Friday, May 29, 2020

Two Weeks?

Isn't it the way things go? The closer a deadline looms, the more little things pile up that absolutely, positively have to get done? I'm great at fooling myself; a master procrastinator, if you will. Where did the time go, I ask myself. Then suddenly new tasks pop into my mind and my to-do list grows.

I have two weeks of employment remaining. Thus, two weeks of health insurance. I thus must squeeze in a yearly medical exam and finish up that bridge work before the buzzer buzzes; all the while careful not to use any of my 238.02 hours of paid personal leave so I can reap a big payout at the end of the day. (I knew there was a good reason I never took a vacation).

Working from home, I don't have the luxury of imparting the wisdom of my job, except via emails to my boss. And if one does the same things every day for twenty years, they tend to take duties for granted and perform them on auto-pilot. Attempting to create a list is mysteriously difficult. I think it may be because so much of what I do is intangible, and I can't convey that electronically, hard as I try. Had my replacement been named, the two of us could share phone conversations. Alas, that person is unknown to me (and to everyone else at this point). 

My boss keeps hinting that maybe I could potentially, theoretically change my mind; but that die is cast. And I'm warming up to the prospect of retirement. And everything must end.

Things I've done this week:

  • I visited my dental office. Much as I abhor dentist visits, I appreciated human contact so much, I transformed into a veritable chatterbox.
  • I retrieved multiple Amazon packages from my doorstep and mailbox and marveled at the number of purchases I vaguely remember transacting.
  • I mistook Tuesday for Monday (in my defense, it was a holiday week).

Things I learned this week:

  • There truly are some evil humans. I always excused people as being "troubled". Sometimes video disabuses one of those notions.
  • I watched online and on TV as my adopted city burned. 
  • I decided that the year 2020 has no redeeming qualities.

Random feel-good song of the week:

Enjoy your weekend. And don't set anything on fire.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Two Months

In some ways it's felt like forever. Then again, it's but a blink of an eye. My home office has existed for two-plus months. March 17 was my first day as a telecommuter, and here's the deal: I like it. I would have to be dragged back into the office, and even then I would seek out every opportunity to bolt for the door. Why didn't I know this before? Who is the fool who enjoys toiling inside a cubicle? Granted, my job doesn't normally lend itself to telework, but "in these troubled times" all rules have been abandoned. I'm just as productive at home as I was in the office ~ I have good days and not-so-good days. It all evens out.

As I approach my last three weeks of employment, I've tried to remember everything I need to tell my boss about my job that she doesn't know (which, honestly, is about one hundred per cent. I've done this for seventeen years; I am long past the need for supervision.) No one has been promoted to my position yet, so I am unable to share my wisdom with them ~ they're gonna have to learn the way I did, by making it up as they go. I am not opposed to that. In 1991 when I was promoted to a supervisory position at a former employer, the assistant told me on my first day, "I'll tell you how we do things." I replied, "Okay, and I'll tell you how I do things." Everyone must put her own stamp on a job, and God, fresh blood can only be a plus. It's true that I'm somewhat territorial, but that will subside, once I no longer care.

As I pass the two-month mark, I've thought about things I no longer do:

  • I have not set my alarm in two months.
  • I've only blown-dried my hair once.
  • Since March 18 I've not once strapped on a bra.
  • I've poured myself convenience store coffee only twice.
  • Not once have I pulled on a pair of jeans (thankfully ~ chances are they would no longer fit).
  • I haven't eaten a salad.
  • I have not washed clothes on a Saturday.
  • I applied makeup once ~ to look more presentable for a video meeting. Then I stopped caring.

Things I now do:

  • Listen to a local talk radio show that I never before gave a chance.
  • Mourn the loss of Josie at least once a day.
  • Walk every day at 9:00 a.m.
  • Retrieve the mail daily ~ to get out of the house.
  • Smoke too much.
  • Stitch my fingers sore once my shift is over.

As I hit the milestone of age sixty-five this week, my husband bought me art supplies. I'm an artist, but not a dexterous one. I'm not ruling it out, however. I never rule out anything. I'm a late bloomer ~ constantly surprised by the things I am able to do.

 So here's to art and feeding one's soul.

This song catches my breath, but it's about moving on, so it fits. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Glad All Over

It's impossible to convey the awe of discovering new music in the sixties to anyone who wasn't there. It was a singular time that will never again happen. There was probably a reason for it, but I don't know what it is. "Experts" ponder that it was an optimism borne out of the Kennedy era, but I don't think so. First of all, most of the fresh music emanated from the British Isles. Perhaps it was a post-war release, a baby leaf sprouting out of bombed-out soil. The Beatles came first, but there were, oh, so many others.

