September 27, 2009

The Cult of Personality

No, I'm not going to be talking about Living Colour (and if you're under 20, you probably have no idea what that sentence means anyway!) :D

I got my latest Entertainment Weekly mag yesterday - I really like my subscription. It's the only magazine I read cover to cover every week; I can't say that about any of my other subscriptions! There's not a lot of celebrity gossip; it focuses on the entertainment industry as a business.

Anyway, in this week's issue there is an article about how all of these celebrities' deaths mean big money. Get ready for my long rant....

This struck me as more than just a little creepy. Big business? Yes, I know this is nothing new - the first celebrity death I can really remember is Elvis. I was 8. I remember seeing all of the people filing past his casket and weeping. Even then I wondered how he got such a big family.

Because really - unless you knew the celebrity personally, why would you be upset by his death? There is no rational reason for this. That being said, I am also guilty of this behavior, to a certain degree. I remember being a little sad when Jimmy Stewart died back in '97. I even got a little choked up watching ALL of the networks run 'in memoriam' segments when Walter Cronkite died.

I would imagine this is a fairly new phenomenon, wouldn't you think? I mean, yes, seven of our presidents were either asassinated or died in office before TV, but I doubt the newspapers or radio stations interviewed throngs of mourners the way the networks do now. There really weren't true 'celebrities' before the movies, and our presidents were respected so much more than they are now (even the really bad ones like Harding).

But now, because there's so much time to kill on 24-hour news, you have to get every angle: where the celebrity died, the exact time of death, how they died; and of course right away the talking heads have to start speculating about whether or not it was accidental or if there's someone to blame (think Anna Nicole Smith or Michael Jackson on this one).

What REALLY kills me is seeing the "RIP so-and-so" status updates on Facebook. Now honestly, what is the point of this? Do these people truly care that someone famous has died, or do they just want to be the first of their friends to break the news and have the most comments after their post (I was so tempted today to put "RIP William Safire" as my status update, but I figured most people would've said, "Who?")?

It's pretty sad that we feel emotionally invested enough in these actors' lives that it would warrant tears or sadness. It's funny who the media pick for us (yes, they do) to posthumously worship, too. Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett died from horrible cancers - they're prime candidates. So are celebs who died mysteriously. Come on now - did you not make fun of Anna Nicole Smith or latter-day Michael Jackson when they were alive? Then suddenly they die (which shouldn't have been a big surprise to anyone) and the media are ready to canonize them. And when the media get involved, many people follow suit, which is pathetic. I think about the time and effort it takes to organize a candlelight vigil, and I think, don't these people have anything better to do? Who are they really doing this for, anyway? So they themselves can get on TV?!

It's too bad that some people care more about John Hughes dying than some great-uncle that passed away last month. Unless that great-uncle was someone famous....

September 23, 2009

Playing Hooky

I have the day off today. What am I doing with it? Well, so far, not much. I've made a couple of galleries on Flickr, and am currently writing this blog entry but other than that, zilch. And that's okay. I might just stay in my jammies all day!

This year has been interesting as far as my vacation and personal days, because in the beginning of the year Gannett announced we would have two weeks of furloughs as well. So all in all I will have about six weeks of time off for 2009. I say, bring on the furloughs for 2010!!

That may seem like a lot but in the grand scheme of things the US is SO far behind other developed nations. For example, in Finland, the average is 30 paid vacation days and 14 national holidays. That's 44 days, or NINE WEEKS off per year. I would've thought Canada would have more than we do but they actually average about a week less.

Now, I was in the fortunate position financially of not having to worry about those 2 furlough weeks we had in the first half of the year. And let me tell you, I enjoyed every minute of them. The first week I took individual Wednesdays off (like today). It was luxurious! I would hang out downtown, spend the day with my Grammie in Green Bay, schedule hair/dentist/doctor appointments without having to rush around before or after work - it was wonderful! The second week was spent on a fabulous vacation to Denver. During furloughs we were forbidden to contact work in any way, so it was the perfect time to get away!

My whole life, even when I was much poorer than I am now, I've always favored time over money. Some people would view this as lazy and in this country, a strong work ethic is very important. It should be. When you're at work, you should work as hard as you can; you're getting paid to do so. The problem with that work ethic, however, is that it's becoming harder to separate our work from our LIFE. To me, work is not life and I don't see that changing. I hate having to think about work when I'm not there. I have many friends, though, who seem to think it's normal to be 'on call' 24-7. Their whole life revolves around work - their friends, their schedules, their entertainment, everything. That's too bad. What happens if that job isn't there next year? But I digress. Back to vacations.

