Friday, February 22, 2013

Honest or Selfish?

To all you readers out there: I know you're reading but it would be really nice if you could become a follower (lower right, below the Labels and the Blog Archive) so I have a sense of who's reading.  You don't have to have a photo or even put your full name  but I'd love to know who is following out there...
Here's what I think. I think that we hold ourselves back emotionally because we think about the other person and decide (for one good reason or another) we can't tell someone what we really feel because you can't put your needs and your wants and your wishes above someone else's. That's what you tell yourself.  There's always a reason. And when that reason is gone, well, for me there's always another to take its place.  "Oh, she can't because she's got so much on her plate right now."  Or "She can't because she's not able to hear it."  Or, "You need to make allowances for him, he's getting older."  Or, or, or...whatever.  There's always a reason you can't say what you feel. I can't say what I feel.

I don't know  I only know that for me honesty trumps almost everything and yet  I struggle with being honest when it comes to expressing my true feelings when I know they're bound to upset someone else.   I can talk myself out of saying what I want to because I think (sometimes I know) the recipient won't actually hear me.  But should that matter?  Isn't it more important to just share those feelings and see what happens?

I'm trapped by feeling that saying what's in my heart is selfish  and being selfish  that's not allowed.  But some people live their lives putting themselves first and don't see it as selfish. Is it?  Are they?

Births, weddings, deaths  they bring out the best in families and they bring out the worst.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Canada by Dan Rhett

Photo by Tabetha J.on yelp
Photo by Jessica P. on yel
Driving north on the way to the funeral (I'm not ready to talk about that yet) we pushed forward until Richmond when we stopped for lunch at a place whose sign offered what we needed  Comfort.  It was one of those high, high tin-ceilinged long narrow buildings that had had a long industrial life and now was taken over by a long wooden bar, blackboard menus, Southern-inspired food, and loads of microbrewery beers. We ordered and then I jumped out of my seat to head for the Visual Artists Studio  a few doors away.  Three rooms chockfull of interesting works by a variety of artists all housed by Anne Hart Chay.  There was jewelry, pottery, paintings, etchings, watercolors, photographs, cards, all sorts of art by in the third room hung a cluster of paintings by Dan Rhett and one, one just jumped out at me.  It was an odd subject matter and at first I thought there was a dog or a child next to seated man in a plaid flannel shirt.  It was haunting in a way, a woman, half-naked, arms outstretched.  What did it mean?  I went back to Comfort to see if my lunch had arrived and then told my husband and daughter that after we ate I wanted their opinion on something I liked. [The squash casserole was yummy, burger and salads were good, skip the fried green tomatoes.]

I stared and stared at this painting I didn't need and shouldn't buy, and wondered why it spoke to me.  Maybe it was the outstretched arms that reminded me of a painted picture of my daughter in grade school.  Maybe it was the blonde hair like Robin's.  Maybe it was the sheer confidence this women showed by baring her chest, facing the man and the creature without a care.  There was something in this odd painting and I knew if I left without it I would regret leaving it behind.  I would miss this painting and I would miss wondering about it.  When my husband insisted, Anne packed the painting to go.  

At the hotel in New York I unwrapped and propped up "Canada" so I could enjoy it during our stay. Seeing it gave me comfort after the wake, after the funeral.  When we got back home there was an email from the artist.  He'd heard I was puzzled by his images and offered this explanation.

A few years back I went to Canada, to Vancouver. One of the big reasons I went was to see the collection of NW Coast art at the University of British Columbia.  After spending some time there my wife and I were looking for a walk, and saw a sign for beach access, and went down these long steps through the jungle down to the beach. The beach there if you haven't seen it is very different than Myrtle or VA Beach which is what I am used to: it is covered with rocks! round ones - anyway - I look out in the water and there is something swimming out there - and I thought it was a dog - and then it disappeared - then came up again. It hadn't dawned on me that it could be a seal - so as I am trying to sort that out a naked man walks by. Which was odd - I start to feel like the other people on the beach are also naked, but they are farther away - so I tell my wife to put away the binoculars - Anyway it turns out we had ended up on Wreck Beach, which later I found out all the locals know about. And there was a sign at the top of the stairs that said something about baby seals - so - That's the story!

Some times  some times I just need to lose myself in art.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Home Economics - Part Two

That night in 1977 as I ate my lunch leftovers of exquisite Chinese food (a very big change from the Chinese we'd been eating in those days) leftovers from the sophisticated Soho restaurant (the beginning of the food revolution in cuisine) I wondered whether I'd lost the big opportunity.  It was a big step up.  It was a jump in pay, in position, in total project management.  I really wanted the job.  I might not have asked for it but now that I'd been courted I wanted the chance to produce a textbook for the first time.  Could I do it?  I supposed but still  it was both scary and exhilarating and now I'd blown it.

I thought it over and tried to think if I'd have done it differently  not taken the food home but every time I came around to the same thing: I just couldn't have allowed that food ("that perfectly good food," as my father would say) to be thrown away. It went against the grain.  No matter how it looked, doing anything else wouldn't be me.  And if they were thinking of hiring me, they needed to know who I was.  Still, not being asked was gong to hurt.

