Saturday, September 30, 2006

i'll never understand

Remember that thing a couple posts ago about going out with someone last week? Scratch that. Dating sucks. Apparently the lesbians down here have no interest in anyone with a brain. Unless you're some skank with a leathery tan, no social awareness, and who's main interests are beer and cigarettes, dating here is nonexistent.

Also, my throat hurts and I have no voice.

Friday, September 29, 2006

self-indulgent rambling about work/personal epiphanies

A couple weeks ago, a guy came into the store and said, "I just hate starbucks coffee. But I want to buy a pound of beans. But I hate your coffee. So what kind should I get?"

At first, I thought he was kidding. But no, despite his preference for maxwell house and the like, he wanted to buy a pound of starbucks whole beans, and he wanted me to help him pick out a roast. I thought maybe this was a gift for someone else, but nope. He wanted this for himself. I couldn't (and frankly still can't) figure out why someone who claims to hate the taste of something would insist on buying it anyway. But regardless, I was very nice and helped him find a roast just right for his taste preference, which wasn't easy since he reminded me several times throughout our conversation just how much he hates our coffee. And I wasn't being a pushy sales person, as I tried to explain that he might not like any of our roasts, since they're all a much more distinct, strong flavor than what he's used to, even our mild roasts (I didn't say this in a coffee-snob way). But he was determined to buy at least a pound. We talked about at least a dozen blends, and he wrinkled his nose at all of them. Finally, I helped him settle on a user-friendly Latin blend, which isn't too offensive to someone not used to bold coffee. He paid and was on his way. In a genuinely friendly way, I asked him to stop by again sometime to tell us how he likes the coffee. I haven't seen him since. Oh well.

After he left, I was amazed at how nice I was with this guy. He was sort of a jerk and seemed bent on pissing me off, even though he was also bent on buying coffee he planned to not like. And not once did I want to kill him. The me from many years ago, the me who once worked in a bookstore, who worked in a few museums, the me who has worked in customer service areas before and hated it desperately, would have made some shitty, snyde remark to him, causing the man to walk out on the whole thing, while I stood there and fumed about how stupid people are. But I never once had the urge to act like that during this exchange. I didn't realize this until it was over, but I was incredibly friendly, helpful, patient, and genuine with the guy. And guess what. He was ultimately sort of friendly too! (Only sort of, because he was still a little bit of a pain. But we were both trying.)

I've noticed this phenomenon at various points every day at that job. I'm actually friendly to the customers. And I'm not faking it. I really, truly want them to have good coffee and pleasant service. And I want the store to look great and to be friends with the neighboring businesses. It's weird, because this isn't like me. Well, it isn't like the me before now. If that makes any sense. Clearly it is me now, though it didn't used to be.

In my former life (I don't exactly know what era defines that. I used to refer to my life before coming out three years ago as my 'former life' but now I'm not sure that's accurate. So is it pre-florida? pre-publishing work? pre-divorce? pre-grad school? pre-marriage? Sometime in the years that led up to where I am now, I guess), though I would never have admitted it, I made a lot of personal decisions based on what I thought other people expected. Sometimes I did things I thought people wanted me to do. Sometimes, I was spiteful and did things I knew they didn't want me to do. Either way, what I believed others expected always factored into my choices somehow.

In the meantime, I had no respect for most people I didn't know and disregarded everything any customer or stranger said. I hated any work that involved the public or customer service and was miserable at any job which involved the public. That's part of why I thought publishing might be good for me; a huge part of it requires you to sit in a cubicle staring at a manuscript on the computer. Not much interaction with the public. But as I've said here before, I hated that job and really didn't like myself while I had that job.

But I don't know why exactly I thought I'd like working in a coffee shop, especially starbucks, where it's 99% about human interaction. I just thought it would be good for me during a transitional period, and as it turns out, I'm very very good at it and the job itself isn't really a transition for me anymore. It's now a choice I've made, something I'm pursuing, a place where I want to move up and on.

But some days, I am mystified at how much I've changed with regard to working with the public. I'll hear myself say friendly, happy things to customers, and I can't believe it came from my own mouth...and that I meant it. And that's nothing to how it makes me feel on the inside. How happy I become when a strike up a fun conversation with one of our regular customers and make them a drink they love. Or better yet, when I start talking to a new customer who subsequently becomes a regular customer. It's a truly warm, satisfied feeling I've never known at work before. I came close to it when I was teaching developmental college writing (a nicer way of saying remedial writing), and one of my students would work hard all semester and end up with a higher grade than they'd ever had in the past. Or when one of them would tell me they aren't afraid of English anymore. Or when I was grading a paper that was surprisingly fabulous from a student who was on the verge of failing the course. I never thought I'd feel that kind of warmth, pride, and satisfation outside of teaching, but I've somehow found it here.

