Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm glad my desk is no where near the front of the building

I am a pretty lucky person. Not only am I gainfully employed when friends have already been let go, had hours cut, or are expecting the axe. In fact, I have several jobs. I have "options" as some people would say, and I do not forget my good fortune in that respect.

But, one of the things I do is work in a municipality. Public service. Local government. The bottom rung on the political food chain. It's a great place though. The community is quite affluent, and the landscape is very beautiful. My co-workers are really an enjoyable group. I get to spend time outside. I like coming into the office.

However, I must speak about some things I observe. And I have to say that watching and listening to some of the residents is real cause to stop, and reflect, about myself.

You should be careful what you wish for, but my-o-my, if I had the problems of some of these people. And it never ceases to amaze me how self-indulgent, self-absorbed and narrow-minded they can be.

I overhear phone conversations, and people coming into the front counter to ask questions. People complain about things that their neighbors do to their own property, qualifying their complaint with the over worn phrase "I didn't pay 2 million dollars for my house so I would have to look at that!" "Well, ma'am, perhaps you should have bought that piece of land too, so you could do with it what you want. My guess is they kinda feel that paying 2 million dollars for THEIR property gives them the same rights that you feel you have." Simple math.

They want amenities, but they don't want them near their house. They spy on each other and call the office to file complaints. Of course, this is far from everyone, but it's just enough to keep the entertainment level high enough to enjoy coming to work. They complain that the trash trucks make too much noise and come down the street too early: 430 or 5am. I'm not sure about you (my loyal 3 readers), but I think it's pretty cool that I can lug lots of crap to the end of my driveway and people will come take it away. I really don't care WHEN they do it or how much noise it makes. It's a pretty temporary inconvenience, but think of the problem I would have if every week I had to figure out where to put all of that stuff.

These people want to see the building permits of their neighbors, but they don't understand why they need one themselves, for the same job. They want what they want, but have no comprehension that other people's desires and opinions are equally valid. Some people really can't get their head around that concept. I see it in their eyes when I try and explain it. It's remarkable.

And I just think to myself... how do you have this much time and energy for such frivolity? I don't live anywhere near here. Frankly, I could not afford it. I try to worry a little more about my own issues: kids doing well in school, building some self-esteem in them, checking in on friends, staying in touch with family that is far too spread out around the country and nurturing my relationship with my partner.

And yet, some days I think it might be nice to have the time to call my local municipality office building and bitch about the color of my neighbor's shed. Oh, if that was my biggest concern..

Friday, April 3, 2009

In the still of the night...

Hard to believe this is the first blatant reference to Sinatra by UBlogger... You may not know it, but under that bag from Trader Joe's, there is a lot of sing-alonging with the Chairman of the Board...

Night time is still my favorite time of the day, when I am not so exhausted that I cannot enjoy it. I'm home, in my small cozy office, UBlogger's dog at my feet. Sinatra in the background, but still loud enough to be noticed. It's peaceful, yet with a sense of energy. I think that is what I love about the night, the juxtaposition of the two. Parts of the world are winding down, and others gearing up. One could say that for the morning hours as well (Frank also recorded the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, so he really had them both covered). But the morning is different. To me, it is brief, the silence is broken, the day starts, and we are off. But nighttime seems to have a more elongated time to it. It can last an hour or two, or 10. It ends with rest. It is the punctuation at the end of the day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Where did decorum go?

For my 2 faithful readers, you must by now be aware that some things really get to me. Was I born WAY after my time? Am I just too serious and uptight? All things for debate, but I have to bring something up that really gets to me: a lack of appreciation for manners and education, behaving well, and being respectful toward others, and displaying some degree of sophistication and intelligence.

I realize I could be taken to task for such a topic, but please let me assure you, this has nothing to do with being a snob, having more financial means than others, or a closet full of Cole Haan shoes and a drawer full of Prada socks.

What happened to good manners? What happened to respect? What happened to wanting to LEARN?

A few weeks ago, I dined at Morton's with my partner and 2 kids. At the table next to us was a group of peple that were loud, rude and one guy was so disrespectfully dressed for a restaurant where the maitre'd wears a tuxedo that I was close to saying something to them.

I'm sorry, but this is NOT appropriate attire for a 5-star restaurant:

We also took the kids downtown to a sophisticated restaurant for same partner's birthday. In doing so, I expect the kids to not only turn their manners up to "high" but I also expect them to dress a certain way. It's respectful. It says that you have some self-discipline and pride. I want them to UNDERSTAND that. Good taste is never out of style, but God-willing, wearing your pants with the crotch at your knees will be some day!

Our society has become lazy. Complacent. Did you know that China will soon become the #1 English speaking nation in the world? Why? Because they are smarter, more energized, more focused on the value of education.

And what are we becoming?

This is what we are becoming:

We devalue education in this country. We are producing generations of short-sighted, self-indulgent children, who feel entitled to everything without doing anything.

