with, he had his own, was difficult.

I skipped all my high school reunions for one reason or another. (The only valid excuse was for the 5th-year one, when I was 9 months pregnant and living in another state :-). At the 10-year, I had a crappy job and no degree as yet and couldn't face showing up and seeing how well everyone else was doing, looking at endless pictures of happy families, etc. At the 15-year, I was so disgusted with the way I look that I couldn't bear to show up and face what I was sure would be pointing and laughing behind my back. At the 20-year, I finally had a respectable job and education and was starting to make something of my life, but decided it was kind of pointless by then, as I hadn't been to any of the others.

By the 25th, we were all on Facebook and there was no reason to have an actual reunion. ;-) And guess what I found out? Most of us have a few (or many multiples of a few) extra pounds. Many of the guys I last saw with thick heads of hair no longer have same. Almost all of us have had some sort of trauma -- bad relationships, ugly divorces, kids with critical health issues, trouble with aging parents, etc etc etc. In other words -- even the people who looked like they were on an arrow-straight trajectory for perfect lives? They missed.

I long ago lost count of all the times I've been told how futile it is to compare myself to others. I wonder when I'll learn.

Now playing: The Beat - The Limits We Set
via FoxyTunes

life, death, and perspective.

So I spent 2 hours in the "community psychiatry and psychology" clinic at Mayo this morning for an intake appointment. I mentioned to Dr. Doogie that it would just be easier, even though I love my pdoc in Eau Claire, not to have to drive 2 hours to see him, so he gave me a referral.

Turns out that Dr. Doogie, being new, didn't know that this particular clinic only does "short-term" care. Which means I spent all that time filling out forms and retelling my history (which they had, via electronic medical records, since my pdoc in EC is Mayo-affiliated) just to be told, "yeah, well, we'll refer you to the resident outpatient clinic. They'll call you sometime. Oh, and you want a therapist? Great. Here's a bunch of them -- OUTSIDE MAYO." (Because, you know, who needs continuity of care or anything? Wouldn't it make sense to keep all the medical types in the same system?)

"Resident outpatient clinic" doesn't mean it's for folks who live in Rochester, it means it's staffed by 3rd-year psych residents. They leave. Every year. So, no continuity of care there either.

So, already peeved, I head off to another Clinic building (essentially in Siberia, from the one I was leaving -- quite a hike) to get my blood thinner level checked. After another 20-minute-past-the-appointment-time wait, I get called back, walk in, and see the damn CoaguChek. They run on the same principle as diabetic glucose meters. They also are proven to be wildly inaccurate on people with APS (my clotting disorder).

I mention that to the nurse. She, nor any of her nurse buddies, had ever heard that. My INR came back at 1.5, which basically means I am no more anticoagulated than someone who doesn't take Coumadin.

Nurse Karen calls Dr. Doogie, who says it's OK with him if I go down to the lab for a blood draw for comparison. So now I'm waiting for the results of that.

Cranky and starving, I stop by the vending machines near the lab (healthy snacks only, natch) for a small bag of trail mix. Mayo being a place that sees a lot of really, really sick and elderly people, there are places to sit where you wouldn't find them elsewhere. I plopped down on a nice padded bench right by the machines to have my snack.

As I'm sitting there, eating and stewing about my wasted morning, medical professionals who really ought to know more than their patients, etc, 3 little boys, clearly brothers, come barreling around the corner. The two older ones -- 6 and 8, maybe -- start wrestling. The little one, who was 2 at the most, walks straight up to me, wordlessly, and sticks his hand out and waits.

Well! How does one refuse a cute little kid? I shook out a little of the trail mix into my hand. He picked out a raisin and went merrily on his way, without a word, leaving his brothers in his dust.

