Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Boom Box

Technologically delayed as I am, I do realize this is news to no one.

But I guess I always took for granted that one would always just be there, somewhere on the shelves of my nearby K-Mart when something went wrong with my old one. Not so. At least not the same form.

A few months ago I'd accidentally launched my old boom box off my bed in my sleep. I sometimes listen to audiobooks before I go to bed. Apparently that night it lead to some restless dreams and... Well, let's just say it's no longer functioning.

I have other devices. I love my iPod, and frequently listen to things on my computer. But the boom box is the thing I drag around with me - out in the yard pulling weeds, digging through my garage in search of something of my brothers, in the basement doing laundry - listening to books-on-tape I check out from the library.

So when my old one died, I went out to get another one. The standard know is a portable player with a spot for your iPod. Makes sense, and I'll probably eventually get one of these, but it doesn't help with the library audio books. So I asked a clerk, who was nice but treated me as though I'd come looking for flint-sticks to make fire. Together we found one portable player close to what I was looking for. But it only played CDs. No tape deck.

That's when I discovered it was really over.

Now, I know it's become an 80s cliche' - the tiny, zipper-clad break dancer with the boom box the size of a filing cabinet perched on his shoulder - but there was something incredibly liberating about being able to take music "out of the bedroom" which was where everyone I knew listened to albums. There were portable radios, sure, but you were at the mercy of the local DJs. In every group there was an opportunity to create a "personal soundtrack."

When I turned sixteen, I got carnations from my first boyfriend. For at least a year I carried cassette tapes around in the empty flower box and got attention about both. I drug that thing to band camp, parties, sleepovers, and weekend youth group retreats. I knew others who hauled their tapes around in a duffel bag.

Surely I'll get up to speed on downloading my audio-books on my iPod, but I'm sure going to miss grabbing that handle in my hand, finding just the right placement on the pavement (or flower bed, or dryer) and punching the play button with just the right amount of pressure.

RIP boom box...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ushering in the Era of the Reasonably-sized Cookie

I am currently sitting in Panera, enjoying a bottomless cup of coffee and one of their new offerings, the Petite Cookie. In fact, I specifically came to Panera today because of the petite cookie. I had a few decent leads on a few things, and wanted to treat myself with a little taste of toffee nut oatmeal or a perhaps a white chocolate "duet."

I wouldn't have done this before, gone to a coffee shop specifically for a cookie, because it has been impossible to find a cookie smaller than an average hubcap. It goes along with the general audacity ushered in in the mid-90s when one day it was suddenly perfectly normal to pay $1.75 for a 79 cent-worthy cup of black coffee.

And the tip jar. Seriously. That took some serious nervy genius to impliment the tip jar at a coffee joint. I feel that it's somehow supposed to balance out the fact that you are being served by someone with a PhD in Latin. Not that I am opposed to earning advanced degrees in things less than marketable... I have a Bachelors degree in Theatre and a masters in Creative Writing, after all... But seriously, the gal behind the counter at Chick Fil-A at the mall is running around just as much and I don't tip her.

I don't mean to be so snarky, I don't want this to become one of those kinds of blogs where I devote 1500 to how someone cut me off in traffic. But seriously, the $2.89 cookie is nothing more than pure, obvious greed. I dare propose that the complexities of the collapsing housing market and economy in general can be reduced to the over-sized cookie...

Which brings me to the delightful discovery of the Petite cookie offered at Panera. Just the perfect size, and .49 cents a piece. I even get two - a sugary chocolate or toffee nut, and a shortbread to cut the richness a bit.

I spark of hope for less than a buck. I think things are looking up.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Fleeting Homeless Guy

First, a little history. When it comes to people asking for money at freeway exits, my response is inconsistent. On one hand, I was raised by parents who are generous givers, and whom always roll down the window and give something. On the other hand, the campaign of a charity non-profit "give real change" (encouraging folks to give to them instead for the most effective use of funds) has always remained in my head. Of course, so has that fact that I have not yet ever given to this organization. Needless to say, pulling up next to someone holding a sign asking for help tends to fill me with a blend of anxiety, guilt, and ambivalence.

