Lightening up

Rather than navel (or hip) gazing, I thought I would try to write something interesting or funny. It may or may not work out.

There’s a creepy video making the rounds of social media today.

I would totally freak out and not have any idea what to do and likely get robbed. But that’s not funny, hence not the subject of this post. Instead, it reminded me of the night I actually did the same thing.

Years and years and years ago, when the planet was new, my hip was organic, and I had not reached the geriatric state in which I now find myself, I was younger and foolisher. I wasn’t actually young when all of the foolish in me happened, and I’d reckon there is foolish to come. But foolish I was and actively doing stand up comedy.

My favoritest place to be comedy-wise was the Walsh Brothers’ Great and Secret Show every Thursday at 10 p.m., conveniently located in my old neighborhood of Inman Square Cambridge. As a side note, in addition to being my most favorite place, it was also a place of butterflies in my stomach, insecurity and some not insignificant degree of anxiety.

But, what the hell, what didn’t kill me made me stronger. And, I got to hang out with two of the best guys I have ever met. People who I hope will be friends to the end. People with whom I have had rambling and brilliant conversations into twilight hours and ate pizza or chicken doner or guacamole depending upon the coast or continent.

Anyway, the scene is an empty urban street in front of an empty urban theater with yours truly between two urban brothers. Undoubtedly beer had been drunk.

Off to the side, a pothole or manhole or other kind of city street hole was surrounded by orange cones. A serendipitous ring of orange safety.

The street is called Cambridge Street, and it’s one of two or three main streets in the city of Cambridge that run through a large length of the city. It’s boulevard wide and mostly commercial with the occasional row of houses breaking up squares of shops. Cambridge Street is the heart of Inman Square.

It was probably David, but it could just as easily have been Chris, who pumped the beer in his veins to his gray matter, took in the orange cones and decided it was time for a roadblock. The three of us moved the orange cones perpendicular to Cambridge Street, straight up blocking all traffic.

It was cold but not unbearable, and a there was a bench nearby.

We giggled as cars approached from either direction. They would slow and then stop, assessing the situation and slowly turn around and head back from whence they came. We were laughing like loons.

Honestly, it was perhaps the only time in my life that I was a full on vandal. Part of my laughter was the liberation from my other self, the completely serious, maybe too serious, woman who by day managed grants and budgets for a large research center within a cancer hospital. My daytime colleagues would have simply been confused by my nighttime beahvior.

Actually, I have to confess. There was another transgression in my life. I was there when a group of elementary school kids surrounded the telephone pole kitty-cornered to my house and contemplated what would happen if the attached fire alarm was pulled. Someone pulled it.

I remember the door-to-door canvass by local law enforcement and the knock on our own door. I sort of remember my mother’s anger. But I cannot recall if I confessed then or ever.

Meanwhile on a dark bench with the Walsh Brothers, our laughing was interrupted. One man who approached the roadblock got out of his car to thoroughly scan the situation. His surveillance led him to lock eyes on a benchful of giggling knuckleheads.

Perhaps in August, when people sit on stoops or benches all over the city to catch whatever errant breeze might waft by, we may have gone unnotieced. But in late fall or early winter, coat weather, too late to be sitting upright on a city bench rather than lying asleep, hopefully inconspicuous and sadly homeless, we were our own beacon under the street lamp.

I wish videotaping on a cell phone was the ubiquitous thing it is now. He was literally hopping mad. Words couldn’t form around the idiocy of why we should do such a thing.

He strode into the street, moved enough cones to clear his path, and drove off into the night, no doubt with steam shooting from his ears. We walked in the opposite direction.

This post is intended to insult your intelligence

Here I am, quietly home alone.  OK, not so quiet, considering the Rolling Stones are playing.  And, I haven’t quite nailed Virginia Wolff’s:

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

For a few hours it is a room of my own.  And, with my lemon trees in constant bloom and fruit, fluttering with birds, it is a room with a view.IMG_3768

The last few weeks of my employment have brought me closer to the employment of others, or their aspirations thereof.  Yeah, less pretentiously, I’ve been interviewing eager hopefuls for a job.  Not all that eager in truth.  Here are some minimum requirements to keep the conversation not the potentially fruitful side:

  • Know the name of the company that is on the phone or inside of which you sit
  • Know the name of the department, as above
  • Have some kind of vague notion of what it is we do and, therefore, what might be asked of you
  • Don’t make me cry with boredom.