President Obama, just last week had this to say:

"We have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us ... In 8th grade math, we've fallen to 9th place. Singapore's middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one. Just a third of our thirteen and fourteen-year olds can read as well as they should. And year after year, a stubborn gap persists between how well white students are doing compared to their African American and Latino classmates."
He added: "It is time to give all Americans a complete and competitive education from the cradle up through a career."

Kudos, Mr. President!

America is not a top-performing country any longer. We are not the standard.

We are a laughing stock in many ways, and it is deplorable.

You are what you wear. And it does not take name brands and lots of money to do it. It takes self-respect.

Are these guys off to a job interview? Doubtful.

What does the first glance impression say about these two? Fair or not, it is what it is.

Take some pride, people. It matters.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

School News...

I was perusing the photocopied newsletter for the elementary school of my partner's children. There was the typical inane material there for the benefit of a select few, self-indulgent crap about the lunch lady and more money-sucking announcements about a "spring picture day". What is all this about? When I was in elementary school, there was ONE picture day. You remember it. Some obscure, weird room in the school where you otherwise never went was converted into some innocuous studio, complete with squeaky, unbalanced metal stool and unrealistic sky or leaf backdrop. There was also the creepy photographer - some weird guy in brown double knit polyester pants and worn-out unpolished shoes. He always looked at you kinda funny, and now that I think about it, probably decorated the room in the apartment he shared with his mom with pictures he took of little boys.

There was the minimal photo preparation. A teacher might lick her hand and try to get that runaway hair to stay in place. Or they might get a community hair brush and unnaturally style your hair to make it look like someone put a salad bowl on your head, like a helmet, and cut around it. Regardless, it was rarely flattering, there were no retakes and your parents bought the crappy package, because what message would it send to you if they didn't? But now, 21st century elementary school children get 2 school pictures a year, and we the parents get roped into spending more money on shit that gets thrown in the cupboard.

So, once I got over this tirade (it was a night, let me tell you!), I flipped to the back of the newsletter, and there it was. As I am always looking for a sign that gay rights might reach a new pinnacle of acceptance, I was not expecting a public elementary school to be so embracing , but it could not be denied. The newsletter section was entitled "Super Singers" and listed there were the names of 5 boys and 3 girls. Now, I believe that everyone who is gay should be afforded the right and privilege to make that coming out announcement at a time that suits their own personal journey, especially when they are in grade school. It can be a wildy confusing time. At the tender age of 8 through 11, these children are just coming to terms with issues like tying their shoes and trying to look cool, even though they secretly still have a favorite blanket, or sleep with the light on.

And yet, the school newsletter has a regular section that might as well be titled "Future Homosexuals of America". You remember the kid from that grade, the boy who relished in choir practice, begged for the solo and always offered to help out the middle age, single male choir teacher. I know I do. This was the kid who was sexually confused, tried to fit in with the other boys, playing football and driving the souped up Camaro Iroc back in 1985. But then, on the first day of our senior year, he showed up at school completely transformed, wearing white linen balloon pants and a turquoise blazer with the sleeves rolled up, a la Don Johnson on Miami Vice. Instead of dating the prom queen, he now WAS the prom queen. And it can all be traced back to the 4th grade choir. "Super Singer". Why don't you just tattoo "FAG" on the poor kid's forehead? Its an equivalent brandishing for a boy. And shouldn't we just get to the point? "We're here, we're queer... The Super Singers"!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Clueless is no excuse...

... and yet, how is it that I so frequently find myself saying things like "wow, I didn't notice?"

I would like to think I am observant. Funny story about that word actually. During a dark 5-week period in my life, I decided I needed to make some supplemental income, around my being an adjunct professor and entrepreneur. So, I did what most people with a master's degree and a highly overachieving ambition do - I called my sister out of state and asked her to get me a job with her nationwide discount clothing chain employer. She made the call, got me an interview, and I was offered a job in the spring of 2004, putting circular, quarter-size, multi-color labels on the bottom of drastically discounted shoes. The going rate was $5.75 a hour, but the store manager said she would pay me $6. And who says a liberal arts master's degree does not bring in the big bucks?

So, this was an interesting experience. I should have started blogging back then. I really learned a lot about myself, and others during that experience. But one of the best stories was from one of our morning "associate meetings" before the store opened. It seems the corporate office was fond of disseminating "rah rah" slogans to help motivate the employees who were slaving for a non-livable wage. At this particular meeting, one of the assistant store managers revealed the new cheer, and kept telling us to "Be Ozervent." What the hell did he just say? Now, I know it was early in the morning, and I really did not want to be there, but I looked at the crowd gathered around him, and no one else seemed as perplexed. He said it over and over again. BE OZERVENT, BE OZERVENT. I finally got it. Be Observant! You would think after such a great moment in my career, that advice would have really impacted me. And yet, I still remain clueless at times...

