Friday, August 21, 2009

Crazy dream

My nephew keeps drawing this.

I don't know what it is. But it has several transformations. Sometimes the mouth is on sideways, and sometimes there is nothing written on its forehead. And most of the time it doesn't have a friend. It never has the same amount of legs.

Lately, he's been having what he refers to as a "crazy dre-eem" in which robots come to our living room and steal all of his toys and his Grammy, who ends up melted in the garage.

Crazy dream indeed.

School Yells

I found this in a box of stuff I got from my neighbor's auction. The Amsterdam High School mascot was apparently a Dutchman. And the colors were black and red.

If you click on the image, you can see it larger, so I'm not going to retype the entire thing, but some of my favorites are below, for various reasons.
Suzy Q and truckin' on down
Come on Amsterdam
Go to town
I always wondered about "go to town" (on the sheet, it says "got to town," but the "t" is erased. Sort of). What does "go to town" actually mean? I know it's always got some kind of either violent or sexual connotation when the old timers say it, but I always wonder where it came from. As in WHY it has that connotation. My grandfather used to say it. He would say it about people eating fast, someone getting blown up / defeated / murdered violently in a movie. I really still don't get it but I'll pretend.

Big chief, Little Chief,
Papoose Squaw
Amsterdam High School
Rah ! Rah ! Rah !
What does this have to do with Dutchmen exactly?
Signal Shift,
Come on you Dutchmen
Skin em' alive
Do Dutchmen skin people alive?

I'm assuming (and this is Amsterdam, so that could be my problem) that since the town is called Amsterdam, the obvious conclusion would be that the "Dutchman" as a mascot comes from having the town named after the city in the Netherlands, but as the Dutch cut diamonds and grow tulips and stuff, stereotypically anyway, which is where we get mascots, it doesn't make sense.

I googled "dutch papoose" and the only thing that came up that could possibly connect the two was a dutch tanker that was later renamed the Papoose, which had a habit of wrecking into things.

Unless it has something to do with the Dutch colonization of what's now NYC, and the American Indians that lived on Manhattan Island, and somebody back in the day morphed them.

I wouldn't put it past them.

Illustration Friday: Caution

This is Adelaide. She likes Pea Soup.

She always burns her tongue.

{the shop is painted. pictures coming soon}

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Hand-bound books

This is probably my favorite of all the coptic-stitched books I've made. It's really rather large, and I know it's going to make somebody an excellent sewing journal. There are 100 pages in the book (20 in each signature) and the signatures are wrapped in colored paper to divide the book into sections. This and eight others are left in my Etsy shop.

Illustration Friday: Wrapped

2nd week in a row for me completing and posting my Illustration Friday. It makes me feel good to just make something for fun. I don't know why I immediately thought of swings being wrapped up too high to swing them when "wrapped" should have inspired me to illustrate presents or candy, but this is what happened.

Monday, August 10, 2009

2010 is 1971 and that makes me happy.

Disclaimer: This post is very cheesy, and though I usually don't do cheese, sometimes it is necessary to indulge the urge to be happy and spread sunshine.

Friends are good. Especially the kind of friend who can go to a yard sale and see something and think, "Oh wow. Cindy would love that." And that's the kind of friend Shaun is.

Yesterday, he went to a yard sale and found me a calendar from 1971. It's a cloth calendar with three cats on it, and it is absolutely ridiculous how me it is. It immediately went up on the wall in my newly-painted, almost-finished, almost organized office space/studio space/press room.

Though it's fabulous all on its own, and though it makes my inner Cindy want to do cartwheels that the outer Cindy cannot hope to do, the coolest thing about it is that 1971 is the same as 2010. What luck!

Oh, happy day.

Shaun also hung up my Cindy Train for me the other night, above the door leading out into the showroom (which is not finished yet, but should be soon.)

Get on board!

We were cleaning out the games closet one night (still not done) when we found this train. I initially thought that it would have been Bobby's, and never expected it to have any name on it, but when we pulled it from its dusty bag (my grandmother loved to pack everything in plastic bags), not only was it in perfect condition, but it was also very obviously mine.

I now have a new theory about the place from where my love for all things illustrated in the style of Alexander Girard and his contemporaries comes. It's from being a baby with this train on my wall. I imagine that I used to love looking at it. Though I don't know why the baby has to chase the train with all the big kids hanging out the window. Or why the baby has no pants on, but is carrying a suitcase.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Illustration Friday: Impatience

I always start doing the Illustration Friday, and I never finish it. So I'm posting this today. Whee! The topic was Impatience. I was in a cute mood.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Construction Junction, What's Your Function?