If we had more vacation time, wouldn't we all be less stressed? And in turn, wouldn't we all be better workers? And wouldn't our home life be more rewarding? Wouldn't it be nice to have more time for personal enrichment instead of plunking ourselves in front of the TV because we're too exhausted to even think about doing anything else? Sorry to get on my high horse, but I think that a happy worker is a good worker. Corporations need to start showing their personnel (what few there are remaining) some love. Because when this recession is over, and there are more job opportunities, people are going to leave in droves for greener pastures. Time to stop thinking only about your shareholders, Giant Companies, and start sharing the wealth with the workers who got you where you are in the first place. Or, months or years down the road, that little start-up you laughed at will replace you and you'll be left with nothing.

September 20, 2009

Public Speaking, or Death?

Today I've spent the majority of the afternoon tweaking my presentation for next week's collage workshop at the Greendale Public Library. I like to do this about a week before the class, so that I make sure I haven't forgotten any major talking points or have any misspellings.

So here I am, six days out, and I am cool as a cuke. I have never really had a problem with public speaking, thankfully. In fact, I believe I'm more at ease in a group than I am with someone one-on-one. This is probably unusual.

I just read an article about anxiety by Robert Leahy in the October issue of Real Simple that really helped me get a grip on any worries I do encounter when thinking about how the class is going to go. For example (and I know this is ridiculous): what if the class laughs at me? What if they hate my presentation and they all feel like it's a colossal waste of their time and money? For this worry, Dr. Leahy says, "Make it worse. For instance, if you feel your mind will go blank during a presentation, fake it intentionally in the middle of your next one. Say, 'Gee, what was I just saying?' Notice how this makes no difference. It's nothing to worry about, right? I did this at a lecture once and no one raised an eyebrow (perhaps they weren't listening anyway!)."

Of course, he's absolutely right. Remember the Simpsons episode where they go to a concert and start booing, and Lisa says, "Why would you pay money to go to a concert and heckle someone?" Again, she's right on.

It makes me wonder what, in our collective pasts, makes us so wary of talking out loud so that more than one person can hear us. Is it that we're all really self-centered and believe that we're so important, that we can't screw up because all eyes are on us? Or is it the opposite; we think we're so insignificant that no one would want to hear what we have to say anyway.

I think it's a little of both. So that's why I'm making sure people have a good time by bringing fun treats! I'm going to break the ice by having a table full of collage supplies that people can use. So even if they're not fond of my presentation they can at least say, "Look at the fun stuff I got!" Hey, it worked on the 3rd Grade playground. :D

September 19, 2009

Cemetery Walk

This morning, I had the good fortune to spend two hours with dead people. It was a lot of fun, although they didn't say much.

I kid, of course - sort of. My friend Jessie told me about this cemetery walk that Rienzi Cemetery hosts every year, so I joined them and about 25 others for a guided tour of that very large cemetery (so far, it houses about 30,000 and counting); large for Fond du Lac, anyway! There were supposed to be costumed actors at various gravesites around the cemetery, but someone was in error (either the cemetery or our newspaper), because it was actually supposed to take place next week. I'm actually kind of glad that it didn't happen - sometimes, if the acting is over-the-top or just plain bad, it sort of dampens the whole experience. Instead, we had a very knowledgable guide from the cemetery itself, a woman who has done extensive research of the former residents of Fond du Lac and the surrounding area.

Anyone living in the Fond du Lac area for the past three weeks knows we're living through a rare loooong high pressure system - it's been almost Floridian here. All of September, we've had highs in the 70s and 80s and sunshine every single day. Today was no exception. It was perfectly chilly to start the walk and became warmer gradually throughout the two hours. But it certainly made the walk more pleasant, if that's possible. One of the highlights for the tour, for me, was the discovery of a rare elm tree by the Rueping plots (the Rueping family started a very successful tanning business, called Rueping Leather, that thrived for nearly 100 years. They shoed entire regiments for the Spanish-American War). I don't believe I've ever seen an elm tree, because most succumbed to Dutch Elm before I was born. Does the fact that it was exciting to see an elm tree make me old? It was also fun to learn that about twelve years ago, the cemetery implemented a pet cemetery. Viewing those very heartfelt grave markers was the only time I got a little choked up. These people viewed their pets as members of the family and gave them quite a wonderful send-off.

I was suprised there were special sections for the Greeks, the Lithuanians, and a separate Jewish cemetery, which is part of the whole but has its own gate, and is dedicated to the 6 million. Our guide didn't take us through it, but I would've loved to have seen it.

Rienzi Cemetery is one of the most beautiful places in all of Fond du Lac, in my opinion. It's an enormous place; it's wooded and hilly and somehow quiet, even though it abuts Highway 151. It's really close to my house; before the highway cut the path, it was quite easy to walk there. But it only takes three minutes by car (I do have to take the car - I'm not walking across the highway!), and it would be a lovely spot for a daily stroll. It's a shame that Brian won't go but alas, he is not as fond of cemeteries as I.

