Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The friendliest city no one is visiting

My first visit to Memphis was about 1992, to a work conference at Rhodes College, which is what is considered "Midtown" Memphis.  Outside of Graceland, this is where most of the tourists go - Zoo, Pink palace, Art Museum... even the bumper stickers say "Midtown is Memphis."


Which leaves the poor downtown district all dressed up with no one to serve.  This photo -- not from our trip -- is a fairly true representation of Beale St foot traffic, and this is likely a Friday or weekend night.  At the beginning of the week, and certainly on the Friday following Thansgiving, the streets were empty.  It was like renting out a downtown for your vacation.

Fully staffed.

The other title of this post could be, "What if they gentrified and nobody came?"

The large office buildings and storefronts along Main, Union, Front, and the numbered streets were bought by commercial developers as condo space, retail, and business, but missed the market -- by time or appeal is not clear -- and this move-in ready infrastructure is available for the taking.

AutoZone and Toyota still hold the downtown, the courthouse system (including law offices, bailbonds, and copy centers) is plentiful, and several major hotels and historic attractions (more below).  There are just no locals.  Staff we talked to at hotels and restaurants said people live and work outside of this small square, and the people who do work in the area serve the tourists, and don't have the kinds of jobs that put them outside on daily errands.



The Main Street trolley, which cuts through the middle, and loops around the river, has reduced fare of 25 cents at lunchtime, but is ridden mostly by tourists treating it like a sightseeing tram (which it does very nicely) and mothers with strollers and too many shopping bags.  At the end of the trolley loop is a giant riverfront warehouse converted to lofts, where the trolley stops at the entrance awning, and where every unit has a view of Arkansas.  Now leasing at about $500/mth or you can buy for under 200K in most buildings.

Not that the trolley is necessary; we walked every block of this district -- more than once -- when we weren't riding by carriage (cocktails delivered to your pumpkin!) 



The only place we encountered crowds was at the 11am Duck March, and then I expect these people took off for Graceland, the casinos, and the zoo, leaving us as the mayors of downtown.  We decided our secret names to the locals were "them ladies," or some variation of it.  Perhaps "Austin/Boston," since that story always generates conversation.  One docent asked if we were sisters or classmates, and I remembered that you have to love the South for keeping the word "classmates" in normal conversation.

If you are planning your trip to Memphis (and would you please, these people are like Canada-nice, the food is good, the music great, the streets are clean, and the sights plentiful)  here are our recommendations, with traffic-driving links.  Every one of these venues can be found in the outlined area. ("A" is our residence -- formerly the Wm Len building, now turned hotel).  Incidentially, this building, and 11 thousand others are registered as Historic Places -- this is more than Boston, and certainly Austin -- and doesn't include those that were listed but demolished during urban "renewal."




Must-Do
National Civil Rights Museum - This can take a few hours, if you tend to read everything, which we do.  Even without that detail, plan an hour, and be aware that school groups may be attending, which could also slow you down.  NCRM has opened a 2nd site across the street that leads you to the boarding house and the bathroom window from which James Earl Ray sent a single shot.  The sightline is shocking, and the fact that the building still exists is even more so.  Lots of information here about the investigation and conspiracy theories, which is too much after everything you have been through at this point.

Beale Street - go a couple of times.  There is food, music, souvenirs, and a Bourbon Street vibe without drunks, hookers, crowds, hurricane carts, strippers, and whatever that smell is.
We recommend Miss Pollys, BB Kings, Blue City Cafe, Schwabs (even though it closes at 5, we could see it was awesome).

Rock and Soul - I list this under must-do because you can get both Stax and Sun exhibits in the same tour, plus the rest of Memphis's music scene.  By this means, we skipped both the Sun tour (which seemed inflated for Elvis pilgrims) and Stax, but you could easily do all 3 in a day.

Belz museums - I am putting this under must-do because I dragged my feet and arched my back about it and I was wrong-wrong-wrong.  All respect to the MFA's Asian collection, but the people want spectacle.  How there is any gigantic jade and ivory left in China is a mystery.  (right: a section of a carving of a mammoth tusk.  And it is not the only one.  deal with it, MFA).
The Belzes also run the Urban Land Institute, working to revitalize the riverfront neighborhoods.

Bardog - we adopted this local because the hotel did not have a bar and because it had a Memphis-business folk Happy Hour scene.  The food is much better than the menu indicates.  Order the "chicken cutlet," which is actually marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and pepper jack on grilled Texas toast with shoestrong fries.  That, kids, is how to describe that sandwich.  Consider it.  You have a great little bar.

Worth the Price
Hughey's -  Burgers and bar bands.  Some of the food in Memphis is trying too hard, but if you keep it real, you will eat well.

Flying Fish - Woodman's southern style: fish in a basket, beer in a bottle, Pete's on the table.  More expensive a lunch than you expect, but you are not going to fry okra at home, are you?

Center for Southern  Folklore - free - art gallery/event space, and apparently a co-op celebrating folk art and history .  This was the best giftshop we visited in terms of variety, price, and service.  We also learned about the Labor Day music festival there.

Peabody ducks - because they are free.  But come at 10:30 and wait around, because if you come at 11, you can not actually see the ducks.  They are very short.