Yesterday, Shaun and I went to Lawrenceville to check out some shops. I've been dying to get inside Fresh Heirlooms and Divertido, especially, and I figured there would be some others once we arrived there. However, much to my dismay, the entire street seems to be closed on Mondays. Well, except for the coffee houses and Dozen. Even Piccolo Forno, the restaurant about which I was amateur-foodie-lusting, was closed.

So we went on up Penn Ave. to Bloomfield, and struck gold. I have never seen Construction Junction so packed full of good stuff. I also did not know - because I haven't been there in a long while - that they started a discount price program, with a percentage off of merchandise based on how long it's been sitting there.

The only problem is how to get things home. I don't have money to buy a bunch of stuff right now anyway, but I can dream. Even if I had the money to buy all the stuff I wanted yesterday, I couldn't get it home. Well, without a big truck.

Fish that got away included: old square bar tables with colorful tops, probably from some restaurant for $30 each; a weird, old metal cupboard with no top on it for $2.50; 2 old library tables, about 10 feet long by 3.5 feet wide, which were not priced; several old doors that I fell in love with among the hundreds that were almost as cool along the back wall for $25 and up (one was almost $200); a huge display platform on wheels from a luggage store for $25; and these huge cornerstone pylons with flower design on them for $125 each.

I did get these treasures, though:

4 gallons of paint to repaint the front room of our shop for $5/gallon.

1 old dresser, appropriately and charmingly aged and weathered, and missing only one handle, for $15.

& 1 Vintage metal World Book Encyclopedia book cart, $5.

All of this had to fit in my car, in which my mother left four lawn chairs. But Shaun squeezed everything in somehow. Then, when we were on our way back down Penn toward the heart of the city again, we noticed several big heaps of stuff. Anyone who knows Shaun knows that he would, under normal circumstances, be adverse to picking through trash on Penn Avenue in the middle of the day, but he came up with a plan. I dropped him off at the corner, and he ran up the street and got ready. Then I waited for a lull in the traffic, and drove slowly down the street with my emergency flashers on, and pulled over. He shoved the following things in the backseat between the lawn chairs, the dresser, the book cart, and all the normal things (books and stuff) that I carry around with me:

This old, green metal cabinet drawer, out of which I have already planned a really cool shadow box.

2 wood drawers. One of them is definitely cooler (older vintage, completely solid wood) than the other (modern and made of pressed wood, probably mid-to-late 20th century).

The metal drawer had a label on it that said "programs" and I think that the drawers in general may have come from some kind of teacher's home office. Maybe they retired. It doesn't account for all the sawdust that was in them, but it's a thought.

We went to Legends of the North Shore for dinner, which was incredible. We both had wedding soup, which was probably the best wedding soup I've ever eaten. We also had an appetizer of Mozzerella, which was cut and breaded in-house. I have never eated a fried Mozzerella that good, and the difference has to be that it wasn't frozen in a box for a month before eating. Shaun had a lemon-chicken Rotolo with veggies and mashed potatoes, and I (unusually, but because I wanted the Mama's Gravy) had chicken parmesano, but with the chicken grilled instead of breaded and pan-fried. To my surprise - and delight - the pasta was homemade, too. I will definitely go back there again and again.

I didn't get to do anything in Lawrenceville but window shop, and I didn't get to go to Piccolo Forno, but the day was a good one. August is off to a fabulous start.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Another nephew story. I really should be better about writing down how the little tyke stacks things up and makes trains out of household products and is picky about bathtub toys and how much he loves dumping water from one container into another before he gets too old to enjoy being uninhibited and I forget how fantastic it is to enjoy his childhood.

Last weekend, my mother went to get a shower, and Drake came into the living room and said, "An Ninny, me watch ponjbob?"

I said, "No, you know I do not allow you to watch that when I'm here." (Everyone else allows him to watch it, but I really just don't think it's appropriate for a three year old, and I refuse to participate in his watching it).

To my surprise, he climbed into my lap and said, "OK me talk you. You talk me, Ninny."

I said, "OK. What would you like to talk about?"
He Hrrrmed a little, and then he answered, "Cor-a-ine" (He's not big on Ls).

"What do you like about Coraline?"

"Ye-ow raincoat"

"What else?"

"Her bwoo hair, make pancakes." (On the Coraline Wii game, there is a pancake-making mini-game).

Then he added, "And Wybie." (from the movie, not the book).

"What about Wybie?"

