Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Racka Fracka Fricka Frack!

Je suis sans voiture, and I am not enjoying it! It's such a pain in the ass to have to arrange one's activities around the schedules of buses and kindhearted friends, to be limited in one's movements because one is no longer automated. It's a real pisser that the bus service in my neighborhood is so spotty, and that I have to walk quite a way to and from the bus route and my home or office.

On Monday evening, after a lovely afternoon of shopping and burgers with JB (I got a white sequined wrap-dress for myself and a gold-and-silver sequined dress for one of my skinny friends, a video copy of Drop Dead Gorgeous, and a big fat PBS-produced copy of The Forsyte Saga for Grandmother), I was driving home from the grocery store and ran over a little curb in the road that I didn't see and which really shouldn't have been there (civil engineers never think of consulting me before they litter up our roadways with unnecessary curbs and difficult interchanges); the impact, slight as it was, jarred something loose in Miss Marjorie's innards, and the motor stopped. The car drifted to a halt about ten feet out of the intersection, sitting in the left lane of southbound Constitution Avenue in Alameda where it joins with Marina Village Parkway. I turned the key a few times, the engine would turn over, but it wouldn't catch (I don't know really if that's the correct terminology; more truthfully, it chuggachuggachuggaed but didn't vrooom).

So I sat there in the car with my hazard lights going and made several phone calls (thank God for cell-phones). First I called my uncle the cop, who lives in Alameda, but neither he nor my aunt were home. Then I called Grandmother, who told me that my uncle was at work, but I could try his cell-phone. So then I called his cell-phone, but he didn't answer (maybe he was roughing up a perp or something). Then I called Information to get a tow company in Alameda; they connected me, but the tow company did not answer. I called Grandmother again, and asked her to look up a tow company in the Yellow Pages, preferably something based in Alameda. All this time, I have the phone plugged into the cigarette-lighter, and so I'm sucking up the car-battery; all this time my Butter Brickle ice cream and Fudgsicles are melting in the trunk.

Eventually I got hold of Pito's Towing (which is not in Alameda, it turns out), described to the dispatcher as well as I could where I was (I didn't know I was "southbound" until later), and was told that a truck would get me and tow me home within twenty minutes. So I called my sister and talked her into coming over next day and seeing if she could do something with my car once it was back in the driveway (since I only had to wait twenty minutes, I figured I might as well use up the car-battery, since I have a recharger at home). I called Grandmother back and told her what was going on. Then I sat back and waited, ate a couple of melting Fudgsicles, and hunted through the car for my headphones so I could listen to my CD player.

While I waited, one young man stopped and asked if he could help; I told him I had a tow-truck coming, and thanked him for his Samaritanism, and he went on his way. Later still, an Alameda cop came by and pushed me off to the right side of the road so I wouldn't be in the roadway. He also very kindly took no notice of my eighteen-month-old registration stickers (I lost last year's registration stickers before I could get them on the car, and then I keep forgetting about getting a smog-check and re-registering, so the lost stickers are expired now, too). Both the Samaritan and the cop were pretty cute, though I wasn't really in the best mood to appreciate their charms. And while I was hunting for my headphones, I found my long-lost British Queer as Folk soundtrack CD (but not the headphones, of course, so I can't listen to it).

After about an hour, the towtruck shows up. Both he and I (and the dispatcher) had forgotten about the CalTrans work on the Posey Tube (I was some four blocks away from the tunnel), which closes that major artery into and out of Alameda every night at nine, so the truck had to go all the way over to the Park Street Bridge and back again, a ten or fifteen mile detour which accounted for the delay. The driver poked around under the hood for a while to see if he could start the car himself, but he couldn't. So he hooked up Miss Marjorie and dragged us to Park Street (chattering all the way... he was quite the little talker, but didn't say anything even remotely interesting).

For reasons that were beyond my understanding (though certainly not for lack of repetitive explication), the tow-truck driver switched me with another tow-truck driver once we reached Park Street. Something about sharing commissions with a buddy and getting back to his interrupted dinner. The next driver was somewhat less chatty, and eventually I got home and was done with the whole thing. The Fudgsicles were a total loss, but the ice-cream was still okay (though I imagine all the toffee bits have sunk to the bottom).

And so for the last two days, I've had to take the bus to and from work. I had to rely on others to take me to my AA meeting and then to fellowship afterwards and then deliver me back home. I have had to put off running certain office errands until I could be out of the office for an hour or two and had sufficient energy to do the errands on foot. The whole thing sucks.

On top of which, if I can't get Marjorie started again in the next couple of days, I will have to rent a car or bum a ride to go to my men's retreat in Camp Meeker this weekend. And while bumming a ride isn't such a hardship, I have a drag show on Sunday evening that I will also need a ride to and from. I had planned to just pack a drag-bag with my weekend bags and go straight to the show from the retreat (stopping at my office to change), but I can't ask someone else to conform to that schedule for me; and yet it would be rather expensive to rent a car for four days just to do four or five hours of driving.

And then, if Miss Marjorie really is dead, I have to face a decision: to pay a big wad of money to have her brought back to life and up to speed (getting the steering column and the internal wiring all fixed up, and all her fallen pieces glued back on, as well as whatever is wrong with her right now), or to pay a slightly larger sum of money for a different car of the same make and model that is hopefully in better cosmetic condition? I love Miss Marjorie, but she is a car... it would be foolish to let my sentimentality over material possessions lead me into a poor consumer decision.

Well, we shall just have to wait and see. My sister is coming over today to pick me up from work and see what she can do with the car now that the battery is recharged (she couldn't do anything with it yesterday with a dead battery); after we make a thorough investigation we will have a better idea of just how dead Miss Marjorie really is... one can't formulate problem-solving strategies until one knows the exact terms of the problem.

In other news, I got a response about my evaluation. The Boss sent copies of his evaluation to the staff as well as to the Executive Body to whom the report is made. It wasn't wordy or fulsome or even especially flattering... but it was positive, and I feel strangely validated for some reason:
    Staff Secretary: Robert does a multitude of tasks and does them quite well and is a most congenial person. His letter writing is first-rate and his ability to resolve mechanical problems is extraordinarily useful. His institutional memory is invaluable. Alas, he, too, suffered from a lack of direct supervision and several tasks were either delayed or went undone. Now, with an assurance of presidential stability, Robert has gained a renewed sense of the importance of his role in maintaining a flow of communication both within and without the office. His efforts to address his weaknesses are paying dividends and the office is a more productive workplace.

    Conclusion: At his best, Robert is extremely valuable to the productivity of the office. The trick is to keep him at his best and that is the task of the President. This President recommends his continued employment.
So unless my non-fans in the Executive Body manage to create a cabal of some sort (and I was crushed to learn that I am not universally beloved), I am secure in my job for another year or two. The Boss is considering negotiation a contract with me, just in case he doesn't win the upcoming elections.

Well, I guess I'd better get some work done. I'm trying to get all the loose paper on my desk filed away, and that's taking a good deal of time.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Claw

I seem to spend all of my time here apologizing for not writing, and then talking all about what I was doing that kept me too busy to write. So as a change of pace, I today refuse to apologize. I was very busy this weekend, these things happen, OK? I'll tell you more about it when I've uploaded the pictures.

Besides, I have been crippled by Fashion, and that is a noble enough reason to not write.

See, I got these acrylic nails put on Saturday before the Living Sober show. I've never worn false nails before, unless you count the Lee press-on nails that I once put on ten years or so ago and which fell off my fingertips whenever I moved my hand (which I don't count... you don't 'wear' something that won't stay on, you merely entertain it momentarily... how do you catch a cloud and pin it down?) I thought having acrylic nails installed would be much like those press-on nails, except tailored to one's own particular size and shape of nail, and glued on better. I was wrong.

It was a fascinating process. First you find the shop... I happen to live an a part of the world that is fairly well salted with recent immigrants from Asia, and so there is no shortage of nail-shops (I've never seen anyone of the European or African races working in those places); so all I did was walk out of the place I was in when I realized I had plenty of time to get my nails done (which happened to be Sears, where I had bought a new bra), turn left, and walk a couple of blocks. Then you ascertain whether or not they accept credit-cards (in that part of town, the first few blocks of Telegraph, from where it originates at the Cathedral Building down to the old Fox Theater, it's an open question); the shop I ended up in, Happy Nails, did not take credit cards, so I sent Caroline to the ATM machine with my card and my PIN.

