Wednesday, August 31, 2005

new o'leans

I’m crying and lots of others are, too, for New Orleans.

I can’t stop thinking of Tim Henderson’s song, circa 1981, predicting the city's destruction. Here are some excerpts:

Atchafalaya, she’ll be comin’ on down
Ain’t no way to stop her, ain’t no high ground
There’s a swamp and a bayou ever’where around
And a couple small Cajun towns

Up a billion-dollar alley north of New Orleans
The Mississippi don’t come away clean

Lord, the Corps of Engineers, try to do good things,
Hell, tell it to the Cajuns when it floods next spring,
Cause the Corps ain’t God and they can’t turn the flow
The Lord made the Mississippi a long time ago
He’s still working.

Atchafalaya, she won’t rise slow,
Volunteers to the Levee,
Fool, you better not go!
Pack up and run with what you can save
Cause the river’ll be boing on your grandpa’s grave, tomorrow
The river’ll be boiling with snakes tomorrow

One of these days and it won’t be long - she’ll be a ghost town.

You can listen to the song here until Sept. 9

Monday, August 29, 2005

katrina's wake

The internet is running like a slug today, inching its soft body so slowly as to make one wonder if it's moving at all, yet leaving a thin trail of slime as evidence that yes, indeed, it most definitely has moved from here to there. Power's out in New Orleans and Biloxi, making me wonder if the center of the internet universe lies not in Los Angeles or New York, or in some exotic foreign locale, but in Mississippi.

I'd been hoping New Orleans wouldn't be washed away before I got a chance to see it. It still remains to be seen if Lake Pontchartrain will burst through its sea wall and flood the lower lying areas. I thought about my old friend who used to live near Canal Street and refused to leave the city when Hurricane Camille came barreling in. He and his landlord covered their windows with plywood, stockpiled food and water, and rode out the storm. I'm sure he would have done the same thing this time but I don't know that he's still on Canal Street, or even in Louisiana, though I suspect he may be if he isn't dead. Our sporadic communications, which had spanned more than ten years, stopped after the many months of not seeing an oh-so-typical tourist postcard with that familiar postmark suddenly became a year. I telephoned to check on him and found the number out of service. A note sent to his address was returned and no forwarding address was to be had. I'd like to think someday I'll get a postcard from Alexandria, or Lafayette, where he'd be in his element, saying he's doing fine.

A few months back I read A Confederacy of Dunces, a story at once comical, dark and strangely prophetic. It was written in the middle or late sixties, before New Orleans gained a major league football team, when it was teetering precariously between modernization and a Streetcar Named Desire. The protagonist of this story, Ignatius Reilly, is so repulsive I think I only kept reading to find out if he would get his come-uppance. I think Ignatius distressed me because absurd as he is, he is lifelike. He is manifest in myself and in people I see every day and that is truly disturbing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

what would EEOC say?

Though I am unobtrusive and often overshadowed, my voice is poetic and lyrical. Dark and brooding, I see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying to impress other people. Though I make reference to almost everything, I've really heard enough about Michelangelo. I measure out my life with coffee spoons.

Apologies and thanks to The Blue Pyramid for so clearly delineating my psyche through “The Book Quiz.”, (I am “Prufrock and Other Stories” by T.S. Eliot). And thanks to Watcher Don for bringing these quick & easy quizzes to my attention.

It’s Quiz Time at work, too. We are playing the Sexual Harassment game, an annual event in which each employee logs in to a company website and plays a four-level game replete with animation and sound effects. In this game you are given a few paragraphs of information and then you are asked 5 or 6 questions about it which you answer via multiple choice. You learn a)how the EEOC defines sexual harassment b)what the company policy is toward harassment and c)what to do if you are harassed. In the 4th level you are given 15 questions you’ve just answered in random order. The goal of this game is to score 80% so you can print a certificate of completion to give to your supervisor. It’s so easy to score 100% that something is seriously wrong if you can’t score 80, but I don’t know what happens if you fail. Probably not much.