Carriage rides - there are several companies, but they all feature cinderella lights and a friendly dog.  30 mins for $45; 60 for $75 (per carriage load).  This is a good  starter tour to give you a sense of where things are, and entice you to go off Main and Beale.

The Tea Shop - The Tea Shop was in view of our window, and next door to Bardog.  The Tea Shop is the kind of local insider's place that would not bother to have a website.  Most tourist staff will not recommend it, because it is not soul food or BBQ, and the food is nothing at all special (unless you have missed your pimento cheese sammich, which they serve).  But it is where real Memphians are, the hostess/owner will call you "darlink," and you will experience the true integration of this unique southern culture.




Cotton Exchange - this is a surprising tour that uses an iPod soundtrack and neighborhood walk to make the information more lively.  The exhibit also includes interviews with Exchange members and their descendants, and underscores that cotton is not a bygone industry.  As usual, there was not quite the book I was looking for in the giftshop to "say more."


We skipped it, but doesn't mean you have to
Some of it was time, some was money - most was we decided to eat instead.  These were on our list, but didn't make the final cut.  Check them out.

South Main Arts - while you are at the civil rights museum, you are in "South of Main," where a few antique stores and Pearl's Oyster House may attract your attention.  Gulf oysters - not so very far to travel.  (notice the picture on wikipedia - we really aren't kidding)


Mud Island was closed for the season, but I can recommend this day trip from my previous visit.  Engineering stuff for dad, activities for kids, and one damn minute for mom.  I noticed that the website spells "mud is land," which is actually the history of this little land mass.  Another place where you should expect field trips.

Gibson Guitars - My "classmate" thought she should leave some things for her return with family

Full Gospel Tabernacle - sadly, there was no Wed night service due to the holiday.

restaurants we missed because there are only so many meals in a day: Rendezvous, Wangs, Flight, Sauces, McEwen's

You can skip...
Victorian Village - unless you intend to re-hab and buy one.  Think High Street/Sycamore in Petersburg, but in the 1970s, before anyone had bought them.  It was a long and sprawly walk including crossing Danny Thomas (you wouldn't like him when he's angry) to get to a few white elephants, fewer of which are occupied, one of which is open to the public.  The desk staff at the hotel made fun of us for it.  Click the link and you've done it.

Majestic Grille - or just have a drink there.  The building is lovely, and the service (as always) attentive, but Meh on the food.  GThis was our most expensive meal, but not the best.

Felicia Suzanne - I want to rate this higher, because the European-style waitering and the room felt very fancy, and the chef sent an amuse that was the world's best little crab puff, but the food was actually complicated in its presentation, and ordinary in flavor.  The fact that I kept calling it Francesca's also hints at the impression it left.  If you are looking for your dress-up evening out, you might consider one of the others we missed.

Not in the neighborhood, so we didn't go
Graceland


Thanks Memphis - that hit the spot.  We hope this helps drive some business.
not too much now....


Friday, November 27, 2009

South of the Border

#24 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.



His name is Pedro.  He lives nowhere near Mexico (say it in Spanish) but on 301S on the border between the Carolinas.  The "South" you are entering is South Cuh-lyina, a different country indeed.

In its day, it was the Tijuana of the east coast, where beer and explosives could be found after enduring the drive through the dry northern counties where cigarettes are farmed.

It took some digging to find the official website.  They need some SEO help from the Googles.
But you better believe Google can see Pedro from space.  He is 97 feet tall:




SOB has dining, shopping, overnight accommodations, attractions, all in quotation marks.
But don't think Pedro is lost in his kitschy past.  SOB also has a blog, and sometimes it gets updated!  It's name is blog.  Enjoy.

I am going to open the comments section up to the Readership to share their SOB memories.  I expect some of you have driven right through it on your holiday travel this week.  Pop a Blenheim for me and unwrap a Moon Pie.  You are going to have to wait for Memphis stories to be posted later.  I have a hand cramp.

Share your Pedro stories, and enjoy paging through these archives.

Stuckey's... just cuz

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Permanent contraception

or... don't name your baby Adiana.

I came across Adiana in my job hunt.  I have just linked you to it, so you could read the rest, but something tells me that it not what you come here for.  You come to see what threads the Drawing In Room can weave together with this to find something wholly new.

As Tevye says, "Well I'll tell you.  I don't know..."

Adiana is the trademark name Hologic has given its outpatient "alternative" to tubal ligation.
"You know you're done with childbearing. You also know the form of permanent contraception you want - no hormones, no anesthesia and no surgery. For women like you, there's Adiana Permanent Contraception."


uh-HUH.  Go ahead...


The failure rate is slightly higher than ligation (your or his) and has the same "risks/disadvantages" of having surgery except, says the fact sheet "Most women return to their normal activities within a day."

"It works by stimulating your body's own tissue to grow in and around tiny, soft inserts that are placed inside your fallopian tubes."  Again with the inserts.  You guys and your inserts.  You would keep the barbeque in there if you could.

"It leaves nothing in the uterus that might limit future gynecologic procedures."  Am I having more procedures?  Of course it leaves nothing in the uterus.  You just told me you left it in my tubes, this piece of styrafoam.  It is actually made of silicone.


Other things they stuck in us they were wrong about
- Dalkon shield
- Carboxymethylcellulose

The procedure takes 12 minutes, they say, which is how long it took to kill 500 people at The Cocoanut Grove.   (just something else to link to, in case this bores you).  You have to click a little further to find out how long the entire process takes. 

