Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Change of Date

Since I don't have the internet at home and my work schedule has changed dramatically, I've decided to change this blog from Friday to Sunday updates. This one isn't so hard to keep up with, just updating on time is a challenge, especially with my food blog updates on Thursdays. I've been having a really hard time getting that updated on time, not to mention my daily haiku posts.

Speaking of haiku, I thought I'd give a little reflection of how that's been going. Not terribly surprising to me, but writing haiku a day has been pretty easy. A lot of times, I actually write a bunch at once and then set the blog to update one a day because I don't have the internet handy to do it “live.” I've also run into the opposite problem where I write them, but I can't update, so I have to backdate them when I finally do get the internet. So the poems are being written, I just can't update properly. It's incredibly frustrating.

But the challenge wasn't to connect to the internet every day, it was to write, and the writing I am doing, so mission accomplished, I guess. It's a relatively small consolation, though, when I can't remember the last time I sat down and did some fiction writing. It's like a thorn in my side that just won't go away. A writer isn't himself when he isn't writing. Like everything else in life is just passing the time between writing sessions. Yes, it's that intoxicating. Which is probably why working in a bookstore is so boosting to my spirits. Books are drugs. Sexy, papery, hardbound, softbound drugs.

Starting in September, Kimmy and I may sign up for internet with AT&T, provided we can get a good deal. We've both been abusing the internet access on our phones, and our phones are kind of crappy and breaking down, so not the most reliable source for information. The clubhouse closes every evening, so I have to get there before then, which puts me on a stressful time crunch while simultaneously working around two jobs. And sometimes I just don't want to leave my apartment, dang it. I'd rather lounge on the couch where it's comfortable and there's food handy. (Like I'm doing now because this entry is being written in advance of posting.)

Not paying for the internet these past 5 months has definitely saved me money, which is helpful with the high costs of gas, but the second job is helping, too, though my hours did get cut dramatically at my first job for no good reason. (They're going back up next week, which means even less time to hunt down the internet.) So I think I can afford some cheap internet from here out. Life is going to get busier this fall and winter, what with the holidays and such approaching. I really don't want to put my blogs on hold. I like writing them, and they do bring in a tiny bit of welcome income about the time gift-giving season rolls around.

Hopefully next time I will have something more interesting to update with. Greg, Kimmy, and I bought discount tickets for the Michigan Renaissance Festival, but I don't think we'll be going until the 23rd of September. (Greg wants to be there for the beer tastings.) Labor Day is coming up, and I should actually have that off this year, so I want to do something fun for that. We'll see what I can squeeze in, I guess!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tales From Behind the Counter

I've finally started my regular schedule at Crazy Wisdom, and I am not sure I could be happier. The whole vibe in the store is just so joyous! For me anyway. Books are sexy. And I'm surrounded by them for 20 hours a week! Oh yeah... Ahem. And the tea room is wonderfully delightful, too. I want to steal their couch, it is so darn comfy. 

I am continuously delighted by our customers. The other day, I discussed the art on our various tarot decks with a priestess of Diana, and helped a vampire who was looking for books on prophecy. How did I know he was a vampire? He had tattoos of blood dripping down out of the corners of his mouth, and talked like he had his mouth full of marbles. Turns out he just hadn't gotten used to talking with his fangs in. (I also think the fangs were a bit big for him.) I realize some people might find encounters like these frightening or disturbing, but I treasure them. I don't judge; I prefer to learn. And learning is done best when one is listening, and not criticizing, mentally or verbally.

Which makes me think of my other job at the grocery store. Usually, our customers are pretty groovy, easy-going people. Every once in a while, though, there is a bad apple that makes you want to punch them in the nose, or worse, cry. 

I have definitely had customers there that made me cry, like the man who insisted on coming back to harass me time and again, but shied away from the manager when she asked if she could help. The man was obviously a coward who had nothing better to do with his time than harass a cashier, and I was so angry and frustrated, I went to the break room and cried for ten minutes with the manager's blessing. This man is a repeat offender and has harassed one of my friends who also works at the store on a couple occasions now. He told her he was trying to teach her a lesson, though what that lesson was, I have no idea. Maybe it's that some people are just evil and mean. It's a lesson I've learned from other sources; I didn't need it from him.