Next you sit down and engage in idle and difficult chit-chat with the technician who speaks very little English, certainly not as much English as the people I ordinarily baffle with my baroque vocabulary, and what English she did speak was so heavily accented that I couldn't really understand her, either. There was a lot of smiling and nodding on both sides.

She took off my old nail laminate with pure acetone. Then, with an electric buffer that looked rather a lot like a jeweler's burnishing tool, she raddled my nail surfaces just a bit to rough them up. Then she dabbed a bit of super-strong liquid adhesive to the nail-tips and started affixing these incredibly long (three inches at least) false nail-tips to my fingers, using a close-enough-for-government-work approximation of the actual nail-size. The result was a sort of dragon-lady look, startling and exotic but patently false and unfinished. She trimmed them down rather roughly with plain scissors, not bothering to shape them or anything at this juncture, to about a half-inch beyond my real nails. With a different, finer tip on the buffer, she smoothed the join on each nail and doused it from a bottle marked "primer."

Then, she dipped a brush into a bowl marked "liquid" (without specifying what the purple fluid actually was) and then into another bowl marked "powder" (which looked exactly like sugar and turned out to be pure granulated acrylic). This formed a sugary-looking paste on the brush, which was applied directly and thickly onto the false nail-tips and across the join onto the real nail, all the way to the cuticle. Once done with my left hand, she put it in front of a tiny fan to dry and started work on the right. The whole sugar image remained, my fingertips looked luminous and fragile, as if they were made of white ganache frosting.

Next, the shaping started, with a great big emory board. This took some time, and the technician kept getting acrylic bits in her eyes (she was wearing a mask over her mouth and nose, but not goggles). Then the buffing of each nail with a somewhat finer-grained emory board. Then buffing with the burnishing-tool, smoothing out the ends and nicking my cuticles a couple of times (this entire operation could have been performed with more grace and precision, and in future I will invest more time in the choice of salon than "Oh, there's one").

After which I got another dousing of mysterious fluids, followed by a goodly drizzle of cuticle-oil on each finger. Then I was instructed to wash my hands in the bathroom, and then the technician applied three coats of silver-glittered pearlescent polish. I was next enjoined to shove my newly-taloned mitts in a tabletop contraption that looked like the bastard child of a tanning bed and a waffle-iron. After six (surprisingly long) minutes of UV rays and cool air hardening the nails, I was declared complete, a finished product of the manicurists' art.

During all this time, Caroline had been getting a manicure and pedicure, complete with foot- and hand-massage and parrafin bath, all performed in a vibrating chair. She looked so relaxed that she might have melted and dribbled away. We were finished at about the same time, paid our cash, and left.

I was afraid of breaking the nails, and so it took me quite a while to re-learn how to handle objects without endangering my nails. Ordinarily, when my nails are very long it is because I grew them out, and so the process of their being there is gradual and easy to adapt to; but when you go from short nails to longer-than-ever nails in the course of forty-five minutes, it's a little more difficult. Putting on my makeup for the show took longer than usual, though after I got used to the idea of the nails I realized that I don't use the tips of my fingers that much anyway.

I needn't have worried, though. These things are damned near unbreakable. I mean, not only are they constructed of a rather strong material, but they're crudely thick as well. It's more likely that my entire fingernail will come off before the acrylic portion will break. I had no idea fake nails were this strong... I can bang them all over the place, doing things with them that would have shattered my own nails, like knocking the glass of my car window or scraping stickers off of bottles. I could probably gouge out people's eyes and open cans and slice tomatoes with them.

Furthermore, I can't get them off. It seemed rather wasteful to take them off after having them on only twenty-four hours, even as cheap as they were ($18 for the whole set, and they were going to throw in a free "charm," one of those tiny clever designs that one sees on false nails... but there's something vaguely déclassé about those, especially on just one nail). But I was having a hell of a time going about my daily business with these claws getting in my way, and they're rather visible and odd-looking.

I figured that all I'd have to do is soak the nail in nail-polish remover, and they'd come right off. In fact, I asked the nail technician if that was how they'd come off, and she'd smiled and nodded (which I chose to interpret as "Yes, that's how they come off," but I think now she was nodding at the price-list behind me, which listed "Acrylic Removal, $8"... made me think of a line from a Daffy Duck cartoon, after he sent Porky Pig's entire house sky-high on a hydraulic lift as an anti-burglar precaution: "For another fifty bucks, I can install the button that gets you down!")

But working from my original assumption, I poured some Sally Hansen's into a small juice glass and shoved my left index and middle fingers in to soak; five minutes later, some of the polish had floated off, and my skin was quite dried-out, but the nail hadn't moved. I shoved a flat toothpick between the false nail and my own and pried, but the toothpick simply broke in three little pieces while the nail just sat there. It even looked harder and more permanent, somehow, without the pearly gleam.

So I guess I'm stuck with them until I have time to get to Happy Nails again (or any of its geographically convenient equivalents). I was thinking I'd better do it today on my lunch, but as I've been typing and doing things at work, rather more successfully than I at first thought I could (I'm typing away like mad, now, having learned the necessary way of holding my hands to accommodate the additional length), I think I might just keep them for a while. And Grandmother hasn't said anything about them, so perhaps they don't look as bizarre as I think. There's another show coming up this weekend (Sohorny Beaver's Cinco de Mayo bash for the Alameda County RGDC), and so I can get another performance out of them.

Besides, I'm rather enjoying them. I took the pearl polish off and glazed them with a nice simple semigloss topcoat, and they look a little more real and quite glamorous. They make the most deliciously musico-insectile clicking sound when I rub or tap them together. And I'm very impressed with my ability to type with them. I might even just have them trimmed down to a slightly more business-like length and leave them on forever .

In the meantime (in the tradition of Chabon's Kavalier & Clay, which I'm still reading), just call me "The Claw": Scourge of the Evildoer, Righter of Wrongs, and Corrector of Poor Taste. Badly dressed villains and oppressors of beautiful youths, beware her Slice-O-Matic Fashion-Fixer Anti-Evil Talons! She won't rip you a new one, she'll rip you a better one!

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Is It A Photo Blog Now?

I have nothing to say right now, and no time to say it in... when I get to work today I am going to put my nose directly to the grindstone and finish writing all these goddamned meeting minutes, no more excuses, no more procrastination. I'm sick to death of looking at them and thinking about them, I just have to DO them. Like ripping off the Band-Aid all at once.

So in the meantime, they say a picture is worth a thousand words... so here are some pictures from the conference in San Jose I was telling you about last time, with running commentary in my own ghastly caption style (just in case a thousand words isn't quite enough).

Drag in broad daylight... what will they think of next? And I just love that dress. Ross, $14.99!

With the theme from Charlie's Angels playing, they turn on the heel and give you plenty o' attitude: Angelique, Lorraine, and Cookie.

Angelique DeVil makes friends wherever she goes, even in a forest of Harleys. The dyke on the bike was named Angelique, too. Love is in the air, gender confusion abounds.

Lorraine Dubonnet wows the Little People at a sidewalk boîte.

Our indefatigable emcee and the hostess with the mostes', Logan was reluctant to be photographed with one of his eleyashes dangling so inelegantly, but nobody can resist the call of the flashbulb! Especially when Angelique applies the Vulcan Death Grip.

Miss Cookie Dough giving us some patented Hillsborough clench-jaw fabulousness.

I'm thinking of sending this one to the Mirror Project.

And this guy I don't know... yet. I read on a fansite that he's going to be starring in a new version of Tarzan on the WB. It will be canceled after six episodes, and his acting will be execrable, but I will tape every one and drool. Besides, he's worth rather more than a thousand words, if only a thousand repetitions of Humminahumminahummina.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Can't You See She's Pooped?

Another one of those weeks where I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. After posting on Thursday, my life neglected to slow down... in fact it sped up just a little. Not that things moved fast, just that it was one thing after another after another, leaving me absolutely no time to sit and think and rest. On top of which, all of these things started rather early in the day, and I've been having an awful lot of trouble falling asleep at night lately.

Friday, I had to get up early to take Grandmother to her barium enema appointment. She was not looking forward to the experience one little bit, being quite consistently opposed to having anything put into her ass, especially something goopy and white (some people just don't know how to have fun). And though she found it disgusting to the nth degree, she decided when it was all over that the enema wasn't anywhere near as bad as the fasting that she had to do in preparation.

