Thursday, June 30, 2022


Old bears--and a destuffed duck--packed in an old valise,
ready to move to the new (old) apartment tomorrow.
Today will be my last 24-hours at this house. When I moved in, September 2019, life was much as it'd always been.
Six months later, Covid came...
Nine months after I moved in, the police murdered George Floyd.
And after that came the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

I am not the same. The world is not the same.

This morning I'm blogging at my little orange table on the porch, squeezed next to boxes I packed yesterday, looking out on the rainy morning.
I will miss this porch, but come cold weather, I couldn't use it and there's nowhere else I have privacy
here but my room.

Below: The rest of my stuff is strewn about my room,
but Penny Cooper & Frankcolumbo, project managing from the windowill, say I am on track for moving tomorrow--the first of three friends with a car comes at 8 a.m.

(The best thing I did for this house was to knock the plywood covering off the piano windows in this room--looking out into the porch.)

 I don't own a lot, by American standards, and I feel overwhelmed. How do people move an entire house?
Of course we usually have more time to prepare--this all happened so fast!
I'm moving in less than one week since I saw the For Rent sign this past Saturday.

Last night HouseMate and I had a good, kind, and honest talk over Bloody Marys.*
For a moment, I felt I could have lived here with her if we'd had more talks like that, but--ha! no:
All the things we discussed kindly were basically permanent.

I told her, for instance, that I felt I was living with the ghost of her abusive ex-husband, who was a Dementor from Azkahban**.
I'd pointed out some mildew in the bathroom, for instance, and she'd cringed like a beaten dog.

I'd only been trying to say we should leave the bathroom door open after we shower because there's no air-exchange in the small room.
But her ex had constantly humiliated her for such things.
Her shame effectively blocked me from further discussing how we could better clean the house. Its state was one of the things that I was uncomfortable with. (I didn't mention this.)

I also told her I was humbled to see how I was not the most considerate, easy going person to live with.
I told her that Marz, who lived with me for four years, agreed, saying I am a person who should live alone. 😄

I can--and have--loosened up a lot, but basically
I'm Thomas Carlyle in raccoon form [by Duluth Kenspeckle Letterpress]:
"Let me have my own way exactly in everything,
and a sunnier and pleasanter creature does not exist."
  --Thomas Carlyle
This is me at work, too--I am the sunniest, pleasantest person at work because I run my own department (or departments, counting toys, which I don't much care about).

I don't want to tell anyone else what to do either--I don't enjoy pointing out the mildew.
Some people do: HouseMate, for instance.
She never understood why this bothered me.

Last night, she did own that living with me, she'd learned some helpful but not beautiful things about herself too.
So we're parting on a good note, and I think we'll be pals... We've been through so much together, and while we're bad housemates, we do agree politically and theologically.

I never wanted to harp about it on the blog, but I haven't felt at home during these three years.
I feel a little sick (physically) from the fast turn-around, but I'm ecstatic about moving into my own little place.
Lucky, lucky, lucky!

On we go!

* Bloody Marys--HouseMate and I first made these during Covid following Wisconsin comedian Charlie Berens Quarantine Kitchen recipe ("put in whachever ya got in the fridge").
This was a genuinely pure fun thing we did
together as housemates.

**Dementor, from The Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Magic:

"Dementors are dark creatures that consume human happiness, creating an ambiance of coldness, darkness, misery and despair.
Because of their power to drain happiness and hope from humans, they have been set the duty of being guards at Azkaban, where they prevent the prisoners from having the will or ability to escape."

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


 Happy hour $6 Chardonnay at the Spanish tapas place one block from my new apartment: 

I signed the lease, paid security deposit and July rent, and received the keys. 

A coworker and Sister are each taking a load of my stuff over in their big vehicles (SUVs?) on Friday—that should be most of it.

Asst Man will get any big items that don’t fit in his pickup truck on the weekend.


The Magic Bobby Pin

I sign the lease on my new apartment today at 3 o'clock.
I move on July 1--this Friday! And all because I biked down 39th Street for the first time in my life and saw the For Rent sign.

This has unfolded like a lot of things in my life:
I'm the opposite of a Type A, Take-Action, Five-Year-Goal person.
I'm more of a passive, maybe-a-genie-will-appear kind of person.
The weird thing is, (weird in this Type-A culture), often a genie does appear--though on its own time table, that's for sure. Or, you could call it grace, or just dumb luck. It works, if you don't want something NOW.

I don't always trust that it'll work,
but it's probably how my life has worked most of the time.
Things drop out of the sky, like acorns.
They pop up, like toast from the toaster.
Of course it's not magic:
forces have been at work all along--the oak tree has been growing, and I went for a walk;
someone--probably me--put the bread in the toaster and pushed the lever.

