Wednesday, December 24, 2008

holiday haiku

I love writing Haiku.
It forces you to put your thoughts into a mathematical format - five syllables for the first line, seven for the second and wrap your thoughts all up in a big five syllable finish.
When I worked for the department store which shall not be named, we'd have Haiku writing contests and email them back and forth to each other.
My lack of employment forced me to spread my holiday spending over a period of several months rather than my usual December 24th shopping spree at QuikTrip, so I was done early. 
Tree decorated? Check. Presents all bought and wrapped? Check. Cookies baked? Check. Toilet cleaned? Check.
As a consequence, I've had time on my hands to delve into the origins of Haiku and compose a few of my own. 
According to Wikipedia (I know, I know . . . I'm a Wiki head. Shut up.):
"Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 Japanese on (a phonetic unit identical to the mora), in three metrical phrases of 5, 7, and 5 on respectively, and typically containing a kigo, or seasonal reference. In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while Haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to equate to the Japanese haiku's three metrical phrases. Previously called hokku, it was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaiko Shiki at the end of the 19th century."
What could be a more seasonal subject than December 25th?

I wrote these on the bus today:

No money for gifts.
I will Simonize your car
when it gets warmer.


I'm a smart shopper!
I won't buy Rock Band 3 when
air guitar is free.

and my personal favorite

It's Jesus' birthday!
He knows what his present is
because he's Jesus.

Domo Arigato. Have the happiest of holidays, y'all

Friday, December 19, 2008

miracle on harrison street

I never believed in Santa.
I know that sounds preposterous, but it's true. I was a pretty reality-based kid and to my mind there was just a total lack of evidence as to his existence. 
For starters, my mom was (and is) left-handed. She has the kind of distinctive penmanship that can only come from a person that has to curl her left arm all around the paper to write. Strangely enough, Santa's handwriting looked exactly like Mom's. So did the Tooth Fairy's handwriting.  And the Easter Bunny's. 
Secondly, we didn't have a chimney. We had a space heater with a 6" diameter pipe that went up to the ceiling. Even if Santa could have managed to squeeze himself down the pipe, he would have ended up burning his ass.
My Mom didn't work, mainly because my Dad wouldn't let her. He thought people would think that he wasn't man enough to support his family if she did. I lived a block from my grade school and would come home every day for lunch to find more presents under the tree. "Where did these come from?" I'd ask. "Oh, Santa happened to be in the neighborhood and dropped these off early so he wouldn't have as much work to do on Christmas Eve," my Mom would reply.  
It was a big day when the J.C.Penney's Christmas catalog came in the mail. Mom would sit down with me to try and get an idea of what I wanted for Christmas. "What do you want Santa to bring you?" she would ask. "This, I guess," I'd say, pointing at something random. "Are you sure you don't like this better?" Mom would say frantically, pointing at the one she'd already bought. "This is much better, don't you think?"
I thought that kids who believed every Santa with a fake beard was sent down as a personal emissary from the Big Guy at North Pole were saps, but I didn't want to be the one to burst their bubbles. I'm pretty sure my sister believed - we really never talked about it. Our conversations were usually about who was the cutest Beatle.
So, I put cookies out for my Dad to eat and read the notes that my Mom left.  
And I never told my parents.
May your holidays be joyful, surrounded by people you love and people who love you. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

get on the bus that takes me to you

My car is dead.
Not exactly unrepairably dead, but the cost is certainly beyond my meager unemployment income and the value of the car. That means Metro and I have become close personal friends once again. 
David pities me for having to ride the bus, but I actually kind of enjoy it. I grew up in a small town and public transportation is a fairly new thing for me. I had been riding the bus off and on for years - usually when the weather got too bad to risk sliding my car into something - and rode Metrolink every day when I worked downtown, but this the first time I've had to rely on Metro as my sole form of transportation. 
Metrolink is relaxing, clean and a bit boring. Everyone is so polite and nothing unusual ever happens. 
Metrobus, however, is a show on wheels. Every kind of person in the world is there, having loud conversations with each other, arguing with the driver about transfers, yakking loudly into their cell phones about highly personal things, lugging packages and kids down the aisle. I always see something either entertaining or disturbing on the bus or at the bus stop. 
My favorite bus experience happened about a year ago when I was still working downtown. It was cold, there was snow everywhere, gas was creeping up in price, so I had been riding the bus to work a lot. One of the major places to catch a bus downtown is on Washington under the walkway between Dillard's and St. Louis Centre, both now closed. Just about every bus line passes through there at some point.
It was dark, it was snowing, I was tired and waiting for my bus to show up. An older gentleman with what sounded like a Bosnian accent walked up and asked me if the Gravois bus had been by yet. I told him that it had not, and that was the bus I was waiting for. The conversation went rapidly downhill from there:
HIM: Where you live?
ME: (guardedly) Um . . . Tower Grove.
HIM: I have seen you there. You have husband?
ME: No. I live with my boyfriend.
HIM: I kill your boyfriend.
ME: What? Why?
HIM: I kill your boyfriend, then I be your boyfriend.
ME: (backing up) Okay . . . . well . . . . Bye!
HIM: You know why?
ME: (regrettably) Why?
HIM: (putting his hand on his crotch) I am really hard right now.
I was too tired to do anything but laugh uncontrollably. He looked hurt and shuffled off into the darkness. 
St. Louis is such an automobile town, and Metro just announced that they're cutting a bunch of bus routes next year, so eventually I will have to buy a car.
I'm still gonna ride the bus, though.
It's the cheapest show in town. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

fifty is the new forty

I turned fifty on Saturday and it felt just like being 49.
I had been sweating it for a solid year, imagining how I'd feel, trying to guess other people's ages and feeling secretly relieved when I'd find out that they were younger than me and looked like crap.
Maybe it's because a lot of things have happened this year to take my mind off that big, looming number. Not just a lot of things - A LOT OF THINGS. Things like unemployment, mysterious illnesses and no health insurance, cars falling apart . . . I could go on and on. How I've managed to not go all snipery has taken all of my strength, hope, confidence, cheerfulness and budgeting acumen. And a lot of liquor.
Big half-century day started out pretty much like any Saturday. David's kids Dylan and Chloe were here. That means that they're gonna be hungry and want to go places right now. It took most of the morning to get all of that organized. My car is still out of commission, so I just hung around doing laundry and looking for jobs on the internet. I didn't even take a shower until 4:00, and that was only because we were going out to dinner at 5:00. David came home from taking the kids back to their Mom's house with a dozen roses, a bottle of Courvoisier and a song he had written for me burned on a cd (with cool cover art designed by Sharon). After a lovely dinner at Yemanja Brasil, I walked into our kitchen to the sound of 15+ people yelling "surprise!" and to the sight of Sharon's camera a-flashin'.
It was a great party filled with great people. I felt just like the Prom Queen.
I ended the evening taking a little 'ol nap in the papasan chair, but hell, I'm old.
So here I am.
Dear reader, if you have not yet reached that magical age, please take a look at "50 Things You Need to Know by 50" - 50 bits of advice written by 50 different people (I especially like #25). The article originally appeared in AARP magazine (don't laugh) in their July and August 2007 edition and can be found at
Thank you one and all for your friendship and your patience with me. I am not sure I deserve it, but I am gonna take it.
I love you, David.
You are what you love, not what loves you, I decided that a long time ago.~ Donald Kaufman

