Saturday, December 17, 2011

...and now the scratching starts...

Currently, as in all day today, I seem to be experiencing anger, frustration, anxiety, resentment, oh, just a whole heavenly host of Holiday hoo-has. Early this morning I managed a ride to Vernon where I have stuff in storage in a friend's barn. This was happy news. I hadn't been there in a couple of years, and the potential to locate missing items (as well as check on the collectible  movie posters) was heartening, But, as it turned out, Bob (the fellow being kind enough to give me a ride there and back) really didn't have any time available. It was grab and go. This did, however, turn up an item in the suitcase I grabbed... I mentioned the other day that my friend Tom Toth used to make Christmas cards featuring Carole Lombard. Here's the last one I know of that he did, and the least fancy (the others got printed in frames, with printed greetings, & etc.):

I did make a wee little change. Tom had it printed in sepia. I think t looks slightly better in black and white...

Anyway, after lots of strum und drang yesterday, I managed to get a Christmas tree. I'd come to the end of the paycheck until next Thursday, and there really just wasn't anything left. Last year, I noted that the Rotary and other Christmas Tree purveyors were sold out almost a full week before the holiday itself. So, after enlisting a friend with a car, I managed to get the Rotary guy to agree on a postdated check, and purchased a scrawny but full (from one angle) tree. I'd been sniffling and occasionally sneezing all day yesterday at work. Friggin people who sneeze on you.... The inside of one nostril felt swollen like it had a a blood vessel had burst. But it wasn't too bad. Until this morning.

Arrrghhhh! There''s only one string of lights left... Gggrrrrr.
I've been sneezing like a fairy tale dwarf all day. I am, of course, paranoid that I have now developed an allergy to Christmas trees and will have to put this one down. Or maybe they've sprayed some preservative on the tree so it will last longer or smell nicer that's the culprit. I do hope that's not the case. It was just one such sudden onset of swelling, watery eyes, and sneezing by my stepmother that was responsible for the premature destruction of one tree some years back when my father was still alive. The following year or two there was a mid sized artificial tree. When Dad started the six year slide into the finalities of prostrate cancer, she was too distraught to think about Christmas. I can't remember if she got a tree that first year or not. The next few years saw a minimally decorated 3 foot artificial tree. I would go "home" for the holidays, enter what had been my bedroom and find the tree, decorations, lights, and all, sitting on my bed. She'd pick it up, carry it back to the living room, find a spot for it, plug it in, and the deed was done. Quick, efficient. Not my style, but I like it. 

I'm still part way through putting the lights on this year's tree. I've been at it since about 10:30am this morning. Along the way there was a successful hunt and updated software replacement for my printer/scanner/copier. The programs on the new computer had more than enough stuff to run the show, but I liked the results of the program that came with the printer much better. I'm glad that's been taken care of. And there have been radio station phone calls and emails to deal with. And enough this's and thats's to drive anyone into bouts of delirium. Use the toilet, and the flush thingy beaks. Again. Take a few steps and the only belt I have stretches a little more and my pants start to fall down - again. And again. How do today's kids do it? I guess you have to have a bubble butt. I'm from a family of flat butts.

In an small studio apartment this size, there is little room for anything. Need the stapler? Move this there, that there, and viola! One stapler plus instant mess. This past summer I began rebelling against the spartan minimalism in which I've lived the past few years. As I closed the paid for storage place, I added a guest chair (the other one I had replaced my rocker office chair which, sadly, is no more), and my old art deco side table - the one with the etched blue glass, into the "living" room. I can not get everything I need to into the small storage space my apartment gets in this building's basement. The result has been stuff everywhere, especially as I've been trying to get the pre bleak winter deep cleaning and dust dinosaur eradication done. I'm putting the old dust catchers back into play, and it is making me feel better. There is absolutely no reason I should have or need to have an hour glass, well, more like a half hour glass, but it does reflect something about myself and I like having it out. Ditto the picture (really a xerox blow up of a polaroid) of my Dad from a Christmas long ago (c 1954).

Every step backward is met with an oops! Every reach to get something results in something else being knocked over. Every step into the kitchen or bathroom means moving the pumpkin which still hasn't been cut up for pie. (It sits in a corrugated cardboard box so I don't kick it to death - and I do end up kicking the box a lot). There is no place to put anything. There is no room for, well. there is no room. I've spent most of my life living in studio apartments. I'm sick of it. Having the space to have your stuff where you can get it without moving things around like a chinese puzzle box has become a luxury. I'm not poor enough to get anything better. As I get up to get a tissue to blow my nose, I trip on my cane. If it's Christmas can anyone hear me scream?

