Saturday, December 27, 2014

In which Primo prepares for the state convention, where he is to give a ten-minute speech and is really nervous about it

I stayed out of the speech preparation this time, but had to sit in the bedroom while Primo packed for 28 hours at the state convention.

Here is what he wanted to take:

1. Two suits - one navy, one khaki. "What if I have to wear a suit on Friday? I can't wear the same suit on Saturday when I give my speech!"

Me: Oh yes you can. Nobody will notice, I promise.

2. A sport jacket. In case a suit is too dressy for Friday.

3. Khakis. For Friday.

4. Three shirts - one for Saturday, one for with khakis alone on Friday, one for with khakis and a sport jacket.

5. Three ties. One for each nine-hour and twenty-minute period.

He wanted me to iron.

I laughed.

Friday, December 26, 2014

In which we see the Ceramic Cat of Many Colors, the Cast-Iron Cat, and a real cat

You guys, I do not make stuff up. I wish what I wrote here was fiction, but it is not.

I guess the Cast-Iron Cat is not life sized - but it is close. Close enough for blog truth. Close enough in spirit for sure.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

In which Primo and I discuss the Ceramic Cat of Many Colors

Primo: Here. Read the card from my parents.

Me: Fine. [I read.] There. Done.

Primo: See? It wasn't bad. They didn't write anything in it. Now you're done.

Me: OK. And I know your mom just wants to do something nice, but....

[I am reading this post on Captain Awkward and am thinking, "I am not alone!" It's not me! I am not the bizarre one here. You wonder why I write about this stuff? It's as I said to my mom, who suggested that perhaps I need to let Sly and Doris go - I need to be validated. My mom has never dealt with people like this. I would not have believed there were people like that until I had met Sly and Doris. I, to my regret, may even not have believed other people dealing with people like this. I may have thought, "Surely this person is somehow complicit! Nobody could be that bad!"

But when you mix alcohol with meanness - Sly's, then there can be trouble.

I just want to know that there are bizarre people out there and it's not my fault. If it is my fault, I need to know what I am doing wrong. I talked to my sister and said, "It's not that I am obsessed with this - it's just like passing a wreck on the highway. You want to turn to the person next to you and say, "Holy smoke! Can you believe that?" and have that person agree with you that it's a mess.]

Primo: She does! When I was there earlier this month, she even said, "I know you don't want any trinket-type things."

Me: So she sends us one!

Primo: But it's a cat! And we love cats! So there is a cat exception!

In which Doris gets us a colorful ceramic cat to go with the cast-iron cat

Not making this up. But at least it is not as big as the cast-iron cat, which is life sized.

The coup de grace: it is from her, Sly, and Primo's dead sister Nancy.

In which I go to a political event with Primo and am bored OUT OF MY MIND because all they do is introduce people

One of Primo's big political contacts bought a $1,000 table for a political event and invited Primo and me.

I wanted to say no right away, because who in her right mind would want to spend four hours on a worknight at a political event? I don't even want to do something fun with people I like for four hours on a worknight. I certainly don't want to do something boring with a bunch of strangers.

But this contact - let's call him Bernard - has been so good to Primo. He and his wife have supported Primo's campaigns by donating time and money and by introducing him to Powerful People.

I want Primo to talk to Bernard about getting a political job after the election is over.

(There are some people who have said, "But he might win the election!" Right! And pigs might fly!)

Primo hates the idea of that kind of networking. He has never had to work to find a job - they have pretty much come to him via his network, which he doesn't think of as a network, but what do you call it when your former boss goes to work at Apple and then recruits you to follow him there? That, my friend, is networking.

And then there is the networking I want Primo to do: To talk to the people he knows, tell them he is thinking of quitting his job (the very idea of which gives me hives), that he wants a paid job in politics, and do they have any ideas?

Primo is horrified by this concept.

1. "How can I look for a new job while I still have a job? I am BUSY!"
Me: Welcome to the rest of the world.

2. "How can I even talk about a new job if I am not prepared to start one?"
Me, again: Welcome to the rest of the world.

I told Primo I would attend the event only if he promised to talk to Bernard about a paid political job. I also said that this counted as one of the three political events I will participate in during the campaign.

I met him at the place after work. It was jam packed with political people. I didn't recognize most of the faces, but I knew a lot of the names. I found Primo, took a deep breath, and prepared to endure boredom with a smile.

Honestly, I do not know how most political spouses endure this. You are not as "on" as the candidate, but what you do reflects on the candidate, so you cannot stand in the corner and read "Ask a Manager" or on your phone. You have to smile and be polite and be engaged even when you would rather be at home cleaning the bathroom.

A waiter presented a tray of bacon pizza. I took a napkin and a slice and ate it. At least the food was good. That is a rarity at political events in my experience.

Another waiter presented a tray of crostini with black olives. I took one and ate it.

Another waiter presented a tray of little curried chicken sandwiches. I took one and ate it.