Grandmother isn't a big fan of the beverage, in fact she has to pretty much force herself to drink two or three glasses of water a day; so when she had to drink at least eight ounces of water or juice every hour on the hour for a whole day, on top of the mugs of clear broth she got to have for lunch and dinner, and the eight ounces of juice into which she had to dissolve the Fleet Phospho-Soda laxative, she felt like she was actually sloshing when she moved... and she moved often, so often that she considered bringing her television and some pillows and blankets into the bathroom and just camping out.

So after we were done in the Radiology clinic, we had intended to go out to lunch so Grandmother could have some solid food, but she was too tired and wanted to just go home to bed. I thought I'd like a nap, myself, but was unable to fall asleep or even get comfortable, so I got up again and ran a bunch of errands here and there... such exciting and fabulous errands, like going to Home Depot to buy rat poison (there's a critter in the attic, gnawing, I can hear it sometimes at night right over my head) and a halogen bulb for our side-yard floodlight.

One really cool thing, though: Home Depot has this new thing where you do your own check-out! You scan your items (there's someone watching to make sure you scan all your items), put them in a bag, zip your card through, pull your receipt out of the slot, and voilà! It was the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. For those of us who would just as soon not interact with clerks and salespeople, this is a great idea. I wish they had that at the grocery store.

Then I swung by Caroline's and picked her up for the evening; proceeded to my office to leave a check for the cleaning-lady and see if any packages had arrived (nothing, alas); drove through McDonald's for Grandmother and cousin Jessie (after twenty-four hours of juice and broth, what solid food does my Grandmother crave most? A crummy mass-produced burger and fries!), and then went out for dinner and walkies and a video with Caroline.

First we ate at Spettro, a favorite on Lakeshore, where Caroline decided to simply skip dinner and eat two desserts instead (she was having one of those days), apple crumble and crème de cassis chocolate decadence cake, while I opted for something healthy, the saffron risotto with asparagus and other veggies (no meat, I though I wouldn't miss it, but I did), and ogled our cute Russian waiter.

Then we walked around to Walden's Pond books on Grand, where Caroline bought a bunch of books for really silly reasons... such as an old copy of Bulfinch's Mythology (one of the most boring and vague compendia on Greco-Roman mythology and Arthurian folklore I've ever read) because she liked the color of the cover, or the paperback version of Dante's Inferno — not because it's one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry ever written, or because it's a cunning and fascinating dissertation on the nature of sin and the human condition, but merely because it's about death and Hell. Of course, I almost never walk out of Walden's Pond empty-handed, and this time was no different: I picked up three paperbacks that looked interesting, Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey, Two Symphonies by André Gide, and Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim. All of their covers were pretty, too.

Then we continued six or so blocks up the street to Silver Screen Video, the place I started going when I finally got sick enough of Blockbuster to try something new (about three years ago, Shiloh and I wanted to see Valley of the Dolls and Blockbuster didn't even have it). As usual I found a lot more movies on the Previously Viewed sale table than on the rental shelves, and so bought copies of B. Monkey (oh, how I love Jonathan Rhys Myers!), Murder by Numbers (ditto Michael Pitt), and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills for $4.98 each, and of course a not-previously-viewed copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (at a retail price that I am too embarrassed to write down), while only renting Minority Report (which was much better than I expected, though perhaps a trifle predictable... or maybe that was because Caroline kept predicting the outcomes — out loud — as the plot twisted and turned).

So we're wandering around the video store, minding our own business, when suddenly we both catch sight of a beautiful boy. Black hair, gorgeous white skin and bright pink cheeks, glittering blue eyes fringed with impossibly long lashes. Superbly built on the ephebic line, with the cutest plump chest and melon-round butt, slender and meaty at once. His movements were so exaggeratedly sensuous and provocative: the way he walked, with his shapely buttocks shifting and swinging like a drag-queen on the make; the way he'd arch his back slowly to reach a DVD from a shelf; the way he leaned into a devastating contrapposto that would make Leonardo drool, with his neck arched as if to receive a kiss; the way he knelt in a phallo-worshipful posture before the gumball machine and licked his candy-red lips in anticipation, then inserted the gumball lasciviously into his wet mouth and delicately licked his fingers... he was just too much.

And no more than fifteen years old. Possibly fourteen. He was there with his mother. There is no reason for a boy that young to be that sexy in his movements and carriage. Caroline and I were absolutely wrecked, unable to tear our eyes from this boy Lolita, though we had enough presence of mind to pretend to browse the DVD shelves (I don't even have a DVD player) while we ogled. I am quite sure he knew he was being closely observed by an appreciative audience, or was at least imagining an ideal of an appreciative audience... there was an indisputable element of performance in his balletically slow movements.

Caroline and I both have a taste for teenaged boys, though I have never indulged mine (the youngest guy I ever had was 17, though he looked much older — all hairy and chiseled — and I was 19 at the time). And I share the information of this lust reluctantly, as I've found many people react to our pederastic urges with even more horror than is usually bestowed on my collection of taxidermied fashion accessories or Caroline's fascination with dead bodies.

I often find myself wondering about this horror. I don't really see that big of a moral issue with sexual activity between teenagers and adults... except when such relationships involve abuse. When it's a matter of the strong preying on the weak, of an adult luring or forcing a youngster into something against his or her will, I of course have a moral objection; but if a boy or girl is curious and an adult man or woman is willing to teach, or if the youth and the adult are approaching the relationship openly and with only pleasure or love in mind, I don't have a problem with it. I mean, the question of sexual maturity, of being able to make decisions about one's own body, varies from person to person, and has nothing to do with a person's legal age.

It's an issue of consent and predation, as far as I can see... the social proscription against "statutory rape" is, I think, what drives it underground and makes it shameful, so that I imagine the majority of such relationships are predatory, as only a predator who is outside of society and outside of the law would dare to indulge in this behavior. But to argue against this social proscription is useless: it exists, it is part of our cultural heritage, just like a thousand other things that make our Puritan-founded nation different from ancient Greece or what-have-you. Fifteen-year-old boys, no matter how sexually mature or sensually aware, are quite simply off-limits.

Not that I would really want one, anyway, no matter how erotically compelling. Teenage boys simply have no conversation. They are far too self-centered and unwise, too much ruled by their physical passions, too effected by unimportant events, too uncultured and unlettered and uninteresting. They need too much, and I am not willing to give in that degree. Besides, I'm not exactly the Daddy type, teenage boys simply don't dream about being taken over and cared for by a slack-chested 35-year-old drag queen.

So anyhow, to get myself back on track with my narrative, Caroline and I were pretty wrecked after that, stunned and wondering and a bit ashamed; we went home and watched Minority Report, and rather enjoyed it. Afterward, Caroline helped me prepare for a show I had the next day, for which I had done nothing preparatory whatsoever... I had no idea what I would wear, what I would perform, nothing. I had pretty much decided to wear the blue-and-silver ensemble that was still in my drag-bag from the last show, but I needed a second outfit that would go with it enough that I wouldn't have to change my shoes or my eyeshadow. After a useless interval of dithering about, I ended up with my grey-and-white dress with the cabbage-rose pattern and fused clear sequins.

Then I had to think up some music. I have lost so many CDs in the last couple of years. I used to have almost all of Ella Fitzgerald's studio recordings, and now I can't find any of them! The Cole Porter songbooks, the Rodgers & Hart songbooks, four or five compilation albums, all poof, gone! Then there are the Peggy Lee albums I couldn't find, and a whole bunch of other stuff that seems to have disappeared. It's one of the great curses of being sloppy, one is always losing things.

Well, anyway, I drove Caroline home around 1:30 and stopped at my office on the way home to look for more CDs, and finally decided at the last minute to just do Liza's "Sing Happy" and Ella's "Ev'rything I've Got," two well-worn favorites (which were in my car, by the way) that I haven't performed in front of this particular audience yet. Between NA shows and Living Sober shows and Court shows and Galaxy shows, I have to keep the overlap in mind and remember which songs I performed where, so I don't repeat myself too much.