I was talking about this to some people one evening on the Camino in 2011.

I told them that earlier in the day, my long hair had been blowing into my face.

As I was walking along, I came across a bobby pin on the ground.

"If you need a bobby pin,"
I said, "a bobby pin appears."

(I would add, "Well, sometimes".)

Also, a few days later, I asked Lucinda to cut my long hair short,
and that took care of the problem.

This is a favorite photo from the Camino--this young man, Tom, (with a toy monkey toy dangling from his backpack) is pushing the fountain spigot for me to fill up my water bottle. That sort of thing is how the Camino worked, help appearing out of nowhere, since you couldn't plan for anything, it was all grace.
Sometimes grace is not comfortable, and you sleep on the hard ground.

I hear that since 2011, people use their phones to plan ahead, reserve beds, call an Uber, find a store that carries bobby pins...
That sure would make Camino easier! but it makes it a little more like a walking trip and less like a pilgrimage.

II. "Don't Settle"

Anyway--this apartment felt like it appeared in a fairy tale.
Send me mail!
I'll be here on this street starting Friday. 55409:

A couple more photos. The newly spiffed-up bathroom--blue tape around new grout (no grungy grout!):

BELOW: The little bedroom with a new window a/c (comes with the place). It faces south so is very bright, though a tree outside casts summer shade. The living room faces west for afternoon/evening light.
The girlettes have already claimed the flat top of the wood divider: "Girlette Land":

Maybe I'll put my desk in the bedroom too, for the light. Not that I have a desk. I hardly have anything, but as my coworker Jesse (who I helped with the planter) said,
"Whatever you need, we will get it donated here.
Wait until it's the right thing: don't settle!"
Don't settle.
That's what Marz had advised me about looking for a new apartment. I'd had an appointment to look at a place near the thrift store--a dangerous area--and she said that'd be a mistake to live there.
I knew she was right, I was just feeling a bit desperate.

Unhappy as I sometimes was living with a roommate, the neighborhood here is great. And where I'm moving, it's more crowded but not crimey, and the street I'm on is quiet--and the nearby businesses are independently owned.

It would've been far worse to go back to a neighborhood like I'd lived in before--the place where the neighbors did meth, which made them crazy! One night, one of their friends shot another one to death.
I saw the ambulance people carrying the gunshot man away on a stretcher.
The man kept trying to sit up, and the EMT yelled at him at the top of his voice,
"Lie DOWN!"
Probably one of the last things this guy ever heard said to him...

Anyway. Yeah. This place has been good in its way. Very good, even. But I am so, so eager to live alone. I can hardly wait! I just want to sit in my half-empty apartment by my own self.
In three days, I can!

Monday, June 27, 2022

UPDATE: I got it!!! Apartment Possibility

UPDATE: hooray x 1,061!

Just heard I got the apartment!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️


I'm anxious today: I'm waiting to hear if I got an apartment--one that feels perfect.
I shouldn't even mention it, I suppose, until I know, but
I won't protect myself from disappointment by not admitting I want this place. So I'll go ahead and I say I do, very, very much.

The only reason the landlord, Tom, might turn me down is that I don't make enough money. However, I showed him my savings account, full of money from my father & Auntie Vi. I told him I have no debt, I live simply (no car), get all my stuff from the thrift store, and would have no problem paying rent.
He seemed satisfied, but you never know.

He's sent my info in for background check & credit score, all of which should be A+.
He'll let me know today, and if everything's okay, we'll meet tomorrow to sign the lease, and I can move in July 1-- this Friday!

It's a little one-bedroom in the coolest old building.
I saw the For Rent sign biking past on Saturday--(on a street I never bike on!)--and thought it looked like was what indeed it is:
a building that was built a long time ago to house a grocery store on the first floor and the owners upstairs. (Like where Margaret Thatcher grew up! Not that she's a personal plus.)

The apartment is on the first floor, so I'd be living in an old grocery, which, the girlettes declare, is just super. A Superette!
Not that it looks like a grocery anymore--it's been apartments for ages, but it does have some historic features.

Tom is a handyman and just redid the apartment, so it's very clean and bright--but you can see the kitchen cabinets are old. I love them!

Shelves in a cupboard--and my hand in front of the camera:

Reason for hope, despite my low income:
Tom goes to a Catholic church that hosts a St. Vincent de Paul group and said that my "faith work" impressed him.
I love that he sees my work that way.
I do too, even if my faith lies more in books.

I liked him a lot, and he actually said, "This may sound odd, but you're the person I was waiting for for this apartment."

