8.31.2007

When I die, I would like my obituary to read as follows:
rockle is dead. She was unruly and ornery and absolutely monkeyshit crazy, but at least she never dressed like a crack whore for work, except for that one time, which was a complete accident, and she ran out and got a replacement outfit to cover up for the wardrobe malfunction and anyway, it was her husband’s fault.
That “one time” was today, unfortunately. Well, it wasn’t unfortunate that it was today; mostly, it’s unfortunate that it happened at all. I might not always behave professionally, but I like to pride myself on the fact that at least I look like a responsible grown-up when I walk out the door in the morning. And now all of that has gone up in smoke because of a warm day, bad lighting, and one seriously ill-advised top.

I had my reservations from the beginning. The top I wanted to wear to work today – a cute new yellow empire-waist number with a bow in the back – was lightweight cotton, and I was afraid that there might be some peek-a-boo action going on. This is may be my biggest style issue in life: I have been gifted with, as they say, quite a rack. Where others have cleavage, I have Cleveland. The Girls come in handy at bars and Christmas parties, but they kind of get in the way when you’re trying to be taken seriously as a professional outside of the sex trade.

How do I normally handle a questionable sartorial choice? I ask the cats, every time. But they are almost never of any real help; I mean, come on, they’re colorblind, so I can’t reasonably expect them to know whether this shirt goes better with these pants or that skirt. So then I ask G how something looks. And being a good husband, he always says, “Fine.” Which is exactly how I trained him, so I know going into it that I can’t trust his words – but this time I did anyway.

We were running late this morning, so I assumed (fool!) that the pre-selected and pre-screened outfit was still OK, even though I was wearing a different bra that I was wearing last night, when we did the walkthrough. Like I do every morning, I got dressed by the light from the reading lamp. Went down the stairs, kissed my husband goodbye, ask him sign off again on the boobage, heckled “Mike & Mike” in spectacular high definition on ESPN, got in the car, rocked the iPod, went to work.

My hands were full when I got to work – of what, I don’t remember – so I put something down on my hood and you can imagine my horror when I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window. There, right in front of one of the VP’s and God and everybody, was my bra. Showing through my shirt. And not just “oh-hi!-rockle’s-wearing-a-bra-today” kind of showing, either, but “Christ-on-a-cracker-rockle’s-wearing-a-yellow-lacy-number-today-and-she-fills-it-all-the-way-out” showing. Like, I have nightgowns for intimate purposes that cover more than this blouse did.

I stuck it out for two hours before I was so mortified that I had to go shopping a buy a new shirt. When your friends can’t tell you with a straight face that you’re decent, you know you’re in trouble. Thank heavens for TJ Maxx. I changed in their dressing room before I went back to work. I still got comments, almost all of them good-natured, because I am still showing some skin, but definitely not so much that I feel uncomfortable about it. A certain amount of exhibitionism is fine by me.

Let it be known: I am a woman of principles, gosh darn it, and one of those principles is that I don’t care if people can see my boobs, but they are not going to see my underwear.

8.29.2007

The Netiquette phrase of the day, Gentle Readers, is this: responsible reportage.

My training as a journalist is far behind me, but in my mind (debauched and deluded though it is), I still consider myself something of an ink slinger. Many serious bloggers consider themselves reporters, and I think rightly so; in my own personal case, I think it is perhaps overly generous to say that my byline has moved from the Metro section to the Op-Ed page. I’ve long since made my peace with that.

Here’s the thing: when I started blogging, I made the conscious (and, I hope conscientious) decision to deliberately avoid talking about that category of news that could best be classified as “Somebody Else’s Problems.” And now I find myself smack-dab in the middle of my own little Ethical Dilemma – how do you write about some seriously ill shit that has gone down around you when the drama falls squarely into the realm of S.E.P.*?

First, a little clarification. Better to get it out of the way now than to have to issue a retraction later. I am absolutely and unequivocally NOT above writing about celebrity gossip. In fact, I love it – scandal rags are a personal indulgence of mine. I can’t even call them a “guilty pleasure,” because I don’t feel the least bit of shame when picking up US Weekly and People and whatever the hell else and perusing them in line at the grocery store.

The reason why I don’t actually blog about these things? Is because I think there are so many people out there who cover them better than I could ever hope to. Everything I need to know about the mess that is Britney Spears’s life I get from MamaPop and Perez Hilton and PopSugar and Celebritology. Oh, and The Soup on E! Ditto Lindsay Lohan and Owen Wilson and the Beckhams: other people cover “Hollyweird” so that I don’t have to.

