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Archive for the ‘creative writing’ Category

My sweet Richard ran to the grocery store tonight to grab some fresh veggies and a bottle of wine to go with the lovely fat porkchops I had planned for dinner.  In a hurry to beat the impending thunderstorm, he grabbed the first bottle he saw that looked appealing.  It turned out to be something called “White Merlot.”

I know, I know…but bear with me.

I’m generally not a fan of Merlot, or most red wines for that matter, because they’re too tannic for my poor stomach to take.  So I’m mostly stuck with lightly chilled Pinot Noirs and loads of white wine.  But this “White Merlot” — which is, really, a kissing cousin to White Zin — was fucking fantastic.  And before you heap your vituperation upon me, I know that it’s not really Merlot.  So just cool your heels, pups.

It tasted like a Bartles and Jaymes wine cooler, I’ll be the first to admit.  But it tasted like a Bartles and Jaymes wine cooler would’ve tasted to a 16-year-old sneaking her first taste of sweet, forbidden alcohol.  There was something familiar and comforting about its cloying sweetness and tangy raspberry undertones.  It was like smelling a perfume that you used to wear in high school, but haven’t encountered in twelve years; you wonder how you could have ever liked it to begin with — it’s too overt and it’s trying too hard — but there’s still that undercurrent of soft memories, first crushes and awkward homecoming dances that makes it irresistable to your jaded adult senses.

Just in case you couldn’t tell by my rambling prose, I am quite tanked on White Merlot right now.  It’s great.  I highly recommend it if you’re feeling sentimental.  Or just thirsty.  Either way…

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I’m listening to Pandora this morning, which is an advisable respite from Project Playlist.  I’ve got about fifteen little radio stations set up, but this morning I’m listening to the “Air” station (the band, not the mixture of gases).

Pandora does this weird thing sometimes where it throws a completely random song into your otherwise homogenous radio station (like an Amy Grant song on my “Gorillaz” radio station the other day…what the fuck?), I think just to see if you’re paying attention.  Today, it was “Come In From The Cold” by Joni Mitchell.  Because Joni and Air have so much in common.  But I digress…

Although it was bit out of place between Trentemøller and Electric President, the song nevertheless pleasantly reminded me of my college days spent listening to Joni Mitchell on my CD walkman while snuggled under my covers on cold Saturday mornings.  I loved Joni Mitchell.  I had all of her songs memorized.  I wanted to be like her, living a bohemian life in a Paris apartment with a scandalously older man, drinking inadvisable amounts of red wine every day and occasionally flying back to New York to associate with my poet and artist friends at a Chelsea cafe.

It inspired me to post a few Joni Mitchell songs, which aren’t among the ones that I fell in love with in my heady adolescence.  These are some of her “middle-age” songs, which I find myself strangely identifying with at the ripe old age of 27.  Either way, they’re beautiful lyrics, so…enjoy. (more…)

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I type exceedingly fast.  I also have a high degree of accuracy when typing.  With these two skills working in harmony, I am like a typing virtuoso.  I’m not trying to brag, I’m just stating a few facts.  I enjoy typing; combined with my love of language and writing, typing gives me a sense of having completed something important, even if it’s just an RFP or an e-mail announcement.  I am such a fluid typist that people call others over to watch me type, as if I were a trained monkey who’s learned to sign.  I credit all of this (as well as my impressive 10 key skills) to Mavis Beacon and her addictive line of typing software.

As a child, I was obsessed with my Mavis Beacon program.  I would play it constantly on our home computer, even thought it can’t technically be called a “game.”  I kept track of my high scores on the 10 key grocery bagging exercise and the repetitive typing Ferrari racing exercise, and became ultra-competitive with myself as the months and years went on.  I even printed out the excessively useless “Certificates of Achievement” on our old black and white dot matrix printer and displayed them proudly at my desk.

However, Mavis Beacon has a dark side. (more…)

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From the brilliant mind of my friend Pancho, this story cracked me up today:

Snubbed

Mazzy is a teenager. Actually, her first birthday was in July so I’m not quite sure where she stands in dog years, but she’s already acting the moody, aloof part of a teenage girl. When it’s just the two of us everything is cool, much like when my sister, clad in braces and over-sized flannel shirts, would, in the walls of our own home, hug my dad and smile rather than rolling her eyes and scowling like she did in public. Lounging on my couch with no one else around, Mazzy curls up by my feet and occasionally glances up from her canine half-sleep to stare at me contentedly before stretching, sighing, and curling back into the lima bean shape that marks her deepest state of relaxation.

The culmination of Mazzy’s descent into pubescence happened this weekend…

There’s more; much more.  Go and read the rest of the hilarious post here.

Well…go, already!