Friday, November 21, 2008

cheer up, you

Charlie Brown once said, "the secret of happiness is having three things to look forward to and nothing to dread." This has been a dreadful week with not much to look forward to. At one point David and I both had our cars in the shop at the same time - it's been a week like that.
Since I don't consider this week blog-worthy, let's play a little game of true or false instead. All of the questions are about me.
It's my blog, dammit. Shut up.

True or False?

I came home from a bar without my shorts on.
Sometime in the 70's I went out drinking with a pack of girls. On the way home we stopped to pee in a cornfield. I was just too drunk to fasten my cute little sailor shorts - they had a row of buttons on each side - so I decided that underpants as attire would be just fine for the remainder of the evening.
Of course it was summer. I'm stupid, not crazy.

True or False?

I worked at a Pizza Hut for one week.
I only worked there for 4 nights. On the 4th night a kid tripped me while I was carrying a tray with 3 pitchers of soda. Panic and hilarity ensued. I marched right back to the manager and quit on the spot.

True or False?
I was a member of the Zoning Board in Centralia, IL.
Don't ask me how that happened. They must have been desperate.

True or False?
I flunked Driver's Ed.
I didn't actually flunk, but I was such a bad driver that the instructor made me stay a week longer than everyone else just to practice. I think knocking over a "No Parking" sign may have had a lot to do with it, but I'm not sure. I'm a slightly better driver now.

True or False?

I flipped off an Indiana state trooper.
He was crowding me on the interstate in an unmarked car. I switched lanes to let him roar past me and flipped him off. It was at this point I noticed the Smokey the Bear hat in the seat next to him. He waited by the side of the road over the next hill, motioned me to pull over and proceeded to lecture me about my bad manners. I lectured him right back about his driving etiquette. He let me go because I was wearing a Cardinals shirt.

True or False?
I lost the Central City Grade School Carnival poster contest because of politics.
My entry in 8th grade was a huge cartoon of Chairman Mao with the caption "You WILL enjoy the Central City Grade School Carnival" (it was 1972). I thought it was hilarious. It did not win. To the best of my recollection, it was beaten by a sappy and poorly drawn clown. Not only was I crushed, but I got really strange looks from all of the teachers for the remainder of the school year. I like to think that it was too controversial for a small town, but maybe it was just a really crappy poster.

Hopefully, next week will be better. Or at least different.

Friday, November 14, 2008

beatle bob

David mentioned yesterday that he'd heard a story on KWMU about a soon to be released documentary about Beatle Bob.
I got to know him through Brian, a Soulard musician I was dating. Beatle Bob always seemed to be around. He never could remember my name, but always seemed happy to see me, called me "Darlin'" and kissed me on the cheek whenever I ran into him. When I was riding the Metrolink to work I would see him at least twice a month on the eastbound morning train, sound asleep with his arms around a plastic grocery bag that seemed to be full of notebooks and papers. I would try to wake him for fear that he would end up at Scott Air Force Base. Bob would look confused and blinky at first, then he'd wake up and tell me about the concert he'd been to last night in a rapid, breathy voice. I always got the impression that his personal hygiene habits were not the best.
The funniest encounter I ever had with Beatle Bob was in the late '90s. My boyfriend Brian had given up on the Soulard music scene and formed a touring Dixie show band with 6 of his friends. The band recorded a live CD, I designed the cover, and we pre-sold the recording to pay for the mastering and duplication. A release party was planned at the Tap Room on a Sunday afternoon.
Dear audience, I can just hear you saying, "Sunday afternoon? For a CD release party?" Let me explain. The main audience for Dixie show bands tend to be in the 60-70 year old range. The band was semi-sponsored by the St. Louis Jazz Club, an organization full of folks who all liked to be home before dark. Hence, the Sunday afternoon throw-down.
I was stationed at the back of the room with a table full of autographed CDs ready to hand out to people who had purchased them earlier and to sell CDs to people who hadn't, when Beatle Bob walked into the room. I was slightly, not entirely surprised. Although it really wasn't Bob's scene at all, he had a great regard for Brian as a musician and was happy to support any of his new ventures. Bob greeted me warmly, kissed me on the cheek and stationed himself right in front of the stage. The old folks were all lined up in chairs waiting for the concert to start.
I cannot describe what it was like watching Beatle Bob trying to dance to St. James Infirmary and Wolverine Blues. I can only tell you, dear reader, that it was a vastly entertaining sight and I apparently was the only person in the place entertained by it.
People started to complain. The old folks had no idea who Beatle Bob was and why he was blocking their view of the band to have what appeared to be a seizure right in front of their eyes.
I tried to placate them with phrases like "He's a nice person and he has a perfect right to dance" but it was just not working. When an elderly man stormed up to my table and began yelling, "Who is that asshole and when is he going to sit down?" I finally gave up. I said, "Well, he's my retarded brother and he just loves to dance." The man's mouth snapped shut. With a horrified look on his face he wheeled around and went back to his seat.
For the rest of the concert I could see a lot of people twisting in their seats to look at me.
I didn't get another complaint all afternoon and sold quite a few sympathy CDs to boot.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays when I was a kid. In the town where I grew up it was a 2 day celebration.
Trick or treat was never the 31st, but on the Friday before the 31st. We got out of school early that day, raced home and put on our costumes to march in the Children's Parade. The parade was a BIG DEAL. Every kid in town would meet on the library grounds where you were shoved into a category - Prettiest, Funniest, Scariest - and judged 1st, 2nd or 3rd place by some poor hapless volunteer. There would be neighborhood floats, grade school bands and politicians handing out candy. Not only did you get out of school early and get to march all over town eating candy, but if you were judged the best costume in your category you got your picture in the paper. Sweet! 
After the parade, you'd go home and bolt down your supper - probably still in your costume - and head out for an evening's Trick or Treating. It seemed like it was always cold and always raining. My Mom would vainly try to get me to wear a coat, but I just couldn't. I'd be covering up my costume and look dorky besides.
Saturday night would be the big Halloween parade, an event that has been going on for more than 80 years. All the streets downtown are blocked off and everyone in a 3-county area shows up. If you got a prize for one of the best costumes in the Children's Parade, you got to march in the big parade (never happened to me despite my Mom's best efforts).
It always fascinated me that every town seems to have it's own method of celebrating. St. Louisans do their Trick or Treating smack dab on the 31st, no matter what night of the week it falls on. They also have a rather unique way of handling the event. In St. Louis to receive a treat you have to perform a trick - tell a joke, sing a song, it doesn't matter what you do. The first year I moved here I asked my co-workers what that was all about. They were amazed that it wasn't that way everywhere. I told them that in other places, "Trick or treat" meant that if you didn't get a treat you were obligated to play a trick. I can't tell you how many times we'd come home from begging all around the neighborhood to find our pumpkin smashed or our windows soaped because we weren't home to hand out candy. My co-workers were horrified. "No!" they said, "That's just not right! That's terrible!" I tried to explain that Halloween in St. Louis was a kindlier, gentler Halloween and quite cute. Nobody could explain to me how it all got started. I was curious, so I did a little research.
According to Wikipedia (Don't you just love Wiki? I do), St. Louis' Halloween traditions are fairly unique. Here's their take on it:
"In Scotland and parts of northern England, a similar tradition is called guising because of the disguise or costume worn by the children. Although traditions of seasonal guising stretch back at least as far as the Middle Ages, it became an exclusively Halloween practice only in the twentieth century. However there is a significant difference from the way the practice has developed in the United States. In Scotland, the children are only supposed to receive treats if they perform for the households they go to. This normally takes the form of singing a song or reciting a joke or a funny poem which the child has memorized before setting out. Occasionally a more talented child may do card tricks, play the mouth organ, or something even more impressive, but most children will earn plenty of treats even with something very simple. However, guising is falling out of favor somewhat, being replaced in some parts of the country with the American form of trick-or-treating. Such a practice is in use in certain regions of the United States, as well. Children of the St. Louis, Missouri area are expected to perform a joke before receiving any candy.
In modern Ireland there is neither the Scottish party-piece nor the American jocular threat, just 'treats' — in the form of apples or nuts given out to the children. However, in 19th and early 20th century Ireland it was often much more extravagant — for example, slates were placed over the chimney-pots of houses filling the rooms with smoke and field gates were lifted off their hinges and hung from high tree branches.
Until the 1990s, Irish children said 'Help the Halloween Party,' but are now more inclined to use the American 'Trick or treat' due to the influence of American popular culture, movies, and television. In Waterford, the phrase 'attin far Halloween' is still commonly used, being the vernacular pronunciation of 'anything for Halloween'.
In Quebec, Canada, children also go door to door on Halloween. However, in French speaking neighborhoods, instead of 'Trick or treat?', they will simply say 'Halloween', though in tradition it used to be La charité s'il-vous-plaît (Charity, please)."
That still doesn't answer my question, but it 's still pretty cool information. With St. Louis' French heritage in mind, I think the Quebec phrase is the most appropriate. I'm gonna walk around the apartment all day and practice for Friday night.
La charité s'il-vous-plaît?

