Archive for the Adventures and Interludes Category

THE KEVIN SERIES: American Kevinstand

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Exhibits, Important Social Issues, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Love Thy Fellow Man, Narcissisim, Obsessions, Philosophy?, Photoshopping Kevin, Popular Culture, Profiling, Science?, Special People, The meaning of life with tags on November 26, 2012 by Admin

Kevin’s wife Juli is my biggest supporter.

THE KEVIN SERIES: Intricate Polychromatic Art Speak for Incongruous Fun Torturing Kevin

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Being a Virgo, Communication, Confusion, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Literary, Narcissisim, Pest Control, Philosophy?, Photoshopping Kevin, Special People, The meaning of life, The Process of Art, Therapy, Thoughts with tags on November 26, 2012 by Admin

An old image I found years ago:

which was then modified for an old blog post:
https://benigngirl.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/intricate-polychromatic-art-speak-for-incongruous-fun-and-conflative-prophet/

recycled for THE KEVIN SERIES.

THE KEVIN SERIES: Dissecting The Projectile Photshopping Opus Of My Muse, Kevin

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Being a Virgo, Communication, Confusion, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Literary, Narcissisim, Pest Control, Philosophy?, Photoshopping Kevin, Special People, The meaning of life, The Process of Art, Therapy, Thoughts with tags on November 26, 2012 by Admin

This is part of a new series I have only just realized I have been working on for days and which I shall post here as both intellectual fluff and bloggerly filler, as I slowly find my way past the crushing pain (I live with NINE herniated disks/sheer pain, daily) and back to the habitualities of blogging regularly.

This blog has been untended for some time yet I realize that with this sort of Spy vs. Spy relationship I have going on Facebook with my pal Kevin, I have created a series of artwork which should be shared with all, for Kevin says and does the craziest things.

After a grueling day spent posting about politics (which hurts my head, even to simply post that which I have observed, for posteriority) my brain needed an exorcism of sorts and so I made ART. I have a new muse, Kevin who, much like Dwight Shrute, is a farmer. Kevin is my muse. Kevin pretends to me angry about this, he rants, he raves, he threatens, and yet if I miss a day he starts baiting me which I smartishly recognize as begging for more.

Also, this is how my brain works:

And so, I present the new and ongoing series (until I become apathetic), Photoshopping Kevin. It begins with random photos stumbled upon in the interwebs and takes on a life of it’s own. So each opus shall include the before image.

I call this one, Dissecting the Projectile Photoshopping Opus Of My Muse, Kevin, With Identities Blurred.

Before:

After:

Jazz in Holyoke with Kaos Theory; An Unusually Fine Outdoor Experience

Posted in Adventures and Interludes, FOOD & RESTAURANTS, Life Performance Art, Poetry, Thoughts with tags on September 23, 2012 by Admin

So, my pictures from this event did not turn out well, but I think the video gives an idea of the spectacular projection and music of the band. Oddly, I have not been able to get an answer from anyone I have contacted regarding the exact name of the band. But then, some times I don’t feel so… sane.

 

The original poster:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA


We have been having a series of jazz concerts in a huge parking lot behind two abandoned buildings and a single occupied one, using an old long-abandoned loading dock with weeds and etc as a stage. The result is pretty amazing as the parking lot is situated such that it is between two canals and this creates a beautiful cross breeze, helpful especially on those hot summer nights. Sometimes the BYOR crew coordinates with the jazz series but on this night we were the only people who’d brought food and wine and candles and yet somehow, due perhaps to a miraculous miracle in which the dishes we’d made had self-replicated exponentially, we were able to feed most everyone who showed up. The bottles of wine lasted throughout the evening, as did the Eggplant Parmesan from a friend’s garden — well, all but the cheese — as well as the chocolate zucchini cake, the pumpkin tarts and muffins, and the myriad other dishes.

There is something rather ethereal about tablecloths, cloth napkins, candles and flowers in a visually near-post-apocalypse setting, and the stage… well it is hard to describe just how it lends itself to the various jazz bands who have played at this unnamed venue.

At this last event the evening was  the sort cool temperature bordering on cold of the sort which, following seemingly endless painfully sweltering dog days, makes wearing socks and sweaters as delicious a feeling as at the end of a long day at the beach when the sun has set and the goosebumps appear.

As I was the only person with a camera, this is the only video we have. The song which is labeled “Candy’ has been stuck in my head ever since, along with the warm feeling from sitting around the old discarded kiln we dragged out into the parking lot and used as a fire pit, and the dreams I had after a beautiful evening in the fresh air.

Wonder Bred

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Being a Virgo, being defensive, Confusion, danger, Empathy, Fellow Human Beings, Get Informed, Honesty, Important Social Issues, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Love Thy Fellow Man, Non-Selective Empathy and Compassion, Northampton Police Department, Philosophy?, Regretful Human Behavior, Special People, The meaning of life, Thoughts, We Are ALL Peers with tags , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by Admin

UPDATE: It seems that Mr. Sir and John counted fourteen policepersons in all on this fateful evening and so I thought this worth adding. Because so often people tend to exaggerate numbers and situations, it is my way to… what is the opposite of exaggerate? I am going to check the antonymary… I am going to go with understate. Anywho, I tend to always round things down as I find that hyperbole discredits the point one is trying to make. My memory of that evening is very clear though it is the emotional part of it that is most fixed. As we waited for forty-something minutes for the FOURTEEN policemen to decide what to do with us, I ruminated on the inherent hypocrisy of the situation, the shame, and the tragedy, while my ethnic companions counted cops over and over, as the numbers increased. Part of me doesn’t want to believe there were quite that many uniforms surrounding mar car but I know my companions to eschew hyperbole as well. I am not going to go back and edit the post below, so this update shall suffice as sufficient edit.

All that for a YELLOW light.

I have a friend, whom I shall call Mr. Sir for this post, and who is a rather wonderful mixed breed of African American, German, and Native American, which is rather evident in his features. Mr. Sir is a well-educated and accomplished sort of sir and holds a very prestigious position at a highly regarded art museum with a notable (7$s worth) collection of Fine Art. Often Mr. Sir is sent to other countries by this museum as trusted escort for priceless artwork — by the likes of Monet, to name a one — when this museum borrows or loans work from/to other prestigious museums. Museums do this, and the work being shared MUST be escorted for various reasons, all of them, like, totally important. He has also been sent to other countries to authenticate rare works of art ($729,000 worth of rare art on one trip alone) before his employers write the check, and is responsible for conserving six figure works, like when kids stick gum to paintings and whatnot.

Art is also “handled” by “Art Handlers” and shipping companies, but that good, bad, and sometimes rather ugly inside scoop is for another post. Mr. Sir is not an Art Handler though, yet our pal Biggie is, who is big. And strong.

Cowboy Curtis,  looking surprised, in a gold fine art frame. I kill me!

Mr. Sir has experienced his fair share of flights running late, resulting in his dashing through airports alongside said priceless works (think very large packages and/or crates) in order to make connecting flights and he has been stopped — due to the packaging and the features and the dashing — at a more frequent rate than other running airport people, the point being that he is among those who seem to attract such visual scrutiny in airports. Therefor, Mr. Sir is ever-s0-vigilant to shave on flight days, even if that means shaving at 3 am, because he has learned by the seat of his delayed-ass pants that the combination of facial hair plus dark skin color and exotic features can result in scrutinizinglied missed flights, and how often can one ask their employer to purchase yet another last-minute flight due to attention attracting (not ALL of it bad, actually) exotic features?

I have tried to walk a figurative mile in Mr. Sir’s various ethnic shoes yet I am merely able to  approximate what life must be like for persons of different colors and ethnicities, having been born a whitey through no merit of my own (I’m looking at you white people who feel superior for “winning” some sort of pre-birth lottery). Recently, however, I had a small taste of this thanks to the Northampton, MA Police Department. Thank you NPD, I am now ever more sensitized to the dubious perils of being non-white. Though having been pulled over in the south — by another baby-faced, blond-haired, blue-eyed officer — and astronomically ticketed for being a Yankee,  I know a wee bit of the helpless rage one feels at such injustices.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets profiled and finds their car surrounded by policemen wielding flashlights and a few rounds of hollow-point suspicion.

I don’t choose my friends by visuals; I choose them by their souls, how they make me feel about myself, and that which is abundant in their hearts. My companions on that fateful night are two of the most sensitive, sincere, compassionate, spiritual (by which I mean that they believe in and practice that which is truly good and beneficial for fellow humans, though not affiliated with any particular brand of religion), kind, generous, intelligent and evolved people I have the fortune to know. They are beautiful people, inside and out.