Neither is my sister. When I told her yesterday that I was going to take this tour, I was met with several seconds of silence. I couldn't tell if the silence was because she thought it was creepy, or because she would never think of spending her Saturday morning this way, or because she thinks I'm a geek (she would be absolutely correct in her assessment, by the way).

I encourage all of you reading this, if you haven't done so in the past, to visit a local cemetery. They're really not 'creepy' at all, and just looking at the headstones is interesting. Look for Victorian symbols like laurel wreaths, chafs of wheat, inverted torches, head stones that look like wood stumps, etc. Exciting stuff! Honest!
*Photo of Rienzi Cemetery stone by Rosebud81 on Flickr.

September 17, 2009

Restaurant Obituaries

I just read that the illustrious Tavern on the Green restaurant in NYC filed for Chapter 11 protection. News like this always shocks me - you think places like this are going to be around forever, but I guess tastes change and trends emerge. This makes me sad.

Actually, any time a restaurant, boutique, or any local shop goes under it makes me sad. Sometimes you can tell the minute they hang their sign that they're not going to make it. There's just something 'off' about the place, and you can't put your finger on it.

But the others - the established restaurants and shops - it hurts a little, doesn't it? I am thinking about two of my favorite restaurants of all time that closed this year - Fusion Mediterranean Bistro in Fond du Lac (pictured at left) and Water City Grill in Oshkosh. Both served bistro fare far better than you'd expect in such small cities. Sure, they were on the pricey side (for our area, anyway) but you always knew you were going to have a wonderful time and have a terrific meal.

The first to go, Fusion, had managed to stay around in one form or another for 8 years. One of the neatest things about Fusion is that it was housed in the old downtown theatre lobby - local business owners bought it and really spiffed it up. They had their flush years and their lean years, but the food was wonderful (I was particularly fond of the Beef Tenderloin with Gorgonzola and Haystack Potatoes. It was sublime. Transencendent. All of those adjectives reserved for real food critics). The head chef, Mark, had his rent raised so high he was forced out. He now works for a country club, so it's not likely we'll be sampling his cuisine anytime soon.

A mere month later, Water City Grill closed. This was just as, or possibly more, heartbreaking than Fusion closing. I had been going to WCG for about 8 years, and we spent 3 wonderful New Year Eve dinners there (they put on quite a show - 10-course meals!). Their meatloaf was to die for - it was rolled and in the middle was a wonderful mixture of Gruyere and mushrooms. Heaven! The ambiance was perfect - a lot of wood and old brick (it was in the old Oddfellows Lodge). I tried bacon fudge there this past New Year's. Yes, you heard right.

So why is it that we feel like we've lost a friend when a favorite place closes? Is it the fear that we'll never find a replacement? Are we mourning the fact that we'll never make new memories at an old haunt? Did the shop have a specialty item that will be hard to find somewhere else? Probably all of these things. Perhaps it just feels like the end of an era, and a period in time that now has a beginning, middle and end.

This year, I'm sure almost all of us have lost a great little place we liked to call 'ours'. This economy hasn't been kind to restaurants. But here's hoping a new spot will open up that will pique our curiosity and will have the foresight to remain open for years to come.

September 16, 2009

Civic duties

I had the WORST day today! It's not often that they're this bad. It was just one of those days that went from bad to worse - you know those days. I'm sure all of you have had them, right?

Well then imagine my utter delight when I opened the mail when I got home and found my summons to appear for jury duty! I'm already WAY behind at work. Oh joy! Just what I needed! The timing couldn't be more horrible.

But to tell you the truth, I'm kind of looking forward to it, if only in a macabre and nosy way. I secretly hope (at least it was secretly before I told you all) that it's a gruesome murder case that has many plot twists and turns, and that the prosecutor looks like Perry Mason. Of course in real life, it'll probably just be some boring business-oriented case of which I will have no previous knowledge, and then I'll have to try and stay awake.

Actually, that would be okay too! It will be very interesting to see our court process firsthand, but I've always been terrified that I'd put away an innocent person for life. I mean, that decision is major! I wonder if most jurors understand the gravity of the situation - am I the only one who feels this way? Certainly I can't be. I'm all for democracy, but can't our Poli Sci grads do all the jury work? I'm just afraid that I won't understand the legalese and sound like a dumbass when discussing the case with my peers. PLEASE god, don't make me foreman!

I am having fun telling people that I'm a rural juror (this only makes sense if you watch 30 Rock. But try saying rural juror really fast - you will probably sound drunk).