Yeah, I know. Helping someone buy coffee maybe doesn't really compare to helping someone hang on to the hope that they can make it through college or at the very least pass Freshman English. But they are both ways of helping people feel a little better. And, selfishly, making people smile at work makes me feel really good about myself.

I guess I'm still just surprised that putting on that apron and steaming milk for a latte creates this kind of personal satisfaction for me. And that I truly enjoy seeing and talking to our regular customers every day and meeting new ones who are in for the first time.

And then, the other night while I was sweeping the cafe, I made a possible connection between this and my personal life. I realized that in the past several months, I've worked hard to stop letting other people influence my choices, my self-esteem, my life. In the meantime, I've grown to love the public I work with. I think it was some sort of weird trade-off. In return for owning my personal life and my self-esteem, I have let go of that categorical annoyance and anger towards the general public. The more control I feel over my own life and the less I worry about others' expectations, the more comfortable I am at work, the more I want to create a comfortable place for our customers and community.

Maybe it's simply trading the need to please others in one capacity for that need in another. But I'd rather feel this need in my professional life than in my personal life.

Who knows...

So anyway, maybe that guy who bought the pound of coffee a couple weeks ago didn't like it, and maybe he still hates starbucks. But that's ok. I know plenty of people who hate starbucks. Some of them are friends of mine. It doesn't bother me, because I love the place, the company, and the coffee, and it's where I want to be right now. And most of my customers tell us on a daily basis how happy they are that we're there. I love to hear that. In the meantime, I have more respect for myself than I've had in years, personally and professionally, and I'm learning how to live as myself, not as who I think people think I am.

Plus, even the crazy iced venti extra caramel caramel macchiato lady smiles now when she comes in. Though, she'll still pitch an ugly fit if she gets less than half a bottle of caramel in her drink.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I love my job, but I also love days off

I haven't been a very good blogger this week, have I? Between work and actually having something that resembles a social life lately, I haven't been home much to blog. But I'm off all day today, and I don't really have any plans. So here I am!

Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, I watched football with a bunch of people at this bar on Sunday. I had a blast, and it rivals the football Sundays I use to spend with an awesome group of women back in St. Louis. Donna and Amy, who were friends of friends, were a couple who lived waaaaay out in the suburbs and had a get-together every single sunday for anyone who wanted to come watch the Rams play. When my marriage ended and I came out, they welcomed me, no questions asked, to their place every sunday, so I could make new friends and have a place to watch football every week. It became a weekly tradition every football season for a few years, with the same core group of women there. Occasionally one of us single people would bring whoever we were dating at the time, but usually it was just the same faithful group, and I could always count on a relaxed, fun day, no matter what else was happening in life. I loved them and I loved that tradition. Unfortunately, Donna and Amy sold their house and moved to Donna's hometown in Maine, so the weekly gatherings are no more. It was sad for us football pals, even though this was a fabulous move for the two of them. Last I heard, they've built a happy life for themselves up in New England, though they promise to never ever become Patriots fans. They're still Rams all the way. Anyway, I miss them, and I'm not sure they know how important they were to that period in my life.

Last year, after Donna and Amy were gone, I went to Novak's in St. Louis with Elizabeth every week to watch the Rams play. We always had such fun together, yelling at the refs and players, making fun of stupid plays and stupid names of some of the players (ie, Pacman Jones and Plaxico Burress), and of course eating nachos like insane women. I miss this as much as I miss Donna and Amy.

I really really love football season. But as much as I love the games themselves, certainly part of why it's an important time for me is the friendship. As an adult, football Sundays have always been a day of the week when I spend with people who make a difference in my life. Might sound silly, but that's ok with me. It's a comfort thing.

So you can see why I've been skeptical these days about finding a truly fun place to watch my games with cool people. I went to New Moon on Sunday, not sure it could live up to past traditions, but I was wonderfully surprised. Only a few people were there when I arrived and the 1 o'clock games started, but fortunately they were people I know, so I pulled up a bar stool and settled in. And then did the most important thing: I made friends with the bartender. I did this to guarantee I could get any tv on any game I wanted at any given moment. Oh, and also because he is an incredibly cool, friendly person. (I'm not just saying that.)

My friend Becca was there, as were so many of her friends I've been introduced to recently. Incredibly sweet, fun people. Within an hour or so, the place got more crowded. By the end of the first round of games, the place was packed. Novak's back in St. Louis never had more than 5 or 6 people around for the games on Sunday. Usually, it was just me and Elizabeth, the bartender, a cook, and then a couple scary, toothless, mullet-headed bull-dykes in the back playing pool. So being in a room FULL of interesting (in a good way) people all there for the games was impressive to me.

Also, I met someone else who I've actually been out with a couple times since Sunday. Yep, I think I can actually use the word 'date' here in reference to our evening on Monday. I haven't used the word 'date' with regard to a night out in months, so I was surprised to even remember what the word means when it came up in conversation. Of course, I don't want to overuse the word, for fear of jinxing it. So I'm going to shut up about it now. :)

In non-football news, I'm generally in a better state of mind than I've been in since I moved down here. Work continues to get better, which is something considering it's been great from the start. I'm almost finished training for my promotion to supervisor, and our store's business is up. Also, last week we got a snapshot, which is what Starbucks calls their secret shopper deal. It scores us on everything, from cleanliness of the store, to speed and accuracy of service, and how pleasant the experience is all-around--and of course we don't know it's happening until they send us the report later. The company takes these seriously, so getting a high score is a big deal. I happened to be working the day of our most recent snapshot, and we scored a 94% and a 5 out of 5. These are fabulous scores, especially the 5. The only reason we didn't get a 100% is because apparently the latte we made for this person was only 134 degrees, when it should have been 135. Yes, they actually run outside and take the drink's temp. I could kick myself for that one, as it's such a stupid mistake. But this is still the highest score we have received yet, and it was the highest score of any store in our district for this round of snapshots. So I can live with this.

Ok well, my mom just returned last night from a trip with my grandmother to Quebec. She said is was gorgeous. I'm dying to go look through all the books and pictures she brought home, so that's what I'm going to go do now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

a good football day

All my teams won! The bar I went to showed all the games, so I got to watch everything I wanted. The Rams beat the Cardinals. Bengals beat the Steelers (in Kathy's words, "FUCK Shittsburgh"). Packers beat the Lions. And Dolphins beat the Titans. Ok, no, I'm not necessarily a big Dolphins fan, but I have nothing against them, so why not cheer them on? The Rams and the Bengals are the big victories, though.

Just to top it all off, as I type this, the Patriots are about to lose to Denver. Yay!

And in all sorts of other ways, I had an absolutely fabulous Sunday. I'll write more about it tomorrow, though, since I have to get up for work in a few hours and need to force myself to sleep a little.

In the meantime, here's some "art" Bridgette and I created with straws while watching the games today at the bar:

Special, isn't it?

caramel, jager, and football

So remember the lady I blogged about who orders the iced venti caramel macchiato with half a bottle of caramel in it? She's a regular now, and we've all just surrendered to her and we make her drink exactly as she likes it, with no arguments. We smile and make polite conversation with her while we dump the caramel into the bottom of her cup, and all is well. In return, she doesn't act like she wants to kill us.

However, the other day she came in for round one of her sugar fest (she gets two of these drinks each day: one in mid-morning, the other early evening), but this time when my manager handed her the drink, the woman actually complained that there was too much caramel. Shelly had to dump it out and make a new one. Apparently, there is a distinction for this woman's taste palate between half a bottle of caramel and a touch over half a bottle.


After Caramel Lady left, Shelly said, "Well that was unexpected."

On a totally different note, I went to a bar with some friends on Thursday night and only had a couple drinks. I wanted to relax and have fun, but not get in any way drunk, and after drinking two cosmos, I had achieved that perfect state of very happy but totally lucid. Until someone bought me a jager bomb. I didn't realize she was going to do this until she had already purchased it and brought it over to me. Well, I can't seem to turn down a drink someone has bought for me, and I stupidly thought one jager bomb wouldn't possibly cause problems.

Wrong. Terribly wrong. The next day was not pretty.

So please, please, please do not ever buy me a jager bomb, do not allow me to purchase one myself, and if you see anyone else buying one for me, please remove it from my hands. Some of you already know this same rule applies to tequila. Well, now we're adding jager bombs to this list.

Note: this does not include straight jager shots, just the bombs, as it's apparently the addition of red bull that causes unpleasantness.

Everyone promise they'll stick to this? Ok, thanks.

Well, it's football day. More importantly, it's Bengals vs. Steelers day (BIG rivalry, for those of you who live under a rock). And later on, it's Rams vs. Cardinals, which means that--depending on who Arizona puts on the field--it might be a Bulger vs. Warner game. To watch these games, I'm going to the same place that was the site of the jager bomb incident. But I'm sticking with beer today. I suspect most people will be there to watch the Dolphins and Titans, but I'm counting on the other tvs being on other games.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

oddballs and fan mail

The other day, I sent an email to Hillary Carlip, author of Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan, which is a book I recently read and enjoyed. It's a memoir and is totally offbeat, but smart, funny, touching, and a nice example for those of us out here who admire creative non-fiction and are trying to get a feel for it as writers. I went to her book's website, her personal-essay site, and her myspace page, which are loaded with great information, and for some reason I was overwhelmed with adolescent-like, giddy, admiration. It all got the best of me and before I knew it--for the first time in my life--I had written and sent fan mail. Here is what I wrote:

Hi Hillary,
Before I say anything else, is this really Hillary, or just some die-hard fan posing as Hillary? Hmm... I'm going to have to trust whatever answer you give me, I suppose.

No, you don't know me...yet! I just read Queen of the Oddballs and naturally loved it. And I SO love that you have a myspace page. It just makes me giggle a little, because sometimes I wonder if it's weird that I'm 31 and am mildly addicted to myspace.

I have to be honest; I'd never heard of you or your book until my best friend, Kathy, sent it to me as an unexpected gift, since she knows I love to read and write creative nonfiction. One day last week, the mail man dropped off a dusty, beat-up old box with my name and address scrawled across it. The same chicken scratch had been used for the return address, which was someplace in Indiana. I grew up in Cincinnati, recently spent 6 years in St. Louis, and currently live in South Florida--but I don't know anybody who lives in Indiana so I couldn't figure out who had sent me anything. When I opened the box, there was one sad, lopsided half-sheet of bubble wrap, on which all the bubbles had been popped, and your book. Nothing else, no note, no explanation. Just a book I'd never heard of called Queen of the Oddballs, from an address I didn't know, packaged in a sketchy-looking box. It was all a little strange. However, I picked up your book and flipped through the pages out of curiosity. Just then, a sheet of paper came floating out from the middle and landed on the kitchen floor. It was an receipt and in tiny print at the bottom was Kathy's name, listed as the customer.

So, long story even longer, Kathy had sent the book to me as a treat, knowing I'd love it (she's a librarian and has read everything ever published and has a knack for recommending the right books to the right people) and also knowing that few things thrill me more than receiving real mail from people who aren't requesting payment from me. When I called her that afternoon to ask her about this, I said, "So are you telling me I'm an oddball?!" She just giggled and said she loved it and was sure I'd love it too.

I am so so so glad she sent your book to me! I love it for many reasons, especially your ability to see--and tell--the stories life creates. It's a trait I admire and strive for. Also, I love that--for once--it's a memoir written by a lesbian, but it's not a "coming-out story." Don't get me wrong; coming-out stories are a cozy little sub-genre of creative nonfiction, and I enjoy reading a truly original, well-written, fresh essay/memoir/book written in that vein. I guess in a way, it's a right of passage for any gay writer. It's important, and I respect it. However, I also am always on the search for memoirs written by lesbians that are about life after coming-out, about more than just realizing one's sexuality. Don't know if I'm making any sense here, hopefully you get the point.

Anyway, thanks for so much inspiration. I look forward to reading more from you and also spending lots of time reading essays on Fresh Yarn.

Take care,
P.S. Can I put you on my friends list?

heeheehee...yeah, I know, I sound like a 15-year-old there. But I just had to tell her how much I enjoy her writing! And if she's on myspace, and I'm on myspace...well of course I'm going to want to add her to my friends list!

SO. The big news is that today I received an email response from Hillary! This is what she wrote:

Yes, yes, it's really me! How much do I love Kathy for passing on my book to you??? And, OK, that beat-up, hand-addressed box is TOTALLY, well... ODDBALL!

So glad you were inspired by the book and, yes, I totally get what you mean about the coming out/not aspect. Thanks for noticing! =)

OF COURSE we'll be friends (not fans!) as soon as I get to approving all the requests. I have a ton of them and I'm still on the road on tour, with no time at all. Back next week and diving right back into MySpace!

In the meantime, thanks a MILLION for the shout-out, and for digging my book so much. Hope you'll spread the word!!! And thank Kathy, too!

How sweet is that?!

Ok, so maybe she writes similar stuff to all of her fans, but I don't care. She totally humored me by writing any response at all, and that is very cool in my world.

You know, I bitch and moan endlessly about stuff in life that gets me down, but honestly, all it takes is something as simple as a good book and a friendly email response from the writer, and I'm delighted to no end.

And by the way, I do recommend this book to anyone who enjoys memoirs that aren't beat-you-over-the-head heavy and somber. She has a great sense of humor and a fun perspective on life, and she really does see that there are great stories to be told all over the place. Everywhere you look, every moment of life, there are stories to be found and told. I'm learning more and more that writing is just as much--perhaps more so--about observing life and being able to extract the story from each moment as it is about sitting in front of a computer putting words on the screen. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who gets more enjoyment out of her own existence. Ultimately, she totally unquestioningly accepts, no, celebrates herself in every way and loves every unique part of her own personality, and that is what I enjoyed most about this book. I even shed a few tears toward the end.

As always, Kathy got it right. She rules, but she knows that already. Speaking of which: Happy Birthday, Kathy!!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

he's so much smarter than W.

Former President Clinton was on the Daily Show last night. Watching him made me remember how much I miss him and wish he was still president.

Here's the first part:

And definitely watch this final (brief) segment:

Monday, September 18, 2006

amazing how one part of my life can be so great, while other parts are so...not great

Wow. I automatically started this update, but as it turns out, I don't have much to say. Well, I always have stuff to say, but nothing I want to write about here. And yet, here I am, writing a blog update anyway. Hmm. Wonder what it's going to be about.

Let's see. I worked all weekend, did my usual scribbling and reading when I wasn't at work, and I think that's about it. I start training as a shift supervisor today, so I don't have any days off for another week (last wednesday was my last day off), but my hours are mostly off the floor--working at a desk, not behind the counter--and only for a few hours a day. So nothing too strenuous. But I do look forward to my next day off, as I want to go check out the art museum here in West Palm, and because I also need to get cracking on the next book for the reading group.

Something interesting has happened. A couple blog updates ago, I talked about how much I love having such a low-pressure job which allows me to pursue my own real passions in life, about how wonderful it felt to--for the sake of my sanity--chuck my old "professional" job, the one I supposedly went to school for and all that, the one I was supposed to like but actually hated. Since then, I have received several emails from friends and aqcuaintances commenting (in a positive way) about that particular post, asking me all sorts of questions about my decision and subsequent satisfaction with it, wondering if they should make similar decisions. This is fascinating to me, as I strongly believe you should NOT live a life that requires you to sacrifice the things you care about, no matter how "secure" your job is. But then, I also always preface this with the disclaimer that I am in no position to hand out advice, as my life is sort of a wreck these days aside from the fact that I'm happy with my work and happy with the time I can devote to things I love (and, as a practical note, I am single with no kids to support, so I have more freedom to make such choices--not always the case once you have kids). In general, I usually refuse to give advice on such matters, but I feel pretty strongly about this subject. Sometimes I think we have a culture of drones, and maybe this wouldn't be the case if more people stopped choosing the jobs that look good but give them zero personal satisfaction and leave no room for passion in life.

But then, here I am, after four months of this new life, still living in my parents' condo, still living in a part of the country I hate, still trying to pretend I like being single, even though I'm not sure I do anymore, still feeling a little lonely. Still fairly certain I must be some sort of mutant, as I can't seem to have decent relationships or in any way relate to most people I come into contact with, and vice-versa. Still feeling more emotionally fragile than I am used to. And I hate all that. But I guess on some levels I knew this consequence of my decision to leave my old life would linger for a while. And, really, is four months that long? I guess not. I guess it takes longer than that to recover from years of professional misery and personal dissatisfaction. As long as I continue to love my job and the freedoms it allows me, I can handle all the rest of this, because I know they are only temporary. But the positive aspects of that decision--if I take full advantage of them--can last forever.

Now if I can only gather the courage to put my "real" writing out into the world, to try and...publish. Yikes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

a weird truck and an airplane

This vehicle was in the lane next to me on I-95 yesterday. I have no idea what exactly it is, but it amused me so I took a couple pictures.

And on a different topic, I read that some airport security guard tried to snag JK Rowling's manuscript for Harry Potter, book 7. Allegedly, the airline wasn't going to allow any carry-on luggage, and they tried to extend that to include the pile of paper she was carrying. But thankfully, Ms. Rowling was too stubborn and clever to hand over her manuscript to guards and threatened to not fly at all if they wouldn't let her hold onto it. The cool thing is that she says some of it was handwritten and her only copy, which excites the hell out of me as it shows she's in the middle of her writing process. Right now, as I type this, she is likely debating with herself certain plot choices and character development. How cool is that???

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

chaos and happiness at work

[unrelated and terribly nerdy note: I love the word chaos. Not so much the meaning, but the word itself, the actual sound. Doesn't it have a lovely, clean pronunciation? All versions of it are nice. Chaotic feels just as lovely.]

Tonight was the first time at this job that I really had a shitty time. Something weird must have been in the air, because all of our customers were totally freaking nuts tonight! We were busy as hell, which is a good thing. But they were all insane and all had totally bizarre drink requests, which put us all off our rhythm and made everything feel out of order.

My current least favorite customer came in today not once, but twice. She is this incredibly unpleasant woman who always orders an iced venti caramel macchiato with extra caramel. And I don't mean just a few extra squirts. She wants us to open the bottle and pour half of it into her cup. If you don't do that or if you try to charge her for all that extra caramel, she gets pissy and loud. So we just always give it to her. She came in today around 2 and got her usual and then left. But later, around 6, I was on a break and running out to my car to get something and she had just pulled up to the curb, where she got out of her car and started yelling at me--right there on the street--about how there wasn't enough caramel in her drink earlier and blah blah blah. So of course because we're pushovers, we made her another one. I honestly poured half the damn bottle of freaking caramel into her cup, but I was squeezing so hard that the lid popped right off and landed in her drink and the syrup went everywhere, which of course meant re-making the damn drink. Again. With five other customers behind her waiting for their drinks. The ridiculous thing about this woman is how adamantly she opposes anything slightly healthy. She gets this drink every single day (sometimes more than once; I've seen her at other stores getting this same drink, after she'd already been to my store for one). And it's not like she gets skim milk in it. This thing must have a million calories and god knows how much fat. Plus, she usually gets one for whichever of her young kids is with her when she comes in--and keep in mind that in an iced venti, there are three shots of espresso. Her kids must be unbearable after one of these things. Once, her son (who is maybe 8) was with her and wanted chocolate milk from our refrigerated case, and this woman made a disgusted face and said, "No, that's organic milk. That's gross! Get a caramel macchiato instead." I said, "You know, organic milk actually tastes just like regular milk only better. There's nothing gross about it" (I said this in a surprisingly polite, pro-social way). But she looked horrified and insisted her child instead get that enourmous caramel macchiato. I don't know if she imagined there'd be twigs or something floating around in organic milk, but she has some aversion to it. Or anything other than pure sugar and caffeine.

I dealt with another pet peeve tonight. Some lady came in and wanted to pay for a chai latte with a 100-dollar bill. Company policy says not to accept them, but if I know I have some 20s, I sometimes can work it out. However, today I had nothing larger than a five in my drawer, so I asked her nicely if she had anything smaller. And, as usual in this situation, she sighed heavily and looked completely shocked and annoyed. Then she said, "I get this all the time from businesses. Everywhere I go, they always tell me this. I can never pay with a hundred!" So, wouldn't the normal person get it through her or his skull to stop trying to be a pretentious asshole and start carrying reasonable bills, instead of the 100s?! She managed to produce a five dollar bill.

And then one of our employees didn't show up for her shift. When we called, she said she had forgotten but would be in soon. About five minutes later, she called back and said she didn't feel well and wouldn't be in at all. Grrr.

I don't know. Now that I'm writing all this down, none of it seems remarkably bad or even that annoying. I love my co-workers, which makes such an enormous difference and keeps everything tolerable and in perspective. But something about being in the middle of a shift, trying to make seven drinks at once, prep the store for closing, and deal with these other stupid annoyances made for an unpleasant evening at work.

HOWEVER. What is truly remarkable is that I still enjoyed myself. Even on an uncharacteristically shitty night there, I still love my job. Not once have I ever thought in the middle of a shift, "Christ, I hate this." Not once have I wanted to call in sick even when I wasn't sick. I've never wanted to run away from the place in the middle of a work day. I've never wished I'd get fired so I'd have an excuse to not come back the next day. That's the way I felt about my old job in publishing. Every damn day. Every morning was a struggle. I had to convince myself to go to work, and I had to talk myself into staying for the entire day. My best day there was hell compared to my worst day at this job. And what's even better is that next week I officially start my training to be promoted to shift supervisor. Other than its current geographic location, which I hate, this job is turning into everything I hoped and more. I'm happy when I'm at work. I'm good at it. Most of the customers are sweethearts. My co-workers are awesome. And when I come home from work, I can write or read or do whatever, because I'm not drained from a day of forcing myself to do shit I hate. I really am writing like crazy lately. I don't mean this blog; I mean real writing that I'm trying to turn into something interesting, something I might want to submit for possible publication soon. Strangely, I never had that drive or mental energy when I worked in publishing. I think it took getting out of my comfort zone in the sense that now I interact with dozens, sometimes hundreds of people each day--something that goes against my nature--which somehow triggers ideas and motivation to write. And I'm reading like a maniac these days, too, which is supremely important as a writer.

That said, I'm delighted to be off tomorrow. It's my last day off until a week from this Friday. I better make it a good one! I might venture over to the beach, since I haven't been there during the day since late May.

We shall see...

Monday, September 11, 2006

football, week 1

The Rams and the Bengals both won yesterday. YAAAYYY!!!

I'm going to have to find a place here that shows the full NFL lineup on tv every Sunday, because I need to watch my teams play. It's no fun to try to follow the games online. I looooove my Rams, and they will always be my #1 team, but the Bengals are my #2, and I predict they'll be in the Superbowl this year.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

good books make me happy

I'm sure I've said it here before: I love Jeanette Winterson. Every time I read one of her books, I think, "Damn, I wish I had written that." The woman is a genius who has heartbreaking control over language and knowledge. I usually claim Art and Lies as my favorite of her novels, but I love them all and some days my favorite is Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, some days it's Written on the Body (though I understand that some of her other devoted fans claim that to be their least favorite). Yesterday I finished reading one of her more recent novels, Lighthousekeeping, which was beautiful and will also be--on some days--my favorite.

The setting is mostly a lighthouse in western Scotland (and occasionally Bristol, England). It's a story about stories, about storytelling and life...and how they intertwine or are at times the same thing. I love this novel for the same reason I love all her work: because I love her words, her characters, her settings, her stories. But also because sometimes I'm certain she has been rummaging around inside my head and knows how to write just what I need to read at any given moment. Her themes and topics in Lighthousekeeping feel eerily relevant to me right now. The topic of storytelling as part of a cultural inheritance is always interesting to me, and I love how in this book she ties that to the struggles in understanding, taking control of, and finding happiness in one's own life. In this, she deals with new beginnings, the hardships and neccessity of occasionally starting over in life. And in telling the stories of your life.

So here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (I won't include any that are too rooted in context to make any sense out of context; these here are just to exemplify some of the concepts dealt with in the book):

"Tell me a story, Pew.
What kind of story, child?
A story with a happy ending.
There's no such thing in all the world.
As a happy ending?
As an ending."

"We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes."

"If you can tell yourself like a story, it doesn't seem so bad."

"Tell me a story, Pew.
What story, child?
One that begins again.
That's the story of life.
But is it the story of my life?
Only if you tell it."

"The continuous narrative of existence is a lie. There is no continuous narrative, there are lit-up moments and the rest is dark."

"It's better if I think of my life like that--part miracle, part madness. It's better if I accept that I can't control any of the things that matter. My life is a trail of shipwrecks and set-sails. There are no arrivals, no destinations; there are only sandbanks and shipwreck; then another boat, another tide."

"Part broken part whole, you begin again."

"I'll call you, and we'll light a fire, and drink some wine, and recognise each other in the place that is ours. Don't wait. Don't tell the story later."

"The rest of my life. I have never rested, always run, run so fast that the sun can't make a shadow. Well, here I am--mid-way, lost in a dark wood--this selva oscura, without a torch, a guide, or even a bird."

"Darwin said something to me once for which I was grateful. I had been trying to forget, trying to stop my mind reaching for a place where it can never home. He knew my agitation, though he did not know its cause, and he took me up to Am Parbh--the Turning Point, and with his hand on my shoulder, he said, 'Nothing can be forgotten. Nothing can be lost. The universe itself is one vast memory system. Look back and you will find the beginnings of the world.'"

I'd love to suggest this book for the book group when it's my turn to choose again (which won't be for another few months). For next month, however, we are going to read The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards. I know nothing about it, but I'm going to pick it up tomorrow and get started. The reviews are mixed, but I'll keep an open mind.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

sleepy book talk

Tonight was the second meeting of my newly formed book group at Starbucks. We were supposed to meet last week, but since nobody knew yet what Ernesto was going to turn into then, we postponed it. Tonight we discussed A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, a book I recently finished for the first time and LOVED. I need to read it again soon, because it's still swirling around in my head, and I'm still trying to process parts of it and decide what to make of those parts.

It takes place in New Orleans in the early 60s and has one of the most bizarre main characters I can recall. Best of all, the novel is quintessentially southern in so many ways--lots of conventions of southern writing throughout, which as some of you know, delights me to no end, as I have a severe weakness for southern literature. I could never quite put my finger on why I love southern lit so much, I just always have loved it. I know; that's a cop-out explanation, but it's all I can offer at 10:45 on a Wednesday night, after having to wake up at 4 am to get to work by 5 so we could open at 6. I guess there's something about the regional idiosyncrasies, which also manage to deal with issues that reach well beyond a particular region of this country. Plus, I just love the dark, comedic despair in southern writing.

Anyway, the book is hilarious and yet bigger than just funny. But I was afraid the rest of the group wouldn't like it, as it's not your typical beach read. Fortunately, all but one person loved it, and we had a great discussion! And, without getting into too much detail, the one who doesn't like it is sort of an idiot and I can't stand to discuss much of anything with her. She's one of these people who HAS to show that she knows everything about whatever is the topic of conversation, and she always has a personal experience dealing with that topic. And, the worst part about dealing with her, she's a one-upper. No matter what I say, she has to one-up me...have something better to say. It drives me crazy and makes for a fragmented conversation. Usually, after she finishes talking, there is a collective, "Anyway..." from the group. That is, when we don't have to interrupt her in order to steer the conversation back to the book. I think she thinks the group is just a vehicle for getting together to talk about other stuff. But, no, we are all actually getting together to discuss books, and I think this confuses her.

However, as I said, the book is great, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't already read it. I especially love any scenes in which Ignatius goes to the movies. He's always horrified by what he sees, and yet he can't stay away from them. It kills me whenever he gets offended and yells at the screen. Oh, and when he tries to get the factory workers to revolt...I was in tears laughing.

Good stuff.

So remember that thing above about getting up at 4 am for work? I have to do that again Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I don't usually work the opening shift...for good reason. It's not pretty. Only once in a while does this happen. I actually enjoy the customers and everything about the store more during the opening shift than the rest of the day, but it's just the whole ordeal of getting up so early and--what's worse--trying to fall asleep at a reasonable time the night before. Thankfully, I don't have to do this tomorrow. But I'm exhausted anyway from getting up so early today.

So...I'm going to bed now.

Monday, September 04, 2006

a stingray?

Wow, I'm so surprised and sad about Steve Irwin! I'm getting ready for work and stopped to check the headlines and found this sad sad news.

His poor wife and kids.

I guess we shouldn't be too surprised. I mean, the guy played with all kinds of dangerous animals.

Sigh. Well, I have to go make coffee for people now.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Italian graffiti

Evidently, I'm going to spend the next fifteen years of my life posting pictures from my trip to Italy back in July. It's because posting pics on blogger can be kind of a pain in the ass at times, and I end up putting it off, no matter how much I want to get certain pics up on my blog.

Anyway, here are some that you don't see in many collections of vacation pics, but they amuse me.

There was graffiti ALL OVER the place in Italy. At first, I didn't pay much attention. But by the end of the first day there, I was fascinated. I've never seen so much graffiti. So I started taking pictures of it, and here are a bunch of examples.

Yes, this is Arnold. On the side of an old building in the middle of Florence, near the cathedral. Arnold keeps watch over the Piazza del Duomo.

Not a murder scene. Rather, graffiti on the banks of the river in Florence.

Amen to that.

My sister standing next to Picasso's long-lost "Homer Simpson."

Yes, these people were "ear."

There's a lot going on here, and most of it I'm not sure I get. But I do see a large W near the rabbit's jaw. Something about wishing a giant mutant bunny would come devour Bush...?

Kids, stay away from the drougs.

I like this one and the one above it because I busted the kid who painted them. I was walking toward town from the train station in a little city called Borgo San Lorenzo. When I walked past this corridor, I teenager stopped dead, with a can of paint in his hand and looked at me like I was the devil. I didn't react at all and just kept walking. Later that day, when I was walking back to the train station, I made a point of stopping here to see what he wrote. Poor little guy is in love. Good luck with that, kid.

I went to this website and, sure enough, it exists and looks like something political and radical. But it's in Italian, so I don't know what it says.

On the wall of the Borgo San Lorenzo station. The eyes crack me up.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Didn't go to the game last night. For a number of reasons I won't go into now. The Rams lost, but who cares? It's only pre-season.

On a different topic...

I really HATE living down here.