Saturday, March 29, 2008

Memories and Forgiveness

It was Dad’s birthday. Another day for memories of times and people gone away. I thought fondly of him, as the early spring snowflakes mingled with pelting rain and blinding sun breaks. I thought of the time, a decade or more ago, that Dad was determined to take his little boat out to the pond and go fishing on his birthday…and shortly after his tail-lights disappeared from the end of the block, the snow started to fall. But we didn’t see Dad again until late afternoon. Snow or no snow, he went fishing.

Memories of Dad inevitably beget memories of Mom—our most recent dear departed. In a strange way, it seems like she’s been gone for as long as he has…though she outlived him by more than nine years. I have to confess, I don’t quite know how to file my memories of my mother. Because, after Dad died, circumstances conspired to put me, for all intents and purposes, out of her life. Which was an odd place for someone like me—someone who had never really left home.

After most of the rest of my siblings had tumbled out of the nest—way out, like about two thousand miles out—I stuck pretty close, even after I got married. Husband, more or less booted out of his own family, was gathered into the fold, and discovered in mine the parents he’d never had. We bowled with my folks, went out to Friday night dinners together, holiday partied together. We camped and fished, picnicked and played cards. We never built up a circle of friends our own age…we hung out with Mom and Dad. I’m convinced that one of the reasons I have such a heart for accommodating "older" people at the café is that I’m just used to socializing with folks of my parents’ generation. I feel comfortable with them.

When Mom and Dad retired, they moved away. It was something they had always talked about, but no one (at least, not I) ever expected to actually happen. They headed to Oregon, where Dad was born and raised. Forty years earlier, Mom had promised Dad that if they settled and raised their family near her family in Chicago, they would move back to his home state when they retired. Dad held her to that promise, and West they went; she, not very willingly. For me and my oldest sister, left behind at "home," it was especially painful. We had never felt the need or desire to wander too far from the nest…but then the nest upped and moved away from us.

Two years later, I dragged my own spouse (he, not very willingly) across the country. I just could not get a handle on life without my parents close by. We arrived on their doorstep in July of 1984, all our earthly belongings and many pets packed into a 12-foot rental truck that nearly breathed its last as we nosed into their driveway.

We took up where we’d left off. Mom and Dad were our family, and our social life. We fell right back into the pattern of Friday night dinners out, holiday parties, camping, fishing, picnicking and playing cards. We bought a house less than a mile from theirs. We shared landscape and home improvement projects. My job took us away for a couple of years, but when the job ended, like iron to a magnet, we were drawn back to the folks. My sister’s death in 1995 at the age of 48 had rocked my world and inspired my new world view: life was too short to not spend it where you wanted to be, with the people you wanted to be with. Mom and Dad were getting older. Who knew how many years they had left?

As it turned out, they didn’t have many. At least, Dad didn’t. Sixteen months after we moved back to their town, Dad was diagnosed with cancer. In four months, he was gone.

Those four months, and the few after he died, formed the relationship my mother and I would have for the rest of her life. And it wasn’t a good one.

Just days after Dad had his cancer surgery, Mom got sick, too. No one knew what was wrong with her; the doctors couldn’t find anything definitive. Clueless and overmatched, we developed the theory that her physical crash was possibly her emotional and psychological reaction to Dad’s illness. But we were so overwhelmed with everything that was going on with Dad that we needed her to be the best she could be. We felt like we couldn’t allow her to be an invalid—it was not going to do her any good, and we were not prepared to deal with both parents being down. Since I was the one who had quit my job to help with Dad, it was up to me to try to goad Mom into doing the things we thought she could do but, for whatever reason, didn’t want to. I would make her get out of bed, make her walk. I wasn’t trying to be mean to her. I thought that I was doing what was best for her.

Six months after Dad died, we finally found out what was wrong with Mom. Osteomyelitis —a severe infection of the bone—in her spine. Serious, extremely painful. She could have become paralyzed. She could have died. And no one knew. I cringed when I remembered the times I’d made her walk, made her do things that, as it turned out, she really couldn’t do. Unfortunately, Mom—being Mom—also remembered. She never forgot. And she never forgave me.

