Snow Day

Snow day! And what did I end up doing?? Poring through old high school yearbooks, having reconnected with an old friend from a high school play on Facebook and feeling nostalgic. We never used to close the bookstore, but in this day and age of fiscal responsibility we have to weigh the sales with the payroll and the safety of our staff, so with the text “We are closing. Enjoy the day!”, I was gifted a day off. The entire day was looming in front of me and there was so much I could be doing, behind in my writing and blog posting, reading, guitar practice, and housecleaning. So instead there I was, with three bound volumes of Talons (we were the Fowler Falcons) to flip through.

Before selfies were a thing, high schoolers had to wait for their senior pictures to be taken for the yearbook. Pictures of dances or parties were taken on rolls of film in cameras with flash cubes, that would be sent out to be developed, and then a week later you could pick them up and see fuzzy depictions of the events. Yearbooks were full of blurry pics of homeroom classes and sports teams and club photos and students couldn’t wait to get their hands on them. Then for the next two weeks people chased down friends, teachers, and those they admired but were too scared to approach on a daily basis and asked them to sign the yearbook.

I loved checking out the pictures of the teachers and staff, some with cute notes to me written over their pictures, like my Chemistry teacher writing “To Debbie (my favorite)”  or my 10th grade Social Studies teacher writing, “To the brain of 7th – yes you may go to the library tomorrow” or the director of the musical I just wrote about (Who Stole My Thunder) who told me I was a “lively actress”. I hope I won’t hurt anyone’s feelings if I mention I thought my teachers were all so old when I was in high school, but 40 years later I still see at least 4 of them of a regular basis at the bookstore, so I may have been a bit off in my math. I stopped for a second to send up prayers thanking those educators who were no longer with us for what they contributed to my development.

And my classmates! Boy, did we have fun! I was in chorus and in plays and was part of the boys basketball team (as a scorekeeper) and got to ride the bus with them, which made the cheerleaders so jealous! Those girls didn’t realize that I had no game and even if I did, my brother was on the JV team and rode the same bus so it would have been awkward. I had forgotten what great smiles everyone had and how they laughed and teased me! I had forgotten how skinny I was and how big my boobs were and how no one really cared about either.

Inside the cover of the Talon ’79 the inscriptions read that they would remember my smile and how friendly and how sweet I was. I think that if they saw me today that they would think all three would still be true. And oh the drama… how so many things we worried about back then are really not important at all.

Here’s the only pic that I liked from the whole yearbook, which my in friend Howie decided to call attention to my chest (as if it needed it) by telling me how ‘uplifting’ I am. Although I wouldn’t want to be 18 again, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world! I had good friends and a stable family life and a cute boyfriend and was smart and funny. And now here I am in my 50’s and am smart and funny and have great friends and a wonderful family, including some nieces and nephews that I love more than anything and couldn’t even have imagined how amazing they would have been almost 40 years ago! Life is good for me right now, but I did enjoy the trip down memory lane when hair was feathered and high school musicals were mediocre and the library was a cool place to go, for me anyway.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Who Stole My Thunder?

There’s no picture of me in my huntress costume from my high school musical, but if you want to know what I looked like, just think Wilma Flintstone’s dress in a green jungle print (and with bigger boobs, it was way before my surgery).  “Who Stole My Thunder?” was an original musical about Roman mythology penned by my tenth grade English teacher. I reconnected with the guy who played Neptune, God of the Sea, last night on Facebook and it got me thinking about it.

It’s been 40 years so the storyline is a little fuzzy but it was something about how someone steals someone else’s thunderbolt, the gods get angry, and wackiness ensues. The story was told by Homer and took place partly on Mount Olympus. And of course there was a quest undertaken by Virocles, son of Ulysses. I couldn’t tell you where he went but there was a song that I can still remember the opening notes to called “Ho for the Wine Dark Sea”, unless Ho was their nickname for Juno, Queen of the gods. The cast was a mix of Roman gods and other gods that the playwright made up. They were actually pretty clever, mixing Bacchus and Mars and Venus and Diana with Badanova, the Brilliant and Calcula, the Computator. For all of those who think I am a prodigy because I remember so many crazy details, I broke into the memory boxes for the playbill.