Well, I'm going off to make some shells and veggies for dinner. Then I'll move enough stuff to get into the built out closet where I put the spare Christmas tree light bulbs so I can replace the ones that didn't make it through to this year.

But before I go, here's a couple of scans I did this afternoon to test the replacement program. These are protective sleeves in which single 45rpm records were sold. And yes, I still have the records.

All I Want for Christmas...

Okay, I'm not a fan of the song, nor Mariah Carey. nor the Biebs - whose voice still hasn't changed ( I hear he's really a baritone). And a few seconds of this makes me want to club baby christmas seals. But it is just so goofy it makes me smile. And a smile at this time of year is a good thing and deserves to be shared.

I saw a clip of the above on some nameless tv magazine format show. It might have even been the news. So, when I went looking for it on YouTube, I was surprised that it wasn't in some special "hot" listing, and didn't even come up in the first couple of pages of results.

BUT, the following did. So for that semi Anglophile over at Austanspace, here's a different take, also smile worthy:

By the buy, the song was introduced on Mariah Carey's 1994 album "Merry Christmas", which has now sold over 5 million copies making it the best selling holiday album of all time.

Needless to say, listening to this - okay, I was going to call it dreck, but since I'm trying to get into a more Christmasy spirit, I'll be kind and simply call it oh, "paint by the numbers my husband is in charge at Columbia records manufactured not written pop trash", it occurs to me that I may have stumbled upon one of the reasons I haven't really been so into Christmas for a number of years now. I think I've figured out that indescribable something that is missing. Enlightened self-interest. So, for the first time in I don't know how many years, my Christmas Wish List:

1. Santa's Land
Because I've had a freakin' lifetime of being good and I deserve the chance to preserve something like this, so there. Yeah, it's a big ticket item. But check this out, I'm beginning to think there is more here than is known or being told.

The second pic is used online on a tourist website promoting the area, and the file name identifies it as Santa's Land, Putney, VT. I can't say I've ever noticed this guy by the side of Route 5 in Putney. But it's not just that, it's what looks like a roller coaster in the background. It all reeks of West Coast to me, But I like the Santa. Like the other one above, he;s almost kind-a scary looking.

Actually, I might just want to own the place to keep it for myself as a great living space, the hell with the public.

2. I need a car. This has gone on long enough. I promise to take good care of this one. Basically, I'm looking for a 1936 Duesenberg  Model J (it's a Dusey!").

If Santa can get one for me, I will promise (if necessary) to be seen driving up and down Main Street in summer with the top down, wearing a large fur coat - and nothing else. Hey, if it's good enough for Madame Sherri.... I mean heck, when I moved here it was still whispered that the West Chesterfield Bridge was built to allow some of the better known gentleman of Brattleboro to sneak over to her parties without being having to be seen down town heading for Hinsdale.  Except Madame drove a cream colored 1927 Packard.

3. The Heywood Wakefield art-deco stick-wicker club chair is still available in that chi chi store on Main Street. I went back to take a couple of pictures...

It's late, so finishing my wish list is going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Building Christmas time

Whoa! Sound. Surround Sound, at that.
Here, here's what I was listening to when sound went from stereo to surround sound and engulfed the room.

I haven't played music through the sound system (home theatre dvd player) for awhile. I'm not crazy about it for regular sound. Half the time when I listened to WVEW, it was with a mono clock radio. And I'd listen to the webstream for stereo. Much of what I've been listening to is in mp3 format and played through the computer's sound system. Sadly, when I found that I would need a pair of amplified speakers for the new computer, I didn't have enough cash to get something really good. As I've been doing the deep pre-winter holiday as if someone was actually coming by for a visit clean, I've been getting the old sound system out and putting it back together. But something possessed me. I'd never burned a disc on the new computer. It was time. So I gave it a test whirl. Four mp3 albums to mp3 cd, 2 minutes. I'm very satisfied. If I could get there, I'd almost be happy with it. So far.

I was talking about getting unstuck in time, a Vonnegut phrase that does a good job of describing what I'm trying to say. Maybe I wasn't talking about it. Yet. I was in the edited version due a minute or two from now.  I'm telling you, moving beyond the concept of linear time gets a little messy from, well, from time to time. For instance, in my humble abode, bathroom time is different from my living space time. It's slower. Time in there progress at a different rate. Really. It just does. The clock proves it, but it's a long explanation, and that's not where I was headed with this. I'm not trying to get all quantumy on you or anything.

