Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Obfuscation, Obfuscation, Obfuscation

I've been doing my fair share of job hunting recently. Except that there's nothing "fair" about it, not in the meaning of "fair" as in "equitable" or "fair" as in "she's a fair lass." Life, we are told from that first slap on the ass onwards, isn't fair. It's not even-steven, and it's not pretty. Lately, I've been thinking about how job hunters (or anyone else aiming to impress) try to even up the score.

We lie.

Really. I tell people all the time that I'm "detail-oriented and highly organized." Please. I'm thinking of having one of those nose-ring things done, just to carry my keys around on. I lose those suckers a minimum of once a day, and I even have a special nifty dragonfly hook next to my door to hang them on. I just can't be bothered to take the 9.7 nanoseconds required to actually hook them on there when my arms are full of groceries, there are hungry cats twisting themselves into knots around my ankles, and I'm already doing the gotta-pee jiggy dance of too much coffee and too little time to off-load it. Highly organized I am not.

But I'll quite happily claim to be organized. I can even fake it, in the short term, as long as no one looks too closely. When I was teaching (ahhhhhhhhh past tense ahhhhhhhhh), I had these massive three-ring binders, several for each level of ESL I taught. They were (ostensibly) separated by themes: health and body, emergencies, the house, school, looking for work, etc. As long as the binder remained closed, I could haul it around, little plastic tags prominently and smugly displayed. Inside, it was a different story. Hell, there could have been anything in there: lost works by Jackson Pollock, Amelia Earhart's final flight plan, that 18 1/2 minutes from the Nixon tapes. Actual, usable lesson plan fodder? Not so much.

I just spent the last hour, for example, trying to find pictures to use for my bio on my NEW WRITING THINGY (warning: shameless self-promotion ahead) at Sustainable Style Foundation. I know I have tons of nifty pictures of me in the blurry distance -- where they are is anyone's guess. I fear I may have to embark on a journey to THE STORAGE CLOSET. I have a storage closet that's been divided in half -- an upper and a lower -- and I have the lower half. It's a great place to put camping gear and the like, as that way my tent and sleeping bag get acclimated to dank, smelly, wet places. It's a graveyard of old spiderwebs full of the bodies of formerly juicy moths, flies, small children, etc.; it is also a hiding place for the spiders who built them and who still scurry around there, looking multi-legged and threatening. I can't stick my hand in any of the boxes without images of gangrenous spider bites spreading up my arm until the doctors tell me they're going to have to remove my neck and just balance my head between my shoulders and whatever you do, don't untie the ribbon!

But I've exhausted all the possible hiding places in my house (and at 450 sq. ft., that doesn't take long), so I'm left with the ridiculous places (that little gullwing-door butter nook in the fridge; under a cat; wrapped in plastic and duct tape and suspended in the toilet tank) or THE STORAGE CLOSET.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Being organized and more into the details than the devil hisself. About that? I lied.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Calling All Bikers

Unbelievable. I mean, I know Seattle is, by and large, a very polite town. We do things in subtle, quiet ways, we don't make much of a fuss (we leave that to out-of-town visitors to do for us), even our earthquakes do minimal damage.

Now, it seems, even our gang members are trying to "get made" using BBs.

I do not mean to take this lightly. One man, Peter McKay, has a bullet in his lung, and another narrowly missed his aorta and spinal cord. He could have died. The bullets (call them "pellets" if you must, but they were fired from a gun, and in my mind, that makes them bullets) remain in his body -- though he may eventually cough up the one in his lung. Which would be a cool party trick if you could time it right.

Since Mr. McKay's shooting, others have also become targets of, seriously, the lamest couple of sad-act gang-banger wannabe's this side of Comedy Central. Now, I'm not suggesting the red Ford Escort (ride of choice for pimps and bad asses everywhere) boys go out and buy a bazooka or something; I'm saying that there are adequacy issues here that no amount of firepower can cure. I get ads every day on my email for increasing your "size" and "potency." You boys let me know your email addresses, and I'll pass a few along.

Would-be bad boys want us to be afraid of them. Our fear makes them feel powerful. Laughing at their Keystone Cop-esque antics deflates them to their proper size, leaving them flaccid and impotent. Fortunately, these boys provide us with plenty to make fun of.

I think we here in Seattle should organize a "Take Back the Middle of the Afternoon-Slash-Early Evening" walk/jog/ride. Let's all head over to West Seattle, see if we can't locate the BB-gun-toting Rambos. Wouldn't it be rich if a bunch of skinny, no-ass bikers in eye-rattling jerseys of pink and biker yellow got ahold of the tired little fuckers and turned them over to the cops? Before they accidentally ('cause they obviously can't do it on purpose) kill someone.

The Lycra-clad ass you save may be your own.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"North" Means "Up," Right?