I went in to work subdued. I knew people would be asking me all day.  I got in to my cubicle and buckled down to my IBM Selectric 3 and then, the phone rang.  

It was Mike offering me the job!  I hung up the phone smiling.  I sat with the news a few minutes and then went to whisper to my friends all over the office.   Before long, I thought to call Dick Lidz, the guy who'd recommended me for the job.  I'd been working on a series of twelve career-education paperback books Dick's company was producing for Random House. Adventures in the World of Work was a compilation of job interviews with all the people involved in delivering a product or a service (Who Puts the Plane in the Air?  Who Puts the Blue in the Jeans?). It was gonna be a great set of books and it was going to be my last job at Random House.

"Dick!  Just wanted to thank you.  Butterick offered me the job."

"I know, that's great!"  he replied, "You really WOW-ed them  they had alotta questions and you had the answers. AND  " he lowered his voice and said in a confidential tone, "John and Mike were really happy you could hold your liquor."

"What about Marsha?  She kept pointing out and didn't seem too happy I wasn't a teacher or a home economist."

"Now, shes a stumper.  She wasn't keen on you at all until she came back from your lunch and told Mike, 'She did what a home economist would do.'  Whadaya think that was?"

So. I got the job because I drank three straight Scotches and took the doggy bag from lunch.

Pancetta and all...
When I took that pancetta from the lunch with Marge, I don't know whether I had my father and his depression-mentality thrift in my head, or the more current and pressing fact that having left my job our home economics would be greatly changed. 

But the next day when I was reheating the vegetarian slice of Marge's pizza, I got out that pancetta, sprinkled it on top of the cheese, arugula, and tomatoes and reheated that piece.  As I bit into that delicious leftover, I realized that   for the most part  being who I am, acting the way I believe, has served me well and if I was going to have any success in his new chapter of my career, maybe  maybe I'd better keep on doing what I do and hope for the best.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Home Economics

This half of what I brought home.
I ate the other piece!
My friend Marge treated me to a delicious belated birthday lunch where we shared a handmade pizza of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto, arugula (and prosciutto for me) and a lovely salad of spinach, goat cheese, walnuts (pancetta on the side for me) in balsamic vinaigrette.  We talked, shared sadnesses, laughed (that during lunch she'd wondered why I had a nice little spoon and she didn't and then remembered why!) and given that I'm starting a new venture  she gave great advice. When it was time to go there was a nice piece of pizza (from her half) which she graciously urged me to take.  When I got the take-out container I looked up and said, "I'm going to take this pancetta home.  It'll be great on another salad," and while Marge smiled me on, I thought back to a job interview I went to in I977.

It was a step up the editorial ladder at another company, Butterick Publishing. They were young upstarts to book publishing.  Though they'd started in 1867 they were a pattern company and I was interviewing for a job to supervise the production of their first textbook.  Random House founded in 1925, more than 50 years after Butterick, was the more established giant.

This whole interview thing was new to me.  I'd been happily at Random House for over four years, but things were changing and in some ways falling apart.  The paperback series I was working on and loved (Choices for Tomorrow comparing differing viewpoints on controversial issues of the day: individual's right to privacy vs society's need to know, changing roles of men and women) was cancelled. In GALLEYS. (If you're too young to know what those are, look up "galley proof.") I was heartbroken.  It was such a great series for high schoolers.  One day, without warning the three top management guys (two I loved) were fired at 9 am, out by noon.  Management had changed and I wasn't thrilled with the abrupt implementation of a different direction. So when I was approached, when someone recommended me, I decided to go.

The folks at Butterick had been looking for someone for seven months. They wanted a home economist, who was a teacher, and an editor. I didn't have two out of three. Still they wanted to see me and already it had been a very weird experience. The first interview was with Mike, a guy running the division.  He seemed placidly pleasant but almost a dodo.  The interview was a breeze.  Then Mike called me to come back for lunch and an interview with the guy running the company, John "Scales". I agreed.  A friend called to tip me off that he was a stress interviewer.  

"What's a stress interviewer?" I asked.

"A guy that's gonna try to knock you off your game.  Someone who will want to trip you up."

Well, that disturbed me.  That actually pissed me off. Trying to make you uncomfortable when already you were uncomfortable because it was an interview?  GEEZ. That sounded nasty.  AND none of these guys were the editor I'd be directly reporting to...a woman.  So I went into the interview annoyed and cocky.  They wanted ME.  I didn't go to them for a job  they came to ME. I was gonna show those guys.

Well, it was some interview. Butterick was in a really hip, up-and-coming neighborhood called Soho (remember this was the seventies) I had to take the subway way downtown to Spring and Sixth.  I was brought into the office by the first guy who interviewed me.  I sat down.

"SO," he started out, "instead of me asking you a lot of questions and you asking me a lot of questions, why don't you just tell me about yourself?" he asked as he relaxed back in his rolling chair with a cigarette.

"Where do you want me to begin and how straight do you want it?" I volleyed back.