When I'd first biked past, I'd also felt the apartment was what I was waiting for. It felt magical, like a little blip in time and space.
And it's between my house and bink's--I was biking home from her place down quiet side streets when I saw it. Perfect, again.

So I will just have to be crushed if this doesn't come off.
And then I will delete this post and move on.

(But it'd also worry me that if an independent landlord wouldn't rent to me, I'd have a fat chance with one of the big rental companies who control so much property here.)

Have faith, child!

I told HouseMate last night that I might have found a place to move.
She said she'd be sad if I moved, which is nice, but also she had enjoyed living alone again the four months I'd been gone cat sitting.
"I used to think my house was so big," she said, "but sharing with another person, I see it's not."
No, it's not. It's set up for family sharing living space, all together.

Rent really wouldn't be a problem, but I would have to stop going out to eat. Since 2002, twenty years, I've paid Friend Rent, never more than 500 a month. This apartment is double that, and that's still a good deal in this high-rent market.

Besides the perfect vibe and location, this apartment makes me realize how much I want a place of my own again. A place where I can have a few people over for Christmas Eve dinner, like I did for years.
(HM's grown children come over here on Xmas Eve. Fair enough.)

Well, if it doesn't come to pass, so be it.
I'm okay where I am. But I really hope it does.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Islands in the Stream

Vintage book and pencil: Minneapolis Dept. of Health & Family Support--another bar of text on the--um, what's the name of each... facet? on a pencil shaft? [lol, "sides"-- discussion in comments]--another bar of type reads Child Care Team and a phone number.

I live in a city and state that supports reproductive rights. Sister is going to call Planned Parenthood on Monday to see how she can help--as states around us outlaw abortion, we will be an important provider.

From Politico, yesterday, "Abortion laws by state: Where abortions are illegal after Roe v. Wade overturned":

My state also voted for marriage equality in 2012--bink's "DVD to Art" project was part of that push--almost three years before the US Supreme Court ruled on it in 2015. Even if the Court were to overturn marriage ruling, the State still supports it.

"Come and Get Your Love"*

Aaaaand.... funny timing:
a couple weeks ago, bink & Maura decided to get married! 💗
They met in 1999, so it's not the first blush of love. In fact it has a lot to do with getting older together and the legal benefits that marriage automatically grants, like health care powers.

Still, it's a wedding, and that's happy news!
I'm tickled pink...
Maura is not into bears and dolls and wind-up robots or any of that stuff.
bink likes her anyway.
And so do I.

It's going to be a very small wedding in early fall, just a few people--I'll be Best Witness for the bink. You know how it goes--it's either that or you start inviting people and wind up inviting the mail carrier.
They did consider that, but decided to go very small.

Weird blip: an old friend of bink's who is a conservative Catholic said he wouldn't attend if invited (he wasn't) because it would be hypocritical since he believes marriage is a sacrament between a woman and a man.
(This isn't a religious wedding.)

bink wasn't surprised--she'd made her peace with this guy a long time ago. As for me, this man has joined my (short but choice) list of people who make me feel Very Sicilian.

More important: a fun little present for the couple has already come into the thrift store--I take it as a sign of ongoing good things to come.
Fingers crossed!

* Did you see the excellent TV show Reservation Dogs, about Native kids (teens) on a rez in Oklahoma?
On the episode
"Come and Get Your Love" the local Native cop plays this song all the time from 1974, pointing out it's by a Native band, Redbone. I remember the song from high school but I never knew that.

Preview of that episode:

Friday, June 24, 2022

What happened

 WTF? Foolish me, I didn’t think they’d do it. But they did. 

Where structures crumble, new growth comes up. But in the meantime, … EEEEK!!! 

Stay strong, friends, and let’s hold hands! ❤️

Book display today:

I am referring to the US Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade today, of course.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Work Is Where the Work Is: BOOK's

 I couldn't believe it--without asking me, yesterday the volunteer who does art & frames hung a damaged, handmade (1920s?) Japanese painted paper umbrella in the BOOK's, over the fiction.

This volunteer and I spat sometimes, and we don't share the same taste--he likes clean lines only, while I like those, AND kitschy and worn out things.

He has started to show me ratty old things saying, "I knew you'd like this."

Usually he's right. And he was right:

I LOVE the umbrella.

More than you can tell in the photo I think, it makes the area feel different than the rest of the store--marked off, contained, and a little magical.

Like Blanche DuBois haning a paper shade and saying, "I have created enchantment."

It was that sort of day yesterday.
After a lackluster meeting--Big Boss showed us a YouTube about Kaizen, the Japanese business strategy of "constant improvement" that a customer had told me about. A YouTube. 
I can see why he wanted me to do it instead.

BUT... besides Art (the volunteer), two other people spontaneously helped me---Ass't Man sanded the rough edge of a bookshelf, and Jesse put up a display shelf.

