Saturday, February 25, 2012

Labor Pains

Last Friday night, SFL, my daughter's band opened for a well known band in Portland. It was a last minute gig. I'm not sure what happened to the scheduled opening band, but SFL was asked to play the show very last minute, the day before.

I heard from her after they had played their set. It was a great turnout, the sound system was good, she met the other band members. I knew that at this particular show you had to buy tickets, not just pay a cover charge, so I asked her if her band got paid. She told me, no, not this gig, being last minute, things had already been prearranged but they were still happy to play the show.

Nobody seems to realize how much work goes into playing a show, from the years of studying, writing, recording, practicing, packing up gear, setting up, tearing down, giving hours of your time, energy and talent to each performance. It boils down to people taking advantage of artists, students, college graduates or almost anyone that wants to work in a profession that they more than likely are passionate about. Notice I used the word "work". People assume that if someone is playing music, writing, or anything somewhat artistic, that it is more of a hobby, not to be taken seriously, not worthy of financial compensation. I have watched my daughter work at her craft for the past 8 years. She works at it. Yes, she is passionate about what she does, she practices, she writes, she has taken vocal lessons, she has spent plenty of money buying equipment, putting in hours and hours of rehearsal time, traveling to shows, recording and putting out CD's, always networking. Just because a person is doing something he loves he should not be deprived some type of monetary pay. He or she is still providing you an invaluable service. In this case they are playing music, providing entertainment in your establishment, which brings in more customers, which brings you more money, yes, I know you know how it works. And I just don't think it is fair or morally right. We seem to be taught from an early age that "work" goes hand in hand with something less than desirable. If you are lucky enough to work in a field that you enjoy, instead of being paid you need to pay your dues, for a long long time.

The use of Interns is a legitimate (if not shifty) way of companies getting free labor. When I worked at an art gallery they would hire interns. It looks good on a resume. But not so on your bank statement. The Intern would do the hardest and most tedious jobs, lifting, packing, wrapping, shipping, website update, newsletters, and put in a good 8 hour day as well. I don't quite understand what jobs are deserving of "on the job training" and how others feel entitled to offer unpaid internships. Unpaid internships not only exploit but they exclude as well. It is not a reality for the majority of people, young or old, to work for nothing. This means that internships worth getting are only open to those with a large savings account, bank loan or those who can depend on someone else for their financial support.

The fundamental idea behind an internship is that it is a learning experience, that it will help get one's foot in the door to a profession or company in which they seek employment. While they make it appear that this is a benefit for the student/musician/job seeker, it really is much more of a benefit to the employer. They benefit greatly from someones "free" hard work.

I have this situation in my own life. The newspaper will publish my articles in their Sunday edition, but of course, they don't have it in their budget to pay me. Again, they think the exposure is reward enough. I write about a subject that I was schooled in, paid money to learn, have worked in for the past 11 years. It takes hours to write, re-write and edit these articles. But the exposure should be compensation enough, right? I was looking in the jobs section of Craigslist the other day and came upon some disgruntled job seekers response to a job offer. I thought it was classic and though his words are not mine, my sentiment exactly.

Writer for E-Zine for free? (The asshole two spots below me)
Date: 2012-02-24, 12:53PM PST
Reply to: see below [Errors when replying to ads?
Why the &*/@ do all you people with your 'groundbreaking' e-zines offer "Jobs" with NO COMPENSATION? Do you think that writing is easy? If its such a widely available skill that you don't even pay for it, than why don't YOU write for your OWN unsuccessful e-zine. Stop preying on wide-eyed college students looking for a resume builder! Either pay us for our service we are providing for you, or go walk slowly and steadily onto a busy freeway.
Location: The asshole two spots below me
Compensation: YES PLEASE
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"No, you go"

I've lived in the Bay Area for a good part of my life. When you drive the East Bay, North Bay, San Francisco and all the rest, that old "only the strong survive" really applies. You learn to drive fast, you learn to merge, you learn to share the road, cars race past you, motorcycles zip between lanes, which commonly known as lanesplitting can scare the wits out you. While legal in several European countries, here it is only legal in California, like foie gras, it is something we could've lived without. Driving here is a game of skill, fast paced and you better be ready to play.