Friday, October 24, 2008


The house I grew up in was just off a main road that connected several small towns and was a perfect spot for dumping strays. They all seemed to end up on our porch - probably because everyone else chased them away. My dad grew up on a farm and was never crazy about pets inside the house, but thought that it was important for kids to have them. My mom was notoriously soft hearted toward animals. When my dad moved out, our house became an animal hostel. Most of the animals ate what we fed them and moved on. There were 2 that we took in when it was cold, we named them, we fed them - they are still part of my family's folklore.
Susie was a light brown dachshund that showed up on our doorstep. Sweet little dog, but she had some annoying habits. She loved underwear and would steal it whenever she got a chance. My mom, my sister and I were down to one pair of panties each before we discovered Susie's secret underwear hiding place under the couch. She also kept trying to sleep in the ironing basket.* Mom would chase her out and she'd jump right back in. One day we came home to find Susie back in the basket surrounded by 8 puppies. Apparently, our male poodle had made her feel very welcome. We named all of the puppies after battles; the only 2 names I can remember are Dunkirk and Appomattox. We ended up finding homes for all of them, including Susie.
Squirrel was a Manx cat. I really don't know why we named her Squirrel, except that she was grey and kind of squirrelly-looking - no tail, one cauliflower ear and a big round head. We had other cats inside at the time, so we made her a bed on the front porch out of a garbage can turned on it's side and a blanket. Squirrel soon gave birth to a kitten - just 1, tortoiseshell colored and tailless - that we named Honky Cat (hey, it was the 70's). She was a terrible mother with an active social life and would leave Honky just about anywhere - on the front doorstep, in a rowboat in the back yard - and be gone for days. Squirrel gave birth the second time to 8 grey kittens, all alike, all with tails. We started calling them the Mundanes. An ad was put in the paper and we were down to the last kitten when a guy who came to take a look said, "What I really like is that cat without a tail. Where can I get one like that?" "Here" said my step dad, picking up Squirrel and handing her to him. I was devastated. I somehow ended up with Honky Cat who survived 4 moves with me and lived to the ripe old age of 17.
I don't see as many strays in our neighborhood as I did growing up off the main road, but the few animals that I see always try to follow me home. I must still have Animal Hostel in my veins.
*A note of explanation for you kiddies:
Back in the day, you had to practically iron
everything. We kept a laundry basket for clean clothes that just needed ironed and hung up. One of my first jobs around the house at age 8 or 9 was to do the ironing. I didn't mind - I could watch cartoons at the same time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

