Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where's My Gold Star?

The good news? Today I can officially say I've made it through my first three days at a new job. (A new job!) The bad news? I've only been there three days, which means if I want to make it another week, I shouldn't blog about it -- yet. Don't worry, though, because my friends aren't scared to disclose absurdly hilarious details about their jobs.

I found this email and photo in my inbox yesterday morning:

From: Friend_at_work
Subject: Where's my gold star?

Gooooood morning Megs,

The first thing I hear out of my former boss' mouth this morning is "I'm in meetings from 8 to 4 today."


This phenomenon here at Global Corporation is something I came to realize long ago. All around us, each and every day, meetings take place in conference rooms, offices, common areas restaurants hallwaysbackalleys. Meetings are like the particles in the air we cannot see, but know are there. Like the atoms in our bodies, they control everything we do, but cannot be quantified or realized unless you are one of the privileged enough to attend.

For these reasons, when I am part of one besides my standard monthly check-in department meeting, I make the most of it. I arrive early, pen and notebook in hand, ideas in head, caffeine intravenously injected prior to arrival. When meetings don't accomplish much, I am not happy. Not. Happy.

Unfortunately, here at Global Corporation, the meetings I attend are more often than not an utter waste of my $17/hr time. For example, yesterday we had a meeting to discuss making a poster for a LEAN Project Gallery. Several "LEAN" Projects have been taking place throughout the building to, in essence, make things more efficient. To culminate our successes, upper management has decided we create posters showing off our accomplishments. We'll display them in a Gallery in front of our peers. Welcome back to 5th Grade.

Now, we've had the work finished for weeks and just need to piece the poster together, but for some reason, meeting attendees started circle-jerking each other with phrases like synergy, best practices, wordsmith, value-added, and streamlining processes. After 15 minutes I just asked for a due date. Meeting over.

If they're going to waste my time, I will waste theirs. I spent at least 90 minutes on this poster, finding the perfect pictures, clip art files, fonts, color schemes, and overall layout.

If I'm back in 5th grade, I want my goddamn Gold Star.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Laugh, Breathe, Love, Live

On this Saturday morning, the brand-new sun pours through my open window and soaks my face with its warmth. A delicate breeze tickles my nose and eyelashes, and I invite the essence of the northwest into my lungs. This natural perfume is one of my favorites, as it reminds me that it's not yet spring but not quite winter anymore, either. I'm refreshed. As I roll onto my side, I stare out at the bare branches swaying in rhythm with the wind gusts, and I'm comforted because I know the spaces between the branches will welcome thousands of leaves in just a few weeks. And I'm comforted because I know they'll fall in September. And I'm comforted being home, in my bed, in my room, in the house I grew up in, in a place that I know.

Today I am happy -- with every single part of my life. It's the first time in a long while that I'm not stressed about a job or a living situation or a relationship or my family or finding affordable airfare from SFO to PDX. Everything is perfect, just how I like it. I took things here for granted, and now I appreciate them more than ever.

Here, now, I want to laugh as much as I breathe and love as long as I live.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Coffee Politics

Most of the folks I know are at work all day -- and I'm not. Which is why I ask them to keep me in the loop on their office politics, water cooler chitchat, and corporate scandals involving coffee pot mishaps and spattered, uncleaned microwaves. I want the drama.

Here's today's update:

From: Friend_at_work
Subject: If you kill the joe, you gotta make some mo'!

Each and every day, as the clock takes it's morning stroll past 8am, a group of young men sputter down the hallway, still only half awake from their much needed slumber. They envy babies, retirees, college students, even those of the nation w/o jobs because they can sleep when they want. Still in a hypnagogic state, the men enter the cafeteria, searching for a tasty and effective caffeinated beverage. For a few dollars they can get both. The unlucky ones like me settle with the foul freeworkcoffee that is Roast to Coast.

Sometimes both pots are loaded with enough coffee to give us heart attacks. Most days, however, we find that one or both are empty -- somebody in the office is just too busy at 7:45am to make a new pot when he or she finishes it. After weeks of turning my shoulder while watching others' courtesy and politeness levels dip into the red, I decide to make a sign: "If you kill the joe, you gotta make some mo'! You know this baby!"

I figure this will at least stem the bleeding of my good friend Mike's heart, as he brews pot after pot each morning. But as I go to fill my cup today, I notice the taped sign is gone after only one afternoon in action. On top of this, I watch a frizzy-haired, wide-hipped, glasses-toting lady fill her cup (emptying the pot in the process), and walk away.