Mr. Sir, like many of his related relatives before him, has in the last few years been getting more involved with his Native American roots.  He grew out his adorable jheri curls and now sports braids, often sporting Naive American-ish clothing. Noooooo, not feather headdresses and immodest scraps of buffalo hide barely covering his manly bits, I mean “ribbon-ed” shirts and beaded necklaces. “Ribbons” in this case refers to hand stitched designs — by an authorized person — which signify one’s specific tribe and whatnot, including admirable accomplishments I believe, though not scalps of whites brought back to the rez, silly. I don’t understand all of it and so I will leave it at that. Mr. Sir goes to Pow Wows all over the country, participating more and more in Native American ritual and philosophy, which is about kindness, peace and forgiveness. They best believe in forgiveness, for what was done to those native to this land was deplorable; being slaughtered and herded onto fenced millifractions of what was once their own land. And it hasn’t ever gotten much better, though the slaughtering ceased ages ago.

My stash.

Mr. Sir always bring me back a satchel of sage blessed by a Medicine Man at the Pow Wows and I burn it for friends who need prayers. I swear sometimes it works. I have never been to a Pow Wow or even a reservation — not because I haven’t wanted to go, but because, “It’s not a fucking theme park”, and I get that.

Through Mr. Sir, I had the fortune to meet Gary Farmer, an accomplished actor (Dead Man, Adaptation, and Dances With Wolves — in which he uttered his now-iconic line, “Stupid Fucking White Man”, and who now tours North America with his band, Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers, and with whom I once did a pretend duet at a gig and furtherly for whom I am to one day do a documentary of his life as activist, actor and blues musician — our interview went THAT well. Mr. Sir plays in Gary’s band, as does his pal John, who is part of this story.

BTW, soon I will post here an interview I did with Gary Farmer over a year ago (shamefully delayed) and which I have since been editing down to an hour.  Our conversation was so fascinating that I didn’t want to lose a single sentence of it but, alas, 2.5 hours is too much.

AnywhatthehellwasItalkingaboutanyway, this post is about profiling in what had once been considered one of our most “sensitive” and progressive  towns here in “The Happy Valley”, and involves a traffic stop, a few police cars and foot/bike patrolmen, my car being surrounded by EIGHT policemen (there were no female police present, hence the term), and a subsequent verbal warning, after about 40 minutes in all of boredom and profound embarrassment for all involved (looking at you and your armed cohorts, Babyface).

The Northampton, MA Police Department at work; As seen in my rear view mirror.

It all started one night when Mr. Sir and his pal John and I were on our way back from seeing a band in Greenfield, Ma. It was a dark and stormy night… yet it was a clear and balmy evening.

John, the other passenger, was in town from Rio Rancho, New Mexico for a visit with his pal Mr. Sir, as well as for a reception; he was showing his work at an area gallery. John is a big guy, and has hair down to his waist. One can easily guess at his heritage. John also has a business crafting beautiful custom guitars and plays as a studio musician and in several bands including Gary farmer and The Troublemakers. A friend of his from high school in was playing at The Art Bank in Greenfield and so we all went to see her band and I paid 3$ for a airplane-sized bottle of water, while Mr. Sir and John each had a single $20 (ish) beer, as I don’t often drink and we’d been fairly depleted by the $10 cover charge.

On the way home we took the scenic route and as I approached the intersection of Main and King/Pleasant streets in downtown Northampton, MA the light suddenly changed from green to yellow, just as I reached the stop line. Rather than slam on my brakes — though I was in second gear and thus only going about 20 mph, having just stopped at the Cumberland Farms for a candy bar and thus having not driven far enough to get past second gear — I felt it safest and perfectly legal (it is) to just go through the intersection. As it is a short yellow light, it turned red just as my tires crossed the stop line at the other side of the intersection.  Just then Mr. Sir said, “Monkey (he calls me ‘Monkey’, because of this picture of me as a child, in which, logically, I look like a monkey), there was a cop right at the intersection on the left, facing us!”, and I said, “No problem. That was a perfectly legal maneuver.” But the cop had seen Mr. Sir’s ethnic face in the back seat window — they looked right at each other — and soon enough I saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror.

I pulled over immediately, which un/fortunately was right in front of The Elevens ( a local bar popular with the young folk), and as luck would have it, half the bar was on the sidewalk out front providing us with an audience. It would later turn out that one of Mr. Sir’s coworkers was on that sidewalk, watching the whole show and wondering whether or not to jump in, being a sophisticate and well-connected and all that.

View from passenger side window.

Then there was a flashlight in my face, held by a young, very white face. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Yes, because I went through a yellow light.”

“Well, it was red…”

“It was yellow.”

As we spoke, his flashlight searched my car. A second cop then joined the non-fray, and his flashlight also got busy all over my car through the window on the passenger side, including into Johns face in the passenger seat, and all over the back seat including, as I noticed during one of my rear view mirror glances, right into Mr. Sir’s non-buffalo-hide-clad crotch.

“How much have you had to drink tonight?”

“Nothing.”

“You sure? Because..I mean, you ran that red light back there.”

“It was YELLOW. I had nothing to drink. Check me.”

“Well, no, I don’t really smell alcohol.. it’s just that…”

“Check me.”

His flashlight continued roving the depths of my car, breaking up his sentences as he divided his attention between what he was saying and whatever insidious contraband for which he eagerly searched. It shined into my eyes, down to my feet, straight into John’s and Mr. Sir’s faces. New flashing red lights arrived, reflecting off the rear-view mirror, and then there were a few more cops comically/cautiously nearing, elbows bent and hands twitching near hip-mounted gun holsters — while yet more approached the car, and us perps, from a different direction, suggesting they were not from the arriving/flashing car behind me. Perhaps they were on foot and/or bike? Northampton, MA has a few bike cops, because it is a very dangerous town. In all I counted ten cops, which suggests some of them had to be on bike or foot, as there were only two police cars; ONLY. I amused myself by picturing them all tumbling out of a single cruiser clown-style, while we waited. And waited.

“Go ahead. Check me. I give you my full permission. I had one small, over-priced 3$ bottle of water.”

I had handed over my license and registration, and so I added, “Run my license. I have a clean record. Perfectly clean.”

Me and my homies. Werd.

Throughout all of this both Mr. Sir and John had been staring straight ahead, neither saying a word. They seemed oddly immobile, and even possibly nervous, which surprised me because one does not get arrested for running a yellow light. And that’s when it hit me — this, the two police cars, the ten policemen in total circling my car with flashlights, the lights GLARINGLY flashing, all of it — this is what happens to them, this is what they expect and are what they are used to, even for more minor “transgressions” than running yellow lights. This was a nearly inconsequential example of what it is like to be them, to be viewed with what seems an awful lot like an assumption of guilt, rather than an assumption of innocence, or an assumption of neither.

Were I, a white woman, alone, and had that light actually been red, I sorta doubt there would have been an extra police car and a few extra foot cops. I felt angry, embarrassed to be white, sad, and resigned. With the crowd waiting and watching from the sidewalk across the street — likely thinking this was some serious shit going down and someone was about to be cuffed and taken away, due to the sheer number of cops and cars — I felt shamed, demoralized, furious. I am grateful that I am not made to feel this way on a regular basis, but there are those for whom this is a way of life simply by virtue of their appearance and it begins at birth.

NOTE: Neither of my passengers wore gang colors, do-rags, or saggy pants; both were securely belted, seat belt and otherwise. Neither of them wore face paint or wielded bows and arrows. There were no battle calls, tomahawks, guns, knives, glassine packets, glassy eyes, or vicious dogs involved. No test tubes, scales, suitcases full of cash (else I might have had an adult-sized bottle of water at the bar, or even two), there was no cloud of smoke in the car, no odor, and no lawyers on board.

I forget what the blue-eyed cop with the fair and enviable baby-smooth skin said next, but before he walked back to his car to run my license I found myself blurting/explaining, “Look. My friend here had one beer at the Art Bank, and he works at ____. And this is our friend visiting from Santa Fe, who is a musician and artist. I think he had one beer as well.  We went to see a high school friend’s band and now we are tired and on our way home. That is all.”

The accessories make the scofflaw.

My young, fair, blond, blue-eyed cop joined the bulk of the group of now TEN cops — well, he joined five of them; four were in front, ostensibly keeping an eye on us, while the rest had gathered behind the car. I watched in the rear view mirror while they discussed “the matter”  for 20 minutes. Does it take that long to run a check? For 20 minutes we sat and waited, and I kept an eye on them in the rear view mirror as they discussed us while facing my car from the back. There seemed to be some brainstorming going on as they chatted back and forth, while looking at my car, at us, back at each other, some chin stroking going on, some harsh reproving glances, more chatting, and then FINALLY Blondie came back to my window.