Mom was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes for months after Dad died, and then she made the decision to go into Assisted Living. Something had to be done with their house, and all their stuff. Nobody wanted to deal with it. In the end, my husband, thinking it was what Dad would have wanted him to do, volunteered to tackle the job. This didn’t set well with my mother, though. For the rest of her life, she would hold Matt responsible for giving away her things and selling her house. Not that she could ever have used those things, or ever been able to live in her house again. She’d lost everything, and she needed someone to blame. And my gentle husband got the rap.

So, there we were, childless forty-somethings who had spent our entire married life snuggled happily inside the cocoon of my family, all at once rejected and on our own. The family that had been our focus and our fortress for twenty years was no more. And what was left of it looked upon us with suspicion and disdain. We were just…lost.

It’s taken me this many years—almost an entire decade—to sort through the tangled knot of rage, sadness, pain and love that is my bond with my family. My remaining sisters and I have slowly hacked away the dead, decaying bits of anger and resentment and gone about building a new relationship on the solid foundation of our shared history and the love that is our parents’ legacy. The worst trials of the past ten years have begun, mercifully, to fade in the mists of time. Mom’s death this past December shone fresh light on some of the things I had been only too willing to forget. At least now, when I look upon these things, the pain is no longer so acute that it threatens to undo me.

Even so, more healing is on the horizon. As I began to recognize—and forgive—the resentment my mother had towards me in the last years of her life, I thought to myself, "I sure hope I never get so old and cranky that I do that to someone I’m supposed to love." In the next split second, I realized that I already have done this same thing—to my sister’s daughters. We had a cataclysmic falling out, and our relationship just…ended. For all these years I’ve assured myself that I’ve been blameless and justified in my resentment. And now, here I am having one of those "Oh, my god, I AM my mother!" moments. But I am not seventy-five years old, and I have not just lost my husband, my home, and all my belongings, so I have no excuse.

Isn’t it funny how often life makes clear the sins of others in order to convict you of your own?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tying up Loose Ends

I should probably tie up the loose ends from the Tillamook Event entry on which I promised to write more. Truth is, I’ve put some distance between myself and the worst parts of that weekend and I am loathe to revisit them. But, here…I’ll hold the thing at arm’s length, hold my nose and describe the highlights (lowlights?):

The oven fired on about three cylinders all weekend. Which turned out to be a non-issue, since business SUCKED badly enough for a half-functional oven to keep us adequately supplied with product. I had to bump heads with the snotty, overbearing Iron Chef Wannabe in command of the Event Center kitchen a couple of times when I needed to use the facility’s beautiful, clean, brand-new and largely unused convection oven to back up my lame one. What is it about men in kitchens that they have to radiate testosterone??

About halfway through the day on Saturday, husband relates to me that there is "drama" going on back at the café. Seems flaky cook (who has been a surprising non-source of drama since her rehiring last October) has had a major upheaval in her life and has decided to pack up and move back to the Midwest. Tomorrow. Husband reacts to this crisis by getting in the car and going supply shopping. I spend the next several hours coaching husband on flaky-employee relations, over a hit-and-miss cel phone connection. And developing an ulcer.

Sunday, more of the same sucky business (sales were down almost 50% for the weekend.) The highlights of that day were that we packed everything up without hurting ourselves, and it wasn’t snowing in the pass on the way home. My mind was mostly on Monday, when I would have to deal with flaky cook’s newest drama. In reality, Monday became a case of crap being piled on top of crap, when my back-up cook also "drama-ed" out on me, leaving me to work a double shift to follow up my working non-vacation over the weekend. In my physically and emotionally weakened state, it looked to me like the whole house of cards was crumbling again, and I was going to be left to run the whole damn restaurant by myself.
Again. One step forward, ten steps back—and into a ten-foot-deep pile of bullshit.

So there you have it. Sorry I couldn’t go into more detail, but I really didn’t want to get close enough to see the minutiae. The drama cleared up relatively rapidly, after some frank talks with a couple of valued but slightly unreliable employees. And I had another huge weekend coming at me at 100 miles an hour—Easter weekend with our commitment to sell hot dogs at the County Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, and our first annual Old Town Cafe Easter Sunday Brunch to scrape together. By Sunday night I was so tired, I was in tears. Mostly happy tears, because Easter weekend went as well as the previous weekend had gone badly. Ah, yes…there’s that see-saw thing going on again.

The holes in the hull of Good Ship OTC have been patched, at least temporarily. I won’t delude myself into thinking that the patches can’t cave in at any moment, with no warning…I learned that much from the experiences of the past week. I’m left wondering how exactly to protect myself from the potential damage of these h/r torpedoes. And I haven’t quite come up with a solution. For now, we’re sailing on…not quite smoothly, into slightly choppy waters. But at least we're on the water, and not under it...