greed = poverty

My friend Sharon sent an email to me and David about Blog Action Day 08. It's a way of uniting bloggers around the world to share their thoughts on a single subject. Today's topic is one that's been near and dear to my heart this summer - poverty.
I've been lucky. I've been continuously employed since the age of 16; some jobs were great, some jobs were awful, but I always managed to make a stab at paying my bills and keeping myself fed and sheltered.
That part of my life changed in May.
I was employed as a graphic designer for a large department store chain. We'll call it Spacy's - not because I feel any sympathy for the corporation, but frankly, they've got more money and better lawyers than I have.
I had been there for several years. Sales weren't great, but nobody else's sales were either. Then 9-11 happened. Consumers started feeling guilty about buying a cute little pair of boots when the terrorists were waiting just around the corner to pounce on them, take away all of their reality shows and tell them they couldn't go to church. Sales plummeted. People started going around the office with worried expressions on their faces. A great deal of the discussion concerned making "plan". In the retail world, "plan" means that sales should be at least equal (and ideally more) on a certain day than they were on the same day the previous year. It didn't mean that nobody was buying anything. It just meant that the powers that be wanted to make, say, 2 billion in sales and we only made 1 billion.
That's right, folks. 1 billion.
I think the thing that bothered them the most was that the loss of that other 1 billion meant that some of the CEO's might have to accept smaller bonuses.
The economy was bad and getting worse. We went to war. The economy got even worse than before. Consumer confidence was shot. In an effort to blame it all on somebody, they fired the company president. It was hard to feel bad for him - he still continued to receive his salary, got a huge bonus and was told he'd better just sit on his ass until his contract ran out.
We were a dead fish in the water just waiting to be snapped up by Spacy's.
Things went from bad to worse. Shoplifting was at an all-time high and I was still churning out ads trying to convince people with less and less money to buy things that they didn't need and probably couldn't afford.
Then Spacy's lowered the boom. In an effort to cut costs, they closed the Midwest office and sent all of our work to another regional office in Atlanta.
And, just like that, I was out of a job.
Going on the dole and searching for a new job was a real eye-opener.
Let me say this - I am not a snob. I'm lucky. I just have to take care of me and I have some severance pay. I know there are a lot of different kinds of people in this world working at a lot of different kinds of jobs - some for more money than others. But the unemployment office was filled with people hoping to find a job that just pays a living wage - something that will keep a roof over their heads and their children fed. A job with benefits, like health insurance that works and is affordable. There are more minimum wage jobs out there than you can shake a stick at.
But here's the truth:
And it all comes back to corporate greed.
You see, I think that's how most companies make enough money to keep themselves afloat and still pay their CEO's those huge salaries and bonuses. Not by offering a valuable and reasonably-priced service or product to the buying public, but by paying employees as little as they possibly can, offering them health insurance plans with a $5,000 deductible, or by creating 2 part-time positions with no benefits instead of 1 full-time position with benefits.
I know I sound bitter. Seriously, I want things to be better not just for me, but for everyone.
We'll just have to see what happens after November 4th.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

small world, after all

I don't believe I've mentioned this fact, but I was married. And divorced. AND annulled (he wanted to marry a Catholic girl). We had no children, I moved to St. Louis, he stayed in Illinois - end of story.
Sitting on our back porch last night, David mentioned that he would like to make a list of 20 friends that he hadn't seen in years and try to get in touch with them. I told him that the hardest thing for me to get used to after I moved to St. Louis was going through an entire day without seeing at least one person I knew. Part of that was being new in town, part was coming from a small town where you couldn't step outside your door without running into someone - the brother of your best friend in grade school, a second cousin twice removed, the lady you paid your water bill to at the Village Hall - the possibilities were endless.
It was 1997. I was dating a fella named Brian, a local musician. He knew everyone. If he didn't, they knew him. My theory was that the world was really very small and that people could turn up in the most unexpected places. Brian's theory was that if you were in enough places you were bound to run into the same people over and over again, like a big pinball game.
A Canadian friend named Victor had an old buddy of his in town for a visit and invited Brian and me to go out on the town with them. After an enormous sushi feast at Seki in U City where several bottles of sake were consumed, we decided that some sort of caffeinated nightcap was in order - an effort to be perky drunks, I suppose. It was a beautiful June evening. We wandered up the street to Riddle's and grabbed a table on the sidewalk. We were all laughing and chatting when I happened to glance to my right. There, not two tables away were my ex-husband, the woman he left me for and the best man at our wedding. They were staring at me incredulously, with a hint of fear in their eyes.
Armed with the knowledge that I was out with 3 men and having a good hair night combined with the superhero powers of sake, I excused myself and ambled over to their table. They were so relieved to see me smiling, they almost hugged me. Best Man stared at me stonily (he never liked me for some reason - I privately thought he was a tight ass). After exaggerating the glamouressness of my big-city life for a bit, I mentioned that I had better get back to my dates.
When I sat back down, Brian said, "You knew them? Who was that?" When I told him, they all craned their necks trying to get a better look but the table was deserted. There was still a puff of smoke in the air. It almost looked as if the Road Runner had been there.
Now, what are the odds that my ex-husband would drive from Illinois to hang out in U City on exactly the same night that I ended up there? Sure, I could read my ex like a book. Best Man from Fairfield, IL was in town and Ex took him to what he thought of as the hippest part of St. Louis to impress him. I thought it was an amazing coincidence, but Brian stuck to his "pinball person" theory.
I haven't run into an unexpected person from my past for quite awhile.
Brian would probably say I need to get out more.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

employment, or lack of same

I had 4 job interviews last week.
The problem is that when you have that many in a week's time, interviewing becomes the job - a highly underpaid job, I might add.
Here's how my week went:
I take the Metrolink downtown to do my monthly "show up in person" at the unemployment office and meet 3 former co-workers for lunch. Only one of us has an actual job, working on the sales floor in the handbag department at Saks. She's already worried about making her holiday sales goals. We all promise that the minute we get jobs we'll come buy expensive bags from her.
In a fit of unemployment despair, I apply as a checker at Schnucks on the Hill. The line stretches out the door. I pass the time explaining the Great Depression to a dingy but sweet 19-year-old in line behind me. She tells me McDonald's is hiring.
I have a second interview with the City of St. Louis as a designer. They keep me waiting in the lobby for an hour while the chairs fill up with bright young things carrying Apple laptops and iPhones. My scarred old leather portfolio stands out, to say the least. Nice lady, the interview goes fairly well, but my face must have registered shock when I was told that the job was 10 hours a week with no benefits.
I don't get called for a third interview.
Thursday morning
I have a first interview at Wash U for a position in marketing with their campus food service. It is the best interview of my life. The woman is about my age, and everything I say is perfect. In an hour we've become lifelong friends. She takes me around the office, shows me where I'm gonna sit, introduces me to people, my head is spinning. Then she bursts my bubble. She can't make the final decision. An interview is scheduled for tomorrow morning with the head of the office - a rather reserved Pakistani gentleman. She looks and sounds nervous enough about it to generate a small bubble of concern, but I cheerfully tell her I'll see her tomorrow.
Thursday afternoon
I tell my mother about the job. Shouldn't have done that. You never tell your mother about a guy you're seeing until you've had at least 3 dates with him.
Thursday night
Wake up at 2 a.m. with the first migraine I've had in over a year. After pacing and puking and scaring David to death for a few hours, I finally fall asleep.
Friday morning
I feel hungover with a stabbing pain in my right eye. My legs are sore from over-shaving. I wear the same skirt and blouse I wore to the city interview on Wednesday, because I'm just flat out of wardrobe ideas. The first thought in my head when I wake up is "I'm not gonna get this job." I get there early, my new lifelong friend is happy to see me, but the Pakistani gentleman is not. The temperature in the room goes down 20 degrees. With my lack of sleep I must look like a meth addict. He never looks me in the eye - probably a good thing, because the pain is making my right eyelid twitch uncontrollably. After 15 minutes, they thank me for my time, I shake every one's hand, crack a lame joke, walk out of the office, call David, and burst into tears.
Friday evening
I'm enjoying my first cocktail of the weekend on the back porch when the phone rings. It's my ex-lifelong friend saying "I'm sorry, but I have some bad news." The Pakistani just didn't feel the same way about me that she did. I fix myself another drink.
I'm certain with the current unemployment rate in Missouri (6.6% - highest in over 10 years), the number of recent layoffs in the city of St. Louis, and the precarious state of the nation's economy, I'm gonna have many more weeks like this.
At least I'll get to meet a lot of new people and my legs will always be shaved.

