Say what you mean and mean what you say

I went home early on Wednesday. I only was at work for 8 hours, and I decided that my feelings were hurt.

I’d asked for help and the answer was:
“You should manage your time better.”


manage my time better! Well, I would manage my time better by going home after eight hours, that is what I decided. So I went home and was reading a book in bed.

The phone rang. I let it ring. I enjoyed my shrugging of responsibility at work earlier, and I thought I would ride the train a little further.

But Chris didn’t know that, and he answered the phone.

“It’s for you.”

I gave him a withering look and said, “Hello?”

“Hi, this is Jane, your neighbor down the hall. Umm..Are you planning on attending the board meeting this evening?”

“I don’t know. Was something happening?”

“Well, they are discussing the CC&Rs for the complex, and this is the time we are supposed to bring up any questions we have. We are supposed to vote on them next month.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

“Yes, they didn’t make it very clear. I am bringing an attorney friend of mine, because I’m very concerned about some of the changes.”

Now, I only knew Jane from the last time she called about this same thing. I had no intention whatsoever of going to this meeting. I was busy nursing hurt feelings, remember?

But I had to be polite.

And I had to get off the phone.

She was still going: “…because they have made changes that affect our lives. They have given themselves a lot of power. And the last time I tried to talk about it, they just cut me off. I don’t think that’s right.”

“Wow. Well, I’ll have to read over the notes again and take a look.”

“Yes, because we need to have the ability to speak up.”

“Thank you for calling. I will take a look.”

It took about four more exchanges before I could hang up.

And while I was trying to find a way to hang up, I knew I had to say things that would give her the impression that I might come to this meeting.

Which I wasn’t going to do.

This sort of verbal smoke and mirrors is a part of my life now. Maybe it comes with working in elevator buildings. But I often have to give answers that are noncommital and reassuring.

Maybe this should bother me. Sincerity is a commodity, to be used sparingly. Is that how I ever envisioned my life?

How much is integrity tied to sincerity? Integrity is one of my cherished values. I will be the one to keep my word, I will be the one not to drop the ball.

But a big part of that is not picking up the ball in the first place.

I have this theory about communication. You cannot simply state the facts that need to be used. You have to have communications overhead. You have to say:

Hi, How are you?

That’s great. Hey, I wondered if you could go to your files and
check for this one thing.

Yeah, I was looking for the numbers from the New York buildout.

You have them? Oh, good. COuld you give them to me?

Yeah, just forward them on.


All of that could have been done with ONE sentence, 30 seconds. But humans don’t work like that. In fact, that was a rather succinct interchange, comparatively.

But the message had to be wrapped in soft exchanges, to be recieved properly. The content had overhead. Yes, we could say, “Forward me the numbers from the New York buildout” and leave. But the likelihood of even getting a response would be lowered, because the person could say, “How rude! If she really wants that information, she can come back and ask nicely.”

We have to feel cared for, we have to know that there is kindness and goodwill involved in the exchange of information.

That’s why, there is a kind of relationship that has to be built between people who interact.

But then, maybe you can take it too far.

This guy at work, who is really a mover and shaker, has an intensely good-natured attitude. He very seldom complains, and when something is upsetting, he just laughs.

And this makes him very approachable, etc.

But then, he also makes sure to tell people what they want to hear. Once, when we were working on a project, we got a price for a particular piece of it. I said, “hey, that’s not as expensive as I thought it would be.” He nodded and said, “yeah.”

We went over to the guy who could approve the purchase, and that guy said, “Wow! That’s expensive.”

My guy pulled a face and said, “I know.”

Which is it? I noticed he does this a lot. He appears to empathize with whoever he is speaking to.

Which makes me wonder if anything he says is true. And I feel a little bad wondering that because he’s a very nice guy, works very hard, etc.

But at the same time, how can you sincerely agree with two opposite opinions?

Where is the line in sincerity and integrity? Do we sincerely have to care what our fellow humans beings did over the weekend? Why do we ask?

There are so many times when I have to paste on a smile so that I can get my job done. But getting the job done is part of my self-respect, my sense of integrity.

So when I say what I don’t mean, like “that’s alright, it’s no big deal, I’ll take care of that” that lets me mean what I say when I say (to myself at the very least) “I am really damn good at what I do.”

Funny, that sincerity should have to be sacrificed like that.

Let me introduce you to my oldest friend

That is, my oldest friend since I moved to California.


Yep, it’s pretty much a know-where-the-bodies-are-buried kind of friendship.

And right now, I’m very jealous of her. She is living in Korea, teaching english to a bunch of mostly cute kids. I wish I were in a foriegn country right now. I really do.

Being in another country is a great excuse. You are suddenly allowed to be confused and not quite fit in. You are allowed to enjoy all the trivial tasks in life as if they are and adventure. Going shopping, heck, taking a CRAP can be a mind-broadening experience.