Everyone hypes the so-called rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but I was there, and The Beatles' competition was not The Stones--it was The Dave Clark Five.

It wasn't long after The Beatles debuted in America (on The Ed Sullivan Show) that The Dave Clark Five showed up. Long forgotten is the fact that The Beatles began their career by featuring tons of cover songs. Yes, they had She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand, but they also covered Chuck Berry and Motown. The Five also copied previous hits, like Do You Love Me and You've Got What It Takes, but they also had originals:  Glad All Over and Can't You See That She's Mine.

My wondrous discovery of The Beatles in 1964 only made me salivate for more. And I didn't have to wait. It seemed like a confetti bomb burst and suddenly I was showered with more music than I could absorb into my tiny brain. And they were all British Invasion artists. Bam, bam, bam -- they exploded out of my transistor speaker. There were so many, I could afford to be picky. Gerry and The Pacemakers -- kinda boring. Freddy and The Dreamers and Herman's Hermits -- novelties.

But, ahhh, The Dave Clark Five. When one is nine, they ponder mundane realities like, why is the band named after the drummer? Nobody does that. It's not called "The Ringos", after all. At first I assumed the lead singer was Dave Clark, but I was oh so wrong. The soul of The Dave Clark Five was the astounding Mike Smith.

Mike Smith was hands-down the heart of the band.

At age nine, I didn't know what the tiny piano/organ was; some kind of jet-age invention. But the primary appeal of the band, aside from the drums, was Mike Smith's cuteness. Cuteness was a primary factor in a nine-year-old girl's assessment of...well, everything.

I didn't appreciate this song at the time, but boy:

Surprisingly, I can't find a live performance of this song, but c'mon:

Speaking of "c'mon":

In actual years, The Dave Clark Five had a short run, but it's not the calendar that signifies greatness. The Beatles had kind of a short run, too, but it seems that people keep listening to their songs.

Let's not forget The Five -- or if you're younger than me (as most people are), let's discover them. To a giddy nine-year-old, this band was out'a sight!

Happy Birthday To Me?

The birthday that hit me the hardest was when I turned thirty. It was a different time then. Today I guess fifty is the new thirty. But in 1985 leaving the twenties behind meant one could no longer kid herself. Don't get me wrong; I was definitely a full-blown adult, with children and a job and a house, such as it was. The cognizance that I was heading down that long unpaved road was a reckoning.

Milestone birthdays since then were simply days. Forty was nothing. I felt great. Fifty was a bit of a jolt, but nothing actually changed. Sixty gets barely recognized, because it's the big one forthcoming that actually counts. 

I wonder if before there was such a thing as Social Security that sixty-five was much noticed. I realize people can take SS anytime after sixty-two, but 65 seemed like a good number to me, and frankly, I've paid my dues.

So, no, this birthday (on Tuesday) isn't really a big deal. It's the event four weeks from now that will be momentous. Healthwise, I was blessed with good genes, but also with an addictive personality and hit-or-miss willpower. My first post-retirement resolution will be to do better.

Since I began working at age fifteen or sixteen (who can remember that far back?) I've held a variety of jobs -- some horrible, some tolerable, a couple that were great. I've dabbled in various avocations. At one time I invested heavily in photography equipment -- filters and lenses and the whole bit -- I still like composing shots, but it's not as if I make a deliberate effort to search out subjects. Now my phone's camera is perfectly fine. The fun thing about film, however, was the anticipation. The mind's picture was always far better than the developed result, but every processed roll contained a couple of nice images.

Then I had my plant phase. I never did anything half-assed. I had a long wooden step-stand in front of my bay window and I purchased small plantings for less than a dollar each and nursed and fertilized and watered them religiously. At the peak, I probably had twenty plants. 

Then I stopped. That sort of sums up most of my diversions. I lost interest or hit a wall. 

When I was young and poor (and I mean really poor), I tried crafts, the less expensive the better. I remember doing ink tracings on glass using a dip pen and pictures from a coloring book. I tried doing things with yarn, but I hadn't learned any of those skills (my mom did no handiwork -- she owned a sewing machine but only used it to repair hems). 

For a time, I fancied cooking, and I became pretty good at it. Bear in mind, I was someone who'd barely known how to make a grilled cheese sandwich when I got married. My mom didn't teach me to cook, but in her defense, I never asked, either. Baking was pfffft -- easy. I baked a lot during that time, too; but learning to cook was a feather in my cap.