"Him bwack eyes and bwack hands him bwack coat bwack cat bu-unns eyes." As he said this, he made circles with his thumbs and first fingers and put them up to his eyes. Then he began to swish his arms around, and said, "Umm, an Misser Bixsy have him wats go shwoo shwoo on a wines."

This explanation of Mr. Bobinsky's mouse circus made me laugh, and Drake laughed, too. Then I asked, "who else lives in Coraline's house?"

Drake said, "Euum, the ladies." Then he swished his hands around in the motion he has to make with the Wii remote in order to play the mini-game in the Ladies' rooms.

Then he smiled at me and said, "Ninny?"

And I said, "What, honey?"

He gave me a hug and said, "All buttered up now? Me watch ponjbob?"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We (Don't Really) Want Your Business: Taking Customers for Granted in the Sad, Bad Economy

People love to argue, but there is one thing about which it seems that everyone is in agreement: The economy is in very bad shape. In light of that, businesses and services should be trying to build clientele, reinforce customer relationships, and gain customer loyalties. In times of economic hardship, our best bet for financial survival is a revival of the local economy. Money earned and spent within the smaller community means a better life for all who participate in the economy of that community.

Recently, I went to take the Praxis I exam in Pittsburgh, and on my drive into the city, I noticed a sign on the electronic billboard of a hotel in Greentree. It said, "We Want Your Business!" It sounds nice, but do signs like this mean anything? I think not. In this world full of cliché and trite buzz terms, advertising like this seems hollow and impersonal.

In writing workshops, people often remark, "Show me, don't tell me." Recently, the way that businesses have been "showing me" their appreciation for my patronage is something less than desirable.

The most offensive of the lot is the Amsterdam Post Office. I stopped going in last year, but my mother still sends things out for me through that branch. When the people who work there are not on a personal phone call, they will help customers to a certain extent, but only when they deem appropriate. They refuse to give itemized receipts. They refuse to help customers when it is near closing. Sometimes they close ten minutes early for no reason. However, it's a small town. People say it's best to not make waves.

I went to McDonald's a few weeks ago with a friend. I ordered the number 10, a chicken mcnuggets meal with fries and a drink. They have a self-serve soft drink bar. The cashier gave me the wrong size cup. When I reminded her that I had ordered a large, she waited until I walked away and said to her co-worker, "Does she really need the large?" When my friend told me that she made that remark, I went to the counter to complain to the manager, who assured me that there was no possible way that the employee would have said that, and that my friend must have been mistaken. He is a very articulate person, and very trustworthy, but I went to sit down and eat my then-cold lunch. Within ten minutes, the original cashier came to our table and said, "I have to come apologize, but I didn't say that." When my friend retorted, and said that she most certainly had said it, she said, "Well, I did what I had to do and apologized, so if you don't want to accept my apology then whatever." Instead of leaving, she kept stammering around, telling me that she was pregnant. I spoke to two other managers, one of which ended up being the woman to whom the remark had originally been made, but the end result was that the manager sent the only overweight employee out to tell me that the pregnant girl was not "against fat people" and that she knew this because she was fat herself. That's no McExcuse for the behavior.

These two experiences are not isolated instances. I have witnessed employees at several local businesses walk into the restroom and sign their initials on the restroom cleanliness check list without even glancing into the filthy stalls. I have seen checkout lanes closed in the faces of the slow-walking elderly at Wal-Mart. At G & J's One Stop, I have had cashiers treat me with such rude and obnoxious behavior that I haven't stepped foot in their store since November. Last week, I went to Arby's, and ordered a Roastburger with no tomatoes. When the sandwich came out, it had cheese sauce instead of the cheese slice that comes on it. When I complained about it, they made me another sandwich, but put tomatoes on it. The third time the sandwich came out wrong, I asked for my money back. The manager did not apologize. She said, "You know, people make mistakes."

Yes, people make mistakes. They make them, and they pretend that it is the customer's fault. They make mistakes and pretend like they did not. They make mistakes; they refuse to apologize. Their employers refuse to apologize. They are not sorry. They are indignant. They are doing the customer a favor by keeping their doors open. They are providing a service, so they can be obnoxious if they like.

There are a few hold-outs, however. Merrin's Market in Amsterdam is one of them. Family owned and operated, Father Doug and daughter Natalie will order in anything, try to get anything a loyal customer says they're willing to buy. I told Natalie I like homemade pizza making ingredients. They sell out fast, but they get them in. They carry more flavors of the Starbucks Double-Shot canned coffee than anywhere else in Jefferson County, and have more zero-calorie beverage choices than any other store in the area. They sell good, homemade hot foods like cabbage casserole and beef & noodles, and their meatball subs are the best I've had in Ohio. But that's not why I spend my money there.