Besides being one of Diana’s huntresses, I was also in the chorus with some of my friends from St Lucy’s. We had rehearsals a few times a week and without big parts, there was a lot of goofing around in the auditorium with the other bit players. Hanging out behind the curtain or sitting in the seats halfway up the aisle of the auditorium laughing at the people on stage, it was fun night after night. Here’s a blurry pic of a bunch of us. Old friends and new friends and even the guy who gave me my first kiss!

I was just talking about this whole experience a few weeks ago, laughing about how I had done the huntress dance with a dress with no bra and one strap and big boobs, and my singing…all I can say is there’s a reason I only play the tambourine. Honestly, I was surprised that the play got off the ground at all, with our director sipping every night from a Nestea can filled with something that definitely did not smell like iced tea!! How she kept herself and all of us in line I cannot imagine. But opening night eventually arrived and there were no wardrobe malfunctions and there were standing ovations. It was the 70’s and I am pretty sure it was video taped, but I can only hope that the tape has disintegrated from age if it exists at all in the Fowler archives. The school doesn’t even exist anymore, having been repurposed and renamed the Public Safety and Leadership High School. Some of the kids tried out for thte musical the next year, Godspell, and although I didn’t get into the cast, I saw the show and they did a great job and I have a better Godspell story anyway, future blog post. I have a soft spot in my heart for high school musicals (and for Disney’s High School Musical,  the one they do in elementary schools where my 10 year old nephew played George and sang the National Anthem) and for the fun I had with my thespian friends.

 

550 Words

Dear Linda, thank you for bringing me into this group of women with a common goal of writing 550 words every day. What a great video conference! Now that I have ‘met’ most of them I realize that you curated this group with great care (and I am guessing a bit of trepidation about exactly what kind of monster you were creating). Such different personalities with raw talent and commitment to generating work, great or otherwise (I know that sometimes I am just typing until I see the word count in the corner go past the requisite 550 words). And when we get together online like we did tonight everyone is so kind and supportive – oh, hold on. I need to get another beer – and I have to change seasons, the Sunfish is gone and now it’s Sam Adams Cold Snap. At least I’m not driving, right Alice?

Anyway, it was fun to hear everyone’s process and candidly talk about their “FAILED” days. I had excuses, band obligations and illness and last week when I was really sad about some stuff. It was even more fun to have them share tricks of their trade. I admire the fact that Judy can come up with a new subject practically every single day and be able to start a project with this raw material. I appreciate Angela’s focus on the big picture and how she wants what she is generating every day to link back to that larger project.  Alice could have acted superior because while some of us are buried in snow, she is in California with the sunshine in the background! But she wasn’t, although I think she was a bit jealous that I was enjoying a beer while she was stuck in LA traffic. And Roxi will be amused to know that after our call tonight I went into the living room to check my stack of recent acquisitions from Barnes & Noble to find I had purchased “642 Tiny Things To Write About”, part of the series of books that she had referred to that would help prompt writing and perhaps greatness.

Then there’s you Linda, herding cats. Conversation was fun and lively, with some good natured ribbing that would feel out of place in another group, but everyone here just seems to click. I can imagine that you are equal parts enthralled by the connections being made by some of your favorite writer friends, and overwhelmed by the sheer talent and drive, thinking that you may not measure up but knowing that all these women love and support you and realize how talented you really are.  Now I have to take a break from the seriousness to get the cake out of the oven I had to bake after our call. I thought I would be able to do it during the call but who knew I would be so captivated that I would not be able to break away!

So here’s to another 550 words. These are fun ones because I just enjoy the topic so much. I want to produce the word count every day for these women because I don’t want to let them down. And now after tonight’s discussions I want to take those words and edit and rework until they become great pieces because I want them to be proud of what I am creating. One 550 daily entry at a time.

