Friday, August 29, 2008

Yes, another trip - San Francisco & Napa Valley

OK, we admit it - we were suckers for a marketing email that advertised great rates for our favorite hotel chain. We managed to get airline tickets before a fare increase and voila!, we were set for San Francisco. Who wouldn't want to, in August, visit a city that is 40 degrees cooler?

This was not our first trip to the city, so we went for relaxation over sights. On Sunday we did haul ourselves up at the crack of 8:15 (painful, even on Pacific time) to get on a bus to the wine country. The weather was great, our hotel was very comfortable, the food & wine never disappointed, and a bonus - we got to see two friends who live in the Bay Area.

Link to travel photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/sarahbowieme/SanFranciscoAndNapaValleyRRWeekend82208

On our last morning we took some photos (see slide show at top of blog) at the Palace of Fine Arts, built for the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915. The romantic (Roman-style) Palace was so popular that although constructed of temporary materials - plaster and burlap - it was kept after the rest of the Exposition was torn down. The Palace slowly crumbled until funds were raised in the 1950s to recreate the original design from concrete. Just a few blocks from the Bay, even concrete is vulnerable to weather and age, and a modern refurbishment of the rotunda, colonnades and lagoon is now underway.

Weekend over...now we're back in Dallas, sigh...but at least fall is coming (someday).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Purple-influenced Portrait of Sisters on a Sofa

I had planned to work this image into the longer entry about Rachel below, but then it didn’t fit…the photo does speak about our early years together but since I’m 5 years old and she’s an infant, it shows much more about me than about Rachel.

The color comics hanging behind me indicate that it’s Sunday after church. My dress was one of my favorites, a purple-striped number that I once accessorized with a purple crayon in the pocket…I don’t know how my mother cleaned up all that mess after a warm-water wash and a hot dryer finish. Rachel was born in February, and my nylon-wooly slippers indicate it’s not summer yet, despite the short sleeves of my dress. (The seasons blur in temperate Tomball, anyway.)

I think the purple fabric was thrown over the couch because it needed recovering – not long afterward, my mother had the faded and ripped Early American print replaced with another Early American print, but not much better stuffing. The stripes seem rather bold for Mother, at least in decorating (she did wear some bold florals), so it may have been a gift. We used the sofa throw when we acted out the Christmas Story at home – wrapped about the head and shoulders, it looked to us Texans...Tomballians...like Middle Eastern garb.

I was not naturally adept with babies, at that age or since, so my mother must have carefully lined up the bottle in Rachel's mouth. Legend has it that the night before we claimed Rachel from the hospital (she was adopted as an infant), I stayed up past my bedtime, practicing big-sistering with my doll, the same gnarly-haired thing you see in the photo (doll hair has come a long way since the 1960s), tossed to the end of the couch so I could perform a real feeding.

That excited night before is vivid in my memory, since it marked the end of the Before Rachel time. The reality of Rachel was not as I had fantasized. She took more of Mother's attention than I would have liked, and when she got older she was brattily intrusive in my lifestyle, her more extreme behavior reaching a level unknown by my placid family. My parents, worn down by my cries of "Make her stop!", would advise me to ignore her, not understanding that such a passive approach was useless against Rachel's forcefield of energy. Five years was an awkward age difference - we couldn't share friends or activities, although my parents seemed oblivious to that, always wanting to pair up their children as The Boys (my brothers were 2 years apart) and The Girls.

In 1st or 2nd grade I brought home a red zinnia carefully grown from seeds in a Dixie cup - this passed for a science project in those days. Toward the end of the school year it was large enough to be transplanted to our flower bed. The dry clay in front of our house was pretty much a dead zone, and the zinnia really stood out, more colorfully than toddler Rachel could resist. Less than 10 minutes after planting, she had yanked my flower out by its roots, and her face held dark emotion that proved to me she wasn't one bit sorry. Oh, my screams of righteous anger...