That worked temporarily, but by the time I was halfway to the parking garage I was annoyed again. There's a piano in the lobby of the Gonda Building, which is pretty much the point of entry for anywhere else in the Mayo complex (it's all connected by indoor subways). I looked at the scene unfolding there and started grumbling about cliches, because it really did look like one -- the beautiful, young blonde maiden, fashionably dressed, with her teacher, the old maid with the ponytail and the way-oversized glasses, accompanying her.

Then, she opened her mouth.

The first thing she tried was kind of operatic, and while she had the voice for it, she abandoned it pretty quickly after noticing what her audience had become -- largely old people, but some in really bad shape -- wheelchairs, oxygen, prostheses, whatever. She started in on some oldies but goodies and I watched as the old folks, especially, started singing along. Her first one was "Someone To Watch Over Me," which is particularly poignant, given the setting. When she started into "I'll Be Seeing You" and the woman in the wheelchair by the piano got this dreamy look in her eyes and started to sing along, I left -- because I'll be damned if I'm going to bust out sobbing in the middle of the frigging Gonda Building.

That's the thing about Mayo: you get people from all over the world, different cultures, languages, and life stages coming through its doors. In about half an hour today I ran the gamut from toddler to young adult to aged -- and no matter what had brought them there, they all taught me a little something about life, and sharing. And perspective.

Ol' Blue Eyes

I'll be seeing you
In all the old, familiar places;
That this heart of mine embraces;
All day through.

In that small cafe;
The park across the way;
The children's carousel;
The chestnut tree;
The wishing well.

I'll be seeing you;
In every lovely summer's day;
And everything that's bright and gay;
I'll always think of you that way;
I'll find you in the morning sun;
And when the night is new;
I'll be looking at the moon;
But I'll be seeing you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

preserve your memories....

...they're all that's left you.

"old friends"

I have been having absolutely hideous attacks of severe melancholia lately. I suppose it's all to be expected for my life stage and such, but that doesn't make it easier to take. I blame Facebook. ;-)

Seriously, reconnecting with folks who, for the most part, I've not seen since high school in 1980-something has been wonderful, but saddish. Nobody gets out of life unscathed, of course, but I do wish it were possible to get through it without getting overly battered, bruised and otherwise wounded.

I started thinking last night about all the "me's" that have been "me" in my lifetime. I can sort of vaguely recall being a bouncy, fearless little kid. Then I hit 12-13 and it all went to hell.

So here's what I've come up with, more or less in order:

-- happy me
-- brutal teenage depression/angst me
-- wild child me ('swhat happens when a repressed Catholic girl raised on guilt gets away from home for the first time ;-)
-- Lost-and-drifting me
-- Motivated to finally finish school and get a job doing what I'd always wanted me
-- Academic achiever me (bolstered by the ed psych who finally believed me and apologized for all the other educators who hadn't from ages 5-31)
-- Starting off 10 years behind but at least I have a decent job finally me (aka professional me)
-- Onward and upward me (with interruptions for serious illness, both physical and emotional)
-- Older, wiser, sadder me having to figure out all over again what's next and what matters

What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil....?

For the record, here's the lyrics to the song:

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settles like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear...

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; they're all that's left you

horror movie ideas

If there are any aspiring scriptwriters out there, I grant you permission to freely steal these ideas. :-)

Every time I go through an automatic car wash, I sit there and think what a terrific scene that would be in a horror movie: Some nubile young wench trapped in her car, unable to stop the onslaught of the approaching robots who dump so much soap on the car she can't see out the windshield ... those funky things that look giant vertical blinds attacking ... a blood-curdling scream, and then the car is rinsed to reveal .... ??

Yeah, I'm weird. So sue me. :-p

Today I had an experience that convinced me once and for all to create another horror movie (or scene within), one I live all too often: Some poor schlub (has to be middle-aged or elderly, because young adults still have functioning, non-overloaded brain cells) drives into a multi-level parking garage, doomed to drive in endless half-circles, looking for the exit. Kind of like the Eagles' "Hotel California" set to film -- "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Now playing: Elliott Smith - Let's Get Lost
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

seen and heard

-- A friend and I have a hobby (compulsion? fetish?) that involves trading instances we spot of truly bizarre names. It generally also involves a discussion of what that person's parents were thinking/toking/snorting/drinking/etc to come up with said name.