“I’m going to give you a warning. This time. But [something something something] red lights [something something]“, to which I replied again, yet this time halfheartedly, “It was YELLOW“, and he nodded, handed me my license and registration, and walked away. No written warning, just a mere verbal warning.

I was a bored/exhausted nervous wreck as I pulled out back into traffic, and I had trouble seeing because of all the still-flashing lights, but then we were free, and we waved to the few dozen patrons of The Elevens still on the sidewalk as we drove off, at 5 mph.

All that for a verbal warning.

This is fucking hilarious!

In Which Paula Burns Her Head With Her Instyler and I Come To A Rescue, Of Sorts

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Advice, Being a Virgo, Confusion, danger, Fellow Human Beings, Important Social Issues, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Literary, Philosophy?, solutions, The meaning of life, Thoughts on August 1, 2012 by Admin

For a client (facebook friend) who required that a customer service letter be written after tragically burning her head with her Instyler (whatever that may, or may not, be, which is in question on my end) in order to alert the proper authorities to the hazards of Instyling hair:

[IMAGE LINKS TO SOURCE]

Dear makers of Instyler,

While using my Instyler yesterday — which I ALWAYS use with the utmost measures of care and precaution — I somehow managed to burn my head. I wholeheartedly believe (due to said care and precaution) that this is the direct result of a flaw inherent in the design of this implement and/or that it lacks sufficient safety precautions for mere mortals such as myself (though I humbly yet honestly assure you that I am an extra-ordinary person, exhibiting a cerebral capacity and wit not common to the masses, yet, as I must now also candidly admit, is perhaps but a mere smidgen below that [intellectual capacity] of Marilyn Vos Savant, whom I find to be, at times, overly obsessed with dry unbuttered facts, and a twee bit humorless, as does my friend Malraux, who once notoriously spit out an omelet fed to him by Jean-Paul Sartre composed of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones, and who, yet, was able to see the profound humor in such an experiment, for Sartre’s Cookbook.

As you may by now have discovered vis a vis (added for affect, not pretension) my unmatched capacity for oxymoronic and enthralling run-on sentences, I am a multi-faceted and fascinating genius, and thus this accident — the unceremonious and unintended burning of my head (of which my horoscope* (reproduced in its full coincidental warning bell-ishness below) warned against this week, which has added to my new anxietal condition, for the wrath of the stars is vast and fierce) — is not likely to be the fault of a pedestrian intellect nor a careless use of said Instyler.

Perhaps hair was meant for self-protection, rather than serve as point of potential vulnerability, the maintenance of which, heretofore, herewith, and hereof/in can lead to catastrophe vis-a-vis flawed styling implements and their inherently herein-ted insouciant lack of the most basic human safety precautions and/or inherency-filled obstacledom to self-harm/foldment/spindlement/mutilation-ment, and so on and so forth, by way of desperate attempts to meredly adhere to ludicrously unattainable societally-imposed standards and measures (with applicable charts and graphs) of beauty? Such are the dramas, the potential traumas, the tortures of the mind, the conundria that Mr. Rogers never explained, which Captain Kangaroo never disclosed (because dude was absolutely into aesthetica, yet in a manner in which we were too meredly mortal to grasp) which torture me, keep me up at night, erode the last bastions (bastonia) of my sanity, as I insomniacally wonder  at the lost innocence that never was in this world in which we so dramatically and yet so shallowly live, in such an aesthetic manner. Werd. 
[IMAGE LINKS TO SOURCE]

While my grammatical tendencies may belie a jaunty disregard for the parameters of language and its regulatory aspects, I can assure you that one must be exceedingly well-trained in such grammaticalistic disciplines in order to thus nonplussedly swat them away with such a level of jaunty disregard, and thus, as it very logically follows, the masses are in the gravest danger lest safety measures be added to the Instyler.

Since the head-burning I find myself perplexed — a perplexion born of sheer terror and anxiety, which has resulted in a befuddlement of the most basic brain functions — by the simplest of appliances and tools. My anxiety has grown and has taken root like that of an aggressive climber such as a Clematis plant, perhaps, with a power like that of bamboo to voraciously take root and assertively unseat the foundation, in this case of my mind. I am utterly paralyzed by the thought of using my Swingline Stapler or grinding my coffee beans and as a result both my stapling and filing needs, as well as my nutritionary needs, are being less met with each passing, torturous hour, as my life devolves into complete chaos, directly opposed to my Virgoan tendencies and thus in opposition to the stars, the universe, life as I knew it.

The Instyler sits on the counter in my bathroom complete with attached piece of my burnt head and a pile of noxious odour (spelling used to insinuate my boarding school days in London), mocking me, mocking my un-Instyled hair, mocking my very existence as a now-damaged being. It cannot be long before my increasingly bizarre behavior will be noticed by my fellow Mensa members and soon the only club that would have me will have me no more, furthering my eddy-like clockwise-ishly (there must always be some Virgoan order, even in the throes department) descent into madness.

I fear it is too late, domestically — it has been noticed by my husband, whom I now suspect of trying to lock me up in a room adorned by the most crazy and appalling yellow wallpaper under the guise of  “a relaxing week’s vacation in The Berkshires”, while stroking our cat, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who smirks at me now  with utmost insouciance. He ( for Charlotte is a he) is the enemy, or is it my Instyler? I no longer have the mental capacity to tease such discernments out of this situation.

And how, pray tell, will I present myself to Berkshire society with un-Instyled hair?

Please, if you are human, help me. Please.

With utmost sincerity in run-on sentencery,

Mo Gareau

*Virgo Horoscope for week of August 2, 2012

Verticle Oracle cardVirgo (August 23-September 22)
A few years ago, a Malaysian man named Lim Boon Hwa arranged to have himself “cooked.” For 30 minutes, he sat on a board covering a pan full of simmering dumplings and corn. The fact that no harm came to him was proof, he said, that Taoist devotees like him are protected by their religion’s deities. I advise you not to try a stunt like that, Virgo — including metaphorical versions. This is no time to stew in your own juices. Or boil in your tormented fantasies. Or broil in your nagging doubts. Or be grilled in your self-accusations. You need to be free from the parts of your mind that try to cook you.
Whether it’s your time to ferment in the shadows or sing in the sun, fresh power to transform yourself is on the way. Life always delivers the creative energy you need to change into the new thing you must become.

[SOURCE]

ED NOTE: To me, Lim Boon Hwa is alliterationally reminiscent of Sis Boom Bah and thus it should be followed with a ! where appropriate.

The Practical Princess Part II

Posted in Adventures and Interludes, Being a Virgo, being defensive, Life Performance Art, Miracles, Obsessions, Self-defense for women, solutions, The meaning of life, Thoughts with tags , , , , on April 1, 2012 by Admin

CONTINUED FROM WHERE PART I LEFT OFF.

EXCERPT FROM PART I, ABOUT THE DINOSAUR TRACKS PARK OFF ROUTE 5 IN HOLYOKE:

“At times the parking lot is full, and it seems there is always a Subaru something-er with roof racks parked in the lot, as kayakers seem to use this spot as frequently as hikers, as well as families and sometimes people walking alone or mothers with a child or two. It seems safe, an innocent diversion even, far from the flats of Holyoke where I have my studio and where I exercise increased caution. So I thought nothing of taking my dog Jamoka for a walk there, that day a few years ago, a day much like today… beautiful, breezy, sunny, quiet..”

We’d been here often, perhaps daily at times, and at least once or twice a week, for many months. That there were days we left without having our walk because the lot was full — all the cars overcrowding the little arc-shaped slip of a parking lot seemed to reinforce that this was a safe and well-inhabited spot. Jamoka loved to walk out onto the sun-warmed rocks and down into the water where they made a little ramp, and then he’d lie in the sun and dry off, after first doggie-shaking off the excess water followed by that little butt-only wiggle-flourish he’d do and I’d laugh out loud every time. On the way down the path I’d throw sticks I’d collected along the trail and he’d gleefully run for them, tongue flying, through the woods and over downed trees, ultimately diving into the river and doggie-paddling triumphantly back with the stick held aloft in his mouth. I’d wade around up to my knees collecting and throwing the sticks that he’d drop just shy of dry land and then we’d sit and watch the dusk gather unto itself and start the uphill walk back to the car before the dusk actually began it’s show.

