Friday, October 16, 2009

Chapter 1

I had been working at the Green Hut for not even ten months before I looked down and realized that much of my soul had been sucked from my body. This was naturally disconcerting. And so I sought the exact cause of my misery. The answer is as old a capitalism. It is the hateful nature of the corporate beast to ignore the individuality of its parts in favor of a uniformed whole. Therefore all the "cool" people to work with had already quit or been "released", and my own unique ways of working were being threatened into extinction. The final straw landed when I began to be graded on customer interactions. Oh yes, that's right; I said, 'graded on customer interactions.' This meant that my manager literally sat down with a piece of paper and watched me as I placed the finished drinks on the counter and informed the customers that their drinks were ready. If I didn't happen to make eye contact with the under-caffeinated grumpy old guy and say, 'thank you,' then it got marked down as an incorrect interaction (presumably to be used as a an excuse when it came time to give me a raise).
So to make a potentially self-indulgent whiney story short, I quit my job at the coffee shop and began to work as an ABA Therapist.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hello, hello again.

On September 29, I received this email from my mother.
RE: June 5‏
From: Mom
Sent: Sat 9/26/09 8:21 PM
To: Valerie (long-lostish daughter)

Last blog. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

And that was it. No hello. No I love you. But considering that this was an admonishment email and that I didn't even do anything about for another two weeks, I suppose I don't deserve the greeting or love.
It isn't that I haven't thought about blogging. Of course I have. I miss the delusion of entertaining my followers (all three of you) with my witty soliloquies. I miss sitting down to my green table of an evening tea close at hand, coaxing my computer into cooperation, and telling you of the trivial and not so trivial happenings in my world. The obvious snarky response that I'm sure you've already formed is, "if you love it and have missed it so much, why haven't you done anything about it?" Let me justify myself. There are three forces of nature which have utterly trumped my joy in writing until now. The first is mind-numbing occupation. I was simply too busy to write, working mostly ten-hour days, and taking the weekends to return to something of a normal person so that I could do it all over again the next week. The second force is procrastination. When I said that I took, "weekends to return to something of a normal person," that should be more accurately translated to "I procrastinated as though it were the only activity which could prolong my life." The final, most powerful force, was that after a month I was embarrassed that I had not posted in so long, and my embarrassment grew in proportion to the time away from my blog.
So what brings me back after such an absence? Although my mother's email was something of a gadfly, it was the fact that the first two forces abruptly dissipated and the third didn't have the strength to stand on its own. So I am back.
There is also a frightful number of fairly significant events which have transpired between the previous post and this, so I'll attempt to bulletinize them in the next few blogs to get everything up to date.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Long-winded Adventure

My weekdays possess a sameness which causes them to blur into each other. Therefore it often happens that I have no idea which day contained particular events; that phone call was on Monday, or maybe Tuesday, but certainly I talked to her about that then... or maybe that was another day (you get the idea). And today started out like every weekday with the buzz which signals the impending musical wake up alarm on my phone, but of course, had it been like any other day, I would probably not now be breaking from my one and a half month sabbatical from blogging.
4:00 am. Buzz. Alarm. My mind quickly and sleepily "justifies" hitting snooze.
4:15 am. Buzz. Second alarm. Similar thin justification.
4:30 am. Buzz. Repeat above.
4:40 am. Buzz. Alarm. The realization that if I do not get up RIGHT NOW I will not be able to take my shower, and will feel gross the entire day penetrates my foggy mind.
5:25 am. Trumble [v. to simultaneously stumble and traipse] down the stairs, slap the temporary parking pass in the car, and drag down to work.
5:30-8:30 smile, serve, schmooze, repeat.
...the phone rings. My co-worker's face is one of bewilderment as she hangs up the phone and then tells me to go lock the front door. Then, in a louder voice, "if everyone in the store could please move toward the bathrooms, the police are dealing with a situation out front and have told us that no one may go in or out, and we must stay toward the back of the store." Looking out the bay windows, I did not see a drunken homeless man brandishing random cutlery as I had expected. I didn't see anything at first. So she pointed. "See that? That black thingy on the newspaper box? Someone called it in as a suspicious looking object, and so the bomb squad is on the way." Sure enough, perched right next to our garbage cans, where it had been all morning was an ominous plastic object. And there we were, the three baristas, George, Marie, Frank and five other customers I had never seen before squishing chairs into the corner of the store.

At first I wasn't at all concerned. I had seen a bomb threat called in once before in Boise. They send in a robot which then lifts the package and examines it, and it's all perfectly safe relatively speaking. But wait, I had seen that from across the parking lot, and it didn't even look all that dangerous and the robot was cool. This is different. That window is less than a hundred feet from me, and beyond it there is no one in sight. Not even an eager crowd of the morbidly curious.

