Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bananas, These People, and the Moon

I heard it last Saturday. I was going over to the banana counter in the produce section of Piggly Wiggly the other day, and a lady was huddled over the bananas.  I heard a terrible cracking and ripping sound. She was secretly breaking up the banana bunches, so she could take home only the best of the bananas, leaving the bent ones for the likes of me.  I really don't appreciate people ripping up my food - why not just take life the way it comes? Of course, she may be part babboon; from the looks of her, I'd say . . . but what do I know from species?  I like the way they do it at Aldi. Each bunch of bananas in its own plastic bag - no babboonery allowed. But, Piggly Wiggly is trying to cater to These People.

When I first moved into this area, it was primarily older Polish heritage people in quiet old businesses - dry cleaners, tire stores, appliance parts, a cabinet shop, Tru-Valu hardware store, etc. There was a building on a large lot that used to be a gas station, presided over by Karl Behr (almost his name), called Karl's South Shore Fruit.  He sold fruit and rented U-Hauls.  I rented a U-Haul from him when I moved in to Bay View.  He had good fruit, at reasonable prices.  But then there was what most people went there for -- to talk to Karl.  He had interesting stories about the neighborhood.  The police chief would hang around during some of his off hours, so there was always some interesting inside tidbit of info on local news stories.

And, being new to the neighborhood.  Karl felt obligated to tell me what it was really like.  "These People", he called my neighbors. "These People, he confided, will shop all morning for a banana. Just look at that!" he said, pointing to a banana box at the fruit counter.  An entire box of completely single bananas. He had to mark them down, of course, and then they'd sell by the bag full, because "These People are Cheap Bastards"

And, here's an update on yesterday's foray into the Cellulose Plains - Above the Ceiling. All installed - a new moon rises over Alana Women's Apparel. Illuminated by a mercury-infested compact fluorescent, this 24-watt beauty will now show the ladies how good they really look in fashions from Alana. Of course, I'm a bit prejudiced, but, they keep comin' back!

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's Going ON Up There?

I heard a noise.  Before I even went outside, something was running.  A revved engine whirring. I thought it was the city finally come to remove the leaves from our treeless gutters.  Nooo -- nothing is that simple.  I looked across the street, and there was a ladder leading to the roof of my building.  The noise came from a generator in the truck.  This is usually the sign of some plumbing emergency or some other nastiness. Closer inspection - thick rubber hoses going into the front door of the Chinese restaurant. It was a vent-hood maintenance crew.  Still they should have notified us, or maybe they did - not too good with the English, usually unless something is pouring down from the ceiling. So it wasn't really an emergency.

I saw a movie about such phenomena the other night.  How could have I have missed it the first time around - it has Jim Broadbent, John  Goodman, and Hugh Laurie in  it - three of my favorite actors.  Based on a true story, it's about families of tiny people about four inches tall that live in the walls and under the floorboards of homes, and they take little things as they need to, just to get by, you know.  It's a 1997 movie called The Borrowers and it was a fun night.  I'd recommend it.
Actually, I'm just putting off starting a nasty job up there.  We need a new light fixture installed for the dressing room of my wife's dress shoppe. 

This installation will take place up there in the Fiberglass Plains, where screaming doesn't matter.  Perhaps I can get some of the little guys to help me out up there...

See ya later!

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dum Dum TaDum

And so this morning as we begin our 61st year of Life on Earth, the first accumulating snow of the season is beginning on Kinnickinnic Avenue.  The first snow always smells so wonderful. 

I swept off the sidewalks, and came over to the store for some coffee and email.  I put on the media player, letting the randomizer choose what to play, and whaddya suppose the old Random Number Generator chose to play to wish me "Happy Birthday"?  Dum Dum TaDum Dum TaDum Tadum Tadum...... Chopin's Piano Sonata Number 2, known  commonly as the Chopin's Funeral March. Oookey Dokey, let's go with that.  I would have preferred "Optimistic Voices" from the Wizard of Oz telling me to "Step into the Sun - Step Into the Light!"  but sometimes you gotta play the hand you're dealt.