Another vicious customer asked a girl if she thought that this is what her mother had envisioned for her life. The customer came back later and insisted she'd meant it as a joke, but the damage was done. She did not mean it as a simple joke, she meant to be cruel and mean because she thought it was funny to belittle someone who was unprepared and had no way to defend herself. If it had been me, I would have told her that with my double minimum wage salary, full health benefits, paid personal days, and 401k, it was probably better than my mother had envisioned for me! My mother is actually quite thrilled that I work at that store, and she is always happy to tell her friends about it. (We have that kind of reputation.) 

I did once have a man say to me out of the blue while I was ringing up his groceries, "You should really consider going back to school." I nodded pensively and answered, "I've thought about going back and picking up a third bachelor's, or going on and getting my master's, but I haven't decided yet." He blinked, stared, and stammered, "You have two bachelor's?" "Uh-huh!" I responded brightly. He didn't say another word as we finished the transaction. 

I also had a woman try to run me over with her car because she was angry that I hadn't come running over to return her cart for her to the cart corral (not my job, for the record). I genuinely hadn't heard her yelling at me, and I apologized when she angrily grabbed my attention, but she didn't believe me and decided she had to take action into her own hands. By trying to kill me. I almost wish she had managed to maim me so that I could have sued the panties off her, but my survival instinct is apparently stronger than my indignation.

Some customers aren't mean, though, and are just unwittingly rude. Perfect example, the man who complimented a coworker on her wig. She does not wear a wig. He tried to backpedal, but there was really no getting out of that one. There are also a number of people who joke that I spelled my name wrong on my name tag. I guess as a grocery clerk, I'm automatically too stupid to know how to spell my own name. I never laugh at these people, and rather delight in their red faces when they realize the incredible faux pas they've just made. I'm really glad that I don't wear a name tag at Crazy Wisdom. 

I once saw a T-shirt that read, "I used to be a people-person, but ten years in retail ruined that for me." It's kind of true. When you are repeatedly being belittled for absolutely no reason by complete assholes, it's difficult to maintain your faith in humanity. But we need retail people! Who else would sell us stuff? So please, be nice to your cashiers. Maybe being a cashier isn't what anyone envisions for her life, but that job could be what's keeping her afloat while she finishes her master's degree, or earns her doctorate. She might have been laid off from a failing law firm, and this job is the only thing keeping her and her kids from starving. It's a rough world out there. Why make it worse for people? 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My New Friend

Like most people, I've often thought about getting a tattoo throughout my life. I've thrown around different ideas, but was never quite certain enough on a design to go out and get it burned into my skin. That changed in 2010 when my father passed away. His personal symbol was a purple dragon, and I decided that was a design I could happily live with for the rest of my life. I started making plans and saving money.

At the end of every July and for the first couple weeks of August, my boyfriend Greg goes off and leaves me because he is a jerk. Last year while he was gone, I dyed my hair purple. (The under half was purple, the top was blond. It looked very cool.) I decided that this year, I should do something "crazy," too. My roommate Kimmy and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity for me to get my tattoo. 

As soon as Greg was on his merry way, Kimmy and I started researching places to get tattoos. She already had two, and was in the market for a third. We settled on Eternal Tattoos in Livonia and headed over there one Sunday afternoon. There weren't any openings, but we talked to a guy named TJ about what we wanted and how much it would cost. The estimates were higher than we really wanted, but after shopping around at some other places, we returned the next day and talked more seriously. 

TJ had recommended Kevin to me, saying that for TSR (the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons) style dragons, he was the man for the job. In D&D, each color dragon has a specific design, unique power, etc. And there is no purple dragon. My father made that up, which is why it was so difficult for us to find a purple dragon statue over the past many years. So there was no specific dragon I was going for. 

I talked with Kevin about size, price, and what I was trying to go for (almost everyone assumed I wanted a Chinese dragon, but despite my BA in Asian Studies, I do not want a Chinese dragon even temporarily on my body). He understood, thankfully, and came back with the most absolute perfect sketch. The dragon's head was up, conveying pride, his claws were up and his tail arched, rather like the old European family crests. It was perfect.

I was a little worried about the pain, but figured I could handle it. To be honest, getting a tattoo turned out to be the second worst pain I have yet felt in my life. The first is when I had surgery on my ankle when I was in middle school. Every time my foot dropped to a level below my heart, it felt like my lower leg was consumed in fire. Kevin was much more forgiving than my ankle wound had been. Every time he lifted the needle, the pain basically went away. My ankle burned for weeks while it healed inside my cast.

