A few months ago, blogger and all-around nice person Hippie Cahier had a great idea: she wanted to create a video in honor of fellow blogger Omawarison, who’d recently retired from his day job. Her plan was ambitious: gather a couple dozen bloggers in one place and create a video in a single weekend. I was up for the challenge. I just had one concern: I’ve seen enough movies to know that if a group this size gathers in one place for a weekend, one of two things will happen: they’ll either pull off an intricately-plotted heist or be murdered one by one. I mentioned this to Hippie and told her I strongly preferred the heist scenario. She agreed.
I generally travel pretty light, so I packed only a carry-on for this trip. My bag was a little heavier than usual, but I didn’t think much of it until I got to the airport and the bag started meowing. I called Hippie and asked her to pick up some supplies for a last-minute addition to the cast: my cat, Thunder.
These are action-packed times here in the nation’s capital. There’s enough going on here to knock the Kardashians down ten slots in the Google News rankings, and not much of it good. It’s hard to find happy, life-affirming news these days.
And no PandaCam to comfort us.
Truth be told, I hadn’t really gotten around to watching PandaCam, except over the shoulder of one of the young women over in the open work-space who is obsessed with the little guy/gal. Her obsession was enough to keep me amused from a distance. I’m still not over losing Butterstick. I didn’t want to get attached to this one.
They took all the pandas and put ‘em in a panda museum . . .(Tai “Butterstick” Shan on his last day at the National Zoo. Photo from Wikimedia Commons (Rob Page III).)
About the only good news I could come up with this week is that I’ve earned some Hunger Games cred among my new colleagues after an impressive climb up several stories of stairs in high heels, beating everyone to the top without breaking a sweat. I’m sure it’s that and not the fact that as the oldest person on the team I’d be most expendable.
Ok, then. Something new to worry about.
I could share that there’s a new Dunkin’ Donuts across the street and I had my first pumpkin latte of the season, but apparently even pumpkin is a divisive topic anymore. I’m already scarred from accidentally coming out as pro-Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s a battle I don’t care to engage in again.
What happy, uplifting news could I share? What common ground could I find in these trying times, when no one agrees on anything?
I held firm to my faith that if I waited long enough the universe would deliver a distraction to distract me from the distraction of not being distracted by PandaCam, which never really distracted me until I knew it wasn’t going to be there to distract me, which, quite frankly, I’ve found distracting.
And then . . . the news came. And it is big:
The Sinus Headache painting is among several dozen up for online auction. Not only that, but as of yesterday afternoon, I am the highest (albeit the only) bidder.
Yes, I dislike the painting.
Not a panda.
Yes, it haunted me daily, hanging there at the end of the hallway, like some vision from The Shining, with no way around it if I wanted to use the restroom.
Yes, I’m bidding on it.
This is what being PandaCam-less has brought me to. Throughout the day yesterday, instead of not checking on the PandaCam blackout, (“Is it still out? Yes. How ’bout now? Yes.. . .”), I checked in on the auction site.
Still no other bidders.
The auction ends in a couple of weeks, so at least I have an alternative distraction while I wait out the Shutdown at the Not OK Corral and the return of panda cuteness.
Going, going . . . wait! What am I doing here?
I didn’t realize how much I’d come to love to hate that painting until the day they announced they were coming to remove the artwork. I kept taking trips to the restroom to see if it was gone yet.
Don’t it always seem to go . . .
I’ve been wandering around our new place, hoping to see it displayed somewhere so I can hate it again. And now, here it is, one bid away from being mine . . .all mine.
What am I going to do with it should everyone else in the auction continue to display the good sense and good taste to avoid bidding on it?
What am I going to do if someone else has a hankering for an artistic rendering of a sinus headache and engages in a bidding war?
All I know is, either way I win, and that seems to be all that matters.
I taught middle school early in my career, at the beginning of the movement to “mainstream” students receiving special education services, moving them from a self-contained classroom environment into the general classroom population.
