Those who were present at Kingman the other night when I expressed my relief that Peanut doesn't hunt small squeaky things may be amused to hear that after that remark I went home and within half an hour found Peanut in the kitchen chasing a small and confused mouse. She drove it into a corner, where it fell back on its tiny mousey butt and stared up at me with beady eyes and trembly whiskers. I'm somewhat embarrassed by this â it was vermin in the kitchen, after all â but when it waved its little front paws at me my heart sort of melted and I had to haul Peanut off and shut her in my room. Score one for the mouse, whose brilliant off-the-cuff cuteness got it saved from a drawn-out death by someone who really should have been pretty pissed off about its presence. As it was, it scampered off to points unknown while I was dragging Peanut away, and not I nor either of my roommates has seen it since. Not ideal, probably, but then when I stop to think about it I find I don't trust my cat's fearsome hunting instinct much farther than I can throw it. Instead of expertly ridding the house of the unwanted rodent, I don't doubt she would have spent some time getting it horribly maimed and then left it for me to deal with while she investigated an errant piece of fluff in the next room. I'll take a living, unseen mouse over a half-dead one I have to kill and dispose of at 2:00 in the morning.
But I'm not giving it any cookies. I don't care what the damn storybook says. And any mooses that find themselves loose in North Berkeley and feeling peckish can stay the hell out of my muffins, too.
There's something wrong with the Bay Area this year: no winter, no summer, no spring, just this weird grey funk. And a warm day followed by a cold week so you're always switching from the heater to the air conditioning to the heater again. I sat outside eating lunch today fighting the temptation to take off my coat, then my sweater, then put the coat back on with no sweater, then take off the coat and put on the sweater, then put the coat back on, and start the whole thing over.
My little apartment in my tall spindly house on my tiny dead-end street on the endless Berkeley hill is quiet and seems more remote than it is. When I wheeze my way in the door the noise of the rest of the city is already gone and I'm left in the wood-shingled, un-streetlit hush of a neighborhood where it gets late early. Yesterday's unreasonable chill drove me with my book into bed for warmth, and before it ever occurred to me to think about sleeping I was waking up wondering what had happened.
But all of this is not for the last day of May. This is for October, maybe November, when it hasn't started raining but the world is preparing you to sit inside and watch the windows. It could even be late February when it isn't stormy but still trailing gloom into early spring. March would be pushing it. May is unseasonal. June would be out of the question.
Do you hear me, Pacific low front?
The cable internet at my apartment has been out for almost a week now. It's actually made my evenings at home strangely peaceful and pleasant. It isn't exactly that I don't have things I need to do -- the overabundance of job-search-related posts lately has been due to the fact that every time I'm near an internet connection I'm frantically looking up potential employers -- but if the mechanism to do them isn't there, the amount of time I'm willing to spend fretting about it is fairly limited. While I could technically carry my laptop to Kingman to use the internet connection there, the last time I did so I ended up eating chocolate-covered strawberries and playing Scrabble. So I may as well save myself the trouble of carrying my laptop and just go for the fruit and games to begin with.
I never really realized how much reliable, constant internet access ate into my time. True, I'm ages behind in Pandagon posts and webcomic storylines, but I've watched movies, read books, talked to my roommates, played with my cat, unpacked most of my room, cooked dinner every night, returned my library books, written in my journal, gotten to bed on time, and not felt particularly rushed about any of it. A month ago I couldn't have fathomed such a thing. I'm finding myself dearly wishing that the internet at Kingman had gone out a few more times while I was huddling in my basement ignoring everyone and getting irritated about how little time I had to do anything.
I'm telling myself now that I'll remember in the future to disconnect myself from the little glowing screen and do other things with my time. I doubt it will work that way, though; the thing about taking things for granted is that by definition, you don't realize you're doing it. Maybe there's an internet service provider with whom I can arrange to periodically lose service no matter how much I howl and protest and insist that it be restored. Actually, maybe that's Comcast. They're mystified (and unhappy about driving their trucks up my tiny steep dead-end street), so I have a few more days with my fantasy books. And the much-promised apartment-warming slash game night slash maybe a potluck dinner! Oooo! Who's free on Friday?