Friday, September 19, 2008

seat cushion night

David and I have been watching Ken Burns' "Baseball" for what seems like the entire summer. 10 discs worth, but I love it. I love baseball.
I am a die-hard Cardinals fan, I freely admit it. I'll follow the games even if the Redbirds don't have a chance in hell. I haven't been to Busch stadium this year because funds are a little tight, but that's o.k. I'd almost rather listen to the game on the radio.
I grew up in Illinois which should have made me a Cubs or White Sox fan, but I grew up in Southern Illinois - big difference. Downstate folks don't really consider Chicago a part of their state but an entity all it's own, sort of the alien state of Chicagoland.
My Grandpa and Mom were both Cardinals fans, so it was sort of a family tradition. And the stadium was only 2 hours away.
Early in the 1987 season, a friend of mine scored some tickets to a Cards/Mets game and asked if I wanted to go. The Mets were (and probably still are) the second most hated team in Cardinal nation - right behind the Cubs - so I jumped at the chance.
Plus, it was seat cushion night.
One of the promotions that season involved giving free seat cushions to patrons attending the game. I don't remember if you had to be first in line or everybody in attendance got one, but I remember heading to our nosebleed section seats clutching our free cushions. They weren't the nicest things in the world - a thin square foot of padding covered by white plastic and printed with a huge Cards logo - but the seats did get a little hard after a while, and our asses were grateful.
The game was neck and neck most of the evening and the stadium was packed. Midway through the game after a particularly exciting Cards defensive play, someone in the upper seats discovered that the free seat cushion made an excellent Frisbee. They didn't just plummet to the field. It must have been something about their design - the cheap lightweight materials used, the size and shape, the convenient handle on one side, the humidity in the air - that caused them to float, twirling down to the field like snowflakes. This spurred others on to the extent that officials kept having to stop the game to clear the field. Threatening voices began coming over the loudspeakers that if patrons didn't stop throwing things the Cards would be forced to forfeit the game. This was met with boos and a few cushions gliding through the air.
The game was still tied in the bottom of the ninth. Top of the tenth, the Cards had managed to load the bases with 2 outs when Tommy Herr came to bat. His grand slam home run beat the hated Mets 12-8 and electrified the crowd. I think every person in that stadium - including yours truly - threw their free seat cushions into the air.
It was a beautiful sight, one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. People screaming and jumping up and down, hugging each other while Tommy Herr rounded the bases in what looked like a snowstorm. Thousands of seat cushions were lazily twirling down to cover the field. It was almost majestic, like something out of The Natural.
I don't think the Cardinals had another seat cushion night for almost 20 years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

milk and grace

I've always been a person with absolutely no food rules. I prefer to eat certain things if I'm the one in control, but I really will eat almost anything. ANYTHING! I've had snails, I've had rattlesnake . . . I really will try anything at least once.
Growing up my sister had a list of about 5 things that she would eat and had some weird eccentricities about the way those things should be prepared. I was one of those skinny kids that could eat twice their weight and was always hungry, so I usually ended up eating my dinner and her rejected dinner.
The only thing I will refuse is milk. Cheese, yogurt, no problem - just don't give me a glass of milk. I've tried rice milk, soy milk, it's all the same. I don't even remember when it started.
My sister claims it was because of Grace.
My parents got married young and loved to go out when they got the chance. We were her only grandchildren in the U.S., so Grace was delighted to babysit us at a moment's notice. Therefore, we spent a lot of weekends there.
She was my mother's mom and a truly unconventional person. Grace painted, she sculpted, she sketched, she read voraciously. She wore men's clothes, no makeup and drove a Rambler that she never took out of second gear. A typical Saturday night would be spent watching Lawrence Welk while I set her hair (she liked to get gussied up for church, the only time I ever saw her in a dress until her funeral), my sister read a book in the corner and my Grandpa Sam worked on one of his crossword puzzles and tried to listen to the Cardinals game on KMOX while ignoring the Lennon Sisters.
She was the perfect babysitter. An unpretentious person who never talked down to children, Grace gave us huge sheets of butcher's paper to draw on, dug clay out of her back yard for us to sculpt and let us sleep on her screened-in back porch in the summertime.
The only drawback was that Grace was a truly terrible cook. She had suffered from neuralgia most of her life and really couldn't smell or taste much. She couldn't tell the temperature of things and frequently burned her tongue. My sister dreaded meals there. I don't remember refusing to eat any of her cooking, but there was something I didn't like about her milk. She insisted that we each have a glass of milk with breakfast. Grace's fridge didn't always work that well so the milk was usually either lukewarm or spoiled, something that I'm sure she didn't notice.
Getting me to drink my milk became the goal in her life. It was truly a battle of wills. Grace insisted that I couldn't get up from the table until I finished. I would sit and stare at the glass wishing I could vaporize it. She tried tinting the milk with food coloring hoping it would look more festive. Even though it was a lovely shade of lavender or mint green, to me it was still a glass of semi-spoiled milk. I even resorted to staying in bed pretending I was sick until my parents came to pick us up at noon - not something I could do every week, and boring besides.
Finally, it hit me. I could lie!
She would sit in silence with me, my sister's breakfast long finished. Eventually she would sigh, and leave the table for the restroom. All I had to do was run to the sink, dump the milk down the drain and time running the kitchen sink's tap to the toilet's flush. She would come back delighted to see my empty glass. I still feel slightly guilty about lying to her, but it made her so happy and was an act of self-preservation on my part. I hope she forgives me.
To this day, I still can't drink a glass of milk. I drink my coffee black. I eat cereal dry out of the box. Every once in a while I'll try a glass of milk to see if I still hate it.
All I can say is yes, I still do. Sorry, Grace.
If there's such a thing as reincarnation I know I'm gonna come back as a dairy cow.