Here's a link to a very emotional performance of the work.
For those not familiar with the piece, the obstinate plodding of the funeral procession pauses in the middle (at about 2:40 on the above performance) and there is one of the most beautiful, peaceful passages in all of classical music - a momentary lull, a pause from the relentless necessity of it all, and a loving look at the beauty of the moment. A fermata, a rubato moment, letting each note resonate its beauty against a background of soft black silence. And then, just as in real life, the relentless procession resumes.

So, now, the snow has decided to change from a broom thing to a shovel thing, and the Janitor has to get back to work.

"You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place
On the face of the earth or the sky
Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate and bid it open" (E.Y.Harburg)

 Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Valley of the Shadow

While I'm waiting for my next assignment.from the agency (please, PLEASE hire this 61-year-old codger!), I found some notes I took while on an interesting assignment I worked on earlier this year.

It was just supposed to be a six-week assignment, but it ran more than 7 months, filling in and catching up the work until the already-hired permanent worker took over. An office administrator in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, (not the real name) an organization that handles organ and tissue donations. And we're not talking Wurlitzers and Kleenex, here.  I work with medical, scientific and instructional data, trauma cases, distressed families, and emergency workers.  I produced, for example, training manuals, compiled data reports which I extracted from medical charts, and mail-merge projects for donor families and promotional events. My lifetime of self-taught computer training paid off in a big way. Things I used to look forward to doing on other jobs were the things I now did routinely.

My office was a huge 16 x 16 cubicle in a corporate headquarters office complex. All the things that matter in office life, such as an electric stapler, my own computer with a flat-screen monitor, scanner/fax/laser printer and a big stack of Posty-notes - all the colors of the rainbow -  all there!  One wall of the office is a row of 8-ft high picture windows, overlooking a corporate version of a mini-marsh, complete with cat-tails and red-wing blackbirds.  It was such a very peaceful place to work.   My co-workers were all very pleasant to work with, and just as I suspected, as soon as I learned all of their names, I was re-assigned again by the agency.  Since the organization is on-call 24 hours a day, there are probably still people who work there that I've never met.

At any rate, I made lots of new friends, and at the end of the 7-months, they even held a good-bye pizza lunch for me in the conference room.  I'm confident that during my stay I made the agency look good, and used my bag of Excel tricks to perform my duties to the highest standard of standardness. .....And then I became a software tester for an office downtown.... That's why we're called Office Temporaries - an elite strike force that moves in and Gets the Job Done!

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ARRRR! A Tale of Pirate Treasure

In the late 1990s, Robert Kohl brought in a trunk, an old steamer trunk, that he thought we might be able to use in one of our theater productions.  Robert Kohl was a one-of-a-kind eccentric with a heart of gold.  He was always finding things "curbside" as he called it - his favorite shopping center.  Over the years we had to throw away hundreds of items which were not suitable - we never, for example had a play which required three aluminum-frame high chairs with ripped up upholstery.  But, then, he brought us lots of pieces that did indeed make it into our plays. One play set was built of SEVENTEEN hollow-core doors, painted and purposed to many uses, from fireplaces to walls,to magical clocks that came alive after midnight.  But, back to the steamer trunk. It was a beautiful arch-top wardrobe, with brass and canvas-covered metal construction, and beautiful antique brass locks. 

Only one problem, with the trunk - it was locked. Try as we might, we couldn't pick the lock.  And, when you tipped the trunk on its side, something inside shifted.  There was something inside that trunk, but we refused to resort to violence which would ruin the beautiful exterior.
The trunk had been in actual use - it was covered with tags glued on in a bygone gilded age.  The trunk had more travel experience than many of us would ever accumulate in a lifetime. Steamships and hotels had passed this trunk through, carrying who knows what?  And what - exactly WHAT was shifting inside when the trunk was moved???

