Writing witty missives about my Holiday excursions just seems trite and self-absorbed in light of the horrific tragedies people are going through half way around the world, so instead I'm posting this link to organizations that are accepting donations to help with the relief effort:
Pick one. Send them what you can. It won't come anywhere near to easing the burden of the living, nor bring back the dead, but every dime will help, and you'll feel better knowing you did something good for somebody you don't know, and will never meet.
Like The Summer Sunshine Pour Your Sweetness Over Me
I am SO high right now.
Before you-all start tsk, tsking away, however, let me qualify this statement by avouching that it's a perfectly legal intoxication.
Remember that scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where Spock eats some chocolate, and then suddenly starts cussing like an Alameda sailor, "The Hell you say," and "The Hell I am", and whatnot while he and Kirk are riding the bus? He was totally stoned on simple sucrose, and all I can say is, I know how he feels.
This is what happens when you spend the afternoon making holiday cookies. So far, I've completed a batch of Nanaimo Bars, am in the middle of baking a batch of Egg Nog Cookies, and am waiting for the Rum Truffle base to cool, so's I can add the rum. That's an awful lot of chocolate, coconut, powdered and granulated sugar, and there's just no way to avoid licking spoons, spatulas, beaters, fingers, because it all gets covered with batter and dough, and it seems such a dawgone shame to just wash it all off and send that sweet, sweet goodness down the sink for the fishes to enjoy.
Of course, the real challenge will be trying to get rid of all this stuff, because I really don't want it lying around staring me in the face, whispering sweet enticements into my ears. So, tell me if you're in desperate need of cookies, if you're local, I'll deliver.
But, tell me quick, before the rush wears off and I experience the inevitable blood sugar crash...
After my morning check through the online job listings yesterday, I decided to take a walk. It was a nice afternoon, one of the nicest we've had here in the Upper Lefthand for several weeks, and it seemed like such a shame to waste it on mundane activities like job searches or addressing holiday cards. So, I slipped on some comfy shoes and set out from Ravenshead, but after a few blocks I realized I was treading an already familiar path, and decided to alter my course, setting off in a direction that was hitherto unexplored.
My trek took me east, in the general direction of Lake Washington, through the Madrona business district (in reality a three square block area consisting of a couple of restaurants, a small grocer -- which delivers, or so their sign says -- an art gallary, and some small mom-and-pop operations, including what appeared to be a rarity in these modern times: an actual haberdasher). Over the hill, and down some twisty, windy boulevards to an area most people probably never venture into, one of those seemingly nondescript neighborhoods that, if you have the patience and the eye will yield surprising details.
This one held, among other things, a "lake" (barely larger than a kiddie wading pool), a nice hilltop lookout, a multitude of expensive homes, and a street pattern evidentally designed by a sidewinder.
After about an hour and a half of trudging through this hilly labyrinth, I ended up in Madison Park, a toney lakefront neighborhood known locally for a few decent, if somewhat overpriced restaurants, as well as one of the few public beaches in the city. Being as it was far too cold for a lakeside dip, I settled for a brief trek through the shopping district, finally deciding on a quick luncheon at a local pub, figuring I could catch a bus up the hill to salve my now weary feet.
Unfortunately, I became distracted by a small, but smartly apportioned kitchen store, one of those tiny places that sells French enameled cookware and Swedish cheese knife sets to upscale urbanites who normally don't have time in their busy schedules to actually cook food, but who nevertheless like to have all the trappings just in case some catastrophe occurs, such as the local deli being out of take-out Osso Bucco, and they're forced to improvise.
I'm a sucker for these kinds of places. Like the carnie barker promising a glimpse of heaven in the form of a twenty-five cent hootchie dancer, I get sucked in by the colorful window displays, and the completely unrealistic notion that, well, I really COULD use a good set of mixing bowls.
So, in I wander, and wander I do for the space of forty minutes, ogling the sixty different types of heat resistant silicon spatulas, the butter wells, the wall of cookbooks, the three-beer-can chicken roaster, I even briefly contemplate the dog biscuit recipe books, because well, I know people with dogs, and wouldn't it be a surprise to give them dog bones as Christmas presents?