So I'm working at it. Building Christmas. Today was one of those days when I only get 4 hours of work. I've been trying to get to a series of things ever since I got home. And while I've gotten some things done, I seem to have become unstuck in time again. Unexpected callers. Expected visitors. Late start to the stew. When I brought the ingredients after my shift today, I fully intended a large stew that would last a few days, a couple 'a meals, a couple 'a cold snacks. I'll just nibble. Still, the cost was enough that I'm now figuring I need to make to last for a week. After I brown the meat, I cover it with part Merlot and part crushed tomatoes. Except I made a mistake and bought diced tomatoes, which changes the amount of liquid drastically. And then it hit me. A cookbook which takes each dish through a series of options: Oops, not enough liquid? Add more wine. Prefer to drink it? Okay, add water, and if it gets to liquidy, stir in a teaspoon of flour, raise to a boil and... I don't believe I've ever seen a cookbook which really gives you much except a recipe. A few will give you optional ingredients. But a what to do if  kind of thing? Hmmmm.

So anyway, it seems like so many things I wanted to do not only didn't get done, but didn't get started. I'm not freaked out about it or anything. One foot in front of the other and all that. The stew is superb, if I say so myself. I love the taste yukon gold potatoes gives it. Now back to cooking up the holidays. Groan. That was bad. I should have said something like "adjusting the ingredients" or something. There were a couple of things I wanted to note here today.

The Census Bureau has been at it again. They had one of their little analysis of data reports moving up in the news charts with a bullet. It was there at 5:30am. It wasn't by the time I got home from my four hour morning shift. I was able to find it in a search easily enough, but then again I knew what I was looking for. Anyway, catching up with 2010 census data, it looks like the US currently has 97.3 million Americans who are now defined as being in a low income category. If you add in the 49.1 million Americans who are considered to be below the poverty line, the total  of 146.4 million Americans equals 48 % of the population. In other words, one out of every two people is, by definition, "poor". Can you imagine what it will be like when the social assistance programs are cut?

Boston. 1994. Five days before Christmas. The entire office 9 person staff of Sony Corporation's Columbia/Tristar Pictures filed into a meeting room at the city's Unemployment Office. An appointment had been set for us; our office had closed the day before. An executive met with us. We were told that in all likelihood, none of us would ever have a full tie job again. We would have a series of part time jobs. We would never have a job with benefits again either. Those kinds of jobs just didn't exist anymore. This was the current and new reality. Get used to it. And oh, yeah, Merry Christmas. And a Happy New Year.

In the United States Congress, there has so far been a failure to pass any legislation to extend a payroll tax cut about to expire. Republicans, who want the extension, are holding hostage passage of a bill to extended unemployment benefits. The Democrats are offering to give up seeking higher taxes for the rich. The government could shut down tomorrow. No one has yet said anything about the unspecified spending cuts which by law are to take effect at the end of the month due to a committee's failure to attain agreement on budget cuts. Kind of a shame really. If they'd timed it better by just a few days, they too could have explained the new reality. And oh, yeah. Merry Christmas. And a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just so wrong

Some things are wrong.

The last several days have been a lunartics Holiday. Full Moon. And Seasonal Panic. People who play the wretched card have been dealing aggressively and attempting to "buy the pot", which is kind of amusing in a return the circle to the wretched kind of way as there is no pot to be had.

Yesterday, I started work at 11:30am. By the time I was sent off on my first break at 1:15pm, I had managed to experience the worst, most abysmal hour and three quarters I have ever spent in retail. In my life. I am 61 years old and have been in and out of retail situational ethic awareness employment since I was a teenager. I've been dealing with the public in some form or other since I was 6 or 7 years old, when I would occasionally cover the town librarian when she needed to excuse herself, or had other work which needed her attention. (Luckily, she never held that incident where I chased Patricia Ann Smith around the library stacks in order to obtain a kiss against me.) Somewhere around 8th or 9th grade, I even ran the regional school's student supply store, so I've been around, ya know? Read that again. A student run supplies store for student purchases.  Yes, I'm that old.

Bookstores, Department stores, bookstores and department stores at Christmas, Dining room service, free loan film services where hiding behind a desk and a phone was no insulation from the inane insane. And so on and so forth.