I got in bed at 3 a.m., and had to get up at 8 in order to shower and supershave, load my (thankfully prepacked) bags and chattels into my newly-cleared trunk, cross the Bridge to pick up Cookie and Lorraine in the City, drive to downtown San Jose, and get dressed and painted in time for a 2-o'clock curtain. We had a lovely drive down, we stopped in Burlingame or somesuch and got coffee, and enjoyed each-others' company as well as the beautiful weather. When we got to the Park Center in San Jose, we found the typical NA-conference strangeness... a vast cavernous room with two separate stages, both utterly enormous, with huge chair-ringed tables spaced very far apart, a tiny spotlight way the hell in the back of the room, and no clue where we were supposed to be and what we were supposed to do. It was super fun!

We got dressed in the ladies' restroom, which was huge and spacious but only had one mirror, a full-length at one end of the room; some others got dressed in the men's restroom, which was brighter and had more mirrors, but was more crowded and had less counterspace, and others got dressed in the ladies' or gents' restrooms at the other end of the conference hall that I didn't go into so can't describe. Chaos reigned in every direction, there was some confusion over the start-time, there was no lineup, there was no audience, all hell was breaking loose... again, typical NA-conference pre-show atmosphere.

Then all of a sudden everything magically came together and smoothed out and the show went on, only fifteen minutes late. The audience was pretty much all straight, they didn't tip, but they were terribly and vocally appreciative of every little thing. The stage was much too vast, standing dead center in a room that was far too vast, so the approach to the stage was a bit of a trek, but it turned out quite well once one got started. More typical NA-conference stuff.

Halfway through the show, we lost most of the audience. I had written this off as yet more typical NA-conference stuff, as the average recovering addict has the attention span of a four-year-old and so I am accustomed to opening to a full house and closing to an empty one, but it turned out later that one of the acts (a stand-up performance artist who does a monologue routine in the character of an old Irish drunk) killed the show dead with profligate and unacceptable use of the word 'nigger.' I learned from several audience members later that they had been so offended by this act that they simply got up and left.

But the people who remained were very into it, and we had a great time talking to all five of them after the show, signing their conference programs and sharing beauty secrets. Afterward, we went for a little walk around the conference center, posing for pictures with random strangers and soaking up all the attention a bunch of glittering drag queens walking around in broad daylight can handle (I took a few pictures, myself, but I haven't uploaded them yet, so you'll have to come back later).

So we strip off the paint and the restraining undergarments and get back into our boyclothes, then pile into the car and promptly get lost in downtown San Jose while looking for 880 North. We eventually found it and headed back to Oakland, enjoying ourselves immensely as we reminisced about this and that and dished the show.

We got back to my house, where a bunch of us were meeting to rehearse "Cell Block Tango" for the upcoming Living Sober Follies. We had been rehearsing at Ivy's and Lorraine's places, but I figured that since I had two of the cast-members with me, and the rest of the cast-members had cars, and since my living room is about the same size as the stage on which we would be performing the number (and incidentally larger than Ivy's and Lorraine's living rooms), it might be fun to have them all over for a last rehearsal.

As a bonus, while I had the girls in the house, I was able to unload some of my old clothes on them, things that were too big or too small or just not me. I always prefer giving old clothes to people I know instead of dropping them off with an anonymous charity in a big plastic bag. I also got to show off the sheer volume of my drag, which takes up a good portion of my basement and which I found vainly satisfying. The rehearsal went really well, too, we all feel quite confident that we will absolutely wow them.

By the time all the girls got underway and I found myself alone, it was getting on in the evening and I was exhausted. I read some email and caught up on a few blogs, then got into bed hoping that I would fall immediately to sleep and get a good night's rest. Of course no such thing happened. Not only did I find it impossible to get to sleep before 1 a.m., (instead I watched Murder by Numbers and read a good chunk of the novel I'm currently working through, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, of which I am somewhat dubious, as I fear no book could ever live up to the legendary praise I've heard of it), but then Grandmother had the temerity to wake me up at 8 a.m. the next morning.

Despite all my protestations that I was having a terribly busy weekend and wouldn't be able to help her, Grandmother went ahead and scheduled a family gathering for Easter. We didn't have to do any cooking or cleaning, as my uncle Junior would bring the food (fried chicken from Merritt) and aunt Terry brought drinks and cousin Kellie brought paper plates and plastic cups. It should have been terribly simple, but Grandmother of course had to get the entire house clean, including mopping the bathroom and kitchen and vacuuming all the rugs. Since she wore herself out from cleaning the kitchen counters and sink, and sweeping the bathroom, she got me up to finish the labors.

I should point out that I hate mopping, even more than I hate washing dishes, even more than I hate rabbits, even more than I hate Bush. Whenever I wield a mop, I remember my first stepfather beating me when I mopped the hall wrong when I was seven or eight. Nobody had told me how to mop, he just gave me a mop and a bucket and told me to get to work. When the mopping didn't get done properly, since all I knew about mopping was to swish the mop back and forth and dip it occasionally in the water, little realizing that there was a scrubbing motion needed and mop-wringing to be done, I got a beating. Eventually my mother showed me how mopping was supposed to be done, and I finished the job. But ever since then I've hated mopping.

Mopping was one of my jobs with my step-mother, too; for years we lived in this horribly ugly townhouse that was wall-to-wall linoleum in every room, so mopping happened a lot. And though we used sponge-mops and time-released thrashings weren't involved, I still hated every minute of it. When I gained adulthood (or what passes for it) and entered the food-service job market, I would do almost anything to avoid mopping at the end of the day... of course, I often got stuck with it, especially if I was working with girls (who are supposedly too frail to lift an industrial-sized string mop).

So there I was at eight on a Sunday morning performing the chore I hate the most in the bathroom and the kitchen, after six hours of sleep after a long day of performing and rehearsing and driving long distances (after five hours of sleep the night before), in preparation for my family gathering to celebrate a Christian holiday on which I do not receive gifts (the only reason I tolerate Christmas), and at which we would be eating fried chicken and potato salad (which I don't especially care for) at eleven o'clock in the morning (before I even had a chance to eat something proper for breakfast). "Disgruntled" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Eventually it was time to go to my Musical rehearsal, and was I ever glad to get away from the house. I enjoy my family, but not on a Sunday morning when I'm really tired. Rehearsals went well, we worked on some difficult songs and accomplished quite a bit, and then did just enough dance that I felt like I got some exercise without actually making me any more tired than I already was. I considered doing some shopping while I was out in the City, but after observing the amounts of money I spent last week, both on eBay and in the shops, I thought twice about it and decided to just go on home, where I watched movies with my nephew (he's on Spring Break now, and is staying with us rather than lurking around his own house... I think he and my sister are not getting along well), my new Harry Potter video and the USA Network miniseries, Helen of Troy, which was historically rather questionable but definitely a winner on the beefcake front... gotta love a hunky man in a chiffon miniskirt.

So that brings me once again fully up to date. I am having dinner with Shiloh and Zach this evening, and am going to my half-sister Becky's graduation on Friday, then I have the Living Sober drag show on Saturday and another Musical rehearsal on Sunday. The work week might be especially busy, or it might not. Hopefully I'll survive.

And hopefully I will be able, sometime in the near future, to move out of this rather boring (for me) diary-style recount of my many doings, and actually do some good analytical and thoughtful writing again. Maybe I should solicit for topics of interest? If all else fails, there are always survey memes, aren't there?

By the way, I just got an email that tells me I've been Googlewhacked with the term "necrophile sinus." I find that pretty funny. I don't understand the whole Googlewhacking thing, but I do enjoy a good two-word absurdity if someone else will think of it for me.

Well, without further ado (finishing this post up twenty-four hours after having started it... it's now Tuesday, and I've already had dinner with Shiloh and Zach... and enjoyed it immensely), here is your beefcake for the day:

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Didja Miss Me?

Sorry to fall out for so long without any explanation. I suppose this has been the longest I've gone without posting since I started this here diary. And my silence seems to have worried some people (you're so sweet, darling!), so I figure I'd better weigh in with a little update.

So I'm on vacation for Spring Break. I wasn't sure the new boss would want to close the office, as we've done in the past, with his twin policies of Coverage! and Service! but I got the week off as I usually do. And as I usually do, I have gone into the office three times this week. I didn't do any work there, but I went anyway. I was expecting packages, you see, and I had to find my damned W2s. In fact, I have been unusually busy with details this week. It wasn't really fun.