She had more toys and more friends than I did, so I couldn't figure out why she bothered to hassle me. I guess I should have taken an early lesson from the zinnia incident - she wanted what I had, because I had it. Not so different from sisters anywhere, but a new experience for me.

Locked Up: as Metaphor and Fact

This posting has been especially difficult to write, which is why I’m using long chunks from my journal, mostly as-is, with just the question marks cleaned up – when I wrote these entries I kept struggling for words and trying out alternate phrases, each with question marks. It’s therapeutic for me to write that way but would give readers a headache.

I also had difficulty choosing generic photos for the posting, which is usually my favorite part of blogging. I chose the stylized image above because I thought it was attractive, but also because it was less upsetting than others I viewed – more details on that below.

The basic facts, to the extent that my sister has divulged them and/or I could look them up online, is that Rachel is serving a 5-year sentence for drug charges in the Texas prison system, possibly eligible for probation this November. She had been close to arrest for the past several years and went to court-ordered rehab but then got into further life messes, and this spring it all caught up with her. Her spring arrest was complicated by her probation on previous charges, so that although she says she’s been clean & sober since January, and had been making strides to communicate with family again and get back on track professionally, she is having to serve real time.

Rachel spent almost 4 months in the Harris County Jail in Houston, never seeing the sun – even her court date was inside the building. She had hoped to then be transferred to one of the larger state women’s facilities where she could have more educational options, but she is now in Dayton, Texas, which as best as I can figure out online, doesn’t offer much besides a prison garden. Dayton is about an hour from Houston, but in many ways it's far from Houston. Craig and I had thought of trying to visit Rachel when we go to see my dad during Labor Day weekend, but she won’t be eligible for visitors yet. Some prison mentality came up with the idea that new inmates must wait 30 business days for visitors. Is it just me, or does the concept of a "business day" sound odd in that context?

JOURNAL 7/31
How much to talk about it...It's not that I'm ashamed she's there, but I'm wondering if it's wrong or bad of me to write online about my reaction to her situation. It's my blog, but...already I fear this is getting too flip. I feel the feeling I want to write about when I feel close to her plight - by that, I mean visualizing her discomfort as I imagine myself in similar locked-up circumstances, which to me sound, which I imagine as, very claustrophobic. Reading online that she can almost never make phone calls and has to wait for a month and a half to have a visitor made my chest tighten and my brain kind of twist, flop, lock up, do the kind of queasy spasm you go into when you want to avoid something. Reading public web postings from family members of inmates, not complaints about Rachel's jail as a terrible place but expressing the expected frustrations and concerns with bureaucratic hassles and lack of...well, the lack of the system (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, TDCJ) to treat their loved one as the special person he/she is. And shit, I'm a very special person, but I would get no special treatment either - it's prison. Someone on the outside would have to raise the appropriate sort of hell - emailing, calling, threatening and copying the ACLU for me to get my anxiety meds, which are not exactly necessary to sustain life. Glaucoma and blood pressure meds might be a challenge too but I am most worried about the psych meds - after all, glaucoma and hypertension do silent damage, I wouldn't know about it other than worry/thought about it, but without even my small regular dose of stop-the-anxiety...hell, I could live without it, but I might want to kill myself, especially in a rural prison, with few activities other than the prison garden. And I wouldn't make friends immediately like Rachel - she's the kind of person who could win over the biggest bully, by the magic of her size, humor, earthiness, extroversion, drama...she has a way of drawing people to her, and people tend to give her a lot of chances. When she screws up she usually hurts herself more than them. Well, good - here I am talking about Rachel instead of myself! Poor Rachel, who was hoping to get to a large, sophisticated (that's clearly not the right word, but what would be?) facility where she could learn to drive a commercial truck and maybe parlay that into a good job after prison - assuming employers were ok with her having had a conviction. Worrying about her future is a whole other thing - lots of unknowns, and yet, a certain certainty of life patterning...not encouraging. She has had training and licenses in hair and manicures and managed to get a renewal around the time she was arrested, so she hopes to work in the prison beauty shop, according to a letter my dad got...the trading of information between us is kind of sad, and seems archaic, like my dad's much-delayed in mailing letters from WW 2. In an effort to coax myself toward putting something online on this topic, my sister is in jail, I looked on my usual free photo site for images. I was shocked by how sick I felt looking at the grimmer cell photos and especially people behind bars. How many movies, TV shows, books have I absorbed, even smirked and giggled at or otherwise critiqued, of the prison existence? But suddenly, I am one step closer. I told a friend at lunch yesterday that I felt a sort of luckiness at having a chance to get closer to something that is, after all, a reality of our society. But today I felt sick looking at online photos filmed/faked with models, because they made me imagine myself in a bad reality...that my sister is experiencing.