On my visits to Portland I have observed, a lot of it through my own California expat daughter's frustration, the lack of driving skills that people in Portland seem to have. I guess no one is in a hurry there, it is laid back, there is a kick back vibe similar to a California beach town. Not that that is a negative, it is just something that requires time getting used to. From the frantic pace of the bay, it seems like someone forgot to set the alarm clock, everyone operates on snooze. They drive slow, they don't bother using turn signals, they never seem to use their horns, and they are polite to the point of being obnoxious. "You go", "No you go" back and forth and it can go on for what seems like forever. Finally you both go at the same time, hitting the breaks and then it is Finnegan begin again, "You go", no "You go". Makes you want to pull your hair out or go pull the other driver's hair out.

Now that I am in Santa Barbara I am experiencing a similar driving style to that of Portland. There is some debate (in my own head) I guess as to whether these drivers are actually "bad" drivers or simply "courteous and polite" drivers. I think it is bad driving when one almost comes to a stop while merging onto the freeway. Get your ass out there! Speed up. Don't slow things down. Between (a) the retirees who really have no place to go, (b) the "should have given it up a long time ago" surfer dudes and their "hey man",(c) the I'm assuming illegals, only because they must be driving that slow to avoid getting pulled over, to the (d) "you gotta love them" tourists who think it is okay to stop anywhere to have a look see ~ all of them combine to bring forth deadly road conditions. Deadly in the sense that I just might have a case of road rage here and it won't be pretty. The speed and competency with which they drive gets an F rating in my humble aggravated opinion. If you noticed here that I tossed out any attempt at being politically correct, you would be correct.

I notice that when the speed limit is posted at let's say, 25 miles, people actually go 25 miles or heaven forbid, 20. This is a new phenomenon for me. I expect people to drive at a minimum of 10 miles faster than the speed limit. It is just a given. This would be considered courteous driving in the Bay Area. It's called, "Get out of my way, I've got things to do, places to go, people to see, and I bet you do to." You would think that driving around in this type of beach town would be rather relaxing, or as some people seem to say here, "chilaxing" ~ but I'm not feeling it. It makes my blood pressure rise and makes me long for the good old freeway, that beautiful stretch of interstate. Put me behind a big rig any day. Yes, I think I feel a road trip coming on.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Wax Heart Messenger

I am a big believer in signs. In paying attention to your surroundings and getting tuned in to those messages that are being sent directly to you. From where they come, I am still not sure. But I see and hear them all the time. Sometimes I will then look them up in my sign book, research it on the web, or make up a theory that makes sense to me.

Now this might seem to some a stretch, but I received another sign last Friday. My sister and I treated ourselves to an eyebrow waxing. You know, where they apply the hot wax underneath the brow, above the brow and between the brow for those cursed with that most undesirable uni-brow. It has become a cultural beauty necessity ~ hairless and smooth and perfectly arched.

So, while having my brows done, the last region on my face that the esthetician applied the hot wax was between my brows. She then lightly pressed the cloth over the wax and with a little pressure ripped it off, removing those unsightly hairs, only to be astonished when she saw the shape of the wax she removed. It was an obvious little pink heart. "Oh my God, I have never seen anything like this in all the years that I have been doing this!"

Now I don't know this woman well, in fact it was the first time I had gone to her, but I could tell she was the superstitious type, something about her, I'm guessing her mother was probably one of those roadside fortune tellers. I hadn't told this woman any of my personal information, except that I had just moved to the area. Anyway, she looked again at the heart and said with conviction, "Oh I think you are going to find love ~ yes, love is coming your way." I looked at that heart, I looked at her, she didn't have to twist my arm, I believed her. Who was I to second guess the esthetician with the fortune teller mother whom I am sure inherited those same abilities. She took a photo for her own keeping and then gave me the wax heart to take home.