Here's your timeline:
- decide you are ready. 
- wait for your next ovulation - before it, actually.  You might also want to stop having unprotected sex, though the website does not advise this.
- if you have just given birth, wait 3 months.  Everything in medical science takes 3 months. 
- 1 or 2 hours before, take an anti-inflammatory (you know, so you can resume those normal duties)
- accept a local anesthetic into your cervix.  (scooch...scooch..)
- 60 seconds of "radiofrequency energy" in each tube
- now count your 12 minutes
the website says, "Before you leave the doctor’s office, you will receive discharge instructions."  That's not what they meant.  This is where a 2nd proofreader comes in handy.
- for the next 3 months you are still fertile.  Keep using your preferred birth control method.
- have your uterus filled with dye and x-rayed.  If the earplugs they put in there have sufficiently closed off your tubes, you are permanently sealed
- continue to menstruate, which you enjoy so much
- live with it, because there is no do-over

You can watch the vaguely described procedure here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

thirtysomething in retrospect


I have been working my way through Season 1 of "thirtysomething," a series which divides friendships just as much now as it ever did.

For every one of my dear friends who enjoys vampires, space travel, Middle Earth, and Lost, there is a show about whiny self-sabateurs that love just as much.

Dr A said to me, in her literary criticism
professor's assessment, "I think we have found the difference in our ages."

Yes, one's attraction to thirtysomething is driven to some degree by the age they were when they originally watched it, but it is not that simple.  Plenty of people exactly my age (23 when this show came on the air) would rather shave their in-laws than impose these people on themselves.

But we are not talking about them.  We are, as always, talking about me.  ("Deal with it, Michael," says my inner Stedman)

I have tried to encapsulate what attracted me to this show, and for me it holds up Plus.  Plus the crazy hair and the fashion show, the "hippy" flashbacks which I had not remembered, and which i think are anachronistic.  If this crew is thirtysomething (Melissa, the youngest, says she is 31 in the pilot) then they were born in 1948 at the latest, and this crew is not 39.  They are 36 at best, I will say, which would make them born in 1951 and just barely Flower Children.  But I'll play along.

Thirtysomething premiered the same year Cagney and Lacey went off the air.  Out with the brown, in with the pinstripes.  I chose this cast photo because both Michael and Eliot are wearing their signature pants.  This is Ellyn's best hair, and she had some nightmare hair.  Sadly missing: Nancy's butterfly hairclip.  That did not catch on.  Combs, yes, randomly placed binder clip, no.  But Michael and Eliot will wear these pants every day like cartoon characters.




I had just moved to the big city to begin my Adult Life.  This program became my manual of how not to be, and how to deal with those who were.  In my life, I do not encounter many of the undead, or Hobbits.  I do, however, encounter Hopes and Michaels, and very many Garys (Garies?) in my day-to-day.

Understand that as much as I loved-loved this program, I hate these people as much as anyone does.  I do not want to be at dinner with them, much less in a marriage.  And yet they are us, aren't they?  Their fights are not clever, their expressions of love are awkward. Their compliments back-handed.  This is not Aaron Sorkin -- who we love, and whose characters we want to be like because they always say the right things, with footnotes and hyperlinks.   This is not Edward Albee, all shreiks and scotch, and giant Pronouncements.

This is Zwick & Herkovitz.  They wrote Family; they will eventually bring us My So-Called Life.   They know that the harder we try to say the right thing, the worse it comes out.
It makes us uncomfortable just to watch.  We grab our hair and moan, and flop back on the bed.  Just...like...Michael.

Recently an NPR reviewer gave the thirtysomething boxed set a so-so review -- admitting that the show finds it stride after a few choppy starts, but rolling its radio eyes at some of the plotlines (Michael keeps cancelling squash!  Janie doesn't want to nurse!).  Later in the series when the plots get bigger and ickier (just like life - the new Boss is an asshole!  Nancy has cancer!) our characters have not learned much that lets them handle these problems any better.

Just...like...us.

You are one of these.  You are all of these.  And you are surrounded by them.  Maybe you don't need another hour to see it in front of you, but it is cheaper than analysis (with suspenders and shoulder pads).

Hope: peaked too early, experiencing her first real hardship: ordinary life
Michael: aspired to the Madmen life of his father's generation without knowing how hard the old man had it
Eliot: married too young to his first girlfriend
Nancy: aspired to the domestic life of her mother's generation without realizing she hadn't married her father
Gary: very sad the 60s are over, even though he was a teenager during them
Melissa: very sad the 80s are over, even though she appears to deny it
Ellyn: resents living in the shadow of her best friend, but won't move on
the kids: the center of everything and completely ignored

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sentimental lady

So you're singing along to the radio, and you find yourself thinking, "Those are the words?  What does that even mean?"    If it is not a Paul Simon song, chances are you are singing it wrong.

This is not the kind of moment where you are singing "Tonight's the Night" in front of your 7 year old, then realize you sang that song when you were 7, and maybe they should have had helmets for that.  My childhood next-door neighbor woke up to the line "Just a come on from the whores on 7th Avenue" when we were about 20, but again... I am not talking about Paul Simon.

This is more that kind of mis-heard song lyric moment like "There's a bathroom on the right," and "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy."

