Kathryn Lively, Writer

6 Days Since Last Accident

I Wanna Go Where It’s Warm

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TL;DR: Ranty rant.

This is the fifth day in two weeks the kidlet has missed school due to inclement weather. This afternoon we received a call that tomorrow is a snow day. Very likely Friday is, too. Seven days in two weeks with no school, not counting the past holiday.

Husband has seen his schedule adjusted, people in this town can’t drive in slush, and I – a person who works from home – am wrapped in a terry robe and a Snuggie and am still cold. Also distracted. Because people. In my house. Who aren’t at work and school.

When situations like this arise, I try to view things from other angles. I’m fortunate to work at home because I don’t have to commute in this sludge and I don’t have to pay a sitter. We’re fortunate to have a place to live. We have it better than some. We live in the South. Where it’s supposed to be warm.

Why the hell isn’t it warm? WHAT THE HELL, MAN?

via Tumblr

via Tumblr

I’m originally from Florida. I spent the first half of my life there, but as I grow older I imagine that fraction of my time will shrink as the remainder of my years are spent elsewhere. I hope it doesn’t end that way. Long ago I accepted that I will probably not retire. Writers don’t retire, and I’m not the type to leave a to-do list completely checked. Given my current position, and the hope it doesn’t change, I like to think I could work anywhere in the world. Florida? Sounds nice.

I shouldn’t miss Florida now, considering what one expects to hear about happenings in my native state. A headline begins with Florida Man… and you click knowing the news will involve either the theft of an 18-wheeler full of tampons or a penis caught in the suction tube of a bank drive-thru. To believe social media, we perceive Florida as the national joke – the Lord’s waiting room, America’s dangly bit.

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It’s more than that – there’s nature and good people, art and good food. I’d like spend my twilight years there, near the coast, and if I’m estimating correctly when I die I’ll have missed the inevitable sinking when global warming really hits hard.

I’ve dreamed of finding a small house in St. Augustine, within walking distance of the Salcedo Kitchen for my daily empanada and Coke. I’d walk the beach by day and write in the afternoon, maybe form my own round table at some pier bar and entertain tourists…when my attention isn’t focused on a wall of HD monitors showing Tony Stewart’s grandson wrecking Dale the Third at Talladega.

I want to celebrate holidays with my side of the family again. When you marry an only child, you tend to default to his/her side. I love them, but they live where it’s cold. I miss the crowded Thanksgivings in Fort Pierce, when we could wear shorts and enjoy the condo pool before dinner.

I want to buy an annual pass to EPCOT so I can drink around the world once a month with friends. I want to ride the boats at the Mexican pavilion non-stop and drink twenty-dollar tequila shots. Dare I say it, that’s where I want them to find my body.

I miss the Florida heat, even in the triple digits. Florida heat has a sound. It envelops you in a sticky film that doesn’t bubble and streak with your sweat. It’s glorious and I want it here so I don’t have to live another day in this damn cold.

The other day my friend, farther north than me, lamented the worse weather they’re suffering. He wants to move south, but his idea of south is Jersey. I’ll be kind to New Jersey because we’ve all had it rough so far.

My ringtone is Rush’s “YYZ,” which I now associate with bad weather for all the snow day calls I get. I hear it go off one more time, I’m packing a bag. Shorts.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

What Made Me Happy This Week – I

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After reading my last few blog posts, I worry a newcomer will assume I am three shots away from finishing a fifth and taking a hostage. In general I am a content person, mild-mannered and attempting to live rather than have the world consume me. Things get me down, of course, and with Lent underway I decided to approach the season differently. I don’t give up meat/chocolate/booze/[REDACTED] anymore. It lasts a week and my butt slides off the wagon and into the mud puddle. This year I want to focus on things that bring a smile to my face, things other people might like, too.

If you don’t, enjoy your Friday fish sticks. Whatever gets you to Easter.