Thursday, March 20, 2008

We Interrupt This Narcissistic Blather...


Absorbed as I am in my own mercilessly hectic life, I have sort of taken a pass on Election 2008. Too, the experience of Election 2004 left me cynical and jaded. I’ve suffered from a profound disappointment with the American people, and a conviction that not only is our country not headed toward anything resembling progress or greatness, it is in full retreat away from those things.

Still, it has been physically impossible for me to stay entirely ignorant of the over-reported details of the campaign. One would have to be confined incommunicado in a lead-lined room to avoid being poisoned by the latest media-hyped campaign news. I heard about the Geraldine Ferraro flap (and cringed during Keith Olbermann’s five-minute overwrought lambasting of the Clinton campaign over the Ferraro remarks on "Countdown.") And I heard about the latest conflagration over remarks made by the pastor of Barack Obama’s church. (I can hear the wheels grinding in Karl Rove’s evil, twisted mind…"Okay, maybe we can’t believably make Obama a Muslim…but, oh look! We can make him a racist!!!)

So I have been hanging on the sidelines, waiting for the dust to settle in the Democratic campaign. Staying out of the line of fire and lining up to vote for whoever came out on top. I had no preference, as long as it was a Democrat. They seemed equally capable to me.

And hoping against hope that the candidates didn’t do so much damage to each other in their protracted battle for the nomination that they torpedoed the party’s chances to win in November

News of Obama’s inspired "More Perfect Union" speech—they’ve already given it a name to go down in the annals of American History—just made me more tired. How different could it be from the "you attack, I defend (or back-pedal)" see-saw game that went on in 2004? The issues might be slightly different, the principals are mostly different. But 2008 has promised to continue the onslaught of inflammatory sound-bytes, trumped-up charges of dishonesty, immorality, inexperience, weakness and "flip-flopping;" pelting the American people so fast and so furiously that even those who want to will not be able to withstand the barrage to get to the real issues. And I just DON’T want to play this time around.

But then…I was visiting a friend’s blog, and there was a link to a transcript of the speech.

And I clicked. And I read.

Now YOU click. And YOU read.

And then come back here and tell me whether these words are not the exact polar opposite of everything this country has been about these last eight years.

And whether this is not exactly the direction in which we need to turn, exactly at this time in our history.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here's an Itty Bitty Band-aid...

I got my notice in yesterday’s mail. The little tear-along-the-dotted-line herald of the Bush Administration’s "Economic Stimulus Act of 2008." Seems I’m to receive $600, with which I am tacitly instructed to run right out and purchase a flat-screen TV. Oh, that’s right….TVs cost more than $600, don’t they? But GW wouldn’t know that. I imagine it’s been, well…maybe never. I imagine George W. Bush never purchased a television in his life.

Any more than George the First had bought a gallon of milk or a pound of ground beef at the local grocery store.

Economic Stimulus. Right. How about "Economic Boo-boo Kiss?"

Dad has ripped off my right arm and beaten the snot out of me with it. And as I lie on the carpet exsanguinating, Mom kneels beside me and coos, "Here, honey…let Mommy kiss the boo-boo…" 

At least, I think that's what she's saying.  She seems to be speaking in a foreign language.  It sounds like--Chinese...



Monday, March 17, 2008

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Four days ago, I prepared to leave the café in the hands of my capable crew and take Café de la Rue (my old concession business) west to Tillamook for a rare road appearance. Back in January, when I had to sign up for this thing, it seemed like a good idea. Who knew I would not be fully recovered from February--new menu, new pricing, Valentine’s Day, great sales, v-e-r-y t-i-r-e-d… But I figure, what the heck…I’ll be away from the café for a few days. It will be a vacation. Right.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version:

The Event:

Great White (my truck) craps out four days before event. Great White goes to truck hospital. Doctors at truck hospital are as cooperative as MDs. No one answers phone or returns calls; Great White will be out of commission indefinitely. One large (500 lb.) oven now has no ride to Tillamook.

Thursday…Rent a truck to accommodate oven. Arrive at truck rental place. No reservation. Whine, moan, and cajole them into coughing up truck. Get truck home. Truck rental place on the other side of town calls to ask why we have not picked up reserved truck.