We might take this game more seriously if not for the sound effects and the fact that we take the identical test every year. The way it’s presented tends to make people think about the ways they COULD harass someone and it dredges up all the off-color jokes people have forgotten about. I had just got my certificate when one of our customer’s employees (who know nothing about our test) approached me and asked, “Did you hear what the pregnant Aggie woman said?” ---Long Pause: I know this is going to be inappropriate and would probably offend at least five different groups of people, so do I say something? This person is a long-winded former hippie who did too many drugs in the 60s and will probably want to get into a lengthy philosophical discussion, so I decide my desire to go about my business takes precedence and I wait for the punch line – “It’s not mine.”

Garrison Keillor pointed out a few years ago that people just don’t tell jokes any more, probably because of the aura of political correctness that dangles above our heads, and of course because of the harassment tests we must take to assure our continued employment.

I think the company needs to add another survey – one on dealing with difficult and annoying people in the workplace. You know, the person whose phone with the annoying ring tone always goes off during a meeting. Or the person whose personal problems have become common knowledge because they’re on the phone for hours at a stretch and their voice gets louder the longer they talk. Or the person who cranks up their headphones so much the music can still be heard in the next cubicle. Or the person who wears noxious cologne in such quantity it burns your nose and brings tears to your eyes. And last, but not least, overly sensitive critics like me who cannot fail to point out one of the above to at least one person every day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


When I was in college I used to especially like the back to school sales. It was a time to indulge myself by browsing through notebooks, pens, and highlighters, and picking up happy colors that would cheer me up during the hard work of the semester.
So now I'm obsessing about my materials and wondering what to buy for my back-to-art period. Much of my art is a science experiment. I don't have an art background so I don't know much about the interaction of different kinds of paper with various media. I'll buy some pens or paints and combine them with paper, glue, and rubber stamps, and hope the whole thing doesn't explode!

I especially like notebooks. I used to buy 8-1/2x11 spiral bound notebooks by the dozen when they were 25 cents each. Now I have notebooks in a myriad of sizes for everything, it seems. Too many to keep track of, let alone list here. But I want another sketchbook for art journaling and I'm still not ready to mutilate the hardback copy of "The Rubaiyat" that I bought a few months ago for that purpose. I've been mulling over options.

The small notebook in the photo is my garage sale bargain for 50 cents. It is 3-3/4 by 4-3/4 inches and I like it a lot because its small size doesn't intimidate me. At the end of a long day I usually have enough energy to jot down at least few notes and maybe add a few doodles or background color. The large spiral rings have allowed the pages plenty of room as they've expanded in thickness with collage and paint. I think the paper is 40-50 lb. weight; it's bright white and will take a light wash of acrylic without getting too wrinkled. The pressure marks from writing with ballpoint pen can sometimes be seen for several pages and gel pens almost bleed through the paper, but a background wash seems to prevent the worst of those problems.

The larger book is a 6x8 sketchbook of 80 lb. paper. It has a small spiral binding that doesn't appreciate the pages getting fat. I was intimidated by the larger size at first but I like that each page can hold so much more. I think 80 lb. paper may be a little too heavy, as I'm going to be experimenting with gesso, which will add more more weight to each page.

I found this on sale, a notebook similar in size but bound on the long side instead of the short side, and in a 65 lb. weight paper, for under $3. This is a lot cheaper than what I've found in nearby stores. It will be a change for me to be working in a portrait format instead of a landscape format and I'm wondering how it will turn out.

In the meantime, I think I need to do some real world journaling.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

writing down the bones

I recommended this book to someone a few days ago and it occurred to me that it would be good for me to read it myself. Now that summer crunch seems to be coming to a close I want to delve into creative pursuits again, but I find my brain is confused with possibilities. I have so many things I want to do that I don’t know what I want to do. And ever-lurking in the darkness is the fear that I won’t be able to find my creative spark again. I feel disheartened. The truth is that I’m tired and will be so until my work schedule is cut back to a 40-hour week; my brain is running so fast my feet are left stumbling in the dust.