Anyway, on to the story at hand. I met him a couple of years ago. As soon as I began to slow to the traffic light, he reminded me of someone I might have worked with at the post office. I knew he wasn't, be the fact that he looked like he could have, somehow made me drawn to him.

So I rolled down my window and gave him some money and went on. The next day, I saw him again. This time I said, "Hey, what's your name?" I've never asked someone at an exit ramp his name. "Rambo," he answered. "Come again?" I said, thinking, Rambo, like the movie character? "Rambo," he confirmed.

The next time, I pulled up, I said, "Hey Rambo, how're ya doin today?" "Pretty good," he said, enthusiastically. "I had to spend the night in jail, but they washed my pants!" he said, smoothing his hand across the pant leg of worn jeans for effect. I jokingly told some friends that I admired his optimism. Later that night, I felt like a jerk for being condescending. Obviously this man was not some made-for-television caricature, and I knew better than to enter into some distorted fantasy of his life.

Still. There was something about this particular guy. Sometimes I'd come by his exit and there'd be someone else and I would be mad, like someone was infringing on my friend's territory. One day I came by and said, "How's it goin, Rambo." Well, something had happened to his tarp, it had gotten ripped and he was pretty pre-occupied by it. I thought, I can get this guy a new tarp. So I said goodbye, went home, and tried to figure out what I was going to do. I decided I would go back and ask him what he needed, maybe a tent? So I threw some things in a bag - some socks, a sweatshirt, a t-shirt or two - and drove back.

No Rambo. No more Rambo the next day. Or the next or the next. Soon, I forgot about it.

About a year later, I saw him. I rolled down my window, and like an old friend said, "Rambo! Where've you been!?" sticking out my arm to touch him. "Grove City!" he replied, as though it was the most exotic place and not just the nearest Columbus suburb. He grabbed my arm and I wasn't alarmed. I went home, dug the bag out from the bottom of my closet and went back. Gone again.

Then I got a new job and started taking 670. Several months passed. Then one day I was running errands and saw him at the bus stop right around the corner from my house. The first thing I noticed was how badly sunburned he was. I guess that's obvious, being outside all day, everyday, but it was worse than I'd ever seen. I was stopped at a light in the opposite direction and just watched him. He was agitated, pacing back and forth. I turned and passed him.

My first instinct was to give him a lift. Then my practical side kicked in, figuring it was not the best idea to allow an agitated homeless man into my car, connection or not. I was almost home when I thought I could at least turn back and give him some money. So I did. Rambo was gone. Probably on the bus, but who knew. That was last fall.

So yesterday I saw him, at the intersection of Wilson and Broad, near the bus stop. Again, I was driving the opposite direction. I should have just turned around. Instead I rushed home, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, stuffed the rest of the bag with snacks, and shoved a Popsicle in the top and headed out. By now you can see where this is headed. He was gone.

I'm not sure what this all means. Obviously there is something to this man's behavior that I am alternately fascinated by and then ashamed of myself for possibly exploiting. Perhaps I just need to remember the name of that organization and make a regular donation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Viva La Chick Flick

So last night I was across the street at my friend Brooke's, and she handed me a stack of DVD's I'd loaned to her. Among them was In Her Shoes, the Cameron Diaz/Toni Collette/Shirley Maclaine show from a few years ago. "This isn't mine," I said. Puzzled, Brooke finally answered, "Right, it's my mom's. But you should borrow it; I think you'll really like it."

I was hesitant. "You'll love it," usually fills me with the instant skepticism I get from my mom when I say, "you won't like it." On one hand, here's a built-in aversion to being categorized. On the other, I know from too much experience that I'm often disappointed when going in with raised expectations.