 

Send In The Clown

Jim. A 92 year old man who lived a full and blessed life. I spent a couple of hours today listening to the stories of how he lived and my heart was full, and breaking. Full because it was evident that he touched so many lives, and breaking because my friend was mourning the passing of his Pop. The priest gave a wonderful homily about sunrises and sunsets and birth and death and about Jim going home. No matter what your thoughts about religion and life and the afterlife, it was a wonderful celebration. From the a cappella opening song “How Can I Keep From Singing”, chosen because Jim spent a lot of time his last couple of years singing out at the home, often at the top of his lungs, to the moving eulogy given by his son John, whose stories captured his essence perfectly.

And the stories I heard today from a few of his kids and from his wife – funny, heartwarming stories. And what I witnessed today, how he lives on in his kids and grandchildren. He proudly served in two wars, but was very private about it. He was in his 30’s when he met a woman raising 5 young children and this ready made family became his whole life. Two of his sons and at least one grandson followed in his footsteps, when they met women with young children and decided to create families with them. The path he forged as a loving and committed father helped those he loved bring joy and love into their lives.

Jim was a hard worker and a solid businessman who had a specific sense of right and wrong. He was a devoted husband and father. But every single member of his family shared stories today about his keen sense of humor, his tendency to seize any opportunity to play a prank, and even in his last years the ability to throw a few zingers at his unwitting targets. That is the Jim I remember whenever I went home to Greene with John. Everyone was fair game and although at first you thought he was just quiet, you found out very quickly he was just biding his time until he could strike. He was often a big softie as a dad, the perfect counterpart to his wife, who was often seen as a general keeping that crazy household running. In later years after retirement they traveled together and there’s a special picture of him in a kilt, unknowingly celebrating his Scottish heritage on a trip to Europe, that brought comfort to his granddaughter last weekend.

I wonder about the legacy I will be leaving, no children or business or any other situation that will continue on. Things live forever on the internet, and although I don’t know what kind of technology will be available 30 years from now, I am sure my stories of friends and family and fun will be out in universe. And then I think of the legacy that Jim left, loving dad and granddad, and now the great-grandchildren who will reap the benefits of his wisdom and wit. The memories of stories and laughs and family dinners will keep his spirit alive for many years to come. I think that if I am still teasing my friends and family and singing into my 80’s, much less my 90’s, then I will be blessed.

 

Remembering Dan

Raking leaves under a fall of snowflakes is status quo for me at the Great Camp Sagamore volunteer work weekends, whether it be May or October. It may seem extreme, but it is the mountains, after all. What a curious place, Great Camp Sagamore, existing in another time. No riding mowers or leaf blowers for this clean up crew, just rakes and shovels and tarps that had been previously been used for raven mitigation. That was a whole separate job that I was not willing to volunteer for (although Dana did!) that involved raven shit being cleaned off roofs. I get enough shit at work. I am Queen Pee after all.  Leaves piled on tarps are transported to a secluded section of woods and unceremoniously dumped onto other huge piles of leaves. And so it goes, every other season, fall and then spring and then fall again. No matter what the season, and what the weather, you could always find Dan wearing his trademark shorts.

Dan drove the oldest, rattiest truck. It seemed the esteemed road crew had custody of the other newer models. His daughter Kelly was our partner in crime that day, the third in our leaf banishing trio. We were glad to have young blood, I could barely climb into the cab of the truck, much less jump up into and down from the bed. At the end of the day it seemed a bit of a luxury to spend our energy on words, so it was quiet. The easiness with which the two of them fell into a pattern of dumping pile after pile of crusty, snow covered leaves was amazing to watch. Just when it seemed no more would fit, anther pocket of space would be found. And finally there were no more piles.