Jeff was a sixth grader in one of the classes I team-taught with the Special Ed department chair. Try as we might, we couldn’t get Jeff to participate in class assignments. We couldn’t get him to pick up a pencil, much less the curriculum-required blue or black ink pen.
We couldn’t get him to dictate a story or a response to a question. We tried modification after modification, parent conferences, team conferences.
We worked hard to get a computer so that he could use a word processor. Even bribery (yes, it’s in the teacher bag-o’-tricks). Nothing.
He wasn’t a bad student, or a bad kid. He just didn’t want to do anything – seemingly because we wanted him to. We sensed he was probably fairly bright, but we were locked into a “Do it. / I Won’t” cycle that had probably been a pattern for him for years. (Apparently there had been a BIG power struggle – not just for Jeff but also for many of his peers — with their fifth grade teacher over writing in cursive. )
We could tell by watching him that he was taking things in and had some thoughts about it all. He just was not going to share and we couldn’t find a way to make it worth his while to do so.
I experienced many moments of feeling like an abject failure, and if it hadn’t been for the highly skilled, seasoned professional with whom I worked, I might have arrived at that conclusion early on and given up on both Jeff and on myself.
Although she felt the same frustration, my co-teacher had been through many similar challenges, so we didn’t give up on him. We did come to accept that we weren’t going to get much, if anything from him, but still we tried, hoping that some day something would click, even if we weren’t there when it happened.
For assessment purposes, the final exam diamante differed from the traditional form in that it had to include a metaphor, a simile, three verbs, and a summarizing statement of fact, all describing the writer. To achieve the diamond shape, the diamante began with the writer’s first name on line one and ended with the writer’s last name on the final line.
Exam day came, and Jeff showed up without a pen or pencil, much less a diamante. He sat through the entire session with the Scantron (“the bubble sheet”) in front of him. I don’t recall whether he even bothered to write his name.
He turned in a sheet with a few random bubbles filled in, left the room, and that was the end of our time together. There wasn’t much for my co-teacher and me to do or say about it. That was that.
Then, at the end of the day, I found a crumpled up piece of paper tossed on my desk at the back of the room. I opened it to find this diamante, which I have kept ever since in a little frame on whatever desk where I find myself.
Although I’ve altered the names for privacy’s sake, it is written in ink and was signed…in cursive. . . by someone who taught me a lesson worth remembering:
You never really know what’s going on with a person and people will surprise you in the nicest ways.
A traditional diamante begins and ends with nouns that are opposites. The poem can be used in two ways, either comparing and contrasting two different subjects, or naming synonyms and antonyms for another subject.
The subject is named in one word in the first line. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the subject, and the third line contains three verbs ending in the suffix -ing which are related to the subject. A fourth line then has four nouns, again related to the subject, but only the first two words are related the first subject. The other two words describe the opposite subject the lines then are put in reverse, leading to and relating to either a second subject or a synonym for the first.
As with most things that I can’t change in life, I have come to appreciate the positive things about commuting through Washington DC five or six days a week. To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast, but traffic doesn’t, so you might as well look around while you’re sitting in it. There’s a lot going on out there.
The most interesting things happen when I’ve forgotten to put my camera on the passenger’s seat or when it’s not safe to use it, either because of traffic safety or because the subject of my fascination might be inclined to take retributory action.
I wouldn’t blame them. A person should be free to do whatever they want in full public view, if only to entertain the commuter population.
The sinkhole that shifted my consciousness.
Several months ago I took a different route home because of a sinkhole that had closed off several streets on my usual route. What a gift from the universe that sinkhole was for me. It hadn’t occurred to me to drive through DC’s Chinatown neighborhood on my way out of the city.
Or maybe it had and at that point I wasn’t ready yet to deal with the tourist element. Tourists, jaywalkers, taxi drivers willing to U-turn from the far right lane to pick up a mini-skirt wearing fare, and Metro bus drivers with felony records are a driver’s worst nightmare. But the sinkhole detour shifted my consciousness on that view.
The Chinatown neighborhood, which is teeming with tourists and all those other traffic hazards, is my favorite place to be stuck in gridlock. There’s so much going on there. Plus, it smells like sesame chicken. You gotta love that.