The last one is actually much simpler than you might think, even if I am a bitch.  I love stories.  I love imagining myself in other shoes.  I love picking up tidbits of humanity as I chug along.

I only pretend to hate people.  But I just might be the one who smiles at you and shares conspiratorial chatter in a long grocery line or unruly crowd.

In a job interview, I really, really, really want to like you.  I’m incentivized out the ass — there’re piles of work of both the shit and not shit variety that I’m meant to be covering, because we haven’t met you yet.  I already have a full-time job, so doing yours alongside my own is just the reason I want to hug you and squeeze you and bask in the salvation and glory that your hire will be.

I need you for my very sanity.

It’s a pretty minimal bargain this boredom thing.  A low bar, in fact.

But, I’m not going to write about my experiences.  The universe knows that the gods of Google have not always smiled warmly upon my face and shoulders, so I will leave the above as guidelines only.  As they say in movie land, any resemblance to real people and real anything really is coincidental.  My thoughts from my head.

However, I will mention an experience told to me.  In comparing notes with another person doing an entirely different job search, she mentioned a phrase that has stuck with me for weeks.

In response to the worn, tattered, clichéd intro question “why are you looking to leave your current position?” the person’s response was just the kind of philosophical conundrum that rolls inside my echoing skull for hours of navel-contemplation fun.  The reply about her current gig, and despite the quotes, I wasn’t there, so I’m either paraphrasing or making it up:

It’s OK, but some days it’s like it’s just an insult to my intelligence.

Let’s leave aside that this statement was uttered in a job interview.  While I tend to do well enough I suppose in a conference room full of interrogators (well enough to get jobs, it would seem), I’ve said enough monumentally stupid things in the workplace to not feel like casting the obvious stone.

Instead, what’s killing me, the riddle I can’t fucking solve or information I ain’t parsing — What the fuck really is an insult to one’s intelligence?

OK, OK, reader thus far, there is my prose.  I’ll give you that.  Although, it’s less of an insult to your intelligence and more a cry that you could have done so much better with your synapses and your time than to have read this far.

Earlier today, I put spoons and knives and toast plates and coffee mugs into the dishwasher.  It did not challenge me.  The thoughts inside my head were dull and plodding not glimmering and profound.  Was filling the dishwasher an “insult to my intelligence.”

At work some days I tick little boxes.  I collate.  I answer phones.  I do things for other people that I don’t feel like doing for myself.  I remember things like telling my boss that we should have cookies for a festive little reason.  I buy plane tickets.  I cancel plane tickets.  I spent ungodly amounts of time in Outlook calendar moving squares around in infinite patterns.

Some days I ab-so-fucking-lute-ly hate it.  I have to remind myself that the first world joy of office work is M&Ms and sodas, mini-cupcakes and the internet.  Dear, sweet, timewastingly infinite internet.

And, there are assholes.  Insulted I have been.  But my intelligence, she is still there even when the assholes try to shake my convictions.

So, if you got this far, do me a favor.  Give me an example of what might in the glare of fluorescent lighting and computer screens be an actual insult to your intelligence.

I cannot rest until I know.

It’s like a giant, evil bad thing tapping on my eyeballs

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Lately, I had a little free time and read some stuff by some other people of a comic nature. When I read comedy-like stuff in clump, much like when I go to open mike comedy nights, I start hating “funny” people.

I wish I could remember the bit. Chris Walsh had a goofy thing he acted out about similes and metaphors. I think there may have been a wolf involved, but a cartoon wolf, not a killer. Something hungry, maybe, like a wolf.

Anywho, it was like a Sesame Street episode explaining what a metaphor is versus a simile.

When I read “comedy” I start hating similes. I hate them like poison. No, in the spirit of what I hate, I hate them like sumo wrestlers and serial killer clowns eating too much Taco Bell and shitting in my vagina. Yeah, that’s about the kind of sentence I hate.

It’s like somewhere in a comedy writing course in a dark, windowless club with the shittiest beer on tap at the most usurious prices, a teacher is saying “You know what’s funny?” “Funny is unrelated, fantastical descriptions of things that don’t exist and slapping the word ‘like’ in front.” “That’s funny.”

