Monday, August 20, 2007

Aunty Christ knows what she likes on a bagel

In this month’s Marie Claire was a short article (very short) about Grandpa Crushes. Everyone has them! They’re the new miniature-Chihuahua-in-a-purse. (Which, speaking of purses, and for those of you hoping to quickly familiarize yourselves with Marie Claire’s editorial position, another of their “articles” featured a candy-colored array of alligator-skin Gucci clutches that ended, “Get this fall’s hottest accessory, and you’ll find yourself swamped with invitations!” Other possible puns I am thinking of include: “Buy this bag, or everyone will think you’re a real stick in the mud!” “You might have to leech money from your boyfriend to afford it, but you won’t want to be without this season’s cutest new accessory!” “These lovely handbags will make you squeal like a pig!”)

Grandpa Crushes are, and I can’t imagine why I have to explain this to you, crushes that younger women (in their 20s, possibly 30s) get on older dudes. You know … Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Brian Dennehy. I love Brian Dennehy! And someday I will meet him, and then I will slice open his belly and use his rich, creamy center as a delicious, salty breakfast spread.

I cannot wait.

Like all fine journalism, the piece sparked a conversation in our household, namely: Does Rich Bachelor have a Grandma Crush? After a few moments of consideration, actress/predatory insect Joan Allen was mentioned. I have a good 80 pounds on her, and am nearly 20 years her junior. I feel confident that Brian Dennehy and I will be able to administer a grandfatherly ass-whoopin’ to Rich and his new lover, if we ever run into them at a nightclub or in the nursing center.

Anyway, it’s nearly Labor Day, which means … well, a bunch of things, really. A day off work, the summer ending. My birthday (which is, of course, the reason I’m thinking about grandma crushes—hoping that someday very soon I can take the lovely Miss Allen’s place in the retirement home of Rich’s heart). Ahh, I know: reflections about work. As someone who’s only recently rejoined the work force, I have a few thoughts on the daily grind, the salt mills, the shit plants that occupy such a monolithic place in the popular imagination. Oh, working was fun the first few weeks, and now it’s gotten to be kind of a routine, something that keeps me from the drink until, at least, 4:30 or so, but it’s hardly a way to live.

My first thoughts on adult working life (and many other facts of adultishhood) were formed by Lloyd Dobler, of course. Who can forget:

“I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.”

You hear that as a 16-year-old, and it’s like, Yeah! Because buying and selling and processing are lame, man. That’s what The Man wants you to do. And it’s boring. It’s like, why buy and sell and process things when you could, you know, dance and sing and create and think? And saying that you don’t want to do any of these things, above all else, is tantamount to saying that you don’t want to work—that you are above work—because what could you even do as work if you didn’t buy or sell or process anything?

Well, quite a bit, actually. Lots of crap work, like, perhaps, computer programming, caring for squalling babes in a daycare center, doing pedicures for rich bitches, title examining, cleaning hotel rooms—whereas one can think of loads of perfectly adequate jobs (photographer, for example, where part of one’s labor literally is processing) in which one buys, sells or processes (or repairs, which Lloyd is, for no reason that I can remember, also against), and which don’t destroy one’s soul—at least not any more than any other form of labor.

The thing that struck me the most, though, in hearing that out-of-context piece of dialogue, was the needless repetition of it: “I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed.” Well, if you don’t want to buy anything as a career, I suppose one might assume that you don’t want to buy anything that’s been bought or sold or processed, yes. The larger includes the smaller, and it always has, Lloyd. I imagine a much longer monologue, in which Lloyd patiently explains to us that not only does her not want to sell anything at all, but he doesn’t want to sell anything bought, sold, processed, unprocessed, grown out of the soil (either organic or not), made of iron or copper or bacon fat, with a grainy consistency, pickled, covered in fireants, produced by sweatshop labor, shaped like a doughnut, licked by a puppy, filled with cheese, purple, or cold to the touch.

What I take away from this quick peek into Lloyd Dobler’s soul, is that Lloyd Dobler sucked, and that we (by which I mean, I think, mostly women in their 30s, but probably anyone who thought Lloyd Dobler was pretty cool at the time, and definitely anyone who, for example, lists on their MySpace page Lloyd Dobler as the person they want to meet) were very, very stupid for paying any attention to him. At the most generous reading, we’re left with this: What’s that? You don’t want to work a conventionally acceptable job? Well, sir, perhaps you might like to be introduced to the whole goddamn human race, who, despite their myriad differences and disagreements, have all come together to admit that you are right on this one.