Today I met a very nice woman whose first name is -- I kid you not -- Lo Jean. Pronounced like it looks, spelled just that way.

Perhaps I have spent too much of my adult life in or near da hood, but the first thing I thought of was "lo jack" -- those homing devices to keep said hoodrats from stealing your ride. (I once chased one across 3 lanes of traffic on 12th and State, the heart of cracktown in downtown Milwaukee, for a car that totally wasn't worth saving, but that's a story for another time.)

-- Lo Jean is a nurse for a very nice doctor who is, I believe, roughly 11 years old. Things like this always get me because, for such a long time, people always thought I was older than I was. (My late BIL's best friend tried to pick me up at BIL and sis's wedding reception -- at which I was 13 -- because he thought I was 19, but that too is a story for another time.)

Then for a while, people always thought I was younger than I was. One of my fondest memories is of a convenience store clerk carding me at age 36 and then going on and on about how there is NO. WAY. I really could have been 36. (Alas, those days are gone, perhaps until I start coloring my hair again, anyway.)

And now, irretrievably middle-aged, I look at the young pups like this resident, who I'm guessing (realistically now) probably isn't 30 yet ... and DAMN I feel old. Also a little depressed because he's already achieved a helluva lot more than I ever will, but that is an old whine NOT for another time. (I need to get over it already.)

-- While I was waiting for Dr. Doogie, I had nothing better to do than read the posters on the wall. One of them was provided courtesy of the "Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Foundation."

I suspect Ms. Lips or her parents or husband or whoever shaved some syllables off that name (I'm lookin' at YOU, Bernie MiklaszEWSKI of the Post-Dispatch), but how much worse could the original have been? You gotta hope she came into it as an adult, because kids would be absolutely horrible with that and scar her for life.

-- Wigger overheard this afternoon while I was attempting to eat lunch:

"Yeah, that's my word for the day, reh-TEE-cent. I gotta use it in a sentence."

Wigger 2: "reh-TEE-cent? What the hell is that?"

Wigger 1: "I dunno, man. I think it means, like, hesitant."

Why yes, he DID mean "reticent." Which native English speakers with two brain cells to rub together pronounce "REH-tih-cent."

BTW, for those on the East Coast, wiggers are a variant of guidos, but without the 14 layers of orange spray tan and the 4 popped collars.

-- Sign outside Great Harvest Bread Co: "Every day is a challah day here!" :-) (I had to close on a nice bit of intelligent wordplay. :-)

Now playing: Ingrid Michaelson - The Chain [Live from Webster Hall]
via FoxyTunes

Monday, June 1, 2009

random thoughts from a cluttered mind....

-- I've been thinking about names lately, particularly as they relate to assumptions that turn out to be false.

1) I recently met someone who has the most Irish name in the world and yet clearly is Laotian or Thai. To see her nameplate on the door and then see her walk out of her office was a surprise. :-)

2) I once had a student named Bradley Richter. One would expect, especially having been in Milwaukee, a nice, blue-eyed, blond-haired German boy. As I was looking over my class list before the first day, I wondered if he were related to another former student of mine with the same last name (who was indeed blond, blue-eyed, etc).

Bradley Richter turned out to be an absolutely flamboyantly gay Asian nerdboy.

Life is like a box of chocolates, as Forrest's mama said: Never know what you're gonna get. Good to keep that in mind.

-- Is there a group of people on this earth who have bigger egos than MDs with Napoleon complexes?