A prhase from Kaizen is,
"The work is where the work is."

Here are some more photos of BOOK's.
I have to leave, so I'm dumping them...



Below, NOTE the gold horse on top shelf--it used to hold a clock. Another dumpster rescue. Housewares cannot get behind kitsch, especially if it's damaged.
The Singer above too was in metal recycling 🙄. Housewares verdict:
"It's missing important parts."

The New Arrivals cart--a recent addition, and popular:

Side-by-Side: Two horses

Honest to God, the pencil sharpener was another dumpster rescue! "It's beat up," Housewares said.

With dolls from Poland

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Happy Summer Solstice!

 I. Summer Solstice

We are riding a cosmic Tilt-a-Whirl.
No matter how many times someone demonstrates with a grapefruit for the Sun and an orange for the Earth, I always have to look up how the seasons work.

(But why do the seasons change if the Earth is flat? I sure hope the Earth is not flat, or the Marzipan will sail off the edge!)

From BBC Science Focus:

Here, today will last 15 hours, 36 minutes, about twice the daylight of winter solstice (8 hours, 45 minutes ).

The light is great, but I'm not a summer lover--the coming heat of July frightens me.
I lived without a/c until summer 2011 when one night it felt like the heavy heat would smother me, like a cat lying on a baby.

Sleeping with a window a/c roaring is not so easy, but it's better than no a/c at all.
It's evil, but honestly I'd love to live with central air conditioning. Maybe wherever I live next will have it. It's getting to be the norm here.

II. I'm not a horse or a rider to you, and neither are you to me.

mid-1500s (in the sense ‘put (a horse) through the paces of the manège’): from Italian maneggiare, based on Latin manus ‘hand’.

Another staff meeting this morning. Big Boss gets on a roll with them for a while, and then he drops them.
I'd told him I wasn't going to address my coworkers again this week. "I don't want to lecture them", I said.

He didn't seem to understand:
"But they took it from you well last week..."

Took it?
Right there's the rub:
I don't want to administer medicine or handle my coworkers like horses, while that's just how BB sees leadership: as a parental role, administering guidance, chastising, knowing best. (He's not so much on praise.)

Ah, well. You've heard me complain about bad management forever. It's everywhere, right?
Who is good at it?
I wouldn't be!

I lost my cool with an old pal for being overly directive.
Huh, I guess that style is really bugging me lately.
He knows it, too--calls it being "over-mom-ish". (He thinks he's more motherly than fatherly.)

I usually see him quarterly, which works well, but I've seen him more
lately--too much.
some directive of his made me angry/afraid ("angraid"? "afry"?), and I barked at him: Back off!

Fair enough, but I wish I'd been kinder.
I made amends this morning.

And on we go.
In a kind of always-tilting twirl, like the Earth.

Happy Summer to you all! XO

What's in Old Bay Seasoning?

Michael recommended adding Old Bay Seasoning to salmon croquettes. I've never used it--looks good. Ingredients above.

The man who invented it
"Gustav Brunn, a German Jewish refugee who landed in Baltimore with his hand-crank spice grinder after two weeks in Buchenwald concentration camp."

The recipe is secret, but there's a close approximation of
Old Bay Seasoning at the Daring Gourmet.
Definitely would be easier for me to buy it... I don't have all these spices on hand, but I do like knowing what's in it. Paprika & celery seeds! I'd never guess.

Benefit of making it myself--I'd leave the salt out. Too many other foods have salt in them--like Worcestershire sauce.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Observing Salmon Croquettes

 I'm reading more Mass Observation journal compilations...
---OH! A wild turkey is walking across the front lawn!
How's that for An Observation?

I'm not sure what changed, but more wildlife comes into the city now--foxes, deer, raccoons, etc., and––most extraordinarily––these big, ungainly birds walking around. Like peacocks, but very not beautiful.

It may have to do with the Greenway bike & walk path that runs from the Mississippi River to the chain of lakes, and onward.
Animals use it as a trail too. But it used to be railroad, so wouldn't that have served them as a trail too?
I don't know.

I. Everyday Observations

Anyway... I've mentioned this before:
Mass Observation (MO) was a social-research project that asked hundred of ordinary people to keep and send in journals of their everyday lives.

Humphrey Spender's People on Bench, 1937/38, via

Started in England in 1937 after the abdication of Edward, MO was in place, perfectly positioned for gathering eyewitness accounts of the World War II homefront.

How many of us bloggers write with the historical record in mind?
Do you?

Sometimes I do--but mostly for my personal record--"I will want to remember how this went down," I thought during the uprisings of 2020. I made myself blog a little: "helicopters overhead."