So I'm re-reading this book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It's really fascinating, actually: stories of people who get into life-and-death situations and why some people freak out and die of hypothermia 20 minutes after wandering too far from the cocktail tent on a beach in Kauai while other people are found 168 days later in an ice cave in the Himalayas under a tent constructed of braided yak hair and coconut fibers, happily gnawing on the shinbone of the pilot.

The thing about reading this book is it's incredibly humbling. Much as I like to think I'm clever enough to survive in the wilds on my own, and as much as I come from a heritage of jerry-rigging (my father once went out to get rid of a break-away bee hive wearing a pie pan on his head and a full-length cheesecloth sari. not one sting), I am a wimp. I freak out when the toilet backs up and I have to pee in the park for three days. Fifteen minutes after sauntering off the path and no more than a holler away from rescue, I'd likely walk through a spider web and, batting furiously at the imagined spider in my hair, blunder over a cliff. My survival skills are limited to knowing how to curl up and cry.

For one thing, I have no sense of direction. As I sit in my apartment now, I know that, sitting at my desk, I am facing roughly south. I know this only because I know that the street outside my window runs north-south, and since Mt. Rainier is that way and not that way, then that way must be south. I require 14,400+ foot-tall landmarks, and they'd better be distinctive. Stand-alone mountains like Rainier work best.

So I can just imagine myself lost in the wilderness, wandering in circles, wondering how long it will be before I have to start brushing my teeth with a twig and learning to like mushrooms and vomiting. And, as those familiar with this blog will know, I'm a wee bit afraid of the dark. At the first sight of lengthening shadows, my mind would automatically start running through every single Stephen King book I've ever read, testing out the scariest scenarios. My brain hates me and would gleefully use every tiny noise of the forest settling in for the night to convince me that I was in the sequel to the Blair Witch Project.

According to Mr. Gonzales, the Australian aborigines have a technique for not getting lost when in unfamiliar territory: they create songlines. They basically make a song out of the directions they take and the landmarks they come across, and in this way, they can go back the same way they came and pass along the directions to others. Singing the forest (or outback or whatever) forces you to be hyper-aware of the world around you. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, a song about "turn left at the Douglas fir and head straight on til the madrona -- the one with the peeling bark" probably isn't going to prove terribly helpful.

In fact, in an environment that grows and changes as quickly as this one, I'm not entirely sure how this sort of mapping would work. "Turn left at the unfurling maidenhair ferns that are growing on the dead log" is only helpful if you make it back while they are still unfurled. And if you don't confuse it with the exactly identical bunches of unfurled maidenhair ferns all over the bleedin' forest. Let's face it. Mother Nature wants you to return what Gonzales calls your "borrowed materials" to the soil ASAP so she can build something new out of you. Preferably something that doesn't drive a car and use a new Ziploc storage bag for each sandwich. So, no help there.

One guy survived 76 days at sea on a rubber raft. When finally "rescued" by a fishing boat, he had fresh water and plenty of strips of dried fish and insisted that the fishing boat go ahead and fish and take him to the hospital at their leisure. Another guy in a similar situation was desperate for water, drank a fair portion of the ocean, went a little nuts and decided to go buy cigarettes at the 7-11. He was understandably surprised when the trip to the corner store ended in his getting eaten by sharks.

I know enough to know that Hansel and Gretel's bread crumbs were a stupid idea. Beyond that, I'll be the one trying to make a fire by focusing sunlight through my glasses and onto a small pile of kindling and wood fibers and promptly burning the forest down.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Driver, Move That Bus!

I think I really freaked someone out today.

So, I was taking the bus from home to the downtown public library (that's where Seattleites go to dribble and shout at dustmotes in the air, if my carrel neighbors are any indication). My bus driver was of the persuasion that thinks the only way his passengers will know he's really making the effort is to drive like Tarzan on crack -- taking corners tire-squealingly fast, aiming for the potholes that are biggest and approaching red lights like a man with a grudge, stomping so hard on the brakes that the back end of the bus accordions up into the front end and the delinquents in the back practically end up on the driver's lap.

To begin with, the driver was eight minutes late to my stop, and when I got on, he hit the gas before I'd had the chance to find a seat. Normally, this doesn't bother me; I have reasonable balance and can find a seat even while moving and chewing gum. Normally, the bus driver isn't trying to set some kind of 0 to 60 record for diesel-powered public transit either. He hit the gas so hard, I pinballed my way down the aisle at break-neck speed and ended up smooshed against the back window like one of those Garfield dolls with the suction feet. Ha bloody frickin' ha.

I unpeeled myself from the inside back window and managed to crawl to a seat next to a nervous-looking little old lady. She was white-knuckling the metal support bar in front of her with one hand while death-gripping her oversized granny purse with the other. I smiled at her as I went to sit down, but of course the driver was aiming for a biker just then, veered to hit him, and dumped me in the old lady's lap. She helpfully bony-elbowed me into the proper position, scowled politely and stared straight ahead in a neighborly we're-all-in-this-together sort of manner.