Roll ramp out of back of rental truck. Prepare to roll 500 lb oven up ramp. 500 lb oven is 29 inches wide. Ramp is 26 inches wide. 500 lb oven is not going up ramp into truck.

Frantic phone calls ascertain that taking smaller, lighter, narrower electric oven is an option (had been told in the past there was no power source for it.)

Load truck with smaller oven and other paraphernalia. Go to bed. Intend to spring out of bed, be on the road at 7 am and arrive Tillamook 9 am. Forget to go to bank for change. Bank opens at 10 am. Intend to spring out of bed, be on the road at 10:05 am, arrive Tillamook noonish. Realize I have no clean pants. Load washer before toppling into bed after midnight.

Friday…Up at 8:15 am. No personal stuff packed yet, and pants are in the washer. Throw pants in dryer. Shower, pack…pants should be dry.

10:15 am, arrive at café in damp jeans, gulp coffee. On the road at noon. Twenty miles of snow and slush up and down the pass. Arrive Tillamook 2 pm.

Three hours of "set-up" time left. Find our location and 220-volt power source. Power plug and oven cord do not match. Run to hardware store for replacement plug. Hunt down festival handy-man to make the switch. Repair completed…plug ‘er in. Elements glow but fan does not run. Remove back of oven. Fiddle with wires. Fan now runs. Speed-unload and set up remaining equipment. Pack up and leave for motel at 4:56 pm. Mission accomplished…four minutes to spare.

Umm…when do we get to the "vacation" part?

Head for overnight accommodations. Partner made reservations. Partner does not remember directions to motel. Or name of motel. Or phone number of motel. Get lost in very tiny town looking for motel. Partner calls husband on cel phone, sends him in search of torn scrap of paper containing name of motel. Husband (miraculously) finds scrap of paper and imparts information. Motel is identified and located. Possible dinner destination spied in process.

Check into cute, clean, warm cabin (motel fairies have ignited ancient space heater in anticipation of our arrival!) Admire partial ocean view worth $80 per night. Ask motel fairy for local dinner recommendation. "Any where but (previously identified possible dinner destination.)" Something about a history of near-fatal ptomaine … Drop off suitcases, go out in search of dinner.

Find a place with lots of cars. Looks like a bar, but we’ll give it a go. Walk in. Smoke…ack! Walk right back out.

Decide to scope out café up the road that we have always wanted to try. Café is no longer café. Is now Italian Restaurant. Sigh! But Italian sounds good… Italians drink wine, no? Butternut squash ravioli. 2006(?) Sangiovese. (Does red wine go with squash?) Mmmmm… not bad.

Stop at Netarts Grocery for wine and cookies to take back to cabin. Cheap Pinot Noir and chocolate Chessmen. Snack. Jammies. Bobby Flay and spider solitaire. Crawl into bed 10:30 pm.

This concludes the 5 ½ hour "vacation" portion of our weekend…

More later…bed is beckoning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Little Corner...For rent?


It’s getting quieter and quieter in my little corner of journal land.

So, with an extra half-hour to kill before I return to my non-stop life, it seems like a good time to assess the benefits of continuing to pay the rent on this quiet little corner of journal land.

I’ve stated before, every time I re-visit this issue, that I don’t really care if anybody reads; that I like to write and this is where I write, so I will just soldier on.

But now, of course, I have to consider the dangers of writing here.

I don’t try to keep my identity secret. I’ve not published my full name, address or phone number, but anyone with half a brain would be able to figure out where the café is and who I am, if they wanted to.

And this IS a public journal, so people—like customers or crew—have perfect legal access to my ranting about the restaurant. And people who might give a shit will also be able to connect me with my political and agnostic beliefs…and one never knows what trouble that would cause in a small town. 

I’d like to go on record saying I’ve never written anything here that I wouldn’t share with the principals involved. And I’d also like to say that anyone who would stop patronizing the café because they don’t agree with my politics or my religion (or lack thereof) is not really welcome through the doors, anyway.

Still, I probably haven’t even imagined the worst scenario that could result from someone "in my life" reading my journal. It’s such a novel idea, I’ve scarcely thought it necessary to consider the consequences. Up until now, I haven’t been able to pay friends or family to read, for the most part. So it beats me why relative strangers would show any interest. But accidents do happen, and unfortunate accidents with weird consequences seem to occur daily on the internet. I’m probably pushing my luck by continuing to be so free with my thoughts and rants here on a public journal…that nobody reads. :P 

So what’s the answer? Go private? Nah…that’s not why I’m here. Go back to the notebooks with pages and pages of stuff no one will ever see? Can’t do it. Censor every word I write? I suck at that when I’m sane and rested…couldn’t possibly see myself attempting it now.