I’m making these examples up, because I’m not like a douchebag filled with pus, but here’s what I mean:
It felt like a sumo wrestler was sitting on my forearm.
Hang overs feel a like tiny, mean leprechaun was taking a peen ball hammer to my temples.
The refrigerator growled like a mouse with a case of diarrhea.
My wife screamed at me like a Sherman tank filled with Fourth of July fireworks, careening through a marketplace in Kandahar.

Back when I learned the fancy talk of formal English and expository writing, similes were meant to tell you something. So, “eating like a bird” was because birds are small and eat seeds. You get some info inside your skull, if you can imagine a bird.

However, “My date ate like a prehistoric rabbit, related to a distant relative of a gerbil, in a desert being pummeled by hail,” imparts no similar information. It merely tells me “Hey, I can write words.”

A lot of comedians go for wacky descriptions to color up an otherwise boring, fucking story. I hate wacky.

In truth, I’ve obsessed about this literary device for the last couple of days. Of course, my obsession grew from my own reality. I’m as guilty as the next clown and equally boring.

The other day, I was expressing the anxiety that is wrought in me by a visit to an equatorial area with 85% humidity and very tiny, attractive family. In simpler terms, we are about to head back to Malaysia to visit M.’s mom, who has been sick.

It’s a good thing we are going, and I like hanging out and eating great food and having a lot of laughs.

However, even at 5 foot 3, I tower over M.’s mother. She is petit and small boned, and I could crush her in a bear hug or unthinkingly kill her with a sleeper hold just by the sheer bulk advantage. In Asia, as my acting out to my co-worker demonstrated, I am Godzilla or Gamera crushing Tokyo’s buildings with my awkward footfalls.

I am a sumo wrestler.

I am Lenny in Of Mice and Men.

I am a red-faced missionary in 1843 bringing my sweaty, sunburnt pastiness to foreign lands, although in my case sans the whole Christianity thing.

The less wacky truth is that, yes, I will wilt in the heat. But, a honking hunk of time, I’ll be lovingly caressed by A/C, or as the locals say “aircon.” I may even need a sweater for some mall walks.

I will be beet red for large chunks of time, and i will drink any and all beverage proffered to me, as I am from a people where snow blows and our thirst is unslakable.

Often his family will ask if I am OK, and they will offer hats, parasols, ice water, hot tea, lying down and showering. I feel helpless when this happens, but I do believe it is kindness not mockery.

I will probably not leave his mother bruised, broken or bloody when I bend down and give her a hug. And, she will likely squeeze me harder than I squeeze her.

Still and all, I am Gamera. And, it is also with some certainty, there is a family member who will allude to my size. But, she will be jovial and polite and not mention my ability to physically crush skyscrapers with the careless wagging of my backend.

Clearing a blockage

In the distant haze of a distant past, there is a very fuzzy memory. It is of a little girl named Tamara or Teresa or Tammy or Tatyana (well maybe not Tatyana, as I didn't grow up in Moscow). Let's call her Terry.

Terry somewhere in the years of elementary school and junior high branded herself a poet and marketed hard. In what could be my largely inaccurate memory, she read a poem at every assembly the schools ever had. Her crowning achievement was an award and inclusion in a scholastic something or other meant to reward young Byrons and Yeatses in utero.

What I also remember of Terry was that the poems were bad. Or given that my literary criticism skills at the age of 10 match my literary criticism skills today, that is, non-existent, maybe she was OK for a kid. However, seat upon auditorium seat of us children squirmed and groaned in unison. Even those friends of Terry's in the crowd found the poetry excruciating.

To this day, I fear being Terry.

When I perform stand up comedy, write, even ask a question at a meeting, my inner critic sweats giant pulsing rivers of flopsweat. Thankfully, it's invisible flop sweat of the mind, an internal anxiety, else I'd carry a towel and have to have suits fashioned of terry cloth.

I thought of Terry when talking to a professional person who is charged with helping to make me a better professional person. She checks in with me on my professional goals, and I try earnestly, vigorously to absorb and enact the rather practical, but perhaps a tad touchy feely, advice and actions she provides. Coach she is and kindly is paid to listen.

I told her about Terry. I also told her about an another voice I allowed into my writing head, who didn't belong there in the crowd of other voices. I may have made mention before of the dark noise I heard and credit for locking up my efforts to write for what's now years.

In a moment of a kind of intellectual enamor, I shared some writing with a member of the ivory-towered, ivy-covered halls. He, older, ostensibly wiser, definitely better educated had encouraged me, even as I was doing light editing, tech support and formatting for a tome he was writing on a Macintosh computer.

