Monday, November 24, 2014

Imagine This

Walking through Central Park the other night, I was all but chased down (if you’re ever walking around, minding your own business, earbuds firmly in place, music at full volume, it guarantees you nothing – anybody desperately wanting to talk to you will move hell and earth to do so) by 3 people standing just inside the 72nd St. entrance, 20 feet away from Strawberry Fields. The kinds of people who have spent tons of time in the Bay Area, but not San Francisco proper. The kinds of people who passionately pull strangers aside to sign petitions on behalf of the environment, but habitually leave lights on in unoccupied rooms. They belonged to a “leadership group” and invited me (along with several others they had just assembled) to announce my vision, around the John Lennon memorial. My vision for the world, mind you. I asked whether it would be videotaped, and they said no.

“Sure!” I eventually said, and as they led me (in the dark, in the cold) to the John Lennon “Imagine” circle, I stressed out about my vision, big time. It had to be good. (Any stress I may have felt about the possibility of getting whacked was slightly overpowered by a feeling best characterized as: “How bad could John Lennon lovers be?”)

One by one, we strangers of all ages, races, shapes, and sizes went around the circle, broadcasting our visions, really putting those visions out there. Of course, it was videotaped because how couldn’t it have been? “Leadership projects” like these were made to be filmed, and I have no problem imagining the organizers firing up the bong before they watch their handiwork on loop a few weeks from now.

When one organizer pointed the lit-up iphone at me, I looked into it and said my vision for the world is More Kindness and More Mindfulness. An updated version of my vision would be: more kindness, more mindfulness, and more people practicing what they preach more often.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Now I’ve Written About It

Oh, how some people dress for the airports. On weekends. On overnight flights. Some aren’t doing more than dropping others off, dressed to kill, dressed to be seen, dressed for world domination. They’re the same ones who mousse up their hair or squeeze into heels for a 5-block strut to the post office, I just know.

(I would dominate the world in a long black or navy cardigan, pink tank shirt, sterling silver jewelry, dark jeans, and pink flats. Pink is more of a power color than red, even looking and sounding more arresting, so similar to “punk.”)

From my experiences, and experiences retold to me, the higher the net worth you project, the more of a target you can become. A bulls-eye for everything. As an adult, I’ve lived in many apartments - the swankiest address I’ve had was the only one to have suffered a break-in attempt (or what I still describe as a break-in attempt, even though the ground-floor window the predator opened from the outside was protected by bars). 

The first time I ever tried boarding a plane in respectable-looking shoes, a customs person (interrogating passengers “at random”) pulled me aside to ask whether I traveled for business or pleasure, and how much cash I had on me. He said I seemed like someone with a lot of money and he needed to make sure I wasn’t bringing more than $10,000 onto the island. (Is this what Zsa Zsa Gabor has to deal with? I bet she dresses up to hit the skies.) When, because he asked, I told him I write, the questions didn’t stop - he asked if I would ever write about our conversation. “Maybe,” I said, and he flipped around the ID badge hanging from his neck so I could no longer see his name and picture. 

I haven’t worn my best shoes to an airport since. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Just Was Always Meant to Work in a Helping Profession

It happened again. I was in a public space, needing a few questions answered, and assumed the person I asked for help worked there, when it turned out she didn’t. I end up doing this to people all the time. People end up doing it to me all the time (I believe this is called karma). Making too much eye contact, while having Midwestern manners and wearing shirts with crisp collars, can be all it takes, from the hallowed hallways of Graceland to the produce sections of grocery stores, where I’ve skillfully directed those looking for bags of onions away from the aisles where onions are sold individually.

The difference between me and some of the others is that I don’t get too sensitive or defensive about getting mistaken for an employee because I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad place to end up.

At one boring conference downtown, I spent so much time idling around the kitchenette (where the coffee, tea, and continental breakfast items were spread out) by myself, attendees eventually assumed I ran the room, coming up to me, asking, “Can you give me more milk?” or “Has this fruit been sitting out for long?” or “Why is it taking so long to replenish the pastries?”

“Oh, I don’t work here,” I said, in the beginning, my mouth half full with a muffin, but I later couldn’t bear to miss a beat. After almost an hour in there, I had gotten a real feel for the place, knowing how and where everything went. Or should have gone.

“That’s quite a bit of dairy in 5 minutes, pal. Take it back, take it black, it’s better for you. You’ll have some cheese with the lunch that’s coming out.”

“Don’t touch that.” 

“Shouldn’t you get back into the audience, all ears to the panelists?”

“Come on over here fella, I gotta bunch of red grapes that will change your morning.”

Am I exaggerating? Yes! But, wow, is it an honor to be considered an approachable expert about certain subject matters.    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Oh Ho Ho No

When we were children, my best friend and I co-founded a club devoted to Christmas. At its peak, there were a total of four members – the two of us and our little brothers. Meetings began in July or August. We sat on floors and discussed all things (minus anything having to do with religion) Christmas. We called it The Christmas Club. When I brought it up a few years ago, she declared it the best club she’s ever been in, and I feel the same way.

Larger society has piggybacked onto our childhood initiative and formed its own Christmas Club. One that’s not as sweet and innocent as ours. This adult takeover of The Christmas Club is too much of something good, like binge-eating your once-favorite food to the point where you rarely crave it.

My first “holiday” party invitation came a few days before Halloween and I made a face at it. Radio City Music Hall’s tree and lights have been up since last week - and got the face too. And some of these chain stores. I salute the retailers and organizations creative enough to come up with other fall marketing campaigns. (Here, I’m talking about non-pumpkin-themed fall campaigns because I haven’t decided what’s worse – the Christmas marketing movement or the pumpkin-spice one.)

Santas on the streets and Christmas songs on the airwaves in October. Tween me would have been thrilled, vindicated! Thirtysomething me: (1) asks what harm there is in everyone agreeing to wait a few more weeks (here, I’m talking about an official embargo); (2) prefers Thanksgiving to Christmas; and (3) wonders why so many people obsessively focus on the future, on what’s next instead of what’s now.