I started rummaging in my little fridge, looking for a spot to put the tupperwares of seafood chowder I'd cooked up this morning, and excavated a second foil-covered tin of cupcakes, left over from last weekend's Annex Theatre Retreat.
So, now I have yet another dozen cake confections to deal with, when I had thought (although somewhere int the back of my mind, I knew this to be untrue) I had finally consumed the last of these little hellions a couple of days ago.
(A bit of backstory may be in order: A few months ago I purchased an auction item at a fundraiser which entitled me to a birthday cake, personally created to my own specifications by Ida and Molly, who have developed something of a reputation for concocting marvelously weird cake dioramas. Previous examples have included bloody, "Saving Private Ryan"-meets-"The Lost World" battle between little green army guys and dinosaurs, the deliciously creepy, "Hug me!" cupcakes, and the infamous "flaming banjo" cake, what was in fact, a flaming banjo, complete with some sort of alcohol powered combustible material. My only request was that my cake had to involve astronauts, and Molly later suggested that since my birthday this year would fall just before Retreat, perhaps I would consent to delaying gratification for the sake of group participation? Of course I did, seeing as if nothing else it would provide an opportunity to stretch the birthday fesitivities far beyond any reasonable timeframe.
Whereupon last weekend, I was presented with a garish, purple-and-violet moonscape, sort of a cross between The Giants Causeway and that set from the end of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", but of course made completely out of cupcakes. In their inimitably sick style, the diorama consisted of some sort of outer space cataclysm wherein a drunk shuttle pilot -- who had aparently imbibed a few too many of those tubes of Russian vodka secreted aboard the International Space Station -- crashed into an assemblage of his fellow space explorers, scattering them and untold billions of dollars worth of valuable equipment across the lunar landscape. Like I said, they have a creepy sense of humor.
And needless to say, there were plenty of extra cupcakes for me to take home. Hence, my present dilemma, to which we shall now return.)
They confront me in all their faded purple frosted succubus splendor, a dozen two-bite sized concoctions of flour, sugar, butter and egg, mocking my paltry efforts to bring them to submission. It's like a bad horror movie: just when you think the evil has been successfully vanquished, and it's time to take a refreshing hot shower, suddenly the throbbing bass swells in ominous expectation, "duh-dun, duh-dun, DUH-DUN, duh-dun", increasing in tempo until it reaches the desired 100 beats per minute, making your own heart follow like a lemming over the cliff, the camera tilts at a crazy angle, racks back suddenly to reveal the horror of -- MORE CUPCAKES!
Perhaps they're breeding in the fridge; maybe a 42 degrees Farenheit environment is actually the ideal incubation medium for their little devils food spawn, and I am unwittingly unleashing an infestation of apocalyptic proportions on an unsuspecting world. Will future generations, sitting in the rubbled remains of their once gleaming cities invoke my name with spite and venom? Will it pass into the ages like that of Cain and Judas, as one of the Great Betrayers Of Humankind? And all because I was too reticent, too health-conscious, too timid to do my duty and dispatch these evil cakelets to the fate they so richly deserve?
Sometimes I'm just overwhelmed by our consumer culture. I've been known to stand in supermarket aisles dumbfounded by the infinity of choices one can have for the most mundane things, like say breakfast cereal or chocolate chip cookies. But, every once in a while our mad dash off the cliff of compulsive consumption gets slowed down just a tiny bit by some wondrous, albeit probably completely unnecessary object that either makes you smile at the whimsical sensibilities of whomever thought that said object was worthy of manufacture, promotion and wholesale export (probably from some Communist third-world country, meaning most of the people making it are either political prisoners or earning the equivalent of about two weeks of our average wages per annum), or laughing out loud at the idea of actually purchasing said object, thus justifying Some Marketing Genius' estimation of our unconscious desire/need for all manner of ludicrous things.
Case in point: This little gem can currently be found at your neighborhood Urban Outfitters
Yes, my friends. Something you've all secretly been waiting for, but just didn't know it until somebody else figured it out for you -- your very own, fully articulated, 12 inch tall, talking Darren McGavin action figure from the move "A Christmas Story", complete with mannequin leg lamp! I hesitate to consider what "tapestry of obscenities" may issue from his little tinny speaker, but what I really wish is that someone will create an accessory kit, complete with rumpled sports jacket, spiral notebook and porkpie hat, so that you could convert this into a "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" action figure.
And of course, for those of you who aren't content with a little-bitty 8 inch tall leg lamp, you can always spend your hard-earned disposable income on one of these beauties.