I gotta cut this guy some slack, because for one, he saw me for free, and for two, when I told him I had the one clotting disorder no one's ever heard of and gave him the name, he said, "Really? Everybody's heard of that!" Which, I assure you, is news to me and my fellow APSers. But boy, give a short guy (I am 5'4" and he was shorter than me) an advanced education and you have the perfect recipe for smug.

-- Weirdness: A freight train -- not an El or a light rail car, but a freight train -- running on tracks that cut across a major downtown artery.

-- Tics, verbal or written: Every frigging time I edit one, I remember an associate pastor we had at St. Blaise (which no longer exists, sadly). Fr. Rich was an OK homilist, but by the time you'd heard a few, you could write them because they were so formulaic. I will never forget the line that signaled his impending conclusion: "Maybe that's the challenge for us today."

I deal with one writer who quotes the same effing Leonard Cohen line every effing chance she gets, and am tempted to send her a "best of" CD so she has exposure to more of his stuff. I have one who ends every other sentence with a question mark instead of a period. And I'm on an apparently futile mission to end the world of the construction "it was, well, irrelevant." UGH.

I wonder how people get on these kicks. I just haven't figured out a way to get them off them.

-- I wonder too, as long as I'm ranting about language, how people who haven't heard English before and don't understand it think it sounds. I mean, face it, German is an ugly language to hear and a difficult one to write, since they're prone to stringing 5 nouns together to make one word. But in the "broke and uninsured" medical clinic the Mayo Clinic runs, and where I was tonight, Spanish was pedestrian. Hmong I'm used to, living where I do. And then there were two African folks whose language I could not begin to figure out. But it sounded really weird to my foreign ears. (I dug the Eddie Murphy, "Coming to America" dress of the guy, though -- complete with cream-colored, faux-alligator shoes. Stylin'. :-)

Lest anyone jump my shit for being un-PC, all I'm saying is that's one interesting waiting room to be stuck in for 2 to 4 hours every few weeks.

-- And, to complete the language-bitching trifecta on an amusing-slash-kinda-depressing note, herewith the note at the top of my patient information leaflet for one of my meds:

Take one tablet on the first day and take one and one-half tablets on the second day alternating in this mannor

Mayo Clinic, folks. Let's give 'em a hand for demonstrating that English is irretrievably in the toilet (or at least proofreading is).
Now playing: Billy Bragg - At My Window Sad and Lonely
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Marian the Librarian would be appalled.

It's a long lost cause I can never win
For the civilized world accepts as unforgivable sin
Any talking out loud with any librarian
Such as Marian.....Madam Librarian.

Marian, Librarian

Does anyone under the age of 40 know how to behave in a library anymore?

My students at Marquette never had any trouble, but that's because Marquette attracts nerds. :-) Pass the library at 2 a.m. and not only would lights be blazing, you could see students inside bent over books. Plus, by the time you get to that level, theoretically, anyway, you're civilized.

I actually was run out of the Rochester public library this afternoon earlier than I'd planned because of a group of about 10 teens who were laughing uproariously, talking and yelling loudly, dropping F-bombs left and right, and chasing slightly younger kids around. The RPL is a good size, at least, and there are places for grownups on the second floor, but I wasn't interested in any of the stuff up there (aside from the peace and quiet). Not only did I leave without getting what I wanted, I was so rattled I brought home another copy of a book I'd already checked out.

I miss things like basic courtesy. I wish they'd make a comeback.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Minnesota nice"

There are those who will tell you this is just another term for passive aggression, and that it relates to people who are smiling, helpful and pleasant to your face but talk trash about you behind your back. But, to me, anyway, it does seem there is a higher percentage of happy, friendly people here. (Maybe the lye used to cure the lutefisk has preserved their good mood -- that or the 10-month-winter brainfreeze. :-D)

I mention this because I heart Hy-Vee. I mean, after 2.5 years in exile, it's HEAVEN to be near a grocery store that actually sells fresh sushi. (I never could find it, on a menu or anywhere else, in CF. They'll happily eat roadkill, though.) And you gotta love a grocery store that has dieticians on staff that regular folks can make appointments with without having to go through doctors and insurance companies and stuff. But every single time I'm cruising the aisles and a worker is putting stuff on shelves or walking past me or whatever, rather than ignore me, they ALWAYS smile and greet me and ask if I need any help. And yes, that's part of their job -- but I've had jobs where that was expected, and I faked the hell out of it. I can tell from genuine. LOL

The other reason I heart Hy-Vee? Their express lanes. The signs above which say "12 items or FEWER."