What really makes the difference is that when their employees make a mistake, they take care of it. They apologize. It might seem unusual, but they show their customers kindness – a kindness that should not be the exception, but the rule.

So for the McDonald's and Arby's, the post office and Wal-Mart, for the G&J's and the myriad other businesses who take customers like me for granted, I say: Talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words; show me, don't tell me.

When you deserve my business, I'll be back.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cavemen, human nature, and man versus machine

I'm currently taking a graduate course on human development.  Nevermind that I've already taken the same exact course before in undergrad, and nevermind that there isn't any new information between the two.  It's a different school, a different teacher, but the same hoops for jumping through have presented themselves.  

In my world, and through its eternal glass-half-full lens, I see that this is all just means to an uneventful end, in which I teach Secondary English for a few years, pay off some student loans, get my masters and Ph.D in something more meaningful, and move on.  

My professor is an interesting guy, though.  He's got some fun interpretations of the world.  One of these is this:  That human nature hasn't changed.  Everybody always talks about how children are different "these days" and how "in [their] day, school was like" this or that.  The thing that people are missing is that the slate, the chalkboard, the stack of paper, the composition book, the Five Star Notebook, and the word processor are one in the same.  The students have not changed any.  The way in which they see the world - in which we see the world - is what's different.  People pick on the methods of moving the knowledge from one person to the next - they don't see what's important - that the knowledge keeps moving.  Trying to force old ways on new dogs doesn't work.  

So my professor said, "People always speculate why people are the way they are.  But it's been that way since humanity's beginning.  You had Trog running around saying, "Why is Ugg such a jackass?" 

And I'm sitting here right now wondering the same thing.  Why are all these people with whom I go to class such class-A Idiots?  Why do people think I'm such a weird bitch?  

The other day, one of my classmates said that she has a "class full of morons." I don't think women like that need to be educating anyone, or passing those kinds of opinions on to students.  Kids pick up on that stuff.  When they think that adults around them think little of them, they in turn think little of themselves.  

And these adults are the same people who think that machines make everything.  They think human hands don't make the blue jeans they are wearing, that somewhere, some Chinese man throws a bolt of fabric, a spool of thread, a pair of scissors, a zipper, and a bag of buttons into a big black hole, and somewhere, in another part of the factory, a Pakistani woman drives by on the Wonkatania and blue jeans magically fall out of a chute into the truckbed behind her.  As if by Magic.

That is not real.  

That is the Easy Bake Oven version of the world.  

What's even more horribly offensive is that the people who manage the places in which things are actually made don't do anything about this modern misconception.  They let people think these things.  The public's ignorance is their bliss.  Why?  It allows people to allow other people to suffer all sorts of bad working conditions so that they can buy their pants for $20 and throw them away not when they wear out, but when they grow tired of them.  They don't feel bad about using resources because they think that everything is produced by magic machines.  

When I look at photographs of people from long ago, there is something endearing about a coat that's been patched where it's worn.  It reminds me of my grandfather.  He had this blue quilted winter jacket that he wore out in the wood shop, and it had been mended in a bunch of places.  Some of these stitches were done with white thread, and some had been done to match.  But they were there.  My grandmother fixed it.  When a pocket got a hole in it, she sewed it back shut.  

People don't do that anymore.  They think the machines will make more.  Why not just throw it away.  The machines spit new ones out all the time.  The machines will take care of us.  

I was at an open house at Christmas time.  There was a girl selling one of those home party plans like Home Interior, but with a more country bumpkin slant to it.  She had these embroidered pictures inside a cheap frame that cost $40.  I was trying to sell paintings and artwork, and this girl had these dumb pictures, and I was kind of offended because A) they were so expensive, and so carelessly put together; and B) the person who embroidered it probably didn't get a dollar for doing it.  She's probably living in Taiwan somewhere, doing piecework.  I said something about it, and this girl said, "That's made by a machine." 

When I tried to explain to her that machines can't tie knots like what were on this piece of fabric, that machines can't hand-emboider, she said, "Yes they can - they sell embroidery machines at Jo-Anne's." She thought I was stupid.  She thought I was a moron because I didn't know that machines make everything.  This girl couldn't tell the difference between something machine-done and something hand-done.  Not that it's important.  They think that handmade things aren't as good as machine-made ones.  They would rather buy something screen printed than something handpainted.  Is that why real art is such an elitist thing?  

