9.30.2004

charity

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I got roped into representinting my department of local city government agency for an annual charity campaign. Last year, a very agressive "captian" was in charge in our department and he tried all kinds of high-pressure sales tactics to get me to donate. The more examples he gave, like mentioning who gave the most, the more discusted I was with the whole thing. I know for a fact that both my assistant and I didn't donate last year but somehow our department got a 100% donation rate.

One should donate privately and anonymously -- fame and competition should paly no part of this.

Who's the captian now??! I am.

This charity campaign has all the trappings of a pyramid scheme. Everyone is getting their cut and the ultimate charitable agency that should benefit ends up getting a smaller and smaller percentage of the donation. For example, you can only dontate to one of 7 "Community Charities" and right off the top they take 15% cut for "operating costs" . A "Community Charity" is a group that represents several charities - what they don't say is that these individual charities need to pay about $5k per year be a part of this community charity. Where do you think the $5k comes from? Other donations!

I was forced to attend the charity campaign launch meeting this morning and I'm nauseous with disgust. The room was decorated with helium baloons, glittery hearts (that I'm still picking off my sweater), fake paper money strewn on the tables (let's not forget the focus of this whole event) and various other party favors that we were enocuraged to wear and blow. Croissants, muffins, coffee and sodas lined the back of the room.

Door prizes were awarded for any particular reason...

"To the first who walked in the door... a canvas bag! Coming early shows commitment"

"To the two people who are wearing green sweaters... plastic hearts because you're at the heart of the campaign!"

How much *$&#@$ MONEY went into planning this whole damn thing anyway?!? Could they have forgone the helium baloons and given $10 to charity? Could they have forgone the heart glitter and given the $7.95 to charity? Could they have forgone the muffins and drinks and given the $213 to charity?!?

I'm so upset I can't even see straight.

And yet, to my department head, I have to kiss ass and pretend to be "greatful to be chosen for such an honor!"

I think I'm gong to stick my head in a toilet and vomit now-- good thing I didn't eat the muffins.


9.29.2004

copy & paste: ravioli respect... just a little bit.

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Here's something else I've written somehwere else. The topic being in-laws and the particular "gem" of a mother-in-law that I managed to get out of this whole marriage deal.

Ever since I married her first-born son, I could do no right in my Italian mother-in- law's eyes.

I freaked out for a week before her first visit to America. I stayed up 'til midnight making ravioli from scratch, roasting peppers for peperonata, bottoling home-made olio piccante (for cooking and gifts) and planning menus to satisfy my father-in-law's sensitive palate.

I was to cook two meals a day for 6 people (my father and mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband) for two weeks.

I was unstoppable.

Only the occasional puff of flour reminded my husband that I existed.

As soon as it began, I couldn't wait for the visit to be over. Every time my husband left the room his mother would make some snide remark.

"How novel, who ever thought of using arugola this way!?!"

"He now drinks beer?!? He never used to drink beer, what have you done with my son?"

When I served her my soon-to-be-famous home made portobello mushroom ravioli in sage butter sauce, everyone around the table was hmmming and ohhhing and with a straight face she said, "they're edible."

The last meal before the in-law contingent left I went all out. Somehow, in 25 minutes I managed to crank out pan-seared pork chops in a white wine reduction sauce served on a bed of arugola, with sauteed mushrooms, caremlized onion rings and a fresh salad.

Tableware clinking, salt and pepper passing and grinding when mother-in-law pipes up with, "you know, even the best cooks make mistakes. This sauce is bitter." The clinking and grinding continued.

"I said, even the best cooks make.."

"It's not a mistake." I interrupted her.

Quiet crashed table. Ten ears strained for my next words.

"It's a wine sauce it's supposed to be tart."

Tableware dared to break the silence and clinck again and few minutes later my hard-of-hearing-father-in-law, who missed the previous exchange, tugs on his wife's elbow and says, "honey, this is good. Get the recipe, I want you to make this for me when we get home!"

Revenge is not as sweet as when it's executed right in front of you.

They all left for Tennessee where the in-laws could hang out with thier daughter. A week passes and mother-in-law calls. She casually mentions that they'd tried to reproduce my ravioli recipe and it didn't come out right... uhm, could she talk to me and get the recipe for her daughter?!? I gladly obliged, reciting every ingredient and technique.

The ravioli didn't come out right.