I think it was definitely a sign. I mean, look at that heart. We all believe what we want to believe, and I believe this heart is definitely trying to say something.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Big Thaw

I have come to realize that I can be quite a downer. I bag on everything and everyone. From the people who try too hard to the people that just don't try. I mean of course I pick on the obvious, the entertainment and outfits at the Grammys, (by the way, awesome job Katy Perry), the lifestyles and choices of the rich and famous, right down to the more simple people that wear jingle bell holiday sweaters (think Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary).

I don't cut any slack to the people that decorate their homes according to the monthly holiday, four leaf clovers on St. Patrick's Day, little American flags adorning their drinks and embellishing their gardens on Fourth of July, people who in my jaded and biased opinion are living on the edge of corny or uncool.* Is that it? Am I just too cool to participate ~ is this why I've never belonged to Book Club, Bunko groups, Ladies Nights? Is this why, at the innocent and tender age of around 9, I was asked to leave my Blue Bird troop because I was just too cool to participate in reindeer games?

Today it is Valentine's Day. Another day I love to bash, criticize Hallmark along with the chocolate and floral industries for pressuring us all into feeling we have to do something special, again, for that "special" someone. But for the first time in, I believe ever, I am having a few hunger pangs. And no, they are not for a box of See's Candy, maybe a piece or two, but rather I believe, oh I hate to say this, so I'll whisper it, love. There is an empty space inside that is starting to rumble, to make a lot of noise. This is the first time in a long time that I don't have a special someone. Oh, of course I have lots of loves - my daughter, family, dear friends. But no one this year to buy the funny romantic valentine for, signed "love you forever", in red no less. No one to bring home a chocolate mousse heart shaped cake. No one to say, "I love you so much" and to hear them say it back to me. I always thought of it as a commercialized day that I really didn't want to participate in. Wow ~ just writing about this subject is feeling very mushy and uncool!

But this really isn't about the day, it is about what the day represents. You can always buy the Valentine's Day cards for your friends, your children, your sister and brother-in-law (thanks Stevie :) but we all know the truth about this day. It was intended for lovers. This day, that I have always let pass without a care, just another day, all of a sudden is carrying a bit more weight, just like I am in the past few months (thanks Pammy ;) ~ it feels like I am missing out on something, outside looking in. Like so many other things in life, including life itself, we take it for granted and assume it will always be there. We assume we will have our jobs, our homes, our marriages, our children, our friends. And when your assumptions are challenged and you are proven to be wrong, it takes awhile to slither out from behind your rock, accept defeat, rise up and wave your white nondescript flag (no stars and stripes on this one).

I guess that what I am feeling today is what I've known all along, and as corny as it sounds, and as much as I'd like to believe otherwise, Love is the answer. Love is a many splendored thing. Love makes the world go round, yes, yes, we hear you, stop, this could go on and on and on. But I think it must be true. When the Beatles said "Love is all you need", that was naive, even John Lennon said, "You can say I'm a dreamer." Yes, you need love but you need a lot more. I mean, love fades really fast when you can't pay the electric bill! The thing I've come to recognize is that the "more" means very little without the love. Oh hell, I guess I am not so cool after all.

A love of mine once described me as having "a hard shell with a soft center". I think I am experiencing my own personal global warming, a slow melting of my icy exterior. Not that I see myself joining a Ladies group anytime soon or donning a snowman sweater, but this coming Christmas I just might be wearing one in holiday colors, a deep Cabernet shade of red or a dark forest green and adding to it just the coolest amount of sparkle.

*Virginia - you and Colin Firth are the only two people in my world that can get away with these things and still be the epitome of "cool" ~

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Everything is amazing right now and nobody is happy ~ Louis CK

Leaving to catch an early morning flight out of Sacramento last week, my semi-upbeat mood quickly faded, faster than my last root touch-up, leaving me irritable and feeling like a glass half empty. I had barely packed the car, buckled my seatbelt, inserted my favorite CD, drove a miniscule mile to merge on the freeway when I immediately encountered a traffic accident. Slam on the breaks! The traffic alert sign said in bright orange letters "Accident Ahead" while what I really thought should be flashing in neon was "Idiot Driver Up Ahead". Yes, there was fog, there was traffic, I hadn't had my Starbucks and definitely not enough sleep, but my God, watch where you're going people! I already mentioned my glass was at least half empty, right? And speaking of the half empty or half full analogy, I saw this and had to share it ~

You gotta love that. Anyway, back to the story.