Of course I won't be able to discuss the trial, but I'll keep you posted as to how things pan out. Maybe I'll don my Princess Leia costume to get out of doing it. :)

September 15, 2009

Civility Disobedience

On the front page of USA Today, er, today, the big headline read, "What happened to civility?". For those of you unaware, and there are probably few of you by now, this question was raised in response to the very rude antics of Kanye West at the MTV VMAs on Sunday night.

Taylor Swift, a 19 year-old country singer, had just won for "Best Video". In the middle of her speech, which was tearful and heartfelt, Mr. West came up onstage and grabbed the mic right out of her hand. He then said that "I'm sorry, Taylor, I'm gonna let you finish your speech, but Beyonce had the best video of the year!". Poor Taylor (and the rest of the crowd, especially Beyonce herself) was completely flummoxed. Beyonce mended everything by allowing Taylor to finish her speech when SHE won her award.

Also this week was the whole "YOU LIE!" incident, which I'm sure needs no explaining. I'm still really upset about this one. This is the epitome of rudeness. Mr. Wilson should be ashamed of himself.
But let's get back to where civility went. It went bye-bye. Call me old (or old-fashioned), but since when has everyone started caring more about themselves than anyone or anything else? When we answer that question, then we can possibly start regaining the civility that's so important in a society.

Some people think that the beginning of the end was when children stopped addressing their elders with titles, and started calling them by their first name. Actually, almost everyone called other people by a title until the person being addressed gave the okay to use a first name. When I was a newly-engaged 22 year-old, I called my future in-laws Mr. and Mrs. B until we got married, and then I called them by their first names. My first boss at the Press-Gazette was Mr. Miller until he told me that was his dad's name. So even into my 20's I was still using titles. It wasn't until my late 30's, and more of a peer to most adults, that I stopped.

I was in Radio Shack today, and while I was waiting for the clerk to come out of the back room with my scanner I was purchasing, the other clerk began his small talk by telling me how badly he wanted to go home. Really? Since when is this rude behavior okay? I've always hated this practice, but it's getting more and more prevalent. I'm sure everyone reading this has had their meal interrupted by a waiter/waitress who launches into some diatribe about how bad her day is, or some other customer who upset her, etc. Do these people ever think that maybe not everyone really cares what a crappy day you're having? Oh, and where the hell is my mayonnaise, by the way?

Rule #1 in the Jones household growing up: DO NOT IMPOSE YOURSELF ON OTHERS. My dad was so strict on this. If you're speaking to someone, don't snap your gum, interrupt, talk about yourself too much, or use foul language. If you're going to someone's house, always call first to let them know you're arriving, always follow the rules of their household, never overstay your welcome, and bestow many thanks for the invitation. If you are dining with other people (yes, even your own family), keep your elbows off the table, never slurp your soup, NEVER burp or belch, never sing at the table, keep the conversation light, speak when spoken to, use your utensils the right way, keep your fingers out of your mouth, clean your plate and always offer to help with the dishes.

Seem like a lot of rules? Yeah, I thought so too. But Dad was totally right, and I'm really glad he taught me these things. These little rules of civility help in nearly every social situation, and they made me a better person, I believe. I never have to worry about how to act, anywhere. I am at ease in any setting. Thanks for that, Mom and Dad!

So if we start with the little things, could it possibly change the way we feel about everything? If everyone started showing little courtesies to those around them (not butting in line, getting off your phone in the checkout line, shutting up at movies, saying 'please' and 'thank you' more often, or at all), wouldn't the world be a lot nicer place?

I say it's high time we get back to that place. Let's start tomorrow.

September 14, 2009

C'mon, Get Happy

I read an entry in the great book, Obsolete: The Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing us by that really gave me pause - it was how sadness is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

On the surface, one might think that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, given the choice, who (besides emo boys and blues musicians) would really choose to be sad? It's really hard to be around mopey people all the time, too. "Cheer up!", we say, as though it were a command. Maybe what we're really saying is, "I'm sick of your attitude. Now snap out of it or I'm going to stick my foot where the sun does not shine."

But the opposite of sadness - if you ask any 6 year-old, anyway - is happiness. Right? Has someone ever asked you flat out if you were happy (besides in the relationship realm)? What does that really mean, to be happy?

So I asked myself: am I truly happy? I am definitely as content as I possibly could be. All of my needs are met - food, clothing, shelter, art supplies - and I certainly feel peaceful with Brian and all that fun mushy stuff.

I know that music can definitely make me giddy - the right song, at the right time of day? Why, it's almost magical. I was sitting in our local coffee shop the other day when a Gordon Lightfoot song came on, and the light of the day was just right and the temperature was perfect and it smelled so good, I almost burst with joy for 3 minutes. I love it when that happens. But is it happiness?