And so I cracked open this slim volume, to begin at the beginning, to return to the beginner’s mind, and immediately found solace in Natalie Goldberg’s prose. Although this book is aimed at writers, many of the ideas can be applied to everyday tasks.

“Every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before,” she says. “Each time is a new journey with no maps.... Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go."

Thanks, Natalie, that's what I'm going to try to do.

Friday, August 19, 2005

stamp mania

After the long hours I've been putting in at work I thought I deserved to treat myself to some new rubber stamps. I got this 8x10 unmounted sheet of miscellaneous doodles from Traci Bonkers Originals.

I've mounted individual rubber stamps before, but this is the first time I've attempted to do a whole sheet. I'm mounting them to EZ Mount foam cushion, which is a 1/8" thick piece of foam that is sticky on one side and smooth on the other. Once you've stuck the cushion to your rubber stamp the smooth side will stick to an acrylic block by static cling. It can then be "stuck" and "unstuck" many times to a single block, saving you the trouble of cutting individual pieces of wood for the stamps. In some ways it's not as convenient as a traditional stamp because your stamp isn't instantly ready to go, but it certainly saves money!

I had previously bought a pair of Kai scissors specifically for this task and I'm using them here. I've heard people say any strong pair of scissors will do the trick, but since I'm not sure what I'm doing I thought it would be nice to begin with the appropriate tool. One of the axioms you hear from carpenters or mechanics is "the proper tool for the proper job."

This photo shows the first few stamps I've cut away from the sheet. It's pretty tricky to get a smooth cut around the stamp and the foam cushion leaves a lot of sticky residue to the scissors, so I think I'll have to keep cleaning them if I want clean stamps. I tested 3 of the stamps and I'm really happy with the impressions I got! I've still got a lot of work "cut out" for me, though. I have a another smaller sheet of rubber that is an alphabet, something I've been wanting for a while, and the letters are much closer together than these doodles are. Patience will be required!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

late & early

The first pecans of the season have started falling. They are mostly green and small, about 1" long. These are what my mom calls the "misfits," the nuts that for whatever reason weren't meant to ripen. The main crop will fall in late October, I think. I can't seem to remember dates from year to year.

We've also had a pretty good crop of June bugs this last week. I've often wondered how they came to be named as their numbers usually peak in the month before or after June but rarely within the month itself. Perhaps in an ideal average summer they fly in June. Our summer this year hasn't been unusually hot or unusually wet. The official numbers say we're behind on rainfall, but the numbers come from DFW airport, which is in Grapevine, 30 or so miles from where I live. Hereabouts you can be in the midst of a toad-drenching downpour yet walk across the street to bask in sunshine on dry land.

Last night a family of kildeers appeared during our night walk. The parking lot resounded with their "KEET, KEET" noises and we watched 4 or 5 juveniles running to check in with the parent bird. It won't be long now before work schedules revert to non-summer hours and I'll probably have to give up my nighttime nature walks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

yerba mate

That's pronounced "mah-tay" and in my tiredness of late I forgot to mention this interesting plant from South America. I was introduced to mate about fifteen years ago by my favorite history professor, who had done a stint in Buenos Aires, and he told us about the "national drink of Argentina" and how great it was. It was pretty hard to come by here in Dallas but now many of the health food or organic stores carry it. The plant is native to Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay & southern Brazil and contains a substance that makes you feel good like caffeine without the jolt, keeps you alert, suppresses your appetite, and contains beneficial antioxidants. (It's in the same chemical family as caffeine but is technically not caffeine.)