Ahhh, and then the thoughts started winding through my head. I should probably tell Sarah that I'm in this situation. She's working just up the street right now, and if something happened, she'd have to know where to find me. I should clean that shelf while I'm back here, because it's not like I can be up front making drinks right now. How sad would it be if I died tragically working in a coffee shop? I should get my life planned out so that when I die, it will at least be doing something worthwhile. How bizarre would that be if something did happen? Is that bomb technician wearing a space suit? It's green. Like maybe a camouflaged space suit for special missions on some green planet.

An hour and a half of these sorts of spotty thoughts, and I had worked myself into some measure of nervousness. Still, I had the foolish courage to move toward the window the get a better look as the technician opened the case and flicked out a wireless stage microphone. Someone had obviously played a set at the bar next door last night, put the mic on the newspaper box to finish loading the van, and driven away leaving us a scare for the next day. So we let the imprisoned customers out to rearrange their appointments, and finished up the shift; some (ahem, that would be myself) with hearts beating slightly irregularly.

And that, my friends, was the tale of the day that was not the same as the rest.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In an unrelated note: happy birthday to my sister!

There's an honest-to-goodness thunderstorm raging mostly outside my window. There's the flashing and clapping and dripping and whooshing. I should close my widow but then I banish that scent. That glorious mixture of laundry hung drying and all the town's dust being gathered together and splattered back down on the pavement where it belongs. And the sounds. The usual percussion of stilettos getting caught between the bricks quickened some time ago to a panicked pace, and has now died away altogether making way for the gentler sound of my FLOOR GETTING WET... excuse me while I go protect my hardwood floor and easy chair.
To resume. These are the days I love. The green has been sprouting for weeks now, and the winds have already blown the stinkyblossoms from many of the trees. We are thick into spring with all the moodiness April promises. Last Saturday I didn't bronze so much as rubied (which I realize is no proper verb) my shoulders and am still paying the painful price for my lack of sunscreen, yet it is an evening for Galoshes even by Oregonian standards. Which brings my to the bragging point of this entire post; after several years of ooohing and drooling, I finally bought myself a pair of very bright yellow Wellingtons. With a blue buckle on the side and my pants tucked into the tops, I find myself again at age four eagerly timing my steps for a pounce into the biggest of puddles. It is moments such as this when the best I would wish the world is a "pair of yelli wellies and a puddle to use them in."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Things are Different Here

Having realized long ago that the number of tips earned in a coffee shop is tied (albeit loosely) to the amount of piffle I can engage in, I end up making some sort of comment to nearly every regular customer every morning. So I told him that I liked his blue tie with the graceful moons on it. He explained that he got it from Mexico. Comparing it to the bazaars I'd been to just south of the border I was surprised, "really? I wouldn't expect to find that sort of style in Mexico," His raised eyebrow response was, "oh, no. I got it from the president of Mexico." Right. Another world here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

$30 of Thanks

I wrote this piece in early Feb., happened upon it again tonight, touched it up a bit, and thought I'd share it with you. It's rather longer than my usual posts, but I hope you get through it and enjoy it. Please feel welcome to share your thoughts on this first, foundering effort.

My mother had taught me well. As a young white female walking alone one county away from the murder capitol of the United States, my skin was trained to burble at the sight and sound of a burly stranger advancing. A middle aged black woman separated herself from the shadow between two cars asking if I owned one. Calming my alarm and adjusting to the abruptness of the query I asked her to repeat herself.

Do you have a car?

As I did not currently own any transport other than my shoes I answered accordingly. Did I have friends who have a car? ‘Everyone is asleep.’ When the index of my personal property moved on to a cell phone, I willingly offered that tool to her services. She rang a taxi dispatcher and asked if they could drive her to another town.

I live in the town thirty miles away, and I have to get my kids home....All I have is my paycheck with me....The taxi driver says I must pay up front.

It was my turn to catalog her possessions. She had no cash. No credit card. No way to pay for her taxi home. It was cold. It was late. We returned to my pockets.

Do you have a card?

I have nothing on me but my house key and phone.

...A home nearby?

Yes, but all are asleep.

Really no car?

None myself.

As the conversation had turned the full circle I wished her luck and warmth and pivoted back to my own path, but not before hearing her half-aside muttering:


It has been several years now that I have entertained the suspicion every time I encounter overt Christianity that it is somehow factitious. So far from resonating with me, public and unsolicited mention of prayer and praise alike has been met with a gritting not just of my teeth, but of my whole body; beginning with that tightening of the spine just between my shoulders. So home I went. I had seen it before. The women in the metro in D.C. would always single out the young white girls because we were supposed to have money and be more likely to be fiscally compassionate. My homeward tread slackened as my thoughts spurred with unusual frenzy.

