Sunday, August 28, 2011

My resume...........

My resume reads like a work of fiction. In an earlier post, I talked about how I’m considered unemployable because the education portion of my resume is a tad light. High school drop-out with a GED light. And yet I’ve had enough on the job training to cover at least four more people.
It’s been a bit of an adventure, at least for me, so I’m going to share it with you.

I was 16 when I got my first real job. I was a hippie living in Hollywood. Having been raised to be self-sufficient, I had rented a place with a friend from school. I met a restaurateur at my yoga class who hired me to work as a waitress at his new vegetarian place on Sunset Blvd. It was life changing. A lifelong introvert, it became part of my job to go up to strangers and initiate conversation. I discovered I not only liked it, I was rather good at it. It has been said that more people are afraid of speaking in public than of dying. Neither one scares me and I have The Source to thank for both. The owner began to teach his own yoga classes and became so popular, he developed his own following and thus began The Brotherhood of the Source. It became a family of higher consciousness seekers of which I was a part for a very long time and which I still hold in my heart. It’s its own story, another one for another time.
I did some backup singing too. Got to record at some amazing studios, like the Record Plant. Waterbeds, S&M room, they had it all. And the pay was great. Best job I ever had.
My adaptability shifted into high gear when I moved from Hollywood to a small town in Northern California near the Nevada and Oregon borders. More cows than people. More trees than people. Over the course of the next 25 years, I worked as a waitress in a couple of local eateries, photographer, writer and ad salesperson for the local newspaper, shoe salesperson, car salesperson, air traffic controller, real estate agent, office supply store staff member, pharmacy technician, bartender, and artist.
Waitressing is the only thing I’d had prior experience doing. I learned to take pictures and develop them from the editor of the paper. I couldn’t develop a photo now because I never really understood what I was doing but I could follow directions. Pour this much of this chemical into the pan and submerge the paper for this long, etc. I managed not to burn the place down. An avid reader from the age of five, writing was a new and wonderful experience for me, even if I did have to be disciplined as to how I wrote something. Allegedly. Always remember to say allegedly.
Not all my jobs were so satisfying or such an education, but I learned something from all of them. For example, working in a shoe store showed me that women lie about their shoe size. Like it mattered. Do they fit? Are they comfortable? Then get over yourselves! My foundation in spiritual teachings acquainted me with the concept of karma, which meshed well with living and working in a very small town. I was going to see my customers every day for as long as I lived there so doing my best became a habit.
I worked at the office supply store after the owner, a close friend of mine, was badly injured in a car accident and needed help to keep the business going. I learned that I had no patience with parents who let their children run wild in the store, playing with bottles of ink and toner cartridges. I also learned that I had no problem telling the children, in a voice deliberately loud enough to be heard by the parents, that if they broke something, mommy and daddy would be buying it for them.
Selling advertising for the paper led to my job selling cars. There had been a Chevrolet dealership in this little town, without sidewalks or traffic lights, since the 1930s. On one of my weekly stops there, the owner told me that his salesman was retiring and offered me the job. It was another learning experience. This was in the days when you could order a new vehicle to your specifications – engine, transmission, accessories, etc. – and I actually took a couple of orders for pickup trucks that specified the vehicle not have a radio. Go figure. I took classes on rear axle ratios and attended conventions in San Francisco where I learned how to talk to female customers on the sales floor. Ironic. On more than one occasion, I was the only woman in the room at these conventions.
It was my ease in conversing with strangers that prompted husband and wife realtors to offer to pay for me to get my real estate license if I went to work for them. I sold real estate for about 15 years, moving to another office after the husband and wife retired. It was, again, a learning experience. It put my tenacity to its best and highest use. If I had a single mother who needed a loan and was having trouble with the bureaucracy, I made it my mission in life to make sure she got it. Disheartening and disenchanting was dealing with people from out of the area who had been unethically treated by other realtors and projected that on to me. I was honest and got really tired of defending myself. The young newlyweds buying their first home became the only satisfying sale so I moved on before I began to loathe people. I could see it coming.
Another unfortunate accident made me become a pharmacy technician. I had just begun working as a salesperson in a local pharmacy/gift shop, again owned by a husband and wife, when the husband, the pharmacist, fell out of a tree. His rehab was extensive, so his wife hired his temporary replacement pharmacist full time. He needed an assistant so I was put behind the counter. Huge learning curve. As a detail oriented person, I loved the work. Once again, my tenacity came into play helping people get their medications covered by reluctant insurance companies. I also learned to hold pharmaceutical companies in low esteem. I recall a young man in a suit coming in one day to sell his company’s medicines and telling us about the price increases, as much as 400% on certain drugs, primarily those taken by the elderly. When my boss pointed out that some of our customers would have to make the choice between food and medication, this kid told us not to worry, that pharmaceutical companies have conducted studies that showed that children and other family members will contribute when seniors can’t afford their meds. I was appalled at how casually he said it, oblivious as to how ignorant about life he sounded. A major chain took over this independent I worked for, promised I would still be able to make home deliveries to the shut-ins, but they lied. So I quit.
Air traffic controller sounds rather impressive, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, you did it where I did it, at a small airport that had one strip of asphalt and your choice was to come in from one end or the other. And that choice was determined by the direction the wind sock was blowing. I ran the radio, gassed up the planes, tied them down, and visited with the pilots who hung out for the day while the people who chartered them went fly fishing. The best part was getting to take a ride once in a while.
I discovered I was good at wood carving and other artistic talents so I began to create. This coincided with bartending, which I did in an effort not to be an artist of the starving variety. I didn’t succeed as well as I’d hoped so I went back to a retail environment, working in alternative health. A learning experience of epic proportions. I started as a salesperson in a naturopath’s office where the supplements he recommended were sold. Eventually, I began to proofread and write for him but it was a family enterprise and I had a falling out with the family. Working with family has a particularly high risk of nasty pitfalls.
I have a few independent, creative projects in the works now for which I have high hopes and expectations. Involved with wonderful people. No doubts about success.
I remain undaunted….even though I am unemployable……still unable to believe that all this counts for nothing............without the right piece of paper.........