So many people from all over the world meander the streets there, many of them stopping traffic to have their picture taken in front of the Friendship Arch. I don’t mind stopping for this because some of them, usually after an extra long happy hour, strike some interesting poses. Every once in a while I want to ask if I can look them up on Facebook. But I don’t because I don’t need to find myself mentioned on Facebook as “. . .some crazy lady who tried to chat me up in DC.”
The very next day was the beginning of the sit-out I’ve been staging. My sit-out is the opposite of a sit-in; instead of staying in place and refusing to leave, to get my point across I tried for a few days to leave during daylight hours, refusing to stay chained to my desk.
On my commute home, feeling free as a hippie who’d only logged 7.5 hours that day, I found myself sitting in traffic near the Friendship Arch, basking in the aroma of sesame chicken, people-watching to my heart’s content, and enjoying life in the moment, when my theme song came on the radio.
As luck, or the universe, would have it, I had remembered to have my camera riding shotgun. I took a picture to prove to you that it really happened, although I’m not sure why you wouldn’t believe me. I admit to a certain amount of hyperbole, but I don’t make most of this stuff up.
I forgot about that until one night this past week when the universe treated me to a traffic jam in that same spot and when I looked to my left, I saw a group admiring this way groovy car. This is now my favorite intersection, the intersection of peace and friendship and sesame chicken.
I wish you could smell what I smelled. Mmmm…sesame chicken.
Maybe you have one of these where you live, too: a modest house situated on the cusp of the town’s business and residential districts, the place where Madame Flora or Mrs. Miller and her relatives run the family fortune-telling empire. In my town it’s a cute little pink cottage near a busy intersection, cheerfully lit by the welcoming glow of white Christmas lights at varying times of the day or night.
This pleasant beckoning might tempt even the staunchest skeptic to stop in, if only out of curiosity.
At some time in the past couple of years, while I wasn’t particularly paying attention, a new Madame Flora moved in or Mrs. Johnson took over for Mrs. Miller or something happened at the fortune-teller cottage and business is now booming. I think whoever’s in charge might be the real deal.
The place used to have the appearance of a business past its prime, with a weather-worn clapboard exterior and overgrown shrubbery, and most telling of all, a
Shouldn’t they know I’m coming?
prominently displayed notice that services were BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.
All that’s changed now. The sign is gone. The cottage exterior is fresh and appealing, the landscaping is tasteful and inviting, and most interesting of all, the hours seem irregular.
Some nights I’ll drive by near midnight and business is brisk. Some Saturday afternoons, nothing. They truly do know when you’re coming and they’re there for you.
I’m not normally the type to visit a fortune teller/crystal-palm-tarot card reader. I’m pretty sure that one sleepover in tenth grade, when we disobeyed house rules and snuck in a Ouija board, is the root of all misadventures that have befallen me since. Was it really worth a lifetime of bad luck to know if Jeff thought Cindy was cute?
It was not.
Particularly since Ouija’s answer was something like E-Y-N-R-S-Q and Jeff never so much as offered to carry Cindy’s books to class. Stupid Ouija board.
I do keep a decorative dish near my door full of the little slips that come in my occasional weekly Chinese take-out, but those are strictly for entertainment purposes.
Whenever I wonder what the next hour to day-and-a-half will hold, I’ll pull out a slip, as if I’m calling bingo numbers or something, and decide whether or not I care for that fortune. If I don’t think it suits me or my particular desires in that moment, I put it back and try again.
I prefer to choose my own destiny.
One of my friends mocks this little ritual. That doesn’t stop him from casually sneaking a slip out and taking a peek when he doesn’t know I’m watching.
I’m considering replacing all the slips with new slips, all of which say, “Your thinning hair will soon be gone,” or “You enjoy home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps too much, Pudgy.”
The problem with fortune cookies lately, as some of you well know, is that they don’t so much predict the future as make some over generalized statement, such as one I get frequently:
“Culture and customs of China attract you.”