When I came to, I found myself staggering toward the bus stop laden with an oversized plastic shopping bag containing a nine piece set of Duralex (tm) mixing bowls, a stainless steel Danish cheese knife and slicer set, a glass butter dish (do you know how hard these are to find nowadays?), and -- thankfully -- only ONE of the sixty heat resistant silicon spatulas.
I won't tell you how much this all cost. It doesn't matter. Obviously, I needed it, the way you ladies NEED that pair of Vera Wangs, and guys, like you just gotta have that PS2 version of "GTA: San Andreas" or you're just gonna DIE! With me, it's cookware. Doesn't have to be pricey or some designer brand (although truth be told, I can spot a bargain Chasseur stock pot at 100 paces), but I just have these uncontrollable urges to buy things that can be used in the process of preparing food -- generally for large groups of people.
And don't even start on some pseudo-intellectual analysis of what sort of neurotic tendencies this indicates: I'll cop to that. Heck, if you look in my utensils drawer, the implements are laid out with the deliberate orderliness of surgical instruments on an operating table. Practically everything I use: pots, pans, knives, utensils, you name it is pure, stainless steel. My cutlery is honed to scalpel sharpness (what do you think sliced my finger open to the point of needing stitches?). It just means I treat cooking as a serious business -- getting the recipe right is a matter of life-and-death. Each deflated souffle or crumbly frittata is like a flatlined ER case in my book.
Yeah, you could say I have issues; it probably has something to do with low self-esteem or an unconscious desire to please others, but whatever the psycological explanations, what it boils down to is that I am slowly amassing a veritable armory of cooking utensils. Which in-and-of-itself is probably pretty low on the scale of obsessive-compulsive collection impulses, but it also leads to the inevitable conclusion that, at some point I'm gonna start cookin' -- for like an entire battalion, and that is just going to put an insurmountable strain on both my stove, as well as my refrigeration capacity.
My only hope at this point, is that I can get through the holiday season with a huge weekend baking jag (Sjet, I can totally relate), that will satiate my desire long enough to get me through until January, when I have two weekends of scullery opportunities at 14/48 to satisfy my unnatural cravings for feeding large numbers of hungry people.
In the meantime, if I can't make it until then, don't be surprised if I show up on your doorstep with enough baked goods to scare a Costco shelf stocker, because now I have nine graduated sized mixing bowls -- and they WILL be used.
It's not often I get involved in altercations involving the local constabulary. In fact, to call it a rarity would be a gross understatement. But, when you live in a reasonably large city, eventually the odds are that you will find yourself talking to a police officer, and this evening evidentally was my turn.
I'd just left local sketch comedy geniuses Bald Faced Lie's (PLEASE update that website kids!) "Brown Derby Series" production of "Showgirls" (yes the Paul Verhoeven trash-o-rama extravaganza), a sort of anarchic, Marx Brothers inspired rendition of the film script performed at a local bar, and drove up "the hill" to Dick's Drive-In, a local hamburger joint of no small repute.
I drive into the parking lot, and the first thing that should have warned me things were not to proceed according to the normal sequence was that a late model Mercedes Benz was cross-parked in the lot, having obviously entered via the exit, and was now taking up three parking slots in front of the place. And next to which naturally I parked, it being the closest stall to the order windows.
I get out, get in line, and am standing there for all of about ten seconds when one of the occupants of said Benzo, presumably the driver, since there were only two and the co-pilot was clearly snoozing in the passenger seat, staggers over to the line of people waiting to order, and loudly requests the use of a cellphone. Now, normally this wouldn't be all that unusual, except for the fact that this person was packing two cellphones in one of his rather largish hands to begin with.
Okay, thinks I, either he's joking, he's really drunk or he's just lifted two phones that don't work -- any of which could be a likely scenario.
"C'mon! Anybody got a cellphone?"
A wag in line points out the obvious: "You've got two phones dude."
To which Mr. Cellphone Guy responds, "Yeah, but both the batteries are dead!"
A brief scene ensues, in which Cellphone Guy becomes the object of various and sundry smartassed retorts from line-standers asking why he needs a phone so bad, and doesn't he have a charger in that late-model Benzo (which has a number of major dings in the front end, so it's not exactly this guy's cherished baby -- another clue), and what, he's never heard of a payphone, etc., etc.