1) Sleater-Kinney – A New Wave

(h/t to @ThatsAGirlsCar for retweeting what got me to this video.) I’m not sure how I missed Sleater-Kinney the first time around. I lived in Athens during the big 90s indie rock, post-Cobain boom. Maybe The Breeders and Luscious Jackson got in the way. Well, better late than never, and I’m up for anything with the Tina Belcher seal of approval. I’m currently enjoying their newest, No Cities To Love.

2) Inappropriate Cross Stitch

I wish I could crochet properly. I can’t get past the first chain and I envy anybody who can. Cross stitchers, too. I long for your patience and keen eyesight, for I’ve lost both. A fellow Trout Nation board dweller created these beauties. I could envision my walls covered in them.

3) The Last American Vampire – (ARe / AMZ / BN / KOBO)

(From my Goodreads review) Henry Sturges is a vampire created during the first English settlement of the New World, and his life is a “Forrest Gump”-style panorama of adventures, in that he connects with many of the noted people in their respective eras. We find a few of history’s greatest mysteries and tragedies are actually attributed to vampire involvement.

I liked Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, but I think I enjoyed this book more because with the expanded time gaps there’s more to do. When you discover Henry’s prime nemesis it’s rather clever how that ties into specific events. It’s a horror in the gory sense, though. Some very bloody scenes.

4) Adult Wednesday Addams

(discovered via Mara Wilson‘s Twitter) Wednesday deserved a spin-off. Always. For all of H’wood’s love of remaking and rebooting and recycling, I can’t believe a sitcom about Wednesday in college or Wednesday in suburbia never got the pilot treatment. Friggin’ Tabitha from Bewitched got a series. It only makes sense.  Good thing Melissa Hunter is helping fill this need. If you like it, go help her out via Patreon.

5) Kate Pierson has a solo album!

In elementary school I wanted to be President when I grew up. In college I changed my answer to Kate Pierson.  Given either option now, I’m still going with the latter. We may not completely align in terms of certain beliefs, but if can reach 66 and still rock and look incredible… I had a listen of Guitars & Microphones and love. One day I’ll get my ass to a show, solo or with whichever B’s are still touring.

~

 

 

Would You Like Dignity With That?

I saw today where Wal-Mart plans to boost their minimum wage to benefit half a million employees. It doesn’t seem like a large increase, but it’s a step forward. I don’t shop at WM, but I like the idea that people who work hard for the money and put up with assorted crap may receive it. I’m following the fight among fast food workers for a decent pay increase with greater interest, because I’ve been there. I never expected to work in that industry for much of my life but in the darkest of times, when the economy did me no favors, I pondered the possibility. Once following a post-9/11 layoff from a major media corporation (great benefits, company credit card, poof) I had a few applications in hand before the phone call from Gainful Employer came. I mopped my brow with one, relieved.

I’ve read many arguments against livable wages for retail and fast food employees, the most  common being the idea of the McJob as a starter. You’re a teenager with no experience and need that line on the resume to move forward. You don’t intend to stay in the drive-thru booth into your forties, right? It’s not a career unless you hop on the management/executive track. It’s a job where people put food in a bag and hand it to other people through a window. Is that really worth $15 an hour?

If that job is all that sustains you and your family, I’d say yes. I’ve served time on the passing side of that window, and in my experience the job required skills. You’re handling food, or money, and you’re required to get all the totals correct while moving along a never-ending line of hungry, cranky people at a decent clip. You’re keeping an establishment clean so people eating that food won’t get sick and die on your watch.

I worked at McDonald’s from 1988 to about 1993, high school through college. I took the job initially to pay for a school trip to Mexico, and stayed because there were few opportunities elsewhere that offered a flexible schedule while I worked on my degree. Where I lived, too, there were no offices that needed receptionists and the ones that hired weren’t willing to give a high school graduate with B grades in typing a break. I couldn’t work as a waitress as a minor because I couldn’t serve alcohol. No Internet existed for me to hang up a virtual assistant shingle and send tweets on behalf of plumbers and pet stores.