But I took the movie. For one, my TV is officially out (I'm riding out getting a new TV or converter box until I cave, probably when the new season starts in the fall...we'll see.) However, I'd heard that the movie was good, better than one might expect from something clearly marketed as a "chick flick." Then again, I'd heard the same thing about The Holiday, another Cameron Diaz film with Kate Winslet, and, god, was that a drippy, predictable, insulting mess...

But. In Her Shoes, a totally different story. It's a terrfic film, a great story, with rich subtle undertones, and yes, explores the lives of not one but three women. I'll admit, it takes on pretty cliched territory - two women (sisters) at opposite ends of the smart-to-pretty bell curve who are wounded from the same life event. But it's also very true. From the beginning of time it seems smart girls just want to be found attractive and pretty girls want to be taken seriously, all the while using the inert pretty/smart ness as a weapon against the other. And of course, all damaged people seem to be ultimately haunted by the same major life-events rooted in childhood. But we never seem to tire of seeing this dynamic played out (well, as well as it's done with skillful dialog, acting, and direction...)

Speaking of which, it's directed by Curtis Hanson (who directed LA Confidential and Wonder Boys and 8 Mile.) I highly recommend any of those as well.

And I'm going to try to remain a little more open to more of those "you should see this..."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tom Petty Was Right...

...About waiting, that is (but probably other stuff too, but that's for another post...)

I had a job interview last week. On Friday actually. It was significant because the job was the first "full time/permanent" position I've been in consideration of (without a built-in end date going in) in...well, I know, but I'm almost too embarrassed to say....

But it was a big deal. And it went great. I walked in and felt comfortable. Now, I can usually go into any place and "find my way" in it, no matter how short the time I'll inhabit it. But this was different. Perhaps it was eagerness at the opportunity mixed with more than just a hint of desperation in this unshaky job market. But I'd like to think it was more than that. The job is a marketing/project manager hybrid at a financial insurance company. And still, the place was filled with art and interesting people (not to suggest financial/insurance people can't be interesting... Still, the stereotypes typically exist for a reason.) But, as I always seem to say, I can't resist people who "aren't what they seem."

So I got there, spent about five minutes mesmerized by the intricate painting in the reception area, and was lead through a maze of old, converted apartments and into a small conference room. It was me at the head of the conference table with eight other people. I'm glad I didn't know that going in, I think I would have acted differently. Instead, people just kept coming in and shaking my hand and handing me business cards.

No matter how many interviews I go on, I still seemed to get tripped up on opening interview questions. And I usually know how they're going to start: "So, tell us about yourself..." I think it's because there is something too big and broad and un-nerving about this question. Think about it. The person asking has your resume right in front of them. They've allegedly read it, or you wouldn't be here. My inclination is to say, "what would you like to know?" But that would come off pretty snarky. Or clueless. But with this place, I just kinda started. I said, "perhaps I could just go over the history of my experience, touching on relevant things along the way." I've never said that before. I've never been so pro-active before. I didn't talk in circles and, although I could feel my face getting red, I could somehow feel I wasn't breaking out in hives, but instead just changed skin tones (which I confirmed in the car mirror on the way home...)

I do know they won't be making a decision soon, which also works in my favor as I am slated to go to Barcelona in July. Regardless of how it works out, it felt good to feel that, for perhaps the first time, that my career path of varied experience might work to my favor.

I'd still like to know sooner than later...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

CAPA Summer Movie Series

It's that time... Well, not quite yet. The movies don't start until July, but the cycle starts the moment I pick up my pocket-sized, accordion-style pamphlet at the Columbus Arts Festival.