So I'm going to make a new sign and put it on her desk. Then I'm going to hire one of these (watch the "My Debut" video):

Until tomorrow,

To: Friend_at_work
Subject: You're at work. And I'm in paradise. (Sucks to be you.)

Paradise Cafe & Bakery in Bridgeport, that is. I'm nibbling on a tasty breakfast croissant sandwich, sipping a latte, listening to the soft yet horribly outdated sounds of Areosmith overhead, and spewing off emails like it's my job. Speaking of jobs, if I didn't have one lined up, I'd totally come to this place on the reg. The sandwiches are huge and delicious, plenty of available outlets line the walls so my dying computer can juice itself, and the coffee is bangin'.

And, now, speaking of coffee, your email is responsible for almost causing a horrendous car accident. I was reading it while zipping down Murray, as I was on my way to the employment office to complete yet another mound of paperwork. (Okay, I guess I'm willing to take some of the blame.) I found myself chuckling -- eyes closed! -- while running yellow lights and swerving in and out of traffic. (Oh, coffee politics!) This didn't scare me, though, because I'm used to this sort of behind-the-wheel excitement.

I really, really hope you have the authority to hire an office linebacker. Let me know how that works out.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Valuable Lesson About Sunshine and Oregonians

Call me a hypocrite, a phony, a liar, whatever you want. Because it’s true.

(You don’t think so?)


Let me explain.

Today, sixty-degree weather and cloudless skies decorate Portland and its surrounding metro areas. Almost as if the man upstairs is giving us a break from winter or something, just for the day, because we’ve been such good kids all week. (This isn’t the reason I’m a straight-up sham, though. That part comes next.)

First of all, in my defense, I didn’t realize these picturesque atmospheric conditions would grace Portland today. Because while I’m unemployed? I’m not watching the news, and I’m sure as hell not mindful of the forecast (although I do still refer to Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira as “Matt and Mer” – and still expect my friends to know who I’m talking about when I say things like “Mer was so great today” – and of course I still call the anchors my "best pals"). These days, I’m sacrificing mornings with my channel-eight buddies to sleep until 10 a.m., chat online for a good portion of the afternoon, spend my savings at Nordy’s, and show up at Portland’s best happy hours. A wise trade? I think so. (Or at least I thought so.)

I didn’t figure we’d catch a glimpse of spring today. But if I'd hung out with Matt and Mer and Al this week? I would've known the weather forecast and wouldn’t have made such a fool of myself this afternoon. (Damn you, Unemployment!) You see, yesterday I haphazardly chose to ridicule the types of girls that dress in sundresses, sandals and shades on the first day the sun peeps through Oregon’s thick clouds. Out of nowhere, I completely went off on these people. And, no, I don’t remember what brought it on. All I know is there wasn't a girl in sight who wore any sort of clothing that evoked summertime. I simply felt the need to express a random irritation. And it's a free country.

“Portlanders are so eager for sunshine that it doesn’t matter if it’s 50 degrees or 70 degrees – they’re in cargo shorts and skirts and sandals and sunglasses! Haha!” I went on like this for a while, with sinister cackles escaping my word hole. As if I don’t place myself right in the dead-center of this category of sad Oregonians.

The part about hypocrisy?

Today, Mr. Sunshine pokes his head through the clouds. The wide blue yonder turns a dazzling sapphire color. A new kind of energy flows through me. I change from jeans and an Arizona State tee-shirt to a purple, cotton sundress. And flip flips. And then I put on my sunglasses and get in my Jeep to take a drive, just for fun, through the gorgeous summer daylight while singing along to 1990s hits by Amy Grant and Ace of Base.

The temperature in the car? Reads fifty-four degrees.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Making of a Monkey Cup

Setting: At home. Doubled over. Latching on to my aching belly and moaning obnoxiously, theatrically. My body is furious, and I don’t blame it. I’ve just devoured a monstrous sandwich in seven minutes flat. (Between the rustic bread slices? Were three kinds of cheese, three thick slices of tomato, two greasy slabs of peppered bacon, mushy avocado, and way, way too much turkey.)

3:25 pm: The wine isn’t helping.

3:34 pm: Special Friend and I decide pottery-painting will be of service to our cramping guts.

3:37 pm: But first we pound the last of our $6.99 cab.

3:41 pm: Inspect my purple teeth, lips and gums in the bathroom mirror.