He kindly asked about my aspirations, somehow sensing my typing and word-processing skills maybe had other uses beyond office monkey. Naturally and happily, I shared what I had been up to creatively, eager to have someone ask. Nope, more than that, eager to have someone with a collegiate pedigree ask, like somehow, the words of the elites mean more or differently than the words of us plebeians.

In retrospect, where my brain should have gone was to the wise voices of my kind of people. Tony V., great Boston-based comedian, has (had?) a bit about Harvard. Not wrecking it too bad, the point of the bit is that they have the same books with the same words as everyone else, and everyone can access books; Harvard doesn't have a secret trove of information that is theirs alone.

In the end, the professor (actually he was a dean emeritus from a major powerhouse school) deemed my writing technically good and lively and funny. OK. On that we can possibly agree (on the days I'm not full of self-doubt and loathing).

However, he ultimately belittled me by asking the question possibly every person who ever feels like writing or creating or reaching beyond some kind of smaller purpose asks themselves – Why write? Why is it important? In his mind, and in the words that seeped from his mouth over Arnold Palmers at the Faculty Club for lunch, he decided I had enough working where I work, doing what I do to earn a paycheck, and shouldn't I think about that?

The question was posed as a value judgement on the status quo, which he deemed fine. Really, he held my gig as administrative support very high in both importance and my fortune in having it. In contrast, he asked me to consider the value of my writing and if it had any, and why I was not more satisfied with the status quo.

Sigh.

I thought about that conversation, as I had an entirely different sort of conversation about my writing with the woman who helps professionalize me. Again, I was asked what I wanted and why. This time, though, the point was to get me to chose and press for what I value. No judgment.

In the end, if I'm not Terry and just godawful, and if I just might have something to say that amuses another human, maybe that's enough.

;

A funny life

Ain’t much to complain about so I’m keeping it light.

Good old M. has a halo of protection in this relationship. Mostly it’s protection from me.

An incredible blue-skied day yesterday–our town reputed for fog above all else delivers sun in October–found us walking along the beach. Apropos nothing I remember, I tapped him on the ass as we strolled along.

“Hey, that’s sexist. Whacking a man in the hiney like that. Your sexist.”

I heard it, but since the voice was behind us on the walkway, I assumed it was two people talking. Though, I was intrigued and slowed a bit. I had to see the voice’s face.

“You’re sexist. I saw that slapping a man like that.”

We caught each other’s eyes. I smiled in recognition. He meant me.

Once again, the cosmos and fellow humans had saved M. From me.

Over my shoulder, I replied, “it’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last.”

No one is a god; I am not a buddha

In my life, particularly the shit part that takes up 40 hours a week and allows me to pay the bills, I've been working toward Nirvana. Nirvana would be the buddhist path of taking it for what it is, no more, no less, no drama, no bullshit.

I do my work. I do it well enough to not have my warped, over-performing brain, tell me I am inadequate. And, well enough for the folks who care, you know, to not care. Then, they pay me. Simple. All folks involved seem to think Nirvana is possible.

My simple, buddhist path, my simple buddhist sensibilities, my simple buddhist yearnings, (does the Buddha ever yearn?), these things are waylaid. Waylaid by my inability to let go of the non-buddhist ways of others. Buddhas are not petty. I am petty. I am not Buddha.

One type of homo sapiens that has always tripped me up in every job everywhere is also a source of fascination. Fascinating in a rubbernecking car wreck way. Fascinating in the how the fuck do people buy into voting against their own interests kind of way.

To whit and behold: The Legendary Co-worker. (Note: this is an archetype, not a real person. No one will ever read this tripe, but liability and disclosure-wise, if you see yourself, that's on you.)

The Legend is that person who always is firing on all cylinders, running at full speed, burning up. The Legend cannot take a lunch hour. No, there is work to be done, and alone the Legend must not dally. We, the great unwashed, the peons, the lazy, slackers, failures and mere mortals, we eat at a leisurely pace, we chew our food as though tomorrow will come and the project will get done. The Legend, she knows better, 10 minutes of sustenance crammed down her throat and she's off to produce.

At every meeting, the Legend, she must be late. Time is a luxury, and it cannot be wasted Better to have others wait, stacked up, airplanes circling her tarmac of attention. She will land all safely, the Legend knows, and we all await her attention from the tower.

