Monday, December 28, 2009

Working - Part 1

I've been talking about writing a book about work for quite a long time. The only problem is, I haven't finished editing/completely reconstructing the book I'm currently working on (which is a memoir examining the loss of my brother.) So I've refused to allow myself to do any sort of pre-writing or out-lining or treatments until I'm done with the first.

But, I figure blogging about it (since I'm already self-committed to trying to post something every five days) is altogether different...

It's no longer news that I am, after a long and tedious search, currently employed. I am still in the stage of being deliriously relieved, still able to viscerally remember that conflicted feeling of the stress of not having a job combined with the guilty freedom that comes with having so much time on my hand.

One thing I've discovered is how much I instantly delight in the early days of a new routine. The making my lunch while the coffee brews, the starting up of my computer while I get into the shower, the checking emails and making a concerted effort not to get absorbed into something that will, fifteen minutes later, cause me to flee from the house in a panic, applying eyeliner in the car.

Then there are the delights of the logistics of each particular job. Last summer, I worked downtown. Because it was early fall, it was perfect weather to walk the block and a half to the bus stop. Then at lunch, there was the small thrill of sitting among the other downtowners, nestled in the strategic sunlit spots between the buildings.

For this job, its the close proximity (2.9 miles to be exact, a drive so short it is rivaled only by my walking-distance fast-food job in high school) that I'm reveling in. Being able to run home and throw a load of laundry is (for now anyway) a small pleasure.

Then, of course, there is the job itself. Acclimating to new places among new people has always come easy for me. It took me many years to realize this is not the case for everyone. I naively assumed people who didn't take to new circumstances simply chose not to. I like having already aligned myself with allies at the reception desk, shipping, the warehouse, and finding out who brings in the good coffee.

Surely, as always happens, these minor thrills will be replaced with the stresses that come with increased responsibility. But I'm willing to take that on for some peace of mind in the other areas of my life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Throw Your Arms Around the World at Christmastime

I think I did a Christmas card topic on this a few years ago, but I've decided it bears repeating.

Christmas songs.

Every year I always think, I'm not sure I'm up for it, the same old "have yourselves" and "chestnuts roastings." I blame 93.3, which starts broadcasting their holiday music 24/7 on November 1. I've had to start purposely removing them from my pre-settings on my car radio to avoid routine irritation.

But by about December 6th or so, I'm ready.

I grew up going to church, so I'd learned all the Christmas staples early on. I'm not sure of my favorite, although it's hard to go wrong with a whispy rendition of Away in a Manger. My mom's favorite carol is O Come All Ye Faithful, so we sang that one a lot at bed time. I'll will say, the minor-chords of We Three Kings scared me a little.

The first "modern" carol I learned was Rockin Around the Christmas Tree. My fourth/fifth grade teacher taught our class this song in some elaborate gymnasium-style circle dance. I can remember being thrilled by the jaunty guitar riffs (or maybe I am only remembering the Hall and Oates version a few years later...)

Lately, there are three songs in heavy rotation on my iPod - a James Taylor version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (this was on his October Road CD that my brother and I listened to constantly the year I worked for him and the meloncholy tone often tears me up, but I cannot not listen); Sheryl Crow's take on The Christmas Song, complete with a Memphis-horns-worthy brass section; and a soul-melting rendition of Ava Maria by Chris Cornell (then again, I could listen to this man sing cat food commercials all day long...)

My favorite Christmas songs, though, will forever be the ones I heard in the early 80s. It was the birth of MTV, and, again, I was excited to discover a world beyond We Saw Three Ships. Billy Squire recorded a new song called Christmas is a Time to Say I Love You, and sang it with the entire staff at MTV during what looks like their holiday party. It played in heavy rotation among the already heavily rotated fifty or so original songs already playing in 1982. Elton John made a deliriously fun song/video called Step into Christmas, much of which he is engaged in a wobbly kick line with his band mates.

Of course, the grandaddy of all MTV-era Christmas songs is Do They Know it's Christmas. In November of 1984, Boomtown Rats lead man, Bob Geldolf, called in favors on all of his British buddies and sparked the trend famous-people-on-a-riser music (on a side note, anyone who hasn't seen the "Kidney Now" parody song on 30 Rock, should find it on YouTube).

When I first heard the song - or rather, saw the video - it was difficult to simply get over the novelty of having all of your favorite musicians together in the same room (this was before We Are the World and the string of other knock-offs.) Sting and Bono, Boy George, George Michael and the gals from Bananarama: a perfect marriage of abundant young hair and earnest expression.

I will shamefully admit that I began making fun of the song in my twenties - There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas... Far as I can tell, there's never snow in Africa ever. Do they know it's Christmas?.. Um, no, because they are Muslim and don't celebrate that particular holiday.

Maybe it is just a function of aging sentimentality, but my love for this song has returned with a ferocity I cannot fully articulate. Perhaps it is like looking at an old yearbook and marveling at the young faces of the musicians who are still recording today, perhaps it is the deepening understanding what it means to have so much when so many have so little.

Or maybe it is just the chimes. It's hard to resist a song with a rocking chime section...

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three Shelves

Historically, I've not been much of a grocery shopper. Even when I lived only a half-block from Kroger, I rarely made it over there more than a couple times a month.