3:42 pm: Brush teeth to achieve purly whiteness, like the kind in the Crest commercials.

3:44 pm: Still. Purple.

3:45 pm: Hmm. I guess I don’t mind a purple mouth so much.

3:55 pm: Stop by Albertson’s for a six-pack of Mickey’s fine malt liquor. Because why the hell not?

4:13 pm: Arrive at Dipinto A Mano.

4:14 pm: “Is this place even open?” It's rather deserted.

4:15 pm: Grizzled, double-chinned broad welcomes us before we’re through the door.

4:18 pm: Grizzled, double-chinned broad explains the types of paints, types of items to paint, and the many, many painting techniques we might want to try.

4:34 pm: Grizzled, double-chinned broad is still talking about paint.

4:35 pm: I decide I sort of hate people who think they can talk forever about nothing.

4:36 pm: Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

4:38 pm: I interrupt to ask for a pencil so I can start sketching my future masterpiece on a ceramic cereal bowl. And so I don’t fall asleep standing up.

4:39 pm: I don’t care about the type of wax that some pencil and/or led companies are using in their pencils and why that type of wax isn’t optimal for the fire ovens in which our painted crafts will turn into art pieces.

4:41 pm: I decide on paint colors.

4:42 pm: Finally.

4:56 pm: “I’d like a mandrill painted on my coffee mug, please, Special Friend.”

4:57 pm: Special Friend Googles photos of mandrills.

5:11 pm: We practice drawing mandrills and orca whales on scrap paper -- with pens, not pencils, as per the aforementioned wax problem.

5:46 pm: Special Friend is scared shitless to put ink on a clean, white ceramic bowl.

5:47 pm: So he sticks a piece of tape around the top instead. We’re off to a good start.

6:10 pm: Two little girls and their mom enter the store to make something of their own.

6:30 pm: We paint in silence. And in fear. We're really getting into this.

6:57 pm: Mmmm. Mickey’s.

7:20 pm: Paint, drink, sing along to an iPod playlist, one earphone in my ear and one in Special Friend’s.

7:24 pm: Little girls leave after creating artwork that rivals Picasso’s.

7:25 pm: We’re still here. Painting.

7:26 pm: And drinking.

7:32 pm: Special Friend spills a full bowl of water on me and soaks the table. Not sure if it’s an accident or not. We blame it on the Mickey’s.

8:02 pm: Grizzled, double-chinned broad takes our mug and cereal bowl. “Ohhh, what interesting images,” she says while lifting a bushy eyebrow, holding our artwork at arms length to get a better look, and then cocking her head to one side. She shrugs, plopping our creations on the shelf with the others to be fire-glazed.

8:04 pm:
We pay.

8:07 pm: "Did we just spend four hours painting animals on dishes?"

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Homey, Cheesy, Extra-Easy Valentine's Day

I don’t care what the dark hearts of the world say; Valentine’s Day is special. It’s special even if you don’t have a sweetheart to share it with. I’m not a fan of gloomy girls who whine about the coming of February 14th for weeks and then wear black on Valentine’s Day, sulking in their rooms and watching hit tear-jerkers like Dear John, wishing for their own versions of John to share days like Valentine’s Day with. Really, girls? This isn’t what Valentine’s Day is about. It’s only about love if you want it to be. Otherwise, it’s just another day – only pinker. For me, Valentine’s Day is about paper hearts and chocolates and red and white curling ribbon and – when living at home with Mom and Dad – strawberry waffles and mimosas.

This year, my day begins bright and early, at 8 a.m. Mom wakes me for her traditional Valentine’s Day breakfast: homemade, whole wheat waffles topped with sugary strawberries and handmade whipped cream and powdered sugar. Red candies speckle the frothy top of my hot chocolate, which is filled to the brim of a beautiful, white china cup that we use only for special occasions like today. Individually wrapped chocolates sprinkle the dining room table, and even the napkins and place mats and center piece are heart-themed. (When we were kids, Mom used to leave Valentine’s baskets for us outside of our bedroom doors, Easter Bunny style, and then scatter paper hearts down the hallway. We’d follow the heart path until reaching the kitchen, where an explosion of candy and presents awaited us.) (I guess twenty-three-year-old boomerangers are too old for this part, though, because it doesn’t happen this year.)
After scarfing my last bite of sugared berries, I fall into a deep coma. I come to at 11:30 a.m., sprawled across the couch, tangled in a fuzzy white blanket and two obese cats. The breakfast mess has been cleaned, and Mom and Dad lounge in the living room, relaxed, effortlessly finishing The New York Times’ Sunday crossword.