Haven’t come up with an answer, have I? And I’ve run out of time…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Gas Prices Rise to New National Record

Watch for prices of just about everything to reach a bone-shattering crescendo as the Bush Administration grabs for every dollar it can for its Big Energy puppet masters, before it goes down into the tarpits at the end of this year...

Can they accomplish this without laying complete waste to the nation's economy?  Probably not.

Do they care what happens to the nation's economy?  Obviously not. 

Their solution:  Go borrow a bunch of money from China, throw a few bucks at the general population as you bow out, stuffing your pockets all the way, and let the next administration worry about cleaning up the mess.


Not really...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

H/R Roulette

In my thirty-plus-year career in the food service business, I had got to the point where I was a damned decent manager. Up until about twenty months ago, I naively thought that would segue into success as a restaurateur. What I have since discovered is that, in nearly every aspect of running a restaurant, being a manager is a completely different story from being the owner. As the owner, I have to wear ALL the hats. Marketing. Accounting. Human Resources. Training. Purchasing. Maintenance. Menu development. Decorating. Community relations. Financial negotiations. Ad infinitum.

All that, in addition to filling an actual position—cook, counter person, barista, waitress—at least forty hours a week.

Some day, I’ll delegate as many of these responsibilities as humanly possible. Once I identify exactly what they are and which of my staff would be best suited to taking on which tasks…and how much I would then have to PAY them to do so. I should have time to do that by, oh… 2015 or so. Meanwhile, I fully understand that the current definition of myself as a business owner is, "Jack of all trades, master of none."

Back in the olden days, when all I had to do was manage a restaurant, I had the "human resources" thing down. I knew how to screen applications, how to conduct a decent interview, how to initiate new employees not only into their particular jobs, but also into the overall culture of our workplace. I could call with deadly accuracy whether someone was going to "fit in" with our crew, compliment our personalities, and subscribe to our general work ethic. Rarely did an incompatible candidate make it past the first interview.

God, how that ball-game has changed!

First of all, I simply do not have the time or energy to invest into all the screening, interviewing, role-playing and educated-guessing it takes to excel at the human resources game. Secondly, even if I did, the labor pool available to me negates everything I ever thought I knew. My criteria for hiring someone have been distilled to "Are they at least semi-literate?" "Are they likely to be around two months from now?" and "Do they have an actual address and phone number at which they can be reached?"

Despite all that, I have somehow managed to assemble a pretty decent crew (not without going through the tortures of the damned to get there…) Unconventional, in some ways, and certainly no one I might have hired at all in my past life. But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I cannot afford to be limited by what I thought was written in stone fifteen years ago.

I have, however, established that there is one aspect of crew dynamics that is the same today as it was back then. And it is just as frustrating as it ever was.

Employees are never—N-E-V-E-R—content with their schedules.

They WILL whine that they are not getting enough hours. They WILL make casual yet pointed mention of which bill collectors are beating down their doors. They WILL cough and sputter to work in their old vehicle that is on its last legs.

So you take the hint. You give them more hours, or you give them more responsibility and the attendant raise, just to keep the wolves from the door.

And in return, without fail…they WILL develop a chronic illness, put in for vacation time, take a class, sign up for extra-curriculars, break up with their boyfriend, get pregnant, have one of their fifty-three grandmothers die…et cetera, et cetera ad infinitum. Much as I love and appreciate them, there is not one lady on my current crew who is not guilty of engaging in these shenanigans at one time or another.

Yesterday afternoon, one of my high school girls demonstrated this theory to the absolute nth degree.

"S" was hired last September. She is friends with "R"—my other high school student employee. One of the conditions of "S’s" employment was that she and "R" would not join the same athletics or extra-curriculars, since I would need at least one of them available to work any given day. "S" assured me that this would not be a problem, and so she was brought on…perhaps against my better judgment.

Last week, "S" hit me with the story that "her parents are pressuring her" to be involved in softball, even though she is not on the team. They have arranged for her to "take stats" at the games. She will need to have all game days off. Since "R" is on the softball team, this is exactly and entirely contrary to the conditions of "S’s" employment. Dammit!