I looked up "Sentimental" on the Kiss this Guy website before I looked up the real lyrics, just to see if others were as misinformed as I was.  What I sang was, "Fourteen jars and a will to be married."  (what?) so I tried again.  14 chores?  A will to be merry?

I started from the top again: "You are here and warm, but I could look away and you'd be gone.  Cause we live in a time when meaning falls like... "  summer?  "...from our eyes.  That's why I travel far, cause I come so together where you are."

Ok - stop here.  He's a trucker of some kind, or a drifter who follows her a far way in order to get himself together.  But she keeps leaving.  She is not very sentimental.  Or her journey is.

Let's get to the chorus, because what I am singing is what an Up With People ambassador troupe might sing if they had learned the song phoentically.  If, by now, you are screaming the lyrics at me... I can't hear you. 

"Sentimental gentle wind.  Come into my life (love?) again, sentimental lady, gentle one."
Christine McVie whines "all that I need is."  He interrupts her.  This may be why she leaves everytime he looks away.

"All of the things that I said that I wanted come rush awry? in my head when I need you.  14 jars and a will to be married.  All of the things that you say are very....(catch breath) Sentimental gentle wind..."

Sentimental Lady is listed three times on Kiss this Guy.  Here are some variations:
"14 joints and a barrel full of cocaine"
"14 joints and a well-diggin' Mary"

also "Sacramento lady, share the wine."
Now, "Sentimental" is already provided for you, so why would you mess that up (ya well-digging Mary...)


here they are, as written by Bob Welch
You are here and warm
But I could look away and you'd be gone
Cause we live in a time
When meaning falls in splinters from our lives
And that's why I've travelled far
Cause I come so together where you are

And all of the things that I said that I wanted
Come rushing by in my head when I'm with you
14 joys and a will to be merry
And all of the things that we say are very

Sentimental gentle wind
Blowing through my life again
Sentimental lady
Gentle one
Now you are here today
But easily you might just go away
Cause we live in a time
When paintings have no color, words don't rhyme
And that's why I've travelled far
Cause I come so together where you are
 
I've decided that she's terminally ill, and not just a tease.  Leave it to Rider to point out that Bob Welch and Jame Gumb were separated at birth.  She didn't "go away," she's in the cistern.  Jame comes "so together" where she is.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cyber Monday calls for Regretsy


Many of Drawing In's regular readership are fans of (and contributors) to the Etsy website, where craftsmen and women sell their homemade goods.  It is nice that the cottage industry has an outlet, and people can connect in that way we hoped the Internet would.

Miss Bender recommends you try some Etsy shopping for this holiday drive, especially if you are not so crafty yourself.  And if, along the way, you discover that Etsy submissions are not juried... there is an outlet for that too.

presenting:
Regretsy - a museum that explores the idea whether everyone who likes "to craft" really should.

Neatly categorized and easily browsed, Regretsy brings together everything we love about Engrish, the "Blog" of Unneccessary Quotation Marks, Found, and Real Corporate Email (not online, only in my heart), with the Gothic Pathos that tears out your heart on PostSecret.

All of these will give you plenty to do besides shop.  But everyone will think you are, and won't interrupt because it's a surprise.  Oh, I got a surprise, all right....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Watch this space



Miss Bender needs a break from her strenuous downtime, and is going on vacation --- offline.

Because she knows you need your blog-fix, and because she honors the commitments of Can't Blog No Mo, you can continue to count on daily updates.  Some will be more entertaining than others; none will be more pedestrian than this one is so far.

So let me try to find an interesting topic to leave you with, to justify your clicking over here instead of spending 4 hours on You-Chube, which I know you can.

I read this advertorial in Vanity Fair that tried to claim that Louis Cartier invented the wristwatch, and I found that suspect.  It seemed like the wristwatch was around before WWI, and I had once heard a story that it was invented for the war because everyone was up to their fob-chains in muck.  I had also once heard that it was originally a signal among urban homosexuals in a time when most gentleman still wore their watches in their pockets. 

On closer reading, as I began to circle and underline key lines of page 104, I realized that they (Laura Jacobs) are/is claiming that Cartier invented the "modern" wristwatch, taking it beyond "just a pocket watch on a strap."  Oh, Ok.  The Tank is the watch in question, which is celebrating a 90th anniversary.  The traditional 90th anniversary gift, of course, is life support.


Sources tell a few versions of the original story, but what they share is this timeline:
- wrist watches are for ladies
- wrist watches are for soldiers
- wrist watches are the norm
- people tell time off their phone

An open content article on eZines (Short History of the Wristwatch) recounts a legend of a busy nanny who strapped a watchface on her wrist with a ribbon.  Possible, but household staff of this kind tended to wear the pendant-style timepiece, upside-down so they could read it.  According to Masterpiece Theatre, anyway, where I get all my information about the Victorian/Edwardian area.

Sources agree on the WWI angle, though Qualitytyme credits the Boer War for introducing it earlier, and cites a 1900 catalog testimonial to back them up.


Cartier does deserve some credit for classing up the watch.  Alberto Santos Dumont was a manly-man adventurer who made wearing a Cartier watch desirable, and the mark of a Modern Man.  We are very fortunate his hat didn't have this same effect.  I am unable to find a portrait of him wearing a watch.

