Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Caboose on the loose

Sometimes I'm the engine, sometimes I'm the caboose.

Every train needs an engine or two or three or more.  We push things along, pull them if we have to, work, work, work to get things done.  You can have a train without an engine, but it ain't goin' nowhere.

Every train used to have a caboose.  The caboose gave shelter and a place for rest as well as a serving as a spot to look out for trouble like shifting loads and broken equipment and potential fire.  But trains don't have use for the caboose any longer.  Technology advanced, FREDs could monitor the train electronically and the caboose was loosed.  Train lovers romanticize the caboose.  It's the old way, the way it should be, trains just aren't what they used to be without a caboose.  It's a cherished relic.

Engines are what you have to have.  They're accountants, they're clerks, they're line workers, customer service agents, network administrators and HR specialists.  Cabooses, however, make things interesting.  They are artists, musicians, chefs and poets.  Sometimes I have to be the engine, but I much prefer my time as the caboose.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Loose Ends

“Climbing a mountain in darkness
Stranded alone on the ledge.
Every attempt that I make to hold on
Pushes me nearer the edge.

Sensing the changes impending
My thoughts are diffused by despair
I feel like I'm swimming straight up underwater
Desperately racing for air. I'm racing for air.

And the chords struck at birth grow more distant
Yet, we strike them again and again.
And we plead and we pray for a glimmer of day
As the night folds its wings and descends
Exposing the loose ends.

Surrounding myself with possessions
I surely have more than I need
I don't know if this is justice, hard earned,
Or simply a matter of greed. A matter of greed.”
"Loose Ends" - D.Fogelberg

The story goes that Dan Fogelberg was having a horrible bout of writer’s block and the song that broke it was “Loose Ends”.  This song has been roaming in and out of my mind for months.  Months.  Months and months.  It describes my tenuous grasp on who I am.  Everything is overwhelming, sleep is a luxury, food is medicinal and my muse is absent.

Maybe it’s the oppressive heat.  Maybe it’s Mercury.  Maybe it’s the job.  Maybe it’s my burned to a crisp garden.  Maybe it’s my messy house.  Maybe it’s the grind.  Maybe it’s the change.  Maybe it’s my husband’s incompatible work schedule.  Maybe it’s the political climate.  Maybe it’s what stares back at me from the mirror.  Maybe it’s what doesn’t. 

Somewhere between fear and flight is a hairline crack.  I hope enough moonlight can find its way through.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter dress

Easter just wasn't very Eastery this year. At church we made wonderful music, the services were lovely, the breakfast between them was tasty and plentiful. There was chocolate, sunshine and a gentle breeze.

But no new dress.

Yes, I am that shallow.

As a child, Easter was synonymous with a new dress. Christmas might be a new outfit, pants and a jacket, skirt and blouse; back to school just meant another long year in a stupid plaid jumper. But Easter, grand, spring-infused Easter, meant a new dress. Something light, bright, floaty, flowery or lacy. Usually made by my mother, sometimes, if it was a good year, store bought from PN Hirsch or Kmart. Not that I was much of a dressy girl. Mostly I preferred pants and pullovers to pinafores. Easter, however, was a different story. Slipping into that new dress on Easter morning was like a transformation, my own private resurrection. No longer was I the dumpy, dirty blonde kid from the sticks. Every year that Easter dress turned me into Judy Garland, Eve Plumb and Angela Cartwright all rolled into one.

Throughout the years, I kept up the tradition. Whether from a tony specialty store's sale rack or my favorite second hand shop, a new dress for Easter was a must. This year I did not find one. Several went into the dressing room, none were "the" dress. My frugality got the best of me, not wanting to spend the cash unless it was "the" dress, so I passed on them all. Now I wish I'd brought home the little cotton orange floral number that I thought made me look too much like an extra on the set of Mad Men.

Lesson leaned. Some things are worth the money, especially when tied so closely to your heart.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Diggin' Up Bones - Adventures in Re-tale

Six hours in a rag top Jeep with big Al. The malls of Tulsa needed more music stores and we knew how to open them. So off we rode, tanked up on coffee, armed with Reba, Nanci and Randy, ready to oblige.

In the late ‘80’s, the mall was king. Great, gleaming polished stone, sparkling fountains, painted women with big hair and money everywhere. And Trans World Music was expanding rapidly to claim their share of it. So rapidly that a district manager wasn’t available to set up and oversee the Tulsa openings. Enter the dynamic duo.

Ads had already been placed, dates were set for cattle call applicant speed dating, stores were… not ready. The construction workers were on strike. Not to be beaten, we rescheduled freight, hired staffs we could not yet train, did what we could outside the wrath of the union, and wasted time. The lessons learned were invaluable.