JOURNAL 8/8
“Getting used to my sister in jail” – possible title for blogging? I used "get used to" in reference to my dad, trying to calm Rachel in one of my letters, as in, he needs time to get used to your news. Actually I, and I guess anyone else who knows her, who hears about her, also has to go through a process (an adjustment) of whatever speed and complexity. Of course we Scholls want to, or seem to need to assume that, we are above such adjustments, but we go through stages of grief, anger, depression like other humans, however good we are at diverting, denying, the emotions that want to spike up - however good we are at flattening. Part of the problem is accepting all parts, or at least certain parts of the process - we may think it's OK to make jokes about Rachel but not OK to feel angry at her, or vice versa. Yes, I guess all families do this, and many families bury and squelch. I can't quite put my finger on what I think is unique about the Scholls... One big part of the Scholl approach to “getting used to” is guilt. Now, guilt is always acceptable, rarely or never squelched. It is perceived as a somehow virtuous, selfless emotion. Beyond my guilt of how I might have contributed to my sister's problems, which I've thought about for so long that the edges of that guilt have gotten less sharp, there is guilt of how I am using my adjustment to her situation (for example, with curiosity, or for blog fodder), especially since my relationship with her has not been a consistent part of my life - we are several years apart in age, and worlds apart in personality.

***

While searching for images I found this goofy one that I saved on a whim and then realized deserves inclusion. It illustrates my imaginary placing myself in Rachel’s situation – Sarah the nerd, office drone, librarian-type in jail, much to her surprise, of course. I keep making parallels between my behaviors of spending too much and drinking too much to Rachel’s drug involvement. Maybe those comparisons are silly, but I was raised to try to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and not just give blind judgment or patronizing compassion.

I inhaled pot in high school, not many times but in some riskily public situations, and it has struck me since that even one arrest for that (again, the comparisons get kind of silly, since Rachel has been arrested more than once) could have changed my life. I would not have gotten my first Dallas job, which had a mandatory check of criminal records – unusual for that time, but I worked for a government office. I stayed at that job for 5 years and it was an important and formative experience for me. Surely a drug arrest would have had repercussions beyond that as well, and certainly would have added to my self-consciousness and hesitation at selling myself professionally.

I wasn’t personally drawn to drugs but my friends were – I didn’t have many friends then and we didn’t have much in common, so I guess it was as important for me to give in to their desire to expose me to a high as it was important for them to loosen me up. Two memories from 1978/1979 really make me cringe – driving (with my 16-year-old poor driving reflexes) my grandfather’s old sedan to take one friend to see another on Friday night, on 2-lane and 1-lane unlit country roads, with a fresh bag of pot perched on the front seat. And, parked at the Sonic on Main Street (yep, as public an avenue as the name indicates) as my friends smoked up the pale-blue interior of Grandpa’s pale-blue sedan with pot. The Sonic pot use seemed harmless to me, about the same caliber as a classmate’s story about buying tater tots with cheese and discovering their petrified leftovers in her glove box 2 weeks later. (Not moldy, just petrified – not much real food there, after all.) The pot, like the tater tots, represented just another harmless high school Sonic experience, in my view. Granted, this was before Nancy Reagan’s War on Drugs…in a way there was less stigma back then, but in a way more stigma – back then, it was less imagined that good kids would try drugs.