 To quote wikipedia: "Alberto Santos Dumont asked his friend Louis Cartier to come up with an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls while timing his performances during flight. Cartier and his master watchmaker, Edmond Jaeger soon came up with the first prototype for a man's wristwatch called the Santos wristwatch. The Santos first went on sale in 1911, the date of Cartier's first production of wristwatches."

I was unable to verify the "gay signal" story, but if one folows the watches-for-ladies/fashion-for-fops connection, you could see how such a story might start.


Here is a handsome gift item for the man you love -- or the man he loves. 
Also, if you search for a keyword set like "wrist watches gay history," you will be offered this story.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The rise of self-publishing


From Crains: "E-book giant flies in a dozen top NYC book agents to Seattle to play down its Darth Vader image. Talks described as “freewheeling, frank and contentious.”

Another brick in the wall between authors and their publication is knocked loose.

When I was a child-author, I had 2 frequent daydreams.  One was my appearance on Oprah, long before she was in the bookclub business.  The other was opening a box filled with the hardbound copies of my book.  It seemed the culmination of the painfully long and humiliating process of getting noticed, read, and printed.  I pictured publishing houses as giant printing press mills, the size of Russian blast furnaces, where guys chewed unlit cigars and studied folio pages with a raised eyebrow "not bad" look of approval.

Please remember when I tell you these stories that I am well under 18 when they take place.

My freshman advisor says I was the only student she ever worked with who arrived with a novel in a box.  I find this hard to believe at the finest writing program in The South, but maybe it had just never happened to her before.


Vanity Publishing was possible in those days, but of course it was called vanity publishing, meaning no one in the business liked it enough to publish it, and "certain" people could always get their work published.  In today's market, self-publishing will still cost you, but players like Amazon are happy to produce "on demand" as sales are made, rather than a 1000 print run that was required in the old days to justify the effort of machinery.  They will also happily make you available by Kindle, because more is more for the Kindle library, and Kindling costs even less.

They look good, these self-published books. The covers are clearly not Wendell Minor, but they are colorful and sturdy, trade paperback size with good typeface.

One of my blog acquaintances punched out a novel in a few months, made the necessary rounds of agents, and learned that without vampires, an unknown writer was too high a risk to take.  So he published it on his own, and launched an aggressive viral campaign to get noticed. 

Another blog acquaintance has an idea for a coffee table book featuring photographs of roadkill.  There did not appear to be another hook, such as vampire roadkill, Tuesdays with Roadkill, or Oprah-approved roadkill.  I can not imagine who the audience is for this book, but if she finds one, she does not need to convince Random House that revenue will exceed costs.  I said, "I did not learn much in publishing school, but I did learn that your book needs to be cheap to produce but look expensive, arrive right-on-fad and not overrun."  (I got a little excited that I was able to quote all that, to tell you the truth.)  "OR...you can publish it yourself."

Makes the perfect Christmas gift.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Placeholder post

Dear Readership - it is November 19, and I have no post idea.  I have a lot of post ideas, but I don't feel like crafting them.  I feel like crafting them, but I am sleepy.  And I still have to solve the dilemma of scheduling posts for next week.  I had a plan for that, which was to write them early in the month.  But I didn't.  Because I didn't feel like it.  I felt like it, but I didn't do it.  I started it, but I didn't finish.

This is what Gertrude Stein's blog would look like.  Who are we kidding - Gertrude Stein would be on Myspace.

Blog from my ass.  Alas, alas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Your Thanksgiving playlist

.... from the girls who have been turned out.


1.  9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)

2. Morning Train (Sheena Easton)

3. Cowboy's Work is Never Done (Sonny & Cher)

4. It's My Job (Jimmy Buffett)

5.  Millworker (Emmylou Harris)

6. Banana Boat Song (Harry Belafonte)

7.  Working for the Weekend (Loverboy)

8.  Take this Job (Johnny Paycheck)

9.  Bread and Roses (John Denver)

10.  New Jerusalem (Carly Simon)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Audition


The last time I auditioned for something, it was the title role in "Go ask Alice," as staged by the Crimson and Gold Troupe of PHS.  I did not get the part. 

Being unemployed puts you in an audition mode -- it's like dating, only the other party doesn't actually have to be nice to you.  As if this week wasn't full of that already, I took the extra leap of responding to an open casting call for an audio book company I will not name or link to, in case that should become a dealbreaker.  They will recognize themselves soon enough.  And if they are reading my blog and not offering me work, well then....

If you trust film and television to inform you about the world, as I do, you have certain expectations about what a professional audition will feel like.  I am prepared to disabuse you of that expectation.  Instead, it will go like this:

You will drive an hour South for your 15 minute slot, which is 2:30 or so, but you leave early because you are not really sure where you are going and you have no map of Pawtucket (because...why would you?).  You will reschedule your outplacement consultant call in order to get to the library to print your sides (you will call them "sides" in your head and roll your eyes at yourself) because you never did buy a printer.  You will not eat anything, but you will indulge yourself a coffee for the drive and pack an apple for later.

You will get lost in downtown Pawtucket, where Main street does not run in a straight line, and at one point is actually perpendicular to itself.  In desparation, you'll follow a blue parking sign until you find an empty 2-hour/no meter spot on Main St, and determine to walk it out from there.  It is 1 o'clock.  Check your notes and confirm that your audition is actually 1:30.  Somewhere...near here.