Mind you, I had other choices. Burger King, Rally’s, KFC, etc. I stayed at the McJob by virtue of proximity to home. First thing I learned about the McJob: you put on the uniform and the customers automatically assume you have a double-digit IQ or lower, and if you’re the quiet sort your co-workers and supervisors assume you’re a pushover and dump all the downtime work on you.

Kathryn, go restock all the drink and condiment stations while I take a travel path. The “travel path” is a store-wide inspection of the grounds to check for problem areas. For some of our managers, it was an excuse to indulge in a thirty-minute cigarette break. If you were a favored employee, you got to tag along and gossip while Kathryn restocked all the drink and condiment stations.

I worked weekends during the school year and full-time in the summer, typically during the breakfast shift where I woke up at 4AM and went to bed at 8PM. It put a huge strain on my social life. I started at $3.25/hour, and I can’t remember where I ended – close to $5 if not a bit over. The restaurant was located across the street from my high school and close to an interstate off-ramp, so it was damn busy seven days a week. When the high school hosted Battle of the Bands…oh, FML.

 

In the five years I worked at two different McLocations, I put up with sexual harassment from co-workers, I was assaulted by an irate customer who waited too long for his Egg McMuffin, and once when I asked a customer to clarify his order he shouted at me and reduced me to tears. I understand people get stressed and may lash out an inappropriate moments, but if you’re the type of person who finds pleasure in belittling a  human being who wants to ensure your order is correct, you are an asshole.

On one particularly busy day, with customers lining all four registers, each six people deep in line and waiting to order, a man approached me with a threatening gesture. “Get back there and get busy!” he hollered at me. I was there to relieve the morning drive-thru cashier, like I could have helped him. Another time while leaving at the end of a night shift, two customers dissatisfied with their food waited over an hour for my shift to end to confront me in the parking lot. Memories of that last incident are fuzzy, but as the quiet type I always did my best to McSmile and treat people decently. Again, it’s the uniform, the striped button-down shirt and the visor with the bright yellow M that might as well stand for MASOCHIST, that inspires vitriol.

On top of this, the first McLocation was situated near a low-income neighborhood where the drug deals occasionally spilled into our back parking lot. There’s me hanging out an open window collecting money. Thankfully I never worked on the few occasions that store was robbed.

Sometimes during weekend shifts I would put in eight hours on a Sunday, go home and scrub away the stench of animal tallow and reconstituted onions, then come back the next Saturday to find a whole new crew of people working. Turnover was nuts, but when you consider the minimum wage at the time are you surprised? A good number of employees at this location were Navy wives and recently emigrated Mexicans, some of whom couldn’t speak a lick of English. There were others like me, teenagers saving up for mad money and tuition and such, but most of the people I worked with were there to pay rent and bills.

Some of those people who worked full-time would put in eight hours at McD’s, clock out and change into a Rally’s or KFC uniform, and walk across the street to their next job. Grandmothers worked morning shifts. People with three roommates.  I rode a bicycle to work because it didn’t make sense to drive a short distance, but a lot of my co-workers took a bus or walked to avoid extra expenses.

My exposure to all this is partly what kept my nose in the textbooks. I should also add in the five years I worked there I watched the company cut corners to improve “efficiency” and it may have saved them money, but I personally didn’t see much of a pay increase.

We could say, “Well, these people should have done better in school, or used a condom, or did this or did that and their lives would be better.” It’s not always a guarantee. I go to Buzzfeed and see slideshows of homeless people who once competed in the Olympics and/or worked in nuclear physics. After earning my degree and landing Awesome Job I still got into financial trouble after the aforementioned layoff. I worked with many people in this time, and you know what? They all deserved a living wage.