But I'm not a political journalist or a historian, and that's not what I want to read about all the time either.
I like the everyday stuff that passes by--if we're good at observing, we might be rewarded with the oddball turkey.

MO diarists wrote more about food than about politics and war.
Isn't that the way for us too?
Everyday life revolves around everyday things. Unless something tears it apart, and even then, things will settle down again, if they can.

Covid, for instance.

"Today marks the 836th day since the first Covid case was confirmed in Minnesota on March 5, 2020.
The percentage of Minnesota's population with at least one shot: 70.5 %"
I took a sewing class the other evening at Rethink Tailoring--this re-user of "preloved clothing" is another reason I like this neighborhood.
They still require masking to enter, AND for classes, showing your vaccination record.
I couldn't find my vax record, but I'd taken a mending class there last year and had showed it then, so they let me pass.

Almost no other business around here requests much less requires masks anymore.

I've snapped back to pre-Covid practice and mood: I don't think about it much more than I think about any other illness.
This is the norm among people I know––many of whom have had Covid already. Some people still wear masks in public, and I think that's wise, but I'm just taking my chances...

That normalization of danger (the normalcy cognitive bias, or regression toward the mean) shows up in the MO journals from the London Blitz too:
people got sick and tired of sitting in bomb shelters and some went out into the street to watch the dogfights.
"May as well die with a little excitement," one of them records.

II. Hot Weather Food

What I am thinking about is, indeed, food! And weather, and their intersection.
It's hot and humid this week--already this morning at 9 a.m. it's 83º "feels like 90", heading toward 100. I'm sweating, just sitting here on the porch.

A couple days ago, knowing hot weather was coming I made a mess of salmon croquettes.
When we got a donation of canned salmon, a coworker had told me how.
Loyd's Salmon Croquettes
"Crush some saltines,
mix them in with a can of salmon and one egg,
and fry them up a couple minutes on each side."
From this recipe, I got the idea to add
mayo + a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce,
and some sautéed veg.

What I had on hand was celery, red bell pepper, and fresh corn.
I used bread crumbs, so I added salt and pepper too.

The croquettes were good hot, but even better cold!
A perfect hot-weather meal, served on greens.

(Michael, if you read this--is there a version of this for sardines?)

III. Observing Work

I like when people are in the background of photos I take for the store's IG, though I don't post them there if the person is identifiable and I haven't asked.
This photo is borderline, but I love the accidental red, white, & blue and I feel it's fine to post here, where no one from the neighborhood will see.

Ass't Man sets up great end caps. He mixes and matches by color, not theme.
Before he came, no one did them.
He's a designer and this is his strength, not human relations. But he and I keep talking about how to be better at humans, and it's helpful to both of us.
I wouldn't have expected that two summers ago, when he was such an asshole to me.

At the end of last week, Big Boss asked me,
"What are you going to talk about at the next staff meeting?"
(I'd talked about conflict resolution at last week's meeting.)

Surprised, I said I guessed I could talk more about team building.

On reflection, I don't want to.
First of all, it's pointless--there's no follow through on our meetings.
Second, I don't want to get set up as The Professor, as he called me.

I emailed Big Boss this morning explaining the second:
"My father was a professor, but I'm not:
I don't want to lecture my coworkers."

There's already enough class differences between me and most of my coworkers--I don't want to hot it up.

I'm biking off to work now--2.5 miles. I'll soak my head in cold water, and it'll be dry by the time I get there.

Stay cool, now! Or warm, depending on where you are.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

"The messiah is coming! But don't hold your breath."

"Almost all creativity involves purposeful play."
American psychologist Abraham Maslow

I. Typewriter.

BELOW: Photos of a Remington Rand typewriter (1940s, I think) and its red case that I took for the thrift store's IG. I can imagine collecting typewriters, if I were a collecting type.

I don't use my IG account. The Orphan Reds were my main subject, and I don't photograph them much anymore. They're still very much in my life though:
I can hear Penny Cooper's little girl voice in the background right now. I'm on the front porch and she's on my bedside stand with a couple others. I don't know what they're talking about, but she's doing most of it. She's a good listener though, too! All the other girlettes like her.

II. Adaptation

Overall in life, I would love to be more flexible.
I am not easy going, but could I become more so, now that I am an Old Person?
I like being an OP: I do feel the possibility of dropping some old habits of thought.

The other day I asked HM if she could stop telling me how to do things. She said she would try. I appreciate that, but the habit is so threaded through her speech (or "baked in" as people say now, have you noticed?), she doesn't seem to notice it.
Ah, well.
Here's a chance to practice another of John XXIII's steps:

"Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes."