Friday, August 29, 2008

tall one

O.K., I'm tall. Not freakishly tall, just on the tallish side. I don't know what ancestor it came from, but when it happened it seemed to happen overnight. It didn't come from my parents. My mom is only 5'2" and my dad is just a little over 6'. I do have a cousin that's 6'7", but everyone else in my family is pretty normal in the height category.
I'm 5'10". Or at least I always thought I was.
In the mid 90's I found myself recently divorced and terminally short on cash. To make ends meet I took a second job bartending and waiting tables at a neighborhood tavern called Moriarty's. The owner was a former St. Louis cop who would pay me cash under the table per shift and let me keep all of my tips. He would hire a band on Friday and Saturday nights and the place got pretty full. I would come home with what seemed like a fortune in tips. I'm sure it wasn't that much, but it was all in one dollar bills and looked massive.
But, I digress . . . .
I was waiting tables one busy Friday night when a guy tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, how tall are you?" I was afraid he probably wanted to know if I'd fit in some bondage contraption he had in his basement, but he handed me a business card for something called the St. Louis Tip Toppers. "It's a club for tall people! You'd love it!", he exclaimed. Meetings were held at a hotel in the Westport area once a month and there happened to be a meeting the very next week. I said that I would think about it.
When next week came around I had that night off and thought, "What the hell - at least I'll meet some people." I didn't really know what to expect.
As I mentioned before, I am on the tallish side. I'm used to looking most people either in the eye or down at the tops of their heads. When I walked in that night I was absolutely the shortest person there. I was stunned - everybody seemed to be at least 6'5". It was like being in a room full of giraffes. They couldn't have been nicer, but my neck was starting to kill me from looking up into their friendly faces.
The meeting was called to order and I took a seat in the front row for fear that I couldn't see over any body's head. By the time they'd read the list of upcoming events and presented a slide show of overwhelmingly Caucasian people participating in healthy family-oriented outdoor activities, I was starting to get the idea that maybe this wasn't my crowd. "I'll sneak out," I thought, "They'll never see me unless they look down." Unfortunately the President of the club chose that moment to invite all prospective members up to the podium. I was the only new face, so everyone pointed and I stood up. "Take off your shoes," said the President. I said, "What?" "Take off your shoes," said the President, "We need to measure you." I climbed up on what looked like a doctor's scale and several giraffes clustered around. One of them said, "Hm . . . 5'9 3/4." "She's not eligible," said another. "Sorry," said the President, "You have to be at least 5'10". Thanks for coming." "No! Wait," I said, "I'm 5'10"! Really!"
They handed me my shoes and I slunk out of there.
In hindsight, I think I was more upset about being 1/4" shorter than I always thought I was than by not being able to join the Tip Toppers club. You see, I always believed in the (Groucho) Marxian rule.
Don't join any club that would have you as a member.

Friday, August 22, 2008

kitty crack

I have a 14-year-old cat named Charlie. I know it 's a cliche - women have cats, men have dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs. It's just that living in small apartments and working long hours don't go well with dog ownership. You can leave food, water and a litter box and a cat will be just fine. Thankfully, David is also an animal person. I think Charlie looks forward to seeing him more than just about any person on earth.
When I got divorced, I ended up with 3 cats - 2 alpha females and Charlie. The girls were best friends and generally plotted together to made his life a living hell on earth.
They have both since passed, and Charlie is revelling in being the King of the Castle. First at the food dish! First at the litter box! Gets to sleep anywhere he wants! Undivided human attention! He doesn't miss the girls one bit.
I happened to be at Shop 'n Save one day and saw a new kind of cat food on sale for dirt cheap. It was supposed to look just like real tuna. The packaging even looked like those new tuna pouches (one of the greatest inventions of all time, in my opinion). Charlie was looking a little scrawny - they tend to lose weight as they get older (unfortunately, only cats do this) - so I thought "What the hell."
Turns out I opened Pandora's pouch.
The food was disgusting looking - sort of like white flakes in V8 juice jello - but easy to squeeze out of the handy-dandy pouch, so I started throwing some in his food bowl when I got up in the morning. It only took him a day or so to figure that out. The third day he was standing on my chest at 6:30 in the morning, meowing in my face. Not a gentle meow, either. This meow meant "Get up, lazy ass! I'm HUNGRY! I need my Whiskas fix NOW!"
I tried to make a game of it by turning him into Lassie.
Charlie: MEOW!
Me: What's that?
Charlie: MEOW!
Me: Timmy's in the barn?
Charlie: MEOW!
Me: And the barn's on fire?
Charlie: MEOW!
That eventually wore thin.
I honestly don't know what they put in that stuff. David said, "They put sugar in it." I said, "They put crack in it." We decided it must be sugar and crack. Or maybe sugared crack. Or crack with real sugar flavor.
David walked in this morning as Charlie was standing on my chest, meowing in my face. He said, "Oh, no." I said, "Yeah - he's got that ol' Whiskas monkey on his back."
Now he goes crazy whenever I walk into the kitchen any time of day or night. And he doesn't look any heavier.
I wonder if there's such a thing as cat rehab?

Friday, August 15, 2008

casino royale

I actually had a job interview yesterday. I know. I'm shocked, too. I think it went pretty well considering that it took place in the lobby of the Harrah's Casino Hotel. When I mentioned that it was a pretty good people-watching scene, the woman that interviewed me said, "Yeah, it looks like a Kmart crowd, doesn't it?"
I hated to agree with her but I had noticed the same thing.
Now, I am not a gambler. The closest I ever get to gambling is buying a Powerball ticket when that jackpot gets enormous, exactly when the odds are worst. I like to get something for my money - music, a bottle of wine, a new pair of shoes. It always seemed silly to me to give money to someone based on the miniscule chance that you'll actually get it back. The only time I ever went to Vegas I ended up playing quarter slots all night because I realized that they would give you free cocktails as long as you kept playing. I probably spent more in quarters than the drinks were worth and didn't win anything, but what the hell.
I am a geekily punctual person, so I had a good 20 minutes to pee and wander around Harrah's. The place seemed extraordinarily busy for a Thursday afternoon and I had plenty of people to watch. That's when I started to notice a theme.
Everybody seemed to be retired, disabled, hoosiers* or some combination of 2 or 3 of these traits. Now, I'm sure there are other segments of the population that enjoy casino gambling. They were not at Harrah's yesterday afternoon as far as I could see. And that got me thinking.
Why would people who have the least amount of disposable income want to throw it away on the worst odds? I did a little research when I got home.
According to Wiki, casino games usually have mathematically-determined odds that ensure the house has at all times an advantage over the players called the house edge. In games such as poker where players play against each other, the house even takes an extra commission called the rake. Casinos have no clocks, no windows, nothing to give you the impression of the passing of time. Slot trays are engineered to be particularly loud so that every patron can hear a winning machine's shower of tokens for gambling rationalization. In most casinos the more money a player spends the more rewards (known as comps) the player gets. Plus they're chock full of restaurants and clubs with live entertainment to get you inside and keep you inside.
All of this adds up to make casino gambling in the U.S. a very profitable business - at least 35 billion in 2006 according to the American Gaming Association.
Which leads me to my original question - why would you waste what little extra money you have at a place determined to take it on a slot machine with the odds of 1 in 32,768?
Because you just might be that 1.
I would imagine that many lower income people feel (and probably rightly so) that the only way they're ever going to experience any kind of financial security is through a stroke of luck. To the elderly and disabled, a jackpot may seem like the only way out of Social Security that isn't keeping up with the cost of living and increasing health issues coupled with rising health care costs.
I know I sound like a snob, but it's not intentional. I would like nothing better than to see someone who really needs it take a large sum of money from Harrah's. I'd be the first to congratulate you.
Stop by and see me. Throw me a 10 spot. I'll be the one hanging out in the lobby admiring my new shoes.