Mate's chief drawback is that it tastes like dirt. I think the average North American would find it distasteful. I acquired a taste for it a few years ago, the year we were working twelve-hour shifts and I went for a month without a day off. I think there were 3 or 4 of us that were only hanging on because of mate. I found it was cheaper to buy it over the internet and used to get it from this place. You can watch their video about drinking mate. The above photo is the gourd I got for drinking my mate. I stopped drinking mate after that awful summer. I don't know if the connotation was too strong or if I just decided I didn't want to drink filtered dirt anymore. This year a co-worker found some orange-and-spice flavored mate in bags made by Celestial Seasonings, that "whore of tea", as my friend calls them. I tried it a few times and I have to say they did a great job of killing the taste while still allowing you to get that very subtle good feeling from it.

I have been told to expect two days off this weekend, but I heard that story last week, too. We've lost most of our freelancers; 2 kids went off to college, a high-school teacher left to prep for the new school year, and our remaining overage high-schooler will return to school next week. We're doing ok so far, so the worst must be over. At least I hope so. I want to get back to personal creative pursuits and my desk hasn't been clear for at least two months!

Monday, August 15, 2005

dog days

We spotted a coyote a couple of nights ago. We're thinking it may be what was attached to the eyes watching us from the wooded hill a few weeks back. We thought it odd that there weren't any other critters out and about but seeing the loping grey form heading toward a field told us why.

I took my camera out one early evening to shoot a few of the critter hangouts and realized the scenery is incredibly boring by daylight. It is only when night descends that it becomes alive. A brief rainstorm passed through last night and left a faint haze and a low cloud cover backlit by a quarter moon. We saw another small opossum running the length of the plastic construction fence, probably looking for a place to crawl under. It didn't find an opening and eventually turned and ran back, apparently still searching. Somehow all the fields were mowed in the same week, so there's not much ground cover left.

You can see this field next to the warehouse looks pretty barren but it must be a great source of food. This is Pepe's field. The trees way back on the left side are plantings that edge the parking lot. Earlier in the summer they were a symphony of mockingbird calls, but the birds have been silent for at least a month.

This is where we saw an owl swoop down to snatch its dinner from the concrete. We've kept an eye out for rodents but still haven't seen any. Usually there are at least 2 or 3 kildeers running around on the parking lot, pretending it's a beach, I guess.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

tired again

I don't know how I can keep making myself get up in the morning. I don't like to think about my condition if we stay on eleven-hour shifts. The almost continual napping I did yesterday only put a slight dent in my weariness. The naps were full of nightmares, too, and would have made for some great short stories. They were so vivid, so real, and in my dreamstate I told myself to take notes and remember, remember, remember. So of course my mind was blank when I awoke. I just had that queasy feeling of half-remembered turmoil and shouting.

I only have to work six hours today so maybe there's light at the end of the tunnel. I just don't know that it's not a freight train bearing down on me.

dogs have the right idea

naps, food, chasing squirrels.....
wonder why they sleep with their tongues hanging out?

The prospect of having a day off kept me going Thursday night, giving me something to look forward to, but I've spent most of today napping. The tension on the strings that control my puppet motions was removed and I collapsed into a useless heap. Just can't make myself move. I have rubber limbs. I'm just so tired. I don't know how K at work has gone 41 days without a break. I wouldn't be seeing straight at that point.

My back has also begun to complain vociferously. It took nearly a year to get over the pain of my herniated disc and only two months of ten-hour-plus-days to annoy it again. I'm popping aspirin or tylenol every four hours and increasing my stretching exercises in an effort to avoid another meltdown. I still have a few tabs of Lodine, a super-duper anti-inflammatory I'm to take only when in dire straits, and if that fails, I guess I can fall back on Darvocet to kill the pain. This is where hoarding medicine pays off. If I play my cards right I can dose myself for any occasion.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

energy solutions

I came across an article about restoring energy which I had hoped might help us at work. I don’t know what kind of world this person lives in but here’s my take on it(Her steps, My solutions).