And Su has that blog. She also has free time.

I have a blog, but I do not have free time.

I really really wish I had free time. I feel like I am being swallowed alive.

I already feel like I am confused and that I don’t fit in. But I don’t have an excuse, because I am supposed to know what I am doing and fit it. I just don’t. So I have to cover it up.

Running away to a foreign country has always been my fantasy escape. I usually say “Poland.”

What do I need with all these responsibilities? What are they for, after all? Just to torture me, apparently.

I wish I were living as an ex-pat. It’s just so much more interesting. Then I could torture myself with existential questions and new experiences.

Well, now you all can share my envy by reading Su’s adventures.

…that’s not what I meant…

As I was leaving work TOO late on friday, I met this guy in the elevator. I had never seen him before, as far as I knew. But he knew me.

He said, “I happened to go to Alaska after I heard your story.”

“You did? How did you like it? I’m glad I inspired you to go.”

“I saw a moose, but I thought it was much different to see a moose from the outside. Much less bloody.”

I had ready my story for Diversity Day at the workplace, last spring. I prepared a speech beforehand, about diversity:

“This is a day we are taking to celebrate diversity. Leaving all stereotypical prejudices aside, diversity is just about different kinds of experiences. Experiences are like the tools of life. And the more experieces we have, the bigger the toolbox to solve our problems.”

And I read my story about the moose.

I know that’s what this guy was remembering. My story about the moose.

When I look at these people at work, with their suits and their college degrees, the gap between their experiences and mine seem vast.

I wonder if any of them got beyond the description of the butcher knives to understand that the story was about food.

That food is not always a given.

But this guy in the elevator told me about his vacation to Alaska, and his sightseeing experience about seeing a live moose.

I am amazed that he remembered the story. But I don’t think he got it.

I figured out why I don’t like movies

I was sick for the last two days. Technically, I’m still sick. But I’m at work so it doesn’t count.

While I was sick, I watched a bunch of movies. I don’t watch movies very often. I usually don’t feel like sitting still that long.

Which is funny, because I can read a book for hours at a time.

But when I watch a movie, I either fall asleep or I pause it and get up to do something else.

I watched I am Sam, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Cold Mountain.

Chris said they were all chick flicks. It’s true, I cried my eyes out at I am Sam. THREE kleenexes.

But I was most looking forward to The Unbearable Lightness of Being, because I’ve read the book. I love Kundera.

The movie was pretty good. Very sexy.

So I picked up a Milan Kundera book, The Art of the Novel.He repeats again and again, The raison d’etre for a novel is to do what only a novel can do.

And what is that, but to stack up words across a page, words to tell about life, what is and what might be?

I think movies don’t have enough words. That’s why I can’t love them the same way.

John Wayne and Jack Kerouac

Geez, there are so many movies around here. They are stacking up. Movie pollution.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. But here in Hollywood, everyone is into movies. And I’m not. I like books.

Yes, I’m feeling a bit resentful. There is no one to talk to about books anymore. Just my beloved book club.

Okay, so a friend at work gave me a book to read. It was good timing, because I was running low. I had finished Devil in the White City (I’ll talk about that later), and I hadn’t started House of Mirth (almost done, I’ll try to review it for you).

So my friend gave me this book Ask the Dust by John Fante. As soon as I opened it, I smelled Beatnik.

And I hated the main character.

When I read On the Road, I also hated Sal Paradise for his selfishness. But at least he was going stuff, moving around.

Arturo Bandini was doing nothing.

I hated him violently for most of the book, but then the book turned out to be worthwhile in the end.

I hadn’t read more of the beat genre that Kerouac, really. I kind of like what they stood for, even if I don’t like the aimless and self-centered way they went about it.

But I had a flash of insight. Arturo Bandini talked in poetic terms about his thoughts and experiences. Even if they were kind of annoying thoughts and experiences, he did talk about them in a pretty way.

And when he is coming from the 50s, that was a big deal.

The 50s was the time when John Wayne was the ideal of manhood. At least for a lot of people. John Wayne annoys the freckles off my face. I hate that he is such lump. He never talks about what he thinks or feels. He never says why he does stuff. He just shows up and rides horses, shoots things and gets the girl.

Chris has foisted different Westerns on me, including many Wayne films. The last one I watched, I only watched on the condition that he never make me watch another John Wayne movie again.

It was “She wore a yellow ribbon”. Every once in a while, I will bellow out “CALVARY!” in memory of the film. It was memorably bad.

But anyway.

IF men were walking around behaving like John Wayne in the movies…

THEN any expression of the internal thought life and emotions of men would be welcome.

ALSO the beats’ way of talking about their feelings was kind of pretty.

