Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

I overheard one of the older ladies at my office taking down an email address over the phone a while ago. She did the best she could with her existing knowledge base.

It reminded me of many, many conversations in which my brother and I were operating in entirely separate universes of understanding.

In middle school, I considered myself to be exceptionally brilliant at interpreting these communication disconnects. As proof of my powers, I pointed to my own masterful understanding of an incident that unfolded in my 6th grade World History class.

Our textbook included little historical fiction introductions to each section as a way to bring students into the moment.

When we got to the chapter on European feudalism, the introduction detailed a ceremony in which a medieval landholder granted a fief to an underling:
“I will be faithful to you and defend you, the kneeling vassal declared. The lord then placed a clod of earth in the man’s hand. The earth symbolized the vassal’s right to use this land in exchange for his service to the lord.
This story did not help my classmate Annabelle dive into the 12th century. One word in particular tripped her up.

Our history teacher did not pick up on Annabelle’s concerns about the separation of church and state in our classroom. Instead, he gave her a helpful and informative explanation of the historical structures involved.

Personally, I couldn’t wait until we took geometry.

Extra Credit: Email address it would be really annoying to give out over the phone (from McSweeneys) 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Every Time You Go Away

I’ve been drawing pictures for work again.

They’re very logo-centric illustrations, though, and I’ve been keeping the name of my employer off of my blog in case the organization is not especially thrilled to be represented by this advanced level of neurosis. For literary purposes, then, let’s all assume that I work for that renowned charity, the Yellow Circle.

We’re throwing a potluck at my office later this week, and the party announcements called for a certain amount of fanfare.

Everyone is a little emotionally conflicted, though, because the event is a going-away party for four likable people all at the same time.

In addition to general motivational efforts (“Sign up to bring hotdogs or we will be stuck with just salsa and cake!”), I’m also in charge of signage for the event itself. There’s a standard, thoughtful banner, of course…

…but I felt like the occasion called for some graphics as well. It turns out that “We are sorry to see you go but really hope you all enjoy your new jobs in four completely different locations and industries!” is not a very tidy sentiment to illustrate, so I went with something a little simpler:

Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up my Mournful Circle from the printer tray until the next morning. That’s when I found Emmet carrying it around the office and making sure that he didn’t need to stage a workplace intervention.

After that, I decided to go in a different direction for the party decor:

Everyone had better watch out, though. The next person who throws away recyclable paper is going to meet up with Mournful Circle.


P.S. I just noticed that this is my 100th post. This one is already written and drawn, though, so instead of publishing any landmark-related material, I’m planning to celebrate by myself with 100 Oreos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Object Lessons

I talk to inanimate objects a lot.

These are typically not the most thrilling conversations.

They hardly ever respond to me.

In fact, sometimes I think they aren’t even listening.

I hadn’t realized just how often I talk to things, though, until my brother started answering on their behalf.

That was also when I realized that the objects may have a fair reason not to obey me:

I’m not giving them nearly enough positive reinforcement.

Their work environment can get downright hostile.

So I’ve got a new plan of action. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Crime of the Century

My car is pretty distinctive. It’s a late-1980s, white stripe–tired, Elderly Gentleman Land Yacht. In sky blue.

This instant recognizability makes me feel extra bad about doing stupid things in traffic, because I know I can’t hide. If I cut somebody off on the way to work, then every day on the commute he can see me driving a wide-turn-radius blue sign that says “Remember me? The jerk?”

Of course, dumb driving moves make me feel horrible anyway because there’s almost no way to apologize afterward. Shouting out the window tends to get misinterpreted, oddly enough, and the rest of the world still hasn’t mastered reading my thoughts. I just need a bumper sticker that says “I’m so sorry” and a neon sign to switch on in my rear window.

(SPECIAL NOTE: The aforementioned situations are, naturally, completely hypothetical. I have of course never committed and would never entertain the notion of any irresponsible activity that could jeopardize my own safety or that of others while operating a motor vehicle. Hi, Dad!)

Being really eye-catching also means that my car and I should probably stop hanging around security-patrolled abandoned buildings.

Let me back up for a second and point out, in case you were unaware, that derelict shopping malls are extremely cool. I am not the only one who feels this way, as evidenced by a large and moderately disturbing web community and the delicious term “Dead Mall,” which is coincidentally also the name of my emo poetry collective.

Old things are pretty nifty in general, for that matter. I agree with hipsters on this point, as difficult as it is to admit. Actually, I might be swayed by aspects of hipsterdom were it not for my natural mantle of crippling self-consciousness. For example, I don’t believe that all ironic fashions are necessarily stupid or unappealing—

—it’s just that I know that they are decidedly stupid on me.

My enthusiasm for decaying structures is similarly hobbled by unrelenting fear, this time of trespassing arrests and/or hobo molestation, so personally exploring boarded-up retail carcasses is not in the cards. Thank goodness there’s the internet.

On the other hand, we’ve got a mall in Albuquerque that has been mostly dead for years, and it’s attached to a feral cat wonderland of a long-abandoned hotel. You can drive right up to the perimeter fence and stare at all the places where copper wiring used to be, and it’s beautifully landscaped in broken glass and 1960s parking lot fixtures. 

Recently, though, they actually moved a bulldozer into the site to clear the way for new construction. The last time I needed some kitchen gadgets from one of the three stores still operating out of the mall husk, I suddenly realized that all the fabulous creepiness could disappear at any time and be replaced with something unromantically safe and operational. 

Seizing what could be my last chance, I drove a really slow arc around the hotel and took some nausea-inducing jittery video. After that I pulled into the front parking lot for a few still photos of the desolation. 

Then a mall cop in a golf cart whirred up to tell me not to take pictures. 

I spooked like a first-grader in trouble for talking in the library and slunk home as shamefaced as possible. 

But then I realized that all of my pictures were really cool…

Two weeks later I went by the mall again to see if the bulldozer had moved, and OH WOW THEY PULLED THE OUTSIDE WALLS DOWN AND NOW YOU CAN SEE INSIDE THIS IS THE NEATEST THING EVER! I was busy gawking at the peeled-open hotel when I drove right past the same golf cart guard, who wrote down my license plate number as I made my getaway at a parking lot–mandated 15 mph.

I felt like such a wild hooligan that it made me cackle all the way home.

I haven’t monitored the demolition situation in weeks, and again I’m nervous that all of the enticing decay is about to be replaced with something dull like progress. Also, I’d like to give the security guard another opportunity to get nervous about my intentions. Presumably he has no idea that I am too skittish even to get out of my car, and I really hope that he’s imagining my vast potential for breaking, entering, and wreaking havoc. Part of me is way too excited about the possibility of being suspected by law enforcement. It’s probably the same part that wants to wear tiny hats.