1. Monitor the Symptoms & Determine the Solution - Symptoms - overworked & underpaid. Solution – win the lotto

2. Honor Your Body with Healthy Intake and Plenty of Sleep – we’re trying to get the company to pass out gas masks to filter the mold and pesticides spewing from the air ducts at work. We would order some clean air for North Texas, too, but they don’t ship to here. As for sleep, Our A1 Employees just loll back their heads and sleep at their work station

3. Exercise – our daily work is an exercise in frustration

4. Drink Lots of Water – also as much soda pop, coffee, tea, and any other caffeine-laced liquid that crosses your path

5. Eliminate Clutter – I need a bigger cubicle to do that

6. Handle Aggravations – Dump our Kodak XP and replace our outmoded computers and worn-out monitors. Hire freelancers who show up and who spend more time working than talking on the phone

7. Under Commit – tell that to our corporate bosses

8. Add Fun to Your Life Regularly – We often take time to laugh at people who have turned $500 statues into shrapnel by dropping them on the floor

9. Take Time for Spiritual Development – if only we had any spirit left

10. Accept Your Life as it is with Gratitude – it could be worse, right? and I'm looking at the winning lotto ticket here in my hand right now!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kodak C.S.I.

The Great Yellow Father in Rochester has sent us two high priests to lay hands on the XP. It had run intermittently since its last breakdown, so we were hopeful it would get us through the summer. Thursday it went down for about 6 hours but they got it going until Saturday when it screamed as it did that last time. The technician was there until midnight and returned for 5 hours on Sunday. Now the priests have arrived with their holy water and incantations. We heard the crashing of demons as the great machine heaved itself and rocked on the concrete floor. Then silence. The pieces were put in and the lid closed but it does not run. We believe last rites may be adminstered today and then we're going to use a sawsall to cut a large hole in the wall and roll the damned thing through so it can crash down to the parking lot below. We would be pleased to allow the tractor-trailer rigs finish it off. It dragged us down all summer and we won't be sorry to have the drama end.

I'm tired, grumpy and jumpy. We all are. I'm down to sleep, eat, drive, work, drive, sleep. Writing in this blog and reading the daily comic strips are my main non-work activities. I'm still nature-walking at night but my senses are dulled. I see things that aren't there and I miss things that are. I need two days off so I can sleep.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

anyone for spinach?

I’m Popeye the Garbage Man,
I live in a garbage can,
I eat with the chickens,
I stink like the dickens,
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

Would that a can of spinach could make the undead wake! I might try it. That slimy green glop my mom once shlorped onto my plate when I was little was one of the things that put me off the stuff early in life. It reminded me of the contents of the spittoons at one of my dad’s hangouts. One of my dad’s friends had a room, probably it was the living room, with only bare wood floors and a few chairs in it, and the spittoon in the corner. They’d chew tobacco and then spit in the general direction of the corner, often missing the can and hitting the floor or wall instead. I couldn’t understand how Popeye could swallow a whole can at once. It wasn’t until fifteen or twenty years later that I discovered fresh spinach – dainty crunch leaves best had uncooked or only dunked for a few moments in boiling water.

Someone erected a statue of Popeye in Crystal City, Texas, which calls itself “The Spinach Capital of the World.”

Oh, yeah, here are the real words to the Popeye song.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

ain't no cure for the summertime blues

I’ve reached the doldrums. I’m slumping. I’m tired of not knowing what day it is and not knowing when my next day off will be. I feel alienated from the world and from many of my co-workers. The XP is down again as we head into another “crunch” week and our freelancers are fading, as they usually do about this stage of the game. They pick their days and hours, a luxury the full-time staff can’t enjoy. I know I don’t have the worst part in this play but that doesn’t stop me feeling low. I will, however, suppress my most maudlin thoughts here.

I had to tell a young freelancer to stop wearing cologne to work. Rather, I asked him to stop, and hope that he will. Apparently it’s become politically incorrect to let people know their odors are offensive. People were laughing at this teenager behind his back and calling him “stinky boy” but I was apparently the only one who suffered burning sinuses and watery eyes from the fumes. Last year there was a guy who never took showers and no one knew how to tell him he stunk. Last year I was taking physical therapy for a herniated disc and during the last week my therapy overlapped with a woman who wore unbearably strong cologne. I already had to suffer the disgusting aroma of nicotine from my physical therapist so I asked a staff person if they could ask this other client to cool it with the cologne or to at least include in their list of guidelines that people refrain from wearing cologne during treatment. The staff person told me the doctors felt it was invasion of privacy or some such baloney.