Back to my original thought: Clueless is no excuse. And yet, approaching 40, I am still regularly clueless in a good relationship. Am I self-absorbed? That could be part of the reason. I'm not proud of that fact, but U. Blogger is the youngest sibling in the family, and has exhibited tendencies of self-absorption from time to time.

I have a great relationship with a great partner. She gets me. And that says a lot because I rarely get myself. And yet, I can frequently be clueless to things that are impacting her. It's no excuse, but it keeps happening. It's terrible really.

But, can you teach a proverbial old dog new tricks? I'd like to think so. How do you do it? Let's hope I learn it before it's too late.

Friday, January 9, 2009

When Reality Comes a-Callin'

Part of my convoluted outlook includes thinking that I still have a handle on being cool. Of course, in some ways I might still be... Or perhaps the younger people in my life are humoring me. Then again, using the word "Cool" might indicate just how un-cool I am, to those in the know. I'm not quite 40, and among my nomadic career, I am a college professor at a couple of universities.

So, what better barometer than a room full of young 20-somethings to help keep me in check. They laugh at my jokes, and appear to be sincere. But, the biggest reality check took place over Christmas.

My partner's kids got the video game "Rock Band" for Christmas. In a previous life, I was a pretty decent musician. I can't dance worth a damn, but as the Gershwin's said, "I've got rhythm... Who could ask for anything more?" So, I do have a bit of a musical advantage, if I may say so. I figured I was in good shape.

But, this is where I got my coolness reality check. 47 songs are included in the game. I knew like four of them. Quatro. Less than 10%. Now, I RECOGNIZED the names of some of the artists. But, singing lead vocals on "I think I'm Paranoid" by Garbage, I failed. As an overachiever, let me tell you, that was devastating. And of course, when my sister asked why I failed, my partner proudly announced, "Because she sucks!"

And why did I suck? Not because I can't read the words on the screen, but because I had NEVER HEARD this song. I had no idea who this group was. But I did them justice - my rendition WAS garbage.

And the song "Maps." What the hell is that about?

Here is a sample from this little ditty:

"Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;And wait! They don’t love you like I love you;Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-aps;Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!And wait! They don’t love you like I love you!Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-aps!Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;And wait! They don’t love you like I love you;Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-aps;Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!And wait! They don’t love you like I love you!Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-aps!Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …"

Can someone tell me? Am I THAT out of touch?

So, I'm getting zen with my lack of coolness. And at the risk of blowing my uber-coolness, here would be my dream version of Rock Band: Anyone with me? Care to add something I may have missed?

1. The Lady is a Tramp, F. Sinatra
A kickin' big band chart where you can wail on the drums.

2. Got to Get You in to My Life, Earth Wind & Fire

3. Sway, Michael Buble'

4. I Want to Come Over, M. Etheridge
Where is the Rainbow version of rock band?

5. Glamorous, Fergie
If you ain't got no money, take your broke ass home!

6. Home By the Sea, Genesis
Classic Rock, and not the predictable "In the Air Tonight" Phil Collins drum solo.

What about a request for the Doobie Brothers? Am I completely out of touch?

If they could only see themselves...

...But would they even care?

The UBlogger's very wise (and no doubt once exhausted mom) used to say to UBlogger "If you could see yourself" when I was being typically ornery or just a pain in her ass. So, like most things moms say, that stuck with me, and as UBlogger approaches 40, I hear myself saying much of what she said to me when the bag on my head was a small, instead of a large.

So, in the last week, this phrase has been popular once again.

There was the drivethru at the Dunkin Donuts. As I was waiting for my bagel, Pakistani-Annie relieved herself of a wedgie right in front of my eyes. And then used that same hand to take my money and pass over my breakfast. If she could see herself...

And then road rage on the interstate... This was a good one. New Years' Eve. 3:30pm on the interstate near my home around one of the top 10 media markets in the USA (have to maintain that anonymity you know). The merging ramp unfolds to reveal a parking lot on the highway. O well. It happens. It is a road, after all. Cars do tend to use them from time to time. I try to relax, accept it for what it is, and enjoy the moment. It does not always work that way, of course. But the woman in front of me provided such great entertainment. She went absolutely ape shit. She threw her hands up in the air repeatedly, drove onto the shoulder (presumably to get a better view - of what I don't know) and thrashed her head from side to side. It was fabulously entertaining. She saw me laughing in her rear view mirror and shot me the bird. If she could see herself...

Two days later on an airplane. One of my least favorite places. I do not mind flying per se, its just the people you have to do it with that annoy me. On this particular flight, I had the frantic hair twirler in front of me. 2.5 hours. It's amazing she had any left when we deplaned. 2.5 hours, twirl to the right, twirl to the left. Pull. Repeat. If I had $4 cash, I would have bought her a bloody mary.

These people... they make me smile, partly because I'm pretty certain I've done dumb shit before, but also because they are just so entertaining.

Relax folks. Light a cigar. Have a drink. Meditate. Something. Enjoy yourself, because you just might spot someone doing something really stupid, so you will have a really good story to share later.