The thought crossed my mind to simply terminate "S," but I decided I would try to work with her. So, I hired a couple more high school students, hoping to get them trained by the commencement of softball season, when I would be losing, for all intents and purposes, both my current student employees.

I added those two new students to next week’s schedule. Which—in an effort to keep labor under control—meant a reciprocal reduction in hours for some old employees—most notably, "S." Saturday afternoon, after getting her first look at next week’s schedule, she approaches me with her lower lip quivering…

"How come my schedule is so different now than it was?"

"Aren’t you the one that told me you were going to need all this time off for softball games?"

"Yeah, but that’s not ‘til next month!"

"Well, what did you think I was going to do, wait until you were gone to hire and train someone?"

Lower lip sticking out so far she looked like a Ubangi, she walked away.

Less than five minutes later…oh yes—LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES later, she corrals me again.

"One of the days you have me scheduled next week is a day that I can’t work!"


"Friday. Friday is the first softball game."

"I thought you just told me that games didn’t start until next month."

"The first game is March 14th. I just found that out."

The first thing that comes out of my mouth is, "I can’t believe that you were just here complaining about not getting enough hours, and now you’re telling me you can’t work one of the days you ARE scheduled. What is UP with that???"

The smoke of shorting synapses is pouring out of my ears. I want to take this girl, grab her by the scruff of her neck and the waistband of her pants, and heave her out the door. "S" is about to burst into tears.

But I am not going to be suckered. I clamp my mouth shut, grit my teeth, and count to ten. Then I say, "All right…well. Did you request Friday off?"


"Okay. You know the rules. If you didn’t request the day off, you’re responsible for the hours. You either need to work, or find someone to cover the shift."

Sullenly…like I was her mother or something: "I’ll work…!"

Dear god. If I had wanted this kind of histrionics from a seventeen-year-old, I would have opted for in vitro in 1990.

Yes…there it was. The entire "I need hours/I can’t work" employee game played out in the span of five minutes on a Saturday afternoon. It couldn’t have been more perfect if I had staged it for a training video. No, they aren’t all seventeen…but they ALL play this game.

And I’m starting to wish that the idea of cloning myself (several times over) was not immoral, illegal…and not nearly fast enough.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Double-Edged Sword

Thursday has lately been assigned, at least temporarily, my "Home Work Day." In theory, it is the day intended for me to work at home, doing all the things I am unable to do when I am at the restaurant chained to either the kitchen or the front counter. All those things that have been put on the back burner for the past twenty months. Like food cost analysis. And sourcing new vendors. And planning marketing strategy. The "big girl" stuff of owning one’s own business.
In reality, Thursdays have become the day that I make hopeful stabs at all those things, while catching up on laundry, sucking up months-old dust bunnies, scrubbing neglected floors and toilets, and generally attempting to reconnect with the parts of my past life that have been in limbo for those same twenty months. That’s a helluva lot to try to pack into one day a week.
However, when any given Thursday starts to burst at the seams—usually around the time the hubs is set to get home from work—I just chuck it and take the rest of the day off. The reasoning behind this being that I’m more than deserving of a couple of hours of hooky every week. Life is so much more bearable when I allow myself that one little nod to the fukkits.
There are days, like today, when I’m even in danger of straying too close to those corridors of the past that it is just as well that I no longer tread. My depleted yet rebellious brain takes me right to those thresholds, and beyond. And if I’m lucky, I find that some of those halls have lost their awful sting…
How well I remember when CD’s were new technology…it can’t be nearly twenty years ago, can it? Christmas of 1991, we gifted ourselves with our very first multi-cd-changer. (And, ummm…we still own it.) Those were our prosperous, self-indulgent years—that first half of the last decade of the last millennium… I indulged my love of music to the tune of amassing a collection of nearly 100 cd’s in a matter of a couple of years.
I developed a passion for what my family came to call "space music." Soft jazz, new age classical, Celtic instrumentals…think "Narada" and "Windham Hill." It was the perfect antidote to the frenetic pace of my life. I would come home from work, pour a glass (or several) of wine, and float away on the hypnotic tones of that soothing music. Eventually it became, and remains, my signature sound.
My sister took to requesting that I play my music almost constantly when she visited from the Midwest. Eventually, I presented her with copies of several of "our" favorite cd’s to take home and enjoy. She could play them and be transported back to my living room, thousands of miles away. Back to the family that left her behind…the family into whose bosom she was re-enfolded for one month out of each summer. Until she got too sick to travel.
In the hospital, as she grew weaker and closer to passing, her daughters and I would play her favorite cd’s to soothe her. In the end, those recordings became, to me, the anthems of her death. Reminders of that horrible, tear-drenched time.
I had my own copies of those cd’s. And though I believed in my heart that if I never heard any of that music again, it would be too soon…for whatever reason, I couldn’t throw them away. I exiled them to the least accessible corners of my cd cabinet. Came upon them from time to time when searching for something to plug into the cd changer that I hadn’t heard in awhile. Held them in my hands, sighed, and returned them to that exile. For years.
Until last week.
I reached into the dusty corner, retrieved the little jewel case with the pastel abstract on the cover. No tears, no sigh…just a quietness. A solemnity. I wondered, could I listen to this, now? Had it been long enough—almost thirteen years? Would I feel a simple wistful remembrance, rather than a pain beyond endurance, at the sound? All at once, that feeling of rebellion—that fractious desire to walk up and spit into the eye of the demons that I have allowed to bully my spirit—overcame me. I cracked open the case and put that cd into the changer. And waited.
The first notes of the harp issued mellifluously from the speakers, and I felt…nothing.
Indeed, it had been so long since I had allowed myself to listen to this music that I barely remembered it at all. It is nice, it’s pretty…it’s soothing. I’ll probably listen to it a lot, from now on. But it doesn’t conjure up any memories of my sister. Good or bad.
Should I feel victorious?
Or… disappointed?