While I was getting my tattoo, Kimmy was getting hers. She and TJ had hashed out a unique design that meant "Michigan" to Kimmy, six lightening bugs (she calls them fireflies) in a glass pop bottle that was meant to represent Faygo, though we later decided it was a wine bottle since Kimmy only likes Great Lakes wines (they're sweeter and more awesome than those from California). She finished first, and came in to see the coloring of my tattoo.

I was really happy to get my tattoo from a gamer. We talked about different campaigns that we had done, books we had read, and it really helped to pass the time. I think my tattoo took 2 hours in all, and the time did not drag at all. It helped that I was totally fascinated by the whole process. It was also $200, which honestly was worth it to me. I could have spent $200 on something else that was short-lived, like a new laptop that I don't need, or... I don't even know what. But this tattoo will be with me forever. And I love it. I have it on my right leg, so it's like Pa will be with me every step of my life.

All of my coworkers and bosses like my tattoo, and I am lucky that I work for two places that are accepting. It took a week or so, but I finally came up with a name, too: Erasmus Galen Draki Coburn the First. Hey, he's a dragon. He needed an impressive sounding name.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Happy Wedding!

Thursday night, after heading out from my new job, my roommate Kimmy and I left for my mother's house in Kalamazoo. We were both pretty excited because my brother and his lovely fiancee were finally getting married. They had a beautiful son last spring, so they had decided to postpone the wedding in favor of baby madness.

It was a very simple affair with not a lot of the usual months of generic wedding planning. Instead, those of us who could gathered for a large breakfast in downtown Kalamazoo at the Blue Dolphin, possibly the best place for breakfasts in town. Everyone is very friendly and accommodating, and the food is both delicious and inexpensive. The cinnamon rolls are a must! They have a large room off the main dining room that they rent out for such events and offer a private buffet (lucky for us).

It was nice to see friends and relatives that I have not seen for a while. Sadly, I do not make it to Kalamazoo as often as I would like; life just keeps me too busy here in Ann Arbor. Plus gas prices keep sky rocketing! In fact, as a wedding present, since I didn't have a lot of money, I got them a gas card to help them get to their honeymoon spot up north. Gas jumped 50 cents since I filled up last week. (It's now averaging $4.09 in A2.) Right now is a tough time to take a road trip.

I have been to plenty of weddings in my life - Catholic, Greek Orthodox, inside, outside, Vegas chapel - but this was my first wedding at the court house. After breakfast, many of us got in our cars and drove down the street and around the corner to the new (this is a relative term, really) courthouse. Upon entering, we were confronted with a metal detector, and Kimmy asked if we were flying anywhere. Clearly no one was expecting a metal detector as pretty much every man in our party set it off with their belts and/or cell phones. I set it off, but was dismissed because of my shoes, which, unlike at the airport, they had not asked us to remove. (Belts and cell phones, yes, and the ladies had to pass their purses through the X-ray machine.) 

The ceremony was performed, I believe, by the magistrate, and we all gathered in an actual courtroom that looked not at all like they do on TV (unless you watch the local cable access channel, in which case, it looked just like that). The officiate asked my brother and now sister-in-law, as well as the maid of honor and best man to come near the judge's bench (where he not sit, they just stood at a table) while the rest of us sat on the benches on the other side of the little wall. The peanut gallery, if you will. I sat up front with my two nieces and my baby nephew who had nearly been left in the lobby, quite forgotten by everyone save Kimmy who is a nanny by trade and very good about not losing children. 

The ceremony itself was very much like the Christian ceremonies I had grown up with, minus any mention of God. It was fairly quick, and when they were pronounced man and wife, we all cheered and they kissed. Everyone filed out, we posed for photos (a great number had already been taken at breakfast), and when the bride and groom exited the courtroom last, we all cheered again and clapped.

I am glad that we were able to have a real ceremony at the courthouse with everyone there. I really wasn't sure how that was going to work. It makes me feel a little better about any future wedding I myself might (had better) have since I am not exactly what one would term religious. (Spiritual, maybe.) 

And I promised my mother that my wedding will also involve the more traditional months of planning. I doubt it, but maybe it will help her relax when that day comes.