But to back up and go chronologically... Friday was my nephew's 17th birthday. I picked him and some pizzas up at Jack London Square (where he had been to see Anger Management with friends), and was sinfully late after having to write that damned self-evaluation (below) and finish up some other work before the weekend. When I got home, my cousin Kellie had already dropped her spawn and fled (her kids Jessie and Alex planned to stay for Spring Break... and I was strongly considering going in to work on my vacation just to get away from them, and so hadn't told Grandmother about the office being closed). I also picked up Caroline, with whom I had made plans for dinner and seeing Spirited Away before my plans got changed for me by my sister and nephew. So it was a pretty full house.

After dinner, I excused myself to check email and eBay auctions (I'm on a fur binge), and the kids and Caroline played Jessie's favorite board game, Pretty Pretty Princess, in which one rolls dice and lands on jewelry items, and the point is to get the most jewelry and the tiara in order to win. Matthew won the first round, Alex the second.

So on Saturday, I took Matthew to his girlfriend's house in Alameda to spend the day with them before going to work (all this backing and forthing and chauffeuring is because Matthew's car registration has expired, because his car won't pass smog and he can't afford to upgrade it, and he's too conscientious to run around in an unregistered vehicle... as his uncle has been doing for the last four months). Then, out of the absolute blue, my old friend Mary Jane called me up and invited me to a baby shower for another old friend of ours, Lisa.

I should pause to point out that these and several other girls were all part of a clique in high-school, and have pretty much remained friends all these years; Mary and Jen still live together (or rather live together again), having been roommates since just after college; further, Mary has known Shelli and Lisa and Lisa's sister Laura since elementary school. Among them all, everyone is still friends with everyone else from our old high-school clique... not all at once, but one will keep in touch with another so there aren't very many degrees of separation between us all. Eva and Hayes and James and a whole bunch of others whose names escape me just now still know each other.

I have fallen out of touch with all of these people in the last few years. I had grown apart from most of the people I knew in high school, who were all straight and who mostly got caught up in marriage and children at one point or another. I kept up with Mary and Jen because we had other mutual friends, and the more different people you have tied together socially, the more often you see them (especially people who don't have children... it has been my experience when people have children, they drift away from friends who do not have children). But when I stopped seeing my former best-friend Kevin three or four years ago, I lost a strong link into that group of people.

At any rate, I have not been keeping up with Mary and Jen now that Kevin is no longer a part of my life (nor, I believe, is he a part of theirs), and I feel guilty sometimes that I don't keep in touch with people. But Mary called me, and we went to this party and had a really wonderful time. The food was from La Mediteranée, where one finds the best dolmas in the continental United States; the desserts were by the auntie-to-be, Laura, who is a professional pâtissiere and quite good; loads of terrifically uninteresting people were there (and by "uninteresting" I mean straight, married, child-ridden, and not especially pretty... with one or two exceptions); and I got to see and schmooze with a handful of long-time friends. I had a lovely time.

Mary Jane (not a good picture, she is very cute and doesn't usually squint like Popeye)

Jennifer... giving us a little of that Bolivian

Shelli lives in Seattle and flew in for the weekend.

The Little Mother, Lisa.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay very long. Just after the presents were opened (baby gifts are so boring, not one drip of jewelry even though they know it's going to be a girl), I got a frantic call from my little cousin Jessie... Grandmother had fallen and I had to get home immediately. Mary Jane had driven me, so she had to leave as well, and offered to come in and help if she could. I wasn't sure what exactly had happened, but it was a little scary and the kids were quite rattled.

Apparently, Grandmother had blacked out while sitting, to put it as delicately as I can, sur la crapper. Upon blacking out, she simultaneously threw up and fell off the john, banging her bad knee and wedging herself into a rather tight corner. She was no longer ill, but terribly shaken, and embarrassed beyond imagining to be stuck in a corner with her drawers around her ankles.

Mary Jane was an absolute Godsend. She helped me get Grandmother off the floor, which I don't think I could have managed alone, and then into bed. She was extraordinarily soothing and helpful, calming Grandmother and the children simultaneously and acting as if this were the sort of thing that happens every day to everybody. GM insisted that she didn't need to go to the emergency room, and Mary sat and talked with her before she went to sleep. I was so grateful I could just cry.

So after Mary went home, I cleaned up the bathroom and washed the rugs and towels and so on. Kellie came and visited with Grandmother for a while, then took Alex home with her, but left Jessie behind to be of help to Grandmother (which she was, and it puffed her up with importance to be needed... it's rare to feel needed when you're nine). Then I went and picked up Matthew from his work and brought him back here for the night. Grandmother eventually called the Advice Nurse at Kaiser and made an appointment with a doctor for Monday. After a good night's sleep, she felt fine except for her knee and a nagging worry about what could possibly cause such an episode. Anyway, that was my Saturday.

Sunday was all about rehearsals, and driving around. I drove Matthew back to work (he works at Tucker's Ice Cream in Alameda), then out to the City for my Musical rehearsals (where I was told, to my great elation, that I wouldn't appear in the hated "I Hope I Get It" scene), then back home because I forgot my wallet and couldn't stay all day in the City with no money, and then back to the City for some shopping in the Mission District (I found some really fabulous vintage things at Clothes Contact [Fashion and Fabric by the Pound] on Valencia, including a cream-and-cocoa chiffon garden-party dress that will make me look just like Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven... except much thicker) before meeting some of the other girls at Ivy & Nick's place for another rehearsal of "Cell Block Tango," which we'll be debuting at the Living Sober Spring Fling drag show in a couple of weeks. After that, I went to the Castro to do some shopping, and ran into Zach & Shiloh at Firewood, where I stopped for dessert. It was quite a lovely day, though utterly exhausting.

Monday was about going to Kaiser for Grandmother's appointment. Over the weekend she'd talked to some of her friends and family, and discovered that she might have the same symptoms as Aunt Terry's friend Yoli's uncle, which turned out to have been caused by polyps. It made her feel less like a dying freak to know that Terry's friend Yoli's uncle suffered similar discomforts (nobody likes to believe that they are the only person to have ever puked and passed out whilst pooping).

Grandmother's regular doctor was out of town on vacation, so GM drew a substitute who I happen to like a great deal better than the regular guy (who was in turn a good deal better than her previous doctor). She asked pertinent questions, ordered some blood tests, and was in general very soothing. So we went down to the lab and had some bloodwork done (stat, so we didn't have to wait so long, only three hours for processing). When they returned negative for anemia and three or four other things that the doctor thought might be the trouble, she ordered a barium enema to check for polyps and anything else that might be going flooey in the colon. So down we went back to the lab, where we received an interesting little kit and a list of instructions for liquid-dieting and laxative-taking on the day preceding the barium enema (which was scheduled for Friday).

After that terribly entertaining interlude, we went and had lunch, then came back home. I went to bed, I'd gotten so little sleep the night before, though I couldn't drop off into my nap. Instead, I worried about taxes and hunted through eBay for more furs and chiffon (this jewelry fast I've been on hasn't saved me one dime, since I am still spending way more money on everything else).

Then I went down to the office to try and find my W2s. I looked all over the place, shifting every piece of paper from one spot to another and not coming up with anything. After a couple of hours of fruitless bootlessness, I went down to the Post Office to buy a money-order for one of my auctions. Upon returning to the office, I stuck my hand into a pile that I had already gone through twice, looking instead for the software for my Quicken program, and pulled my W2s out. Then I went and got my hair cut, did some grocery shopping, went home, eBayed some more, and watched tv before going back to bed, this time for the night.

So Tuesday was Tax Day. I finished up Grandmother's taxes, which I'd actually done two weeks ago but never quite finished (with signatures and checks and things), and then spent several hours running around the house looking for my 1098 Forms from my student loan (you can claim the interest paid on a federal student loan as a deduction). After breaking two fingernails in my search, I gave up and just went ahead and did my taxes with the 1040EZ.

When I looked up the tax in the 1040A booklet that I'd used for Grandmother's taxes (I never get the IRS forms sent to the house, I don't know why, so I always end up downloading it from the web), the amount seemed too big. So I went back to the website and downloaded the 1040EZ instruction booklet... which took almost an hour, since I had to download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 so I could read it. During that time, I sat and enjoyed my big coffee-table edition of Mark Girouard's The Victorian Country House, which I'd just received from Powell's, my new favortie online bookstore (they specialize in out-of-print books, which not very surprisingly are my favorite kind).