So, in more prosaic terms, these self-important asses blaze into any meeting late, rushing in, gurgling how unbelievably busy they are, how much they are doing, but yet here they are ready to hand you a few minutes. The key is unbelievably busy, because, I don't believe you, jackass. And, your being late, well that just fucked the clocks of everyone else in the room.

Even with time at a premium, the Legend does have more than sufficient time to extoll her virtues, to explain how she is occupied better, faster, harder, smarter, sweeter, bigger, more awesomely than you.

That's all the narcissistic annoying part of the Legend, nothing much then mild workplace friction. That's not why I am fascinated. I'm fascinated by how these same folks are always able to build up a fan base. They are goddamned beloved in some circles.

I worked with a guy who for many years lived off of the work of his subordinates. His main occupation in any business day was selling himself as the go to guy for any circumstance. He always presented as overworked yet eager to take on new projects for the good of the company.

What his staff knew, and apparently management didn't, he never actually did any of the extra work. He masterfully delegated, spreading everything out to many hand, many weaker hands without the forum to advertise themselves or speak up at all really.

He took not doing his own work to creative levels. Even confidential hiring forms that were his responsibility were farmed out to be completed by an underling, because she had nicer handwriting.

He sat in his office. In the ample free time he had after outsourcing every scrap of work he had, he created his own cottage industry of filling out online coupons and rebate forms and reselling the crap he earned. He literally made money on the web, using company resources from paper to the guys in shipping and receiving. Perhaps noteworthy, he did this moneymaking while ensconced in a non-profit organization.

He may not have been beloved by the toiling hordes who did his work, but a fairly good chunk thought he was a nice guy. They were grateful for the opportunities to try new things, not realizing that life doesn't actually reward on extra credit projects, and he was schmoozing on their sweat equity. Like Tom Sawyer painting a fence, they were happy to help.

He sealed the relationships with generous gifts of worthless tchotchkes he received for free and couldn't sell through the web. His fans gushed at his kindness, even as they threw away the scented candles that stunk.

Management thought he was great. They loved his can-do spirit, ready smile, pleasing demeanor and other bullshit displays. Any complaints against him were read as bitter, sour grapes. Work was getting done and his face was there, always there. Moreover, he rose (or sank) sycophancy to new, brown-nosed levels, and the weak-willed caved at his flattery.

No one ever suspected any of his scams, which included approving computer equipment to be delivered to his own house “for testing,” and being sure all catered events were overordered where he waited with Tupperware. (Ho ho ho, the holiday cheer, the night I went to his private house party, where I was treated to the identical hors d'ouevres menu from our departmental party.)

Another Legend I've met created such an intricate net of important details that she alone knew, I'm actually impressed. It's impossible to know if she deliberately didn't write anything down to create a feedback loop for her alone to act and be the super hero or saviour, or if she was just an idiot.

I'm voting idiot with a sidedish of self-importance. Her fans, they vote her omnipotent, omniscient, truly a god who graced us with her work. Now if only I could find a copy of that project that she alone had the skill to complete, because I want to read her brilliance and who doesn't love vaporware?

Me, I lack finesse.

Legend, I am not. Buddha, I am not.

I mewl and whine, despairingly. I know my work is that of a frail human. I know my skills are replicated a billion times over and alone I can accomplish very little. I ask questions. I admit mistakes. I let others take a turn. Some days I don't work hard at all.

I'm loved, hated, tolerated, regarded neutrally and with amusement at work at approximately the same levels I have in the rest of the world. I have friends and detractors both, but the vast bulk of humanity doesn't know I draw air and doesn't care one way or the other.

Perhaps my buddhist path is simply remembering that as long as I know my limitations and respect the contributions of others, karma is on my side. The Legends, they will always be. It is not my path.

What the hell am I?

In a timely coincidence, this image has been making the meme rounds in Facebook and whatnot:

 

I don’t know the exact source of this version of the list, but it comes from this article by Linda Kreger Silverman.

It’s timely because I just got the results back from a Myers Briggs personality assessment. Happy to say this time around it was paid for by work, but I’m still all working and employed and shit. Unlike the last official “personality assessment” on my permanent record this one was all warm and fuzzy.

Anyway, turns out I have a personality. Of sorts.

