Category Archives: The Daily Thought

Life on High Looking Down Below

Oct 14 fall colors Norski 017#2From the very first step, the trail was steep.  A fellow hiker had said it was steep all the way to the peak. Was I up for doing this?

Not a mondo-hiker type, I wasn’t sure why I was even here. For some reason, I couldn’t get hiking off my mind. Maybe it was from seeing two movies recently, “A Walk in the Woods” and “Wild,” both extreme hiking stories. Unemployed for four weeks, perhaps I had to get out of the house, shake off the growing depression. And suffering through a painful illness was only making my funk worse. Then again, maybe this wasn’t the time to push my limits either.

“Should we go back?” I asked my dog, Rusty, only two minutes in.

Suddenly, we entered a clearing. Nothing but aspens. Dramatic side lighting. Subdued colors. All defining a magical space.

Deeper, higher, steeper we stepped. The aspens went with us, stands growing more magnificent with each five-minute interval. I ignored a wooziness in my back. Worries of irreparable weariness were climbed over. Only a quarter-hour in, I stopped to ask, “Is this most beautiful hike I’ve ever been on?” My only regret was voicing the words in a vacuum, hearing no one echo back their shared thoughts with me.

Then, a spacious meadow, as if trying to top the aspen’s glory. Awed, up, up we went. The darkest blue sky and a widest range of greens escorted us through a dark, forested territory. It wasn’t until hiking through here I’d caught my conditioning equilibrium, and was prepared to swath through whatever changeable terrain was ahead.

A man headed toward us. Like a log rolling uncontrollably downhill, I forced myself at him. “Sir, I’ve lived here twenty years and I believe this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.” My endorphins were revving on all cylinders now.

After trekking over an hour, I still had no vision of what this “peak” was supposed to look like, or when I’d come upon it. I could see the steepest hill of the trail so far through gaps in evergreens.

Out of the denseness, a clearing showcased the horizon line high above me, crisply defining dirt from sky. What was beyond it?

I played a game. Walking slowly, keeping my eyes on the rocky ground below, I withheld my view from the peak until reaching flat terrain. Shedding my invisible blindfold, I opened my eyes to an incredible vista. Within the expansive space before me was yet another mountain to climb, some of it partially cleared, recognizable to all who lived here as the Santa Fe ski area. What scale. What clarity. And I made it up here without aid of a chair lift.

Lunching near the top, I talked with a young couple. I plunged into a conversation with them, speaking about the quality of life one suddenly feels being up this high. I was elevated, elevated by people, ones I usually left by the roadside.

Walking down was like getting twice the hike seeing it from the opposite direction. The light was different, too, with direct sun from above. Every new part of the path was seen in 360 degrees – I would not miss anything.

Along the descent, I conversed with hikers who told stories of other great trails, ones – like this one – few hikers knew about. I was chatted up by a pretty young woman who, unlike most down at city elevation, engaged me in an energetic and unhurried talk. Then, to my surprise, I met a woman who was hiking with her 80-year-old mother, ski poles and all.

Walking is man’s natural 5-hour energy drink (one without expiration), his anti-depressant (one without side effects), and overall tonic for what ails him that’s always free and what his body craves. No woes, no injuries seem too big to move human being’s precious legs forward. I am comforted by this realization, and will always remember the image of that 80-year-old climbing this trail, giving me hope for how I wanted to live when I became 80.

Among the trees, rock and open spaces at higher elevation, people smile. They talk of gratitude. They speak of these places as timeless and sacred, ones that enhance their “other life below.” It’s never work to get all the way up here.

Oh, but that’s just endorphins talking.

I suppose. But I use them whenever I can. As life is high up high, so can it be low down below.

 

(Favio – if you’re reading this, nice to meet you!)

1 Comment

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

Labor Day, 1955: Raining on the Picnic, Not the Film

TrainDuet800documnt 48bit dust152Not a drop of rain falls. Even though the river rolling through the peaceful town is muddy, nothing deters the community from celebrating their beloved Labor Day picnic.

This idyllic community celebration is the primary setting of “Picnic,” the 1955 film starring William Holden and Kim Novak, the story of one day in the life of a rural gathering of middle-class folk in mid-America during the mid-twentieth century. The sunny day shines happiness on everyone during the all American holiday, from toddler to great-grandmother.

Enter the drifter, fresh off hitching the rails, and the day begins.

After sowing wild oats for years, the drifter, Hal (William Holden), one-time football player and big shot, says he’s ready to settle down, and this place is it – Small Town America, USA.

Looking for work, he befriends a family and boarders who live in their house. By noon, the entire household has headed down to the huge picnic at river’s edge.