Perhaps if these companies upped the wages they wouldn’t see so much employee turnover, and maybe morale would be higher. McDonald’s in particular is changing their image. They’re moving away from the clown mascots and trying to compete with Panera Bread and the “fast casual” heavy hitters, because those restaurants are cutting into their market. That will be challenging to accomplish if you could care less about the people who work for you, who in turn don’t give a shit about their jobs.

Every time I pass a McDonald’s, it’s busy. There’s money being made, why not share the McLove?

Photo from FreeImages

Fandom is Magic

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I fret often as a mother. I’ve been at this gig for a decade and thankfully nobody in a suit has come knocking on our door. I agonize over little things, like why hasn’t she mastered the waffle iron yet, and does she know our phone number in case something happens?  I wish I could remember what I knew at her age, and gauge if she’s on track, or perhaps if I was a bit behind growing up.

I knew long ago she’d set herself apart from the herd. You won’t hear Taylor Swift or Iggy Azthma, or whoever the hell she is, on our radio. She may well be the only girl in her class to have seen Rush live, and to tell apart everybody in Led Zeppelin. She doesn’t watch TV, and when she does it’s Love It or List It or The Property Brothers. She loves to read and play video games and can make her own sandwiches, and still I wonder if that’s enough.

I’m at the point in my life where I could care less what other people think of my interests, but she’s about to enter the prime Mean Girl Period where peers pick you apart for every little thing. I suffered plenty in parochial school, and such bullshit get amplified thanks to social media. Had Facebook and Twitter existed thirty years ago, I’m sure I’d have received nasty messages and such, simply for existing. I want to her to enjoy what she enjoys without having some insecure twerp shame her for it. People ribbed me in high school for listening to the Beatles, while they were into metal, which always struck me as odd because many of their favorite groups evolved because of the Beatles.

She doesn’t need that. Nothing’s happened yet, but I’ll always worry, and study the work of George Hayduke in the event I need to exact some justice on some nasty tweens.

Back on topic, she likes a variety of fandoms. Her room is a trove of Monster High, Wimpy Kid, and My Little Pony paraphernalia. The ponies take precedent now, so much that she’d begged me to take her to a fan con. I conceded to a recent MLP convention on the stipulation that she make honor roll, and she held up her end of the deal. For my part I drove a total of sixteen hours to and from New York, and froze my ass off on a train to get her there.

Once at the venue, her eyes lit up. We saw people of all ages – many in costume, more in T-shirts – lots of us huddled in line awaiting our lanyards. I’ve been to a number of general SFF cons, but this was my first one that concentrated on a specific fandom. I knew to expect “Bronies” and older fans, but I also saw boys and girls my daughter’s age connecting over favorite characters and cartoon episodes. We attended a Q&A for a voice actress, participated in trivia, and mainly people/pony watched.

While I’m not into MLP myself, she and I share things in common with it. John De Lancie voices a character, and I’ve been a fan of his since Days of Our Lives (he wasn’t in attendance, though, maybe next time). Weird Al Yankovic voiced a pony once, and his character was well repped. There’s some Doctor Who crossover with the fandom, too, and I think she takes advantage of that when she wants me to buy her something.

I think what I liked best about this convention was the overall tone of the community – an outsider might glance and find it odd to see a guy in rainbow tresses and wings, but you know what – he’s a nice guy. He could be a doctor for all I know, or maybe he lives in his parents’ basement and codes for a living.  It doesn’t matter; he seemed law-abiding to me.

We met many nice people here, and it refreshing to be surrounded by such positive vibes in a world where we tend to run into assholes more often. I don’t excuse myself here. I’ve figuratively shown my ass on plenty of occasions. Lessons from a cartoon might help me to check myself on days I want to rage.

I don’t know if we’ll get to another MLP-centric con. We will certainly look into attending general comic and culture events. The cosplay bug her bit hard, and thankfully I know people who can advise us there. She could lose interest by next year and move on to something else, it’s hard to say. I don’t mind the ponies so much, and if there’s a way to parlay her interest into a Ph.D. and a lucrative career in something, I’m all for  it.

