Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pawns in Our Own Game

At conference each year, we tour on three motor coaches. Each coach has a "captain," one of the conference planners, and each captain is armed with a heavy-duty walkie-talkie in order to coordinate with the other two coaches while we're on the road. Are you with me so far?

The captains are not normally armed with tape dispensers - this photo was taken just as I had put all of the the bus signs up. I had the best bus, by the way. Did I mention that I had the best bus? Well, I did. Go Green!

Conference is intense and it's a lot of work. But we have a lot of fun too, and one of the most fun things that we do is the bus cheer. It's funny how these things get started. From what I'm told, there never was a bus cheer until conference two years ago (I didn't work here yet, then), when the host city delegate assigned to each of the three tour buses stirred up the spirit of competition. It was a huge deal, that year. "I think by the end of the week," the delegate from that year's host confided to me last week, "we were just about ready to kill each other."

A few people from that year's host always attend conference, though, wherever it is, so the tradition has continued. My Gator Green bus cheer, last year, was written by an attendee from that city. But this year, the delegate had to leave partway through the week - and we pressed on regardless.

It's funny how things take on a life of their own. She started a cheer; no one much cared for it, and I thought it would fizzle out after she left. My two bosses were the captains of the other two buses, and they thought the whole thing would fizzle out too. But our attendees wouldn't let it drop. One of my bus people wrote us an awesome new cheer. I've told you how we actually ended up rehearsing in my room after hours, thereby ruining whatever reputation as a virtuous innocent I might heretofore have held (but let's not kid ourselves).

All that happened, though, was that my boss mentioned that on her bus - the blue bus - she was surprised at who had written the cheer. He's someone from our office, a good friend of mine. He's a funny, intelligent person, but not exactly someone you'd picture as a cheerleader. His supervisor happened to be assigned to my bus. So it all went down like this:

"Hey, you guys," I told my bus, "I heard a rumor that the Blue bus is really good. I heard they've been practicing. And I heard their cheer was written by a professional writer."

My bus immediately began to murmur. A professional writer? Who could it be?! "Isn't Charles on that bus?" asked one of my attendees, but his boss piped up right away: "Oh, I don't think that's the sort of thing Charles would do."

"I know!" I said significantly, "I wouldn't have thought so, either."

Her eyes flashed, and from that point it was GAME ON! Rehearsal was held in my room later that evening. Here I am with the photographer for whom I sacrificed my reputation, by the way. You have to admit he is pretty cute.

But even egging on our attendees this way - and there is some very strange sociology going on here, I have to admit - neither of my bosses, nor I, really knew quite how it got to be so big, or quite where some aspects of the whole phenomenon started off. I mused about it after the cheer competition, which I still think the Green bus should have won. "Does it ever seem to you," I asked my two bosses, "that we are merely pawns in our own game?"

They looked hard at me. "Well, duh," they said.

Just checking.

Forget the tape dispenser. If only I could dress like this for work every day!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Important Things

I know there's been a lot of talk about swine flu in the media lately, and it's sad and all, but I don't have time for that right now. I'm having a hair emergency.

What? It's humid.

There's this perfect product I really like, so naturally the manufacturer discontinued it. All you can find out there these days are pomades designed to smooth and straighten out your hair, or sculpting mousse and gels that make it all crispy. Soft, natural curls are apparently out. It's sad when what you have goes out of style, but I guess hair is the least of my worries, as far as that's concerned.

At least I know some straight men.

So I ran out of hair goo, and rushed post haste to HEB to get some more, tonight at about 9:15, figuring I'd pick up a fresh eyeliner as well. Alas! HEB has an odd policy of blocking off the makeup aisle after dark, and I haven't quite figured out the reasoning behind that. It's probably so that vampires, stumbling in sleepily to stock up for a long night of murderous debauchery, won't be able to conceal their true nature from their victims through the artful use of flesh-colored foundation (and will therefore have to rely on nightclub lighting and beer goggles like the rest of us). Or maybe cosmetics get shoplifted a lot. Whatever. At least the hair goo aisle was still open - you can't prohibit vampires from shampooing, that'd be discrimination - but my preferred brand no longer exists; so I grabbed a bottle of something that looked reasonably close and got in the 10-items-or-fewer line.

(The blocked-off cosmetics aisle pisses me off, but I do have to applaud HEB for their "10 items or fewer" checkout lanes. Signs that say "10 items or less" make the baby Jesus cry.)