*The term hoosier as used in the St. Louis area doesn't refer to someone from Indiana. It's generally used to describe a person thought of as a hillbilly and is usually an insult; i.e. - " Ya big hoos!"
I am allowed to use the term here because I am not a hoosier.
I am Illinois trailer trash.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I did something this week that I've always wanted to do.
I worked as an election judge during Tuesday's primary.
I'll have to admit my initial reason for signing up was somewhat monetary. Two of our friends had worked during previous elections and mentioned that not only did you get paid for serving, you got paid for training. My reasoning was that I could take a vacation day and get paid twice for the same amount of my time. Sweet!
Then I got laid off and getting paid even once became very important to me.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in the power of the vote. I think it's a privilege that shouldn't be taken lightly. I try to do some research before the election so I have some idea about who and what I'm voting for and not just picking out names that I like. Plus, I became fascinated with the whole political process during my time in the newspaper business.
For all of these reasons I would have done it for nothing. But the money sure was a bonus.
I got called at the last minute as a replacement for someone who'd dropped out and rushed into a 3-hour training session on Friday. There was a lot to remember and the instructor whipped through it a little faster than I would have liked. We were told to report to our assigned polling place at 5:00 a.m. That meant I had to set the alarm for . . . . oh, my god.
I was shocked at the amount of archaic paperwork involved. There have been some technological advancements in the voting process - St. Louis now has computer touch-screen voting (which everyone over the age of 30 seems to be afraid of using) and paper ballots that slide into a machine which optically scans them - but there are still paper lists with numbers on them that you have to cross out whenever you hand out a ballot, ink-jet printed pages of stickers that go in the voter's roll book and have to be initialed by 2 judges, paper ballots that you have to write the ward and precinct numbers on them before you hand them out, and various forms printed in different colors that have to be filled out when the voter isn't listed in the rolls or has moved.
My assignment was an old folks apartment complex just a few blocks away. We were supposed to have 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats handing out ballots in each precinct. One of our workers didn't show up so I became the token Democrat. My 2 co-judges didn't seem to like each other much. Nice ladies, but they were both talking to me and sort of ignoring each other. When one would leave the room, the other would lean over to me and say "Who does she think she is?"
Ms. Y (R) had worked at elections for 15 years and considered herself an expert. Ms. L (R) and I were brand new, so Ms. Y spent the rest of the day giving us contradictory and often hilarious orders in between discussing her various ailments. Our precinct was one of the smallest in the city (we didn't even break 100 voters) so she had plenty of time to tell us the right way to do things and second-guess herself. "Don't put that book here! Put that book there!" she would cry. Ms. L would lean over to me and whisper, "Why is she riding your ass?"
The very long day ended with me getting into an N.R.A. discussion with a Republican judge at the neighboring precinct's table. "If someone breaks into my home and threatens my family, don't you think I have the right to blow their head off?" he asked. "They''ll sure be armed." "Sheesh, couldn't you just get a burglar alarm? Does it have to turn into Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?" I replied. We finally agreed to disagree.
Frankly, I was afraid he'd shoot me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Growing up in a small town the only pigeons I ever saw were on TV. Every show set in a big city had scenes of them getting fed in the park or flying off from a midtown plaza in a huge cloud.
Unbelievably, they are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet able to complete tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates. One of only 6 species and the only non-mammal that can pass the ‘mirror test’ - being able to recognize their reflection in a mirror - the pigeon can also recognize all 26 letters of the English language. In scientific tests pigeons have been found to be able to differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so.
I never really spent much time around them until I started working downtown. They fascinated me - the iridescence of their feathers, their boldness around people, the way they would look you in the eye and look at your lunch as if to say, "You gonna eat that?" I considered them to be just noontime entertainment until we moved into our present apartment. Lovely place, reasonable rent, nice landlord and landlady but very popular with the pigeon population. There happened to be a small crawl space in between the ceiling and the roof that was a perfect pigeon loft. All day long you could hear little feet scrabbling across the ceiling, wings flapping, fights and apologies. The Alpha pigeon (I named him Mr. White - too much time spent with Reservoir Dogs, I fear) would peer into a window trying to figure out who we were and why we were living in their house.
The landlord tried to scare them off with a machine that emitted sound at a frequency that only they could hear and had an eerie red light on it to boot. I came home one day to find a pigeon resting his head on it, a peaceful expression on his face.
Things came to a head when the central air system seemed to be struggling to accomplish the bare minimum of cooling and we started finding little gray and white feathers in the filter. A lot of little gray and white feathers. The pigeon loft had to be sealed, repairmen had to be summoned, drywall and dust were involved. A pissed-off Mr. White kept staring in the windows at me as if to say, "Why are you doing this to my people?".
Things are much better now air conditioning-wise. I kind of miss the little bird footsteps over my head. I know it drove everyone else in the house crazy, but I found it soothing in a weird sort of way.
My only problem is hiding from Mr. White.
I know he recognizes my face.