Well, the tax is the same for 1040A and 1040EZ and 1040, I just didn't want to believe that the government was soaking me for 11% of my income (almost 14% of my taxable income), to the tune of $3,608! And that the maximum deduction that I always have withheld from my checks was only $3,390... so for the first time in my life, I had to send a check to the IRS! When in the past I had always received a quite hefty refund! I was furious! Quite literally hopping mad, jumping up and down in the dining room and cursing Bush and Clinton and everybody else in that corrupt cesspool of a government. I was also angry with myself for losing that damned 1098 form, which would no doubt have brought my taxable income down to a level that I wouldn't have had to shell out. Not to mention breaking the two nails, my left middle and right thumb, during the search.

But furious as I was, I had to pay, so I wrote out my check and then did my state taxes...and ended up owing them money too, though not nearly as much. But then when I got to the office to run the taxes through the postage meter (which saves me from having to run all the way down to the Main Branch post office to get it date-stamped before midnight), there were three packages there from eBay auctions, two fur pieces (both mink, of different colors and sizes, but with all their little heads and feet and tails dangling) and a funny little tiara I'd bought for Caroline on a whim. That made me feel quite a bit better, and then the AA meeting I went to made me feel loads better. I still grumbled, but I had minks to grumble into, and sympathetic people to grumble at, and that's always nicer than just grumbling into nothingness.

Wednesday I had a real vacation day. I did absolutely nothing but play on the computer, read The Surprising Rise of Luke Vanner by Robert McCartney Moore (a favorite of yore that I lent out and never got back, which was available at Powell's... gotta love 'em!) and played with my Sims, which I haven't done in ages. I discovered while watching my cousin play on the kitchen computer that they can catch fire. I already knew you could starve them to death by walling them up, or by luring them into the pool and deleting the ladder so they can't get out, but the fire thing is much faster and much more gruesome. I murdered so many Sims that I now have a most severely haunted house (it's got seventeen ghosts), and I killed eight of them at once so the Grim Reaper was just the busiest little bee on the block (I deleted the doors from the house, and put fireplaces in every room and surrounded them with tapestries and carpets... it was just a matter of time before disaster struck). The only downside of the day was breaking another nail, my left pinkie this time, while typing an email to an eBay vendor.

And that brings me to today! Yesterday was so restful that I woke up quite ready to face a new day... I was scheduled to meet Caroline for her lunch break, so we could go together to a favorite antiques shop that is closing down and liquidating it's stock at 55-75% off. Of course, they have such beautiful high-end things that even at those discounts I couldn't afford much (even with the extra 5% "Gay Discount" the very nice owner offered). But I did buy a beautiful ruby and moonstone ring for Grandmother; I had intended it as a Mother's Day present, but I decided to give it to her when I got home, to cheer her up from her day of liquid dieting.

After taking Caroline back to her office, I decided to make a day of it. I went to all my favorite shops on Piedmont Avenue, and spent an unholy amount of money on jewelry... breaking my Lenten fast but good. I got two truly spectacular pairs of earrings from Paris at JoJo Bejano, a jeweled sweater-dress of shocking chic and a kidskin belt that I hope will match the chiffon dress I got on Sunday from Sophisticated Lady, and a gorgeous and vast lavender CZ ring and a white rhinestone parure from a shop that just opened today called World Jewelry.

After that I was feeling more stimulated than sated. I went to the office again and found another fur piece had arrived (three beige martens this time), as well as a couple of messages and a lot of mail. I went through the office email and sent off a couple of checks I'd forgotten about from last week, and then went to the Post Office for another money order for another eBay auction (I hate when they don't take PayPal, and then require ten days to clear a check). I suddenly realized that this lamp-shop that is only open during the hours I work would be open during my vacation, so I jetted off to Foss Lamps on 12th Street and bought a shade for the floor-lamp in the living room, something I've been meaning to do for years. Then I went to Collectible Designs on Grand Avenue and bought two sequined cocktail dresses (one of which is for someone else) and a really interesting brooch.

When I got home, still flying on the energy of so much shopping, I cleaned out my car. I actually filled up our entire garbage can with crap that had been shuffled from the back seat to the trunk (or just shoved in the trunk) over the last year and a half. I found a couple of CDs, too, as well as some canned goods and a pair of shoes. What I didn't find was my fox boa and ostrich-trimmed cardigan, which I fear I may have lost. I certainly hope not, and will continue the search (there are a couple of places in my room that they might have got crammed into), but at least I got a tidy car out of the deal — although I broke yet another nail in the process, my left thumbnail, bringing the grand total to five.

And then dinner, and then reading up on some blogs, and then writing this here mess. It would probably read better if I had written it when it happened, instead of all at once at the end, but these things happen. I needed the vacation, is all. And now I've had it and I won't go quite so long without writing ever again... unless, for some reason or another, I do.

Well, my darlings, I had better be toddling along now. I have to make up my mind whether or not to cut off the last five remaining long nails to match the five broken ones. And they were looking so lovely, too! Not to mention that I have two drag shows coming up, and that was why I was growing them out in the first place. I guess I'm just going to have to get some acrylics installed instead.

I hope your day is super fun! And that none of your nails break!

Friday, April 11, 2003

How’m I Doin’?

Well, I finally came to a decision: I am not going to leave my job on May 27, as I had intended. With a new boss and a new atmosphere in the office, my job satisfaction has improved beyond all expectations; and with the economy in the shithole, a bird in the hand is worth rather more than two in the bush (although setting two birds loose in Bush sounds like fun... I vote for California condors, or bald eagles). Between these two factors, the lack of group insurance and the lack of upward mobility or of a motivating rewards system (my other reasons for leaving, besides the emotionally poisonous atmosphere created by the former boss) pale into insignificance.

One thing, though... since I'm staying, I am now in on the Evaluation Process that the new boss is trying to complete in order to pass his next year's staffing recommendations on to the executive body for approval. Which means that I have to write a self-evaluation before the end of the day: a description of my tasks and responsibilities (aside from the Job Description I wrote last month), followed by a description of what talents I bring to those tasks, and finishing up with a description of areas that could be improved. I have never written a self-evaluation before, of course, since the former boss never bothered with evaluating the contracted professional staff whose contracts call for annual evaluations, much less requiring such a thing of the uncontracted clerical staff. But the new boss is thorough, if nothing else.

I find it very difficult to gain a correct and honest perspective on my own job performance. So much of my self-esteem is involved — and any time my self-esteem gets involved, perspective goes right out the window. The two most important components of a self-evaluation are to describe what I'm especially good at, and to discuss those areas where I could improve. And while it's fairly easy to simply "get into character" and let Marlénè sing my praises (she has no trouble with low self-esteem, quite the opposite), I fear that any shortcomings I profess under the banner of "areas where I could improve" would raise an expectation that I would, in fact, improve upon them. And this is where I get a little wobbly.

For example, one of my major shortcomings here is my ever-shifting mood swings, which some days make me SuperSecretary and some days make me SuperSurlySloth. I can go several weeks operating as a paragon of the clerical arts, my cape flowing in the breeze while beams of celestial light emanate from my person, and then can turn right around and give you three weeks of quite startling ineptitude, like Stan Laurel after a few bong-hits. And even in my upward swings of energy and efficiency, I can't always overcome the slovenly messes that I make in my downward swings. Like the stacks and stacks of anonymous papers that I have instead of a useful filing system.

Now, that is certainly an area that can use improvement, but I don't know how to improve on it, or even if it is possible for me to improve. It seems to me just one of those little untidinesses of life, a condition that must be accepted rather than a problem that can be solved. But is that true? Or is it just my native laziness refusing to work any harder than I feel like?

Another area where I feel myself inept is my inability to say NO to my "superiors," which quite often leads me to take on more tasks than I can actually handle. I allow people to overload me with responsibilities, and then when my mood swings down I become immediately overwhelmed, leaving an ever-increasing number of tasks undone or done badly. With certain people, I have often found it easier to just say I'll do something and then not do it, or do it late and half-assedly, rather than speak up and say that I won't do it and you can't make me. This is something that I actually want to improve upon, but how do I express it in such a way that I don't look like a lazy whiner?

Oh, well, I'm sure the answer will come to me eventually. One of my known talents, which I am perfectly comfortable crowing over, is my skill with the written word. If truth fails me, I'll just make something up that sounds good.

But in the meantime, I am now going to take a sinfully long lunch break (part of my new schedule with my new boss is a half-hour unpaid lunch, and I never take more than ten minutes for lunch but still work the extra time on the end of the day, so I save up all the extra off-time for Friday, when there's nobody here to stop me). I must walk up to Jack London Square, where I am told there is a little shop dealing with Japanese imports, which carries a most dazzling array of tea things... I am going to see if I can find some of those cast-iron teapots with the built-in strainers that I was hunting earlier in the week (God, was that only four days ago? This has been a very long week).