What fun: the 3-Legged Walking Contest, the Pie Eating Contest, the Girl Carrying Contest. A Talent Show, too, not to mention music from Ernie Higgins and the Happiness Boys.

So what’s making young, pretty Madge (Kim Novak) so moody? She has the handsome drifter’s eye, that’s for sure. Better yet, the town’s richest, most eligible bachelor, is after her.

What about her sister, Millie (Susan Strasberg), who’s edginess is obvious with every move? She has a foolish tomboy look no one really pays attention to, but she’s going to college – not Madge.

Is Rosemary (Rosalind Russell), one of the house boarders, angry because she’s an aging, single, schoolteacher when in reality she’s got more life and spunk than twenty others her age?

And why has Hal started to turn after tasting the sweet allure of peaceful small town life?

After all, their Labor Day picnic has everything. The Trained Seal Game, a sort of ring toss contest where women toss rings at the stems of Tootsie Roll Pops protruding from mouths of men on bended knees with hands tied behind their back.

The Needle in a Haystack Contest: boys diving willy-nilly into a huge stack of dusty, dirty hay for nickels, dimes and quarters the older men have thrown in.

The Talent Show, complete with stifled teens singing corny standards and barbershop quartet numbers. Nearby, a cute baby grimaces. Or is it a scoff?

The Balloon Bursting Contest: Which contestant can blow up a balloon to pop first? The long, nerve-wracking tension is broken with a ka-boom, and another baby cries.

But, of course, there’s always the constant upbeat sound of Ernie Higgins and the Happiness Boys lingering in the background.

How could this picnic go so sour?

The entire town bowed to Madge’s beauty. But, from her seat on a rowboat sailing slowly upon the dark water, Madge seemed ashamed by the throng’s gushing, repulsed she’d just been crowned Labor Day Queen of Neewolah (Halloween spelled backward).

The big picnic dance seems transcendent. The handsome, muscular drifter danced so sexually, so comfortably with Madge. Was that what made Rosemary uneasy enough to break up the festivities all by herself?

Even Hal and Madge’s secret, moonlit rendezvous down by the river later is less than romantic, more a moment to exorcise personal fears, flaws and demons to each other. Her pose suggests yearning, yet she changes course, looks off, and says, “But we’ve got to get back to the picnic.”

“Do we?” Hal replies, as a train rambles slowly out of town behind them.

In their own separate ways, in this instant of time, Hal and Madge have realized something. And with it, the dare is on. The train, a vehicle for change, beckons each to go. By stepping up on it, riding the rails, is there life and hope beyond this town?

No, not if they if they’re looking for a better version of it, because there is no town like this. It doesn’t exist. If it did, it would surely be composed of hollow, blind followers.

“Picnic” author William Inge deliberately injects scenes into his story to beg scrutiny about this American utopia. Those boys in the haystack, America’s youth, diving blindly after money. Other youth, bottled up into singing safe and soulless music that won’t offend the elders in control. Men, like trained seals, begging for love as if some game. The gluttony of gorging on food – pie – the all American dessert. Libido should be scorned, pushed out of sight, out of mind. Everyone, everything is under control. When will the balloon finally burst?

Inge saw what many in America couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t back in 1955. It makes you wonder what we’re not seeing beneath our very noses today, exactly sixty years later.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/k1A1vqmkftw“>http://

For more film articles I’ve written, click the following.

“The Graduate:” https://mikeandberg.com/2014/12/21/graduate-film-college-parents/
“To Kill A Mockingbird:” https://mikeandberg.com/2014/11/02/nostalgia-film-mockingbird/
“American Beauty:” https://mikeandberg.com/2014/09/09/role-models-american-beauty/
The 2015 Oscars (including “Hollywood Express,” my own documentary on Hollywood):
https://mikeandberg.com/2015/02/21/hollywood-oscars-identity/

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under The Daily Thought

Delete My Computer, Please. Confessions of an Administrative Aide

RailTrail morning (MikeAndbergdeskplaque) 005 B&WIt’s the first day of my new job. I stroll the clean, quiet halls en route to my office. It’s a long walk. On the way, I see workers in their offices, sitting at desks, bodies visible, but heads obscured by the back of their computer, almost as if the computers were their heads. Well, this isn’t right. I’ll never learn the names and faces of my new work associates doing this, will I?

My own room is cute, although windowless, about ten by ten feet. My boss greets me there, glad to finally meet the person who’s filling the long-vacated position.

“Hit Control-Alt-Delete,” she says, standing over my shoulder by my desk.