There was a middle-aged couple ahead of me in line. Now, I didn't count the number of items they had, partly because I think that's kind of tacky and ill-natured, but largely because I wasn't sure I'd have enough fingers. They purchased their items and struggled a little bit with the card swiper - it appeared to be the first one they'd ever seen - and then, as the cashier was finalizing their transaction, the woman noticed the gum on clearance next to the register.

"That gum," she said to the cashier, "how much is that?"

"It's a dollar," the cashier responded.

"Let me have a pack of the winter fresh," said the woman.

Unfortunately, the transaction had already been closed out, so the woman decided to pay cash separately for the gum. But comically, while she was fishing slowly in her purse for a dollar, the cashier voided the transaction. So the cashier rang the whole thing up over again, became confused when the woman attempted to pay for the entire purchase with a dollar, they finally arrived at an understanding, and the man began once more trying to figure out how the card swiper worked. Meanwhile, the woman noticed the price of the gum as it flashed up on the checkout display and began bickering with the cashier because the amount was more than a dollar. The cashier attempted to explain the concept of sales tax. The woman wasn't having any of it. People in the non-express lane one over, who had arrived in line much later than I did, were finishing up and leaving. The haggling continued.

Finally they concluded everything to their satisfaction, completed their purchase, took their bags, and left. The clerk rang up my hair goo, I swiped my card and got my receipt, and I overtook the couple in the parking lot halfway to my car. I strode past them with rather needless flamboyance, I'm afraid. I wanted to make a point. Stupid slow people!

Karma will probably catch up with me either in the form of swine flu or of being sucked dry by vampires, but at least I'll have good hair.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rain Bath Aftermath

And so life returns to normal - such as it is.

Yesterday, Tony took Anna and me to the turtle pond at UT. Oddly, I don't remember ever noticing it before, although I must have walked past it nearly every day when I was at school; it presumably existed before I was born, having been dedicated in memory of the 1966 shootings.

Sometimes when you are very sad and missing someone, almost everything reminds you of them. But the fact that the 1966 shootings fall so squarely into that category really ought to give me pause.

Walking back to the car after our excursion, Tony and I passed a guy heading the other way down the sidewalk. He was holding a plastic container slightly above him, at arm's length. "Would you like some Chex Mix?" he inquired as our paths crossed.

I'm not sure what you're supposed to say to this, unless you're unusually hungry. Tony and I politely declined and waited until we were out of earshot to begin snickering in bewildered amusement. Chex Mix: it's not just for people you know!

Back at work today, I sent an email Tony told me not to. It's unlikely ever to get read anyway. Maybe it's the darkness and the rain that make my heart so heavy.

There is bad news about Debby - not that it can really get worse than it already is. Her pain has increased enough that she's now drugged pretty much out of her head. This is probably kinder, as the inside of her head can't be a very fun place anymore, and I guess I'm glad I got to visit and say goodbye while she was still completely lucid. Her little girl has finally been told, which is - well, not good exactly. What could be good? Life is so short, and so often filled with unnecessary hurt, isn't it? Where there's life, there should be hope. But some things are hopeless.

At work, staff photographer Kevin gave me a sneak preview of all the pictures from conference, though I can only look at them, can't have 'em, until he does some editing. And he told me a story. Our CVB contact at conference came up to him Thursday, in his slouchy driver's hat (remember those? In the early 80's, when I was a mere slip of a girl, my more stylish classmates wore those in smart red satin that matched their lip gloss) and said to him, brusquely - she's cute, competent, and lots of fun, this girl, but her manner is very abrupt - "I like your hat. I knew a guy who used to wear a hat like that. But he died." Then she walked away.

Kevin was speechless. If only someone had approached him immediately afterward to offer him some Chex Mix.

I still wish... But what can you wish for? Life is normal, which is to say, as good as you make it. I would kind of like some Chex Mix, though.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hey Shorty! It's Your Birthday!

It's good to be back home.

One of the best things about Eeyore's Birthday Party is that everyone is so nice... it's a very happy festival, full of charity and goodwill, not to mention dogs, at least one shoulder-borne cat, a goat, a pig, probably some other wildlife I didn't see, people dressed as Twinkies and bananas, the guy on the two-story bike, drums, smoke (both kinds - the dangerous one and the illegal one), and beautiful girls and boys of all ages and shapes and sizes in various stages of dress, undress, feathers, foliage, and paint. Also, there's beer.