A grammatically correct food mecca: I ask you: Does it get any better than this? :-)

One last Hy-Vee story: The little kid one aisle over from where I was, singing his own, made-up tune as loud as he could: "I love candy, I love candy, we love candy" etc, ad infinitum. So yeah, he was in the candy aisle, but hey, you gotta take your smiles where you can get them. :-)

Now playing: Melody Gardot - My One And Only Thrill
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, May 21, 2009

just a reminder

"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be: am an attendant lord, one that will do to swell a progress, start a scene or two, advise the prince."
- T.S. Eliot

Being Armus

Just like Rick Reilly, I'm plagiarizing myself. Unlike Rick Reilly, I don't have a million-dollar contract with ESPN. That makes it not as bad, right? :-)

I wrote this on a mental health forum a few years ago, and I think it stands as a really good description of what life in the abyss is like. I'm bringing it up because I got some sad news about an old friend, and for those of you who don't understand how anyone could off themselves, maybe this will help.

I hope you are at peace, Clay, and were able to leave this world with the knowledge that you deserved better.

Does anybody remember the Star Trek: Next Gen episode where the black goo-creature murders Yar and (temporarily) eats Riker? I have it on VHS, because it has a lot of meaning for me. The black goo is named Armus (who stood down a 4-person away team AND Picard with no weapon -- not very well armed ), and he had abandonment and rage issues. I can't decide whether the special effects or the grade-school psychology were cheesier in that episode, but nevertheless, at the moment, I'm Armus, if only because I'm black goo.

Maybe it's because the cat has been pooping all over everything I own lately, but I feel like a worthless piece of doody lately. The black goo is choking me. It sits in the corner of my stomach, this little black ball, till something sets it off and it explodes and starts traveling up from my stomach to my throat, trying to choke me. I see and feel nothing but black goo. I think I must be the most evil person ever, everything is black and dark and enveloping. There is no good to me, there is no light, there is blackness and despair and hopelessness and evil.

I can't sleep. I didn't get one lick of sleep last night, was up and down every half hour, went to bed at midnight and said to heck with it around 6 this morning. I drank a pile of caffeine and plowed my way through my freelance project, because I need the cash bigtime, but I felt like a fraud the whole time, like I really don't know what I'm doing, I don't know anything, I'm just a worthless piece of good-for-nothing crap. Everything is black. I've spent the last hour in bed, trying to fall asleep, and all I can do is rock back and forth and think about how rotten I am. I'm almost afraid to fall asleep; I don't know what it will bring. I DO know it won't bring rest and relaxation.

I had no idea that at this point I could fall back into the abyss so suddenly and deeply, but here I am. When I was in the hospital for so long, by the time I finally got conscious enough to know what was going on, the Sago mine disaster was going on. Daytime TV is gross, so I kept CNN on all the time, and of course it was all death and destruction, all the time. Right now I feel like those miners: I can't breathe, and I'm trapped. It's dark, and I'm running out of air, and I don't even have the energy to leave a note, like some of them did -- I'm too busy trying not to choke to death on black goo.

Can somebody tell me how I got here? I'm not sure I know. I suspect I will read this over in the morning and realize I briefly lost touch with reality -- I don't feel real right now. I feel like Armus. He was all alone on Vagra 2. They left him there, with his rage and his obvious issues. Troi said she pitied him, and he got ticked off. I understand. I don't want pity. I want relief. I can't cry. I can't breathe. I can't find any light. I can't stand myself; I feel like every cell that makes up "me" has something rotten in its core and I'm just an evil piece of crap.