On this particular day of which I write, the tiny park was an especially glorious, quiet, and un-crowded retreat; as we’d headed down the trail I’d encountered only a very charming and smiley elderly man and his companion, a boy who was possibly his adolescent grandson and who was also very endearing — noticeably well-mannered, and eager to recount that which he’d learned in school about dinosaurs and tracks. The boy had told me all about the age and history of these tracks including how they rated in comparison to others he’d studied and encountered in his travels, as driven by his interest in geology. I remember being rather fascinated, thinking to myself “I must tell ___ or ____ about this! Who knew that dinosaurs _____-ed?”, yet that was all quickly erased, existing now only as blanks in my memory of that day, though for some reason I can recall almost all but those sundry dinosaur facts.

It was a ridiculously picture perfect day; the sun shined so brightly, the sky a  cartoonish blue — complete with such fluffy cotton clouds as those crudely shaped by a child un-self-conscientiously wielding an ample supply of chalk — and a soft breeze blew which I very much remember thinking of as “delicious” (I have always had a thing for wind), which, combined with the tweeting of myriad birds and the waves lapping against the rocks, seemed the most delightful cacophony of sights and sounds as we sat on the rock looking out onto the river. I felt consciously content, happy.

But then, though it was far from dusk, I felt a gnawing unease and decided it was time to go; I was hungry and had dinner plans that night for which I’d need to change clothes. Jamoka was ready for dinner.  As I gathered up the sweater upon which had served as seat cushion and picked up my cell phone, the one I always carried in my hand due to my aversion to carrying a pocketbook, I hoped that whatever dinner plans I’d made would consist of a cookout so I could get more of this lovely, breezy, near-perfect day.

As I stood up, thus signalling to Jamoka that it was time to go, I remember realizing how suddenly very quiet the area was, and wondering if the birds were all at dinner or having siestas.  Looking around, I realized everyone had left but for us — it was definitely time to head home. As we started from the clearing by the water toward the trees and the trail to my car, I saw something move through the trees, and then something else; my instinct told me it was not the elderly man and has grandson and I longed for the sight of them, as instinctual warning bells clanged in my mind.

And then a guy appeared, looking a bit shifty, and slowly there appeared another, and another. I felt that feeling  in my gut that I get when I know something isn’t right or when I hear a strange noise in the middle of the night which seems to be inside my home. They seemed about 20-ish or even late teen-ish, and looked to be the type one frequently sees in the flats of Holyoke, from my personal experience, and one wore a hoodie which pretty much obliterated his face, and which seemed odd for such an almost-hot day.

Now a fourth appeared, much heavier, sloppier, and I was closer now, close enough to see them give each other the side-eye as some signal seemed to pass between them. They each moved slightly, nodding at each other and looking toward me, forming a line across the only entrance to the narrow trail and, once in place, they all turned, almost at once, and faced me, looking directly AT me now, not merely toward me, and that’s when my being seemed to seize. I glanced at Jamoka to my left and he was not wagging his tail, which to me was a sure sign that he had a bad vibe. I wondered how Jamoka would protect me from 5 men.

And then there were 6, and I froze, as one last man appeared and stood across the last small gap between their human chain and the entrance to the trail, tilting his head back and looking me over through slitted eyes, spreading his legs apart as if expecting some sort of impact, as if to lower his center of gravity, with arms crossed and menacing expression.

I saw that now that they had all 6 of them assumed this legs-apart, arms-crossed, leering, determined, hard and hardened stance, and were all facing me, eyes on me, all on me alone, for a split second on Jamoka, gauging his strength and ferocity perhaps, nodding almost imperceptibly yet again to each other, slow smirks appearing on a few faces, a bored look on another, cheshire cat smile of anticipation or excitement on another, who seemed to lick his lips, with a resulting palpable tension in the air which seemed almost to thrill them as their body language said little yet everything; I was in danger, this was the only certainty, I felt extreme fear in every cell. I started mulling, figuring, running through every possible scenario and option, in what felt like minutes but which was about 10 seconds in reality. I was 12 feet away now and I heard no sounds but the water hitting the rocks. What had happened to the birds? How could the sun be shining and how could the cartoon clouds just… be there… as if nothing were wrong? Time seemed to stop, and my mind went into fast forward; and this is what I thought, for it is imprinted on my memory and has been relived in many a subsequent dream:

They will hear me call 911 and there is no way a dispatcher will get anyone here in time to help me, if I can even finish the call. Calling for help is useless. It would only take them a few minutes to attack. There is not time to explain to a dispatcher or to anyone where I am exactly. There is nowhere to run. They have me surrounded but for the water behind me. They cannot be up to any good. They have  spread out like a line of soldiers and they all have sinister faces, evil, they are frowning, why are they frowning at me? EVIL. Evil is here. I am done. What will happen to Jamoka? Will he rip them to shreds? There are too many. OH SHIT, A ROPE!? What is in that guy’s pocket? Am I dreaming. This is NOT happening. Denial will do me no good. Will they let me by? Maybe it’s not a rope, they don’t even need a rope. No. No. No. I can’t risk getting close enough to find out and I can’t turn around. I have to go through them. I have to get out. To hesitate is to show fear, fear would appeal to their worst instincts, these animalistic damaged “humans”. They will be excited by my fear.

I wonder if they know how to swim.  Maybe they don’t know how to swim… If they don’t know how to swim then maybe Jamoka and I can run and jump into the river and swim down river using the current to help move us move quickly and we’ll emerge on the riverbank farther down. Will Jamoka know to follow me? What if he doesn’t? I will not leave him. We are in this together. Why is he frozen like that? Then we will have to walk along Rt 5 to my car but that’s ok because cars will be driving by and will see me, or them chasing me.  My cell phone will get wet and I’ll have no way to call. I can run out into traffic. But what if Jamoka follows me into traffic? I wonder if that guy from the trophy house is out walking his dog along RT 5. It is usually at this time. But he can’t help me. He’d get hurt. He’d have no time to call the police either. His dog might be able to help. No his dog has only 3 legs.

Oh my god, they just took a step closer and spread out more. They are blocking every possible direction between me and the road. We are too low to be seen by passing cars. Why didn’t I notice everyone else leave? If I scream I wonder if anyone will hear me. What if I can’t scream, like in those dreams? They just moved toward me again. This is like a bizarre game of chess. One is grabbing his crotch, no, is he? He IS  looking at me, into my eyes, they are ALL looking into my eyes… there is no way that is not a signal. Is this how it ends? It can’t be.  It’s not fair, it can’t be, I have overcome far too much for it to end this way. Jamoka will be scarred for life by what he sees, or he could get killed trying to help me. SHIT. Who will take him in if he makes it? Dianna?

I wonder if, when my father sees this on the news, he will care at all. No, I doubt it. I guess Marty didn’t need to go to all that trouble to steal my half of the inheritance. It won’t matter now. See? He didn’t need to go to all that trouble. I wonder if he will ever feel at all ever guilty, or, sad. Will my father even mourn a little bit? No. I should have a will. Who will get all my art and all my belongings? What if the landlord takes them? No, I want my friends to get everything. Maybe my father will try to claim it all? I could actually see that. Marty stole my money but for some reason he wouldn’t give back my paintings though I asked him WHY the hell he would even want them, given that he admitted his theft and practically gloated about it. They would have my stuff on eBay in a week. But no, my friends won’t allow that, no way. He will tell all the relatives it was my own damn fault like he told me when I was chased by the 5 drunk guys in the North End after dropping Melissa at Logan Airport — and they LOVE her — so she’d not have to pay for a cab. Everything is always my fault. I got out of that potential gang rape when they yelled “LOOK! It’s a girl! let’s get some asssss”. But I had room to run and already had my keys intertwined in my hands, the vestibule key ready.

Why do I care what they will think after I am gone? They have never valued my life. This time I have no room to run past the group of guys and no key in hand to slide into the lock, just in time. Why is my mace at home? Where is my mace? It would never work with 6 guys. They could simply grab it and use it on me. FOCUS.

If there were only one of them I could try the moves we learned in self-defense class at UMASS. Maybe Matt is watching me from the beyond like he does and will send help. Grammie and Grampie are always watching me. I definitely have guardian angels, they saved me when I skied off that cliff; they turned me around in mid-air so I didn’t hit the trees head-first. I almost bit it then. Yes, they will help me. NO, I have to help myself. Maybe someone will show up any minute and they will save me. Maybe these guys will leave me alone. NO, that is foolish thinking, they have a plan, that much is glaringly obvious. Maybe they will just gang rape me and leave me? But if Jamoka attacks them will they kill him? No, cannot let anything happen to Jamoka.