When the waiter presented a tray of mini hamburgers, I asked, "What's for supper? I don't want to spoil my appetite." [I was being polite - I really didn't want to waste eating on appetizers if supper was going to be fabulous, but if supper was just broiled dry chicken breasts, then I wanted two hamburgers.]

"There is no supper! It's only appetizers," the waiter told me.

Whaaat? One hundred twenty five dollars a person for an event that starts at 5:30 p.m. and there is NO SUPPER??

I grabbed a hamburger - because it would have looked greedy to take two, but I was already looking for the next waiter with a tray - and rushed over to Primo to inform him. He started stockpiling appetizers, too.

Primo wanted to talk to some political people about boring political stuff, so I found a little cocktail table, put down my food, and got out my phone. I had already met and greeted at least five people, which is about all I can take. I wanted to check facebook and look at some of my favorite blogs and read the paper.

I sat there for 47 seconds, happily ensconced in a world that does not require me to interact with other people, before Bernard's wife came up to the table to talk to me.

She is a lovely woman, Mrs. Bernard is. Again, she and Mr Bernard have been nothing but gracious and helpful and encouraging to Primo. But I didn't want to talk to anyone.

People kept coming up to say hi to her. She would introduce me. I figured out pretty quickly I had to stop eating.

Mrs Bernard introduced me to Sally Dighby. "Oh!" Sally said. "Your books are always next to mine on the hold shelf at the library!"

Small world.

I finally gave up on eating and wrapped my cheese and crackers and little mousses (little mice?) in napkins and slid them into my purse.

Yes, I am an 80 year old woman who grew up during the Depression.

Primo found me. We sat at a table with the firefighters next to what must have been a table of women who had just attended a perfume convention. They stank so much that I got the piece of silk that I cut from Primo's silk boxers that he put in the dryer even though I told him not to and that I use for cleaning my glasses out of my purse and held it over my nose as a filter.

It didn't work very well. I had to choose between suffocating from lack of air and suffocating from an abundance of perfume.

Then the speechifying started. It started at 7:10 and didn't end until 8:45. It was supposed to end at 8:30, but what's 15 minutes of my time - my precious, non-work, non-sleep time to a politician? Nothing, that's what it is. Nothing.

There were opening remarks for the opening remarks. Then there were introductions. The introductions started at 7:20 and went on until 7:40. First, it was people by name. "And Prunella Scales! Please stand, Prunella!" "And Bartleby! Please stand, Bartleby!" "Is Nichole Nickleby here? Stand up, Nichole!"

After each introduction, there was clapping.

Then the group introductions.

"Anyone who graduated from our campaign prep class, please stand!"

"Any elected official, please stand!"

I leaned over to Primo and said, "I'm surprised they haven't introduced you yet."

He laughed. "They're not going to introduce me!"

"Anyone who is running for office! Please stand!"

Primo laughed again and stood. "I told you so!" I whispered.

The firefighters were all playing with their phones. They were bored, too.

"Anyone in a union, please stand!"

The firefighters looked startled. Put down their phones. Stood.

"And last of all, Blah Blah Blah, the trailblazer!"

Thunderous applause. Everyone stood. I had no idea who we were standing for. I overheard one of the firefighters say, "F if I know. I couldn't hear the name." But he stood and clapped just the same.

Everyone sat down. I scratched "Recognition and acknowledgements" off the program. Only nine sections to go.

The talking did not stop. After the tribute to the honoree - wait, after the video of the honoree, there was the tribute. Then there was a taped message from the governor. Photos of the honoree with the president. Video of the honoree with the president.

Then an introduction of the woman who was going to introduce the honoree.

Yes, you read that correctly. The woman who was going to introduce the honoree got her own introduction, an introduction that went on way too long.

Finally, the honoree spoke. She was funny - she said, "It's 8:20 and we're supposed to end at 8:30. I believe, as the reverend said, in ending things the same day they got started."

Except she spoke until 8:40. Bless her heart. Her speech was good. She is funny and charismatic. She didn't say anything too controversial - it was along the lines of "rape is bad" and "being hungry really stinks." Who can disagree with those statements?

When I lived in Memphis, a small food co-op opened in my neighborhood. They put a sign in the window that said, "Against rape."

I silently applauded them for their bold stance. Pretty risky to be that bold. The pro-rape forces are so strong and so politically connected.

They also sold Zapatista coffee, the irony of which probably eluded them.

But honoree finally stopped speaking. Everyone stood to applaud. Even I stood, not so much because I wanted to honor her but because I wanted to get out. I grabbed my purse and started walking - and another person GOT ON STAGE.

A few people sat, but others continued to stand and to prepare to leave. Then to walk out.



Bless her heart, she was giving the credits: "We want to thank Nigella Lawson for the awesome video montage! And we want to thank Rachel Ray for doing the catering! Let's give Rachel a round of applause!"

She named the person who had done the flowers. The volunteers who had staffed the registration tables. More people. I don't know who. I stopped listening. The poor woman was so oblivious to body language - or so desperate to continue because she HAD A SCRIPT - that she didn't know everyone was ignoring her.