I know that there are days - you can never try and create them, they just happen - that I'll remember for the rest of my life. They are wonderful days, where everything just went the way it was supposed to, and they weren't necessarily spectacular days. Just perfect. I felt totally at ease and relaxed on those days.

I think our modern-day definition of "happiness" may have been dreamt up by ad execs. But the caveat with this so-called happiness is that it's deliberately fleeting. "I'll for sure be happy when...."; "If only I had this one blankety-blank, I'd be all set....", etc. But where does it end? There's a great line from "The Princess Bride", where Buttercup accuses Wesley of mocking her pain. Wesley replies, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."

Life is pain? That's a little harsh. There are always going to be painful times in one's life, but it's a little pessimistic to say that life is pain. So maybe, somewhere between "happiness" and "life is pain" is where we should strive to be. To be able to live with the reality that we'll be up, and we'll be down, and mostly we'll be hovering in the creamy middle. And that's perfectly fine with me.

September 13, 2009

Potty time, excellent!

Last night we had the good fortune to see a spectacular fireworks display, thanks to the fireworks conventioneers that brought their talents back to Fondy for the 4th time in 10 years. It was an absolutely PERFECT night for them - the stars were out, it was about 65 degrees, low humidity - and they didn't disappoint. We had a marvelous time.

That time was cut a little short, however, by a bathroom emergency. My sister Jen, brother in-law Mike, and two nieces Natalie and Mia accompanied Brian and me, and we met our friends Todd and Dawn there. We were all having a great time when Jen announced that Nat REALLY had to go. We said very quick good-byes to Todd & Dawn (sorry about that, by the way!) and we high-tailed it to the car, about a 1/4 mile away. Everyone made it, thankfully, but there were not one but two very busy bathrooms in our house when we got home.

And that got me thinking this morning at 1 a.m., when I was rudely awakened by my bladder: in spite of all of our technological advances and modern conveniences, when nature comes a-knockin', one must heed that call. There's no getting around it. Yes, there are adult diapers, but even in this age when pretty much anything goes, my guess is that most people aren't going to go so far as to make them a permanent accessory.

We all like to think we're in control, but this most basic of functions reminds us thrice daily that we truly are not. Think back to a time when you were in a public place, probably in a hurry, and you were DESPERATE for a bathroom. It was probably when you were standing in line to board your flight, or stuck on the interstate in traffic, or in a very important meeting with a client. I know you're all thinking about that time right now, aren't you? And it's a horrible feeling, isn't it? It's the reason that the kid in kindergarten who couldn't quite hold it became the object of so much ridicule - the rest of us were just so happy it didn't happen to us (actually, your truly was the protagonist in that story, I'm sorry to say).

Guys, I'm sure you've had your share of these moments but I'm going to pity the ladies more in this case. It's a little hard to feel sorry for you men, you who can call Earth your own personal urinal. You who can, with a little practice, write your name in perfect cursive. Call me with your sob story when you're 20th in line at the bathroom during intermission or wear white pants on the wrong day. Can I get a 'what what', sisters?

I have a couple friends who are pregnant right now, and I can only imagine what that must be like! I don't have to worry (yet) about peeing when I laugh. But at least you have a good excuse. I look forward to the day when I'm an eccentric 90 year-old and I could care less that my butt looks like someone stuffed 5 rolls of crepe paper in my elastic-waisted slacks, thanks to my ill-fitting Depends. Good times.

September 11, 2009


I'm going to start off this post with a quote that I saw on the editorial page of The Reporter yesterday:

"You can't wrap yourself in God, the American Flag and apple pie and not expect me to scrutinize your church attendance, your draft record and your pastry-eating habits."
Ricardo Pimentel, editorial page editor, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, 1994

Amen, brother! I started with this because I read that another of our illustrious politicans, Michael Duvall, a California state assembly member, has been caught in his own mess. Supposedly he was at a legislative hearing in July and he started bragging of his 'conquests' with a fellow assembly person.

Just one problem - the 54 year-old MARRIED father of three (and espouser of "family values") didn't realize the mic was LIVE. Can you believe this?! I mean, it's so ridiculous it almost seems like he wanted to get caught. I hope getting your bragging off your chest was worth it, buddy. I hope he gets everything he deserves.

But that's not the point of my rant, it's this: why does it seem like the people who crow the loudest about their 'family values' are the most morally bankrupt? This is nothing new, of course; throughout history there have been liars and cheats. It's the ugly part of human nature. But really, since privacy is non-existant for people in the public eye, wouldn't you think that he'd try and be on his best behavior? You think this guy would've taken a lesson from the Larry Craigs and Elliot Spitzers and Mark Sanfords of our government. It's no use hiding behind the Bible anymore, because someone is going to find out your dirty little secrets. In fact, just like Mr. Pimentel stated above, I'd think that you'd be under even more scrutiny if you started waving your hands in the air praising Jesus.