Once I accidentally stumbled upon counted cross-stitch, my hands were never still. The secret about this endeavor is that it's the doing much more than the finished project that matters. A person like me with tumbling thoughts needs that soothing repetition. Again, though, I gave up stitching for about twenty years (I'm back now).

I was a songwriter, and a good one, for about ten years. Then I hit the wall and stopped. Even accounting for my childhood accordion lessons, I'm not a musician, and that's a real drawback to songwriting. The six-plus chords I know on the guitar are limiting.

I even sang my own songs on record, feeble as I was. Some said I was a good singer; I thought I was a tolerable one.

Music has been a constant in my life since I discovered what music was -- I'm guessing age three or four. I used to perform for guests in my mom and dad's living room -- lip syncing to records and dancing (man, what an intolerable brat; but I was deadly serious about it and not showing off -- much).

One would think I've been writing my entire life, but I really haven't. The advent of computers helped push me in that direction -- a lot. Let me tell you, typewriters are balls of frustration and writing by hand? Then what? Stuff the papers in a drawer? I did write "newsletters" on a manual typewriter when I was a teenager -- newsletters that were sent nowhere. They discussed music -- just like I do now on this blog. But I stopped writing for many, many years. In the past five or so years I've penned two complete novels and half of another. But long-form writing is a sludge. Maybe once I have more than two weekend nights to devote to it, it'll come easier to me. 

The one thing I know I'm good at is writing. Give me any topic and I can dash off something interesting. The trouble is, you've gotta give me the topic. The problem with my novels is that I can't develop interesting plot points. 

My longest-running, without a break pursuit has been this -- Rich Farmers -- which I've been writing since 2007. I guess that tells me what my life's purpose is. Do I care that no one reads it? It's sort of like cross-stitch -- it's the doing that matters.

So, sixty-five is coming in three days. I get to have curbside pickup for lunch! And I have the day off. Otherwise, it's a day.

I'll keep writing about music and other stuff, but music is the message, as this blog's tagline states.

I would end with a song, but how do I pick one that sums up sixty-five years? So I won't.

(Your Song Here)

Friday, May 15, 2020

Telework - Week 9 - Sliding Into Home

My Lone Beautiful Tree

Spring is here.It had taunted us briefly with temperatures in the sixties, but then the chill returned and brought a smattering of snow with it. This time it's not a trick. Spring is hard-fought in Minnesota, like most everything. We're used to being deceived and we try to accept it, much like our quarantine. I don't wear a mask when I'm taking my lone walk to the mailbox, but I don't glad-hand people, either. I want them to keep away from me, much like in my pre-COVID life (unless they're walking a dog). My neighborhood is rather transient -- people come and people go -- I don't know any of my neighbors except for a nodding acquaintance with the lady next door. I'm not being rude by passing them by. I like solitude. I like smelling the apple blossoms and comparing my front-yard tree's magnificence to the other spindly trees on the block as I shuffle home, bills and circulars in hand.

Mostly I don't go out. I don't like serpentining around the casual walker, wary they might breathe on me. I traveled to my local convenience store on Tuesday morning, the first time I've been anywhere in more than a week. I got to say, "hi" to folks I know and then I went home. Five-second personal interaction.

My seventeen-year-old cat spends most of his day under the bed and I work eight hours a day, so I see my husband at breakfast time and during our nightly news-watching hour.

When I was younger, I was perfectly content with my own company. As the years ticked by, I found that people can be fun. I miss shooting the breeze with my work friends. Email is not the same. Texts are three-word missives.I'm afraid that as this isolation goes on I'll revert back to isolation, which is mentally unhealthy.

I've finally concluded, after two months of irrational fear, that staying away from people is stupid. Sure, I'm soon-to-be sixty-five years old and catching Coronavirus could be a death sentence -- or not. But this scene has become ridiculous. I'll take care of me; let other people live their lives. This is going to be a perpetual earthquake. Nobody, or mostly nobody, wants to conjure the devastation that will result from lock-down. I guess I'm lucky that my biggest concern is the apple blossoms.

Things I've done this week:

  • I submitted my retirement date to HR. It was harder than I expected -- it's so final. But I'm feeling pretty good about it, once I finally pulled the trigger.
  • I tweeted too much, but really, some people are so imbecilic.

