Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dudes, I'm Nervous

Husband has a propensity to watch CNN nonstop. But I can't watch it anymore, or any election coverage (save The Daily Show). I don't look at the poll numbers, though we're showing a lead. Or if I sneak a peek, I rationalize that if I haven't looked at it for more than three seconds, I haven't jinxed it. Mostly, I can't listen to any more f'ing talking heads analyzing the last molecule of shit out of every single aspect of everything . . .UG. It's maddening. I'm nervous though. I'm nervous that the race is as close as it is. This baffles me. I'm nervous to hear real live people -- from this here modern times! -- declare that if Obama is elected, the terrorists will have infiltrated the White House. Yet, it is perfectly ok that as a terrorist he is a U.S. Senator?

I feel like I'm waiting to see if I made the cheer squad. The list will be posted on the gym door Tuesday. Or maybe Wednesday, depending on the electoral cheer committee. But a thousand times more intensely -- if I knew what it felt like to try to make the cheer squad that is. I feel like I'm waiting to see if I got into a college that will make or break my major. They're ripping apart my essay now, I know it! That is if I knew what it felt like to try to get into a college. Ok, I feel like I'm waiting for a million dollar purchase order from a customer and if I don't get the PO I'll lose the account and my livelihood all together. This I can relate to, but in short, I'm just nervous, yo.

God help me on Tuesday. I'll have to run by the TV to check standings but only at periodic and random times with the volume on mute, of course, because any softened nod towards Obama as the votes still tally will be a sure fire jinx. It would be a roller coaster I wouldn't survive.

Another reason I can't watch any more coverage is because I am naturally not a hateful person. I am mellow and decent, usually, and I don't like the feelings of hate that gurgle up in my esophagus every time I hear the shameful and boggling things that continued to be unearthed during this campaign. I don't' want to hate. I want to regain my tread on the road of compassion and understanding. My guts can't take the hate.

I feel like I'm waiting for loan approval for the biggest purchase of my life. But that's not a good analogy because loans are hard to come by right now! Oh my god - what about that time I was late on my 1983 Ford Escort payment? Or when I maxed out the Sears card . . .

I waffle between extreme hope and extreme terror. Oh Tuesday, come already! But only with good news. The stomach aches I can no longer bear.

Monday, October 20, 2008

D'You Like Apples?

How do you like these apples?

The girls, Molly and I headed out to Riley Farms in Oak Glen, past Yucaipa (Where? Who knows) to go apple picking on Saturday. It was about a two hour drive straight east for us, with traffic of course, to a virtual no man's land as far as we coast-huggers were concerned. Before we left, the morning looked like this: 7:30am we went to Mina's volleyball game for some sluggish hilarity -- the short of it is that any nine year old who can serve the ball over the net will earn the point because hitting it back they have not yet mastered. Then we were off to Mina's TaeKwonDo studio where Maya had already taught the 9:30am lil white belt class. Kick, kick, block, block, yadi, yadi, then we were off to Maya's volleyball game where the kids demonstrated a little more skill than I had expected. Maya looked very self conscious on the v-ball court, bummed that she's not automatically fantastic at every athletic endeavor she attempts, even when she's never done it before nor knows any rules or ins and outs. I said, "What, you going out for the Olympics already in this? Catch yourself a break and have a good time." She was like, Oh, ok. She didn't play badly on Saturday, I thought.

Mina's game.

Maya's game. Then finally, we were off, towards Yucaipa and other unknown regions of Southern California for the much anticipated apple picking. We drove past downtown, past east LA, then we entered Illinois, I think. 50 miles outside of LA is pretty much middle America. You may find it surprising - I know I do and I'm from here - that California is not all wheatgrass drinkers and surfers or actors and film makers. Nope. We've got some salt of the earth right here too; enlightened and ignorant salt just like everybody else. We exited the freeway and followed the Yes on 8 signs all the way up to the farm. This made me cringe. For those not from Cali, Prop 8 is trying to eliminate same-sex marriage laws that were so hard won here not too long ago. No on 8 would keep same-sex marriages, Yes on 8 "upholds traditional marriage" and squashes the rights of others. This is a very heated topic here. In Santa Monica, No on 8 signs abound. In Orange County, where I work, I was taken aback when I saw the first Yes on 8 bumper sticker. Then I heard about the rallies where people stand on street corners -- for the Lord and family, don't you know -- and wave Yes on 8 signs. They've even been going door to door! And I thought, why is so much time and money being invested to take something away from someone else? Why is this time and money not going into good works for god or Jesus, if that's their agenda, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and the like. I truly believe Jesus shakes his head at this kind of hate-mongering or right-blocking. He must be thinking, You really missed the point, y'all.