I can't stand being mentally ill. I hate being this debilitated. I hate being sent into a tailspin by the dumbest d*mn things. I hate not being able to function like a normal human being, even when I'm expected to. I REALLY hate that people don't understand me! At all! Ever! (Well, except for other people in the same boat.) I KNOW I'm a PITA to live with. Being crazy makes everybody around you crazy. I just wish, when I got "crazy," that there was something to get me out of it, instead of having to slog through it.

Screw it. I'm going to go take a couple of Xanax and put on my relaxation CD. Maybe some nice New Age music will convince me I'm not Armus. But right now I think I could climb out of my skin with no problem whatsoever. One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, once wrote a short story about people having evolved out of bodies. They kept the really good-looking ones in warehouses, and rented them out for parades and special occasions, but otherwise they went around the rest of the time without bodies. I want to do that.

Now playing: Iron & Wine - No Moon
via FoxyTunes

too much truth...

...both in the accuracy of what's being asked of the guy and that if you appeal to a journo's ego -- we all have one, even though we're generally flaming introverts -- requests like this can work. ;-)

Credit Ryan Pagelow, and go subscribe to Pressed.

Now playing: Eric Hutchinson - Food Chain
via FoxyTunes

Friday, May 15, 2009

reasons for living never come cheap....

Everyone's looking, everyone hides
Everyone's telling everyone lies
We're changing the subject, we're turning away
Away from the heart of it all

You say you are happy
Do you think this is fun?
Well it's only a firefly to the light of the sun
You say this is living, you feel so alive
Well you know everything dies

Even my wonder, even my fear
Only amount to a couple of tears
There is a rhythm, it's near and it's far
It flows through the heart of us

Welcome to another day
It don't seem that different 'cause nothing has changed
I try to remember, try to remember
When we weren't just running in place
Reasons for living, never come cheap
But even your best ones can put me to sleep
What I am saying or trying to say
Is that there must be a better way


It's already in you, it's already there
You may disagree, but I don't really care
Did you ever find out, did you ever find out
What's at the heart of us?
Did you ever find out
Did you ever find out what's at the heart?

Tell me all your wildest dreams
You don't really care, you don't know what they mean
Raiding the closets, with skeleton keys
You know it's easier than you think


Your reasons for living are all very fine,
But they're leaving me cold 'cause they're not really mine
Did you ever find out, did you ever find out
What's at the heart of us.

I don't know
I don't know
--Duncan Sheik, "Reasons for Living"

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Someone asked me recently what my dreams were. After taking some time to think about it, I realized I don't have any. The ones I *did* have I either reached or surrendered, and I never came up with anything to replace them. It is very uncomfortable being adrift at a point of life where most people are firmly anchored instead.

I just woke up from the world's most transparent dream (kind of what inspired this). I left my wallet -- a very cute red leather affair with a kitty on one side and a martini on the other :-) -- at the library. (If you know what a reader I am, you'll know how appropriate this is, LOL.) They called after me to let me know, so I went back to the desk to grab it and was told that I couldn't have it -- they had to hold a series of meetings, etc to determine whether they'd give it back to me. There was this one really nasty chick I went back and forth with, and finally she hauled me off in a back room and told me how for the last year I'd been cold and uncaring toward her. She didn't much like it when I pointed out she'd been the same way to me.

Eventually, her bosses forced her to give me my wallet (aka my identity) back, but she was awful about it.

Did I mention this was a very transparent dream? ;-)

Ugh. Much more I want to add, but can't put it into coherent thought right now. Also not sure I want the entire planet reading about it. Back to bed for now, to sleep -- perchance to dream.

Now playing: Duncan Sheik - Reasons for Living
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, May 9, 2009

plus ca change.... ca meme chose.