My mother and father in- laws eventually went back to Italy and within a week of their return, said mother-in-law tried to make the ravioli again.

They didn't come out right.

We get another phone call.


This time, mother-in-law is seductively cooing compliments from the other end of the phone. "What a great cook" I was, and how she meant all her compliments while she was here (uhm.. what compliments?) and I'm a true talent in the kitchen and... by the way.... could I give her the ravioli recipe with the exact quantity of each ingredient, each and every step and technique and not leave out a single thing*?

I was really surprised by mother-in-laws' tenaciousness - trying to reproduce the recipe over, and over again. My husband is discusted with the whole thing: that, after three years of marriage, I would only gain his mother's respect and approval because she found out I can cook and I have out-raviolied** her.

This makes me, in her eye, an acceptable wife.


*Italians don't like to give away their secrets. I've seen it most in a cookie recipe that has evolved and passed down from my mother-in-law's sister to her, and from my mother-in-law to her daughter -- they purposely leave out an ingredient when passing it on so that the recipe won't come out exactly the same. Last summer, when I mentioned to hubby's aunt how different her cookies tasted from his mother's or sister's version, she got a wry smile and said, "it's my little secret!"

**Italians are very competitive in the kitchen. After a visit to my husband's aunt we arrived to his mother's home where, as soon as we crossed the threshold, she interrogated us about what her sister prepared for us. That evening, she cranked out a lasagna to rival her sister's and after the first bite she asked, "so who's lasagna tastes better?"

Mother-in-law still hasn't reproduced my ravioli.

I promise: I didn't leave anything out.

Really.


all tapped out..

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Since my creativity is zilch this afternoon, I thought I would share someone else's creativity..

adam - how the world really began
http://piep001.de/PIEP001/Sites/Adam.htm

9.28.2004

the wrong way..

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I don't know about you but in my work place that are some people who are dedicated to take every and any thing that is communicated to them the wrong way.

A simple request for clarification turns into a power-trip regarding my being unable to read their mind to know exactly what they want so let's escalate this to your boss because you're a worthless idiot.

I'm not particularly worried because, frankly, my boss and I will laugh about the clerical diva in question but the net effect of having anyone flipping out and blaming you for their discontent is the same.

I have accidentally seen enough Dr. Phil episodes to wonder... "what's their payback" for wasting so much energy being difficult?


9.26.2004

greed

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I'm greedy.

I see something that I want and if I can't have it I long for it even more.

A small house has stemmed the tide of the junkety junk one would find anywhere, and bring home to collect dust and be thrown away in a year's Spring cleaning. Over three years in less than 640 square feet occupied by two adults, two cats, two computers and too many inherited antiques has completely eliminated any desire for junkety junk.

Other areas of my greed are not so easily bridled or satiated.

I spend too much time being preoccupied by the latest thing that I want and not enough time conteplating whether I actually need it or not. If it looks, tastes or feel good I want it all the time. If by some odd chance I actually get the thing I wanted I'm usually disappointed that it did not posess these magical powers to make me happy that I bestowed upon it before I got it. So, I move on to the next thing that just have to have.

This bottomless want isn't working for me anymore.

I'd like to reduce my greed and increase charity.

all the world's a stage

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Seen today in downtown Santa Cruz:

A man, normally dressed, walking in slow motion holding an umbrella over his head and a wide grin on his face on a sunny day.

A woman, wearing black shoes, orange thigh-high stockings, a short black skirt, orange turtleneck sweater and black hair pulled in a ponytail.

A Scottish marching band of six bagpipes with a precussionist bring up the rear marching up and down the sidewalk pissing off the other street musicians.


9.25.2004

capers, dolphins & morals

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I've been directly and indirectly involved in several capers. Capers can't really be planned. They land in your lap in the course of everyday life and present you with two roads. One caper's final destination was my name on a goverment black list that bans me from joining any branch of the United States Military and another precepitated a small change in California law by the insurance industry on my behalf. No one caper shaped the morals of my adult life so much as an evening in my Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of my early twenties.

I lived in a studio apartment on the corner of Haight and Clayton - across the street from the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical clinic and a bar that changed hands and names too many times to remember.

I had a new neighbor, an adventureous Chinese American Frech High Shool teacher who was two studios away, five years older and leagues ahead of me in maturity. I spent much of my time observing her and trying to be as cool as she was. We often went to the ever-name-changing bar to have drinks. This is where this caper began.