Photo by JM.

Books That Rock – Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain by Alan Light

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Buy Let’s Go Crazy (OMNI / AMZ / BN / KOBO)

If I ever questioned the existence of God during my time in Catholic school, I might have considered one event in the fall of 1984 the miracle that erased all doubts, when my mother granted me permission to go see Purple Rain. The movie had released that summer, music from soundtrack circulated heavily on the radio and MTV, and as I entered the eighth grade it seemed the only goal many of us held beyond graduating and leaving Sacred Heart was seeing this movie. Months after its debut, the film was held over at several theaters in town, and now that we were thirteen and taking a health class surely we were mature enough to sit through an R-rated film with the proper supervision.

A small circle of friends had secured a chaperone and a ride to a twilight show after school. Looking back, I’m still amazed my mother consented. At this point we were still switching from MTV to WGN every time she walked into the den, so the idea that she’d let me watch a movie about Prince, who at the time made (insert Kardashian here) look like Mary Poppins, equated to a pipe dream.

I’d like to write here about how I went to see this movie, still wearing my plaid jumper and crossing my legs tightly and expecting to lose some degree of mind virginity. I’d like to tell you about the urban legends friends concocted about this slice of forbidden purple fruit – like how Prince would perform live shows in the nude and simulate sex acts onstage – and wondering what we’d see in the final cut of this film. How hearing his music for the first time as presented in this movie shaped me into the person I am today.

Well, I didn’t go. Of the four or five girls set to see the movie, I was the only one on the school’s basketball team. Though we’d set a date on which I didn’t have practice, Coach decided to hold an extra one to prepare for an upcoming game. Coach rarely started me, and I suspected he didn’t like me and only kept me on the team to mess with my head. I wanted to blow off practice, but he and my mother laid on the “you made a commitment to the team” guilt trip, and though I went to practice like a good girl he didn’t start me at that game.

Damn, amazing how certain things trigger bad memories. I haven’t reviewed this book yet, and I feel as though I should send the author my therapy bill. You should buy it so he can afford it.

21942928We can argue whether or not Purple Rain remains the pinnacle of Prince’s lengthy career, but in a short period of time when a handful of performers took that step from gold record to legend (Springteen, Madonna, Michael Jackson), Prince seemed destined to fill out that musical Rushmore. In 1984 he simultaneously had the top film, album and single in the nation, and I don’t know if that feat’s been matched. Maybe in the UK with the Spice Girls, but likely not here.

Author Light was one of the few journalists with access to Prince in the 80s and 90s. Though Prince contributed nothing new to this book, Light includes archived sound bytes and new insight from former members of The Revolution, Questlove (who taught a course on Prince’s music at NYU), and others involved in the film’s production. The story of how Purple Rain the film came to be greenlit, and how Prince convinced his entourage of musicians to come into this medium with no acting experience could make for an equally interesting, if not more dramatic, film. When you peel away the aloof exterior (gossip at the time pegged Prince at various points on the egotistic spectrum, from mysterious to cold-as-stone to unprintable) you find a performer determined to work twenty-fours without sleep if it means expanding his reach beyond R&B radio, where record labels seemed content to place him. That he succeeded in negotiating a movie deal in tandem with new music speaks for his determination and savvy, and for the good insight of certain people in the industry.

Light tells the story well in Let’s Go Crazy – it’s not a lengthy book but the cast and crew only had so such time to film. Purple Rain takes much of the focus in this microhistory of the 80s music scene and even clarifies a few misconceptions of Prince’s character (read: the “We Are the World” debacle). I do take off a few points for the instances where Light injects personal bias into the story. Light admits his admiration and fan status, but in a few places the book treads into memoir territory, and that might turn off a few people. Other than that, I liked this book for its nostalgia value (though I feel pangs for reaching an age where I can be nostalgic about anything), and one of these days I’ll get to see the movie on the big screen as intended.

 

 

 

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