But when I say I won’t write about “Somebody Else’s Problems,” of course I mean that I won’t document the goings-on in the lives of people who are near and dear to me. Not the bad stuff, anyway**. I am willing to bare all about my own personal faults and foibles – of which there are many, believe you me – but when it comes to the people I am closest to, there are lines I don’t want to cross. For their protection, and for mine. You might have noticed that I don’t even refer to my husband by his real name, and most of you already know him personally.

So, anyway, here I am, between the devil and the deep blue sea, trying to figure out how to talk about things that are currently distressing me without naming names and, more importantly, further bruising hearts that are already broken. What can I say that will be specific enough for those concerned to know what I am really feeling, while at the same time being vague enough to throw the uninitiated off the scent? How can I vent my frustrations and pitch my own personal hissyfit without pissing more people off?

Also: am I still being an honest reporter when I use veiled references and weasel words and deliberately ambiguous language? Is it fair to try to protect my sources, even if it means that to do so, I cannot discuss what I am really feeling? Is it right? Am I just pretending to be trying to be objective? Is this really a gigantic fraud that I am perpetrating? Do other on-line journalists ever experience this conflict of interest? How do they deal with it?

And, am I fooling anyone by framing this entire situation as an ethical debate, when the real issue is, I just don’t know what to say?

For now, I think I will hedge my bets and err on the side of caution. I’m not 100% sure how to put all that I am thinking and feeling into words anyway, so it’s probably best to lay off for now, stew in my own juices, and come up with something brilliantly apropros later. (As if.)

Still, I can’t help thinking about what Dante said: “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Does this apply to me, here? Does being careful equate to being neutral? What if I come right out and admit that I am choosing to say nothing because I don’t want to deal with all the bullshit aftermath? What then?

And when all is said and done, who is going to protect my feelings? Who is going to save me from myself?


* = Not my original concept. Borrowed – or, perhaps more accurately, “misappropriated” – from one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Sorry, DNA.

** = Vicious lies.
Sometimes I write about the bad stuff, when I don’t think the subject will ever read what I wrote. Or if I don’t think the subject will care. Or if I don’t give a wet rat’s ass whether the subject will care or not. Suck it, Alan!

8.25.2007

Oh, hi there! I'm still alive, but only barely!

Right now I'm in the middle of 5 days off, colloquially known as a "vacation," but don't worry: I'm not vacating anything, or going anywhere. My sisters are in town for the weekend and I am going full-tilt boogie until they leave, or I go back to work on Tuesday, or I keel over dead from exhaustion, whichever comes first.

(Question: Do normal people, without a drug or alcohol addiction situation, get to go to one of those fancy-schmancy rehab places when they have a complete and total physical and mental meltdown from "exhaustion"? Can I go to Promises Malibu and lounge by the ocean and be forced to do yoga and have to suffer through therapeutic pedicures? Please?)

Anyway ... Baby Sis got in on Thursday morning. I picked her up at the airport and it has been go-go-Gadget ever since. She is trying to get the bulk of her wedding planning done in a week, and it's going to be tough, but I think it's doable. Someone might have to be commit Hare Krishna, but I think by the time she goes home she will have spoken to everyone in the Lehigh Valley who has anything to do with anything even tangentially related to the Military-Industrial-Bridal-Complex.

What we have done: florist, baker (x2), photographer, plus looked at dresses online. What we still have to do: check out the hall, another florist, and actually try on dresses. Where we have been: I have no fricking idea, but I have put approximately 458,000 miles on the VW since 7:30 on Thursday morning.

Middle Sis finally got in last night at 11:00, about 6 hours behind schedule. Whee! There were storms in Chicago for the last few days, which I had no idea about because you already know my position on the news, although I should have suspected something serious was up when the Red Sox-White Sox game in Chi-town on Thursday night was postponed.

So now the gang's all here, for a little while, anyway. Not sure what's all scheduled for the rest of the weekend, but I'm sure there will be no rest for the wicked, as usual. Hopefully they give me time to eat and pee without me having to throw a tantrum. And maybe squeeze in a nap, and some sun time. If there is anything worth reporting, I will, as long as all this fun and frivolity doesn't kill me first, which it very well might.

But I'm not dead yet.