I’ve just finished reading “The Bell Jar” and I suppose Sylvia Plath’s musings aren’t conducive to a happy frame of mind. I kept hearing references to Plath and then found out there will soon be a movie about her life starring Gwyneth Paltrow so I thought I’d read Plath’s work before I got the Hollywood version of her life. She apparently suffered from Bipolar Disorder and in the 1950’s the main treatment for depression was shock therapy or lobotomy. What witch doctors psychiatrists were. And may be yet; only now many therapists are mere hucksters for either religion or the drug industry. And don't let me get started about Doctor Phil!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Periplanta americana

I hate roaches! Those two-inch angular bodies with twitching antennae…..I absolutely will not tolerate them in my house. The two seasons when roaches invade my great indoors occur about the time of the first freeze in November or December and when it’s hot, which is pretty much May through September. They make themselves at home in the garage, which is next to the kitchen and is the main door of entrance/egress from the house. Then they sneak inside. I don’t know how they do it.

I see at least one and usually two or more when I pull into the garage in the wee hours of morning. That’s their preferred time. They hate light. I’ll see them in my headlights and then the overhead light comes on and they stop in their tracks until I slam the car door and head over to stomp them. Then they scuttle for cover and I’m too tired to chase them. I don’t like using ant&roach spray inside the house because it’s so toxic and smells so bad but the garage is a different matter. I’ve taken to leaving a big red can of Raid on my workbench and now I ease myself quietly out of the car, grab the can, take aim and PSSSSSSSST! Spray hits the roach and it scurries away but it’s probably doomed.

I have a two-stage reaction when I’m in the house and surprise. First I do a karate-style shriek which serves to broadcast my total disgust and also to kickstart my adrenaline. My preferred weapon is a rolled-up newspaper because I can wield it in tight quarters, especially corners, which is where the roaches usually head. I can also strike repeatedly which is a necessity because one blow usually doesn’t finish them off. In a pinch if I don’t have a paper I’ll use a shoe but rubber treads mean I may be striking the roach with only empty space. Stomping is also a possible alternative but you have to be very fast and extremely accurate and it usually isn’t effective on carpeted floors. I hate that crunching noise they make when you schmush them. And I hate their tan guts oozing out. But it’s better than having them crawling around the house. And finally I brush the seemingly lifeless body between pages of a paper and stomp that before depositing it into the trash can. This is a crucial final step because roaches will “play possum” (or maybe they become stunned) and then crawl away.

I used to hear that placing horseapples (fruit of the bois d’arc tree) around the perimeter of your house would deter cockroaches from entering. I did try it once at my old house but I never could find out if you were supposed to leave them whole, or cut them in half, and whether or not you were also supposed to smear the juice on the house’s foundation. I wasn’t able to acquire enough horseapples to encircle the house, as the number of bois d’arcs seemed to have dwindled so I just put them across the foundation where the main door was located. I don’t think it made a difference.

Thomas Henry Huxley (grandfather of Aldous) thought cockroaches were the archetypal bug. Here’s his take on them. And here’s some more fun facts about roaches.

Friday, August 05, 2005

more night critters

I feel so privileged to be able to observe the night life of so much wildlife this summer. I wouldn’t mind spending a lot more time observing the animals and learning more about their habits. Of course at night you can’t see very well and that makes it hard to positively identify particular species. We have yet to figure out if we’re seeing barn owls or great horned owls. I know there are barn owls in the area because I saw one as I headed home after a long night and my tired brain freaked as a ghosty face floating atop a street sign turned and stared right at me.