Actually those two stories don’t make me cringe as much as a third one, which took place at our country destination, a single-wide mobile home, so at least was not public. My two friends puffed pot into a cone and bade me inhale (I think I took one brief, polite sniff), and they also poured beer in my glass of Coke, thinking I wouldn’t notice the taste and more importantly, that it would make me more fun.

How does this embarrassing story relate to Rachel? Well, through the perennial theme of peer pressure. Many of the people Rachel feels most comfortable with do drugs. Add that to the fact that Rachel tries to self-medicate for depression, low energy, high energy, or whatever with drugs (and here I always have to interject, how is that different from me and my Chardonnay?), and you have a situation that’s exacerbated – if not caused by – peer pressure.

I may be stretching a point too far, or giving in to too much Scholl guilt, but I still see connections between Rachel and me. That makes it impossible (as if it would be possible, regardless...) to dismiss concerns for her, being locked up.

Even PINK has been reclaimed

I can’t remember which came first, the inspiration for this image or the text…I confess I may have thrown together this posting as an excuse to post a rainbow of my pink-shade Chucks.

From my journal 7/16: "I actually ordered HOT PINK Chucks today - out of boredom? needing a backup purchase so I won't feel bereft if I return the other pair I ordered?, which are black with colored hearts. I guess with my fashion choices I am trying to reclaim hearts as well as certain colors." Heart shapes had always seemed too girlish to me, not to mention a painful reminder of singlehood during all my years of that status. A few years into my marriage Craig's mother gave me her mother's pearl & silver pendant, which is beautiful and special but a bit too sparkly for my taste. Actually when the heart Chucks arrived I loved them and have since bought two heart-shaped shell/stone pendants to wear with them - one is orange and one is apple green, and the pendants are beautifully chunky and arty rather than girlish.

But back to color reclamation...having successfully repossessed orange - I even have an orange purse ($22.99 pleather from Target) - it's on to pink.

I wrote on 7/16 that I was feeling strong in my pink shirt that day - worn with black pants and pink leather Chuck Mary Janes. Was it the black pants? Black & red and pink karma bracelets? Or had I felt good in other pink tops, with other bottoms? That day's outfit did not remind me of a girlish look...dark pants were definitely better than off-white. I nattered on to say that on Monday I had worn olive J Jill pants with a floral pink top and the same shoes, and that was not a bad look or feel. The previous month I accidentally ordered a 2nd thick-knit pink LL Bean long-sleeve shirt, tricked again because the online description made me think it was a purple, not pink...somehow I fell for the color confusion twice in a row. I wrote on and on about pink shirts...I tried to give one LL Bean shirt to Cousin Amy but it wasn't her size, and she suggested that my keeping 2 pink shirts was not a bad thing. Now I have 2 identical long-sleeve and 2 identical short-sleeve shirts...the short sleeves were another purchase accident, this time at Target, because I didn't double-check as I grabbed things off the sale shelves...but with a $6.99 shirt, it doesn't seem to matter if you have extras. When I bought my very first pink short-sleeve from Target, I thought I would layer it under black or white when I wore pink-print Chucks - actually my bunny-print Chucks are not really pink but more of a coral - which is OK since I have a Target coral shirt too, bought without the Chucks in hand, an impressive case of remote color matching - but I kept that first pink shirt anyway...and it has somehow encouraged much more pink in my closet.

[Note - when I wrote the journal entry I was drinking a glass of wine at ZiZiki's Greek restaurant and did not bother to look down at my shoes under the table - only after getting in my car did I realize I was not wearing pink shoes but black & cream Mary Jane Chucks with a red stripe on the rubber, worn with pink socks. It strikes me as really funny that I unconsciously changed the color of my shoes to fit my writing theme.]