Friday, July 25, 2008

modern maturity

I decided to let my hair color go back to nature about a year and a half ago. I hadn't really seen it in about 10 years and frankly, I was curious. Just what the hell was under those many layers of Preference I had been slapping on?
After years of hair maintenance, I was through. Through with fighting the battle against my arch enemy, Evil Fading Red. Through with trying fluff my hair up so the roots wouldn't show as much when I didn't have time to color. Through with trying to find a new shade when my current favorite was suddenly discontinued.
A.A.R.P. age was looming. It was time.
My decision to dye my hair in the first place came about because of spite, not gray hair (I had been noticing gray hairs since high school - they really didn't bother me). My husband would look at me every so often and say with a sigh, "I wish you were a redhead." When he decided he wanted a divorce because he was in love with another woman, I became a redhead. I also cleaned the toilet with his toothbrush, put it back in the holder and watched him brush his teeth with it the next morning, but that's a story for another day.
I will admit going back to nature wasn't an easy process, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It started out with getting it cut very short and continuing to cut it until the color was all gone. Almost 2 years later it's still very short and I like it. I like not owning a curling iron, flatiron or blow dryer. I like being able to get ready in under a half hour, start to finish. I like not freaking out about my hair when it rains. And, dammit, I like my grey hair even though it took me a while to get used to it. It's more salt than pepper and getting saltier every day.
For those of you considering going grey, here are some tips based on my vast experience:
1. Try to make it whiter by using diluted laundry bluing as rinse water. I learned this tip on the internet and didn't realize until I went outside that my hair was sort of the color of a robin's egg.
2. Ask your sister why she doesn't have any grey hair and what's wrong with her, or she will smack you in the head.
3. Wear Hello Kitty earrings. There is a fine line between eccentric and just plain crazy.
4. Crack age jokes in a very loud voice when you don't get carded buying liquor. That is what old people do.
1. Flip off Boy Scouts who try to help you cross the street.
2. Pretend like you're deaf and mutter to yourself when asked to do something you really don't feel like doing. It also helps to drool a bit.
3. Put purple and green streaks in your hair whenever possible. The grey makes them show up ever so much better.
4. Always take advantage of "Senior Coffee" discounts. Any old buck you save can always go into buying more liquor that you won't get carded for.
All in all, I think going back to gray was a pretty good decision. Even though it still scares the hell out of my parents.

Friday, July 18, 2008

please help me, I'm fallin'. . .

I fell down again the other day. I do this a lot. I don't really know why - no one I know seems to fall down as much as I do. I have big feet and I'm on the spacey side, but I don't think those can be considered valid excuses.
This time I tripped over the cat. This caused me to fall to my knees and fling my travel mug (full of coffee, of course) at the back door. I needed to mop the kitchen floor anyway, and there's now a crescent-shaped dent in the door which I find strangely attractive in a trailer trash sort of way.
I have fallen down flights of stairs twice in my life - both times sober. The first time ended up involving surgery, several months on Workman's Comp and is the most boring story imaginable. My most recent accidental flight happened about 4 years ago in one of those South St. Louis brick 4-families. The upstairs apartments always seem to have wooden stairs that start at a landing and curve around and down to the entrance. My feet got tangled up on the landing, I slid down head first and ended up with my head against the front door and my purse wrapped around my neck - I can only imagine what it must have sounded like to my neighbors. Being the good corporate dweeb that I was, I got up, took some aspirin and went to work. When the big lump on my head started getting bigger, I asked a hypochondriac coworker if he'd ever gotten a concussion. "Let's look it up on the internet!", he cried happily. Nice guy, but he just loved illness and injury. Three of the major symptoms he came up with - headache, confusion and drowsiness - were sort of everyday occurrences with me. The fourth - uneven sized pupils - had him running into my cubicle every half hour for the rest of the day to stare into my eyes. Couldn't have asked for a more dedicated nurse.
I ended up with perfectly even pupils and an enormous bruise the color of a Tahitian sunset on my ass.
There's really no point to this story, but I guess it could serve as a warning. People, if you're walking with me, look sharp.
I could fall on you at any moment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

god's muzak

I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday, my guilty pleasure.
Most of their merchandise is pretty dumb, the customers all look like my Baptist stepmother, and the chain seems to have this compulsion to shove their good Christian beliefs down your throat every chance they get. They do, however, have a decent jewelry making department. Nothing unusual or ethnic, just good basic stuff at a good price.
I loves to make me some earrings, so off I went.
I was trying to decide between square multicolored glass beads or ceramic leopard print beads when I realized that the Muzak system was playing an instrumental version of a hymn I remembered from my long-forgotten Southern Baptist childhood, the title of which now escapes me.
I knew this was just wrong.
Muzak for the most part turned into the real songs and not orchestral elevator music sometime in the mid-to-late 90's. Not only was the old time Muzak back again, but it had gotten religion.
I did a bit of research. According to Wikipedia (one of my favorite sites) Hobby Lobby creates it's own Muzak system which is beamed via satellite from their headquarters in Oklahoma City to almost 400 stores across the U.S. All Wiki would claim was that a "large percentage" of their single looping playlist was Christian hymns, but after I started really listening it seemed that every single tune reminded me of a boring childhood Sunday morning in church. I had to go.
My next stop was the grocery store. When I walked in, I was paying very close attention to what they had chosen for my Thursday afternoon shopping pleasure. It happened to be the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and that got me thinking. What if every song chosen for grocery store ambient music had some sort of food mentioned in either the band name or the song title? Would it work on me subliminally? Did I feel like buying jalapenos because they were playing Snow (Hey Oh)? If the Presidents of the United States' Peaches were playing, would I head for the fruit aisle? If it was Baby, I'm a Want You, would I make a beeline for the bakery?
Probably not.
I certainly didn't get saved in Hobby Lobby.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

cellar door

I don't remember what movie I was watching, but I do remember one of the characters saying that cellar door is supposedly one of the most attractive sounding combinations of words in the entire English language. That got me thinking.
English is a very confusing language. I've heard that it's one of the hardest to learn because it makes no logical sense. This is compounded by the fact that Americans have no idea of the reasons behind most of the subtleties. All they know is that's the way it is.
I worked for a short while with a girl from Turkey, a real nice lady. Once she got over everybody asking her about her favorite flavor of taffy, how much she must love Thanksgiving dinner and people started pronouncing her name correctly, she became one of the gang. I remember at one point trying to explain to her the difference between refuse on the side of a trash truck and saying no, as in I refuse to buy any more taffy! Now, go back to Turkey, you! Finally all I could give her was the old American standby - I don't know why, it's just that way. Now, leave me alone.
I've been thinking about words and their meanings lately because I'm back on the job market. This involves writing letters to people whose first impression of me will be as an email or a sheet of paper. Does Sincerely sound too stuffy? Is See Ya too casual? Does To Whom It May Concern sound like something along the lines of a lawsuit? Do I sound too eager? Do I sound too desperate? Do I sound like I don't give a shit? The whole process is sort of like asking people out on a blind date over and over again by letter.
Now I remember what my favorite combination of words in the English language is.
Happy Hour.