A few nights ago Ed & I saw an owl swoop down to snatch something in its talons from the parking lot. That was a pretty sight. It may have got a mouse but we’ve never seen any rodents on our nightly nature walk (unless you count bats). Last night we watched for several minutes as an owl swept back and forth across a recently mowed field and finally perched momentarily on a post within 30 yards of our position before heading for a rabbit hangout. We never hear these owls. They fly in perfect silence.

The more I watch these critters the more questions I seem to have and I’m disappointed at how little information there seems to be their life habits. For instance most of the info about skunks focuses on their spraying abilities; how far, how accurate, how to get rid of the smell. There’s only sketchy information about what kind of lives they lead. Supposedly they can live ten years in captivity but only live 5 or 6 in the wild. Behind foxes they are the most likely wild animal to contract rabies.

Opossums, on the other hand, are the least likely wild animal to contract rabies. We saw a juvenile possum a few nights ago. Most of the possums look pretty scraggly but this one was awfully cute. I was bad, I chased it to see if it would lie down and “play possum”, feigning death, but it headed for a tree. It looked so comical as it leapt onto the tree and started to slide back down; it couldn’t sink those extra-long claws into the bark. It ran to another tree and succeeded in climbing up to a crook about eight feet off the ground. It pressed itself close and looked like the veritable bump on a log; if you didn’t know it was there you would have been hard-pressed to find it. I could have reached up and touched it with my flashlight but I didn’t. I just got a good look and walked away.

I once did see a possum do its playing dead act. My dog, a whippet named Devo, had gone outside about 2 a.m. and began to bark at something between a tree and the garage. He was usually a quiet dog but that time o amount of calling or whistling would deter his racket so I went out for a look and there was a possum lying on the ground and stiff as a board. I thought Devo had surely killed it so I pulled him away and put him back in the house. I came back with a flashlight to examine the possum. I saw that it was breathing ever so slightly but could see no blood or obvious injury so I left it alone, but I was able to watch it from inside the house. After a few minutes I saw it lift its head, look around, and then faster than I thought possums could move, it ran to and clambered up the chain link fence to end up in my neighbor’s yard.

At the same time we’ve been watching all these fascinating creatures at night, on my way to work in the afternoon I’ve been watching bulldozers and backhoes scrape most of the vegetation from a large piece of land that lies across the street from the warehouse, maybe five to ten acres, and I can’t imagine how many animals are losing their homes. I know the turkey vulture that used to perch almost daily on the tallest mesquite tree there has disappeared. And last week for the first time this summer we saw four cottontail rabbits foraging in the brush adjacent to the warehouse parking lot.

These fields lie at the edge of the Blackland Prairie and where it’s still undeveloped is mostly tall grasses with some scrub trees with a lot of juniper and patches of prickly pear cactus. Not what most people would consider scenic but to me it’s preferable to the glass and concrete surrounding it.


My razor's edge path teeters between an ennui bordering on the comatose and a hairtrigger so hypersensitive the least likely thing is liable to detonate it. My eye-to-hand coordination is failing and I have an odd pain in my shoulder blade, probably some kind of repetitive syndrome from constant and continuous mousing. The numbness in my butt from sitting nowbrefuses to dissipate with short treks up and down the hallways and only disappears after my nightly nature walk when it's time to go home and go to sleep.

Morale picked up a few days ago when our snack stash was replenished. What started as a one-time splurge years ago has become part of the annual summer budget. Before the avalanche of work hits, each person lists their favorite snacks, which is developed into a shopping list from which we acquire many cases of soft drinks and several shopping cartfulls of junkfood purchased from Sam's Club. These are stacked neatly in one of our small offices and employees can freely choose from the communal supply. Someone said the bosses must've figured out we grumble less when we're fat. We are like toddlers who are tired and cranky because we missed our nap but can be temporarily distracted by ice cream. The most popular snacks are the "drumstick" ice cream cones dipped in chocolate and topped with nuts. As the word is whispered along the way (so our customer won't notice) a path between our cubicles and the refrigerator in the customer's area becomes a very active bee line.