8.16.2007

Not sure whether you noticed or not, what with the Earth continuing to revolve around the sun every day according to its usual schedule, but this week marks the publication of the final print edition of the self-proclaimed “world's only reliable newspaper,” Weekly World News.

WWN, the sister publication of that other giant in the world of hard news, National Enquirer, was nothing short of genius in the 28 years it was around. Don't believe me? When the shutdown of the paper was announced, every major U.S. News outlet – and I do mean every – covered the rag's demise. Perhaps the best tribute appeared in the Washington Post. Yes, that WaPo, home of Woodward and Bernstein and my secret alien lover, Gene Weingarten.

Of course, everybody covered Elvis's funeral, too, and we know what a scam that turned out to be. Everyone knows that The King didn't really die 30 years ago; he's been living in Kalamazoo. Or he was until 1993 anyway, when WWN reported that Elvis actually did finally die, and then later disclosed in a series of follow-up stories that prior reports were yet another elaborate hoax.

So who knows what the real deal is with Elvis these days – my guess is, he's living it up, smoking Cuban cigars and drinking mojitos and playing pinochle with Amelia Earhart and Eddie Clontz and P'lod, the alien with the Gene-Simmons-esque tongue that Hilary Clinton was having an affair with a few years back.

What will I do without WWN? Where will I get all my news about “the exploits of alien babies, animal-human hybrids and dead celebrities”? Wherever will I learn about the “shocking and almost always exclusive reports about extra-terrestrials, ghosts, scoundrels and scientific discoveries, such as the cure for lovesickness found on the walls of an ancient Mexican monument”? [cite] You just can't trust the pinko neo-con libertarian mainstream media to report these things accurately, without bias or baseless accusations!

I was wondering about this when I happened upon the truly uplifting story of Jonathan Lee Riches, distinguished resident Williamsburg Federal Correctional Facility in the great state of South Carolina. It is a true tale of passion, conviction, and mind over matter. It's about grit, and determination, and how Michael Vick owes him $63,000,000,000,000,000,000 [sic] – sixty-three (!) quintillion (!!) dollars, payable in gold and silver (!!!) – for “physically hurting [his] feelings and dashing [his] hopes.”

And as I read this story, I thought: Who needs to make shit up, when reality is weird enough to begin with?

I'll miss the adventures of BatBoy, though. And I do hope that someday he finds Osama bin Laden. Tell Eddie I said hi, won't you?

8.12.2007

In case you haven't noticed, I blog to deal with life. It's cheaper than therapy, and in a lot of ways more honest -- I already know I can't impress the whole Internet, and so I feel no need to lie. Other people deal with their issues in other ways. PostSecret is one of them. I check out PostSecret.com every Sunday to see the new art-projects-cum-catharses that people send in. Frank Warren, the creator/curator of PostSecret, has made a little movie about his site, so I'm helping to get the word out. I don't normally do pimpage, so believe me when I say this is worth checking out.



If you like what you see, new secrets are added to the site every Sunday. There are also some PostSecret books available on Amazon.com. Check it out, and know this: whatever your secret might be, you are not alone.

PS - This video was also inspired by PostSecret and some of the secrets were used with permission. Great song, too.


8.10.2007

One of the problems with being a word wonk who feels the compulsive need to overshare and habitually document every-damn-thing is that I live in constant fear that all the records of my tragically misspent youth will come back to bite me in the ass.

So of course it practically goes without saying that I am torn about what to do with three of my old handwritten journals that I uncovered recently in my parents’ garage. Hardly an important archaeological or anthropological find, these, but nevertheless there they are, in all their neglect-scented floral-bound glory.

I have to say, if you think I’m an emo kid now, you should see the stuff I wrote back then. Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, some it is almost physically painful to read. Not just because it hurts to remember the situations and events, but also because these books are lousy with horrifyingly bad writing: overwrought idioms, twisted metaphors, random melodramatic punctuation.

You know, not at all like now. Heh.

That’s the part about all of it that’s so discombobulating. As far as I can figure from using an exclusive proprietary scientific method of carbon dating and reading the names of my idiot ex-boyfriends, these diaries are from about 15 years ago, when I was still in high school. And I still sound exactly the same.

For example, here is an actual verbatim excerpt from an entry labeled “13-1-92” (what the hell kind of shorthand is that? a date? January 13th 1992, maybe?):
Poets and Broadway musicals make a big deal out of being in love. Irving Berlin said in Annie Get Your Gun that “falling in love is wonderful … in every way.” Well, I beg to differ. Right now I feel kind of like I have the flu in reverse. Instead of upset stomach and light head, I have an upset head and a light stomach.