The bus careened and swooned its way down Jackson towards the downtown, scattering pigeons and elderly Asians as it went. Bags were vibrating themselves off people's laps as we hit crap road surface at teeth-jangling speeds. One guy tried to have a cell-phone conversation, but his head and the hand holding his cell phone were moving at such variable speeds, he looked more like he was trying to shave.

After a particularly jarring thump off a pothole big enough to go spelunking in, I was thoroughly pissed off that this Nascar reject was in control of the bus. "I am going to kill this driver!" I hissed, out loud. (It's hard to hiss silently -- you end up sounding asthmatic.)

Just after I said this and just as I registered my seatmate's intensified look of alarm, I realized I really didn't know the best stop to get off the bus. I banged and clattered my way to the front of the bus, leaping from support pole to handhold, desperately gripping anything that might keep me upright as we slalomed through the city. I really didn't want to distract the driver from his murderous intentions, but I leaned down and asked him the best stop for the library. It appeared we were at it. In fact, we might have been slightly past it. He slammed on his brakes (it required him actually standing up to bring the bus to a stop -- I could just hear him shouting 'Whoa, Nelly!' in his fat, redneck-banded head), and I got off.

As I was stepping down off the bus, I realized how that must have looked to the nervous lady I'd been sitting next to: I make a threat on the driver's life, then immediately head to the front of the bus, whisper something in his ear that causes him to slam on the brakes, and get off. She must have thought she'd narrowly averted being part of some kind of attack. And seriously, considering the depth her bony elbow penetrated my sternum, she really had.

Monday, November 05, 2007

So, Who's Got All the Tat?

On Saturday night, Toasty and I drove up north to attend the birthday party of his daughter. It was at a martini bar in a hotel -- good food, great cake, excellent company -- and a good time was had by all. We got there at 8 pm (on time; a fact that did not go unnoticed or unremarked) and left around 10 or 10.30, according to Toasty.

The bar wasn't particularly full when we got there, but as the evening progressed, it started to fill up with young people ordering the kind of martinis that would have James Bond projectile vomiting off the side of his yacht. I'm sure they tasted wonderful -- especially the one with the gummy bears on the toothpick where the onion or olives would normally hang out -- but let's just say that these are not your boozy uncle's kind of martini. I generally really dislike gender stereotyping, but these martinis were downright girly. They came in lots of pastel pinks and blues and light yellows and greens, and so many had bits of candy floating in them, I was starting to wonder if perhaps someone had leftover Halloween treats lying around and decided to plunk a handful in with some Malibu and "SoCo" and call it a martini.

The birthday girl chose the place because she used to hang out there when she lived in the area, and the tables were big enough to put a party around, and the food and drink and service were definitely above par. But it was without question the sort of place that would attract a certain kind of sorority girl in droves: "viewing booth" type seating where one could arrange oneself for maximum displayage (not that they needed help, but more on that in a moment), and drinks so pretty they'd look just as colorful and feminine on the way back up as they did in the glass.

And where one finds young, preening girls, one often as not finds young, gawping boys.

So at some point later in the evening, I looked around and noticed that there was an awful lot of ... there's no polite way to say this. But there is a French way: decolletage. In good old, Anglo-Saxon: boobs. They were everywhere. Shirts were cut so low and involved so little material that they were more swatches than actual clothing. At one point someone made mention of the "girl in the red blouse." Toasty turned to look at her and said, "I see some red around the edges. Is that the girl you mean?" Yes, shirts operated as little more than parentheses that night.

And of course, the boys at the bar were being happily pulled in by the sheer gravitational weight of all that abundance. Every time a woman reached down to pick up her purse or retreive a napkin that had fallen on the floor, the swivelling of male heads actually produced a breeze sufficient to blow out the candles on C's birthday cake. Those boys were kids in a mammary shop, trying to figure out how to spend their allowance.

Just behind our table were two of the viewing booths (I swear that the booth backrests actually leaned backward for unnecessary emphasis). One booth was entirely populated by women, each one sporting the kind of rack that gets a moose shot. The other booth was entirely populated by men who must have had blinding headaches the next day from the strain of sneaking peeks and then pretending not to -- all without moving their heads. A line of small clouds was forming at the front where the testosterone and estrogen met.

A friend later said that such display was to be expected at a college bar, but really, this place was less about college and more about collagen. I was in college once, and I really don't remember the sheer volume of cleavage. That's not to say it wasn't there, but I think perhaps it wasn't as gleefully on show.

All I can say is, if it truly is an even exchange of tit for tat, then somewhere in the world there's a bar with enormous piles of tat.