That the majority of people would rather just sit around and think that machines do everything, that we should be thankful to them for what they do, and stop trying to make good things with our hands, stop trying to learn, stop trying to find the truth, stop trying to find new truths, make new discoveries?  

It makes me feel incredibly helpless to think that people don't care that we're proving Plato right.  He said that Gold is precious, so you make jewelry, not swords.  You don't make crowns out of steel, either.  And in this steel belt, where the collars are blue, education is much like gold.  Plato thought that people were in society, in the places where they should be, and that you might as well not waste education on people who aren't going to amount to much of anything, anyway.

I think back now, on that open house, where all these people were wearing the jewelry that they'd bought from the jewelry party plan girl, and it seems so surreal:  

The girl in the blue Lane Bryant sweat suit wearing the $50 Coral elasticized bracelet. 
Made by machines.  

Her matching $70 Coral necklace.  
Made by machines.  

The old lady with the sparkly rhinestone earrings/bracelet/necklace set. 
Made by machines. 

All these women, in their down-homey clothing, wearing overpriced costume jewelry, fauning around over home party plan decor.
Made by machines.  

Demanding not that the quality of the things they buy be anything other than exactly the same as the other people around them, gobbling up the plastic Christmas clock, the screen-printed tin sign that says "Friends Welcome / Relatives by Appointment" (and in Comic Sans, of all fonts!), the hand-embroidered muslin square in the cheap, glued-together frame.  
Made by machines.  

Demanding not that their children receive a good public education, but that their kids "get good grades," as if one was any indication of another.  I heard a woman say recently, upon moving her two children from one school to another, that the new school was a better school because her daughter, who had previously been "a C student" was now "an A student" - never thinking that the quality of the teacher may have gone down, that the standards were lower.  No.  Obviously, what's happened is that her daughter magically became more intelligent because of her mother's wise decision to enroll her in a different school.  Yes, that must be it.  As if by Magic.  

Demanding that their jewelry, their lives, and their children's educations be made entirely of fool's gold - and wallowing in that paradise. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Last Summer Anecdote

One night, when it was hot and humid (it's Ohio), my brother kept us up until past 4am. 
When my mother went to sleep, she dreamt 
of my father and his father, of that other very stressful
time in her life. 

The next day, a man came to the shop, 
smiling.  He said he was on his way 
to West Virginia.  

I did not know him,
my father's father.  

I am beginning to have faith in my mother's ability 
to conjure people. 

I think she is too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Book of Good Cheer

I found this book.  It's called "The Book of Good Cheer." The subtitle is "A Little Bundle of Cheery Thoughts" and it's edited by some guy named Edwin Osgood Grover.  It's small and the paper is cheerfully yellowed, and there's a cheery little basket of orange flowers illustrated on the title page.  The thing is, it's a "wealth of wisdon and good cheer, gathered from all countries and all times" that was published by the Algonquin Publishing Company in 1913.  

And I've read through it several times, and I feel no cheerier, no better.  

One of the quips included says that what we see depends mainly on what we look for.  

Though I'm often tired of feeling like I see the worst in people, I find that when I try to see the good in them, I feel lousier about it still.  

For example, a woman in my Human Development class said of her students last week, that she always gets "a class of morons." I yelled at her.  I yelled at her in class, and I said that I found it horrifying that she was a teacher and had that shitty of an attitude toward the young people who depend on her to teach them.  She had an equally horrible opinion of me, but I found solace in that.  I felt good knowing that, in her ignorance, she didn't understand what I was talking about because it was that ignorance that separated us, that gave my anger validity.  She couldn't see how self-perpetuating it was for a stupid person to treat an entire group of children as if they were, in turn, stupid themselves.  That's what's wrong with public education.  It's why I know that I will never be a career teacher, why I know that I could never live with having people like her as colleagues.  I can't think of a worse place to be than a teacher's lounge, and yet I'm getting a teaching license so that I can pay some student loans and get my finances straight.  I know I'll be a good teacher, but I know that I won't last long at it.  A few years, maybe, at most, and then I'll be frustrated enough to direct my aspirations elsewhere, where they should be directed presently, except that this in-between time is necessary.  It's necessary so that I can get there.  The getting there is important.  

I often feel like a monster in a girl suit.  Embracing that inner-monster, I'll put the book of good cheer on the shelf, and I'll turn to something one of my best and favorite friends said earlier this evening.

"Sometimes, it's kind of fun to be a nasty grown-up." 

Yes.  It is.