In the early 1980s one of the fashionable pinks was a powdery pale version that I especially liked. It reminded me of childhood, the pastel shades of the early 1960s before the vivid color explosions that came later. One day I wore to work a cotton long-sleeve, kind of Bohemian powder-pink shirt with shoulder pads. To connect the blouse with my pleated denim skirt I wore a wide braided straw belt of multi colors (also very 1980s). I even had pale pink pumps, the perfect shade although thin plastic and cheap construction - the kind of shoe whose heel tip wears down almost immediately so that you're walking on the metal spike, not so great for downtown pavement. I should have carried the shoes and worn tennis shoes from my parking lot but I only had a couple of blocks to walk and I didn't want to break up the total look. When I passed the Dallas Museum of Art, which was across from my office building, I was close to a school bus full of...school kids. Some of them started yelling at me - I couldn't make out the words but the tone was critical. They were on my birthmark side and I felt very exposed as I walked the length of the bus. I associated that experience with wearing pink in public, and maybe my ensemble did highlight the red in my face. I'm not saying I didn't wear pink afterward, but when I did wear pink it was with more self-consciousness than glory in the color.

So it's especially cool now that when I wear pink, I feel POWERFUL. Sometimes accessorizing my pink shirts with red as well as pink crystal bracelets (the red beautifully sets off the pink) has helped my feeling of power - after all, pink is a shade of red, and red is nothing if not powerful.

I once read that in Victorian times, baby girls wore blue and baby boys wore pink, because pink was seen as being so close to red, and red was considered too strong for girls. I loved that factoid and completely believed it...although I have since seen paintings and other images from that era of girls in pink and boys in blue.

Last month Craig made a special trip to the outlet mall in Allen to look for his favorite kind of Nike shirt. He’s not a big shopper, but a very targeted one – like a hunter, he aims for specific items, and if he doesn’t see anything, he doesn’t shoot. To my surprise, he came home with not just a Nike shopping bag but also one from the Converse outlet. He had bought himself a pair of basic white low-tops for, in his words, “family solidarity.” How cute is that? He obviously can’t stamp out my feelings for Chucks, so he bought a pair of his own. The shoes look great on him but there is one negative - I feel internal pokes of guilt every time he complains about how much they cost, which actually was not a bad price for Chucks...I certainly don't want to educate him on how much I pay for mine.

And yes, this touching little story does tie back to the topic of PINK. Craig brought me back a present, a bright-pink Chuck Taylor All-Stars cap. I didn’t want to act like I didn’t like it – I do like it – but I was puzzled why he chose that color, over black, white, blue, red, and whatever else they had. Craig's explanation was, “I thought if you would wear any color of hat, you would wear pink.” How interesting, since Craig has almost never seen me wear pink until this summer, and my pinks are still not frequent. As usual Amy had an insightful explanation – she said that pink is in the same color family as orange, they are both warm colors. I started wearing orange last winter before I branched out to pink this spring. Considering all the reclusive and drab-dressing phases of my life, I consider it a nice thing to now be associated with warm colors. Thank you, Craig, for that…and for the hat.

Last Thursday night I wore the hat to a baseball game – not a big pastime of ours, but Craig had gotten free tickets. I spent a lot of effort trying to figure out what color shoes would tone down the hat, and finally decided that pink shoes with the pink hat would actually attract less attention than red shoes or navy shoes - without pink shoes, the pink hat would stand out like a piece of candy atop a cupcake. I wore a black shirt and blue-gray Capris – not the best fashion dressing, but I liked the total color palate. I don’t usually find caps comfortable but the Chucks hat feels good, soft and airy. Coincidence? I think not! Chucks are special in all forms.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Four Family Women


It adds to the challenge, but also the interestingness of things, when we find our memories are wrong, to whatever degree. I thought I had an ensemble photo, taken with Uncle Harvey's good camera and with his talented eye, of me, my mother, my sister Rachel and my mother's mother. However when I dragged out my slightly bug-inflicted family photo box from the top of a closet, I realized such an image would only exist in composite form, if I put 2 or 3 photos together. There is a photo of my mother in an orange dress, her mother, my sister Rachel, and one of Grandma's favorite caregivers, Virginia Radeke - I'm not in that photo, which would be OK, but a worse problem blog-wise is that the photo of the other women did not recopy well - too much of it was in the shade of Harvey's back porch - and wonderful as Virginia was, she doesn't fit my theme of family women. Using multiple photos instead of one is not necessarily a bad thing, although I intended my text to explain one artfully, psychologically consolidated photo of all of us. This makes it harder for me to get my points across, but I'll do my best below to patch together my original notes and updated text that fits the actual photos.

In the photo I had planned to use, my mother seemed at the time, and still looks in reviewing photos, so old...this was a couple of years before she died but her illness had already begun. She was also worn down by taking care of a senile parent, a hyperactive toddler, and a sensitive elementary schooler (moi). The too-dark-to-use photo reminds me that she liked orange too - her tweedy dress fabric probably seemed old-fashioned to me at the time, as did the orange-tweed new sofa we bought for our recently remodeled front room (my dad put down real wood planks, absolutely beautiful and perfect looking but something I had no appreciation for at the time, since that was an era when people carpeted over hardwood, thinking it progress). How interesting that she wore orange, since I have started wearing orange again...she had a red purse (which I forgot until my dad recently found it when moving his chest of drawers, it had been packed in there, a time capsule under old clothes and linens, soon after she died), and I recently bought an orange one. [In this substitute photo Mother is wearing one of her typical floral fabrics, that included orange, and the faded image has gotten more orange with age.]


Grandma had what was called hardening of the arteries, probably not Alzheimer's but something else that kept her from knowing where she was. She was still her sweet, polite self but she ran away when she could manage it, she obsessively picked microscopic lint off the floor, and she periodically went into tearful tangents about boys falling into the pond, about to drown...some kind of flashback to a childhood farm image...I thought then, and now, how horrible it was that senility had trapped her into anxiety nightmares from which she couldn't wake up.


In the same photo I didn’t use, my sister Rachel looked so out of place in the grouping, almost feral - not even kindergarten age yet, she was somehow fully in charge of herself, though hardly fit to be so...hunched into a child's miniature chair, with bare feet and skinny legs stretched out in front. [Even in this more dressy photo she clearly wants to be somewhere else, wearing something else.] But it's impossible to ever mention Rachel without saying that she had, still has, long moments of sweetness amid the wildness. She did run and climb like a monkey, didn't like to wear shoes, and sometimes left her shirts at home too, running short-haired and flat-chested like a tomboy. Although my mother took pride in my long little-girl hair, lovingly combing and braiding it (despite my shrieks of pain), she soon gave up on Rachel's, which was a different texture anyway, and cut it short, pixie cuts being rather in fashion then, anyway.

I also have to add that the adult Rachel has beautiful hair and as an adult keeps it beautifully arranged, is also capable of pulling together perfect makeup, lovely jewelry, and has a good color/dress sense. I know she's heavier than she wants to be, but her personality is somehow larger than life, so her size is not ill suited to her personality, and the whole effect can be so charming. Going from small to large size at a young age was not typical for a Scholl child - my brothers and I started out husky and then got slimmer, at least until middle age, so as an adopted, but loved and (we once thought) well integrated child, the size morphosis, and probably more so, her outgoing personality, set Rachel apart. My brother Tim behaved as an extrovert but I don't think that for him it came as naturally as it did Rachel. He acted as an extrovert to achieve more goals and make more personal connections, but an extroverted lifestyle - the furor & press of people around - was not his comfort zone as it was Rachel's.

And me...I felt lumpish and often peevish but savvy at that age, which must have been just before we realized I needed glasses, and obviously before I went on my adolescent, doctor-prescribed diet (carefully counting 1000 calories a day from a chart the doctor gave us, although I had heard my mother tell the doctor I didn't really eat much – true, I didn't, but everything I ate was a carb). I look at my image now and I see both savvy and gravitas in my face and posture, also more style than I thought I had, consumed as I was with thoughts of lumpishness.

Literary postscript:
I’m reading Collections of Nothing, by William Davies King, a book about his collections of hundreds of types of valueless items such as empty tuna cans (he has dozens of brands and varieties) and cat litter labels (he keeps them under plastic in 3-ring binders)…but more importantly the book is about who he is as a person and a personality, and why he collects. His need for and love of collecting can’t be separated from his childhood dreams and traumas.

I was especially struck by a quote at the end of his description of a sculpture he assembled while in college from his collection of broken chairs, an exhibit meant to represent his sister’s nervous breakdown. “There is no great joy in surviving…and value that is hard to share.” Ostensibly he’s referring to the chairs he threw away after the exhibit, but also to his survivor guilt at having a sister afflicted by cerebral palsy, brain damage and schizophrenia.

I hesitated to include the quote in this post because it sounds so dramatic, but as I read it I resonated with this important knowledge – my life since Mother has lacked the joy she would have brought to it. Not to say I’ve had a bad life, or that her existence in my adulthood wouldn’t have brought its own problems, but her loss created a shadowy hole I can look away from, and shut my eyes to, but can’t fill.

Author King also talks about how collections are attempts to compensate for other losses. That point is also highly resonant for me (the motherless Princess of a closet full of Chucks).

NEW ADDITION to Chuck World

There are always new shoes at Chuck World, most of which join the collection without fanfare, but today we announce something truly special - NEW SHOE STORAGE!, beautifully integrated into the existing Chuck World campus.

The eastern side of Chuck World remains the main site for Chucks, but on the new north end two new highrises have been built that will house such Chucks as are too seasonal (too white or bright for fall and winter, or too dark for spring and summer) to be experiencing current wear. Constructed of canvas, these new dwellings echo the canvas material of the Chucks while providing protection from dust and allowing needed ventilation of rubber. Aesthetics are of utmost importance in Chuck World and the new dual-occupancy units (one pair per tier) have been constructed with the southern side left open so that the renowned colors and patterns of the Chuck collection, still of beauty even if non-seasonal, remain in view.

As is obvious from its name, Chuck World is not an equal opportunity establishment. Clear preference is given to Chucks, and footwear of other materials and brands is relegated to the basement rows of the eastern racks. (The new highrises will house Chucks, and only Chucks.) This expanded housing has allowed several pairs previously contained in the secret stash behind the white plastic bins and white plastic bags* to be brought forward and introduced in prime location, on the eastern racks.













Chuck World is a pioneer not only in display methods but also in atmospheric scent. Its dusty bars of 1990s Yardley's Lavender Soap have been replaced by fresh Tom's of Maine Lavender Body bars, still in their protective plastic but cut open at the ends, situated in the east-rack basement. Early results indicate that Tom's is a much less powerful scent than Yardley's, but further experimentation will be conducted as we endeavor to help Chuck World and its closet universe smell as clean and fresh as possible. Lavender sachets may be revisited, although previous trials indicated their scent was not pleasing in daily exposure.

As is typical of new residential developments, the canvas units, while of high value, do not meet the needs of all residents; neither did the eastern racks. For this reason we have allowed space on the upper closet rack, above the vital rod that supports the new highrises, as penthouse dwellings for two special occupants: Plum-colored brocade Chucks (with gold threading, wine laces and rubber of a chocolate shade), in a wide, non-standard Chucks shoebox, are already in residence. Space has also been set aside for a second special resident, most recently at Zappos.com and currently in transit to Chuck World: limited-edition orange suede slip-ons. Due to fall fabric and color, it is expected that the second resident will spend the initial weeks at Chuck World in box seclusion.

* The white plastic bags contain shorts and slacks that are at this time out of the size range of Chuck World's designer and principal investor. While this is considered to be a temporary
situation, the decision was made to move these items off the closet rods to make room for larger-waisted sizes and more importantly, to make room for the new canvas highrises.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Selling T-Shirts on the Beach

I can't believe I am mentioning my former (eons ago) boyfriend J. on this blog, but certain things about our year and a half together are imbedded in my brain. He was a very intelligent college dropout (we had that in common) who thought being self-employed was the best way to succeed in life. Not having learned a lesson from his first failed venture, a franchise operation to patch vinyl car seats (he had been so sure that gem would succeed and many months later, was still grieving about it), he was always on the hunt for new business ideas. He tended to get fixated on things - another trait he and I shared - and at one point he insisted I ask my uncle Harvey if he would like to invest in a new business, managed (surprise!) by J himself. J. was equally insistent that this wouldn't be a favor we were asking, it would be a win-win situation for Harvey, a painless way for him to make money. Since he had by then learned exactly how to wear me down, I finally did, in great embarrassment, ask Harvey if he was interested. No, of course he wasn't, but my delivery of the question didn't help either, a version of how I used to sell Girl Scout cookies, which was fairly successful for a 10 year old but much less so for an entrepreneurial adult. "You wouldn't want to buy any cookies, would you?"

Yikes, can I stop talking about J. now? No, I need to provide more back story... One of his more intriguing business ideas (actually, his only intriguing business idea), not the one he wanted Harvey to partner on, was selling tee shirts at the beach. (This was before my 1991 illness made me more sensitive to heat in general, so it wasn't as completely Sarah-unrealistic as it sounds today.) He explained that since most beach traffic is seasonal, we wouldn't have to work year round - we could make enough money in the tourist months to sit on our butts the rest of the time. Or if we wanted gravy on our potatoes, we could come up with a second business idea for the other 6 months, but we would still have had our time on the beach. It didn't seem relevant that both of us were as pale as Casper, that we both had sensitive skin and that, being very insecure about his appearance (yep, another shared quirk), he was obsessive about keeping his hair helmet intact - I can't imagine how he would have coped with beach breezes. Or maybe that had been factored in and his business concept included a roofed shack - I didn't exactly press him for details, since this was after the beginning of our waning phase and I no longer enjoyed his enthusiastic spins on fantasy topics.

Maybe it's a kind of revenge J. karmically sent my way after our breakup, but whenever I get especially frustrated at work, I can't help thinking, geez, I should just quit this gig...and go sell tee shirts on the beach. There is such a freedom in even thinking of it, sigh...an impossible, unrealistic freedom, but still...such are the fantasies that help us survive in our North American office cubes.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Especially Manipulative Zapping

(Postscript to my Zappo'ed post of 7/29)

So today I did not order shoes but (oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh nnnnnooooo.....) I realized that Zappos also sells rapid-delivery jewelry and I ordered a few items. Even worse, after placing my order something inspired (no...something evilly attracted me) to click on a link on the post-order page below a silly photo of a bloodhound wearing a Zappos ballcap. The link said something like, see our other furry friends. Oh boy...a long scroll-down of dogs and cats wearing Zappos shoes, Zappos caps, posing inside Zappos boxes ("most popular shoe site on the web!") and beside Zappos shopping bags. I kept looking and scrolling down the page...I don't know why...I guess as a dog owner I like to look at dogs that look something like mine. There were 2 cute shots of beagles which I'm sure triggered God-knows what thing in my brain that will encourage me to Zappo again in the future. My poor old dog Marley doesn't really resemble a beagle any more, but he is one, and I haven't forgotten the tricolor beauty of his youth, even though he has gone white as a senior doggy. So..can I blame Marley next time I order from Zappos?

Here's Marley & me about 7 years ago..he was a young pup of 5 then and still had a bit of brown on him, at least in contrast to my white sweatshirt! Below are the evilly manipulative images from Zappos.