He sat up, leaned toward the desk, put his cigarette in the ashtray and said with a startled look on his tanned Greenwich, Connecticut tennis-playing face,
"Start anywhere you want and as straight as you want, straight from the shoulder."

"I started working in my parents' drycleaners at the age of eight..." and I continued on non-stop for ten minutes until I worked my way up to the present and Random House.

The whole time he kept looking at me, looking at me and staring at me, but not asking anything.  Just listening.  When I stopped finally, Mister Big Shot shot a look at Mike and grabbing his coat announced, "Let's go to lunch."

The restaurant was a dark, clubby, tavern-type place with those dark wooden clunky Captain's chairs and white tablecloths. The waiter approached.

"What would you like to drink?" John asked me.

"Are we drink-drinking or are we having beer and wine?" I deadpanned determined not to let this guy throw me.

"Have anything you like," he instructed and I ordered a Dewar's on the rocks with a twist. [Think Mad Men days in Manhattan.]  Liquor was a part of one's daily diet.  Dewar's was my daytime Scotch. At night, I drank Johnny Walker Red.  That lunch I had three straight Scotches in the span of less than two hours.  The asked questions, I answered.  John did most of the talking.  Mike smiled and stayed silent.  When I left them to take the subway back uptown to Random House, I suddenly felt very light-headed.  The whir of the train, the rush of the people, climbing the steps to emerge into sunlight once again and hike my way over to 50th & Third, quite simply I was plastered.  

The elevator whisked me up to the fifth floor where I stumbled into my cubicle and could not stop giggling.  It was after two and there was no way I was getting any work done.  Everyone could hear me laughing and came over to my cubicle to try and quiet me down long enough to hold out until I could safely leave.  At four, Mike called and said he wanted me to have lunch with the editor I'd be working for: Marsha McCormick. Could I meet her next week?  After I hung up I thought: Did I have the job?  It was an odd way to put it before I'd completed the interview process.  What if this woman didn't like me? Didn't she have a say?

When I met her the next week, Marsha was polite and reserved, conservatively dressed and very civil.  Immediately I knewwe weren't cut from the same cloth.  Still she was trying to engage and be open and I was trying to answer her many,many questions.  We went to a Chinese restaurant that was in a renovated sewing machine factory and it was the beginning of exposed duct work  reconditioned old wooden floors and high, high ceilings. I remember the waiter bringing what used to preface every meal in a Chinese restaurant, the bowl with the fried noodles and duck sauce to dunk them in.  These were really unusual they were cotton-candy-colored pink, blue, yellow, green and white Styrofoam chips these were the only things I had a chance to eat.  I spent so much time talking and responding that before I knew it the lunch was over, Marsha had finished and I hadn't begun.  The waiter approached.

"We're not going to let him throw this away are we?" I asked.

"Whatever you want," Marsha replied, looking at me with a question on her face.

"I'll take this to go" I told the waiter and said to her "I'll have it for dinner." After we'd said our goodbyes, bag-in-hand I headed back uptown, back to the office, back to my cubicle.

Everyone knew I'd been interviewing.  People were covering for me when I had to leave, so once I was back, people crowded into my cubby.  As I was describing Marsha and what she asked, and what I answered, someone looked at the bag on my desk.

"What's that?"

"My lunch."

"Whadaya mean your lunch?" one person asked.

Someone else asked, "You got a doggy bag?" 

"Well, yeah. I never got to eat my lunch, so I asked to take it home."

The crowd erupted. 

                    "You did WHAT?"    "You asked to take the FOOD?"    "Oh my God! I cannot believe you did that!"                  
  "GEEZ, are you CRAZY?"

"What is the problem?" I yelled out to stop their barrage, "we've all DONE IT!  What's the BIG DEAL?"

It got really quiet.

"Not on an interview" someone explained and they all drifted away  back to their own cubicles, heads downcast  convinced I had just blown all chances of getting the job.


Friday, February 1, 2013

House of Cards

Robin Wright as a steely blond with coldly calculating ambition.  Kevin Spacey as the know-it-all, solidly sophisticated Washington politician who helped elect the incoming President, expected to be made Secretary of State, and just found out he was being passed over.

So opens Netflix's first original series, House of Cards available to subscribers  with all 13 episodes released at once.

Now-stuck-in-Congress Francis Underwood and wife Claire (head of the Clean Water Initiative and about to decapitate half the staff) plot to be a major thorn in the side of the new administration that screwed him.

In addition to this master manipulating power couple, there's Zoe Barnes, a young journalist chomping at the bit to move her editors into the blogosphere and current with the interests of her generation.

Kevin's character speaks to camera and brings a caustic edge that is classic Spacey when he coolly says about his wife Claire:

"I love that woman. I love that woman more than sharks love blood."

From its time-lapse video opening to showing us text messages on screen as caption balloons (à la Charles Schwab ad at left), it feels sharp.    

Frank positions himself to get back on top   by using protege-turned-Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez, salivating reporter Barnes, fellow congressmen, and others unfortunate enough to be in his path  and his conniving has me intrigued.  

I'm a third through season one. Politics anyone?