I love the summer movie series. For those of you who don't live in Columbus, or who are unaware of this awesome phenomenon, every year CAPA selects a couple dozen classic films to be screened at the grand Ohio Theater downtown. My mom used to take my brother and I growing up. I do not remember my first film, but the most memorable was Gone With the Wind and not simply because it is a quintessential film. This was 1980 and Columbus experienced a mild earthquake that few people could even feel unless they were in a tall building. [I'm not lying here, you can look it up...] We were in the balcony, under the giant chandelier that shook slightly, but being directly under the two-ton glass fixture was pretty un-nerving. I thought the building was falling down. But then it stopped. And we continued to watch the last hour of movie, only discovering what had happened when the paper arrived the next morning.

I've had other great experiences there too - a terrific first date with a significant boyfriend seeing An American in Paris, seeing Some Like it Hot for the first time and being positively spellbound by every bit of it. Kip and I saw Animal House one year and a group next to us had come in full toga regalia. Dad and I saw Young Frankenstein, his absolute favorite film, and I sat there delighted to watch him laugh so hard and lines he's heard hundreds of times.

I love the recent inclusion of "crowd classics" - films that are not critical darlings but crowd favorites. Last year they screened Top Gun which I missed because I was out of town. But that would have been so great. Top Gun is perhaps the perfect date movie ever made.

Every year, I get my list and plan to see about ten and end up getting to go to maybe two or three. Here's the list. The ones highlighted are the ones I really want to see and am available for. If anyone wants to go, let me know and I'll make some group plans. Especially if you've never been. It's the best $4 you'll spend all summer.

July 17 - 19 = Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
July 22 - 23 = The Awful Truth
July 24 = The Day the Earth Stood Still
July 24 (late night) = Slap Shot
July 25 - 26 = Show Boat
July 29 - 31 = Dirty Harry
Aug 1 (10 AM) = Cartoon Capers
Aug 1 - 2 = King Kong (1939)
Aug 5 = Rebecca (Hitchcock)
Aug 7 = Dirty Dancing
Aug 8 -9 = The King and I
Aug 12 = The Male Animal
Aug 13 - 14 Wings (Silent film, 1st Academy Award Best Pic)
Aug 15 - 16 = Raiders of the Lost Art
Aug 19 - 20 = Spellbound (Hitchcock)
Aug 21 = Gold Diggers of 1933
Aug 21 (late night) = Evil Dead II
Aug 22 (10 AM) = Cartoon Capers
Aug 22 - 23 = Ben-Hur
Aug 26 - 27 = Road to Bali
Aug 28 = Steel Magnolias
Aug 29 - 30 = South Pacific

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Old School Ode #5 - Field Day

For being a child so completely unsuited for (and uninterested in) athletic activity, I loved the concept of Field Day. However, for having such a strong feeling, I have surprisingly few specific memories. But they are strong. They are of the obstacle course and construction paper winner's ribbons. Perhaps this is because I won a ribbon or two in the obstacle course.

There is something inherently awesome about the obstacle course. Not the Army or Battle of the Network Stars style, where the feats are still based in athletic achievement. But playground style, where the more ridiculous the task the better the course. Run over there, spin around seven times, and run (without falling down or throwing up) over to that place over there to limbo under an impossibly low broomstick, skip hard to the pogo stick, bounce three times, put on a pair of men's pants, fill them up with blown-up balloons, and head for the finish line.

Good times.

I was reminded of all this because I passed by West Broad School this afternoon and there was no doubt today was field day. All I could pick out as I tried to slow down and take it all in, was a race involving hippity-hops and another activity involving copious amounts of tennis balls. Had I not had a time schedule to keep, I surely would have turned back to check it out more thoroughly.

And just last week, when I was over visiting my friend Brooke across the street, her son Ely asked if I wanted to watch him go through the obstacle course he had just finished assembling. Of course I did. His dad agreed to participate. The first "obstacle" was crawling under a A-frame thing just big enough to fit a small eight-year-old boy. This did not deter Steve, who immediately uprooted the thing and flattened his son in an attempt to gain some leverage. Ely eventually wiggled his way free, ran a few circles around some pylons, putted a golf ball into a cup, and came across the finish line.

It was ridiculously beautiful.