The one thing I'm really enjoying about being "between engagements" (as we call unemployment in the entertainment biz), is that for most of the past two weeks I have felt a refreshing freedom from the concept of time. Certainly, there have been instances of having to be at a particular place at a particular time, but these have been rare compared to existence in the eight-to-five world, where practically every activity from the moment of awakening is dictated by the clock. Now, I can get up when I want (or when I get tired of the cats trying to rouse me), go to sleep when I'm tired and not at any specific hour, I can spend as much time on mundane activities like laundry, dishes -- or even more pleasurable pursuits such as reading, watching DVD's (just ran through the entire 17 episode "The Prisoner" series) or writing -- and still have plenty of time left over for actual appointments (Ironically, since being laid off two weeks ago, I've had two commercial and two theatrical auditions, a veritable cornucopea of performing opportunities compared to what I've experienced in the past several months), or other work-search related activities.
But, things have definitely slowed down. For the first time in years, I feel like I'm actually physically attuned to the natural world. I feel relaxed, rested, refreshed; the way one is supposed to feel after taking vacation time from work, but with the added bonus of not having to go back to the job that stressed you out to the point of needing to take a vacation in the first place. I feel calmer, more centered, I'm even losing a bit of weight, no due to a combination of slightly elevated activity levels, reduced stress, and improved eating regimen.
And it's not like I'm being entirely lazy, either. I'm still getting up between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., getting to bed usually before Midnight, and still doing things: aside from the aforementioned auditions, and domestic chores, I'm spending about 2 - 3 hours each day combing job posting websites, updating resumes, taking online career assessment seminars, making phone calls, in short actively pursuing getting back into the job stream, just not succumbing to the dreaded "must take the first offer that comes along just because I need a job" syndrome; I'm really looking for something more in alignment with my interests and pursuits, and I don't feel at all guilty about indulging in the one luxury -- namely a modicum of financial freedom -- that's going to allow me, at least for the next couple of months to actually have a shot at finding something I: a of all) can get really excited about doing on a more-or-less daily basis; b of all) might pay me something approximating my previous salary/benefit package; and c of all) might actually make a positive contribution to society.
I mean, isn't that the whole point of re-evaluating your career options?
Did Someone Call Me "Snorer"? Hurray, Hurray, Hurray!
Slept for 14 hours last night after returning from Annex Theatre's annual retreat. Although we get a lot of work done during the two days, we also tend to play hard, and in addition, I seem to have been suffering from some sort of temporary sinus condition that rendered me a literal pariah -- I was snoring, something I don't think I'm prone to do, at least not to the degree that not only does it bother other people -- immensely, as it turned out -- but, it had the added drawback of making it impossible for me to get any sleep either. Hence, my thought that this is not normal for me; people who snore regularly learn to sleep through it, my inability to do so would seem to point toward the idea that this is a somewhat rare occurance for me.
In any case, I'm well-rested today, and ready to tackle Week 2 of Living Without Gainful Employment.
I've been without email access for the past two days, which in internet terms seems like a veritable lifetime. After trying every possible workaround, fix, hack and whatnot I could think of, I finally resorted to downloading the latest version of Netscape -- and "voila!" I've got mail!
Evidentally, Bill Gates (or more likely, one of his horde of faceless minions) has decided that I don't need to access my non-Microsoft proprietary email account through their equally proprietary internet browser. But, this is (still, for the moment) a free country, and no lackey of the Richest Man In The World (tm) is going to dictate to me how I can or can't get my spam.
Otherwise, life amongst the unemployed is (so far) just peachy...
Calling All Citizens From All Over The World. This Is Captain America Calling
Over the past several days I've been giving this whole political situation a lot of thought -- prompted in large part because of the uncertainty of my own circumstances.
I had my exit interview today with my "new" boss of one month. And during the course of our conversation, he said something very telling, "This is always the hardest part of being a manager, having to let a good employee go. Because you're always afraid of how they're going to respond to this kind of news."
It didn't strike me until about an hour later, but I think he hit on something very crucial to this discussion. Most of the people who voted for George Bush aren't idiots, and they're not our enemies. What they ARE is very, very fearful. They're afraid of losing their jobs and homes, losing loved ones to terrorism, war and natural disaster, losing their long-cherished beliefs and values. Fear makes people irrational, it causes otherwise sane human beings to revert to the most primitive level of instinct; when confronted with some situation that elicits fear and anxiety, there are two basic responses -- fight or flee. Right now, many people on both sides of the vote count have chosen to fight, and a significant number are seriously considering fleeing.