The trick here is to figure out how fishing around for jobs is like being in kindergarten and being taught to play well with others. It's not too intuitive, since job-seeking consists largely of convincing others of how amazing one is, whereas that kind of immodest behavior was frowned upon in my kindergarten. As was the impressionistic approach during painting time, but that's another story.
Since I'm currently fishing in a pool which may not contain many, or any, actual jobs for me -- this being cultural resource management archaeology in the general Portland area -- I'm sending a relatively large number of resumes in the hopes that one of them will catch something. I'd be happy to be hired by any of the companies I'm sending to, but that doesn't make for a good cover letter. Dear any and all of you.... no, it just doesn't work. So I have to scour around company websites until I find particular specialties for which I can express enthusiasm without being an insincere tool. But I'm starting to imagine myself sitting in a circle of brightly colored plastic chairs with the companies to which I'm writing.
"I appreciate Sarah for her focus on aboveground cultural deposits, I appreciate Billy for his residue analysis facilities, I appreciate Timmy for his emphasis on cooperation with tribal governments..."
But it's also the official name of what happens when you freeze and thaw your tofu before sticking it in your stir-fry. It becomes delicious. I never imagined.
I've begun subtly influencing my summer roommates. On Tuesday I made a batch of delicious, vanilla-y fragrant chocolate chip cookies and piled them onto a plate in an appealing mountain o' dessert that would make June Cleaver proud. It took all of half an hour for a faint voice from another room to remark, "Those cookies smell delicious." I shared gleefully. Someday soon there will come an opportunity for them to remember that I am vegan, and somewhere in the depths of their brains a butterfly will flap its wings and the thought "I don't want any vegan cookies" will be replaced with "okay, maybe just one more vegan cookie." The Church of the Tasty Food continues to spread its pleasurably tricky gospel.
I have a decision to make in my job search. There are jobs doing enthralling things, but they lack permanence, geographical consistency, and good compensation. Entry-level archaeological fieldwork means getting hired temporarily to excavate as a contract employee with no benefits. Then there are jobs doing unenthralling things in a stable and permanent way for good compensation. My skills can get me a phone-answering gig in any of several offices for a nice wage and decent medical/dental insurance... but I'll be answering phones until kingdom come. The odd opportunity comes along that's somewhere in between, but it's always got a catch. The nice library job is way out in suburbia (I'm applying anyway). The job at NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, with its unprecedented I Believe In My Employer factor, is stable but doesn't come with benefits. I don't feel the pressing need for retirement funds at this point in my life, but I can't help thinking medical insurance is a good thing to have. So while keeping an eye out for the heavens to part and hand me a steady job drawing bumper stickers for NOW for $13/hour and an insurance & time off package, I more or less have to decide between my own interests and, well, my own interests.
It's a conundrum that will probably be solved for me by the fact that I arrive in town looking for a job several weeks after the last point at which I could usefully be assigned to an excavation. Still, while I wade dutifully through my stack of exciting opportunities in fast-paced growing businesses, I will comfort myself by thinking of that NOW bumper sticker job. Some people dream of luxury cars and six-figure incomes. I dream of a desk full of nice pens, a weekend off to take a train ride somewhere, and the feeling that I'm one of the good guys. It's lucky I never grew up to be a Republican; I'd be terrible at it.
Verbatim from a Craigslist job ad:
If you are invited to an interview, we request that you bring a "proof" that you "can get things done".
It's just crying out to be followed with, "...if you know what I mean." Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Office jobs never sounded so smarmy.
It is with great pleasure that I forward my resume for your "consideration". I hope you will agree that my "qualifications" are "impressive". I take great pride in my ability to "get things done", and look forward to the opportunity to "demonstrate" my "commitment".
All night long, baby.
Dear Business World,
When one says that a company grows, one is using an intransitive verb. There is a transitive verb "to grow" as well, but for most of the history of the English language until this decade, we were all quite clearly agreed that it could be applied only to plants and fungus. Things which begin as seeds or spores and increase their size and complexity via a literal (not metaphorical) system of roots and stems can be transitively grown. Even the most energetic and determined job candidates cannot pull off the task of growing your company, unless you mean that you want them to bury your company in the dirt and water it until it brings forth leaves.