That’s funny, I never have to do this at home, and I can’t find Delete anywhere on the gigantic, trumped-up keyboard I apparently have to use here. I find Delete, but try to press all three Control, Alt, and Delete keys simultaneously with one hand and, like failing to play an octave on piano, I hit a sour note on my first job responsibility.

As the day goes on, it’s difficult to accomplish any work. Short of my bathroom break, everything  here is done through a computer. Everything. Any file I’m looking for is in a file within a file within a file within a file, sandwiched between Excel spreadsheets, distribution lists, PDFs, Word documents, technology files, room reservations, timelines and countless other folders. My search for a sense of Control has already been filed under Lost, no doubt sub-filed under Technology.

Anything this computer can do, I can do better. Example: my PC’s office calendar system that magically links everyone’s schedule in my department with each other. I’m not impressed. First of all, by the time I get to the computer calendar with new dates to add, I’ve either forgotten the date, the subject, or both. Worse yet, the computer’s design makes each week’s grid and each person’s calendar look the same. It’s only a matter of time before my doctor visits will be plastered all over the boss’s agenda. I sketch my own calendar on a scrap of paper and hide it in my desk drawer. Far more effective. Confidential. At my fingertips. Surge proof.

Meanwhile, unresolved office emails and phone tag games go on all week. If I merely walked across the hall, couldn’t I personally answer all these people in about five minutes? But no, that’s not the way it’s done anymore. If I had a window in my office, I’m sure I’d be tempted to jump through it about every hour.

I make calls from my office to other companies to update files: No one who was working at these companies a year ago is working there now. Where have they all gone? Were their jobs like mine? Did they leave from job dissatisfaction? I don’t get it.

To keep my job, the handiest survival tip I’ve used has been to write down all tasks that require three steps or more. As sure as the photocopier will go down when we need it most, I will not remember directions beyond three steps. Period. I secure an old Rolodex from the mailroom to organize the fifty index cards upon which I’ve scribbled instructions of three steps or more. They’ve been real ass-savers.

My boss is out sick today, and I’m asked to review all her email for important correspondence she may need. There’s a hundred emails. What madness. And some are personal, and I sure as hell don’t want to discover what I don’t want to know about her or anyone by snooping through their email! After all, isn’t there’s some confidentiality agreement in my job description?

I’m proud of the way I’ve learned to prioritize office duties. The most important thing in my job is knowing passwords, usernames and codes. Actually, they’re the most annoying part of my job, but taping passwords to the wall is handy and I’m far less aggravated by them in doing this. I refer to passwords, usernames and codes an average of twenty-eight times a day. Sure, they’re visible for everyone to see on the wall, but it’s less important strangers see them than I do not. Without my passwords, I might as well go home. Otherwise I can’t do a thing on either my PC, desk phone, company website, Facebook, and a zillion other things.

For some reason, I’m getting really behind. So, the last thing I want to do is spend time on the tutorials I’ve been encouraged to view. The first was on Excel spreadsheets. Then Abobe Creative Suite. Then In Design, whatever that is. But I did see the tutorial about our operating system. So confusing, the company kindly hired out a technology consultant to get me straight. That was back in the beginning before anyone knew I’d need a computer personal trainer.

Yeah, I do get a little sloppy sometimes. There’s no telling what keys my fingers just slid across by accident. I’m somewhere between a loose cannon and someone who can’t get out of his own way. Because of this, I’m paranoid about clicking Forward by mistake when replying to someone by email. Or clicking Select All. Or Reply All. Click the wrong button, and X might see a string of correspondences attached to my reply where Y and Z had been cc’d and X doesn’t like Y and Z said something bad about X last month. I make phones calls whenever possible, being sure to talk very carefully and very slowly.

It’s only natural I look for any physical duty there might be to do around the office now. I volunteer to tack flyers to the bulletin board. Photocopy documents. Staple handouts. Hole punch binders. File folders. Pick up mail. Open the new water jug. Walk receipts up to Finance. And, on the way, walk around and personally respond to everyone’s stalled email and phone messages!

An optional staff development invite pops into my email. I jump on it. Anything to get out of the office. But the seminar, “Decreasing Job Dissatisfaction and Improving Workplace Productivity,” could help me, too. Is there something I could change to make my job easier? Modify about my attitude? Wouldn’t it be nice to be so efficient that I alternate one good habit with another all day long?

The job dissatisfaction seminar leader begins the two-hour discussion with, “First off, I strongly recommend you get rest on weekends.” Come on. What else ya got?

“All that work on your desk? Remember. It’ll still be there tomorrow.” Right. It wasn’t done yesterday because it wasn’t done the day before that either. And, yes, it’ll still be there tomorrow. Help.