There's always some unwished-for circumstance.
I've seen it working in nursing homes--old people still raging against circumstances.

Some don't.

My favorite: Harvey, an old Jewish guy. He was a former janitor, had  no money, no family, yet he had more visitors than the other residents. They used to bring him treats, which he loved but wasn't supposed to have because of diabetes.

Harvey used to say,

"The messiah is coming! But don't hold your breath."
LOL, I love that so much.
That pov is so helpful to me. It's like how Marz finds comfort in the fact that in a billion-whatever years, the Sun is going to die.

Lighten up! and grab your shovel.

I looked up Harvey's quote and got no results, so maybe it was original to him.
I did find this from Ask the Rabbis "Are Jews Still Expecting a Messiah?":
"Truth be told, the Messiah has probably been here a few hundred times but got spat at on the way to school, or told he wasn’t Jewish enough and had to re-convert, or got ousted from a temple board meeting because he couldn’t pay dues. Who knows? "
If that's the case, Harvey was a/the Messiah.

Not that Jesus (another one, perhaps) was exactly easy-going...

III. Journey On

Speaking of Marz, I'm going to go ahead and say what she's planning, because it affects me a lot. I wasn't going to say till the date was set: due to paperwork processing speeds, she doesn't yet know if she'll go in July, as she hopes, or if she'll have to wait till September.
She is accepted into the merchant marine training program!

It's like an apprenticeship to work on civilian ships like cargo ships, ferries, tug boats, research vessels. It's free, but besides classroom training, you work--scraping and painting ship decks and the like.

She had to get seven innoculations, for yellow fever (ships go through the Panama Canal!) etc. to qualify for her mariner's credential.
You can see the 7 Band Aids here:

I'll miss her a lot, but I am so proud of her.
She's been lifting weights too--still working to build more heft--she'll be throwing coils of rope! She can easily beat me at arm wrestling now, which she couldn't before.

Anyway, the program is less than a year.
It sounds semi-military, and I keep telling her she can come home if she hates it.

The culture change from the hipsterish food co-op where she's worked through her twenties will be something to witness. I can't wait to hear about it.

Example of co-op culture:
Someone tells Marz that banana pudding is an expression of colonialism.
Job hazard: being misgendered: 
someone who identifies as a woman is called "sir" or vice versa--"ma'am" for someone who identifies as a man

Merchant mariners talk about the pain of handling large, heavy objects.
Job hazard:
being killed by falling cargo (possibly bananas?)

Gotta go! Love ya'll!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Any Body Can

Today is the last day of nice June weather for a while-- a heat wave is forecast to arrive tomorrow. Temps are supposed to be near or above 100ºF for a week. And humid. I've set up my a/c window unit in my bedroom, but HouseMate doesn't like a/c so there's no other in the house.

BELOW: Close-up of photo in my MN books display, "Papa, Ruth, Mama, St. Croix 1911".
Baby Red looks cool enough in her short white dress, but what about Mama in her dark clothes?

I've been back from house sitting almost two weeks.
I miss orange George patting my face with his little bean paw-pads... even if it was at 5:30 a.m.
It's nice to see HouseMate's dog.
HM and I, however, already had a tiff. We try, but neither of us are all that good at sharing a small house, not with each other anyway.
Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, that sort of thing, intensified by different personality styles. If you've ever had roommates, you know how it goes.

A BIG improvement though:
after two years of Covid shutdown, HM's intermittent, part-time job is up and running again. Sometimes she is gone overnight--usually on a weekend when I'm off work (the thrift store is closed Sundays)–so I get a good long stretch alone. 

It's fine, and we're readjusting.
I love my summer set-up of my orange café table on the front porch, where I'm sitting now, typing, seen from the LR couch this morning.

I want to stay in this neighborhood, which I love––Penny Cooper wants to be walking distance from the nearby creek. Unfortunately there's not much rental property around here. It's mostly little one-and-a-half stories 1920s bungalows, like HM's.

 So much I love about this neighborhood, including the gym I went to last year. It's owned by a weightlifter named Ben.
I love his approach: Any Body Works.
I don't lift weights––my arthritic fingers already lift too much at work––but Ben had told me when I first started that your own body is all you need for a complete workout. 

I had my first work-out session with him again yesterday--a gentle half-hour--and left feeling happy and activated. Some of my parts are a bit worn, but it's nothing I can't work around. (Lucky, lucky, lucky.)

The girlettes want to come next time and lift these iron bars at the gym (for equipment going in):

I could do bodyweight exercises myself, of course--but, here's the thing:
I don't.
Having a guide once a week gets me going.