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Election 2008

You all knew I'd have something to say on this subject, didn't you....?

Dubya is possibly the lamest duck in the history of the genre. Legless, headless, plucked and gutted, he lies, rotting, while his presidency grinds to a merciful close. And the American people are engaged in the process of choosing his successor.

Four years ago, I firmly believed Americans were facing the most important election in their lives. After four years of goose-stepping nationalism, state-sanctioned racism and payback fever, the 9-11-induced madness appeared to be abating. There was a slim glimmer of hope that we as a nation would come to our senses and reject George W. Bush and everything he stood for.

Or not.

It’s fair to say the Democrats didn’t present us with much alternative. Rather than take a stand and advance a candidate who embodied everything that King George wasn’t, they gambled that Americans would back a Democrat only if he promised do everything Bush was already doing, only better….? So they created "Bushenstein;" I mean, John Kerry. Kerry was easily dispatched by G.O.P. hatchet men back in 2004, perhaps because he was never more than a cardboard collage of a candidate to begin with. My sincere apologies to Mr. Kerry, who, I think, took his candidacy much more seriously than did just about anyone else in the world.

And now, it is 2008. The year for which my sidebar has yearned since shortly after the 2004 election results became final. But I find myself curiously detached from the process, this time around.

First of all, I’m sorely disappointed in the American people. Oh, they’re all for change…now. They see what a mess Bush has gotten us into…finally. They’re crying, screaming, clamoring for a drastic, sweeping leadership transformation…at last. I’m sorry…for me, it’s a case of way too little, far too late.

So, when people tell me this upcoming election promises to be the most exciting in their lives, I just…cringe. And shake my head. I can’t help feeling they showed up four years late for that boat.

We could have made a statement, could have made a difference, in 2004. We could have shown the world what we thought of Bush and his cronies and their power grabbing, world-dominating, civil-rights-stealing ways. We could have served notice that it isn’t all about the money. That the peons of the world do not prosper or starve, live or die, at the will of the rich and powerful.

Instead, we granted the Evil Empire another four years. Four more years to dig deeper into the cookie jar. For more years to hone and polish the art of the spin, the embellishment of the truth, the outright lie. Four more years to brand the values of greed, dishonesty and arrogance indelibly upon of the Spirit of America.

But change is in the wind.  It has to be.  We won't be allowed to give Bush another four years (thank god.)  So we're hopping up and down and clapping our hands at the excitement of it all!

As the Democratic candidates spar and bicker and one-up each other right down to the wire.

And John McCain sits quietly on his nomination, and the Republicans contrive to dial down the rhetoric and bide their time. Hoping that, in doing so, they will morph the GOP into looking like the perfect alternative to…the GOP.

It looks like it could be a very long four more years….