This revitalized fortune-teller cottage is the only positive indicator I’ve noticed in an otherwise dismal psychic industry lately.
Along with the Ouija’s sensitivity to wishful thinking and heavy hands, and the increasing mediocrity in fortune cookie slips, I’ve given up on an astrology website that used to be a fun end-of-the-month check-in. Used to be it was interestingly accurate to read at the end of the month and compare to what had actually gone on.
Then I started to notice it wasn’t so accurate, right around the time I started to notice the astrologer started telling personal stories illustrating examples from her own life.
“When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, you are prone to broken bones,” she would write. And then she’d go on, “For example, in 1997, when the moon was in my seventh house, I fell down the stairs and ended in a full body cast.”
Once, maybe twice, I could see this happening. Eventually I came to feel sorry for this poor woman’s tragic life. And then it occurred to me: she’s an astrologer. How are all these things that she’s cautioning readers about happening to her . . . repeatedly? When Jupiter aligns with Mars, shouldn’t she know to stay home in bed?
And then THIS happened.
A woman in my office has an online fortune-telling business, along with a jewelry business she’s pitching to QVC, a real estate empire that requires frequent trips to landlord court, and a recently incorporated travel agency. With all this going on, she barely has time left to deal with all the accident claims and traffic citations she seems to rack up. But somehow she manages.
It’s the fortune-telling business that’s germane here.
A few weeks ago, I made the usual, casual workday greeting, “How are you today?”
To which she replied with a story that amused and fascinated me beyond levels I could have imagined upon mumbling the initial greeting.
She was happy this day to have finally finished traffic class. And it had been easier than she thought.
I was happy for her, noting that I hadn’t been aware of her traffic class, to which she responded that she didn’t belong there. It was the psychic’s fault.
“What psychic?” I inquired, suddenly more than casually fascinated. I thought the scandal that was about to break would reveal the true source of her fortune-telling prowess. Was I about to learn she’s been outsourcing to China, just as she had with her jewelry designs?
So much better:
Her latest traffic violation carried a potential fine of $125. In an attempt to avoid paying the fine, she visited a psychic to ask for advice. The psychic asked what she wanted the outcome to be. She told him.
So, for a modest $50, the psychic promised her that the ticketing officer would not appear in court for her traffic hearing. She paid her $50 and went to court, assuming the officer would be out with a toothache or groin injury or mild apoplectic seizure. Whatever honorable psychics are able to accomplish for a mere $50.
I’m willing to bet that you, dear reader, regardless of your psychic abilities, are able to predict what happened in traffic court that day.
My favorite part of her story was the cliffhanger: she was so angry that the ticketing officer appeared in court, sound of body and mind, that she was planning to make a return visit to the psychic and demand her money back.
I haven’t asked how that turned out yet. I predict that one will bring a good chuckle.
Peace Train was on my list of also-rans because I’ve written about it twice before so it seemed like I should at least give it a nod. The first time I wrote about it was a spontaneous moment one morning a few years ago when I was looking for something else online and stumbled upon a YouTube video of Cat Stevens performing the song in the 1970s.
Peace is joyful.
I was charmed by his youthful exuberance and the feeling of joy I experienced from watching it. It reminded me of the notion that music can bring such joy and, to my way of thinking, you cannot be simultaneously joyful and without peace. Sure, joy can and often should be noisy, but it’s good noise, joyful noise if you will.
Peace is sublime.
In the side frame that morning, YouTube suggested another version of the song, performed by Yusuf Islam, Cat Stevens’ latter day name. That version is quietly peaceful. You might say prayerful.
The juxtaposition of the two was poignant for me, so I published an impromptu post featuring both.
Peace is versatile.
Last year on the morning of September 11, I decided it was as good a day as any to send out an intention of peace and I published a similar post. While searching for the videos, I found a third one, where Yusuf Islam is playing on a couch, which looks just like mine and is positioned just where mine is except when you look out my door you see the masts of sailboats in a marina, so it felt almost as if he were playing in my living room. In that video, after a lovely acoustic version, he plays a blues version (it starts at about the 2:20 mark).
I love the notion that peace manifests itself with such versatility.
To borrow from the candy bar commercial, also from the 70s, sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don’t. But I always feel like peace is the word.
When I updated the Be The Boss of Me poll to include your write-in suggestions, just as I was finishing, I felt a sense that Peace Train belonged on the ballot, so I tossed it on as an after-thought. And 33% of you voted for it.
Peace should not be an after-thought.
This is convenient in that it nudges me to follow up on something I started months ago. I don’t recall how, but I stumbled (I stumble a lot) upon Everyday Guru’s Bloggers for Peace and signed up, committing myself to the goal of writing one post a month focused on the idea of peace. This month (or maybe last — I’m behind on reading) there’s a theme to the Bloggers for Peace posts: peace through music.
Two of my favorite things. Man, you throw a Hershey bar and a margarita into that mix and I personally will have achieved something close to nirvana.
I’ve been working on a more serious peace/music post, because this is truly where I should get on the Bloggers for Peace train. For now, though, this technically fulfills my commitment to my monthly peace post. You, the Bosses of Me (BoMs), have chosen Peace Train as my theme song. And I thank you for that.
I like it because it sets a good intention before walking into any room and the version I play can be adjusted to fit the room. I like it because it fits my sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes curled up barefoot on the couch moods. I hope that whatever my Life Moment turns out to be, it will be a celebration of joy and peace.
Hmm. Turns out maybe I might be a little more hippie than I’ve been letting on. Kumbaya, all y’all.
Here’s how the rest of the voting played out.
Second place: Get Ready, with 17% of the vote.
Tied for third:Teacher, Teacher and Powerful Stuff, each with 13% of the vote.
Fifth place: Dandelion.
Devil With the Blue Dress, Feelin’ Groovy, Galway Girl, and You Can’t Resist It were tied with an equal vote.
And, no one voted for Cynical Girl. I like to think there’s a broader message in that and I kinda dig it
Thanks for playing. I so enjoyed your comments and suggestions. You are the BoMs!
Without further ado, it’s time for the annual Be The Boss of Me poll. This year you’ve had to work hard, which doesn’t come easy to you boss types. Instead of one poll with a few options, you’ve watched old music videos all week. You’ve made recommendations and rejected some of the weaker ideas, which I’m sure you’ll present to the board of directors later as your own and claim full credit, but that’s ok.
Now it’s time to decide my fate. Hey, it’s not like I’m asking for a raise or the corner office. Just a theme song is all I ask.
Need a reminder about the choices? Check out this handy voter’s guide I prepared over lunch. So, yeah, about that raise.
Why I considered it: Because it’s been my true theme song since a pact I made with some friends when I was 20-something. That opening line is particularly brilliant.
Why it’s not a finalist: Too schmaltzy. Come to think of it, that probably suits me fine. If my moment involves sharing the spotlight on a remote beach with the baby sea turtles I’m rescuing, this will fit. Otherwise, it’s just a dreamy song.
I took the day off for car service and for some reason – either the break in our heat wave or the break from too many long hours at work — I was overtaken by the spirit of Goldie Hawn, who channeled giggly, bubbleheadedness into my every word and deed. The more I fought it, the worse (or better) it got.
Oddly enough, everyone I encountered that day enjoyed Goldie’s presence. When I left the shop, the mechanic called out to me, “Bye, Sunshine!” No one’s called me that in ages. I stopped to tell him that my dad called me Sunshine and he replied, “Well, it’s ’cause you are. It’s your smile. It’s beautiful.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t my smile. It was Goldie’s. I was just borrowing it for the day.
Just like everyone should have a theme song, everyone should have the occasional groovy day, when your heart feels as light as Goldie Hawn’s smile. I hope today is yours.
My seventh grade music teacher made us sing this song over and over and over again. I love to hate and hate to love it. At least he spared us the Star Trek uniforms.
#4 Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Tomorrow is the big day: Theme Song Finalist #5 and your chance to Be The Boss Of Me.