I'm going to (try to) add this circuit in too.
Body weight only:

  1. 9 Squats
  2. 6 Push-ups (on knees) 
  3. Plank (on knees) – hold 15 seconds
  4. 15 Balance Jacks (instead of jumping, lift alternate leg, keeping other on floor)
  5. Reverse Lunges – 6 per leg
  6. 10 Lying Hip Raises

You're supposed to do the circuit four times. I'm going to aim for once, one time a week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Interesting / Losers

I. "the maddeningly unteachable gift of being interesting"

--On writer Hilary Mantel, from James Wood's book review "Invitation to a Beheading: The Thomas Cromwell novels of Hilary Mantel"

Wouldn't that description be better, stronger, without maddeningly:
She has "the unteachable gift of being interesting"?

It may be unteachable, but is that maddening? 
To James Wood it is, I guess, and to others who may wish we were more interesting.
The word smears the description with envy. I'd cut it.

Hey, this could be a 'How to Improve Writing' post, like Orange Crate Art posts.
But I mention the sentence here because I liked it, it's so exactly true about Mantel. I'm reading a collection of her short stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, and the stories about nothing happening (a man comes to visit, and then doesn't) are as interesting as the ones when something interesting happens (a woman witnesses preparations for the assassination of Thatcher).

Also I'd been thinking about how some people are just not interesting, no matter what they try or do:
I have a coffee date coming up with such a one--a pleasant and kind person I see once or twice a year. I dread it each time because although they do interesting work and travel to interesting places, they themselves are as
painfully boring as the lobby of a travel agency. (Remember those?)

I read the first two of Mantel's three Cromwell novels.
Excellent, but a little remote to me, who only knows anything about the Tudors from watching  the BBC's Six Wives of Henry VIII when I was ... nine (1970); and full of sticky horrors, like the fatty ashes of people burned at the stake.
Also, heavy books to read in bed.

I couldn't face the third, though I did read the end.

Mantel's short novel Fludd is one of my favorite books though.
It's about--huh, come to think of it, it's about an interesting young woman, a girl really, smothered in an uninteresting life and how she escapes with a little supernatural assistance.

When I read Mantel's memoir Giving Up the Ghost, I realized Fludd is autobiographical. You could see the mysterious character Fludd (who may or may not be the devil) as
a manifestation of the young woman's own inherent, unlearned interestingness.

Maybe being interesting is the work of the devil?
He always seems more interesting than God, right?

If you can't learn to be interesting, can you learn to be good?

II. Professor Conflict

Big Boss addressed me in an email today as "Professor".
He meant it affectionately, I think. I'm not 100% sure.

Recently he'd seen me reading a business book, The Five Dysfunctions of Teams, and so he'd asked me to talk about team-building at our staff meeting yesterday.

I agreed, but then I was stumped about what to say. We have all five dysfunctions, but we don't have a team.

Example: staff meetings. Big Boss calls them at random every few weeks, so they're mostly pointless. We're like a sports team that practices once or twice a season. When we go out on the field, we wing it, each according to their gifts.

What helpful things could I say? I was wondering if I could back out...
Then last week--a gift to my talk's lack of focus--we had another mad, sad, bad customer, who threatened Ass't Man. 

I'm not saying it's A.M.'s fault.
But I do notice he has more conflicts with customers than most and is less equipped to handle them. But he's not the only one. A crazed customer threw a stapler at our mildest cashier this winter.

I've told Big Boss we need training on dealing with difficult customers (and coworkers!). I even sent him some youtube video trainings on it.
But, nothing.
So here was my chance.
One of the five dysfunctions is an inability to handle conflict.

Two years ago after police murdered George Floyd, people broke into the store, smashing windows and wrecking stuff.
Tensions were high among staff restoring things inside the boarded up store. Sometimes we had fun, sometimes we flared up.

I found help in the negotiation/conflict resolution videos by former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss.
His 12-min TED talk, Never Split the Difference.

He's all about emotional intelligence--developing it and using it.
It's teachable (to some). You can learn it!
"The key to success, especially in very dangerous negotiations, is tactical empathy, which Voss describes as emotional intelligence on steroids."

I talked about three points at the 20-minute staff meeting:

1. See the problem/challenge as being the SITUATION, not the other person. All parties want a successful resolution to the situation.
Drop your ego and work toward that.

2.  Shut up & listen. That is your killer skill.

3. Show the other person you heard their point of view: repeat two or three of the last or the key words they said.

Yesterday's toy arrangement at the store by me. Friends or foes?

Like most of us, Ass't Man has a hard time letting go of being right. A hard, hard time. We talked about the recent scary customer, and A.M. kept trying to come up with a way that he could have won on his terms, using the tips I'd presented.*

Finally Big Boss said, "You weren't going to get your way, and it wasn't worth the risk. Your pride wanted to win, but you have to get good at losing."