What I didn't realize then was, the longer I put off shopping, the harder it became because I was trying to plan for a whole month rather than picking up things here and there to fill in with what I had.

I'm not sure when I made the switch. Even though I moved into a different neighborhood five years ago, I still go to my old Kroger, because they have "all my stuff" and I know where things are. I've also started shopping at Whole Foods which is way too far away to justify the extra expense, but I do love it so.

Anyway, at some point, probably because I was unemployed for the good part of two years and had an excess of free time on my hands, I've started going to the grocery with greater frequency, sometimes just to replenish my produce, which would positively baffle my twenty-five-year-old self. I've also found myself filling regularly filling in blanks of my regular stock of on-hand items, like honey and spices, chicken broth, beans, and on-sale jars of pasta sauce.

For years, I could store everything I bought at the grocery in 2/3rds of a shelf. Just last week I found myself clearing out a third shelf for bags of snacks that were starting to get smashed. What I love is that it came about without any deliberate effort.

Before you know it, I will be moving canned goods into an honest-to-god pantry in my basement (although foods for indefinite use still kinda freak me out, so maybe not just yet...)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Road That No Longer Goes to That Place I Never Went

The Target near my house was once a Drive-In Movie Theater, The Holiday, nestled into a giant wooded lot and adjacent to a tiny neighborhood consisting of two streets of small houses and a VFW hall.

I'm not sure how often we went to The Holiday. As a child, I can remember the thrill of wearing pajamas and sitting atop a nest of sleeping bags and pillows in the backseat of our 1971 Plymouth Fury. In high school, I sometimes went with friends who piled into the back of a pick-up. The night before graduation I watched the characters of Platoon shed their innocence, while I shed a little of my own with my prom date.

Needless to say, it is impossible for me not to think of the Holiday each and every time I pull into the Target parking lot. The narrow grassy strip, at the end of which held the ticket booth is still there.

As far as the neighborhood, one street survived the demolition. The other street (including the VFW hall) did not. If you are driving south on Wilson Road, as you approach Broad, you will see a road that goes about 100 feet and abruptly stops. That is the road that wound around behind the gas station (still there) and lead to the VFW hall. I never even laid eyes on the building.

You might wonder why a VFW hall could hold such intrigue to me. I am not a veteran, I do not like honky-tonk music. What that hall represents, however, is an event of my teen years that has grown to mythological status in my head. When I was a freshman in high school, I was a pretty nosey gal. One can argue that I still am, but now I am able to allow significantly larger quantities of information about people's lives pass me by without notice.

But not then.

I didn't want to miss anything, ever. And I rarely did. This is why, as I have mentioned before, I was always the last girl awake at a slumber party (that, and I was bound and determined never to have my hand submerged in warm water or my bra frozen...)


One night, my freshman year, a band made up of guys from my high school (one was a friend's brother), were playing at the VFW. Everyone was going. I could not, as I was out of town that weekend. This concert would have faded into a heap of other semi-interesting events had I not returned to school on Monday to find out just what I had missed out on - a popular couple had broken up, a mild-manner friend got into an actual fist fight, two unlikely people hooked up, and someone else got into major trouble when their parents found out they'd gone when told they weren't allowed.

I will fully admit that the scenarios I created in my head for weeks are, by now, wildly inaccurate and could not possibly stand up to the reality of what probably actually happened that night. But I love the myth just the same. It has taken on a life of its own.

Which is why, I believe, they don't just tear up that road and make it into the parking lot.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lost Gloves Found...

Tonight I took my friend's son to see a movie. He's nine. After being easily persuaded to drop more than a few tokens in the game room, (even though I knew we were rapidly approaching bed time), my "adult-in-charge" kicked in and I noticed he was not wearing gloves. I knew he'd left the house with them because, as we were bundling up he said, "Do you think I should take my gloves." I said he should and he did, so I knew they were at least with us when we left the house.

But there were more than a few places they could be - my car, the theater parking lot, the theater, the lobby, the hallway to the individual theaters, the game room.

I was instantly taken back to my own nine-year-old days and could physically recall that low-grade shame and panic of losing something else, again.

For those of you who don't know, I wrote an early entry explaining the name of this blog - that I was a former loser (of things) and now, for the most part, do pretty good at keeping track of what I have. I say "for the most part" because I do, still, tend to leave a good deal behind. However, they tend to be things like earrings and face lotion and pens. I don't tend to lose my purse or credit cards or other items that are cause for a higher level panic. Or perhaps it's just that now, as an adult, I have access to the means to replace my things without others being involved...

Anyway, Ely and I searched the car with no luck, and went back inside the movie theater. The concession cashier walkie-talkied a manager who went to look. I remembered that waiting feeling. The waiting while someone went to look for something I'd left, and the anticipation of either relief or doom.

In the car, we talked about strategies of how to remember not to forget things. I came up short because, while I can usually explain something in a way a kid can understand, the only things I could conjour were "adult" suggestions or empathetic antedotes on how I could remember feeling what I felt. I must have been offered tons of advice on this topic as a child, and I cannot recall a single one. After a silence, Ely said, "I'm just glad we found the gloves. My dad would have been really mad."

"I know buddy," I said. "I know."