Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
From Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim Copyright 2004 David Sedaris
The night after Halloween, we were sitting around watching TV when the doorbell rang. Visitors were infrequent at our house, so while my father stayed behind, my mother, sisters, and I ran downstairs in a group, opening the door to discover the entire Tomkey family on our front stoop. The parents looked as they always had, but the son and daughter were dressed in costumes—she as a ballerina and he as some kind of a rodent with terry-cloth ears and a tail made from what looked to be an extension cord. It seemed they had spent the previous evening isolated at the lake and had missed the opportunity to observe Halloween. "So, well, I guess we're trick-or-treating now, if that's okay," Mr. Tomkey said.
I attributed their behavior to the fact that they didn't have a TV, but television didn't teach you everything. Asking for candy on Halloween was called trick-or-treating, but asking for candy on November first was called begging, and it made people uncomfortable. This was one of the things you were supposed to learn simply by being alive, and it angered me that the Tomkeys did not understand it.
"Why of course it's not too late," my mother said. "Kids, why don't you . . . run and get . . . the candy."
"But the candy is gone," my sister Gretchen said. "You gave it away last night."
"Not that candy," my mother said. "The other candy. Why don't you run and go get it?"
"You mean our candy?" Lisa said. "The candy that we earned?"
This was exactly what our mother was talking about, but she didn't want to say this in front of the Tomkeys. In order to spare their feelings, she wanted them to believe that we always kept a bucket of candy lying around the house, just waiting for someone to knock on the door and ask for it. "Go on, now," she said. "Hurry up."
My room was situated right off the foyer, and if the Tomkeys had looked in that direction, they could have seen my bed and the brown paper bag marked MY CANDY. KEEP OUT. I didn't want them to know how much I had, and so I went into my room and shut the door behind me. Then I closed the curtains and emptied my bag onto the bed, searching for whatever was the crummiest. All my life chocolate has made me ill. I don't know if I'm allergic or what, but even the smallest amount leaves me with a blinding headache. Eventually, I learned to stay away from it, but as a child I refused to be left out. The brownies were eaten, and when the pounding began I would blame the grape juice or my mother's cigarette smoke or the tightness of my glasses—anything but the chocolate. My candy bars were poison but they were brand-name, and so I put them in pile no. 1, which definitely would not go to the Tomkeys.
Out in the hallway I could hear my mother straining for something to talk about. "A boat!" she said. "That sounds marvelous. Can you just drive it right into the water?"
"Actually, we have a trailer," Mr. Tomkey said. "So what we do is back it into the lake."
"Oh, a trailer. What kind is it?"
"Well, it's a boat trailer," Mr. Tomkey said.
"Right, but is it wooden or, you know . . . I guess what I'm asking is what style trailer do you have?"
Behind my mother's words were two messages. The first and most obvious was "Yes, I am talking about boat trailers, but also I am dying." The second, meant only for my sisters and me, was "If you do not immediately step forward with that candy, you will never again experience freedom, happiness, or the possibility of my warm embrace."
I knew that it was just a matter of time before she came into my room and started collecting the candy herself, grabbing indiscriminately, with no regard to my rating system. Had I been thinking straight, I would have hidden the most valuable items in my dresser drawer, but instead, panicked by the thought of her hand on my doorknob, I tore off the wrappers and began cramming the candy bars into my mouth, desperately, like someone in a contest. Most were miniature, which made them easier to accommodate, but still there was only so much room, and it was hard to chew and fit more in at the same time. The headache began immediately, and I chalked it up to tension.
My mother told the Tomkeys she needed to check on something, and then she opened the door and stuck her head inside my room. "What the hell are you doing?" she whispered, but my mouth was too full to answer. "I'll just be a moment," she called, and as she closed the door behind her and moved toward my bed, I began breaking the wax lips and candy necklaces pulled from pile no. 2. These were the second-best things I had received, and while it hurt to destroy them, it would have hurt even more to give them away. I had just started to mutilate a miniature box of Red Hots when my mother pried them from my hands, accidentally finishing the job for me. BB-size pellets clattered onto the floor, and as I followed them with my eyes, she snatched up a roll of Necco wafers.