Isn't that great?
That's it, exactly.

Let your ego drop around your ankles like underpants whose elastic is shot.
I read this advice once about what to do if your underpants drop off in public (an old-fashioned problem):
Step out of them and walk on as if nothing happened.

I didn't say that at the meeting.

AM told me afterward the Voss perspective was very helpful, and Big Boss said I did a good job. 

But what's this "professor" label? Is it tinged with resentment? I kinda feel it is... Or am I being too suspicious?
Well, whatever I was, it was worth it to help make the store a little safer from conflict escalation.


*What had resolved the conflict between Asst Man & the dangerous customer was the intervention of Mr Furniture--he is a calm and kind negotiator--and he'd told the customer it wasn't worth ruining his life to hurt A.M. [I have to laugh], and he should walk away. Which the customer did.

Monday, June 13, 2022


A new planter box was donated to the thrift store last week. My gardening coworker Jesse (below, right) wanted to claim it for store use.
"Let's do it," I said, and volunteered cat-sitting money to buy plants.

Staff and customer opinions were split between support and scoffery:
"It'll only get wrecked."

"Probably," I agreed. "But let's do it anyway."
The exec. director agreed, so we did.

Doesn't my hair here ^ look like I did it on purpose?

Marz describes my usual style of dressing as "'Film Director': film directors show up on set looking like they've gone into a Clothing Randomizer booth and pushed a button."

Stanley Kubrick directing Barry Lyndon:

Jesse put the planter on rollers, so we can wheel it in at night for safe keeping. Still, sure enough, on the second afternoon someone took away the three geranium plants.
Annoying, but I'd be more upset if someone vandalized the planter--tipped it over, say. (Yet to come, probably.)
The experiment continues: another coworker said she'd buy us replacement geraniums.

I figure we'll lose, but as I'm always saying at work, "We know how this story is going to end anyway." Like, you can't lose if you know you're going to lose?
Well, yeah, you can, but in this case, the stakes are low so I don't care.

I'm going to try stuff along the way. Like faffing my Minnesota books section, now I've made display space.
I retrieved a plastic bag full of sticks that the housewares sorter had thrown away--on the bag was
written "Lake Superior Driftwood."
I put the smooth and strange sticks in a couple glass vases.

The puzzle ^ of the Jolly Green Giant, the Niblet King of Minnesota,  was made in China, but the stuffed Kanga & Roo was made in the state.
Written in pencil on the back of the photo :
Papa, Mama, and Ruth, St. Croix [river], 1911

II. Frederic, Year Three

Back at home, I brought up the Frederic potatoes from where they'd wintered in the basement (in a paper bag) and planted them.

Remember Frederic, the potato that'd sprouted in the thrift store when
pandemic & uprising closed store in 2020?
I planted it that summer, and again the next summer, and now there are 

eleven Frederics.
One had grown around a toy lion that was in the paper bag with them, unknown to me.


It's Housemate's backyard garden--I don't like to garden (except symbolically)--and she built a wood box for the potatoes.
She brought a trowel, but it was claimed by the doll Jayne, so the humans dug by hand.

III. Tribbleations & Movie Making

Our Marz is making plans for a new adventure.
Can I say what it is?
Mmmmm.... not yet.
But the girlettes are in on it and yesterday we went to the creek--their favorite spot--and elevated tribbles in prayer that the plans will come to fruition.
(Tribbles provided by bink. They're pussy willow puffs.)

Before Marz goes, whenever that will be, we are going to make a little movie!
I haven't made a live movie in... OMG, can it be since 2009?
I'd been on a roll, making several little live-action films with bink--as Fly Off the Wall Films*.
But I'd gotten so downhearted after I made a hash of A Very Herring Christmas (though saved by bink's adept editing), I stopped.
(I still made Star Trek fan-vids.)

bink, Marz, and I are meeting this evening to talk about our little movie. Marz made up a prompt:
"No. Peaches are not good for you." Said in a Romanian accent.

We've come up with a rough plot:
A young woman splits into two people after eating a peach that has rolled off a train at the grain elevators. [in my neighborhood]
She is reunified by a mysterious woman with multiple eye lenses (bink, inspired by her wonky vision she is still experiencing after being concussed a couple months ago).
But who is this old man with the Romanian accent and peaches? (played by our friend Chanto.)

OK, so that's the start.


*Geez, where even are the films Fly Off the Wall made?
Oh, here:
the best two--the 32-second Peeps Blow Up, and The Disinherited (A Comic Sci-Fi Western) (5 min.--are on Vimeo,
and the others--including my first movie, Orestes and the Fly--(A Tragicomedy with Tapdancing), are
on youtube.