X is where you parked; A is where you are going, only you don't know that yet.  You will notice, as you get out of the car, that not one building on the street where you have parked is occupied.  Not one.  Seems downtown Pawtucket has taken the fast train to Suburbia.  But...In for a penny, in for a pound.  So you follow your nose.  (read again "Why I hike."  To train for this)

You will find the address, but not easily, and it will be a bicycle shop with a sign taped to the door that says "Auditions and parking around back."  No matter.  Car is parked, and may still have tires when you return.  You will press on and take 2 tries at finding "around back."  You will notice that Pawtucket is a ghost town at 1 in the afternoon of a workday, and this will strike you as odd, but there will not be time to consider it until later that night when you write on your blog about it.

Around back, you'll follow the hand-written signs to a back door that opens to a fully equipped professional recording studio to the left, a breakroom from a hospital show set to the right, and a gray and sort of creepy hallway in front of you. 

Your brain will sing uncontrollably to the Chorus Line tune, "Down a sort of creepy hallway/to your death like a stolen soul/down a gray and  creepy hallway/ It wasn't paradise, it wasn't paradise..."  Someone calls your name.  You change the tense in the blog you are already writing in your head, but decide to stay with the 2nd person narrative, because you may not live to tell this story.

The Engineer wears long sideburns, and longer pants.  Skinny black jeans that stretch like leg warmers over his black converse.  Behind him stands a blue blazer with a beard. 

"Tre jolie, Coco," you think.  Another woman is walking out, and if there is an etiquette between auditioners, you do not know it.  You ask for the restroom instead.

Down the creepy hallway are doors marked "Boys" and "Girls," and inside the walls are painted with slate and covered in chalk graffiti.  There is no extra chalk, but then you wouldn't want to touch it anyway. 

Waiting in the breakroom, you can hear a man's audition, and his conversation with the director.  You decide to say whatever he says.  From here things happen very quickly.  This posting has taken longer to read than the audition pages.

Into the little room - mike screen, nice, because you have plosive lips and there is nothing you can do about them.  Slate your name.  Marvel that you have never been asked to slate anything before.  Wonder about people who do this every day.

On the second of your 2 pages, the Engineer will say "Thanks.  We got it," which is the first thing that seems to match what you have seen on TV.  They invite you out and thank you very much.  They will call you. 

Maybe they will.  Maybe they won't.  Maybe they will loop your two pages over porn.  Who's to say?  You are now in their stable, and if/when work is available, they will call you.  This experience suddenly feels identical to the one you had at the Career Office the day before.  Today, like yesterday, you will think you could have gone to a matinee instead.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fiddler farewell tour


Imagine -  playing the same role for 40 years.
I think about these things, because I am in a "job transition," and feeling the pressure of making the right choice, as if it might last for 40 years.  Lord knows I can expect to be working 40 years from now.

Topol, at 74, 2500 performances and one amazing motion picture later, is retiring Tevye.  He says.   This weekend, the Fiddler farewell tour blew out of Boston and shuffled off to Buffalo.

A friend said to me, "Topol?  Does he perform with a walker?!"  He does not.  The Topol you remember from Norman Jewsion's 1971 film -- the one and only Reb Tevye -- was 36.

At 36, did he have any expectation that he would perform this role for the rest of his life?  That this was the "role he was born to play," as articles about him and the work often claim.  Was his calling calling?  Let's assume that he didn't -- that there was no expectation that Fiddler would last even as long as the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon.  That perhaps it would go the way of Pippin and Godspell, a go-to play for high schools and teens for God (which it certainly has) and that Topol would enjoy an Israeli popstar career and eventually land a permanent spot on the Vegas strip. 

Let's assume he was throwing everything he had into that role (and the film version shows this so well, with the intense close-ups of his personal struggles with his wife, his daughters, their men, and his beloved but illusive God) thinking it was a temporary position and a resume builder at best.  It is remarkable to see a youngish man show the respect for his role and his co-stars when he may have thought it was a temporary assignment. 

Now flash forward - 40 years - to that same respect for that same role, now with the added wisdom of what a 25 year marriage might be, and what it feels like to watch the world change before your eyes.  And he still brings it.  Topol says, " This is what we actors have to do. We have to convince you that whatever we do or say is for the first time. Or else it's a bore. "

Yesterday on a phone interview, I tried to convince someone that what I was saying was for the first time.  I tried to bring the enthusiasm of a first-timer and the wisdom of a lifetime to a simple conversation about the little show this company is trying to fit together.  And needs me to bottle-dance through.

Another lesson from Topol, if you have a moment.  In the interview with the Oregonian, cited above, Topol also makes it clear that Fiddler is not his life.  What matters even more to him is a program called Jordan River Village, the Israel branch of Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang camps for kids. As a UK trustee of the organization, Topol wants you to know that this is the most important thing he does.

And now, your moment of Zen:



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Owwww....Gwaannnn


[SEO 101: this title will never be tops in a search result]

The Balance Beam has offered the DrawingIn Room the One Lovely Blog Award, as part of a continuing line of appreciation and encouragement from one blogger to another.  I did initially read it as one "Loverly" blog award, but that may be because I live in a musical most of the time -- though not usually Lerner and Loewe....