6:25 p.m.

Okay, so I finally finished my self-evaluation. It took me forever, and I got so wrapped up in it that I forgot to go to eBay and buy that lovely mink scarf that went for $11.50! On the other hand, I did have my long lunch and found the iron teapots... which were surprisingly and prohibitively expensive ($80), so I ended up not buying any after all. Oh well.

Here are the sole and lonely fruits of today's labors:


    Robert Manners

    Staff Secretary

    Work Description:

    On a daily basis, my main tasks are answering the phone (directing calls to others if they’re available or else taking messages; if possible I callers’ questions) and writing/word-processing all letters and other documents sent from this office. I also download emails (though I seldom read them, as most are from listserves, I just archive them) from our AOL account every day. I sometimes sort the mail, but JB does this rather more often than I do, though if I notice something important in the mail pile I will pull it out.

    Another of my ongoing duties (though not a daily occurrence) is the maintenance of the membership database; I input new members, compare membership activity against the payroll deduction registers, forward membership information to the national affiliate (via an internet/network interface for which I received two days’ training), and answer membership queries from the Faculty and our affiliates. I also use this database, as well as my access to the District’s mainframe, to look up phone numbers and other contact information for the Professional Staff.

    Twice a month I distribute (usually by mail) the agenda/attachments and minutes of the Executive Body Meetings. I reserve the room for these meetings, assemble and deliver refreshments, and take notes. This calendar year I have also become the sole writer of meeting minutes (in the past, I only did so occasionally). For the twice-a-semester Membership Meetings, I make room reservations, advertise the meeting, prepare the sign-in sheets, and take notes.

    Once a month, I receive the due and fee deductions from the District payroll department, deposit those and all other income in the bank account, and calculate the per capita numbers sent to the national and other affiliates. More recently (this calendar year) I have become responsible for the paying of bills, which entails collecting and opening bills when they arrive, writing checks for those bills, getting the checks signed, and remitting the bills; I then report all the checks and deposits to the Bookkeeper (in the recent past, the former bookkeeper did all this; in the more distant past, I did all except write the checks); I generally do this twice a month, to coincide with Executive Body meetings.

    On an as-needed basis: I edit from contributed copy (and occasionally contribute to) and format (and now print) the faculty newsletter and distribute it to all four campuses (which entails thirty miles of driving and an average twenty minutes of box-stuffing); I post an online version of these to our AOL website, along with any other information that is needed or requested or of interest; write, format, print, and distribute all flyers (on an average of two per month); print, fold, label, assemble, seal, and post all mailers, including but not limited to all secret-ballot elections and the annual fee-payers’ notices (an average of five a year); shop for office supplies and groceries; and run miscellaneous errands as required.

    Particular Skills

    My best skill is writing: I have a certain flair for formal writing that has stood me in good stead when writing or editing letters to administrators and other such correspondents; I am very good at filling out newsletter articles or finding information to squeeze into the blank spaces; and I am fairly skilled in writing explanations and instructions that cover all bases. I am furthermore very skilled in formatting documents, creating flyers, newsletters, ballots, sign-in sheets, etc., in a visually pleasing manner.

    I also have a certain talent for dealing with office machines: I can usually figure out how to operate any business machine with a minimum of training; I am very good at learning the quirks and foibles of a particular machine and can usually troubleshoot equipment problems; and I can often find ways of making older machines perform efficiently.

    I learn new processes very quickly, I have a fairly retentive memory for contract language and other information, and am blessed with an excellent telephone manner. I am extremely flexible about my schedule, am usually willing to be out-of-pocket when purchasing supplies or groceries for which we do not maintain accounts, and have no compunction about using gas and putting miles on my car in the course of my work.

    Areas for Improvement

    I am by nature extremely untidy: I have found it impossible to create an organized system of paper-placement, either on my desk or in the filing cabinets; while I can occasionally force myself to tidy up around my desk and file loose documents (using the various systems that evolved before I arrived), I have never been able to achieve any consistent improvement or workable overarching system. While I am by no means averse to improving, I have no idea how to go about it.

    It is also very difficult for me to admit my own shortcomings: I have often agreed to take on responsibilities that I am not capable of dealing with, rather than stating outright that the task is beyond either my abilities or my time constraints. As a result, I become overwhelmed and either the new task or a series of other tasks suffer from inattention (which can occasionally result in serious consequences).

    I feel extreme discomfort making outgoing phone calls, especially to people I do not know; I suffer from “mood swings” (the beginnings of bipolar disorder), mental and physical depressions that sometimes adversely affect my performance; and I have a tendency to procrastinate endlessly when faced with mindless and repetitive tasks.


I suppose I'll still have a job after this gets read. Honestly, I'm more worried about taking an unprofessional tone than I am about the actual content. I'm fairly confident of my skills, and feel that my shortcomings pale by comparison. But for some reason the shortcoming section sounds more serious and dire than the preceding paragraphs. Oh, well... I've already emailed it to Mr. Boss Man, so there's no going back.

Speaking of backs...

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

As My Nails Dry

I look very much like a stereotypical bad secretary right now... sitting quietly behind my desk, my phone headset settled artfully into my coiffure, sipping coffee and blogging while studiously shaping and polishing my long and lovely fingernails (except for the one I broke a couple of weeks ago, which has at least grown back past the quick and doesn't look so much like an open wound).

I'm only half-way through the minutes project that I was hoping to have finished yesterday afternoon before I left. The project is more difficult than usual due to the fact that it always requires a lot of concentration and quiet-time, but yesterday the phone didn't stop ringing. Most distracting. Plus I'm avoiding it because I don't enjoy it. Between the distracting and the avoiding, it's pretty slow-going. But my nails look delicious.

That reminds me: What are duck's bills (and other birds' beaks) made of? Last Friday at my dentist's office, I was sitting back tripping out on the nitrous and studying the picture of the sinister ducklings over the window, when I suddenly wondered about their bills. Are they bone? Are they cartilage? Are they modified skin? Modified feather? Some sort of tooth-like substance? Fingernail-like substance? Some sort of avian-specific substance that has no corollary in other taxonomic classes?

And since I was stoned out of my gourd and didn't have anybody's fists in my mouth for a moment, I posited the query out loud, much to the amusement of my dentist and his lovely assistant. They didn't know the answer, though. And I haven't yet been able to find out. I haven't tried terribly hard, of course, having other things to think about than ducks' bills, but I still wonder. Does anyone know?

I just now got trained on how to use my new photocopier (between writing the last sentence and sitting down to write this sentence, an hour has elapsed). A very nice lady showed me all the features and buttons and knobs, most of which I had already figured out by myself and many that I doubt I'll ever have any use for, but informative and entertaining (dare I say infotaining?) nonetheless.

There are all these features on there that I never even dreamt of wanting before... the ability to attach covers of different-colored paper, to copy collated sets of different-sized papers, to erase the crap around the edges of the originals, to imprint an image or watermark on all the copies in a job, to combine reduced versions of several full-size pages onto one page, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. And to make it all the more impressive, there is no time when one is exposed to loose toner, so I can wear white with impunity at all times, if I so choose.

Unfortunately, the thing that I hoped to be told how to do — to produce my folded 11x17 newsletter at a higher speed than three per minute — is not possible. Either my higher-ups misunderstood the salesman, or else the boy lied to them, in regard to the speed and folding capabilities of the "finishing module." Three finished pieces a minute and twenty-three copies in the tray at a time is the best I can do. And so for our newsletter, which is done in 1600 copies, I have to set aside about nine hours to complete the printing process. Considering, though, that I used to have to allow two days for the off-site printers to do it, this is still an improvement.

So this is what I think about while my nails are drying. And it's taken me forever just to get my nails quite finished, as I keep getting interrupted by the telephone and various and sundry other stimuli all over the office. But now my nails are done, and it's lunchtime, and I really ought to get those minutes finished before much longer. And with dry nails, I have no excuse to continue putting it off.

I bid you a heartfelt adieu, and sincerely hope your day is one long orgy of euphoric joy.

Monday, April 7, 2003

Have You Any Iron Teapots?