When I finally made it to the airport, parked in the economy lot, caught the shuttle, made it over to the terminal, I was surprised to find that once I entered through the revolving doors it was a completely new terminal, one I had not been to before. Nothing looked familiar and I thought momentarily that they had dropped us off somewhere very very wrong. Entering now in the baggage claim area with it's uber chic architecture, spacious and light, shiny escalators and dramatic glass elevators that take you to the next level where you will catch the tram to the other terminal.

The new interior had some great art pieces, including an exquisite over sized branch and crystal hanging sculpture that was stunning, competeing with the finest of art galleries. Walking quickly to the boarding area there was an almost eerie quiet, like the Sacramento Tule fog, a hushed atmosphere, usually reserved for a museum or library. The other passengers seemed to move in slow motion, almost in a Stepford Wives kind of fashion, looking straight ahead, like we had all been dropped into a scene from the Twilight Zone. At least that was how I was feeling and how I perceived my other fellow travelers to be feeling as well.

We boarded the plane, an Alaskan/Horizon Q400, two seats on either side of the aisle, too small for my taste. I was seated in the window seat when luckily a rather average sized woman sat in the aisle seat next to me. Average for Americans anyway, most assuredly overweight by many other standards. But at least there wasn't spilling flesh being shared between the two of us as many times seems to be the case. But I still have the same problem with the arm rest situation. It drives me crazy and I can't help being obsessed with this every flight I take. There are two passengers and one inside arm rest. Who gets it? Well the woman next to me had no problem taking possession of said arm rest. She was bigger than me, her hair much shorter, arms more muscular, not that I am implying anything by this or even if I was, there's nothing wrong with it. What I think I am saying here is that she was more Yang to my Yin. But damn, why do I have so much trouble claiming the friggin arm rest?

As I fastened my belt, making myself as comfortable as humanly possible, I looked out the scratched up window and saw that I was seated directly next to the propeller. I took this photo from my window.

I am not used to being on such a small plane and the sight of a propeller flooded my mind with all kinds of fear and set my imagination on high gear. Perhaps I had a bad experience as a child with those little spinning pull string saucer toys that kids would aim at one another, I doubt it, but it is a possibility. As they spun wildly round and round, faster and faster, I kept visualizing them spinning right off, slicing the plane in two, along with my head, decapitating me somewhere over Redding or Crater Lake. I wasn't sure when this disaster would happen, but I was sure it would. Whenever I fly, before takeoff I always look around the plane, take stock of the other passengers as I like to see who I might be spending my last few minutes or hours on earth with. I know, sick you say.

In the row in front of me I was "lucky" enough to have a mother with a baby on her lap in one seat and her little toddler in the seat directly in front of me. Yes, that really is a photo of the real him. Now, I don't know why I am like this, but when I am on a plane I want to be left alone, don't want to socialize with people I don't know and might possibly die with, I just want to be left to my own thoughts, my book or the delicious snacks that will soon be served (and actually I had the best little Biscoff biscuits ~ such a pleasant surprise and welcome change from the standard pack of 7 peanuts).

So while the little boy in front of me was cute enough, I don't want to be in charge of entertaining ~ Nanny material I am not. He kept reaching back trying to touch me or steal a biscuit, I'm not sure. Or he would stand on his chair and look over the seat at me while I gave the obligatory smile, secretly hoping his drool wouldn't land on my knee. I tried to act somewhat amused by this child just in case his mother should catch a glimpse of me, I didn't want her to see me scowling and out me for the bitch I can really be.

So after all my complaining about my flight, the other passengers, about getting to and from, I just had to post this video of Louis CK. He was a guest on Conan O'Brien and if you are not familiar with him, my opinion is that he is a very crude and vulgar comedian and a little CK goes a long way. But this bit is good ~ really really good. The only thing I disagree with here is that this attitude is isolated to a single generation ~ sadly, I believe we all own it.

Falling back in Love