Did they just take another step? Oh shit now 3 of them are grinning, smirking, look away, no don’t look away, act confident, be alert, think, did I just hear a zipper? My mind is playing tricks on me, they are screwing with me, warning me, that will be the end, snap out of it, do something. BE the Practical Princess. What would she do? She’d use her wits against them. She’d throw them an effigy dressed as herself, filled with gunpowder – how can I do that? They can’t be too bright, outwit them. Look confident. Someone is snickering, this is a game to them, they are bad, definitely bad people, EVIL, I need someone to show up right now, I will invent people, people very near, it’s worth a shot, How many people do I need? I can only pull off a few, maybe that will be enough, don’t over do it and make it implausible… I don’t have time to even dial out. I’ll fake it… now, it’s gotta be now… NOWNOWNOW, DO SOMETHING, nothing to lose, everything to gain… be confident…. DO SOMETHING. This will NOT be how it ends. FUCK THEM. 

“Hey Dean!”, I began cheerfully, after doing a little ‘oops’ maneuver, as if jolted by the vibration of the phone, and putting my phone to my ear as one finger pushed the green button twice thus dialing the last call, “Yeah, I am on my way… nooooo, yes, to meet YOU, yesss, at the parking lot…huh?.. yes, at the parking lot, like I said I would … yes, right now… (using that “duh” tone of voice, which I usually disdain)…

As I spoke, to a ringing phone, I started walking purposely and confidently toward the men, continuing my “conversation”, trying to act as nonplussed, as natural as possible, looking at the ground a few steps ahead of me as one does on uneven terrain, heart pounding, turning to Jamoka saying, “Come on little guy! Let’s go see Uncle Dean!”, praying they’d not hear the pounding of my heart, sense my fear, and call my bluff… it wasn’t perfect but it was a shot… make the call seem very natural, not an act…

“I am NOT late! I am NEVER late! NOoooo, bullSHIT, I AM here, yes, on my way up the trail… you ARE? Then why are you pretending you didn’t see my car? loser!….

By now Dean has mercifully answered though I cannot fill him in on what is going down, and he is saying, “What ARE you talking about, Mo? Are you ok? Where ARE you?…”

“…No, not at all. Yeah, well just keep walking down the trail and you’ll see me, we are heading toward each other… Yes! About 20 steps from the parking lot, right below the dinosaur tracks…”

Dean is now asking if I am ok, should he come to meet me? Do I mean I am at the dinosaur tracks on Rt 5?….

“Yes, exactly! …. what? You can? I don’t see youuuuuu? (craning my neck, looking into the woods over the men’s heads) Oh, well, then I am more like 15 feet away from you, no, not yet, but I don’t have my glasses… (squinting [hoping it is not too theatrical] into the woods between the two men closest to the mouth of the trail)….  Billy is here too? No, it’s fine that you brought him. I am surprised Mr. Vanity took an evening off from the gym. So where are we going for dinner?” (NOTE: Billy is not a Mr. Vanity type, I actually call him Mr. Fabulous, Mr. Sir, or Mr. Elusive, but I wanted to get the idea across that my men were capable)

I am hoping Dean thinks to jump in his car and head over to help me… knowing there isn’t likely anything he can do, yet feeling guilty if he does show up and ends up in danger too, knowing there isn’t possibly time for Dean to help, though he is not even a mile away…

“Wait, I think I do see you guys…”, (craning, smiling directly at the man chain, as if I am about to bump into my men friends)… “Wait, are you wearing pink?”

Fortunately not one of the men turns around. They are holding their stance yet I think I feel some nearly imperceptible shifting or un-spoken plan re-assessment…

At this point I was about a foot from the line of men blocking the trail and Dean hadn’t actually said he was en route but he was staying on the phone with me. Not more than a minute has passed since I “answered’ my phone. Time is moving too fast and not fast enough. That I could hear the fear and concern in Dean’s voice ever-so-briefly snapped me out of my act but then fear turned back to adrenaline channeled into my faux chipper “call”, but here was my big moment when I’d try to get past the men… it was the moment when I’d succeed, or not… FOCUS.

As I approached the human blockade I took a deep breath and said into my phone, “Well, this DOES count as being on time… I’m, like, a few yards away from you. Will you stop saying I’m late AGAIN? Uh-huhhhh…”, and as I broke through the human chain — at this most crucial and precarious fraction of a moment — deftly taking a casual diagonal side-step around the legs most directly in my way, and thus slipping nonchalantly between the middle guy and the next guy in line, I threw them a smile.  I smiled right at them and added a conspiratorial eye roll regarding the shit I was clearly taking on the phone for being late. And suddenly I was past them, almost free.

It took all I had to not turn around and to refrain from breaking into a run.  It seemed imperative to be confident, to not show fear, to NOT turn around, though I was tensed for the smallest of noises which might indicate that they had even merely turned around to watch me,  their prey, go; I consciously identified as “the prey” during this ordeal. I heard the single crackle of a twig but I did not turn around, instead I laughed into the phone at some pretended bon mot. The tension was achingly palpable and I feared that to run would blow my confidence act and trigger a chase, if they sensed fear they’d know I was meeting no one on the trail, my charade would collapse, so I continued the “call” all the way to the parking lot and then, suddenly, I was running to the car, shoving Jamoka in the back seat, and hitting the button that locks all the doors.

Even with Dean still on the phone (by now I had assured him that I was in my car, safe, though I would not feel safe for a long time) I could not feel safe till I had pulled out onto RT 5 and pulled into traffic gunning the engine, thinking at this point that should I get pulled over for speeding it might serve me well, that they might have time to catch the guys, but then my mind raced still, and I was simultaneously afraid to have to identify these guys and… for what? They’d not touched me. I was safe. And so I slowed down.

I don’t know if I stopped at Dean’s house on my way home as he’d suggested on the phone; maybe I did, or maybe I went straight home and locked the door, sobbing. I have forgotten all but for the contrast; the beauty of the day and how it so suddenly changed, about my evidently successful “acting”. To be that close to… to that which I could not allow myself to name, or to picture (though I ponder it still), was traumatic. I did grudgingly allow for a bit of self-congratulatory sentiment for my quick thinking, but yet, I cried at odd moments over the next few weeks, maybe even months. For to be that close to the possibility of a violent death, to the R word which is every woman’s fear, to contemplate all 100 pounds of me trying to fight 6 men, is all too much to ponder.

In fact, what began since that day, by way of forcing myself to focus on something/anything else as I  drive through that area, has become a somewhat obsessive game of sorts in which I delight with almost too much glee, on the how the trophies are arranged in the window of what we call, “The Trophy House”,  (many frequent drivers of Rt 5 along the Holyoke/Easthampton line will know the teeny house with the trophies in the front window, will know what I mean, instantly) to an unusual degree, calling Billy or Dean to report with awe and wonder that “Trophy Guy” has now moved all his trophies to the other window! Now they are in a circle! Now they are in a square! OMG! Today they are all lying on their side! Maybe he is cleaning? Maybe he no longer bowls and as such does not want them around as a reminder of his bowling days? Whoa, They are back! There is one less today! OMG, I saw “Trophy Guy” walking his dog and he isn’t limping!

I realize only now, as I write this, that the trophy house  and it’s myriad trophies has become symbolic of the extraordinary use of my wit in my conquest of the Six Bad Men.

So long as the trophies are there, in whatever new arrangement, they are a reminder that yes, I am The Practical Princess.

And I still call Billy and Dean to report on the ever-changing display of trophies in that teeny house near the tracks.

The Practical Princess

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Advice, Being a Virgo, being defensive, Confusion, danger, Life Performance Art, Miracles, Obsessions, quick thinking, Schemes, Self-defense for women, solutions, The meaning of life, Thoughts with tags , , on March 22, 2012 by Admin

NOTE: This is a work in progress but I hit “publish” anyway because I promised…

Åt some point in my childhood, probably around age 6 or 7ish, I received this children’s book as a gift — The Practical Princess — and it immediately became my favorite book of all time, ever. Written by Jay Williams, and illustrated by Friso Henstra, it is an astonishingly beautiful and, well, very practical children’s book; a huge departure from the typical literary fare for kids of that era, revolutionary for its time. Yet it only became apparent a few days ago in therapy how very deeply impactful it had been on my development as a person, after relating yet another anecdote about escaping harm with quick-thinking.

I have been a voracious reader from the days of  Fun With Dick and Jane on, often climbing the tallest tree in my yard and precariously perching in a crook of the tree at the top, so I could read without being reached  — for chores, punishment, or random admonishments — and would stay there all day reading Nancy Drew mysteries, one after another.  Coincidentally, the first thing I thought when I first met my therapist years ago was that she looked a lot like my vision of Nancy Drew as derived from the era in which my books had been illustrated — Nancy Drew gets a new look for each generation — and I found this resemblance extremely comforting, fateful even.

I also very much identified with Ramona The Pest, and admittedly still do. I’d always marvel at the kids who seemed so wise and composed, like old souls or some such thing; my way seems fated to bumble through life blurting out whatever I am thinking, like last night at dinner with friends, when during a discussion about something else entirely I blurted, “I went for a walk in the woods naked the other day with a friend”, and it took Larnett 5 minutes to process it, pondering, pausing, only later asking, “WHAT? Did you just really say what I think you did?”, but then Larnett shows up along with Amy G. in a previous post, for saying “Next to ‘Free Association’ in the dictionary there is a picture of Mo”, so, there’s that.

But the benign and innocent world of Ramona The Pest is a far cry from the topic of this post — I segue as much as I free associate and blurt.

Years ago I had learned in a trial by fire — a studio fire to be exact, of which I bear scars still in the form of often irrational fears which, left unchallenged daily, could well lead to agoraphobia — that I tend to automatically react with lightening fast and flawless judgement in times of emergency. Who knew? Of all the fallout from that trauma, this one fact is the most palatable, resonant and important, yet in looking back, during therapy this recent morning, I realized that I have at many times in the past displayed precise and immediate assessment of danger — whether it be by way of people or situations — and subsequently react with instinctual and rapid plan-making and execution, saving myself (three times, that I can recall) from what may well have been gang rape, death by fire, and incalculable other potential harms.

This story absolutely assisted in facilitating that reaction. No one thing can determine who and how we are, and yet at a prime developmental period this book absolutely contributed to this, and also to my eventual feminist philosophy and art, as it made it glamorous, perhaps, to be practical and fearless. My fearlessness was obvious from a very young age and did not exactly endear me to my father, but that’s a whole other story.

In googling the author today I came upon this: “Williams was also one of the first and best of the authors who responded to the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s by writing a new kind of fairy tale. Though his stories are traditional in their choice of episode and motif, they also overturn nearly all the conventions of the genre to illustrate new ideas about women.

Williams’s famously funny and very influential picture book The Practical Princess (1969) reworked both ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

Its heroine, Princess Bedelia, has been promised to a dragon, but instead of waiting for a prince to rescue her, she explodes the monster by arranging for a straw figure filled with gunpowder to be dressed in her court robes and thrown into its open mouth… Though there are now many stories like these in print, when The Practical Princess and Petronella first appeared, they caused a minor sensation, and as a result both readers and writers now approach fairy tales in new and interesting ways.” [source]

The dinosaur tracks trail/park at first seems merely like a little parking area on RT 5 along the Connecticut river in Holyoke, just over the Easthampton line. It’s a little slip of a parking area, an arc one eases into alongside Rt 5, with little fanfare. But it then leads to a little path through some fairly dense woods and down to the Connecticut river, with big flat-ish rocks which reach out into and over the water, on which one can sit or stand. Or one can walk the rocks like a ramp down into the water and wet one’s ankles, or even throw a fishing line perhaps.

There is an informational sign encased in lucite in the parking area which explains the who, what, where, why and how of the tracks but I forget what it says and have never been back — I cannot possibly ever go back — since the beautiful early summer day when I last visited, and so I have no picture to post of it. At the beginning of the wooded path, in an open and sunny clearing, said dinosaur tracks are perceptible, if one is paying attention and is looking for them, often marked by graffiti. Sadly, it is also clear where some of the tracks have been completely unearthed and likely carted off, probably for sale at whichever black market such things are sold.

After passing the tracks, the trail leads through a fairly densely wooded area for about 30-50 yards (I am terrible at measuring distances) through trees neither particularly tall or short, down to the Connecticut River to the rocky outcroppings at which point one is facing the river, from which point one can clearly see across the river to the houses on the other side, and one imagines those riverfront people can likely see those of us on this side of the river.
At times the parking lot is full, and it seems there is always a Subaru something-er with roof racks in the lot, as kayakers seem to use this spot as frequently as hikers, families, and sometimes people walking alone or mothers with a child or two. It seems safe, an innocent diversion even, far from the flats of Holyoke where I have my studio and where I exercise increased caution. So I thought nothing of taking my dog Jamoka for a walk there, that day a few years ago, a day much like today… beautiful, breezy, sunny, quiet…
TO BE CONTINUED…. tomorrow perhaps, after I scan more images from my book and write the rest of it.
READ PART II

A-Z, WTF?

Posted in Activism?, Adventures and Interludes, Communication, crazy landlords, MANNERS, Mockumentaries, Philosophy?, Thoughts, Working in the Real World on May 13, 2010 by Admin

Sometimes Customer Service people can be impeccably nice, and easy-breezy to deal with, working with you to solve problems or reach a mutually-agreeable result.

Just the other day I wrote a letter to the Corporate Headquarters of Air Canada commending Alexis (a man) on how kindly he treated me in accommodating my spinal issues for my flight and all connections. I praised him to the nth wordiness degree. I believe in commending people who do a great job. Customer Service is all about the customer, and is so-named perhaps to remind said representatives. Right?

Other times, not so much. One can run into peevish types; patronizing and scoldish, even if they have antiquated methods and know gosh darn well that there is a problem on their end, yet somehow still feel like scolding you, even if you are completely innocent of all charges. That was my experience today.

I have a storage space at A-Z Rentals in Easthampton. It is not cheap. That place is a goldmine. Do the math. Even I can do that math. An art studio is cheaper, my new plan. It is such a gold mine that I dare guesstimate that they can afford a few computers, some training, and one of those springy date-stamp thingies, with a matching pad of ink. Every month my bank sends a check out  – what is called a RECURRING AUTOMATIC PAYMENT  – perfectly scheduled to arrive 1-2 days before the end of the month, to pay for the upcoming month’s rent, at the lofty A-Z Rentals in Easthampton. I have never had a problem with my bank sending out a check on time, in the perfect amount. They use computers to do this. BIG complicated computer networks, with data regularly backed up, on servers kept in fire- and bomb-proof rooms, kept at controlled temperatures, and with generator systems to account for every emergency, and backup systems for the backup systems and backup generators for the other backup generators, probably in an underground bunker somewhere, like the one my old company had in a town in Germany called Erding, manned by 3000 employees in shifts covering 24 hours every day, so that no data could ever be lost.  At the beginning – so nervous was I at this little operation – I used to manually stop in and hand deliver my check so I could get a receipt with the date on it. When I moved, I stopped in with a check for another two months so as to pay one month ahead, knowing full well that this bill paying stuff, and, well, just about everything, gets all confused and crazy when moving, and so, at that time I gave A-Z Rentals my new address, in person. With the extra month rent paid ahead. I said, “I have a new mailing address. Can I give it to you?” <— clear and concise, yes? The woman behind the very formal counter, dividing THE OWNER and the employees from us renters, wrote it on a piece of paper. I asked a few times if this was to be entered into some sort of computer system. “Yes, of course”, I was told.  I felt uneasy about such lax processes – and my intuition is always spot-on –  but no amount of nagging could get her to put it in the computer at that moment, and I was assured that it was now in my “file” and I was not to worry and so on. I left uneasy at this little handwritten note in my manila folder. I love that phrase, it reminds me of grade school – MANILA FOLDER.

I left picturing data entry and a green screen, with visions of my new address in the hands of cat-eye glasses on a fake-jeweled chain, and blueberry-stained “teeth”, but no rainbows and unicorns, no, this was not a kumbaya premonition and it was to come true, with wrist slaps and scoldings and interruptings and phones a’ slammin’. AND, I must note, I had also given them my phone number AND my email address, when I first filled out the very formal application (Congratulations! You have been FULLY APPROVED for a 10 x 10 space at $75/month!), Though I did NOT leave that time-warp assured of deft use of any interwebby mail stuff. But, a phone…. everyone can operate a phone, yes?

It was a tired old place, with bright fluorescent lights and dust and possibly some framed “prints” on the walls, though my recollection is of standard eggshell paint walls – of course –  and way too bright lights and dustiness.  It left one un-invigorated. It left one uneasy, well, me anyway. Yet I still left $143 lighter, having left that check, for one month due, plus ONE MONTH IN ADVANCE because I knew things would get scatter-y and crazed while moving –  that thing one does when they cart their junk around and frequently end up needing storage spaces – such that it would not be a stretch to assume that people working in the STORAGE SPACE INDUSTRY might understand; changing of addresses and how to contact people and all that rigmarole. Right?

So now they also had my phone number and email address, as filled out on the very official hand-typed-looking form. And then one day I decided –  because I really don’t feel the need to drive across town to hand deliver a piece of paper, especially in the winter – to set up a recurring payment to go out automatically, every month, from that behemoth, Bank of America. No problem. Or so I thought.

So, to get to the point of this rant, today I received a snippy letter saying, “We have continually sent you bills reminding you of the rate increase ($1) that began November 1, 2009 (all in bold, on a sheet that looks a LOT like it came off an actual typewriter). At this time you owe a balance of $7.00.” It goes on to threaten/say how they reserve the right to lock my unit for unpaid rent, and fees that accrue for all unpaid rents, and so on, exponentially increasing their take. Then it says “Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions…”

So, I contacted the office, only to be told by a woman that all the letters sent to me  –  to the old address, which she VERIFIED, (I just knew this would happen)  –  were returned (VERY odd, as ALL other mail was duly forwarded to my new address and I have never missed a thing from any other source. This seems so very very archaically and peevishly odd). So I asked, “well, then how did this snippy letter manage to  get to me here at my actual address?” Miss Scoldy-Miss said they had noticed at some point that the return stamp electronically-generated by the very modern post office, where they use computers and that interwebby thing,  indicated my new address. Well, WHY didn’t you notice that when the very first one was returned?

Then she admits that there is a note in my file about my new address. Uh huh, so someone fell down on the job, didn’t they?  AND THEN.. …it gets worse. Out of nowhere she tells me, in a scolding and superior tone, “You know, rent is due on the FIRST of the month. And our records show that you are always a few days late. Nothing to worry about of course, but they really should be here by the FIRST.”

WTF?

So I get on my computer – while on the phone with Miss Admonishment- and pull up my account and tell her that actually, according to the modern day electronic methods that BofA uses, my check is ALWAYS there 1-2 days before the end of the month which is, of course, before it is due. She rambles on about something to do with something (I got the very clear and unmistakable feeling that she was ad-libbing, especially when she started ad-libbing) and goes on to explain that they get “thousands of checks” from renters and companies every month (hmmm, if everyone even only paid the $75 that I do, this would add up to like 75,000 to 300,000 and up per month, which would easily pay for a data entry person and a computer, for starters) and then, inexplicably, she actually starts naming off large area companies (large, for the area) as in, their exact company names! At this point I interrupt her because I don’t want to hear their client list. Upon further questioning she finally admits that it takes days, and days and days, because they do data entry by hand, AND, this is the crucial part,

“the checks are logged in as being received on the day that the data entry person logs them in, NOT on the day that they arrive in the mail.”

WTF? I ask Miss Peevy (not her real adjective, but rather, a descriptive one) WHY the checks are notated as being received on the day they are entered, rather than the day they arrive, which would be legal and honest and fair. She starts another lengthy explanation of all the checks and companies and I interrupt her again – because I still do not want to hear their client list which is actually none of my business, and is irrelevant (as if the exact company names should both impress me and validate her workload, and as if that should in any way negatively contribute to my credit rating? Because at the end of the day, marking me down as paying things only when they get around to data-entering my check, is by NO means an exact or fair assessment of my bill-paying habits.  So now I have interrupted her again by asking her to please stop listing their clients’ names and she says, angrily, “LET ME FINISH“, and goes back to her litany of time-consuming checks to post and etc. I realize that somehow her workload is justification, by her logic (oh, great and misunderstood philosopher), yet to me this seems like something irrelevant that she should take up with her boss, or THE OWNER (angels sing), and not me, and my credit rating.

Would anyone really want to hear any of this, after being SCOLDED for being late when they have NEVER been late? Ooooooh. Are you kidding me? So we debate whether or not my checks are late and she says, “Well, what does it matter? We have a 10-day grace period so it is ok anyway.” I first ask why she bothered to scold me, if it does not matter, then tell her it does matter to me because I have an excellent credit rating and am not going to let their archaic record-keeping methods ever change that in any way, even if it just for another storage company calling them for a reference (which is seeming more likely by the litany)  I also tell her I do NOT LIKE to be scolded (when did she become my mother or boss or anything like that?).

Hell, if I am going to be marked down as late, I might as well BE late, right? Why prioritize this bill by its due date? Maybe by the 10th they will have sorted through most of their data entry and can get to my check promptly, and then my money will have stayed in my account 12 more days, thus earning me interest, right?  So, Miss Judgement says, “Well, I can go back and pull all of your checks and see the exact date they arrived”. So I say, “Okay.”

“What?”, she asks, sounding furious and incredulous.

“Okay. Yes. Let’s do that. And then the records will be straight and I won’t have that ‘SPOTTY PAYMENT RECORD’ (her exact words) for which you admonished me”.

“You can’t expect me to go back and pull all your old checks to see when they arrived. That would take too much time.”

“But, you just offered to. And I accepted.”

Well La-di-da! Maybe this is THE OWNER (angels sing, renters cower)

And, she does have a good point, but only because of said archaic record-keeping practices. If one is keeping physical logs and etc then of course there would be no time left over for pulling files, BUT, didn’t you just offer to do just that? AND, how about a date stamp? Now there is an implement that also dates back to the 50s or whenever data entry was invented, so I have a BRILLIANT idea! Why not date stamp each check as it arrives in the daily mail and enter THAT date into my account so I am marked as paying exactly on the date on which I do pay, 1-2 days early EVERY SINGLE MONTH?

She says she won’t do this, so I tell her “Ok, then do not ever scold me again for being late when I am not”. She goes off AGAIN about how it is ok to be late and the 10-day grace period and etc and this is really just too much to take so now I do what she did before –  I yell over her, EXACTLY in the same manner in which she yelled over me when I tried to speak earlier, and say, BUT I HAVE NEVER EVER PAID THE RENT LATE.

She fumbles a bit and says “THE OWNER (angels sing again, street sweepers cower, everyone else yawns) says you can call her tomorrow.” Evidently I am either on speakerphone or they use also-archaic hand signals or some such thing and she has caught the onwer up-to-date on our debate and the owner has answered, also in sign language, that I have permission to call her tomorrow, after her nails dry.

Gosh!, thanks for that permission. But I DON’T WANT to talk to the owner tomorrow. What I want is to NEVER receive a snippy demand letter again; for them to take responsibility for getting the address which I gave them on September 30, 2009, correctly entered or, hand-signaled, into the “system”; to be marked as paying on the EXACT DATE that my payment actually arrives; and I want them to never ludicrously scold me for “always being a few days late” ever again, rather than having me in “the system” as ALWAYS LATE.

Mind you, BofA – oh great behemoth of electronica and interwebbyness –  can prove EXACTLY when my payments are delivered to A-Z Rentals. Mind you, other customers are actually late, or don’t pay, and I am a GOOD customer.

But she is yammering away and won’t let me speak so I speak over her again TRYING to AGAIN reiterate that ALL I want is to be credited when my check actually arrives, NOT when they “find time” to “data enter” it, along with that whole list of “big” area companies. Sigh. I am not impressed by “big companies” or “Owners”, or even by money. I am impressed by intellect, kindness, manners, and soul. Material things and spending one’s life “owning” a storage-rental complex is not my life goal. Happiness is. And my good credit rating, in case I ever want to rent another storage space, which is becoming more and more likely by the minute.

And then, she hangs up. On me. So evidently she is not much qualified to be a Customer Service Representative. Maybe she should be a Street Sweeper or Disciplinarian, She who must be allowed to finish sentences, but who does not allow others to finish sentences.

I did not get to finish fully 60% of all sentences and I did not get mad till the very end. And this is how they treat a good customer who pays on time?

BRILLIANT CUSTOMER SERVICE.

I will not be humped. (Explanation of my new phrase “humping”, will be in the next post.)

THIS CONVERSATION WAS RECORDED FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE PURPOSES. Maybe I will post the audio here, so everyone can enjoy the great intellectual debate. ;-)

STILL WAITING FOR A GRAND APOLOGY.

Holland Days Sauce – Interview with a fellow blogger

Posted in Adventures and Interludes, Communication, Life Performance Art, Thoughts on May 6, 2010 by Admin

One day I got a comment on my blog with an URL to another blog attached. So I followed that URL and came to this blog written by a woman in Holland. My first thought was, “Wow! How did someone in Holland find me?”, but upon further and furtive investigation I discovered this blogger to be someone with whom I had a medium-sized pile of mutual friends on Facebook.