Things I've learned this week:

  • Humans are pliable. I can't even fathom returning to the office at this point. Home is my workplace now. I could probably be held hostage for eighteen months and I'd eventually be okay with it. 
  • There's truly no one better than George Strait. I do wish SiriusXM would do a deeper dive into his album tracks, however. I miss my computer and all my favorite music

Your feel-good song of the week:

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Little Richard

1950's rock was so joyous.It may have had to do with the times. Music reflects the culture that begets it. From what I know of the fifties, the times were bland. Think Dwight D. Eisenhower; Arthur Godfrey; Perry Como. A boxy wooden radio in the kitchen; squiggly lines on a black and white TV with rabbit ears. "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window". White T-shirts and jeans with thick rolled-up cuffs.  Bobby socks and saddle shoes. Felt skirts and Peter Pan collared blouses. Kids were itching to break through the dreary fog, but they had no idea how. Listening to Dad's music -- Pat Boone, Patti Page, Paul Anka, and Rosemary Clooney -- just wasn't cutting it.

Then along came some crazy flamboyant acts -- out of nowhere. A greasy-haired pompadoured guy from Tupelo, Mississippi who could wiggle his hips; a poet from St. Louis who had a way with words and with a Telecaster; a Lubbock, Texas hillbilly with a hiccup in his voice; a New Orleans piano master with a deep voice; a Sun Records phenom with a straggle of blond bangs who set the black and white keys afire. And a Macon, Georgia black eye-lined, lipstick smeared screacher.

What was this? You mean there's life out there? People can be emotional? Show some enthusiasm? Mom told us that was bad. Our priest warned us against it.

What the hell...

Some guys from Liverpool covered the song, but not as well:

I learned that Little Richard employed unknown artists such as James Brown and Jimi Hendrix as members of his backup band. I also know that a Minnesota artist named Prince cut his teeth on Richard Penniman songs. It's rare to be a pioneer -- there's not much to discover anymore. Little Richard was a real one.

Rest in peace. You saved a generation.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Telework - Week 8

I don't know what week this is. I barely know what day it is. I never leave the house.I did take a ride to Culvers on Saturday. I marveled at the green grass and the curve of the road. I walked down to the mailbox today -- the temperature was 36 degrees. I wore shorts. It really didn't matter. Probably should have shaved my legs, though.  At least I got to feel actual air. 

I can't fathom what normal life would be like. It'd probably be pretty good.I wonder if the hairdresser will hold a lottery once its doors are allowed to open. It's not that anyone sees me, but I see me. Old ladies should not wear their hair long; it's not a good look. My husband found some thinning shears in a long-forgotten dog grooming kit. He used them on himself and he looks pretty good. I'm going to give them a whirl tomorrow, along with the last remaining hair color kit I found stashed inside my bathroom vanity. If things spiral out of control, I do own a variety of hats.

As for work, I'm playing out my time. Come Tuesday, I will be down to 30 days. Oh, I'm still putting forth effort. I do have my pride. But I'm cognizant of every workday and how they're dwindling. My boss doesn't acknowledge that I will soon be gone; it's better to let it lie. Retirement will be exactly the same as working, except I will have no schedule to adhere to.TV, here I come.I wonder how long it will be before I become a crazed closet-cleaner.

I publish a monthly department newsletter, and I've decided that this month's will be all "me", albeit subtly. I won't acknowledge that it's me, but after twenty-plus years, I deserve to give myself a send-off. I won't get a going-away party, after all. A monthly feature of the newsletter is "Do You Know This Person". I send twenty questions to the chosen victim to complete and then I write up a little story about them. People used to sometimes guess the person was me, and I said, "The person will never be me." Guess what? Yes, it will. Some of the regular features include submissions from team members, but this time they'll all be from (anonymously) me. Deal. I'm not going to get a gift or anything.

Things I've done this week:

  • I searched online for face masks and Amazon has none that can be delivered before June. Really? I could potentially be paroled by June. And forget hand sanitizer. I finally found masks on Walmart's site and I should see them in a couple of weeks. Shipping costs? Pffft. This is a pandemic! Money is no object!

  • I did find a bunch of stuff I really want on Amazon; not things that will save my life, but might save my sanity.

  • I briefly pondered getting back into songwriting, as my husband is urging me to do. If I do, I already have a song title -- "Desolation Angel" -- don't steal it.

  • I ordered groceries via Instacart. I've found that the anticipation is far better than the reality.

Things I've learned this week:

  • Listening to George Strait's Ace In The Hole Radio makes me happy. I don't even click on my other favorite stations; I just keep it on George.This confirms that I've long had excellent musical taste.

Your musical selection tonight, from the album, "Beyond The Blue Neon", one of George's best:

Featured Post


Tonight I listened to some Merle Haggard songs. And I sang along. And I cried.  I didn't want to ever have to write this. I&...