Last time I volunteered at Eeyore's, year before last, I painted faces. The pressure was just too much, though - even though most of my paintings came out extremely well, I was horribly anxious about all of them, and the one silent, solemn little girl whose liquid eyes welled up and spilled over when I gave her the mirror was enough to convince me that this was not a job I was ever willing to take on again, even if nobody asked me to decorate their naughty bits. So this time I sold beer tickets. This is a doable job: insanely busy and fast-paced, and you have to be able to do simple arithmetic in your head reasonably quickly - a weak point of mine actually - but everybody's happy, everybody's nice, and because you're roped off behind a three-foot-tall fence of orange webbing, nobody cops a feel. The organizers give you a special marker that turns yellow on real bills so you can check 100's (and you'd be surprised how many people pay with those). You run out of tickets and ones a lot. It was the fastest two hours I've ever spent - I'm definitely up for doing this again next year!

After our shift, Robbie and I wandered around a bit, visited the drum circle, checked out the egg toss, and then found our lovely friend Diane, in honor of whose 50th birthday the whole festival was actually being held even if many of the partygoers were unaware of that fact. What better way to celebrate?

Happy Birthday, Diane and Eeyore - and many more!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 25, 2009


We knew we were whipped when the yellow bus smacked themselves on the ass and started singing: "Don't you wish your bus was HOT like us? Don't you wish your bus was a FREAK like us? Don'tcha!" and then, when they snapped on their sunglasses in perfect unison and started walking like an Egyptian and the audience started yelling and howling, it was pretty much all over.

The green bus was still awesome anyway. So here, since I published this last year, was this year's cheer. I won't tell you what tune it was sung to.

(Clapping) Left my good job at the center,
Traveled on down to San Angelo,
(snapping)Met a lot of people,
Ate a lot of good food,
San Angelo's been so happy to give!
(rolling hands) Green bus keep on turning,
Good times keep on burning;
(rolling hands and pointing to the guys as they sing) Rolling! (Guys sing "Rolling!") Rolling! (Guys sing "Rolling!") Rolling down the Concho!
Rolling! (Guys sing "Rolling!") Rolling! (Guys sing "Rolling!") Rolling in San Angelo! (Guys sing "Rolling in San Angelo," deep and slow, as we girls sink to our knees before them and fan them with our jazz hands.)

Don't you wish you'd been there to see it? Don'tcha?!

But the blue bus just sucked.

Anyway, it's over, it's done, I'm back, it was a success, and I had a blast. Now it't time to start getting ready for hurricane season. Meanwhile, off to Eeyore's Birthday Party to sell some beer! Film at 11.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day Three: You Learn Something Every Day

Day Three was yesterday, I'm late, sorry. Been kinda busy.

Okay, so yesterday we started off with a motivational speaker/trainer. I liked her better than last year's, and I definitely liked her WAY better than Mr. Wave My Hand in Front of Your Face Oh Look You're Inexplicably Weakened Now I Can Push Your Arm Down for No Readily Apparent Purpose (who, based on a couple of quick interactions with him on the phone when he called for my boss and he assumed I was "just" the secretary, is also a prick) but let's face it, a motivational speaker is a motivational speaker.

There are four types of people in the world, and if you're one of these, you may have learned to ACT like another one some of the time, but you are by nature and in your comfort zone one of these only:

A Director: Speaks in nouns and action verbs. Makes decisions and gets things done. Focused on the ends.

A Socializer: All about the good times, a dreamer, dynamic, vain, self-centered, fun, talkative.

A Relater: Cares about peace and harmony above all else, will do whatever it takes to negotiate a happy balance among others.

A Thinker: Analytical and detail-oriented, goes nuts if things are out of place or don't go according to plan.

Naturally, the problem with putting people in boxes (even if you do remember to poke plenty of air holes) is that they don't necessarily fit into just one - though, when questioned on it, the speaker insisted everyone does. There are four of us here in my group, as it happens, and a couple of the others eagerly seized on the notion that, hey, we've got one of each! A Director (my overall boss, whom I'd classify as a Socializer, if I had to pick), a Thinker (my immediate boss - good enough, but she's nowhere near as inflexible or as uncomfortable with shifting situations as the speaker was saying), a Socializer (me) and a Relater (our section admin). I tried explaining that I'm actually very shy, but nobody would believe me.