I forget if I’ve mentioned this, but my job? Kinda sucks. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s also kind of okay. It’s interesting in all sorts of ways that no one—none of you civilians, anyway—really gets. Examining title, if nothing else, offers a skeletal history, of a region, a neighborhood, a family. You see who divorced who, who married who, who died and owning what. You see the Johnsons and the Browns move out and the Nguyens and the Trans move in. Right now, what you see a lot of are foreclosures. Things falling apart. People who bought property a year ago already having defaulted on their property taxes and their mortgages. It doesn’t take that much imagination to create a human story behind the records—the nervousness and hope in the beginning, seeing everything tumble out of control only a few months in. You see things like a $600 tax bill gone unpaid. My first thought: Why buy a house if you don’t have at least $600 in the bank? But what’s really happening, I suspect, is that if the mortgage is two months late and the car is being repossessed and there’s already one supplemental tax bill for $3,000 that you can’t pay, the $600 bill just goes in the drawer with the rest of ‘em.

Everyone knows this already, though. The news community is going nuts with talk about how everything’s going to shit, thanks to the sub-prime lenders. I assume that, like always, it’s not going to be as bad as it really should be, and somehow we’ll be saved from ourselves—someone’s bound to offer up a Band-Aid to put over this big, infected mess of a credit system, right? What I really wanted to talk about was Lloyd Dobler, who is, actually, a pretty good metaphor for all the stupid shit we Americans are always being asked to buy into and are subsequently begging for the chance to buy into, just a little bit, just once more, please. Which is why we get stuck with both foreclosures and Must Love Dogs, if that makes any sense.

Have a good long weekend anyway, before this all falls apart.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Aunty Christ is buying some new pants, because these aren’t smarty enough for her

A few weeks ago, Rich and I were out riding our bikes on one of the main thoroughfares between our new home and the rest of Eastern Saskatoon, our biking mini-unit broken by an interloping woman bicyclist, who was, I think, attempting to catch up with the boy she had been riding with before we turned onto the street, breaking up their biking mini-unit. “Lesbians!” yelled a passing motorist. And yes, as we all know, one hallmark of being a lesbian is indeed sexual attraction to other women. Another surely is the act of riding a bike in close proximity to a complete stranger. Now that the details of my sexual preference have been made clear by street-yellers, I shall be turning up my nose to further offers of dick, thank you.

Oh, anyway, can’t we just yell thoughts out of windows at the people who inspire them? “Lesbians” being one example. “Ugly!” being another. Or “Fat middle-management douchebag!” Or “Skinny tattooed hipster!” “You who are not better than I!” Whatever.

Yelling things out of car windows at strangers sure is fun. A few months ago—I think it was Mardi Gras or St. Paddy’s Day or something—Rich told me to yell at a group of dressed-up chachis milling about in front of a discotheque. “I hate you! I hate you so much!” I yelled, which, owing to the Doppler effect, surely ended up sounding like a walrus belching the alphabet into a down pillow. But it was sure fun for me, and that’s what matters, I think. Fun: Not as good as drinking™. To be fair, I did hate them. Soooooooooo much. So yeah, that was me, in case you didn’t recognize me. I hope you’ve taken the criticism to heart and have turned your life around or whatever. You’re welcome.

Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh right. My job. My jizzob, as the snot-nosed babies who work in teh office with me say. See how I roll? There are a couple of things wrong with these job things all the kids are getting these days, and one of them is, of course, the traffic that one encounters in the getting to and going home from the office. Oh fuck. Speaking of bicyclists, which I was not so very long ago (pay attention!), I will make a deal with you, Bicycling Community of Saskatoon: If you do not get in my way or pretend you are anything other than a vehicle, such as a balloon or a cow or a zombie, I will not mutter darkly about you beneath my breath. Furthermore, if you do not ride two or three abreast in the narrow bike lane, I will not muster whatever resources I have against you, or, you know, get kind of frustrated. Oh, I know, we all have to suck biker cock now, and I’m happy to share the road with bicyclists most days, as I will come out of an accident with one of those completely unscathed. What I really hate about driving during rush hour is that apparently—well, by now we’ve all heard of National Take Your Daughter to Work Day? Also, not on my calendar: National Drive Like Crap to Work Day. On certain, unannounced days, everyone on the streets of Saskatoon decides to do that thing, by which I mean, of course, toss regard for human life out the window, like a still-smoldering cigarette butt. Oh, me? I drive like shit every day, due to my long-term disregard of human life, and my ADD. But that only works if other drivers are paying attention.