So I ask you, what has happened to integrity? And will we ever get it back? I wonder sometimes if we're so used to lying that most of us have forgotten that it comes back to bite you, always, in some way or another. Karma is a wonderful thing. I have a feeling that Mr. Duvall is going to find that out very soon.

September 10, 2009


As some of you may have read from my status update on Facebook, I now consider myself a full-fledged GLEEk. If you are not familiar with the term, a "GLEEk" is someone who is a big fan of the new Fox show, "Glee". And oh yes, I certainly am.

This news may not come as a big surprise to anyone who's known me since high school - I was one of those "drama geeks", or as some called it, "chorus geeks". I was the type of girl who would spend her lunch hour not in the cafeteria, but in the chorus room, listening to Simon & Garfunkel and the Doobie Brothers. But not when those were okay to listen to; this was 1986. And all of my friends were chorus geeks too. We had great fun.

I suppose I come by my singing talent naturally; my Grammie was my grade-school music teacher and in her heyday had a very beautiful alto voice, and my dad was in a barbershop chorus in Green Bay for many years - the Baylanders. He had a lovely, rich baritone (he could also whistle like nobody's business, something I'm jealous of to this day). All three of my mom's brothers are super musical, whether it be fronting bands or singing in church. Or sometimes both. So when my sister and I started showing talent, no one was surprised. I was always really self-conscious about it - I think Jen (my sister) was too. I'd let my nervousness get the best of me, so even though I could belt it around my friends and family, the folks at Solo/Ensemble didn't really 'get it'. I fared far better in the duets and trios (and large choruses) - I guess I just needed the backup.

That's why "Glee" is so wonderful! It's certainly an accurate (maybe TOO accurate) portrayal of how awful high school can be, but these singers have no self-esteem issues! They're good and they know it! It's really fun watching the kids just enjoying themselves and it's obvious they've had a lot of practice in real life (like, say, Broadway). It's great to see that, even though they're the misfits of the school, they know that they excel in this one area (the show is also hilarious, with many other plots and sub-plots, and stars the FABULOUS Jane Lynch of "Best in Show" and "40 Year Old Virgin" fame. LOVE HER!).

I did finally overcome my shyness about performing - I made my solo debut at the age of 33 in "Cole", a musical I was in with Fond du Lac Community Theatre. It was great fun, and it's a shame that it took me so long to realize how much fun performing can be (but just like high school, I still love working backstage more). :D
P.S. That's me on the left and Jen (my sis) on the right - we're the Beauty School Angels (with rollers on our heads) from Grease, performed by Ashwaubenon High School, 1986.

September 9, 2009

Part of the Team

I can't wait for next Tuesday! We're in the middle of our big move - our newspaper office is closing its downtown building and we're moving into newer digs with the local shopper across town. All of the entities involved are owned by Gannett, so it only makes sense. But for so long we were considered "separate but equal" (not quite true, since the Shopper and the print facility are our money-makers. They had better stuff than we did).

And because we were separate, it was 'us' and 'them'. I think we always fancied ourselves way more fun. We are definitely louder, without a doubt. And now that we're all together (although I don't technically move over until next week), I think we all feel differently about each other. Like now, we're all in this together. We're a team. We're one big happy, dysfunctional family.

And looking back at other jobs I've had in the past, I've felt part of the team at nearly every place I've worked. The first "real" job I ever had was at WBAY-TV, Channel 2 in Green Bay, where I met some of my oldest and dearest friends. In fact, at one point we all lived in the same house, on East Mason Street. Don't tell my mom, but one of us dubbed it, "The Home for Wayward Boys". EEP! Sad but true.

After 2 years, I got a job at WFRV Channel 5, where I met MORE of my oldest and dearest friends, and my first husband Dan. Now these years were truly horrible in terms of the work, at least for me. They put us part-timers on the split shifts, so there were many stretches where we'd work 4 different shifts each day, our day beginning at 5:30 a.m. and ending at 11:00 p.m. But the hours between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. were all ours, and we definitely made the most of them! Nineteen Ninety-Two was a year in particular that I will forever cherish. Those were some of the best days of my life!

But because of the horrible work conditions, I eventually moved on. I did some temp work for a couple months but eventually landed a job at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. I met even MORE of my great friends there. I was there for three and a half years, and it was my favorite place I ever worked. My first husby got transferred to Fond du Lac so we moved here, and I was heartbroken. For a while I'd just take trips up to visit my work friends, but after a while you have to stop doing that because you realize that, although they're happy to see you, they have moved on and the world didn't end because you stopped working there (although, to their wonderful credit, they made my feel like it would at my going-away party).