Cellphone Guy tries to maintain a jocular banter with the trash-talking customers, but he's obviously in no condition to rise to their level of late night badinage, and so mid-stream switches tactics from requesting assistance to somewhat belligerently insisting that he's gonna "kick someone's ass if they don't provide him with a cellphone right now", which just sets the crowd off even more, seeing as pretty much everyone can tell that this guy is in no shape to initiate an attack, and that even the 15-something junior high school girls in line can probably take him out without mussing their laboriously applied make up. But, in his alcohol-infused single-mindedness, nothing will deter him from securing the object of his desire.
Cellphone Guy focusses on a single figure, a rather slight-looking gentleman who up to now has pretty much been ignoring the entire episode. CG proceeds to accost Slight Looking Gentleman, demanding a cellphone, telling him he's going to kick his ass if he doesn't produce one forthwith and generally making an ineffectual nuisance of himself. After two decidedly hostile, yet altogether pathetic attempts to physicially intimidate SLG by attempting to grab his throat (which SLG easily fends off), CG wanders back to his car, mumbles something to his Shotgun (who is either completely passed out or blatantly ignoring his driver), then wades back into the crowd to repeat the process, having completely forgotten that he just pulled this same stunt no more than 20 seconds ago. AND he goes back for SLG's throat, having also evidentally blocked out the fact that he just for all intents-and-purposes battaried this guy already.
Needless to say, after the second attempted throttling, SLG leans into the counter, whispers to the burger attendant, and bruskly slaps off the insistent CG, who aparently perplexed at his inability to force someone to do his bidding weaves his way back to the side of his trusty Benzo.
Within thirty seconds, four Seattle Police Department squad cars descend on the parking lot, the first containing two female officers, one of whom jumps out before the car has come to a complete stop, grabs CG (who is in the process of making yet another attempt on the crowd), swings him around, neatly taking him down to the pavement. Handcuffs are produced, words are exchanged and before you can say, "Deluxe, fries and a chocolate shake", CG is whisked into the back of the patrol car.
At which point co-pilot, having missed the last six or seven minutes of his partner's schenanigans wakes from his passenger seat slumber just in time to get out of the car and get grabbed by another SPD following close on the heels of the first.
It's all over in about thirty seconds, apart from the statement-taking, which goes on for roughly thirty minutes. I give my $0.02, along with pertinent personal information, but am prevented from leaving the scene due to the fact that one of the police cars has parked directly behing me, blocking my exit. During the ensuing wait, I casually make an inspection of the Benzo, and notice that it has Oregon plates which expired in April.
These boys are not going to have a fun evening, I surmise, since at one point one of the officers speaks to an employee about their tow away policy, indicating that CG and his sidekick are probably not going to be released anytime soon enough to retrieve their vehicle from the lot before somebody decides to call the towing company.
Still, despite everything, I'm really curious who Cellphone Guy was planning to call, and what -- if anything -- he hoped they would do to extricate him out of whatever precarious situation required calling them in the first place. I mean, things would have gone MUCH easier if he'd just done what all the other panhandlers do in front of Dick's Drive-In and simply asked for some change to buy a burger -- that we can deal with graciously.
But, these out-of-towners, they just don't know not to come in and try to muscle our turf.
So, let this be a lesson to those of you who live under the mistaken impression that people in Seattle are just a passel of passive-aggressives who won't lift a finger to deal with an unpleasant situation.
Ran into one of my former co-workers at the Ballard Freddie's today, first person from there I've seen since my orientation session with the Outplacement Service about a month ago (but they'd all just been laid off too, so perhaps they don't really count). We chit-chatted for a couple of minutes, and then naturally the conversation turned toward "how things were doing at work":
"Lot's of changes," she replied, "so-and-so (one of the VP's) is retiring at the end of this year, and they're going to break up his division and fold it into Finance, Operations and keep only one small part of it in the same "silo" (this being one of those businesseze terms for a division). Also, such-and-such (another VP) is leaving, and blah-blah-blah will be taking over for him."
"Wow, that's a lot of reorganization!" I observed.
"And that's just at the executive level," she continued, "every department is downsizing, or will be very shortly after the new year."
"Sounds like I was ahead of the wave."
"Yeah, it hasn't been very pretty."
"Well, at least it'll improve your chances of winning those door prizes at the Company Christmas Party!" I joked.