Both of these responses, while understandable, are born out of fear. If the sense of fear is removed, people will calm down and begin to think through the situation. But, in order for that to happen, you have to first identify what it is you're afraid of. In this instance, it's pretty clear -- we're all afraid of each other. The entire political debate in this country pretty much since Vietnam has been couched in the language of conflict: Red vs. Blue, Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative vs. Liberal, "Class War", "Culture War", "Drug War", "War On Terror", you name it, most of the rhetoric on one side, and an unfortunate amount of it from the other all use these heavily laden buzz words that continuously press the emotional buttons in our brains that link directly to our adrenal glands. A certain group of politicians and idealogues (not all by any stretch, and not exclusively coming from the Right) have spent the better of the past 40 years cultivating this environment of fear: fear of blacks, of women, of Gays, of Muslims, of Fundamentalists, of Soccer Moms, of NASCAR Dads --basically anybody who doesn't look, think and act the way we do.
And it's got to stop.
The only way to conquer fear is through knowledge. Once it becomes impossible to objectify and dehumanize the "other", it becomes increasingly difficult to fear them. When you see that deep, down, you have more in common with someone from Kansas or South Carolina than you have differences (as significant as those differences may be), you can't help but think of them as fellow human beings. You may not agree on a lot of things, but you're not going to fear them. And if you don't fear something, it just follows that you're not going to hate it either.
You know what I'd really like to see happen in the next four years? If I had a few million dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I'd take a big chunk of that money, rent about 50 school buses, load each one of them up with as many of "my people" as I could find: artists, environmentalists, punk rockers, leather dykes, drag queens, academics, Goths, lawyers -- in short, a whole bunch of out-and-out "freaks" -- the very people that have been held up by the GOP as the boogey(wo)men who are out to wreck good, old-fashioned White Christian American values, send them out all over those so-called "Red States", and whenever they got to some little burg in the middle of Nebraska or Alabama, these people would all pile out, and walk en-masse to the nearest county courthouse, church or school. One of them would step forward, and in a big, booming voice proclaim, "We're here to help. What can we do?" And then just sit there and wait for a response. No matter how long it took.
Maybe somebody's house has been destroyed by a natural disaster, maybe the school is in disrepair, maybe the levee needs rebuilding, maybe some little old lady needs her lawn mowed -- whatever it was, big or small. If somebody from that community stepped forward with a request for assistance, you go help them. And with no thought of "converting" them to your way of thinking. No Quid Pro Quo, no "pay it forward". There'd be no speeches, no teach-ins, no community meetings, just a bunch of people who come in, and do a job They don't ask for thanks, they just help, where ever it's needed and to whatever degree it's requested. And when they're done, they just leave and move on.
I think after an experience like that, it would be pretty hard to hate someone just because they're different somehow.
As several online observers predicted, it hasn't taken long for Team Bush to start bandying around the term "mandate" to characterize their hairsbreath victory. Of course, it's no such thing, given that 48.6% of voters have said they don't agree with the administration's policies.
On a lighter note: What's the first thing our newly (first time) elected preznit decides to do after claiming victory?
I'll Take An American, Medium Rare With The Bechamel Sauce
It may be down by the time you read this, but the current headline at www.msnbc.com ledes with our newly elected (for the first time) preznit stating, "“I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens. With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans."
I guess it's just the latent paranoid in me, but doesn't that sound suspiciously like the title to an old "Twilight Zone" episode?
Oh the irony. On what surely must be one of the most memorably depressing days of my life, a day that will live in infamy, a day of crushed hopes, of somber reflection and genuine apprehension regarding the future of this Great Land, in short, a day that I thought just could not get any worse, did actually.
At 3:30 p.m. today I was officially notified by New Boss and HR Director that effective immediately, my services for the company for which I've worked for the past six and a-half years would no longer be needed.
Actually, it wasn't nearly as heartlessly soul-crushing as that, but the effect is essentially the same.
I've been laid off. Sacked. Given the boot, the pink slip, my walking papers, shown the door, etc., etc.
Sly devil that I am, I talked them into keeping me on through the end of the week, so that I can hand off the few duties I have that nobody else knows how to do onto some other poor schlub who's own head will probably be next in the guillotin basket, but it a of all) makes me look tres professional in the eyes of management (right, like I should care now), and b of all) gets me two more days of salary.
At least there's some sort of severence package -- two months pay along with my unused vacation days, continuation of my health benefits through the end of the year, "outplacment counceling", instant Unemployment, plus I get to keep my 401(k) in the same mutual fund (which is actually a BIG deal -- no 25% tax penalty for this boy-o), and evidentally an extended vacation too boot.
"Spin it, Comte, spin it - it's a GOOD thing!"
So. To all of you who sent "a little something extra" in those recent birthday cards -- thanks very, very much. It looks like it'll come in handy.
And, the next sound you hear will be that of the door slamming me in the ass on my way through it.