The word you are looking for is "expand". Or perhaps "cause to grow". Not just grow.
A very, very, VERY SMALL BAKERY.
There's a reason for that title, or actually two reasons, but just to be spiteful I'm not going to tell you what they are. Instead I am going to start a new post category, called "This is precisely what the fuck I am talking about".
This is precisely what the fuck I am talking about. The city of Portland has a city park 24 inches in diameter. It once had to be physically picked up and moved to allow for sidewalk construction, and was carefully replaced in its original location because, after all, it is an official city park and is the responsibility of the city to properly maintain.
I've never met a municipal government with a sense of humor before. I'm entirely charmed by it.
While scanning Craigslist for jobs in Portland just now, I came across this ad for a "Semi-Volatile Organic Chemist".
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to you in response to your classified advertisement of May 18th. Please find enclosed my resume, and with it my assurance that I possess several important qualifications for this position. While my resume may not demonstrate an extensive knowledge of chemistry, you may be certain that I am organic (strictly carbon-based), and semi- or indeed fully-volatile.
Thank you for your consideration.
For weeks I've been seeing these weird little plants growing up through hedges around campus. In the middle of a bed of ivy next to Cloyne, all over the shrubby hedges around the library, all over the place. They've got spindly, gangly stems, huge rows of tiny paired leaves, tiny purple flowers, and these weird little pods that look for all the world like baby green beans. I figured I was losing my mind, since the last time I checked green beans don't grow as intrusive weeds in Northern California.
But you know what does?
I finally had a breakthrough in figuring out what they were when I found a picture of a fava bean plant in one of my library books of botanical deliciousness. It was close but not quite right, so I started Googling bean plants, then pea plants, and voila! Berkeley is overrun with what are unmistakably rogue pea plants, smirkily snaking their slinky vines around better-behaved border plants and hanging on for dear life. I stopped to look at one of them this morning and found its tendrils grabbing so firmly onto the other plant's stem that I don't envy the landscaper who's eventually directed to remove them.
Guerilla gardening! Anarchist agriculture! The finger to the university's neatly-manicured landscaping! The domesticates are not as domestic as we thought! I think I'm going to snag some peas and bring them home to see if they're edible. They will taste delicious with all the passion and fury of a Pisum sativum out to change the world.
Or at least make it slightly more full of peas.
I'm trying to pack up the disordered miscellany that composes my earthly possessions, because theoretically tomorrow will see me moving from this relatively squalid basement room into an airy ground-floor apartment a block up the street. If you hold a flowery-language-meter up to that last sentence, the readings will tell you all you need to know about how assiduously I have been actually packing. So far I've generated one largish box of clothing labelled "Bullshit that I never wear, winter/formal edition" and a smaller box of clothing labelled "Bullshit that I never wear, summer casual edition". There's a purpose in packing boxes of things I don't wear, which is to consolidate the things that I wear most often into a single box which I can be sure to keep handy until I get fully moved in. But I've found that packing that last box of frequently-worn items involves a certain amount of staring at embarrassing clothing, shuffling my feet, and subjecting my closet and boxes to elaborate and highly defensive arguments about why I need to have these pants around when they look so terrible on me. As it turns out the closet is a pretty implacable audience.
I tried for a couple of hours to avoid packing by going to the house's room bids and watching people hesitate, double-cross each other, change their minds, change their minds again, and panic about having either too many or too few options. The house health workers brought out their two chinchillas to ease the process with their calming fuzziness, which didn't prevent the bidding from taking two hours but did allow me to spend 45 minutes with a pear-shaped blob of fur hiding in the hood of my sweatshirt and twitching its nose at passersby. I've decided to declare cuteness a highly valued form of productivity, in order to feel better about spending my time being tickled by whiskers instead of heaving things into boxes.
In other news, Cute Overload has received the Congressional Medal of Honor and been knighted by the Queen for its invaluable contributions to social progress.