Ah well, it'll all blow over.

After that we were back on the bus for tours, as well as our group photo. Have you ever organized a group photo of 90 people? I bet you think it can't be done within 20 minutes. Well, I did it. (I guess maybe the photographer helped.) I was down there with the group screaming at everyone to divide up by height and maneuver everyone into position (the PA system on my bus doesn't work, so I've done a lot of screaming the last few days) and damned if we didn't get that shot done and everyone on their way back to the buses in 10 minutes flat.

I rock.

We also have to do a big cheer for our bus (the green bus again!) and last night, after all the touring was done, I actually had everybody up to my room to practice. This didn't look suspicious at all. First I had to run down to the hospitality suite, where one of our sponsors poured me a glass of wine. "Here," he told me, "this is a really nice red, give this a try.

"Oh thank you," I said as my glass was filled, "I have to go take care of something. Excuse me." On my way out I caught Kevin, the photographer, who's on my bus but was taking care of other duties during our tours this afternoon, so he didn't know about our rehearsal plans. "Hey, could you come with me for a bit? I need help with something," I told him, and led him off to my room.

Hotel rooms are not all that big, it turns out, when you get twenty excited, giggling people into them. We practiced our cheer several times, occasionally shushing each other lest someone from one of the other, lesser buses might be next door. They must not hear it yet. They must not know how badly their little blue and yellow butts are going to get kicked later today.

And then my phone rang. General panic ensued, but everyone shushed down into subsided giggling and I answered it calmly. "Hello?"

"Oh, hi, Elizabeth," said an unfamiliar man's voice, "Is Kevin in your room by any chance?"

Uh-oh. "Um," I said. "I don't, um. Who's calling, please?"

It was someone I don't know, an industry person in town for the conference. I put my hand over the mouthpiece and gazed frantically at Kevin. "It's [so-and-so]," I whispered, "what do I do?"

"I know him, I know what he needs," said Kevin, "I'll talk to him." So I handed over the phone.

That's my old reputation over and done with, and a whole new one just starting out. Hopefully I can 'splain everything tomorrow after our big debut.

Although when you get down to it, why should I care? I'm a Socializer!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day Two: I Told You So

I can't really talk much about it here, but I can tell you that today I learned that Jim Bowie had a big knife... a big knife. Also I learned that his brother pounded, and pounded, and pounded the steel.

I'll just have to explain it later.

Oh hey, we made it on the local news tonight! They got some footage of my group at the bordello.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day One: Cautionary

Okay, so I have just literally fled, I do mean literally, the hospitality suite at the hotel where many of my coworkers and industry contacts are boozing it up. I'm one of the planners, a representative of "authority" - it's my job to order everyone to show up for mandatory breakfast at 7:00 a.m. - and I want to party it up just as bad as anybody else... I think the worst part is that everyone can clearly tell that I was made for partying, not for ordering perfectly innocent coworkers out of their beds at an ungodly hour!

And yet - and this is where, I'm not trying to be too immodest, but this is where my actual superpower comes in - I genuinely understand why we have all the fugly stickly regulations, and am prepared to defend them, sympathetically, until everyone else understands them just as well and follows them voluntarily, no matter how much rum they had tonight.

But first I have to perform a James-Bond-esque escape from the hospitality room, trying desperately not to spill my Sprite, zig-zagging down the corridor, reaching the elevator scarcely ahead of my laughing pursuers, and punching the button for my floor repeatedly until the doors close, I heave a sigh of relief, and find my way back safely to my room. Don't answer the phone!!!

Highlight of the day, earlier: dinner at a lake house and boating on the lake, courtesy of the host CVB, went to hell when the boat ran out of gas in the middle of the lake, stranding a dozen of our attendees. I feel bad for the CVB, who did indeed double-and-triple-check with the boat rental company that they had a full tank. Certainly not the CVB's fault. Nothing trumps rampant incompetence. Nothing. Do you hear me? Write it down! You really might need to remember it later.

Tomorrow I have an exceptionally early morning, and no business being awake this late. So good night, sweet, reader(s) - and tomorrow is another day! I brought running shoes for the hospitality room.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Act Your Age, Not Your Sleep Number

Spring has come to breathe a promise (or a threat) of the coming summer, and I find myself lying alone in a hotel room in San Angelo, trying to find my personal Sleep Number.

That's going to be the first line when I write my Great American Novel.