The rules of the Loverly Blog Award is that one accepts it humbly, Sally Field style, then recognizes other blogs they admire which may be out of the public eye.  I am a big fan of the Balance Beam, and of Charlene, so I am pleased to accept this award and say a few remarks before I bestow it on another.

{ahem}

Charlene notes that this was the first blog she discovered, which surprises and humbles your Narrator, especially after learning how Charlene came to blog herself, only to grow to 242 followers in 13 months.  The birth of our blogs is a meme making the rounds at the moment, so I will play along.  Some of this will be familiar to you.

Caroline Bender (my version, not Rona Jaffe's - please don't sue me) was born in June 2005 on the Business Women's Finishing School and Social Club.  I had been at The Mill about 6 months and was completely flummoxed by the culture I encountered there.  Caroline was exclusive to the BWFS for about a year, and I began to yearn to write about some other topics, in a different tone from Miss Bender's classroom persona.  Being a founding member of the BWFS, but not its owner, I launched DrawingIn in the first of many mixed metaphors that would take us to our present moment.

What it's all about
1. Caroline Bender: Protagonist of Miss Rona Jaffe's masterwork, The Best of Everything.
It's The Group for working girls.  As depicted by Hope Lange in the film of the same name, she is the face of this salon.
2. The Drawing In Room: Explained at the top of this page.  The area where I worked in The Mill had not, in fact, been the Drawing In room, but that is the work I did.
3. Why mix these metaphors? It's the way my head works.  You get used to it.
4. The Mill: Sorry. It's no secret, but I won't put it in writing. Maybe in art, where it is not searchable.



5. The topics:

Around town - when I am out and about in New England.  Or Texas.  Or Virginia.  Or the Yoknapatawpha of my head
BWFS - new and improved.  Still the source of my fountain.  I will not award The Lovely Blog to ourselves, but I must honor our Miss Minchin for her continued inspiration.
Childhood 70s style - We are not the Greatest Generation, or the Largest.  We are the Cynical Chain-Smoking one that came next.
Clip show - when I am lazy.  See earlier this week.  Or this one.  hahaha - gotcha
Fiction - too long for lunch reading.  In the beginning, I wasn't ready to post spontaneously, so I posted everything I had that wasn't Mortifying.
For the Booklovers - I'm a hoarder, she's a hoarder, wouldn't you like to be a hoarder too?
Hard to be Me - Sometimes I don't know why I tell you the things I do.  I have already second guessed this list, but now I am halfway through it, and it seems wrong to stop
I don't know art - seriously.  I don't.  But I keep trying
Jodie3 - any excuse to mention Jodie
Life in O-merica/Decision 09 - Too bad David Halberstam won't be around to explain this decade to me
Mill Update - now strictly a state of mind. 
Rants and raves - because I live alone and you wandered here without warning
Talk about the Weather - 22 years makes you a New Englander, no matter what the Old Timers say
The Lists - see... everything above.  It's the meta-meta post.  Just to be difficult, I won't categorize this post at all
Theology - Just when you think you have me figured out, I am going to throw some Jesus at you.  Try not to duck.

6 How it will end:  lawsuit, probably

I've been goofing through this mini-list trying to decide who should get the Shining Star--I mean, Loverly Blog nod from me.  I am worried about slighting anyone.  Each member of my Blogroll has a unique reason for being there, and the shared distinction of having a voice I like and a sensibility that gets me thinking.  Theirs are experiences different from mine in ways I will never attempt, and still intellectual soulmates.

I have decided to congratulate From the Garden Bench and Blogger "WEBB," for exploring her voice and deciding on a focus, and for staying commited to blogging and still enjoying it.  Since her recent post shouts-out to both this writer and Charlene, we extend this One Lovely Blog award to her and urge her to keep on writing.

Gardners in the readership, please bookmark From the Garden Bench, even if she is not in your hardiness zone.


"In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again. "
~~ Chance

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Boston Weekend


Waiting for Karen to return from the gym, and have a little time to catch you up on the happenings this weekend, or read a book.  I chose you.  earn this.

If, like The Boys, you "don't care about Egypt," you can skip this post and wait for something more interesting to come around in the rotation.  This won't be entirely about Egyptology, but it will be about musty relics wrapped in yellowed paper.

The MFA is showing off a tomb find they have had since 1915, but have not displayed.  Seems they keep finding things behind walls as they expand their buildings.  Imagine being this guy at right and being excavated twice.  He seems sort of resigned to it. He is the Governor Djehutynakht. (This is pronounced Ja-hootie-knocked and very few of us in the chamber were mature about that.)


The "Secrets of the Tomb" are not particularly secret -- read this headline as you would the AOL "news" ("Amazing fruit that will be the hit of your Thanksgiving feast"  apples in pie).  But one unknown is whether this is the Governor of the Governor's wife (delightfully called Lady Djehutynakht. You can expect at least one queen with that name to perform in Provincetown next summer).  The head is all they have left.


The other big find are model boats, which were carved of wood and not valuable enough to the original looters to take with them.  So there are no gilt masked or bejeweled necklaces, but there are a lot of wooden carvings of boats, cattle, and work scenes.  So the "Secret" is... ritual items?  Hobby?  Ancient LLadro?


Reading a gallery note about the art conservators who have worked for 20 years on reassembling the models and restoring lost wood and color, I said, "I need one of those jobs.  I never minded working on the same 15 minutes of film every day."  Remember this wistful remark; it will come up again later.