SO even though they were self-centered and shallow individuals in many ways, it must have seemed like a shaft of light down a dark hole to get a little bit of masculine expression.

When “Howdy Pilgrim” was the alternative…

Political bling bling

I live in LA. This place is so strange, with the fact that so many people CARE about brand names. DESIGNERS are the thing.

I have a friend who is an even bigger thrift shopper than I am. She has the whole town scoped out. Really, there are so many cute outfits to buy, you kind of have to go for the cheap to stay afloat.

I asked her for tips on non-thrift stores. She said, “I never really buy things new. You can always find clothes for cheap.”

But I saw her looking for a designer purse. She thought it was a deal to find one for 200 dollars.

This is almost beyond my comprehension. But she explained that people knew that these bags were expensive, and she wanted a little bling bling.

I have heard of this before. When you see ads for Jaguars on TV, it is partly to sell the cars to the few who can afford it. But it is also to educate the poor slobs who can’t afford, to let them know that the Jag oo ahr is the car to admire, the one that says you’re rich and have arrived.

Okay, so whether the car is actually a good car, that’s of lesser importance. Sure, it’s probably a decent car, I guess. But I hear that they don’t last very long…They say that if you have to worry about that, you can’t afford it anyway.

Yeah, well. I myself like to know what I’m getting and whether it’s worth my investment.

Mabye I’m wrong…I haven’t looked that closely into the quality of a jag.

Yesterday, I was listening to NPR talking about the Democratic party. ‘What can be done to broaden the appeal of the Democratic party?’

Somone suggested that Democrats should adopt part of the libertarian platform. Others had all kinds of suggestions about how Democrats could appeal to a larger group.

Because, you see…Being a democrat is so Coool. It’s the hip political party…IT’s the one that cares about Women, about the underpriveliged and the arts and all the COoooOolest stuff!


But what are we getting for our investment? what have the democrats really done about the stuff they purport to care about?

I think that the democratic party have bought into their own empty brand too much.

Maybe that’s why the faces and celebrities of Hollywood are backing the party with the cachet.

“dahhhling. Don’t bother me with such trivialities. Budgets and such things are all just fog. Simply everyone who counts is democratic.”

Politics is hard. It’s difficult to find solutions to problems. But if your focus is to help the less fortunate, why don’t you listen? Why dont you stop and look and see what they problems are?

I don’t think selling a brand name serves anyone’s purpose.

Maybe I’m wrong. I haven’t looked into it so deeply. But…

Close your eyes and see if you can see me

we’re still reeling from the Bush and Kerry showdown. Some dude was talking about how angry the different sides were at one another. He wore a Bush t-shirt in the middle of my Kerry-country city.

One of the reactions to his shirt was “That’s really funny dude.”

I know what section of town he was in. Same section that used to sell the “Free Winona” Tshirts. Irony is the air they breathe, the first thought, not the second.

It didn’t even occur that Mr. Bush T-shirt was being sincere.

I was talking with this guy at work, certainly not a guy I would think of as overly ironic. He and I like to talk about my homestate. I am from there, and he really wants to visit there.

He keeps putting it off though, for reasons I can’t fathom. His latest scheme was to visit Talkeetna and fly around on the rivers and lakes.

I said, “Oh you’re going to love Talkeetna! It’s a real Alaska town.”

I found this website, to illustrate what kind of town Talkeetna is. The picture of their home, especially, struck me and being true alaska.

His response: “I thought it was a joke. I mean, it’s not painted or anything.”

A joke! a JOKE!

Alaskans joke all the time, but we know shelter when we see it. Paint is not a requirement for a home. Please!

Now, this is a trend I am seeing. People are walking around with pictures of what they expect to see drawn on their pupils. Can you see real people through your expectations?

This takes us back to Kerry again. The democrats were shocked and amazed that the majority, albeit a slim one, did not want the democratic candidate.

They couldn’t understand it. What could the problem be? Finally, the answer:

…they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence.
…they prefer to be ignorant.

well, that answers that. Unfortunately, Jane Smiley’s attitude is not isolated. This kind of post-election analysis is all over the web and in coffee conversations.

This goes back to my previous post regarding the political parties.

The stereotype of democrats is the inclusive, diverse party. So why can’t they see anything but stereotypes?

How many figures and polls about the percentages of this group and that group were going to vote for this candidate or another?


I am all kinds of things. I am not a republican or a democrat. I am an informed voter.

I resent the pigeon-holing happening from the “intellectual” democrats. I resent that they expect certain things from certain people.

Isn’t that the definition of prejudice?

That is a raging hypocrisy that turns my stomach. Don’t tell me who I am. Don’t put me in a box.

I am looking for a leader that can see the problems of real people, and address them.

Or even a person that can see real people. That would be nice.