I've had quite a few jobs in Fond du Lac, but none compare to the job I currently hold. And it's all because of the people, both at the Reporter and now including my extended 'family'. I'll be working somewhere again where it's loud. And fun. And exciting. And I hope, Lord willing, to be there for a long time. If that's not in the cards, I've made even more life-long friends, and that's worth everything.

September 8, 2009

The Thrill of New Stuff!

I came back to work today after a very lovely four-day weekend. I wasn't particularly thrilled to be back, although it's never as bad as one envisions it will be. Thankfully, that was the case today.

And what made it even better was the cute little envelope waiting for me on my desk! I was hoping it would arrive while I was away and it did! What was in the envelope, you ask?

Stuff! Glorious stuff!!!

You may have surmised by now that I really like the word "stuff". So did George Carlin, but he used it far more eloquently than I. No, I just really like all kinds of stuff. The stuff I am referring to here is just....well, stuff. Technically I could categorize it as collage materials. That would make sense to anyone reading this who is a collage artist. But what, exactly, did the envelope contain? Let me list some items for you:

  • 1 (one) invoice stub
  • 2 matchbook labels
  • a bit from a Chinese calendar
  • a milk bottle wrapper from Lone Pine Farms in New Jersey
  • a scrap from a map of various ports on the Michigan/Ontario border
  • graph paper of various grid sizes
  • a teaching aid card
  • a music flash card
  • a library due date slip
  • a Swan broom label
  • a scrap of very 70's wallpaper
  • a 'material and labor record' sheet
  • a parcel post label
  • a ham radio calling card from Appleton, of all places!
  • some vintage kid's lined paper
  • a factory payroll record
  • more matchbook labels from Bratislava, Slovak Republic (back then, though - Czecheslovakia).

To a great many people, they'd look at this list and wonder why in God's name would I actually PAY to acquire items such as these? Items that would appear, to some, to be trash and promptly thrown away?

To be honest, I don't know. I've always liked this kind of stuff. I remember as a kid taking the empty cereal and oatmeal boxes and cutting out the tiny squares used for color registry - you know, those teeny-tiny little 1 cm squares on the tabs of the box opening? Look for them sometime. I recall being very disappointed when my mom had to break it to me that they were too small to make into a book. I tried anyway and what do you know, Mom was right. It's probably the same lust of stuff that made me hoard play money and the tiny accessories that came with those Chinese-made dollar toys at the grocery store. Items that were meant to be thrown away and somehow made it through another round of cleaning, which is miraculous in and of itself.

And maybe that's the reason I love this kind of stuff - the sheer tenacity of a map or old coupon or paystub or old soap label that has somehow endured through eight moves, or thousands of cleanings, or just the sheer passage of time, sometimes looking as new as the day it first passed through someone's hands.

Either that, or I'm just a packrat.

September 7, 2009

Hitchin' a Ride

About a week ago, while visiting my sis and mom in Madison, we were driving to Spring Green to see Hayfever at American Players Theatre. Along the way, we spotted a hitchhiker along I-94. This was odd in itself - outside of Denver, where it seems hitching is normal, it had been quite some time since I had seen someone deign to stick out his thumb. I mean, seriously? Did this poor kid really think someone was going to pick him up? He did look nice - he was in a suit and tie - but in a car with three women? He should've given his thumb a rest as we passed.

This incident brought to mind the only time that I had ever shared a vehicle with a hitcher - it was probably 1978 or '79, and we were on our way to church. This information is important, because it was probably the reason my dad thought it his Christian duty to pick up a dirty, cashless (probably stoned) lost soul along Webster Avenue. Oh, I have never before or since seen my mother so incredulous!! My dad was trying to make conversation with this young man of 18 or 19, who was either a social misfit or just too wasted to form sentences. My sister and I were cowering in the back seat because he smelled as bad as he conversed. My mom just sat there, and to my recollection, gave my dad the silent treatment for most of the day.

One might wonder why my dad would put his family, all female besides himself, in jeopardy. But looking back, it sort of makes sense - my dad was 18 or 19 during the Depression, when it was all but obligation to pick up a weary stranger. You'd be helping out your fellow man and you may even come out of it with a good story or two. There was even a very happy tune about such travails by Vanity Fare back in '70 (My thumb goes up, a car goes byyy....") I can think of at least 100 times that, had I not been born with a uterus, I would've tried it myself. I didn't have a car in college and it would've come in extremely handy. Instead, I had to rely on public transportation or my roommates, who really enjoyed picking me up from the TV station where I worked at 11 p.m. (by the way, Pia, Jacq, or Vicki - a very belated thank you).