After dinner and entertainment, Kelly went to bed and Dan joined his friends at the round table, for our own brand of entertainment. In the main lodge, where the motley crew of volunteers gathered  in the evening, whatever happens at the round table stays at the round table. Kinda like Vegas, but really not at all. The particular evening in question ended up being conversations about strippers and kidnapping. Go figure. Dan was quiet by nature, but was also the first with a funny quip. He didn’t often say much but laughed a lot at that round table, for many years before I even met him. Many people have loved him over the years; I was able to get to know him over the last three years, a latecomer to Sagamore.

Spending time with Dan in the Tap Room in Raquette Lake , our regular stop on the way to Sagamore, was really cool. For those who don’t know, there is only one tap. And a liquor store in the window. And snails, on Friday, at 5ish. I love that place, and Dan and I have shared more than one beer there. Being from the city, exposing myself to those small town traditions is so cool for me.

Dan left this world rather suddenly last week. So many of us connected with Sagamore will miss him, myself included. And whenever I am sitting with my compatriots at the round table, we will lift a glass to a guy who loved life, and Sagamore.

To Summarize…

You haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks because Shameless. I spent the last couple of weeks with the Gallaghers. slipping deeper and deeper into their dysfunctional chaotic lives. And what happened to the promises made at the beginning of the month to match NaNoWriMo commitments from previous years, to post a blog a day during the month of November? Sadly, it seemed to go the way of all the ones made in years past. Another pre-Christmas retail season had me working extra hours and limping home, reaching into the medicine cabinet for copious amounts of Advil. And then hours of keeping up with the drug and sex-fueled Chicago family who just can’t seem to keep themselves out of jail. Go Figure.

A total of 12 blogs, all written in the first two weeks of the month, is still more writing than I think I accomplished in past Novembers. It was a strong start.  What did I learn during this latest attempt? That maybe November is not the best month for me. I will be gentle with myself, continue to blog at a pace more suited for my #retaillife, and bring you quality writing as often as I am able. Thanks for your continued support. And if I end up in jail in Chicago because of those crazy Gallaghers, I will let you know where to send the bail money!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzznfBbbMVc

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Piles of boxes stacked taller than me, slivers of space to squeeze through to get to the back door where the UPS truck is waiting to load in 200 more packages. Books as far as the eye can see on every counter and spilled over onto the boxes. Sound like an episode of “Hoarders?” It’s the stockroom at Barnes & Noble, where booksellers now have to try and get the product out on the floor and in the hands of customers in the less than 6 weeks until Christmas.

It’s the same scene every year. Our back room is really too small to handle all the boxes delivered on a daily basis during the season and we have gotten pretty creative about how to maneuver, but it’s a tight fit for a few weeks and it is really stressful to try and scrape enough personnel together to take care of it all. Always too much to do and not enough time to get it done. But then we do. We will get it all out and spend the next several weeks delighting customers with all the gift ideas we have, then clean up the glitter and snowflakes and start the ‘new year new you’ theme, and then comes Valentine’s Day, and the year will continue. The circle of retail life.

The next six weeks will be a blur. I will put my heart and soul and extra hours in to make sure the store is ready for all those people looking to create an amazing holiday. I’ll make my special meatballs and bring in treats and try to keep everyone in the holiday spirit, and when they are not I quote my dad to them, who is fond of saying, “Ho ho ho your ass!” By New Year’s Eve I’ll bone tired, but also happy we made it through another holiday.

Why take the time to share all of this? To ask that every time you are out shopping, trying to make the perfect holiday for your family and loved ones, remember to thank a retail worker who spent the previous evening stocking the shelves. When you stop to eat somewhere because you are exhausted from holiday planning and you can’t even, give an extra smile and maybe a larger tip to your waitress who works so hard so you don’t have to.  Instead of cursing DPW workers who plow snow into your driveway, say a thank you that the roads are clear and salted. So many people toil every day in service so others can go on doing for their family and friends. Make sure to let them know how grateful you are. I know I am. Happy Holidays!