After a windy, uphill drive on a sidewalkless road, we arrived at the farm which was crowded and teaming with families holding brown bags that spilled apples . The grounds were gorgeous and the staff was dressed in pioneer-days style. I looked out onto the pumpkin patch, noting the spectrum of sizes; huge and lopsided squash to small and round ones with curved, ridged stems. The day was crisp, but warm still and the dots of orange in the field held hands with the blue of the sky. I saw a cute blond boy about four with a cap weaving around pumpkins. When he turned around, I saw that his parents had stuck a YES ON 8 round sticker to the back of his shirt. I looked around at the crowd suspiciously. I then noticed a Yes on 8 banner stabbed in the dirt at the entrance of the farm, and this all made me on edge.

But we wandered out into the fields then, past the endless baby strollers and pods of families wearing matching jean shorts, and the trees put me at ease. The dirt comforted me. Molly and I found ourselves repeating, "Nature is awesome" a hundred times. The girls picked up walking sticks and ran along the path. Mina threatened to chuck her stick a few times, announcing, "Look, I'm a javelin thrower." I wasn't sure if watching so much Olympic coverage was such a good thing.

As a city girl, my idea of apple trees comes from illustrated fantasies of them; an Adam and Eve type tree, lush and full, thick-trunked with a bush of green leaves and low-hanging fruit. I hid my disappointment when I first saw the main orchard. It was a quiet disappointment still charged with the excitement of pulling fruit from the life source. We strolled up to a scrawny tree which had a puddle of fresh and decaying apples at the foot of the trunk. Some of the fruit on the ground looked perfectly fine, others were browned and flattened, returning to the dirt. The tree branches looked stripped and dry. Trees leaned this way and that. Then I looked up, and there they were. Apples clustered together like hanging jewels! I felt like we had stumbled upon a secret treasure. They lit up the brittle branches, and the trees did not look the same then. They were not scrawny at all; not dry or leaning or little. They were perfect; giving and beautiful and perfect. Nature is awesome.

This farm was not an organic one. This was a bit unsettling to both Molly and I and we were told that the trees get sprayed twice a year. We found some comfort that bugs still seemed part of the natural process. We saw plenty of bees and spiders and other bugs I can't identify. At first I wasn't going to let the girls eat any of our chemical-laden bounty until I had soaked them in vinegar first, but as we skipped back down the path with baskets and bags full of apples, we couldn't resist them. I rubbed each little apple on my jeans roughly and kissed it to the sky. Down the hatch. Good god, they were amazing. Chemicals and all. We ended up eating about four each and they were all great, the small ones, the ugly ones, the medium ones; all were sweet and snappy. Our faces lit up each time we took a bite, like it was a surprise every single time. When Molly bit into her first apple, she said, "This is the best thing I've ever put into my mouth." I had to agree. We were all under the apples' spell. She took two more bites and then accidentally dropped the apple onto the dirt path. We all stopped and stared at the apple for what seemed like an eternity, mourning its perfectness. Molly picked it up. The exposed white apple flesh was spotted with sticks and dirt, and I could see it run through her mind how the apple could be salvaged. We did too. "Let's just rinse it off somewhere," we suggested. We earnestly tried to solve this dilemma for a good five minutes because the fruit seemed so precious to us now; we understood what a gift it was. Finally Molly tossed the dusty apple over the side of the path. "Back to the earth," she said.

By the end of the day, all my nervousness about the people we were among had dissolved. I didn't even notice them or the hate signs by then. The apples and the sky and our little pod of love was all that mattered. I could only imagine that nature would soften their resolve too, melt away a little of their stand to block others right to be, to love. Ah, nature makes me sentimental, makes me appreciate the simplicity and strength of generosity. Back to the earth indeed.

Here are some pic's from our day. Molly taking photos of wildflowers. I spent most of yesterday baking, which I haven't done in a while. But what's a sister to do with a bushel full of apples? Is it obvious to say peeling and chopping and baking hand-pick apples delivers a type of satisfaction deeper than one experiences regularly? Eating the goods brought no less satisfaction. I sop up every photo taken from the experience.

Vegan apple pie, my favorite meal of all time.

Vegan turnovers, my second favorite meal.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm Just Saying

This was in last Sunday's LA Times. The source is the Tax Policy Center.