  1. Oklahoma liquor laws are crazy.
  2. Bar-b-qued baloney was on every buffet and it was surprisingly good.
  3. Bar-b-qued everything was on the bigger buffets and it was not all good.
  4. If you slide a 4’ x 8’ piece of glass on its edge along carpet, tempered or not, it will build up enough static electricity to shatter.
  5. Nanci Griffith is one of the most intriguing songwriters of her generation.
  6. Corona with lime, even 3.2, is most refreshing while soaking in a hotel hot tub.
  7. Every Randy Travis song on “Storms Of Life” can be sung to the tune of “Diggin’ Up Bones”… after enough 3.2 Corona.

Stores were opened, we returned to St. Louis, the market changed, the record industry went into spiral, stores closed. But our trip was not a waste. BBQ, Corona, Nanci & Randy are forever. “Diggin' up bones, I'm diggin' up bones… Exhuming things that’s better left alone…”

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Random thoughts cannot be stopped

With untold projects to address, inertia has ceased. My sleep deprived mind continues to spin aimlessly in every direction, leaving my body behind and my emotions tumultuous. Focus is a feat stupendous, so I have decided not to bother.

Earl Grey? Jasmine? Earl Grey? Chamomile. The crocus are blooming already. All my blue shirts need ironed, none of my black ones do. Damn, I forgot to plug in my phone charger. Tune down a half step and capo up or just tune to pitch? Want to get the roma-style beans this year and scarlet runners. I think I missed a dentist appointment in January. Why can I not finish this book? Have I lost interest or do I not want it to end? Zicam. Maybe it's the remnants of the full moon. I wasn't happy when I was thin, either. Need to use that mascara coupon, get rid of the glumpy one. Could I run away for just one week? My Aldi's orchid is going to bloom again. I love hearing the train whistles from down by the river. I'll just start a new book. Re-wet humidifiers. Drier buzz, phone ring, oven beep, appliance cacophony. What if something really goes wrong? Find the cell phone donation place. The grape needs an oil change. I'd like those pepper strips a lot better with some dip. Make lunch for tomorrow. Why can't I sleep?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Re-tales: Miss Sally

"Re-tales" will be a reoccurring feature, remembering stories from a career in retail.
Installment # 1 - Miss Sally

Miss Sally

An era was ending in retail. Career positions were increasingly exclusive to management. Heels preferred, not required. Outdoor plazas were turning into malls and I was learning how to steam on a hook. Formalities still lingered. Even the assistant manager, just two years my senior, was addressed as Mrs. Hall, not Lynne. Some stores still had porters, gentlemen who unloaded and moved product, lest the ladies run their hose. It was a different world, one I was anxious to see turn, except for Miss Sally.

Miss Sally was a fixture at Northland. In her many years with the company, she had seen, done and re-done it all. Darn right that hairdo was really hers, she bought and paid for it! She still wore a girdle, not a foundation garment, and if anyone needed a safety pin, Miss Sally and her girdle would provide. Everyone was Missy or Miss Lady, customers and coworkers alike. Laughter came loudly and often, but when you worked with Miss Sally, you learned.

Probably the most important lesson I learned from Miss Sally was to take things in stride. Let whatever it is roll off your back and keep going. “You never know what anger a body walks through that door with, their bad day don’t have to be yours.” Words to live by in retail. Second best lesson? Always bring a second pair of comfortable shoes. Many days, the second was the first. Hard to be philosophical when your feet hurt.

Miss Sally also taught us the sneaky toilet paper trick. Shoplifters often will hide product they are planning to swipe, compiling a cache of many items in one spot close to the exit, then leave and come back later to make a quick grab and run. Watch them stash the goods, wait until they leave, then replace the collected goods with a roll of toilet paper. Tell all the staff, watch and wait. Laugh your ass off when they find it. Seldom is more fun had on a sales floor.

It’s been nearly thirty years since Miss Sally and I watched the thieves run, police at their heels, from the broken display cases of Lotus Jewelers, past Lerner and out to parking lot points unknown. Most likely she’s gone, just like Northland. Just like those formal days of retail. Luckily, we are all the sum of our past, so Miss Sally lives on. Take that, shoplifters! Wipe it and weep.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

How can you not romanticize baseball?

After seeing Moneyball last night at the cheap show, I said to my husband, "I really want to like baseball." He laughed and nodded, he feels the same. For him the mitigating issue is the money, not unlike his detest of the commercialization of Christmas. Minor and farm team games are more to his taste. I, on the other hand, like the "idea" of baseball more than the actual game. The passion, the hard work, the strategy, the tradition, the ceremony! How witnessing a game is an event. The bringing together of generations, a grandpa teaching his grandaughter how to fill in a scorecard, coworkers bonding over a beer, little kids with gloved hands scanning the sky for pop fouls, tears of joy streaming down the cheeks of fans holding signs high as they profess their undying love. I want to like it, I do. But.... but.... oh, good Lord, it bores me so. Bring on the baseball movies, just spare me the game.