But ice cream is quickly eaten and we are left with the realization that we've only got this new snack stash because there are still hard days ahead in our schedule. Next week is supposed to be harder than this week was.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Our Lady of Perpetual Filing
and other broken idols

We're two days behind schedule at work but hanging on. We're all tired. I just don't know how some of my co-workers have the fortitude to withstand twelve and fourteen hours day after day after day without going bonkers. Or how they safely make the drive to and from work. Every night on the way home I hope desperately I won't be required to make any split-second driving decisions.

Tiredness makes you stupid. You know you're tired when you step into the shower and suddenly realize the water's running, you're completely wet, and have made no move towards either soap or shampoo. Some people get wired. I hear their voices at work, accelerating in pitch and volume until they just can't stop and the words run on endlessly - nonsensically. You forget the names of people you see every day. You put your hand on your computer mouse and forget what it is. Your mind goes blank when you stare at your monitor. You pretend to work and somehow you sleepwalk through the day and get something done.

It's time for me to listen to "Industrial Strength Tranquilizers" by the Austin Lounge Lizards. That song usually gives me lift or at least a smile.

There's a lot of wisdom here amongst the employees,
Some of us are street smart, and some have PhD's.
We're all tired and bored but we've all found ways to cope.
Some of us drink after work; the rest of us smoke dope

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

wash'em away

I probably shouldn’t be creeping around the customer cubicles at night and shooting photos after the occupants have gone home. I sometimes wonder when someone in loss-prevention will notice a flash in the darkness and send someone to confront me but I have a feeling no one’s really paying attention to those security monitors. It’s interesting to observe the installations in cubicles that I would normally never see. And occasionally there are laugh-out-loud items like this one.

The game of Musical Macs I was compelled to play after my Mac had a nervous breakdown Wednesday is over and I’m back at my own machine in my own little home away from home, my cubicle. The doctor was Out until Sunday so I had to work where I could find an open station and it was a real pain settling into a different cubicle each night and having to drag in my chair, my mouse, my back-, foot- and wrist-supports, my headphones, and my water bottle to get comfy. When I'm looking at ten or more hours at a station I need to dig in. Then each individual has customized all the desktop preferences of his or her mac and I have to disable everything. While dashboards and widgets are well and good, I think of them as toys and I don’t want them unexpectedly popping onto the screen while I am in the midst of serious business all because I have accidentally pressed a hotkey while typing.

It was so much easier in the olden pre-press days before computers. The only thing I had to worry about was keeping my twelve-inch metal line gauge (pica pole, or in the most crass vernacular, “ruler”) jammed into the back pocket of my jeans and keeping an eye on my heavy-duty shears I used for cutting film. Most people had a preferred light table; maybe it was the one next to the film processor, where the intoxicating aroma of developer and fixing solution would elevate you to your own personal work “zone”, or maybe it was where you could fix that eye in the back of your head at the film churning out of the processor so you could grab the next sheet and start your slicing and dicing act, but usually preference was dependent on how you liked the double-barreled tape dispenser in the tray attached to your table.

I don’t miss the fumes, standing on concrete floors, or the high decibel level, but the simplicity of the setup is a nostalgic memory.

Monday, August 01, 2005


My boss rewarded me with yesterday with a lovely & luscious chocolate-covered pretzel fresh from Pennsylvania. I think some of my most favorite chocolate comes from Lancaster County, which is Amish country, between Philadelphia and Gettysburg. Forget Hershey! The Wilbur Buds from Wilbur Chocolate Company in Lititz will make you sneer at Hershey kisses, which are after all a gimmick: colorful foil with paper pull tabs. I'd rather have unwrapped chocolate that tastes like chocolate. There are many small shops in Southern Pennsylvania who will, if you order in advance, dip chewy freshly baked pretzels (another local specialty) in dark chocolate, producing the most delectable combination of salt & sweet.

Another specialty, Whoopie Pies, are so sweet your teeth rot before they even hit the surface, but that's another story.