The parade of torment and pain seemed never ending. It wasn't the monosyllabic grunters, they were (by and large) reasonably well behaved. It wasn't even the people who refuse to speak to you at all - it's usually beneath them, you know. It wasn't the woman who watched me ring up and pack her $120.00+ order on express, and just as I started to pack her last 3 items spoke up, "I have my Own bags." Oh, how nice! I'm glad you're doing this, it does so help the environment. The plastic trees are endangered, you know. It wasn't the woman who grabbed things out of my hands as soon as I had rung them up. No, it took at least 10 minutes until she arrived. She held up a gallon plus size of liquid Tide and said "5". She held up her fingers, "Five". No, mam. You have two different products there, I will need to ring them up separately. Empty Blank Stare. Hand up. "Five". No, man, I'll need one of the white bottles and one of the orange bottles, "two", plus "three". She stood there. She waved her hands around. She pointed. She spoke no English. She didn't understand. I walked around the counter, around her, reached in to her cart, moved the two white topped bottles to one side, and the three orange tops to the other side. I counted them, one, two - and rang up the white topped bottles. I then repeated the effort with the orange three. She looked at the computer screen. No, no.  She put her finger on the computer screen over the sale discount, a minus line item, as in " - 10 cents". I tried to explain that she wasn't paying that amount, it was on special.  People were rolling their eyes and loudly grinding their gritty teeth, and they weren't even in my line. Eventually, the war of comprehension was won when she waved at one bottle of detergent as though she were pushing it away. I took it off of her purchase. She was satisfied, and thankfully left. 

A minute or two later, a well dressed middle aged woman set down her purchase of a container of fresh soup made by our deli. I rang it up. That's six dollars and fourty three cents, please. "SIX DOLLARS!!!" (It wasn't a question.) "SIX DOLLARS !!!!!  !!!!" THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS". Well, mam, it's this amount per pound, and you got this weight - would you like me to re-weigh that? "SIX DOLLARS!!!!" Yes, mam, I'm sorry but that's about right. "I DON"T EVEN HAVE SIX DOLLARS." "SIX DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!!"

Then came to the two backwoods types. As I rung up the first guys' order, it was evident that he was  concerned about the second guy. He said he was going out to the car and would wait for him, and no, it was all right, he would drive him home, he wanted to do that. The second guy looked horrible. Long term sickness haggard look. Hi, how are you today? "Not good." Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. "I just lost my job". He worked as a handyman for someone who'd had a heart attack a week ago. The son had just let him go.

A smiling bald headed woman stepped into view. "Hi, Steven". Hi. We used to work together at Northeast Cooperatives. She'd lost weight. And had a very shiny head. I see you've had a few changes to deal with.... "Well, they told me if I was going to get cancer, then this was the one to get, it's only a year or so of chemo left..." I told her how much I admired her for not covering up, for being seen. I don't think I would have gotten through the rest of the day without her.

And so it went, people whose bank cards were declined and who had to return food. A few feeling no pain thanks be to the spirits. The children who stare at you with hollow eyes.  The woman who was upset because the plush toys display didn't have a full set of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer product tie ins. She'd purchased the tv show's characters over the previous two years, but never got a Clarice. She has to have a Clarice. I mentally hear Anthony Hopkins and manage a sympathetic smile. Sorry, mam. 

A guy who likes to talk politics (even though I've been "requested" to not do so) was next - he has no money for presents this year and was wondering about the morals of selling a photo he took years ago when he was standing next to Robert Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel.

There was my ex-landlord and his wife - he looking gaunt, obviously living with something ill. I rented from them until he got upset over a late promised check to catch up my rent (in arrears after Northeast Coops was bought out and there were no jobs available) and had me evicted after having rented from them for 10 plus years.

About 10 minutes before I was sent off to break, a woman I've known for years - since back when Sovernet started up and finally offered a local dial up ISP service in Brattleboro, fer Christs'sakes,  put her purchases on the register station's belt. She smiled broadly and said something on the order of, "It's so good to see you again".  I started to cry. Really. It was the first nice thing anyone had said to me all day.

It gets worse, you know. But I just don't have it in me to go on (about it). I've been taking drugs again for a few days now. Just the trazadone. Otherwise I don't sleep. And when I wake up in the middle of the night, my breathing is weird. Which freaks me out because a few weeks ago, when I woke up around 3am, I suddenly said out loud, without thinking about it, "I'm going to die before the summer". Needless to say, even though I put no stock in that what so ever, it doesn't help to make waking up hourly with breaking weirdness a calming stabilizing selection force in my life.