Nallwood Junior High School yearbook, 1978-79 (8th grade).

And I quote:


I'm really glad I got to know you. You're a real fun person. Take a little advice: Don't express your opinion to Dr. Brown {principal} if it could hurt you. OK? Take care. Good luck.

Julie Hagel

Julie, hon, if you happen across this -- I'm still an opinionated bitch who stands up for justice where it isn't being served. Dr. Brown was the least of it. I grew up to routinely piss off an archbishop. :-D

Now playing: Beastie Boys - Song for the Man
via FoxyTunes

Friday, May 8, 2009

gotta love it...

5 days removed from the northwest Wisconsin home of Leinenkugel's, what do I see driving down the main drag through a southeast Minnesota town?

A Leinenkugel's truck in front of a bar.

You CAN go home again. Sorta. Maybe. :-D

Saturday, May 2, 2009

ok it's alright with me...

...some things are just meant to be
It never comes easily
And when it does, I'm already gone.

Eric Hutchinson video

So. At some point early-ish (I hope -- we'll see if I sleep through the alarm ;-), the computer is coming apart and getting tossed in the car with the rest of my stuff, and off I'll be on my next adventure.

Farewell, Chippewa Valley. In junior high, we had this stupid saying, "it's been real, and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun." I bring it up because it applies. My two-and-a-half years here have been ... interesting? Yes. Real? More than I'd like. Fun? Here and there. I'm glad I took the chance, because it helped me define what I *don't* want, but overall? I ain't gonna let the proverbial door hit me in the ass on my way out.

I *will* miss living two blocks from Olsen's Ice Cream. I'll WAY miss living 3/4 of a block up the street from the Leinenkugel brewery -- not just because of the free samples :-), but the people there are pretty awesome. Peg and Jake Leinenkugel in particular always were exceptionally kind and gracious toward me.

I'll miss what passes for a "zoo" in Irvine Park. I'll miss that every single high school kid Gordy Schafer hires to work at his grocery store is polite, smiles, and genuinely is happy to engage you in conversation beyond "paper or plastic?" (It's the adult cashiers who are surly.) Hell, I'll even miss that special aroma of cow poop. (Live in the country long enough and it grows on you, believe it or not.)

I already have been missing the folks on the school board and my friends at city hall.

What *won't* I miss? The provincialism. The complete absence of anything resembling diversity, whether in culture, attitudes, or people. The fact that although, as people got to know me and my work and I became a more familiar presence around town, my not having had 5 generations of my family established here and a street named after Great-Grandpa, the former mayor, hurt me. I never really fit in because of it. Nor did I really fit in at a workplace where 3/4 of the people on staff had grown up here and had already had a decade or two on the job. I suppose it's that perpetual fish-out-of-water feeling I had here that I'll be happiest to shed.

All in all? I guess I'd call it a wash.

Now playing: Supertramp - Goodbye Stranger
via FoxyTunes

Friday, May 1, 2009

this is just...evil.

Not 30 seconds after hitting "publish" on my last post and going to check for recent updates on my blogroll, I found this.

The "haul you off into a spare office, read a prepared statement, then escort you out the door" model sucked, I can attest -- but this is just ... wrong. On many, many levels. My consolation is that karma is a bitch.

Baltimore Sun cans 4 journos in middle of assignment

did i miss something?

Is it "Syndicated Cartoonists Gripe About the Death of Newspapers Week" and I just didn't hear about it? Not that I mind or anything -- whatever helps the cause. If it can make me chuckle in the process, so much the better.

BTW, the unofficial motto of my high school paper was "All The News We Could Find." :-D Whoda guessed way back then that even the venerable New York Times would be in deep financial trouble? And the Baltimore Sun -- which has broken its share of stories and won its share of Pulitzers -- just canned 61 people, including 15 editors. It is ugly times in the biz. :-\