My heart is eternally optimistic, forever the romantic. My heart is madly in love with being madly in love. When I see Scott and I get all warm and tingly all over, that’s because somewhere in between my eyes and my brain my heart gets in the way, and my perceptions are distorted.

But my brain … well, that’s a different story. My intellect is not 100% behind me in this endeavor. Part of me – the part that I used to call my conscience, but I don’t anymore, because there really isn’t any “science” involved – keeps making me second-guess myself. That little voice keeps screaming, “Wait! It’s too soon! It’s too fast!”
I can’t be honest with myself and still say that I wouldn’t write something like this now. I mean, some things have changed with the passage of time – instead of quoting show tunes, for example, I might now pull a line out of a Patti Griffin song, and of course I am no longer writing about the parade of hapless dorks that I’m dating – but that language is all me.

Guh. What have I been doing with my life? I have a degree in Writing, ferchrissakes. Am I really using my hundred-thousand-dollar education to come to the conclusion that I hit my peak around the same time I was dating Scott Buhrman? I know that God allegedly has a plan, but can this possibly be it? Really?

And also: now what do I do with these journals? They’re kind of hanging around, like so many albatrosses around my neck. I shredded a couple of pages last night, and G had a look on his face like I’ve never seen before. “Some people want to hold on to their history,” he said, as if this was some kind of ground-breaking genealogical study. It’s kind of a good point – maybe someday I’ll be able to show it to my kids and prove that I was once their age and I once had the same kinds of feeling that they’ll be having when they’re teenagers.

But on the other hand, do I really want to keep these books around as reminders of what used to be? Especially when what used to be was obviously not all dead rats and warm cream? I’ve moved on to what I believe are bigger and much better things, even though my craft doesn’t appear to have developed any additional sophistication in the intervening years. Still and all, I am what I am, and my life is what it is – what good can it possibly do to look back on what was never going to be?

The toss-up in all of this is one random passage I found written on the bottom of one of the pages of a journal that was started in about 1991, I think. I find it particularly meaningful in ways that maybe only resonate with me. The entry is dated January 31st 1993, almost a year before I started dating the man who would eventually become my husband. If you know G, you will understand why I believe that the Universe must have been trying to tell me something that day when this particular thought occurred to me.
Quote of the Day: “Don’t ever let anyone monkey with your swing.” – Ted Williams

8.07.2007

I spent the weekend at my grandparents', as I've been doing since approximately the dawn of time. My grandparents are great, and they have a pool. Comes in handy when it's 412° and 206% humidity. Almost everyone was there this weekend. It was just like old times. Except: it wasn't. Things are never as they were, are they? My grandparents are still the same as they ever were -- card players, joke tellers, gracious hosts who always have a supply of assorted Tastykakes at the ready -- but at the same time, I can see them changing before my eyes, and I don't like it one bit.

Took a walk around their yard on Saturday, and I spent a lot of time reminiscing about what used to be. The pop-up camper used to be right there, on the side of the house, filled with laughter and juice boxes and suntanned children playing spades and taking naps and pretending. I still remember Nana Shively's sheets: white, cotton blend, with a red rose print, soft from years of wear, always cool in the middle of a sweltering summer day, fragrant with the familiar perfume of mustiness and fabric softener.

Where the table is now, on the concrete patio, there has always been a table, but this weekend it was just Nana and Poppy, Kim and my mom and me, when it used to seem like God and everybody would be there every day. Nana Agnes, Nana Shively, Faye and Gladys and Sr. Patrick, Aunt Shirl and Pam. Aunt Bet and Tina and Stephanie and whatever kids we would bring along from swim team practice, some of them relatives, some of them friends, all of them family.

Now we drink from paper cups of ice water and cans of generic diet soda when there used to be a refrigerator filled with Coke in the garage. Colored aluminum cups and plastic Tupperware tumblers would hold ice water and Hi-C and Hawaiian Punch and sun tea and, now that I look back on it, probably mixed drinks made of whatever was around. Sometimes for dinner the grownups would drink wine, chablis I think, from a giant green bottle.