I'm well into Week #5 of the Perpetual Vacation, and still going strong. Granted, I have actually begun sending out resumes to prospective employers, but on a decidedly selective basis. I figure if I have to look for a job, I'm going after ones that: a of all) are ones that fit my experience profile (admin combined with arts/non-profit); b of all) are ones that I feel have room for advancement; c of all) have a reasonable chance of paying me a wage approximating what I was used to earning; and d of all) are ones where I feel I might actually make some small contribution to making The World A Better Place To Live. That's not too much to ask from a job, is it?
In the meantime, I'm getting lots of reading done, and seeing a fair amount of theatre, taking walks through my new neighborhood (when the weather isn't -- as it has been the past couple of days -- so miserably cold, wet, dark and windy that only tugboat captains, firemen, and ambulance drivers would be compelled venture into it), although these are activities in which I would have engaged regardless of my employment status. On the negative side, I'm burning through my cash reserves somewhat faster than anticipated, due no doubt to dubious purchases like bathroom remodels and arts auctions, but I just look at it as my contribution toward keeping the economic engine that is Capitalism the well-oiled machine that is the envy of Third World countries throughout the globe.
And, I'm giving my Frankenstein's Monster of a left index finger a bit of a workout on the side; feels good to get it back in action, although I can tell it's going to take a while to get full functionality back, even after the stitches are removed (tomorrow -- yay!). According to the documentation I was given on the night of the "accident", it can take up to a full year for lacerations to heal completely (although I doubt it'll take that long in this instance), so there's always a slight risk of me "popping open" through some series of unfortunate actions, which I will nevertheless heartily endeavor to avoid. Right now, however, the the annoyance factor is somewhat akin to having a particularly bristley nose or mustache hair that scratches you by pointing in or up instead of down or out, except that you can't just pluck it to avoid the discomfort of having it constantly poke you in the nostril or lip.
And before I forget, a hearty "Happy Birthday!" to KC, and to BK!
I'm really looking forward to getting these stitches out of my finger sometime in the next couple of days, so I can start living a normal life again.
It's really quite amazing how even the slightest loss of function in a single digit can have such a profound effect on ones day-to-day existence. It took me about three days just to adjust my handwriting to the point that I could recreate a reasonable facsimile of my signature. I've been reduced to holding eating utensils like a starving logger in a boarding house in order to avoid accidentally diping the gauze bandage into whatever was on my plate; chopsticks are completely beyond my capacity to manipulate. Wallets and keys have been relegated to right side pockets, where they are occasionally forgotten until patted back into existence. I have to don plastic bags over my hand when showering or washing dishes. My typing technique has become half touch, half hunt-and-peck. And I've developed this semi-permanent extended finger which, depending on its orientation either looks like I'm making some accusatory gesture or else that I'm imitating one of those stained glass depictions of saints you see in churches, who are always pointing up to you-know-where.
The only upside has been that several people have treated my dressing like a cast and have either signed it, or in one instance turned it into a Santa Claus finger puppet; cute, but I'll settle for just having a plain, old-fashioned, naked, sutureless finger, thank you very much.
Not much blogging lately, as I've been busy with the job search, or more specifically working with the outplacement service to get ready for the job search. I go into their office two or three times a week to take seminars on such things as how to create an effective resume, changing career paths, networking -- all the things you'd expect. In addition,I spend several hours every day on their website and checking out the classified ads online.
Observations so far:
- If you're looking for an admin position in Seattle, the health care industry seems to be your best bet.
- The really fun, cool jobs rarely show up in print; like choice apartments, word-of-mouth is usually sufficient to bring in a good pool of candidates.
- It's definiely an employers' market; nobody's interested in what you've done so much as what you can do for them.
Fortunately, my financial situation in the short-term is pretty sunny, so I'm not feeling pressured to jump on the first thing that comes along. Unemployment is paying all the bills, and my savings should hold out until well into next year at the current burn-rate. Besides, this is the longest break I've had from the work-a-day world probably since my grad school days, and frankly I'm rather enjoying it.
Well, except for that recent trip to the emergency room on Saturday to sew up a minor laceration to my left index finger, requiring four stitches. It'll cost me (I'm still covered by my work health insurance, but my deductible is so high it'll all be out-of-pocket), and it's made writing and typing something of a challenge, but I'm getting by, and the stitches will come out in about a week, so I think I can cope until then.