Here’s the timely of the timely part — heretofore, I tested as INTP. I totally have thought of myself as a giant, big old, introverted “I.” I love being alone. I love processing shit my own way in my own time. Better a couple. of great friends than a crowd, yada, fucking, yada.

Then, round about a decade ago, probably longer, I decided to come out of shyness with a vengeance. Now I totally dig that Carl Jung wasn’t saying introversion is the same as shyness, but I never got “my energy,” as the pop psych crowd would have it, from crowds. Holding back seemed like a fine response to life.

Only thing was, I had journals and private writings. I had words I wanted to say, thoughts rattling in the brain pan. The older I got the more I realized that the world was going ahead without me.

Like a terrible version of the crazy that was G. Gordon Liddy overcoming fear by eating a rat and tying himself to a tree in a lightning store, I took an adult ed class in stand up comedy. To overcome a fear of public speaking, to bring my writing public, to speak out, to shake my own personal status quo, to step up and out, I thought going on stage would be a good idea.

I almost puked and shat myself the final night of class, when we stood behind a mike at an actual comedy club. I didn’t try again for two years, when I screwed up the courage and took another class.

Ultimately, I whacked away at it for a while and got comfortable(ish) on stage. Comfortable enough to combine most sane people’s two biggest fears, getting naked and standing alone on stage with nothing but my jokes. The butterflies and/or gurgling fear of evacuating my bowels stopped.

I have no scientific proof, but I feel like I took the skills acquired on stage to other settings. The stage and writing cliche is that I found my voice.

Turns out that voice had other things to say besides jokes. When I moved west and interviewed for a job, I was outspoken and direct and more outwardly reaching than I remember being back east. Whatever made me get in stage sunk in and stuck

So the other day, I fired up the interwebs in my workplace and took the Myers Briggs dealio on account of some professional coaching I’m doing. Well, I’m not coaching. I’m subjecting myself to a little coaching action on account of wanting to be a better person and cog and all.

Lo and fucking behold, my trusty reliable “I” is now and extroverted “E.” This time around the test says I’m ENTP.

I don’t know how the hell it happened, but I turned into somebody else.

Another year, another day to mention Pat's Day

Ah, the Ides of March have come, and for me that means thinking about my dear old madre. She would have been 82, I do believe, if her stroll here on planet earth hadn’t ended.

For all times, I hope to celebrate my own memory of Pat by choosing to eschew the conventional. I hope I always pick the bright red bloomers and sassy bra over the pale pastels or floppy white cotton. If the woman taught me nothing more, it was to enough to know to have a little fun in the underwear world.

A friend back in Boston, who unlike myself actually gets stuff done every now and again including the Idatorod, is working out an idea. It’s a book compiling stories of embarrassment and tragi-comedy, called Mug of Woe. She sent me a note, so I sent her back a little bit of my embarrassing life. It got me thinking, and writing more again.

In a completely separate universe, metaphorically and literally, a friend in California had a party on Sunday afternoon featuring her favorite psychic. I wrote about Felix last year round about this same time.

Once again, he mystified my skeptical soul with shit I can’t explain. The dude says my dad is there and is showing him something about mowing the lawn. He even mimes the full body gesture of starting the old style gas motor, yanking on an imaginary rope. Felix asked if I understood why he would be mowing the lawn.

Everyone who knew my dad in 1968 would know what the lawnmower was all about; it’s essential information. My father was mowing the lawn when he suffered what would be a fatal heart attack.

But I ain’t writing about my dad today. Nope.

Felix the medium is chatting up my mom. He mentions something about frilly clothes, but it’s not clear to him, and it’s not clear to me. Frilly wasn’t Pat’s outwardly defining style.

Pat is showing him writing, my writing, and near as I can tell, she’s cool with my pathetic ambitions. I’m supposed to write, spirit mom, spirit Pat indicates, and she understands.

At this juncture, I feel like I need to explain a bit about writing to the assembled room, about what I’m trying (painfully and lazily and fitfully and occasionally happily) to get out on paper or electronic screen. I mention my writing about my relationship with Pat and the working title of “Burying My Mom in Leopard Print Undies.”

Felix is rolling with this interruption. I gather spirit mom is cool, too.

Then I tell them one of the stories about why that might be the working title of my book about our fucked up by largely functional mom-daughter relating. I give the Reader’s Digest condensed down version. The story, though, is the self-same one I had just sent off to my friend’s Mug of Woe project a scant week before this close encounter.