Towels and bathing suits would hang all over the fence in various states of air-drying. I recall the summer we all had "Where's the Beef?" beach towels. There was a constant rotation of gradually fading bright colors coming from the garage, reds and blues and pinks and yellows and stripes and abstract patterns. They would wave in the wind like so many flags of a comfortable kingdom. Now the only towels are mine, and they don't stay on the line for months at a time any more; as soon as I get dressed, someone folds them and sends them home like unpopular leftovers.

But it is the garden that has changed the most, so much it almost kills me to remember. There used to be roses everywhere, every color. My grandmother was so proud of her roses once. The bushes were always so properly kept, deadheaded regularly, watered and fertilized and loved so very much. Up in the yard, by the trees, were Poppy's tomato and strawberry plants, his wild rhubarb, his bright red gladiolus that seemed to grow as tall as the trees. Now there are hibiscus, beautiful but not the same, and a riot of cosmos and some other flower that nobody knows the name of, growing unkempt like weeds. Annuals, as though everyone suspects that next year there might be no one there to see them.

Maybe if I had children of my own things would seem different to me -- the cycle might continue, unbowed and unbroken, unchanged. But then again, maybe not. Perhaps all the years of wrangling us kids, of zinc oxide and iodine and baby oil, of ants on the deck and caterpillars and naps in the grass and swim meets and skinny dipping, perhaps all of it has finally caught up with my family. We're not, none of us, as young as we used to be. It is unreasonable to expect us to continue as though we are.

But I'll be damned if I don't miss the days when there was nothing more to life than diving for change at the bottom of the deep end and feasting on Schafer bologna and Country Time lemonade and fudgesicles. When did summer get so bittersweet, and not the fall?

8.02.2007

Having a bad week at work is the surest way to find out what you're really made of, and I feel like I am made of marshmallow and depression, fear and loathing, anxiety and angst and crippling self-doubt, all wrapped up in the skin of a woman who is suddenly so frail and tired.

I always thought I was a strong, powerful woman, but there's only so much I can take. I'm smart and funny, capable and quick, but the one thing I really need to be to get through this is of course the one thing that I have never been, not really: confident.

My career has been built on the bricks of hard work, fast learning, interpersonal relationships, and Microsoft Office, but everything is collapsing around my ears like a house of cards on a rickety table in a stiff wind. I love what I do – or at least I think I do – but I don't know how much I enjoy it any more.

I feel like my department is being run by an old-boys' network of accountants and thieves, jokers who keep trying to trump policy and procedure with fake made-up rules and strawman logic. Bullies are terrible leaders, always obsessed with the bottom line but with only misappropriated ideas about how to get there.

Except: I'm not Tiger Woods, and I don't live my life in a Nike commercial. “Just do it” doesn't cut it when the Prime Directive makes no sense, and no amount of managerial gerrymandering can polish a turd. And anyway, clich├ęs are for the uninspired, and threats are for the weak.

And yet, I am in a position where no matter what I do, no matter how I move my pieces, the endgame is the same. I can't win, and I can't resign, either. The White Queen is trapped in the corner with nowhere to go and no one to protect her.

There are only so many times you can be told how “valuable” you are, how much of your “contribution” to the team is “net-positive,” before you feel you have no choice but to stand up in the middle of a meeting and punch a couple of Directors and Vice Presidents square in the mouth.

But you can't, because you have that Other Opportunity hanging over your head, and it you know it would look bad when they're doing your background check and they find out that you are an H.R. nightmare because you knocked your boss's teeth down his throat. No matter how much he deserved it, the snivelling little shitweasel.

So there's nothing else you can do but cry, and feel weak, and call people names that don't mean anything anyway, and after three consecutive days of people reminding you how small and wrong and dispensable and replaceable you are, you begin to believe them, even when you know you're not. You're none of these things, but they'll have none of it.

After three days of being told of precedent being set in conversations that never happened, of manufactured memories, you begin to feel the piss and vinegar pouring away in tears that will not stop. All the spit and sand are gone in racks of sobs that sound so small and insignificant.

Then, when you finally discover, after more than two months of waiting and wishing and hoping and actually praying – praying! something you haven't done voluntarily in so long you can't even begin to guess how long it's been – that you didn't get that other job ... then there's nothing left.

I'm numb, cold, so shell-shocked and disappointed that I don't even know if I remember how to feel anything any more. Except worthlessness. Fatigue. Apathy. Fear. Instead of a Pawn becoming a Queen, the Queen has become a pawn, and ... there's nothing left but marshmallow mush.