My feet hit the floor and I bound to life.

I splash my cheeks and nose with bronzer, curl my short lashes, and iron my freshly cut, freshly colored mane that clings to my cheeks as a result of my sound mid-morning nap. My Jeep rumbles to life as I turn the key and take off down the quiet, tree-contoured street – the one that has reintroduced eighteen years of memories since I’ve moved back from San Francisco.

I’m meeting a special, longtime friend for a schmaltzy, cheesy afternoon. (Literally.) Our shared love for cheese leads us to Whole Foods, where we stock up on a variety of cheeses that the cheesemonger tells us will be tasty on grilled sandwiches. (I learn that the guy behind this counter at Whole Foods is called a cheesemonger.) (I like to call him a cheese mongrel, because it’s funnier. Just so you know.)

The mongrel lets us sample pieces of elaborate Gruyère and we take our picks and make a b-line for the wine section. A bottle of $6.99 cabernet is today’s winner, and I dump it in the basket along with a loaf of rustic rosemary bread, peppered bacon and turkey, three kinds of cheese, crackers, avocado and tomato. (These sandwiches are so effing good, they’d be painful to read about.) (I'm doing you a favor by moving on.) (You're welcome.)

Next, Special Friend and I spend four hours in Dipinto A Mano, a pottery-painting shop in Lake Oswego. I adorn a cereal bowl for him, and he paints a coffee mug for me. We do this with such precision and accuracy that I’m almost positive the doddery lady who runs the store thinks we have serious psychological and behavioral disorders. (Then again, she doesn’t notice the fine malt liquor we’re guzzling while decorating, which is a main contributor to our conduct.)

(Note: Today at 4 p.m. we get to pick up our masterpieces. I’ll let you know how they turn out.)

Afterward we have a slice of cheesecake. And there has never been a more perfect end to a perfectly cheesy Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Keep Portland Weird

I’ve seen this phrase on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and coffee-cup sleeves. It's materialized multiple times in the last few weeks. When I spot it, read it and recite it to myself, I’m delightfully reminded of Anchorman Ron Burgendy’s sign-off: “You stay classy, San Diego.” This prompts my blurting (to no one in particular), “You stay weird, Portland.” (And then I throw my head back in a boisterous chuckle, a little too proud of my cleverness, and strangers stare at me. But that’s beside the point.)

The slogan exists for a reason. There are plenty of weird venues in the Rose City. (And plenty of weird people, although I haven’t yet encountered the types of weirdos that exist in San Francisco. But thanks to Jenn’s daily “SF Sightings” – which could be an entire blog in itself – I’m keeping up on the day-to-day activities of the city's schizophrenics.)

Anyway, one of the quirkiest places I’ve been so far is The Kennedy School, an elementary-school-cum-pub-and-movie-theater. Actually, the ex-schoolhouse harbors three or four bars and breweries, a restaurant, a movie theater, a soaking pool (which is just a creepy name for a hot tub, I’ve learned), onsite shopping (no need to get excited, trust me), and a hotel – in case you get too drunk at the pubs and can't drive home or something. I’m not exactly sure of the thought process behind the hotel origination.

In any case, I begin my night at the McMenamins, in the titanic room where hundreds of kids used to eat their mashed potatoes and start food fights and steal their classmates’ lunch money, dangling their peers by their heels, upside down, and shaking them until quarters and dimes fall from their pockets, like they do in the movies. (At least this is what comes to mind when I enter the ancient lunchroom.) It’s a strange feeling, sipping beer and dining in an old cafeteria where some of our country’s sixty-year-olds used to steal lunch money.

On my way in, I snatch a kids’ menu and a cup of castoff crayons. (Since being unemployed and living with my parents, I’ve reverted to a much, much younger version of myself. I color quite often. I own a coloring book and colored pencils, even.) (Yes, I understand exactly how loopy this sounds.) (You’re just jealous.)

The waiter gawks at me while I flop into the corner booth and slowly, meticulously, outline a donkey’s head and tail and then shade it in lightly, careful not to mark outside the lines with my green crayon.

After gobbling a pizza the size of my body, I pay and stomp out into the vacant hallway, my stilettos click-clacking on the marble floors that children of the 1950s once swarmed. Paintings of queens of hearts and kings of diamonds line the walls outside the restaurant; they’re reminiscent of characters from Alice in Wonderland. (Point? They’re weird.) But later I find out the schoolhouse-turned-McMenamins prides itself on its nightmare-provoking artwork.