It's not right. It's an air mattress. It feels like an air mattress. Once you get it soft enough, it feels like a partially deflated air mattress in a box, and you can't really sit on the edge of it properly. The whole dual adjustable sides thing is wrong, too, because I'm here on business and this bed is MINE, the whole entire thing, not just half of it. Hell, I have TWO beds, that's how much I plan to spread out. And when I take a shower tomorrow, I'm gonna use one towel for my body and a whole nother towel just for my hair.

But I digress. All I'm trying to say here is that I'm not all that impressed with the Sleep Number beds, and I don't see why the Bionic Woman is so gung-ho about the damn things. And I wanted so badly, when I was little, to grow up to be just like her...

It's been a road-intensive weekend; yesterday, Tony, Robbie, and some other friends and I went on a day-touring trip Tony planned. We went to Marble Falls, ate breakfast at the Bluebonnet Cafe, toured Longhorn Cavern, visited the Devil's Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park, popped in for a quick peek at the dam on the dismally low Lake Buh-chanan, then finished the day with dinner at Chili's in Marble Falls, on the patio overlooking the water as the sun set.

Then the group separated and Robbie and I went shopping at Walgreen's. For some odd reason, this is one of my favorite things to do with Robbie - though basking on the rocks by the shores of Inks Lake with him like a couple of sea lions is giving Walgreen's a run for its money. But you can't buy (ahem) shoulder massagers at Inks Lake, or if you could you probably wouldn't want to, not that I would want to purchase such an object anyway, seeing as how I've got a Sleep Number bed here to keep me busy.

This is going to be a long week.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 17, 2009

San Angelo Ho!

Who are you calling a ho?!

Do you know, at my old job, I wasn't really expected to show up on time. I still get quite a bit of slack at the new one. The general rule in workplaces seems to be that, if you really get your job done and you're efficient, proactive, and productive, a few minutes here and there is no big deal. If you're a useless schlub who can't produce your way out of the bathroom, you damn well better be there by 8 o'clock sharp.

Why is this? It doesn't really make sense. If you don't actually do anything, what difference does it make what time you show up to not do it by?

Those are musings for another day. Today's pearl of wisdom is merely this: if you're going to ride your bike to work in the rain, bring a change of clothes. And bring a change of clothes if your usual coffee flask is dirty, and you've been forced to carry a rather less waterproof one in the water-bottle pouch on the side of your backpack as a substitute. Mud splatters all over your oft-reprimanded, protruding upper female parts are unprofessional. So is a stream of coffee all down one side of your shirt and around the back of your leg.

Anyway, conference is next week, and as far as I can tell we're ready; every single tiny niggling detail is squared away, though I still have to figure out a way to plan out the group photo shoot (89 people) so it takes under 25 minutes. One of the things I find exhilarating about my job is that I have to figure out how to do things where, honestly. I have NO idea. It's fun!

Using an elephant gun would probably be quicker... however, it might not be a good idea for me to suggest this.

A former coworker, likewise, has been working on the planning of a different conference I helped with about a year and a half ago. I complained, at the time, of having to sit through planning committee meetings once a week for six months. Never mind that we didn't have to plan offsite trips, timing of tours, catering, meeting venues, audiovisual needs, transportation, sleeping rooms, registration fees, or any of the other things that generally make planning a conference complicated. This year, my former coworker told me, they're hoping to cover a great deal of the subject matter via videoconference.

This is amusing. Before I left, I took a crash course in using our videoconference equipment for this purpose. It turned out that using the videoconference equipment to transmit the image of the green-screen, DOS mainframe application my former division uses to perform most of its functions doesn't work. The videoconference trainer's explanation was that the screen resolution didn't transmit well; mine was that mixing mainframe and videoconference technology, if unchecked, will probably cause the universe to explode.

All well and good, except that our mainframe happens to be housed at the University of San Angelo - where I'll be all next week. So wish me luck!

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Balancing Attempts

In high school, I was co-captain of the Scholars' Bowl team.

Yes. Go on, I know you're impressed. I told you I was hip.

Tonight, a few people I know from work went to a trivia night at a restaurant near my house. I didn't really know what to expect, but what the heck - trivia!

It turns out I must have killed off a few brain cells since high school, because my team suffered an epic loss to - well, to everyone else there, first and foremost a table with a guy who was reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" when I arrived.

The universe is still badly out of whack.