Funny, those Facebook mutual friends; just today I discovered that I share a mutual friend – a gadabout with a zillion friends or some such thing – with a woman on the Harold and Clay FB page who was angrily suggesting a boycott of all of Sonoma County for the manner in which a handful of officials very wrongly treated Clay Greene and Harold Scull, and who somewhat viciously attacked and insulted those of us who were trying to suggest a more peaceful protest rather than cause fiscal harm to all residents of Sonoma County, and wine growers of the county, simply for the crime of living where the incident transpired, but that’s another story. Sigh. I was called out pretty well for asking why the wineries and residents were responsible for this incident, and also called out for my words and grammar by a guy shouting in all caps and other more obvious grammatical transgressions. That is one angry group. No wonder people won’t sign petitions. Though I wish they would.

amoeba

And now to the interview, a far lovelier topic. :-)

Name- Janice Eileen Sorensen

Blog- www.magpiefarm.wordpress.com

Where are you from and how did you come to live there?

At the moment, I am on an extended stay in the Netherlands and am currently funemployed.  I am here with my partner Michael, son, Langston (15 yrs old) and daughter, Della (18).  We came because Michael, who normally teaches English and American Studies at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts got a Fulbright Scholarship to teach here in Holland for a semester.

We LOVE it here but are also excited to return at the end of June, to our three dogs, three cats and fluctuating number of goats and chickens at our home in Buckland MA.

When did you start blogging?

At one of my pre-departure goodbye parties, someone said, “Hey, you should do a blog while you’re gone.”  Blame them.

Are you one of those people who studied english or journalism? If so, do you know how to properly punctuate and/or use a style guide or any of that? Because I totally do not know any of those things, and am curious about the world of officially knowing what you are doing.

I LOVE proper punctuation and grammar because I ADORE clarity.  It is hard enough to communicate in person with the one who knows and loves you and who thinks the best of you.  The diametric opposite of this is what takes up the greater part of how we most of us communicate today, all day, every day: email, FB, twitter, what-have-you.  It is sooo easy to be misunderstood and the less attention you pay to grammar, diction and punctuation the more you increase the likelihood of miscommunication. There is a book out there the title and cover of which I love because it says it all:

Here is what Wiki has to say about the book:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of the BBC Radio 4’s Cutting a Dash programme. In the book, published in 2003, Truss bemoans the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States, and describes how rules are being relaxed in today’s society. Her goal is to remind readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction.

Do you edit? Like, do you go back and re-read what you have written and fix up sentences?

Always.  I sort of love to edit.  Well, love and hate.  It is kind of where my possible leanings toward OCD lurk.  In fact, I am in a creative writing class here (I do my best work when I have a deadline or obligation, so consequently, love to take classes as a way of creating that for myself.  Hey, whatever works, right?).  As a part of the class we do peer editing.  I am telling you, the first week or two I spent so much time editing my peers’ papers  it was unbelievable.  But by the third week, I created an alternative for myself  because I was a bit out of control, and I arranged to peer edit with just one woman who was extremely productive and not so very good with English, it being one of several languages that she speaks and not her first.

Do you ever actually decide to write and sit down with a topic?

Often, I will find themes popping up in my life. Like everyone, I go through my day collecting random data.  I am a person who loves metaphor so when different aspects of the data line up to make metaphor I work it into my writing.  For example, one of the first topics of my blog, Holland Days’ Sauce ( http://magpiefarm.wordpress.com/ )had to do with loss and appreciation.  I had been losing things all week, just shortly after the earthquake in Haiti.  As I pondered the losses of the Haitian people, I gained perspective and shared that perspective in my post.

Do you ever not decide and it just happens?

Sometimes I will just start to write and blab things out on paper until something interesting emerges.  If and (usually) when it happens, I go back and edit out all the nonsense.  Though it may have been a necessary part of the end product, I dont want to subject my readers to too much “blah, blah, blah.”

How would your writing be different if you were anonymous?

Goodness, that is a great question.  It is certainly a tricky aspect of writing for a wide audience all/most of whom know me personally.  In most areas of my life, I make a real effort to be honest and authentic.  In general, I am a person who tends to give too much information anyway, so for my blog, I guess I assume a “Buyer Beware” policy.  If I tried to account for every type of person when I wrote I think my blogs would end up being about vanilla ice cream and kittens only (and even then perhaps I’d offend people with diabeties and my many many kitten hating friends.

What do you do?

I am an artist, parent, partner and before I left to come to Holland for this shortish stint,  I worked in social services for an organization called the Recovery Learning Community (RLC).  The RLC is a peer-run organization for people with lived experience in mental health recovery.  We try to create the conditions by which folks can find their own avenue to recovery.  This looks different for every individual.  They way I move toward being my best self is through exercise, diet, yoga, writing, creating artwork and being with likeminded people.  As it happens, these are all things we offer through the RLC as well.

What is it like to live in a different culture than the one to which you are most accustomed?

I find it incredibly refreshing to be here in Holland.  But that is partly because I am…here in Holland.  I am sure it would be different if I were in a repressive culture.  Here, the landscape is lush, the culture is tolerant, the social services are comprehensive and the lifestyle, healthy (everyone bicylces everywhere).  As far as diet goes, It is hard to put my finger on what it is that is so different here but for some reason there are almost no fat people.  Yes, the bicycling contributes, I am sure, but there is something else.  People don’t seem obsessed with food.  In the four months we have been here we have been to only one event where food was served.  And, to be honest, I haven’t felt denied.  At home, every event I go to seems to be centered around food; as if you have to bribe people with chips, cupcakes or pizza to come to your workshop, opening, or talk.  Personally, I tend to overeat when at functions where food is served and have lost about ten pounds being here.  (But a lot of running, bicycling, yoga and restraint is primarily responsible for this.)

amoeba

Do you get nervous about hitting the publish button? Have you ever deleted posts? Have you ever gotten a negative comment?  If so, and if you have comments set to need approval before posting, have you let it through?

Whoa there, Nellie; one at a time.  Yes, I read and reread and edit before hitting the publish button.  I learned the hard way.  My first two posts I published before properly editing and went back to find numerous goofy errors that affected the meaning of what it was I had wished to say.  I have not deleted posts but I have gone back into published posts and made changes.  I confess, I did edit one post, it was from my mother-in-law where she said something like, “All those fatty foods, Janice, Darling, and I thought you were on a diet.”  I just wasn’t ready to announce to the world that I was on a diet in case  I was unsuccessful.  I have a bit of a rebellious nature and if I knew that if world was aware that I was trying to improve my health, I might feel the pressure of that audience.  What can I say.

amoeba

Do you ever think you will write a book one day?

Part of the reason I took the creative writing class was to help me generate more short stories for what I hope will in fact one day be a book.  I was in a writing group for eight or nine years and, If I am not mistaken, every single one of my friends from that group has published (including my husband, who I met there!).  I have challenged myself to set the publication rate for “The Splinter Group” at 100%.

Do you look at your stats and wonder who these people reading your blog might be?

Yeah, Ok, especially at first I was obsessing on the stats graph (this is a little graph that the blog site provides to show how many people have visited your site on a daily weekly and monthly basis).  I am grateful for a mother-in-law who I am sure checks and rechecks my blog everyday.  She keeps my stats to an acceptable level.  If I could see who was visiting my site I might actually find my theory to be true and be quite disappointed.

amoeba

Do you ever look at your stats in regards to most popular post or search engine term most used to result in your blog? Ever since I made a post and put in a picture of an amoeba, I have gotten zillions of hits for people googling ‘amoeba’ so once in a while I just throw an amoeba in my posts.

Ha!  That’s funny.  No, I think that I have only added “tags” in one or two posts.  Not even sure if it does what I think it is supposed to do.  I am not actually crazy about my blog site because I cant really figure it out.  If you google  or search wordpress for “Holland Days’ Sauce,” the name of my blog, you will not find me.

Did you ever think you would have a blog before you had one? Mine was an accident, like most of my life, so i am always curious about purposefulness.

I confess, I have always (and I suppose I still do) think of blogging as self-indulgent.  Like people really want to read about what I had for lunch??  But that is my springboard, my challenge: can I make my observations interesting enough for others to want to read.  I recently wrote a short story about…blemishes, i.e. zits, pimples, boils, what have you.  It was actually a personal challenge to see if I could write about something mundane and, let’s face it, gross and make the writing interesting and even beautiful.  I believe that a good writer can create a compelling piece on just about any topic.

Have you met people through your blog?

Hmmm, you, maybe?  I think I found you through my blog.  Or I found you through your blog.  I don’t actually remember.  It was some kind of cyber stalking.  But that’s all so far.

amoeba

I ask this bc i am off to Geneva in 2 weeks to stay with a woman i met through my website.

That is amazing.  Yes, you are back now and I got to follow your trip via FB and your blog. I did not know you met her through your website.  Totally awesome!

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