After a light lunch surrounded by Northeastern students, we headed toward the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, which was always a favorite of mine when I lived in the city and had to wander for my cultural stimulation.   For most of us, this is a museum more than a sale, or a 3D episode of Antiques Roadshow.  The most expensive item we saw was a complete UK edition set of the Narnia series, colorful clothbound first editions -- $66,000. The typical price on items under class was $1000 or $2000, items on shelves you could handle were a few hundreds.  There are fun finds if you are willing to browse slowly -- letters and ephemera, autographbooks of famous people, collected by people who later became famous themselves.


As we walked into the hall, Mary said to me, "Oh I can see why you are in your element here."
I remarked, "I know in my heart I am one of these people.  I just don't want to work with them."


Overheard as we walked by one booth:
Tall skinny Noel Coward type: "It's a beautiful volume, isn't it?"
Broad-shouldered fellow with Shavian beard and unlit pipe: "Didn't you buy this from me?"


How you know that I am one of this people: I just used the word Shavian.


As one wil at shows like this (or while watching Antiques Roadshow), you begin to spot things you actually own, which -- though not in mint condtion or autographed -- must be worth some portion of the $3500 this note indicates.  Maurice Sendak and Roald Dahl are right at the front.  The books of my childhood are now "antiqurian."  ooof.


We met some bright young ambassadors of the bookbinding school and I suddenly thought I had found a way to restore model boats for the next 20 years.  "Class meets 35 hours a week from September through May. Only six students are admitted each year."  Hmmm.  I haven't considered something that exclusive since I thought I could get a PhD in Linguistics.  And somehow afford it.  Oh, I got a lot of ideas....

Dinner at the local pub and a travelogue of Karen's trip to Turkey.  More ancient relics and broken pieces of stone, cross-referencing the snippets of we know from Western Civ class and Bible School.  Now it is Sunday, and breakfast awaits, followed by theatre with The Boys.  They may not care about Egypt, but they certainly care about Tevye.

deedle-didle-dum.

Friday, November 13, 2009

30 days




When I start a new job, I keep track of how many business days have gone by, for at least the first 30 days.  Though I have a good since of time in minutes and hours, it starts to blur after a couple of weeks, and I need the countdown to remind me that I haven't perfected everything and solved every question yet because I have actually only been on the job for 15 days.   120 hours - minus meals, bathroom, waiting on conference calls for a point to be made, and minutes spent in meetings reviewing what was said at the previous meeting.

It is not 30 business days since I left the Mill.  I won't figure that number out because it is unnecessarily obsessive and not likely to reveal anything.  It is 30 calendar days, and I need a topic for today's post.

The work does indeed expand to fit the time available, so I do not read or watch movies, or sleep in as much as I was afraid I might.  I do take a lot of meetings, which take some time to get to, so there is a lot of time on the road with the comfort of my iPod friends.  A lot of lunches and dinners, and happy hours.  Wednesday I had 2 in one night.  Thanks to my masterful multi-tasking skills, I had everything lined up in the right sequence.

Let me remind you that it is not that I am such a fantastic planner.  I just found a field that fit my neuroses.

I have not dwelt much on this downtime in this webspace for a few reasons.  Let's enumerate them, shall we?  That's always so satisfying.

1.  There really was a clause in the documentation.  That's the end of #1.

2.   "What I did today" wrap-ups are kind of dull, especially when one leads a fairly internal life.  [8am - tried to figure out why "I left my heart at the stagedoor canteen" is always playing my head while I am getting dressed.  Does something trigger that?  Or just the memory of how it was stuck in my head yesterday while I stared at the closet?]  If you come here to distract yourself from your own task list, I should at least meet those expectations.

3.  If I write it all down here, then I have nothing to talk about when we lunch.  So I'll just tell you where I ate this week: Maguires (grilled chicken salad and a wheelbarrow of fries); U-Mass Boston Starbucks (small C.O.D with Clif Bar); Thai Basil (chicken with peanut sauce)Jules' place (turkey and swiss wrap with yummus hummus); Not Your Average Joes (sausage & roasted peppers pizza); Thai Basil leftovers.

4.   I need advice dealt out in small doses.  Much as I need to perfect my "presentation statement" and interview goals, I work out ideas in my head.  While they are baking, I don't really respond well to suggestions of how I should have mixed in craisins.  So I pick my spots with that carefully and 1:1.

5.   I'm all over the place.  A lot of irons in the fire, and I am reluctant to pursue any one too forcefully at the risk of losing some of the others.  Each has its attractive points, but usually at the expense of others.  I am thinking of that Romanovsky & Phillips song that says, "Should you take what you can get/Or take the time to shop for what you're wanting?"  I recognize that the Supremes sang a similar song, but I went a different way.

6.  I am not yet ready to be working.  I said the other night to my dinner mate, "I am not going to say 'I've never been happier,' because I have certainly been a lot happier...."  But what I am not is bored.  More importantly, I am not jumpy and hypertensive.

Now I have a list that stops at 6.  And I am going to give myself permission to leave that hanging there.   This weekend's posts will come up late.  I am choosing to write them after the fact and post them late, so there will be something to write about, rather than rambleramble ahead of time just to make a deadline that has no real meaning.

like I did here.