A mysterious inscription "C.R. Holty" - No amount of googling could turn up a train or ship by the name of "C.R.Holty".  
From time to time over the years, my curiosity would get the best of me, and I'd give it another shake. It moved around the building from year to year. Then, I took it to a locksmith.  After two hours and $30.00, he couldn't get it open, either. So, back down into the basement it went, in the coal bin.  (see picture at top).  

After the theater group dissolved in 2003, we had occasional rummage sales, and we tried for years to unload this mysterious trunk on some like-minded adventure-hunter. We sold the trunk at a silent auction once, but the winner and the first runner-up never came back to claim it.

Then, in 2013, we got a call from Superior, WI.  A lady who had seen the trunk at the silent auction was wondering what ever was discovered in the trunk by the winner of the auction. She was delighted to find that the trunk remained unclaimed and unopened. She immediately made arrangements to purchase and pick up the trunk, and she agreed to abide by our restrictions - do not force the trunk open, damaging the locks - and, we'd like to know what you found in the trunk, although we lay no claim to the contents. This would have been hard to bear had the trunk been full of money or ancient stock certificates entitling the bearer to 40% of General Electric. She agreed, and one day, she and a friend came to the studio to pick it up.  Seeing the old familiar trunk going down the road gave me a strange feeling. We had been together for over twenty years, and she still held her secrets.

This morning, I received a letter from Mary. Included were photographs of the open trunk, and a description of what was inside.  She had even found out who "C.R.Holty" is - it was the owner of the traveling trunk, an American impressionist artist.

And we finally found out what had been shifting around in there all these years - a classic library of 1970s-era best-seller titles. 

And a movable hanger track to keep the suits from getting wrinkled.  And drawers.  It was a such an unexpected pleasure for her to include us in the discovery.  I'm so fortunate that the trunk finally found a new home it deserves.

Happy Thanksgiving.  We give special thanks for the kindred spirits who pop into our lives from time to time, to share the ever-abundant wonder of it all.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Last Day of Work (Again)

The Last Day of Work.   For the "30-year man" of the bygone era, it meant a retirement reception, gold watch, and a sheet cake with your name on it. 

But for the office temporary worker, the Last Day of Work happens a few times a year.  The assignment ends, and you either start at the next assignment, usually the following week, or you file for unemployment, ensure continuation of your minimal (soon to be illegal) health insurance, and wait for the next job.

Personally, it's a time to catch up on all the accumulated projects on our rental units, painting, repairing, changing furnace filters, deep-cleaning, fire code upgrades, etc. etc.   In other words, no time for vacation.  As Colonel Sanders used to say "Time to Lean is Time to Clean".  

But the last day on an assignment, that's time for a little celebration.  My last assignment was cleaning up a backlog of data reporting for an industrial laundry.  I worked for someone I consider my equal in Excel.  She would throw me challenges, leaving out details just to see if I could fill them in.  I always rose to the occasion.  And the other people working in the plant were very friendly and accommodating.  But, as the permanent candidate is scheduled to move in next week, they bid me "adieu" yesterday.  

The job was in Cudahy, a city desperately fighting to pull itself out of the rust-belt category. There are vacant boarded-up buildings, overhead wiring and cables hang from leaning wooden poles, storefronts that are now residential, and it seems like it's always cloudy there.  

And yesterday afternoon, after work was done, I headed out into the late-afternoon Fall sunlight, got into my mini-van and headed down the road. The music randomizer chose "Ripple" by the Grateful Dead, a rather appropriate number for moving on. (LINK BELOW) Nothing scheduled for the rest of my life.  Oh, freedom! I stopped at Super America for gasoline and oatmeal cookies.  The late-afternoon sun slanted in through the windows, giving everyone a larger-than-life warmth.  Something about that late-afternoon sun in fall and winter.  It points out things around us that we may not have noticed. Even the filthy hippie in front of me in the line had an angelic glow. 

So, if you need me, knock on the window of the old Dry Cleaner's. I don't have a cell phone, and I've got lots of painting to do before the next assignment comes in.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.