It is probably just a scam.

I should not feel obligated to help.

And what if it were me?

That last was not your thought. That was the thought of you Sunday School teacher who was charismatically and unconsciously promoting salvation by works. You don’t believe that.

But I have that twenty in the old cigar box that I was saving for this upcoming week. What if I just gave her that?

But it is a SCAM.

And what if it is? Should that subjectively matter?

As my thoughts continued to whirl themselves into a dervish, I found my way up to my room and fatally opened the cigar box. Grabbing its contents I stepped my way down to the street to look for my vagabond. She had already disappeared. The next several minutes I felt dizzy, as if I were somehow drunkenly searching for the woman in the Old School sweatshirt who needed to get home with her kids. Up the sidewalk to the corner. No one on my street. No one on the crossing street. I walked down the middle of the road, trying to see as far as possible. Away down the block a rabbit had conceived the identical notion and paused in the middle of the street to observe his surroundings. But she was nowhere.

I felt the urge to record the entire episode. Sitting with the window, the street, and the sidewalk all clearly visible around every side of my computer each sentence I wrote was punctuated with a glance down my street. Any hint of movement and I would crane my neck until finally I saw her dark outline against the jeweler at the intersection. I grabbed my little bundle--that twenty bending around my laundry-day roll of quarters--and skittered after her. I caught her a block a way and stuffed it into her hand with a mumble. She hugged me with a staccato word of thanks. My thoughts paced my steps as I again made my way home.

It was genuine, certainly, but not $30 worth of thanks.

That is because it was probably a scam.

But then, does that really even matter?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tiredness Part II (Owlishness and forced mornings)

Sunday night: we had an evening work meeting despite the snowstorm. It was boring and relatively pointless, as we had all expected. But while we were sitting inside being bored it was snowing outside. So on the way home it was absolutely necessary to have a snowball fight with Wendy until my fingers threatened to go the way of the Woolly Mammoth. Eye-rubbing began at 5 am. Result: 6 hours sleep.

Monday night: is always trivia night. The catch is that they have added a round of trivia questions and begun the contest later in the evening. So despite the fact that I did not stick around to see whether my team successfully contended that we did name the Rushmore Presidents in the correct order if viewed from the ranger station at the bottom of the hill, my wake up call at 5 meant that I again recorded 6 hours of sleep.

Tuesday night: Was the Missy Higgins concert at the Ram's Head. You didn't know that I was a fan of hers. Neither did I. She was recommended to me by a regular, and so based on a 30-second iTunes clip, I decided that I really wanted to see her show. Unfortunately, as she is talented and becoming ever more popular, she is touring with two other acts and did not even appear under the lights until 9:45 to start her set. As I thoroughly enjoyed myself I did not leave early as I had shruggingly supposed I would and made it home around midnight. Cell phone buzzed again at 5- I clocked between 4.5-5 hours for the night.

Wednesday night: I went back to The Ram's Head for happy hour with Tadd, Sarah, Steven and Tacy, during which we all talked about our various blogs and writing in general. Being inspired, I stayed up rather later writing the previous post, and the bulk of this one. Opened again, up unmercifully early. Result: somewhere around 7 hours (which, you will notice is getting back toward normal).

Thursday night: was a surprise birthday party for Wendy. It was particularly surprising to her since her actual birthday was at the end of January. She did not see this one coming. I stayed 'till one-thirty-ish then, as I finally did not have to open at Starbucks, I crashed until around noon this morning.

I think perhaps I might just be caught up in time for the weekend.

Tiredness Part I (an introduction)

Dawn has never broken gently over me.
I have had roommates and housemates who literally do that little happy-morning-flounce as their eyes are opening long before first light. I have personally never had the energy nor the inclination for this particular display of early birdieness; I distinctly remember as a child the flowing tears when I realized that I "really did have to wake up now." Of course at that time in my life I would cry over such minor things that it seemed I was single-handedly trying to make the high desert in which I lived into a tropical climate. Still, those ante meridiem hours were always especially trying. Mom would try to forestall the tears and rouse me with OJ and back scratches on several occasions, but my owlishness was deeply seeded. Even through college my morning routine consisted of groggily rolling over, pulling on the clothes closest to me (which explains my deplorable fashion for many years), and hobbling as quickly as possible off to work or class or whatever event I was about to be late for. All of that talk of birds and worms, and morning people generally being more productive than we the creatures of the night served equally to motivate and annoy me.
This being another of my years of adventure and personal growth, I decided to convert to the Sunrisen. To change my spots I signed up for the opening shift four (sometimes five) days a week at said Green Apron House. Now instead of orange juice and back rubs I am awakened by the grating and buzzing of my cell phone alarm, a cold brisk walk and the prospect of a ten hour working day.
I am actually quite proud of how well I have adjusted to this new extra early morning lifestyle. But this week has been quite the beast. You must understand that I have retained that college mentality that I can catch up on my sleep later and I won't miss the winks too badly. This theory is true until you either pile up too many lack-sleep-a-days in a row or cut the nights too short. This week I did both.
More the day after Tomorrow

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And then came the winds

"I blinked my way home through the wind today...
...with leanings and sneezes and cold through my clothes."