Here's what you'd pay in taxes under Sens. Obama & McCain's proposals:

If you make less than $19,000.00 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $567, with McCain $21

If you make between $19,000-$37,600 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $892, with McCain $118

If you make between $37,600-$66,400 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $1,118, with McCain $325

If you make between $66,400-$111,600 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $1,264, with McCain $994

If you make between $111,600-$161,000 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $2,135, with McCain $2,584

If you make between $161,000-$227,000 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $2,796, with McCain $4,437

And for the top 5% of earners:
If you make $227,000-$603,400, under Obama you would PAY an additional $121, under McCain you would SAVE $8,159

If you make $603,400-$2.87 million, under Obama you would PAY an additional $93,709, under McCain you would SAVE $48, 862

If you make more than $ 2.87 million (top .1% of earners), under you would PAY an additional $542,882, under McCain you would SAVE $290,708.

The McCain proposal does not look Joe Plummerish to me. So maybe he should lay that already-tired metaphor to rest.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sales Meeting In the Conference Room, Guys

That's what my boss said to me and my co-sales people yesterday afternoon: "Yea, come on. Quick sales meeting. Impromptu." I looked at his hands. I said, "I don't see any pink slips, so I guess I'll be there." He smiled and turned on his heels.

We all shuffled around in our cubes for a minute, pushing our chairs in and out; looking for the lingering email. We contemplated aloud about bringing a pad and pencil. One guy said, "You always bring a pad and pen to a meeting, duh." Another guy said, "Whatever." I whispered to my girl Lindz, "Take paper so we can pass notes if we have to." All of this, the shuffling, the pushing, the asking, the procrastinating was fueled by a nervous energy. What'd we do, we were thinking. It's all coming to an end, isn't it, we worried. You pendejos have made one too many lame broker risks, haven't you? HAVEN'T YOU? I hadn't thought of any of this until the second he called for an impromptu sales meeting.

The conference room was a chill 65 degrees. We nervously complained about it the second we entered the room. We can't help ourselves. After we were settled into cush conference chairs that remind me of gorilla palms, the main boss started to blahblahblah about seizing business opportunities and yadiyadi this and yadiyadi that, and we patiently, dozily waded through the sales-speak waiting for the meat, waiting for the hammer. We fumbled with our pens and fingered the corners of our blank pads of paper. Some people scribbled on their pads, making no effort to hide a non-business related doodle. What'd we do, we thought.

Then, all of the sudden, he moseyed up to the meat. It turns out, we're kicking ass. We did our best month of the year in September. Our margins are fat, more crazy brokeriness is on the horizon. I realized then his voice was amped, which I hadn't noticed before. He was slapping flat fingers on the table, and pointing and fidgeting. He hadn't even brought his Blackberry to the meeting. He told us how scrappy and nose-to-the-grindstone we were. I flushed a little.

He told us that our company was safe. And this is when his monologue formed clarity and slowed down for me though he still spoke with earnest, rip-roaring excitement. He said financially we were strong, cash was good, credit was golden, references stellar. "It's scary in the world right now, but we are safe." I didn't know how important that was to hear until then. In that second, it became all important. I was pumped. I had heard two things you can't ever expect to hear because if you wait to hear them you slow down, you wallow, you're waiting on the wrong things. But when you do hear it, unexpectedly, when you hear that you're awesome and that you're safe, a surprising wind billows the sails. I felt an instant affection for my company and my boss and my coworkers, my own performance. This affection does come on suddenly and periodically for my job, my company, like a spike in hormones. This is certainly not the first time I've felt it.

My boss then went on to explain what he's got lined up in the far reaches of his business dream world. He's a straight creative hustler; he's an entrepreneurial eccentric. He's trying to pull business deals together that not in my wildest dreams would I think to do. The majority of this kind of stuff falls flat on its face, but he had already got me giddy so I was thinking, "Oh you so crazy. Go on with your bad self, you nutty broker you!" In my swirling appreciative fog, I believed he could achieve all outlandish shit.

We brokers play things cool. I have no clue if anyone else in the meeting was as gushy and pumped as I after the meeting. Usually we're mad cynical too, and though we look cool doing that -- cynically downplaying and snickering every deal but the one that actually sticks -- that cynicism is our excuse, our crutch. If the shit that we're flinging against the wall doesn't hold, we just KNEW our customer's higher ups wouldn't approve it, or that our vendors are greedy jerk offs screwing us out of our piece of the pie . . . That keeps us buoyant too, I have to admit. Keeps us dumping the last waste of energy and on to the next meaty deal. Keeps us rooting for truffles.

But today, I'm hopeful about my cubicle job, which I haven't been in a long while. I'm thankful, and I'm even willing to head up some of my boss’s substantial wild-hair projects. But he better land one of those quick before my whole mood goes broker-sideways. I got other shit on my plate too, doesn't he know?