Maybe there'll come a day when traffic is so bad that we'll have no choice but to try hitching again, and the world will live and peace and harmony and we'll all Smile on our Brother and Get Together. But for now, I'll go it alone in my '97 Corolla, thanks.

September 6, 2009

The Coldwater Creek Experience

On our way back from a friend's wedding in Oconomowoc, we stopped at Mayfair, a very nice mall in Milwaukee. We rarely visit malls anymore - I, for one, don't seem to have the patience for shopping, unless it's for books or supplies on Etsy, or the occasional visit to Assemblage Studio in De Pere. And for me, one of the WORST excursions is the dreaded chore of clothes shopping.

I know I'm not alone here, but I also know that there are women who LOVE to do this.

Really? Maybe it's because I'm not exactly at my fighting weight, but I can't think of anything I'd rather not do is waste my Saturday afternoon trying on ill-fitting garments. So I think Brian was perplexed when I asked him if he'd mind if we took a quick stroll through Coldwater Creek.

Now, Coldwater Creek is a lovely store, and this isn't the first time I'd ever visited or purchased something there. And I did find a lovely short orange jacket that would be perfect for fall! It fit just right, so I figured that I'd better not tempt fate and get the H outta there while the gettin' was good. As I made my way through the checkout line, though, I realized something, something that shouldn't surprise me but did anyway -

I'm one of those ladies that shops at Coldwater Creek.

I have now joined the ranks of the "too-old-for-The Limited-but-too-young-for-Christopher Banks" group. Now mind you, my sister Jen, who is only 13 months younger than me (she'll be 40 in 2 months!), can get away with much "younger" clothes than I ever could. She's also in extremely good shape and works hard maintaining her health, something I could definitely take a lesson in. She works at a really cool clothing store in Madison where size "L" is for women who weigh 120 lbs. I prefer shopping at stores where the "L" means "just under circus tent size". This size psychology is ridiculous, I realize, but you have to admit - if you're used to wearing a 14 and you can fit into some store's size 12, you're going to mention it to someone, aren't you?

"Hey Mel, what size do you wear?"

"Oh, well, it depends, but mainly a 12."

See how that works? And Coldwater Creek knows it. I tried on that jacket yesterday in a 16, because that's just the size I thought I'd need. And when I swam in it, it was a mini triumph. So the 14, which is my normal pant size, felt like it was made just for me. And the price was right, so I bought it.

Now, if someone could only make the petite sizes for people taller than 5'1"......

September 5, 2009

Knee-Deep in Nostalgia

For the last year or so, I've been collecting Life magazines, mainly from the late 40's-early 50's, with a couple of straggler 60's and 70's issues thrown in. Our local antique store sells them for $3 a pop, so it's a very affordable item to collect (plus, I just scored about 50 issues at an auction, for less than a buck apiece!). I began collecting them not for the issue or the articles, but for the fantastic ads that lay therein, because I use them for my collage work and reproductions of these beautiful works of art just don't cut it. I love the feel and the color of the original ads.

But lately, it's become sort of an issue - I'm becoming nostalgic for a time that didn't even include me. Yes, I find myself wondering how my old my mom or dad or Grammie was at the given time of the issue. I keep thinking how great it would be if we could return to that much simpler time, before e-mail, social media, computers, cell phones, DVRs, even TV itself. I get misty thinking how quaint and relaxing it would be to knit by the static of the AM radio, maybe getting a station as far away as WOR in New York. Or how neat it would be to work with other gals in the typing pool, hearing that clackety-clack of the (manual!) typewriter keys.

Oh good lord, I know this is preposterous. I flunked (electric!) typing glass my sophomore year in high school; I would perish without my DVR and my Blu-Ray; I've re-established contact with old and dear friends (and made new ones, too) via Facebook and I am enjoying blogging. About the only thing I would give up in a heartbeat would be my damn cell phone - I hate that thing.

But the question remains: WHY? Maybe it's because there's a lot of change in the air; my old, comfortable workspace at the local paper is moving, because we're closing the building and moving in with "the competition" - a very common occurance these days at newspapers all over the country (another sad, nostalgic reminder of how this world works now). I just bought a really great book called Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing us By by Anna Jane Grossman. It's a wonderful and (sometimes) surprising list of every-day items and customs that Gen-Y will never really know of, like rotary phones and manual typewriters (incidentally, my 10- and 12-year old nieces LOVE my old Royal, pictured above. They could spend hours on that thing).

Is this a bad thing? I suppose, if I let it get me down. But people seem to enjoy the work that I do with the old ads, so maybe I'm doing my miniscule part to preserve history. As for me, I'm going to keep using my hankerin' for old stuff as a cure-all for the present-day Future Shock blues.