This morning, I did speak with a very nice woman at the Comcast office out there, somewhere. She turned out to be upstate in Burlington, and understands the local economies. I'd expected that I would lose my internet/phone/tv service today. I often call them to point out that their turn off date is always two days before I get paid (sheer accident of timing, yup) and will gladly pay them as soon as I can get my pay into my bank account. I've often  had to have supervisors get involved over this. The bill always shows a huge amount due. I always have to make it clear that I know they bill a month in advance, that the prices listed are before all of the various discounts and deals are figured in when you pay, and that the only money I owe them is about a third of what the computer shows, namely the current month, dammit. I often get a spiel that this is the last time they can offer me a two day delay for 6 months. Et cetera.  This time though, I wouldn't be able to pay the full monthly amount. I just don't have it. But no, this woman gave me no such grief. Problems worked out in a minute. Except that she turned out to be a survivor gabber and I had a hard time getting off the phone. And no, I'm not complaining, just observing.

The dryer in the basement isn't working right. I had to reload it with quarters. It took everything I had. I'd been hoping to use that for the bus fare home tomorrow instead of walking. Oh, well.

When I had been feeling like I could actually handle Christmas, and could interact with it again, I splurged on something I shouldn't have. I bought a new ornament for the Christmas Tree. It was a wild thing to do. It's a little tiny ceramic Tinkerbelle, sitting on a red ball and holding up a star to put on the tree. It's one of those dated keepsake ornaments that won't be made again, and was the last one they had. There would be no more. I bought it. At least I shopped local.
Of course, at the moment, it looks very much like I won't be able to afford a Christmas tree this year to put it on. I'd been counting on getting paid for 20 hours of holiday time at work that needs to be taken by the end of the year or I lose it. I had been getting small payouts on unused vacation and sick time (meant for next year, but subject to the new use it or lose it regulation). But they suddenly stopped after Thanksgiving week when I got a whole 32 hours of work, count my blessings. In asking for a monetary payout to be added to my check, I got a lecture. It was too late to include in the next check. If it gets approved, I might get it the check 3 days before Christmas. I bowed and scrapped and tried not to shuffle as I said "Thank You" to the person whose job it was to have kept the arrangement going in the first place.

So, with this swirl of emotion and loathing, I was looking through some old files on my computer when found the following. As I said, some things are just plain wrong.

Today is December the 13th, the 347th day of 2011, CE.
There are 12 days remaining until Christmas.
There are 18 days remaining until the end of the year.
There are 372 days remaining until the end of time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A new arrival in town

Without much time to write, but before I get ready to go off to my 11:15am-7:15pm shit, I wanted to take a moment to welcome a new resident of Hobbiton, Ms. Hilde Beest. She is sharing quarters with Austanspace. Sadly, I shall have to wait to meet her, but any friend of Austanspace is a friend of mine. Well, usually, anyway.

I hope Laura wired up the tree so it won't fall over, just in case Hilde tries to climb it. When I first moved to New York City just after the 1972 election (it was one of the only places left where humans could be safe), I shared a studio apartment on the Upper East Side with a Student Veterinarian whose name escapes me for a moment. He had two kitties. They had a great time climbing the Christmas tree. And knocking it over. And destroying half of my ornaments at a go. So I started wrapping wire around the tree trunks, and fastening it to the wall or baseboard.

Gosh, I hadn't thought of that apartment for awhile. It was way east on 87th Street, about a half a block from the Mayor's Mansion. It was extraordinarily safe. Single women could (and did) walk their dogs around there at 3am without worry. Our next door neighbors (who became a one apartment, not two) were a radio DJ who broadcast as "Roy Fox", and his girlfriend Ada. She was a stewardess, and a real sweetheart. Every great now and again, she'd bring us a baguette baked fresh that morning. In Paris. Bitch.

My kitty, Jezebel, never exhibited the slightest interest in messing with the Christmas tree. She never climbed it, even though I always wired it up just for safety's sake. She never swatted at low hanging balls, either. I always thought she enjoyed the tree as much as I did and didn't want to mess it up. In all truth, she was probably indifferent to it.

Ahhhh, lookit the time. I have got to run and get cleaned up or I'll miss the bus...