“To assist in organizing your day, start with the end first.” Apparently, there is no end to my job, so to backtrack from something that doesn’t exist is insane.

“Despite what we’ve all heard, there is no such thing as multi-tasking!” Oh, right. My job is predicated on the multi-task principle, and everyone else’s, too. I feel no more relaxed or productive now than when I walked into this room.

It all comes down to this. Your boss emails you something to be done. You do it. You email it on. That person sends it to someone else who does something with it, mostly to get it off his back, then on to someone else. She sends it to her boss who looks at it and sends it to someone else because she has rank. Somehow, someway, it may eventually come back to you, at which point you place it in your “To Do” file. I’m aware of this pattern, yet I am still ranked only as an Administrative Aide.

Confounded by yet another day of computer curve balls, I summon the IT Department. They send me a student-level tech person. In less than one hour, he teaches me things I’d never dreamed were possible on a computer! A genius, and only nineteen. It’s obvious to me he could do my job, and in half the time. What’s he doing in IT? What am I doing here?

The best thing this young tech has taught me as an Office Administrative Aide? When to hit Delete.

It’s nice to have gained control again. No passwords required either.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

Everything I Love About Opera Has Nothing to do With Opera

Doug Norski 2015 001Suppose you’d never been to an opera. That was me just a few weeks ago.

Then I won a ticket to see any Santa Fe Opera performance I wanted. A big fan of composer Richard Strauss, I chose Salome. After having heard from friends how beautiful the whole Santa Fe Opera experience was, I couldn’t wait to go.

I drive into the parking lot and notice the zest in which Santa Fe Opera people party. They dress like it’s New Year’s Eve and feast around fancy table set ups like its Thanksgiving dinner.

I enter the opera house for my very first time. It’s other-worldly. What a beautiful structure. Streamlined, clean. Comfy seats.

When the house lights dim, a setting sun – as seen through the opera house’s open back-end – turn set pieces into majestic silhouettes. Lights return, exposing a sparse but beautiful set.

Then, performers appear. They start talking, er, singing. That’s when the party ends.

Hearing a ton of German sung on stage, I constantly check subtitles posted on the chair back in front of me. I read Salome’s words, but only hear a song fest. It’s taking some getting used to, but I try to get into the swing.

Fifteen minutes through the production, characters still talk about the same thing they were talking – er, intoning – fifteen minutes ago when the show began. Not only that, but they’re prompting subjects that never come up in normal conversation (let alone ones people might sing about in public if so inclined).

The huge box that centers the stages slowly rotates 180 degrees to expose a new set containing a man sitting at a table in the middle of a room. He barely moves. A woman circles the area, pontificating about his nose. I check the time on my watch.

Fifteen minutes later, the man is still serenaded to, but the woman changes the topic to a musical discussion about his lips. Apparently, she likes him? It is here I believe a love story has entered the opera, but I’m not sure.

Four more watch-check intervals later, the woman holds up the man’s bloody head for all to see. She’s even performed a risqué dance in honor of the severed orb.

Then the opera is over. That’s it.

The guy behind me stands, yelling “Bravo!” Seconds later, the rest of the audience stands. What did I miss?

I glance at my ticket stub and the $118 price. What? This seat is pretty far back and way to the right.

You see, for better or for worse, this is how I see opera.  I come from a generation steeped in television and movies where no one sings instead of talking to each other. Tonight, thousands attended Salome after waiting all year to experience its glory. Authors of the Bible, Oscar Wilde, Richard Strauss, even Al Pacino, have been captivated by Salome’s story, so what happened to me? Perhaps I should never have left the parking lot’s fine dining experience.

It all comes down to this: When a guest suddenly sings across the table to me, “Please pass the salt,” I immediately get the urge to be excused from my own dinner party to go watch TV.

6 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

Eternity as the New Ninety

Human life expectancy has taken an unprecedented leap during middle-aged American’s lifetime. I hadn’t paid much attention to this phenomenon or seen evidence of it until just the past few years.

Suddenly, everyone I know has a loved one in their nineties. Not eighties: that used to be the standard for “old.” It appears ninety is the new eighty.

Some ninety-year-olds I know are articulate as ever. If they were feisty before, they’re feisty now. What made them happy before makes them happy now. The only visible impairment is slowness in walk, use of a cane, wrinkles, thinning hair, et al.

Maybe I, too, will live another ten years beyond what was expected fifty years ago. In fact, if we all take care of ourselves, with luck, we might live to ninety and beyond. I suppose that wish depends on how you define quality of life. Currently, this issue is approaching me head on because many of the ninety-year-olds I know are just barely hanging on. And on. And on.