At least I've been rocking hard at work, and that makes up for a lot. Conference in San Angelo is next week, and I am all over that like shit on a fly... I am so good. I feel awesome. Of course, it hasn't actually taken place yet, but I would just like to say that, coming into the final stretch, I feel like the most competent person on earth.

If I still feel this way one week from right now, I done good.

Next Saturday I'm selling beer (NOT painting faces) at Eeyore's - come see me! Ask me about San Angelo. And ask me who the first person besides Oprah ever to appear on the cover of O Magazine was. I knew that one.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chocolate Bunnies

Life is too short for holding grudges, for unkindness, for ill-will, for being mean. Life is just too short for - well, life's too short, and then you die.

Jim's sister, two years older than I am, has been diagnosed with a second form of blood cancer, in addition to the leukemia whose recurrence was diagnosed in November. It's not just "leukemia" - there are different types, and Jim's mom mentioned the name, but I don't remember what it was. She was cured a couple of years ago, after receiving a bone marrow transplant from Jim's stem cells. But cancer, like the cat, came back. She's far too weakened from double pneumonia (a little "oops" from her chemotherapy) for them to treat the new problem. It's not likely she has much time.

So Jim's family gathered in Houston for Easter, and I went with Jim and my daughters to see Debby. She was the one who introduced us in the first place. I used to work with her, at Sematech, in the 1990's. Cute girl, outgoing, exubuerant, lots of pretty, curly, dark hair, but she was in a lousy situation: waiting for a lease to expire, she was still living with a guy who had broken up with her, so the juxtaposition of our situation on hers is a little ironic, maybe. Short as it may be, life abounds with odd little coincidences. Jim's family has not been told we have been (to all intents and purposes) separated for years now, though obviously they've noticed I never show up for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or other family gatherings. They were surprised to see me for Easter.

Unmercifully, her brain remains clear and alert, though her physical body has become a liability. She can't speak, because she had a tracheostomy to get her through the pneumonia. Her skin is dry, flaking, blistering. She can barely use her hands: they are weak, and shake uncontrollably. She uses a suction tube frequently to remove bile from her mouth. She's in diapers. There are tubes into her nose, her throat, and her arms. But when Jim bumbles into the room, knocking over the box of surgical masks by the door and blowing into his gloves in a ridiculously futile effort to get them comfortably onto his hands, she laughs.

Her 9-year-old daughter hasn't been told that her mom won't be getting better and coming home this time. Debby asked her next younger sister to break the news. Of course, the little girl knows - people know things. This is one reason it's always better to be honest. She refuses to go to the hospital to visit, and it's not hard to understand.

Visiting is hard. It's hard to act normal, to talk cheerfully in a surgical mask and latex gloves, to someone who looks like a caricature of the someone you once went out clubbing with. But it's stupid to talk about little else besides the amusing fart noises you can make with the gloves. So I talk about the kids playing in mud puddles after the freaky Easter morning rainstorm, or about how once I was forced to sit through Oprah and Oprah brought a puppy on her show and proved herself to be, beyond question, the single most annoying human being on the face of the earth. Occasionally Debby tries to join in the conversation and I can't understand her. Cracking a joke? Asking for her blanket? Needing the nurse? Debby is frustrated.

But goodbye is the awful part. I do understand when Debby mouths, "You can go, you don't have to stay." It's late and we have to drive back to Austin. How horrible to leave her there to the nurses and to the sad little thing her life has become. No one deserves this, no one. Debby was a demanding patient from the very first, before she really got sick, tending to overstate her pain and even - to use her own phrase - "playing the leukemia card" to get her way, and the nurses know this. So now, they take their time answering the frequent summons from her call button, and are a bit brusque when they deal with her. I feel like shaking them.

We say goodbye and she cries, and Katie and I cry though we've been trying really hard to project good cheer. "I love you so much, I love you so much," she is whispering. We tell her we love her, and blow kisses - you can't touch her - and leave, stripping off our gloves and masks, to reenter the normal world outside the hospital doors where the bright afternoon sun is setting, where Debby can't go. Driving back to Austin, I glanced at the speedometer several times to find I was pegging ninety. I get to leave.

Life's too short. But knowing that isn't enough.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Life Imitates Kentucky Fried Movie

Do you watch local news?