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Back in Black

I spent eight hours today at an HR compliance seminar — sounds like a doozy, right? But this was the most bizzarre, completely awesome HR seminar I’ve ever been to (and, sadly, I’ve been to many). It began innocuously enough: a hotel meeting room with a name like “Sierra” or “Diamond” or “Martinique” or some other stripper-esque nomenclature, roughly 90 middle-aged women in their finest Chico’s and Talbot’s ensembles and a tired buffet of rock-hard croissants and lukewarm coffee. I grabbed a spot in the back corner of the room, hoping to do some covert reading and avoid any thrilling conversations (Oh, wow! We use Mercer as our TPA, too! Aren’t their out-of-scope fees outrageous? I know, I know — but their call center is local — no damn Indians — and that’s all you can ask for these days, right? Hahahahaha!).

The murmurs from the various HR ladies died down as a man entered the room — which is unusual in and of itself, since HR as a business unit is so heavily pink-collar — and shuffled to the front, taking a seat on a barstool and facing the audience. He looked somewhat haggard, with tired eyes and a slightly humped back. His shirt was unbuttoned one button too far, revealing the pasty, hairless chest beneath. His hair was ruffled carelessly. He eyed us all wearily. (more…)

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The Staircase

I am intimidated by the 14th floor of our building. We call it the Mausoleum due to the deathly silence — quiet as the grave — that greets you upon entering its inner sanctum through the twelve-foot-high mahogany doors. (more…)

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Wednesday

I know that we have all — every one of us — worked in an environment that, at one time or another, we have deemed to be a little slice of hell or at least a slightly more sanitized version of an insane asylum. As a teenager, my father worked grueling, hot summers in a meatpacking plant in Fort Worth, treading carefully as he lugged pound upon pound of freshly-butchered beef across floors slicked with blood and viscera in the days long before OSHA or plant management executives ever attempted to make the packing floor safer for employees. Fresh out of the Navy after World War II, my maternal grandfather worked in a three-story shoe store in San Francisco for a store manager so nasty that, even as his mind is failing him at the age of 90, is still remembered with a clarity only invoked by certain levels and means of cruelty, leaving their marks upon his mind after nearly seven decades. In the summer of 1978, my stepfather was indoctrinated in the methods of “crowd control” used by the Houston Police Department as he clashed with Black Panthers and other demonstrators during the race riots that plagued the city, battering sweat-beaded temples with his nightstick and Macing unprotected eyes as he fought through a tide of rioters. My paternal grandfather was an orphan, raised at the Itasca Home for Boys until he was 18 years old. The boys earned their stay by making, mending and washing their own clothes, milking the cows and collecting eggs from the hens, and growing their own food — all while getting an education.

I…work in an office. It has air conditioning and inspirational framed artwork (not mine). I have a comfy chair that I stole from the office next door when the former occupant was asked to resign. My iPod is docked in a Bose stereo system that pipes out Chet Baker and Air while I work. I get fresh office supplies every two weeks and a paycheck every other Friday. I do not pack meat. I do not fit shoes onto smelly feet while being harassed by a paranoid asshole. I do not get shot at, wear riot gear, or get urinated on by arrested suspects. I did not work in an orphanage for my entire childhood and adolescence. I also do not work in a Chinese sweatshop, a Thai whorehouse, a Ukranian smelting plant or a Columbian coca plantation. So why do I feel like I’m losing my mind when I’m at work? Why do I feel like this, of all jobs, is the worst job on earth?

Sometimes I feel like I’m in an elaborate reenactment of “Gaslight,” or maybe that’s just my narcissism rearing its ugly head. But I do believe it’s the little things, the small insanities and pretensions, that will wear you down over time. Tiny things, really; very tiny things. Things that, in a normal world, would go unnoticed. Things that, if you bring them to an outsider’s attention, would make you seem insane for being bothered about. Only your fellow inmates can commiserate and understand — Did you see the way that guard let Nacho get an extra chocolate pudding at lunch today? And he let him stay out in the yard five minutes extra to finish his cigarette! Nacho must be slipping him something through the outside… — and you feel foolish for venting about your frustrations during the fleeting moments that you’re in the outside world.

Today — maybe if I explain “today” then I can make more sense — was nothing special. It was a Tuesday, still is a Tuesday. The recently-appointed director of our department has recently gone what Moira and I have termed “power-retarded” and we are all dealing with the repercussions of the massive promotion and accompanying breakdown of all of his social and intellectual skills in our own silent ways. He has responded to his promotion by finding new and subtle ways to demean us and insinuate to other directors and their departments that we are all terribly worthless and shouldn’t be bothered with matters of real importance – all issues are to go through him now. This also includes my area of “expertise” (cue huge peals laughter from me here — okay, but seriously, I really do have an area, breathtakingly lame as it may be, that he knows jack shit about), so in between fuming and fielding calls from idiot employees, I entertain myself while I listen to him next door, attempting to explain what a pre-existing limitation exclusion clause is and how it affects Jeff Butterman’s medical plan deductible (hint: it doesn’t and…I hate you). So, again, regular Tuesday.