The strong human will to live, combined with advances in science seemingly keep people going forever (that is, if you have the money to afford never-ending medical bills). Many ninety-somethings don’t even recognize loved ones who’ve come to visit them at the health center. Many are cognitively alive but unable to do much with their bodies, particularly activities that were special foundations to their happiness and self-worth.

If we knew now we’d be severely compromised at ninety, how many of us would elect not to be there? This question is dicey. So many if’s, so many legalities; so much family involvement, so much confusion. It’s one of the peskiest philosophical questions we’ll ever ask.

Not too many decades ago, it seemed when people died, they died. No hook-ups to machines; no cure or appreciable turnaround in health was imminent. People expected to die in their seventies and were happy to have lived that long. The dream today is about being as strong in our nineties as we were (or are now) at seventy-five. But most folk I know in their nineties, or know of, are nothing near their seventy-five-year-old self. We have to prepare for what the modern reality of ninety and beyond is.

One elderly woman I know is sharp as a tack. A beautiful person. She adds life and insight to everyone she knows. She’s glad not to be in any great pain, that she can walk a hundred feet from her apartment and back twice a day, but says she’s ready “to go.” Happy to have had ninety great years of life, it’s time. It’s time to die. And that’s that.

Another woman I know wants to live forever. She has a great circle of friends around her, lives in the same house she’s spent most of her life, and continues to cultivate a burning hobby. She’s also been healthy for over ninety-one years and is one of those never-get-sick, strong-as-an-ox kind of people. Even with the crippling changes in her body and other unfortunate recent circumstances, she’s better than she was at seventy-five!

Yet, most of my friend’s parents or relatives or close associates are stringing out life far into the nineties, making their families go through a living hell to care for them. Sure, no one wants a loved one to die, but how long should life go on? How exactly do we define quality of life? Again, a prickly question, one that’s not going away.

Neither is science (or pharmaceutical companies). In thirty years, will the new human one hundred be ninety? Will science of the near future be able to keep all vital systems of the mind and body going to sustain life past one hundred? I doubt it. Centuries of human evolution changed in mere decades? Modern health science seems more about halting disease, keeping ventricles pumping blood and lungs inhaling oxygen than sustaining the heart and soul of the survivor, not to mention breathing vibrant life back into a living, caring being that wants to go on for more than just the sake of going on.

As for me (note: I don’t have to worry about any of this since I’ve still got thirty years to think about it) , I joke about my plan to live a good life right up to the end by having a will made out, all possible loose ends tidied up, then, when the time is right, I step in front of a speeding train.

Even this flippant, quick and easy plan has a crack in it: “when the time is right.”

‘Tis the eternal question – when is the time right?

4 Comments

Filed under The Daily Thought

Players, Personality and Major Fuego for the Game

Feugo 002

 

“Hey, Fuego fans, let’s pass the hat for Matt Patrone’s home run,” the PA announcer says amid cheers. I’m certain Patrone’s blast here in Fort Marcy Ballpark, a Pecos League venue, would have been at least a ground rule double in about any major league park (a place no fan passes a hat for home runs after paying what he did to get into the park).

The next hitter lines a pitch out of play toward the parking lot behind the dugout. Hard hitters, these Santa Fe Fuegos.

“That foul ball is brought to you by Discount Glass and Glazing. Just mention Fuego baseball and get a discount on your next purchase.” I love it. This place has personality.

The woman in charge of collecting money for tickets wanders over to me from her top row seat. She’s right on time. We’d made a deal if I liked the place I chose to sit with my dog, Rusty, after two trial innings, she’d only charge $3. Dogs aren’t allowed in the $6 seats behind home plate. Either way, what bargains. I’m glad the Fuegos are in an independent pro baseball league, not even a minors system affiliated with a team in the majors. Think I’d be able to bring my beach chair, let alone dog, into their ballparks?

Sitting behind the Trinidad Triggers dugout, Rusty and I notice a Trigger player come our way. On his walk to the park’s all purpose port-a-potty, he stops to pet Rusty. He even lets me take pictures of the two together. On his return trip to the dugout, he gives Rusty some more love, saying that with so much time on the road, he misses his dogs back home terribly.

Strangely, however, the Trigger player doesn’t go into the dugout, but sits on top of it. In fact, neither the Triggers nor Fuego players sit in their dugouts – they sit around the dugouts.  It must be a Pecos League tradition. Again, what personality.

Out of nowhere, a pop foul comes my way and I catch it! – something I’ve never done in all my years attending crowded major league and AAA games. I feel special, like a kid again. I’d like to think that’s what baseball should be, a special connection directly from pitcher to batter to fan. To continue the link, I give my cherished first ball to a two-year-old who’s apparently already caught baseball fever.