Something else that sucks about the commute: The sun. If it could not always shine in my eyes, that would be less sucky. Thanks, Sun.

The thing that makes all this maddening hell worthwhile, though, is the sexual-harassment video that employees of large corporations are required to watch every now and again. As a new employee of a certain large corporation, I was recently required to watch a corporate-produced sexual-harassment video, which particular video chronologued the curious office relationships of a certain hapless computer repairman, named Frank. “Whaaaat?” he said, again and again. “I was only complimenting her body. Women like that, right? Alls I said was, ‘You look really nice in that sweater. You been working out? You’ve really lost the baby weight—except where a lady’s supposed to be big.’ ” Am I right, guys? Zing! Zow!

Much better was my former employer’s harassment video, which was wonderfully offensive on multiple levels. “I hate the premise of this video,” said the company rep who showed it to us. “It makes all us HR people look bad.” The offending premise was that a group of employees were supposed to have a meeting with an HR person about harassment and offending language, but the HR person failed to show up, so they sat around a table and looked at the pamphlets she presumably had left for the meeting and talked. And learned. By the end of the discussion, the astonished HR rep hurries into the conference room, just as the others are leaving. “No thanks,” they say to her offer to guide them through the materials. “I think we got the message” (jocular elbowing, winking). So, yes, if you are an HR person, you could get the feeling, in watching this video, that someone in your company, deep down, believes the entire HR department might be adequately replaced with a stack of meeting outlines. As a matter of fact, if you are an HR person and you feel that the rest of us disagree, I should point out that you are deeply delusional. But then, you probably have to be, given, you know, what you are.

The best part of the video came early, though, when one employee—a walking stereotype, no doubt, perhaps a woman of color and size but with a spunky (read: annoying) personality, wearing a brightly colored blazer—was rounding up her coworkers for the scheduled meeting. “Hey, I don’t know if you remember, Juan, but Linda from HR is meeting with us in five minutes in the General Custer Room.” Oh please, tell me you did not just say that you are holding your goddamn diversity workshop in the goddamn General Custer Room. But no, there it was, decorated with watercolors of headdresses and crying Injuns. Strangely, it was never brought up in the diversity discussion. Lots of “When you made fun of my accent, I felt bad, but I felt too uncomfortable to bring it up,” but no “The fact that our corporation has seemingly embraced the government’s systematic destruction of my people kind of makes my tummy ache.” Oh whatever. Whiners.

The man who’s training us—I think I said this before—is ex-president of two companies, in his early 70s, and—despite some problems between us early on—kind of hilarious, which is something every office needs, probably: An old man who uses “Balls!” as his expletive of choice (to the great amusement of my young coworkers), eats a hot dog every lunch hour, and says of the work load we are given, much more often than he says anything positive about anything, “This is crap. That county is crap. What a pile of garbage!” Even better, every now and again, he feels compelled to share his views on just who, exactly, is going to burn in hell. “Child-support liens last forever if they’re not released,” he reminds us. “I don’t know who these guys are, who have these kids and don’t pay for them. You know who ends up paying for these kids? The taxpayers—that’s you and me. These men—they’re garbage!” On the prevalence of tax sales and foreclosures: “Oh, these lenders are going to hell. Convincing buyers to sink every last penny into their house, irresponsibly advising them that the market’s just going to keep going up—when they know that it’s not!—giving them 100-percent loans at a variable rate. They’re rotten. They’re garbage.” It’s a pleasure to work with someone even more irascible than I am, and, goddamn it, at his age, he’s earned the right to hate. If I’m 70 and am forced to travel to the neighboring state for the privilege of living in an Econolodge and working 12-hour days, please shoot me. I believe, however, that I may have said a similar thing when I was in my twenties, about what should happen if I ever managed to mess up my life to such a degree that I was in my 30s and working a dead-end office job, only to come home each night to a pile of dishes and a mountain of laundry and dog hair.

Oh, it’s hardly ever worth it, this life of ours, but when it is, boy is it worth it. And that’s all I have to say on the subject.