-Lauren Feste

The last few nights I have been awakened long before my alarm by the conviction that my panes will be blown out of my windows and onto my bedroom floor. The windswept look, while not necessarily fashionable, is certainly everywhere to be seen. My calves are only just adapting to the extra work involved in maintaining a posture at right angles with the pavement.
It has been rather blustery here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter on the water

It was nearly a week ago today that I feared for my life on the way to work. The setting is dark. There is no one on the street (because most sane people are cozy in their houses at 5:25 am), and it is cold outside. It had snowed enough the day before to last through the night. The continued cold and nocturnal precipitation had layered a dangerous sheet of ice over the crunchy snow so that when I placed my foot on the top step I found, for the first time, that our handrail is intended as a stabilizing feature, and not merely a leaning post. What is generally a three minute walk was drawn out to ten, as I gingerly slid from step to step with a growing certainty of an immanent fall which would cause me to break my wrist. Fortunately, however, I made it to work with nothing worse than a mark in the tardy column in my personnel file.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Two fiascoes and a frozen fake-out

Out of fear that I will not be able to maintain the energy to start blogging, I will save updates on the last couple of months for a better time; (that is, when you call me, or when I have had coffee and my fingers are willing to fly over the keys) but I have promised my mother that I would write about the holiday desserts this year, and it is bad form to break promises so soon after the day of new resolutions. So here is my story.

Anyone who does not read my sister's blog in tandem with mine does not necessarily know that she has become quite the gourmet. I'm rather ashamed to admit that she has, on more than one occasion, saved me from flopping into my bed with an empty and growling stomach by offering me a meal of "planet salad" or Thai Mahi at the end of the day, as I am too exhausted to brown and munch my quick-cook pot stickers. So when Thanksgiving loomed on the calendar and she began rehearsing her menu of honey roasted duck, and other out of this world delicacies I found myself torn between the desire to be helpful and the knowledge of my domestic ineptitude. I offered to make dessert. I culled through some recipes and (skipping over Pumpkin Pie in favor of something more exotic) landed on a Pushing Daisies-inspired Pear Gruyere Pie. Then began the problems.

First, the fridge ate my butter. Second, I forgot that a one-serving-sized blender will not be able to manage the ingredients for a whole (five-serving) pie. Third, Sarah does gourmet cooking: not baking. Therefore she doesn't have unbleached white flour, or fine sugar or anything but sea salt. And Fourth, I'm a horrible cook.
When my slightly overly browned, wheat flour crust concoction had finally cooled enough for me to foist it upon my fellow celebrants, I was simply relieved that there was plenty of coffee and cookies homemade by Tacy (who is an excellent baker and cook) to erase the taste of my mess from our mouths. Fiasco number one.
For Christmas, I was inspired by the untasted Guinness in my fridge, and chocolate all around, and the realization that a cake does not require a pie-crust (which I will slowly work up to making again). So Chocolate-Stout cake was the goal. One would hope that after thanksgiving I would be advised that I should furnish my own baking soda, sugar, etc., but I had again forgotten (I had managed to remember the flour this time) so after countless trips back and forth from my apartment to Sarah's kitchen, a close call with chocolate getting too hot too fast, I managed to spatula the batter into the two pans and stick them in the oven. Then I attempted the icing. The problem with time, is that it cannot be hurried, and so when I tried to squeeze the 2 hour prep time for the icing into 20 minutes, I ended up making a chocolate cake with chocolate sauce. At least it was edible this time. Fiasco number two.

Our New Year's celebration widened from the familial three (Sarah, Zeb and me) to eight. My easily-intimidatable nature suggested that I not test the truth of the "third time's a charm" adage. Our dessert was Trader Joe's frozen Tiramisu. It was delicious. If Lisa hadn't been with me when I bought it, I had been less honest, and the world didn't know about fiascoes one and two, no one would have even known that I am not a world class dessert artist. Thank goodness the next holiday is Valentine's because I sure do know how to pick out good chocolate, and can make drinking chocolate like nobody's business. Small steps away from disaster, I suppose.