Where else do you bring your own lawn chair to a professional baseball game? Negotiate a price and place to sit with your dog? Have more fun, pay less and see a competitive sporting event?  Switch gears from watching the game on the field to playing catch with a kid and then going back to the game. See players perform for practically nothing just for the love of the game?

Where else is there a meeting on the field of every team member in the bottom of the fifth inning for team unity, spirit and awareness of what this is all about?  Where else is there a pro sporting event where the majority of fans leave their cell phone behind? Fuego baseball is where.

It’s life in the moment for fans and particularly the impressionable young men playing. It’s a spirited, fast game. You have to watch closely. There are no scoreboard replays, let alone bathrooms every fifty feet.

I love the game just the way it is. I’m sorry the season is over. I’ll be back for 2016, connecting this season’s joy with the next.Feugo 006

1 Comment

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

As Thrift is Joy, the Store is Home

miniature ceramic houses 004Joyful one minute, sad the next, I drive out of the thrift store parking lot a final time. After all these months, what have I learned working as a sales associate here?

While navigating my ride home, I reminisce.

At the store’s back doors, I go through countless articles people have just donated. Immense amount of junk, I think, even for when it was new! Get a load of this crappy little ceramic house. And what about that – the world’s ugliest candlestick holder? And now a plastic cutting board with a zillion cuts in it. No wonder they got rid of these things. Hey – don’t be so judgmental. Your job is to sort the donations, not roll your eyes. Just chalk it up to a “beauty’s in the eye of the beholder” kind of thing.

But then, many of the donors turn right around, enter the front of the store, and buy more stuff. What am I supposed to think? Stuff, stuff, stuff. Buy, buy, buy. There’s nothing wrong with buying, per se, it’s just that I’ve noticed how much people play such a value on consuming, far more than I realized before I started working here.

While cashiering, I basically serve two groups of regulars. The first are dealers here in Santa Fe, buying bargains for their own thrift stores or online outlets. The other group, a far larger one, is women over sixty. They love to shop. And shop. And shop. God love ’em – they make the store go round.

Then there are all the other sub-groups of shoppers. One such group is the needy, people who can’t afford to shop anywhere but a thrift store, especially for clothes. Another group consists of the noticeably ill, disabled, or those challenged in some way, perhaps so strapped by health care costs that thrift stores like this are their only opportunity to buy clothes, furniture and whatnot. And another group – I’ve finally deduced – are here for something quite personal: the comfort they receive from the thrift store experience. Maybe they like the people who work here – regular faces and fixtures in their lives. Maybe they’re lonely. Or maybe it’s as simple as understanding a day just doesn’t feel centered without a visit to the thrift store, a little home away from home.

A thrift store, however, is made up of a wide collection of individuals, many who carry an unfortunate situation around with them. I’ve seen customers walk up to the counter and pay with change, the only currency they have. I’ve consoled donors who’ve broken down at the back door, unable to watch me unload from the car a lifetime of personal items that belonged to their just-departed spouse. I’ve picked up furniture from people who’ve just lost their job.

I’ve watched our manager ask shoplifters to leave the store. I’ve caught people ripping price tags off items hoping to get a better price at the checkout stand. I’ve dealt with hagglers who, with every visit to the store, want to wiggle the price down. Are these people con artist types, or just desperate and down on their luck?

Add to these folks the customers who wait by the front door ten minutes before we open, staring at me through the large glass windows, hoping I might open early for them. There’s those who walk in two minutes before closing, then linger ten minutes before heading to the checkout stand. And there’s those who donate large bags of goods, knowing inside that big black sack is also a lot of trash they’re happy to get off their hands.

To my surprise, many customers speak with thick, foreign accents – not just Spanish – making it crucial we take the time to help them understand the money transaction they’re about to make. There’s the time it takes us to finally understand certain customers really aren’t a threat to the store, only that they want to spend most of the day here to shop, relax and intermittently lie on a couch to read while occasionally nibbling on a snack. And there’s always the time we take to listen to customers talk about how much they know about gold, silver and jewelry – but don’t.

But what customers share most in their thrift shop experience is joy. Yes, joy. When people find what they want, they often bring it to the counter like a kid who’s just opened the Cracker Jack box to find the best prize ever inside. I sense many customers see this store as a house of healing, another home for them within our beautiful city, one that can be humbling to live in. And I am humbled by the joyous smiles I see at the counter, especially from those who’ve fallen on hard times.