I took the chance to grab four bunches of roses from the centerpieces. At least the night was not a complete waste.

Monday, December 22, 2014

If you need a gift for someone who is chic or who wants to be chic

think about my friend Tish, who writes her fabulous blog A Femme d'Un Certain Age, and who wrote a lovely little book about being chic, Forever Chic.

I don't get paid for this endorsement and I bought my own copy of the book. I say this only because Tish is my friend, I like her blog, and I liked her book. You might, too.

PS I am a chic wanabee. I have not yet mastered the art. They would never hire me to be the style editor for the International Herald Tribune, as they did Tish.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In which Primo and I work on his campaign lit

Primo: I don't like this sentence:  "Infrastructure projects are seeds that grow a vibrant economy."

Me: No! Me neither. Seeds do not grow an economy. Seeds might grow into an economy, but seeds don't grow an economy.

Primo: What should I say instead?

Me: How about, "Infrastructure projects improve the economy?" [Yes, I know, boring as heck, but it is late on a Sunday evening, I have taken an imitrex for a headache, and I am trying to read the new Bill Bryson book about 1927. I am not at my best.]

Primo: Except the sentence before says, "Improving America’s economic climate ...."

Me: And you don't want to use "improve" again so soon.

Primo: Exactly.

Me: And you can't say, "investing in infrastructure projects."

Primo: Because I already use "invest."

Me: You could just say, "Spending on infrastructure projects."

Primo: Right! And then on the front of the piece, I can just write, "Tax and spend!"

In which Primo and I read "Crossing the Tracks for Love" and discover a lot about Sly

Have you ever read A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby Payne? If you haven't, you should. It is fascinating. I found out about it on my favorite blog, Ask A Manager, which is the source of so many good things in addition to great job advice.

Well, Dr Payne has written another book about marriage with someone from a different socio-economic class and I understand my differences with Primo a lot better.

Doesn't make them any easier to deal with. But I understand them.

Primo always maintains that my family was poor, which we were not, but we certainly were not affluent. Primo's family had money for away vacations. We spent our vacations camping. Primo's family went out to eat. Mine did not. Primo's father was a highly-degreed professional. My father had a BA, but he did not have a PhD. Both of our fathers and mothers were the first ones in their families ever to go to college.

Primo's dad had, from the outside, a higher-status job than my dad, or at least I think that's how most people would view it. Most people, I think, do not  think too highly of military people - there is this idea that the only reason someone joins the military is because he is too stupid to do anything else. Sly was a college a professor, my dad was a maintenance control officer. I am sure Sly would think he was higher on the social scale than my dad was, but the reality of it is that Sly was a professor at a 4th-tier school, so he can't really brag on that.

(The other reality is that my dad's students, whom he had taught for less than one semester, liked him so much that they held two bake sales so they could buy a yearbook for him and send it to him after he was diagnosed with cancer and back in the US for treatment. The other reality is that there were people who bought last-minute plane tickets so they could fly across the country, holding a ham in their laps, to attend my dad's funeral. After Primo and I attended the funeral of the father of a good friend of ours and found it to be standing room only, Primo said, "I don't think anyone will go to my dad's funeral." Probably not, unless they just want to make sure he is dead. I know that's why I will go.)

What I am getting at: even though Sly spent his career in a more refined atmosphere than my dad and certainly making more money than my dad ever did, he never picked up on middle class values or actions. He retained the worst of poverty, whereas my dad conducted himself with grace and dignity.

To wit - here are some examples from the book of poverty behavior that I have seen in Sly but never saw in my father. (My father was never abusive to my mother. He never made her cry. He never yelled at her that she was stupid. Man, I cannot stand Sly. He is so mean.)

Frank [Ruby's husband, who came from poverty] took a lot of heat in his old neighborhood for marrying me. One time somebody said to him in front of me, "You need to send that girl back to school for a class in obedience."

Remember how Sly told Primo he needs to "get your wife in line?"

If you're from poverty and marry into middle class, expect that your spouse may have difficulty understanding the amount of money and time you give to help your friends. The middle-class assumption is that your friends should be self sufficient and plan ahead for emergencies. Some of these feelings may also apply to family, especially extended family.

Amen. Sly and Doris seem to expect Primo to fly to their side for any problem. They don't seem to think it is their responsibility to figure out and plan for their future. Primo can take care of it.

If you're making the transition from poverty to middle class, here are some of the mindsets and issues that will need to be addressed: 

Jokes and comments about sexual activities are not acceptable in the workplace or at middle-class social events.

Your mother does not have more say-so in your life than your spouse.

Crisis making, clutter, and confusion are frowned upon in middle class.

If you have read much of this blog, then you know that Sly and Doris violate all of these rules.

NB Very interesting to read the middle-class to wealthy info - I would completely fail in that world. I did not know you are not supposed to introduce yourself to a rich person - that you are supposed to wait to be introduced. Interesting, but useless, as I will never be moving into that class. Oh well.