It’s only 9:00 a.m. and I’m already heavily feuding with the payroll department in our ongoing, epic, Hatfield–and–McCoy battle of “who can put the most monkeys onto each others’ backs.” It would be fun if there were real monkeys involved, but sadly…no. By 11:30, it’s time for lunch. Since we’re always pressed for time, Moira and I decide to take our lunch break and use it to run out to Party City to gather supplies for the job fair that we’re hosting this weekend. Since it’s only a few miles up the road, we don’t plan on claiming mileage and — again — we’re using our lunch break to do this. Moira grabs $50 from the petty cash reserves, we buy our supplies and come back to the office. She takes the receipt, the change and her itemized purchase order — filled out in triplicate, because that’s how much we like paperwork — to accounting. They scan the receipt and P.O.s, count the change carefully. Then they notice it: the sales tax. Being a non-profit, we are a non-taxpaying entity with regard to certain areas and items. Accounting asks Moira, “You paid sales tax?” Yes. “Why didn’t you give them the card showing our tax exempt status?” Because I don’t have one; I didn’t know we had anything like that. “Well, you’re responsible for the extra sales tax paid, then.” Excuse me? “You’re responsible for the extra sales tax! We’ll just take it out of your next paycheck.” Seriously…excuse me? “NCI shouldn’t have to pay sales tax since we’re tax exempt. So, since you didn’t follow agency procedure when purchasing these items, you’re responsible for the sales tax. It comes to $3.52.” You’re going to dock my check for $3.52? You’re really going to do all the paperwork required to dock my check for a measly three dollars? After I used my personal time to take care of agency business for a job fair that I’m being forced to work at all day on Saturday? “I’m sorry, Moira, but you should have followed agency procedure.”

I feel like there should be a paragraph here, but I’m still too aggravated by our $3.52 mistake of apparently monumental proportions to even follow up.

Later that afternoon, our power went out. Our director was in a meeting at the time. My coworkers and I expected that after the first ten minutes of the power outage, the meeting might be dismissed and the assorted directors would scurry back to their departments to “assess the situation,” since everything is a situation around here. A pane of glass broke a few weeks ago when the central atrium was being painted; company-wide e-mails were sent warning of the imminent danger presented by the rogue glass shards that landed in the flower beds below — Don’t go into the flower beds! Dangerous glass!!!11!1! — as if trekking through the flower beds in the atrium was our favored lunchtime activity. So we were surprised when our director showed up nearly an hour after the power had gone out. He was equally surprised that we were sitting in a group in Angela’s office, not working.

Our building was built in the 1960s and in addition to not providing enough parking for all of the tenants (most of us have to park at another parking lot six blocks away and take a shuttle to work), the insulation is shot to shit. I normally love the giant plate glass windows in my office – a view to a sane and sunny world – but during the power outage I started to feel like an ant under a malicious child’s magnifying glass. So the four of us spread out in the one dark office without windows, cherishing the remaining A/C, as Angela suddenly found herself and her windowless office vindicated. We discussed actual HR-related issues for a while before falling into American Idol debates and the pros and cons of DVR. By the time that our director made his way back to the department, we had long left the domain of polite conversation and were viciously mocking various employees and telling crude stories of various incidents (yes, of course the woman who stunk of sex came up…do you even need to ask?).

His first words: “What’s going on here? Why are you all just sitting around?” Moira, jokingly: “Well, in case you hadn’t noticed during your meeting, the power has been out for an hour.” Director: “Yes, but why aren’t you working?” Us: blank stares, hate. Me, finally: “The power…is out. The computers…are dead. The phones…are dead. The copier…is dead. There’s not a whole lot that we can do in the dark, without phones or computers.” Director: “Well, I can think of a lot of different things that we can get accomplished without power. For example, you can collate. You can stuff envelopes. You can organize your office. You can shred things in your ‘To Shred’ bins. You can file.” Me: “File. In the dark.” Moira: “What envelopes? Why would we stuff envelopes? We don’t have any envelopes that need stuffing.” Angela: “Collate?” Me: “Collate what? I don’t have a big pile in my office marked ‘To Collate On A Rainy Day.’ And we can’t file in the dark.” Moira: “How are we supposed to shred things without a shredder? Can we just go home now, please? It’s sweltering in here. And we don’t have any work to do.” Director: “I don’t know…” Moira: “All the other departments have left. We’re the only ones still here. And it’s freaking hot, seriously.” Director: “Well, if you all feel like you just can’t come up with any work to do, then I guess so. Just make sure that you get your work done from home.” Us: blank stares, but this time with much more hate, then lots of shuffling around and getting the hell out of that dark, sweaty pit while we still could.

As we were leaving, I heard the director calling after us, “Well, I guess I’ll just stick around here and do my work, since I’ve got tons of work that I can get done with or without power! And I’ll make sure that payroll knows not to dock your checks since you’re leaving an hour early.” We left him behind in the unusually silent, darkening building, seemingly the only person still there; left him to his scurrying and paper-shuffling and insane bureaucracies, feeling lighter with every step that we took towards our cars, six blocks away. On Tuesday, we got an extra hour of sanity – an extra hour on the outside. Let’s see what Wednesday holds.

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