 

In hindsight, I realize being part of these little customer joys was the perk to help me and other sales associates get through long days. Every day was long. Perhaps sorting through thousands of donations made us feel tired (imagine opening up your own garage doors to accept all the neighborhood’s yard sale items that didn’t sell over the weekend). Perhaps cashiering all day did it. Or, maybe it was just trying to make every customer a little happier than when they first shuffled in through the doors.

Anything to see joy.

Anything to  have a job.

Anything to live in Santa Fe.

7 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

I Don’t Get My Life Back Until They Lose. They Just Lost. Now I Don’t Like My Life

BSirois 48bit 800 color dust087There’s a hole in my heart only a puck can fill.

Yes, I’m a hockey fan. A Washington Capitals hockey fan. I saw eighty regular season games on cable this year (well, most of them), all in hopes my Caps would make the Stanley Cup playoffs for only the second time in their forty-year history.

Well, they made the playoffs. That’s where the hysteria began.

Playoff madness takes over your mind, your life and you lose all perspective. Time becomes a blur. For any avid fan, life’s goal changes from spending time with friends and loved ones to intimately following your team through all four playoff rounds (and a possible twenty-eight games over a sixty day period) just so you can watch your ice heroes hoist the Stanley Cup sometime in June. June, as in beautiful late spring, early summer. When the weather is nice to be outside again. When chores need to be done. Yards need to be tended. What, little Johnnie is six now? When did that happen?

The worst part of the playoffs is pace: a game, a night off, another game, a night off – there’s practically no break until your team loses a best-of-seven round and is eliminated. I’m tired and the Caps only went two rounds this year. Think what it must be like to go to the finals.

If you’re a Caps fan, it gets even worse. Their hockey MO is to stretch series to the seven game limit. They cannot win or lose in four – they love teasing you with 3-1 series leads, then blowing the next three games. Sometimes they blow the next two and pull out the seventh in overtime, having succeeded in wearing themselves out just to do it all over again for another series, then ask for more.

They also love close games. There are no blow outs. They love overtime. They once played a playoff game into four overtimes, finally losing at 2 AM (I saw that one personally and stayed to the bitter end).

This is very difficult on fans. Sleep patterns are disrupted. Eating times are often rearranged. Bad moods last for days. Weight is gained. Interest in other activities wanes. Actually, bad moods never end. Unless … (until) you win the Cup.

The Capitals should be playing tonight. Had they beaten The New York Rangers in game seven Tuesday (losing in overtime, 2-1), they’d be playing Tampa Bay this weekend in the Eastern Conference finals. I miss the misery. I miss my emotions being yanked up and down like a yo-yo. I miss having to skip laundry because the game is on. I miss screaming at the TV, “Take that, Marcel #!%@* de &#@!#, you &#%$!!!”

Time now to clean the bathroom, refill prescriptions, vacuum, replace burned out light bulbs, refill the empty freezer case, take the snow shovel away from the front door, fix the front door lock, dust.  No wonder I can’t wait for the first preseason game in September.

3 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

MLB Stadiums Without Crowd Noise?

my yard bloomg flowers 024There’s a point in any game where everything changes. Every player feels it. It’s when the crowd is so loud, player’s emotions and abilities swing on a dime, for better or worse. That’s exactly what players compete for, that rush, the roar of the crowd, the adulation to prove they’ve done something great or are important people. So, can you imagine NFL, NBA or NHL games played in empty stadiums? Major League Baseball may be headed that way.

The current average length of a Major League Baseball game is 3:02, of which only eighteen minutes is actual action, meaning there’s almost three hours of non-action. The current human attention span average is eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish. (And, yes, these figures come from credible research study).

Can you imagine a kid today going to his first live baseball game? He’s used to thrill-a-minute stimulation from his device, or television, or anything nowadays. The kids of this and future generations are tomorrow’s MLB fans – also known by team owners as “fannies in the seats,” the people who pay most of the player’s salaries.

But wait, young people aren’t the only ones distracted by modern-day living and technology.

The average worker today checks his email thirty times an hour. Typical mobile users check their phones 150 times a day. From 2011 to 2013, social media sharing doubled.

This is trouble for MLB. Look at the trends. The average length of an MLB contest in 1980 was 2:39, and we had far fewer distractions then. With the average 2014 MLB ticket price at $27.93, plus expensive concessions, plus travel time, plus the fact the game is available on cable, one might ask why go to baseball games at all?

Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, says he realizes these problems and is implementing new rules this season to speed up play to lure younger fans. No more forty-five seconds between pitches for batters to readjust their jock strap or pitchers to circle the mound two times. That’s just enough time to tempt fans to reconnect with friends, co-workers and social media outlets on their devices. Or just time to get bored, and the stadium goes quiet again.