I'm sitting in a Comfort Suites in Houston; and while not completely defenseless - I am armed with a laptop, a copy of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," and - in the event of a particularly dire emergency - a choice between the Yellow Pages or the Gideon Bible - I still managed to pick up a two-minute local TV news brief, with an attractive female news anchor who missed her calling on the silver screen. In the 30's. Acting just ain't what it used to be.

"A neighborhood already wracked by crime was shocked when a man was shot in broad daylight in his car outside his home," she informs us in dire tones; the camera cuts to a statement by a tearful neighbor. "And in other news, in a tragic shooting, two children are dead." She goes on without pausing or altering her tone. "Add drywall to the list of hidden dangers that lurk in your home."

I can't help noticing that this hotel room has a fairly high concentration of drywall. Maybe I better start reading that Gideon Bible after all.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Did Not See This Coming

So apparently we're actually keeping the kitten.

Who knew?

Labels: ,

Friday, April 03, 2009

Allegro, ma with a 40% chance of non troppo

“And today’s weather should be Beethoven-esque,” enthused the announcer on KMFA this morning, “because it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous!”

I don’t mean to be unfair – he didn’t ask to have my alarm clock set to his station; and honestly, there’s probably not a lot he could be saying at 6 AM that wouldn’t piss me off. Still his statement seemed fairly insipid (and if he improved on it any I didn’t hear, because I hit the snooze button). Beethoven’s gorgeous. Brahms is gorgeous. Prokofiev is gorgeous. But they’re hardly interchangeable.

Much of Beethoven’s music has a dark, troubled beauty, better suited to an impending storm than to a bright, warm spring day. Mozart, on the other hand, brings cheerful breezes and sunshine to mind.

Bach weather would be calm and pleasant, without surprises. A Bartók day would be disjointed and jangling. You’d be on your way to the pool to work on your tan and suddenly get lost in a blizzard.

Pretty much all your Russian composers are extremely windy. Shostakovich also has acid rain.

Philip Glass is a long, monotonous, dull Sunday afternoon with nothing to do, and you’d like it to come to an end, but it does not.

Then you have your really heavy composers. If it’s a Mahler or Bruckner day, you probably want to board up the windows and stay in the basement. Wagner weather takes things further: it uproots mighty trees, razes buildings, disorders the universe, and seduces your wife.

I’d get a job as a radio announcer, but you have to get up too early.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Lay Low

April Fools' Day is a good day to call in sick. Well, except that of course your boss will totally know you're faking.

The only real drawback to my wonder job is that sometimes I have to deal with members of the (eeeewwwww!) Public. Usually it's just via email, and that's not so bad; but it sucks when the Public gets a hold of my phone number.

The Public is very annoying. If you've told it once, you've told it a thousand times. But does it remember? No! The Public asks the same exact stupid question again and again and again. It's enough to get right up a bureaucrat's nose. Frankly, the Public could stand to learn a thing or two about collective consciousness.

So today, my phone rings, and a soft, hesitant voice says, "Yes, hello, I'd like to get some information about travel?"

My friend Tony does this every so often. "Yes, ma'am," he'll say when I answer the phone, "I need some information on -" "OH SHUT UP, YOU DO NOT!!!!" I'll shout. And very lucky I am, I might add, that every time this has happened, it has indeed been Tony on the other end of the line.

This person did not sound like Tony, but he didn't sound like the Public either. "Um," I said.

He addressed me by name. "You do work with travel information, don't you? I need some help planning a trip to San Angelo."

Oh, I don't think so. "May I ask who this is?"

He burst out laughing, and much to my surprise did not turn out to be a friend of Tony's, put up to the task for his unfamiliar voice, but one of my April conference registrants. That little stinker. See if he gets any snacks on the bus!

So I sent Tony a text to tell him about it. He's at a surveyors' conference with Pinche, a coworker of his I dated for a few months, a little over a year ago. We're on cordial terms - though we don't see each other except when we occasionally end up in joint social settings, and greet each other with a kiss on the cheek and make small talk, you know how it is. "Did I tell you," Tony texted me, "Pinche got engaged?"

Whoa. So Tony sent me a few more details; he met a girl online, and they'd only known each other about two weeks, so it was pretty sudden. I wasn't quite sure how to feel - a little shocked - I guess that sort of thing always has an impact. "Tell him congratulations for me," I texted back. "I hope they will be very happy. He's a good guy."

"And guess what else," my phone lights up to tell me, "April Fool's!"

If I'd just stayed home today, none of this would have happened.

Labels: , ,