A leather-clad, higene-challenged cap-wearing man who seemed to know the Chinese American French High Shcool teacher from a previous life approaced us.

"Would you like to see dolphins?"

I studied the speaker for signs of drug-induced alterations to his behavior, speech and manner.

"I know a way," he continued "into the dolphin tank of the aquarium in Golden Gate Park."

The Chinese American French High Shcool teacher and I leaned a little closer.

Ten minutes later we were at at the end of Haight Street at the Cala Foods fish counter filling our rusting red shopping cart with discounted fish.

"The more the better, " said the leather-clad, higene-challenged cap-wearing man.

We checked out by a preplexed and amused clerk at inubriated people buying three bags of seafood at 1 am Sunday moring. The clerk turned and his eyes followed across the parking lot until, enveloped by a dense bank trees, at the park entrance we obscured.

We approached the aquarium and used a security fence that butted against the building as a ladder to hoist us onto the roof. The moonlight lit our path. We arrived at a large rectangular cut-out: the doplin tank. A climb down a metal conduit and a foot on the fire alarm box had us on a walkway at the water's level.

Everything looked blue but the security lights illuminated long black shapes zipping back, forth, alarmingly quickly in the water. Fish in a barrel with absolutely nowhere to go the dolpins were furiously swimming from one end of the tank to the other. Three dophins in pefectly coordinated panic managed to miss eachother in their flight of terror.

This moment was beautiful and ugly.

My consipirotors undressed and jumped in the tank. I refused to join.

"I cannot," I said. I gripped my chest and stepped back against the wall for support, hitting my head on the fire alarm box stepping stone. A burst of fear from the dolphins hit me.

"Don't be afraid, they won't hurt you", said the no longer leather-clad, higene-challenged cap-wearing man buoying in and out of the water doing back strokes.

"I am not afraid. They are." I pointed to the water. I retracted my blue-white trembling finger to my pocket- lest it be noticed. No one esle was privy or struck by this wave of emotion.

"Oh, they're OK. We do this all the time," said the no longer leather-clad, higene-challenged cap-wearing man buoying in and out of the water.

I cried inside, and laughed outside. Time slithered slowly. Finally, one by one we to grabbed the electrical conduit to hoist ourselves back onto the fire box, up to the roof, down the security fence and back into the park.

On our way home the Chinese American French High Shcool teacher was ringing her hair out and excitedly chattering while I looked back toward the aquarium.

I confessed my misadventure to my co-worker. As I spoke, her face became increasingly distorted, pailing, odd. She hadn't taken a breath for at least a minute...

"What's wrong?"

... she volunteered at the aquarium once a month and knew the director. The dolphins were getting sick often lately. On Mondays they always needed to clean out garbage and codom wrappers from the dolphin tank. One dolphin had to be operated on and they found that a plastic shopping bag was entagled in it's intestines.

They couldn't figure out how the vandals were getting in.

I knew.

An anonymous letter appeared in my co-worker's hand with instructions for hand delivery to the director of the aquarium.

The next weekend the Chinese American French High Shcool teacher said that she couldn't wait to go see the dolphins and wanted me join. No way.

"Don't go," I urged. It's not safe. She went.

I ran into the Chinese American French High Shcool in the hall.

"Oh, it was crazy. All of a sudden we heard voices, there were flashlights, sirens police. We were all taken to the police station. We weren't arrested but we were pretty shaken up good thing you didn't come because... hey... waitaminute... did you know something about it? is that why you urged me not to go?"

I inserted my key in my apartment door, shrugged, and before disappearing behind the door I managed to lie a faint "no."

The Chinese American French High Shcool teacher moved on to motorcycle lessons and a Greek boyfriend.

I wasn't as "cool" as her, afterall.

9.24.2004

copy & paste: the speck that fell off the back of a truck

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Here's something I've written somehwere else. The topic being a smoked prosciutto that has recently been approved for import into the United States and the illegitimate means by which I've been enjoying this meat for years...

The whole affair is clandestine from beginning to end.

My husband has a "connection" with a local butcher in Trento. He calls his "connection" as soon as we arrive to let him know what we'd like. My husband and his "connection" meet in a side street off the piazza, usually at night, and his "connection" opens the trunk of his car to reveal a full salumeria. My husband chooses what he wants and each item is tranferred from one trunk to the other... carefully, cautiously, with a quick look around. Hunched shoulders, hushed voices, cash appears in one set of hands and disappears in the other. No sconrtino (recipt*) ever sees the shade of night!