Anyone who thinks crowd noise isn’t crucial to the excitement of sports is wrong. The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons were recently fined for pumping crowd noise into their stadium during games the past three seasons. Anyone who thinks the attention span issue isn’t crucial to sports is also wrong. The NFL has had to implement rules and fines for players and coaches from texting during games. It’s a different world today.

Major League Baseball’s official Opening Day game is April 5 in Chicago’s old Wrigley Field, ironically a night game. In 1988, Wrigley was the last MLB franchise to install stadium lights for night games.

I worry what MLB stadiums will look like in another twenty-seven years.

P.s.  The solution here in northern New Mexico: Go to our Triple A Albuquerque Isotopes games. Bring all your kids. Leave all devices behind. Baseball is too beautiful a game to miss.

6 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

Aquarius Astrology and Horoscope in Retrograde

Aquarius signs 002I’ve never used astrology. I’ve never read horoscopes. If it hadn’t been for the Fifth Dimension’s big hit “Age of Aquarius,” I wouldn’t know I was in the age of anything.

However, curious about all the horoscope hoopla, I pick up a local newspaper to check out what people of my sign – Aquarians – should do today.

I’m immediately cautious. The horoscope section in The Santa Fe New Mexican is sandwiched between “Annie’s Mailbox” advice column and “Hocus Focus” puzzles. However, my horoscope for today says Aquarians are going to have a “dynamic experience,” according to astrologer Jacqueline Bigar.

“Recognize that you can’t do more than is possible. You need to take better care of yourself. Make it OK to be a couch potato for now. Tonight: Don’t feel as though you have to go anywhere.”

Not exactly a dynamic outlook, this advice may nevertheless be spot on. Maybe I do need to slow down a little. On the other hand, I wonder what other horoscopes have to say. I get comfy of the couch, go online and check out Newsday.

“It’s the ideal day for getting involved in some negotiations because you’ll be able to play your hand without giving away too many of your tactics or motives.”

I don’t get it. How can one horoscope say, “Be a couch potato,” and another, “It’s the perfect day for getting involved.” Get involved from the couch? How?

I check out what famous astrologer Linda C. Black has to say.

“Dare to speak words of romance and passion right out loud.”

Again, am I supposed to do this from the couch, in my living room, a place where the echo is real bad?

“Declare your heart to someone important,” Ms. Black continues. “Share a bold decision. Write poetry or prose. Send off a message in a bottle.”

To me, this sounds like, “Read poetry and drink heavily tonight, then go online for love.” Geez – I could have written that (and have followed similar advice several times before and got nowhere).

The New York Post horoscope says, “Chances are you want to relax and not take life too seriously this week.”

“This week” – does that mean I take the whole week off from work? Stay on the couch for seven entire days? I need more guidance than this.

The Albuquerque Journal suggests, “You might pull back in your personal life and create some space until you figure things out.”

Figure what out? Do I have a big problem I’m not aware of?

The Journal goes on to say, “Check the ristra.”

What? Do they mean the dried chili pods hanging by my front door? Does my ristra needs replacing? And is that what I’m supposed to “figure out?” Maybe The Journal’s horoscope is too local for such a big Aquarian as me.

I try The New York Daily News.

“Love: You want strong connections, but also need independence. Career: Opportunities for work and money can open up.”

Open up how? I thought I was supposed to be at home this week, on the couch, taking it easy, writing poetry and drinking a lot while looking online for love. Every horoscope for Aquarians today is different. Does the kind of day astrologers predict I’ll have simply depend on which newspaper I happen to read? Which astrologer I think is prettier?

I scan The Albuquerque Journal horoscope one last time when I notice something at the bottom of the page.

“If you don’t like your horoscope click here to change your luck with the stars. These horoscopes are for your entertainment only. They are generated randomly by computer.”

What? You mean I could’ve lost a week of pay because I listened to a computer generated horoscope? I can just see my horoscope for tomorrow: “Pay scale goes into retrograde; love life disappears into black hole; Mars has last laugh.”

The heck with it. I’m going Capricorn from now on. Or Pisces. Or Scorpio – that’s a cool-sounding name.  I don’t care what day I was born on. Aquarians are all wet. Supposed trailblazers of the zodiac, we’re terminally stuck spinning around in orbit as lame Water Bearers, singing hysterically for someone to please let the sunshine in.

I pick up The Santa Fe Reporter. Finally, someone’s got it right – their horoscope is on the next to last page.

 


All horoscopes were taken from cited newspapers and astrologers on February 22, 2015.

 

NM road sign, crocus, 007

 

 

 

(The God Aquarius slipping on wet floor.)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought