Sunday, March 25, 2012

Does this even make sense?

I'm applying for a job that I think I really want. This school in Providence needs English teachers to teach arts integrated curriculum, which means they want people to use music, drama, film, and dance to teach language arts content. I have to write essays to convince the principal that I'm worth hiring. Talking about it is kind of a big deal, of the counting-your-chickens-before-they-hatch variety. Or it's like when Kyoko Mori talks about why her grandmothers lived so long: "The moral of their story was that you shouldn't wish for too much. The greatest virtue was in being content with less." By talking about it before anything has actually happened, I feel like Mori did at one point in her memoir: "No matter what I was doing, I became terrified of bad luck when I openly wished for too much."

But on the other hand, who cares? Normally, I wouldn't even say anything until I found out whether or not I was accepted,  and I would feel sort of mortified if I were rejected. But this is the first time I've let people in on my "secret." The first time I don't care if I don't get the job, because I know I'm qualified. And if they don't like me, boo hoo for them. Their loss! Did I really just say that? 

This is one of the essay prompts: "Tell me about yourself as an artist." 

I'm not sure I'm the kind of "artist" they're looking for, because this is a performing arts school, and there are a lot of things I don't do: 

monologues (I was Dorothy in my 5th grade school play, couldn't take myself seriously)
play instruments (doesn't count if I played flute in high school but was never in tune)
compose song lyrics (I don't like rhyming poetry)
sing ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was WAY off key)
dance (I can't even bend over and touch my toes)

But I can do other things. I can make ugly sweaters. I can draw cartoons with no facial features. And I can write. And wouldn't it be nice to hire a teacher who could teach kids to write?

The application is due on March 31st. If my response doesn't make sense, there's still time to tell me what's wrong with it.

Why do I write?

I write to remember who I am. Our lives are galaxies of moments like so many stars blinking on and off. Some of these minutes and hours aren’t worth recollection; forgetting them is no great loss. But the defining moments that show others where we’ve come from should be trusted to the care of more than memory alone. Memory is too fragile, and only temporarily preserves what is worth remembering.

I write to speak new life into my own forgotten moments. The time I found a pair of tiny red rubber boots I never knew I had, but accidentally discovered on a recent trip home. My dad told me I inherited them from a cousin when I was two. My cousin skipped along the cobbled paths of Camden Market in those boots; I marched them through blueberry brush on the tundra of Northwest Arctic Alaska. Now, the boots live in Rhode Island, sitting their life on a shelf in limbo. Waiting for new feet and new landscapes, the boots will be my first family heirloom. But even when the boots trade hands among my posterity, they’ll still be mine, because I wrote their first story. Such things have to be written, because someday someone besides me will need to know what they mean.

I write to preserve moments I know well. The summer I studied illustration at the Pratt Institute. The oldest, but most inexperienced artist in the class. Perpetually in awe of my younger peers’ more refined technical skills. Conceptualized this news story in illustration:

Man in Florida raises alligators in basement (over 20!). Wife is aware of this, but forgets one day when she’s having friends over for sewing club—leaves basement door open—sounds of sewing machines arouse gators and they stampede the living room/sewing area!    

My picture. In pen, colored pencil, and pastels tacked to the wall, in line with all the others. Donn Albright, our teacher, surveying the wall, pausing at mine. Singling it out, saying, “Look at this one. Look at all the details!”

Later, Donn watched over my shoulder as I sketched another assignment, one that asked us to illustrate a twentieth-century inventor with his or her invention. I chose Hedy Lamarr, the bombshell Austrian-American actress of the 40s who helped devise the wireless communication method of frequency hopping. Donn looked at the outline of Hedy’s leg on my paper and said, “Her ankles are too thick. They look like salamis. Trim them down a bit, make them sexy.” Both of these illustrations turned out beautifully. But without the voice in the words I used to tell the story of the moments that made these pictures real, one simply looks at the images without ever knowing the truth: that despite how much the specters of the white canvas, the blank page, the empty computer screen scare me when I don’t know how to start to get the job done, I eventually find the way out of my trouble. If I don't write these things, I'll forget that I am stronger than I think I am.

I am so many moments like this. One day, those moments I’ve recovered from my past and the ones I remember so vividly today will hardly seem real years from now. But with every sentence carefully constructed, each word thoughtfully chosen, I’ll leave enough of me scattered through time for the able reader to piece together an idea of what I was, and what I am. And if I do this with words that keep company as good friends, making people laugh or cry or think better of the world, are there greater gifts to leave behind?

And so I write. It's my best gift to give, a safeguard against inevitable, transitory passing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Life in the corporate world at CVS Caremark is a bit different than in consulting. One of the main adjustments has been working with so many different groups within the company. I regularly interact with marketing, sales, operations, finance, legal, and on and on. Lately I've gone back to read through some of my old Dilbert books and the jokes seem even funnier now that I can relate a little more to some of Dilbert's pain. 

While I have a new found appreciation for the office humor in Dilbert, my favorite strip of all time relies on the classic punch-to-the-groin with a new twist.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nano Replacement

As a connoisseur of fine music, I have been a fan of mp3 players since they first started coming out. The first mp3 player I owned was a Rio Karma 20GB. It was great for running and held pretty much all of the music that I owned, but the 20GB storage came from a hard drive so wasn't the most stable player in the world with a lot of jostling around.
A while later, Apple came out with the iPod Nano that had a solid-state drive that is more impervious to shocks. I wanted one but couldn't justify the expense given that I already had a player. Shortly after Sarita and I got married there was a deal with KeyBank where if you opened a new account you would get a new 1GB iPod Nano.The economist in me was shouting "NOTHING IS FREE!!" But the geek in me wasn't paying attention. I ended up signing up for an account and got a free white iPod Nano 1 GB. It wasn't anything fancy but worked like a charm. The KeyBank account, unfortunately, did not work out so well and we ended up cancelling the account a short while later.
I'd been enjoying the Nano for quite a number of years when recently I came across a recall for the 1st generation Nano (see Apple's official notice). While the Nano had worked out great, apparently I was at risk for having my arm blown off while running if the battery exploded. While I enjoy the use of both arms, word on the street was that Apple had a stash of old 1st generation Nano's sans deadly batteries that they were going to ship out as replacements. The replacements were projected to take at least six weeks too so I was still a bit hesitant to send mine in for replacement.

The strategy that I came up with was to go ahead and request the packaging to ship my Nano back and then wait a while before sending it in. That way they might run out of old Nanos and send me a new one. When I got my box back the other day I was pleasantly surprised to find that my strategy had worked beautifully and I ended up getting back a new Nano.