Way back in the dark, distant days of the 1970s, I went shopping with a junior high pal and her moms. It was that day that I learned Pat had a different sensibility than the hausfraus in our ‘burb.

When I dropped my drawers to try on some pants, my little buddy’s mom lost her mind. My 11-12 year old tush was swathed with black lace, the very lingerie Pat had given me the Christmas before. In fact, she had given my sister and me each matching boxed sets of undies feature red, black and white lace.

Seems my buddy’s mom found them unseemly. She didn’t believe me when I told her my mom gave me the black lace. In her, albeit cramped and tiny, universe, little girls wore white cotton, at best with a miniature pink satin rose marking the front from back.

Felix the medium jumped in somewhere at this point in my story telling. The voices over there had confirmed the frilly clothes reference with which he had begun. Pat was channeling in black lace.

Over the years, I came to appreciate Pat’s sense if underwear whimsy. It’s like regardless of the mood, weather or whatever shit is happening in your life, you can have a party down below, or underneath as it were.

My sister and I bought her a lovely matching set of leopard print bra and panties with improbable yellow lace to return the favor. Sadly, we bought it the day before a priest waved incense over her mortal form and we buried her next to my dad.

However, it was the quintessential out-of-step gesture she would have dug had she been there to see them. It’s the kind of quintessential out-of-step gesture that I think keeps me amused to this day, and in turn keeps me from looking the haggard 47 years that people assume I should look.

Tomorrow, undercover of some semi-respectable work clothes, I’m rocking red satin. Wherever you are, whatever you do, even in the tiniest gesture, it’s good to let your freak flag fly.

Pat taught me that.

I fancy myself a raconteur

Today, I helped add a little more awkwardness to the world.

One of the many funtabulous, swell things I’ve gotten to do over and over and over again in my daily, pay-checking earning toils is interview people who also want to toil. Lots and lots of jobseekers out there in the world, and coast to coast I’ve had to make with the questions and conversations.

Years ago I got to hear my all time favorite answer ever given to the cliched “Why are you interested in leaving your current position for this job?” The woman being interviewed explained that after the cops had come to her house for the third time for a domestic quarrel complaint they advised her she needed to make some changes. She continued that her current job was so stressful and intense she was forced to work late and would come home exhausted to an angry husband who would fight with her about working late. Hello escalation.

Job interview tip #1: Don’t mention the near arrest.

In all of the interviewing I’ve done or had done to me, I’ve kind of sorted some things. All bristling with management tips and experience I’ve mostly learned interviews suck, but they suck a little less if you have a conversation.

It’s not a conversation, really, but you can try. The problem is the format. Whether it’s television late night, the back of a gossip magazine or a dank interrogation room, the old Q&A is a clumsy o way to keep things moving. I put job interviews alongside interrogations. I’m not into water boarding and like to keep the torture minimal, so if I can get the ball rolling conversationally it seems more humane.

I’ve found, too, that if you can keep someone talking and they get comfortable they say the damnedest things. The violent chick who didn’t get the job that might save her from the police calls piped up after we put her at ease. The dude who once told me he was a “lesbian,” he was kidding, and talked up hanging out with me once he started was way too at a ease. As wAs the young woman who saw my old office and announced her first step in her new job would be to clean it up.

Another fave was the woman who part way through a doubled up interview with my director, a medical doctor, went into excruciating detail about the fun she had watching a new polar bear get loaded into the Stone Zoo. In our meeting afterwards, my director confessed that she stopped listening herself at some point and instead started watching the interviewee’s involuntary tics and tried to guess which psycho-pharmaceutical was responsible.

California hasn’t been as ripe with the forehead smacking interviews. Between the kind of jobs with which I’ve been currently involved and the proximity to a university of some repute, the over the top is more of the insufferable variety.

Today, though, was special, because the conversation I looked for, I pine for, I try so very hard to instigate never quite gelled. It wasn’t my show to emcee, and I let others take the lead. Holy smokes, I didn’t realize job interviews could be so painful. I couldn’t sit still and grasped for some reins to start steering partway into one.

OK, I knew they are almost always painful. These were first, bad date ugly. Stilted would be the discussion.

I learned two things. One, I’m actually not bad at interviewing, I should never ceded the lead. Two, if you never put the person a tad at ease, you get almost no information. I really got to write out a self-help how to book on my wisdom, damnit.