"Not those," I pleaded, but rather than words, my mouth expelled chocolate, chewed chocolate, which fell onto the sleeve of her sweater. "Not those. Not those."
She shook her arm, and the mound of chocolate dropped like a horrible turd upon my bedspread. "You should look at yourself," she said. "I mean, really look at yourself."
Along with the Necco wafers she took several Tootsie Pops and half a dozen caramels wrapped in cellophane. I heard her apologize to the Tomkeys for her absence, and then I heard my candy hitting the bottom of their bags.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
I'm on the Mariahilfestrasse in Vienna and I pass by a glasses store, an optician, a "spectacle shop," if you think in British English.
I haven't had my eyes checked in years, and type is getting smaller and smaller these days.
So I think, hmmm, maybe I'll do the right thing for myself and get that vision tested.
Click, click, click forward. Is this better? Click, click, click backward. Or is this better?
The optician rolls his chair back, turns the lights on and gives me back my specs.
"These are okay, but..."
"Well. You need reading glasses."
I make him say it again.
And then I politely ask if he's smoking crack.
No, he says, not during work hours.
I tell him the dream I had last spring about sitting on the floor eating a big bag of carrots.
He laughs and tells me I should have eaten the carrots. He signs the lens rx and hands it back to me.
"There is another option," he says. "You could get bifocals."
Posted by Patti McCracken at 7:49 PM
Feeling uncharacteristically like a grown up today.
Just had a meeting at the media office of Bundeskanzleramt, (Chancellor's office).
It was for them to decide if I was worthy.
Ask my mother, I say.
Oh, wait. Don't.
When I entered, I saw spread on the table various aspects of my life: my resume, my housing registration forms, a copy of my passport--you know, just every day things that make you somebody in this world.
Oy. Was it enough? Suddenly unsure. My resume--maybe it should come with an interpretive dance, performed against a video backdrop of the countries I've worked in, complemented by an editor's voiceover.
We go over to the computer so they can google some articles I've written.
What pops up? Yodeling and Fingerwrestling.
"I also write serious ones," I say, trying to sound serious.
I try to guide them to the recent one about the Nazi trial in Germany, but they gravitate instead to yodeling. The printer begins to hum.
The one about Vietnam motorbikes comes up on the screen. Good. I like that one.
I tell them about the cool video that goes with it, hoping it'll up my profile a bit. Improve my rep. But I can't get any traction with it.
So the highest media authority in the country now has this on file for me, representing my body of work:
• A story about a commie car
• A story about yodeling, and
• A piece showcasing large men pulling each other across tables with a single finger.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Bratislava, Slovakia, view of the Novy Most,("New" Bridge) and self-explanatory parking sign.
I saw this on my way into Bratislava for a meeting this morning.
Yes. You read it right. UFO parking. My mother would be thrilled they now have designated spaces, as she talks non-stop about the one she is sure she saw parked in our Florida backyard.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
In Germany these days, any tiny little misstep will get you fired, as employers try to lighten their financial load.
Meanwhile, I continue to shake the money tree and nothing comes out. One client, which has a staff of 30, says they've paid the 300 past due to me, but couldn't do it from their account. I guess I can kiss the bulk of the money they still owe me goodbye.
Posted by Patti McCracken at 7:23 PM
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
I do a little editing for a company that brings in a couple of hundred a month. Not much, but the work is quick and straightforward, and I like the people I deal with. The company is small, about 30 employees. Small, but not tiny.
I got an email yesterday telling me that they were going to be late paying me (for August work) because they didn't have the money (280 dollars), but hoped they'd be able to next week. Since I'd already agreed to do a rush job for them this weekend, I asked if I should stop that job, seeing as how they can't pay me what they currently owe. After the boss assured me all would be okay, I decided to continue on. But with a heavy heart.
They can't pay 280 bucks? What is this? Bizarro World?
This is just a small slice of what's going on in the industry, since there are several other organizations that haven't ponied up cash and are lawsuit late, and we ain't talking 280 bucks.
What's there to say? I feel like I'm 15 again, counting out the measly dollar bills from what I earned babysitting. Except I got paid then.