Sorry to fall out of touch for so many days, but my wrist is acting up again... another concatenation of precise circumstances—writing very fast by hand for two hours followed by sleeping on my bent hand followed by a day of strenuous double-clicking as I surfed the web while printing flyers, all on top of a week's worth of stress-induced tension and a great deal of carrying somewhat heavy objects hither and thither—resulted in the usual arthritic inflammation flare-up in my right wrist. I therefore had to spend the last two days with the CTS brace on my arm (eliciting much sympathy from others, which makes up for the sweaty itchy discomfort of wearing a brace instead of bracelets), which makes typing and other such delicate operations very difficult.

Besides, my weekend wasn't that interesting. I mean, I had a fairly good time with a lot of fun people and got quite a bit done, but none of it seems worth writing about. And while my life's complete lack of interesting events has never really stopped me from writing about those events, the uninteresting along with the hurt wrist were enough to send me to sleep in silence. So instead of writing, I read. A book, even, where the light is reflected off the white of the page instead of emanating from behind it. The book is Moritz! by Bob Herron and isn't very good. But I'm reading it anyway, because it's not out-and-out boring, and I like the main character a lot.

I took the brace off today, but Miss Wrist does still twinge every now and then, so I am trying to keep the exertions to a minimum. Of course my workload today has entailed sorting flyers into mailboxes as well as writing up three sets of meeting minutes, which has to be done by tomorow. With minutes, it isn't so much the typing (though a set of minutes averages three pages) as there is a great deal of trying to make sense of my handwritten notes (the genesis of my wrist-trouble), reconstructing the conversations and debates that those notes are meant to record, and then boiling down said conversations into little présix which do not reveal who said what inane thing, or how unutterably disorganized and stupid these people can be when they set their minds to it. It's very difficult, very boring, and very frustrating.

So frustrating, in fact, that I decided to break routine and make for an off-site lunch... a shopping lunch, if you will, where I would combine my desire to eat Cantonese broccoli-and-beef with my need of three cast-iron teapots (with the little built-in strainers like you see in the upscale Chinese restaurants and the chi-chi new teahouses) by walking a quarter-mile north from my office and exploring the odiferous twelve-block grid of Oakland's Chinatown.

I always feel like a total freakatron when walking around in Chinatown, standing head and shoulders taller than everybody around me, barely able to navigate up and down the tiny close aisles where no shelf is stacked any higher than my clavicle but with all sorts of fragile things dangerously near to my big Nordic clodhopper feet. I mean, at 6'3" I'm kind of used to being way taller than other people, and I've long been the tallest person (by seven or eight inches) in my semi-Chinese family, but in Chinatown it seems somehow weirder... I always feel like Godzilla rampaging through a cardboard Tokyo, if I may be allowed to mix my cultural references.

To make it all more difficult, I did not find any little iron teapots with built-in strainers like you see in the upscale Chinese restaurants and the chi-chi new teahouses, not in any of the small smelly crowded shops I poked through. I found lots of teapots, many of which were terribly cute and quite economically priced, along with many other desirable porcelain objects, and I also found some lovely painted silk fans for only 99¢ each, but not one little cast-iron teapot with a built-in strainer like you see in the upscale Chinese restaurants and the chi-chi new teahouses.

Nor did I find any beef-and-broccoli that I wanted to eat; restaurants that I know make a reliably good b-and-b are sit-down restaurants, and I didn't feel like sitting down in a restaurant; those buffet and steam-table boîtes that I braved into only had trays full of soggy broccoli and dried-out beef (the original quality of which I would not vouch for) swimming disconsolately in greasy bogs of oyster sauce. Geuh.

So after an hour of fruitless fee-fi-fo-fumming, I called it a day and headed back toward the office, procuring a turkey sandwich and a carton of milk and a banana at the liquor store around the corner before re-entering the office. Much to my delight (and saving my day from total ruin), the afternoon mail contained the latest addition to my Suzanne Somers collection, the Icicle Necklace from the Estate Collection, which I bought on eBay of course. It's quite fabulously beautiful.

I'm wearing it right now. I am also wearing a hat. Indoors. To hide even from myself the fact that I overslept this morning (and by "overslept" I mean that though I woke up on time it nevertheless took me two and a half hours to talk myself into getting and staying out of bed) and didn't have a chance to wash my hair. I feel super-duper grubby, greasy unkempt hair under a not-terribly-chic hat, and two reahearsals' and one hearty afternoon walk's worth of sweat clinging to my skin under the shirt I've been wearing for almost three days now.

I'm going to go home and take a shower now, then make dinner (frozen lasagne, with a nice romaine salad and some lovely bread) and a couple of phone-calls. You go do whatever you have to do, and have a good time doing it!

Thursday, April 3, 2003


Turn and face the strange! It seems lately every time I do turn around, there's something strange and new right behind me. Like this thing:

Its our new Kyocera Mita photocopier, which replaces an older, much larger, and less powerful Sharp machine. That old machine had its shortcomings... many of them, I might add... but I was used to it. This new one gives me a start every time I turn around in my office. All that extra space on either side of it, which had been taken up with the old machine that was twice its size, makes me very uneasy. It's so damned fancy-looking, too. I keep expecting it to start moving around and smart-mouthing me.

On the other hand, I am very excited by this change. This copier will (once I've learned how it works) do all the things that I used to have to go to the printers' to do. Like printing my book-folded newsletters. Or sorting and stapling hundreds of two-sided copies, such as when I print up the annual fee-payers' notice. And there's probably more that I don't know about yet... a lady is coming out to teach us how to use it next week (and by "us" I mean "me"... though my coworkers will no doubt listen to and learn from the trainer, as secretary and office-manager that machine is for all rights and purposes my own privelege and burden). And besides its advanced technology, it's quiet! The old machine was very much like running a vacuum cleaner and a Model A Ford in my office at once (and God help me if the jet-engine furnace was on, too); but this one is more like a small child playing in the corner... it makes noise, but you can still hear the radio and the telephone when it's running.

Another change just came into my life, about which I am undilutedly excited: my bank just approved me for my first-ever credit card! At the ripe old age of 35, I have finally joined the rest of the world in their ability to sink themselves up to their nipples in debt. But keeping in mind that I didn't learn to drive until I was 29, and didn't graduate from college until I was 31, I figure I'm right on schedule for fiscal responsibility.

My patience was rewarded, too... having waited to clear up my credit rating, through switching all my bills to electronic transfer and letting the bad credit of my former late bills (and a little confusion about County Assistance repayment) slide off my credit report, instead of the cheesy-cheapie card that many first-time credit-users get, Bank of America validated my existence with a platinum card, replete with $5,000 initial limit and a fixed 8.9% APR (which friends tell me is pretty good... I don't actually understand what that means).

I'm very thrilled by this! I can now rent a car in my own name, all by myself! I can check into a hotel all by myself without having to pay up front! I can buy something even if I can't afford it right now without having to borrow from Grandmother!

Of course, I am terribly cognizant of the dangers of credit. One of the reasons I never had a credit-card before is that I was afraid of them. I mean, my impulse control flies right out the window when I am confronted with retail treasures. I can totally see myself maxing out the card in one afternoon at Neiman Marcus, or on a blind spree through The Great Mall. So I am going to keep this card at home in my desk, keeping it "warm" with small online purchases (my Uncle and Caroline both tell me that a routine of discreet purchase and prompt payment every month inspires confidence and higher credit-limits from my bank), while I continue using my Visa check-card for everyday purchases. And then, when Miss Marjorie drops dead (or perhaps even if... though the interior appointments are all falling off, the old broad's engine keeps running sweet as a nut), I'll either be able to buy another car outright on my credit card, or get more attractive financing due to my more evolved credit-rating.

So that's what my life is like today. I have to scurry along and shower and shave and dress for another day of labors. I have to stop by the paper-supply (and hopefully run into the delicious Daniel) to get some 11x17 buff paper for my newsletter, and then by the grocery-store to get the snacks for the Executive meeting this afternoon (my boss wants me to start including meat in the tray... he's quite the afficionado of flesh). Once done with that, I get to do a whole hell of a lot of printing, while drafting checks for the office bills and doing the usual phone-answering and question-answering and so on and so forth. This is going to be one of those days that make up for the days when I sit on my ass and alternate between blogging/porn-surfing and staring into space.

I hope your day is beautiful. Remember: if the world hands you lemons, you cut them in half and throw them right back in his little asshole face! Aim for the eyes!