When the trunks click shut, that's when I come into the picture.

I wash the outside of the hermetically sealed plastic carefully with grease-cutting dishwashing liquid to remove any residual perfumes of meat. I then seal the ham in a shopping bag and place it in an open shopping bag into which I put all the dirty socks and undies I can gather. The stinkier the better - husbands are good for this, too. I seal up the second bag and casually toss our "dirty laundry" it into the suitcase. This elaborate procedure confuses the SFO International's k9's, also known as "beagle brigade."

We are always prepared to "give up the goods" during the spot inspections - you can't deny what the immigration officer just plucked out of the suit case! But so far, we have slipped by unnoticed.

The sealed meat can be stored in the freezer and defrosted in a day or two in the fridge prior to slicing.


* What's the big deal about a recipt? In Italy they actually have "recipt police" that hang around outside stores, and sometimes inside, to make sure that the merchant gave you a recipt for your goods. The Italian government takes it's taxes seriously and it wants to make sure that it's not short-changed. Everything is rung-up at the government controlled register and the customer is to keep their recipt until they get home -- just in case the recipt police gets suspicious.

Italians have already figured a way around this kink... but that story is for another time.

9.22.2004

any time is a good time... and the middle is always a good place to begin

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I've always been heistant to keep a journal because I feel compelled to describe everything in chronological order -- and the thinking continues that if I can't sum up the last 31 years of my life nothing will makes sense. The reality is that both memories and people are spontaneous. When you meet people, they get the snapshot view of who you are and how you got there -- the don't need a full chronological account... and so are memories.

Sometimes something just pops-up.


doing the charleston
I picked-up one of those generic CD's that has non-cpyrighted music played by nobody famous without any particular talent. It's a it's got mambo's, tango's and one particular song which sounded like the pefect rhythim to which one should be dancing the charleston - the kind of music you'd imagine playing during those early movie reels where everyone is moving too quickly to notice. Black and white with little grainy stripes once in a while. A topless car filled with young happy people. Men in suspenders and women with their felt hats and fur collars. Arms in the air, everyone waving at the camera at a speed that is not humanely possible.

Flashback to about 18 years ago where I was visiting my grandmother for the summer. I was thirteen, a "woman" with headphones permenantly affixed to my ears and a walkman permenantly affixed to my hip and an attitude exuded from every one of my pores ... can't talk now, can't you see I'm listining to my tunes?

We had to go into "town" to go shopping and this required preparation. She busied herself in front of her art deco tigerwood make-up dresser on her cream pleather stool. She was fully dressed, so this meant that she would put her sheer "make-up shawl" that prevented the loose powder she puffed on her face from landing on her clothes.

We hobbled and stumbled our way to the bus-stop, which was precarously perched at the top ledge of a steep ditch. Steep ditch behind, busy road in front, bus shelter beside she began to tell me about how she would dance. Her black eyes looked across the street and found a memory. She cracked a smile as the sun shone on her navy wool suit from which sprouted a white linen blouse collar with specially made embroidered tips.

"Do you want to learn the Charleston?!?" she said with the excitement of a child. And before I could answer she began strutting her stuff.

"Ta ta... tatatatahhh.." the music was flowing and grandma, who could barly walk was doing the Charelston. Palms to the floor, shoulders to her ears feet flying in every direction. There was no stopping her.

It was a magical moment.

The cheap CD moves on to the next song... a swing piece of some kind.

9.17.2004

proofreading...

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I'm back after a long unexplained absence. I stopped posting here not because life got in the way, though it did, but because I have a really hard time proof-reading my own stuff unless it's really exciting. I figure if I get bored proof-reading my own stuff so will you... whoever you are.

following up on that "waste of time" post
I made almost a year ago... it turns out that if you eliminate everyone you do not enjoy you end up with very few friends - none as a matter of fact. I'm just not used to this superficial "your hair looks nice today, have you lost some weight" comments that possiblity.. ultimatly lead to another superficial friendship notch in my belt. A notch that you have to visit and email regularly otherwise you get on their "shit list" and wish you'd never started this horrid spiral to begin with.

I don't have the patience. I just want to meet geniune people and instantly have a good time. Run into them in a few years and not have to pretend that the time apart didn't have any effect.

Is that too much to ask?