(See what I mean by nightmare-provoking?)

(A queen of sorts, in a place just as creepy as Wonderland.)

(A lion? A tiger? A bear? Who the hell knows?)

(A cat. About to eat a whipped-cream-and-bee encrusted slice of pie. And then turn into a zombie and haunt me in my sleep.)

I study the paintings for awhile before I regain consciousness and find myself quivering in an empty hallway. I decide it’s time to get the hell out of there – and that Portland is, in fact, weird.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fond Farewell at Americano

A colossal orange shopping bag dangles at Maijken’s side, the words "Kate Spade" looped across the front. I don’t notice she’s been carrying it five blocks. With her left arm, she swings it in rhythm with her purse and the other totes that she lugs to the office with her every day.

It’s 5:30 p.m., twilight. The January breeze plays with our hair, which we sprayed to perfection just moments ago in the lobby at Luxury Condo. Maijken and I wander from work to a bar called Americano, where we’re joining a group of friends and coworkers for jazzy martinis and cheese and other delicacies that are slightly too posh for our tastes, but we’re not footing the bill so we don’t care. Our conversation is chirpy and weightless, despite the fact that we know it’ll be our last – in person, at least – for a long while. Each day since I moved to the city, we’ve made a point of congregating to dish the dirt on everything from Maijken’s job to my sisters to the bimbos on The Bachelor to in-vogue nail polish colors.

In the pit of my stomach, at this moment, I’m inconsolable. I haven’t had to leave a best friend since childhood. I nod along to Maijken’s words as they descend into unintelligibility under the roar of traffic.

In two days I’ll be home, where I’ll cook dinners with my mom and shoot the breeze with my dad – using brainless lines from Tina Faye flicks like Mean Girls and Baby Mama in my dialogue – and play unorthodox versions of Scrabble with my sisters and rub my cats’ bellies, and I will be part of a family again.

Until then, I am here, bidding adieu to a different kind of family.

Dim lights splash the low, wooden tables and leather couches that line the circular bar as we enter. A few of my favorite folks from Luxury Condo have arrived, and we greet them at one of the empty tables while ordering our first round of drinks. After the second vodka-something, I’m alive and tap dancing for the herds of people who trickle in to say farewell. I see almost everyone I know.

“Here, Megs,” Maijken reaches for the king-sized Kate Spade bag she’s been carrying all night. I still haven’t noticed it. “This is for you,” she says, trading me my drink for the bag, allowing me free hands to dig for the bag's contents.

Surprised but pleased, I fight for breath. “For me?” I repeat, like I’m a toddler just learning to speak. I didn’t expect a gift. Hugs, kisses, tears, and an open bar, yes. But a gift? Definitely not. I reach inside the bright orange bag, tear open an envelope that houses a Hallmark card, and pore over the notes scrawled inside. I stand for a moment, absorbed. Strings cinch tight around my aching heart.

My bottom lip quivers and escapes, folding over to expose the inside of my mouth and a miserable frown. Someone pushes it back in place. I laugh.

The gift is a Kate Spade computer bag, in which I’m supposed to store my MacBook when transporting it to and from groovy Portland coffee shops, where my friends say I should go to perfect my resume and send applications, to write blog posts, and to begin the next great American novel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Well Hello There, February

Where has January gone? Doesn't it seem like just yesterday we were chugging champagne and shouting "Happy New Year!" between kisses at midnight?

February is off to a great start. I have no idea whether Mr. Groundhog saw his shadow or not, because I have not one but two interviews this afternoon. Yay! The bad news is I'm running on five hours of sleep. And to top it off, I'm as sick as a dog! As raspy as a horse! I'm downing bottles of H2O mixed with Airborne every chance I get. (Yesterday, someone called this drink Watairborne -- and then The Borne Suprwatercy. I like #2.) (On a more serious note, does anyone know how much is too much when it comes to Watairborne? And vitamins? And what about potassium-packed bananas? Because I ate three yesterday.)

Sorry for the short post, but I'm off to the next interview. Thanks to all of you who emailed me to say, "It sounds like you need some ideas." (Ouch!) Seriously, though, thanks for the ideas! I now have a substantial list of things to do and places to visit in Portland -- and it's all for your bleading pleasure.

Ta ta for now.