Friday, August 26, 2011

I have a migraine.

As a result, forming thoughts and focusing my eyes is challenging to say the least. But I decided to write something every day, so here it is, small and unimportant.
I experienced a flash of anger today. That term, “flash of anger”, is well stated since the emotion is born and matures to a white hot level in a nanosecond. Rather like a nuclear weapon. That is why words that are said in anger have such power to destroy and the damage is equally impossible to undo. People may forgive but only a sharp blow to the head can make one truly forget.
I hate how it made me feel. Hate is a strong word, but dislike it way too wimpy. It’s somewhere between the two. Of course, I compound the problem by allowing the anger to splinter. That happens in a flash as well. Before I’m consciously aware of what my mind is doing, I am angry at whatever the initial provocation was and at myself for letting whatever it was get to me. The stress, the damage to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health! Why did I let that in? I suppose the answer is that I’m human and it’s part of the human condition. But I do have the option as to how I proceed. I can take the high road. Let it go. Not let it take root as resentment. Especially when, as in this case, it has to do with people I love.
Clearly I’m not expressing some profound insight, just venting. It helps. It was a tough morning but I’m over it because, to paraphrase the Buddha, holding on to anger and resentment is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die.
Have a good night and a wonderful tomorrow. I’m going to lie down……..

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Holocaust Survivor Turned Vegas Showgirl

Today is my mother’s 88th birthday. She is the most amazing person I know, the best example of a survivor that could ever hope to meet. And she knows things……has seen things……has done things……and is the one who taught me to be a Pollyanna about life.
She is the product of a union rare in the 1920s. My grandfather was Jewish, my grandmother Catholic. Born in Hungary, the family moved to Germany for business. Mom was talented. She danced, she sang, and she did acrobatics on ice, all starting at the age of three. Later came acting and musical theater. The focus was on her career so education took a back seat…. and it paid off. One of the venues in which she performed was the Moulin Rouge in Paris.
My mother and her sister came of age just in time to hear Hitler’s campaign speeches. An early marriage to a diplomat kept mom out of the line of fire when things got ugly, but my grandfather wasn’t so lucky. She remembers standing on the balcony of the family’s apartment with her mother, watching her father walking down the street to go buy bread. He hadn’t gotten far when a Gestapo vehicle pulled up beside him and forced him inside. My mother and grandmother were horrified as they watched, unable to stop it, knowing that if they screamed and drew attention to themselves, they would be next. Pulling in favors from everyone she knew, my grandmother eventually found out to which camp they had taken him and the process of extraction began. By the time he was back with the family, he had been beaten, starved, and his teeth knocked out. The family spent three days on foot, travelling through the forests by night, afraid to be seen or speak to anyone, until they reached the Hungarian border.
By this time, her marriage had ended. Her husband’s family, an upper class bunch, thought that his marriage to someone in show business was beneath him and forced him to leave her under threat of disinheritance.
Her memories of the war are horrific. Certain tenants in the apartment building where she lived were suspected of harboring Jews so the tenants from the building next door were hustled out, forced to stand on the banks of the Danube, and shot in front of their neighbors, their bodies falling into the river, as an example of what happens to those who defied the Nazis. Soon after, the building was bombed and the survivors were living in the basement, trying to keep warm and avoid starvation. One of the things my mother knows is that horses are sweet. I’m not referring to their disposition. The meat was a gift from Russian soldiers, not that they knew about it…….
When the war ended, my mother and her parents came to America to start a new life. As far as I’m concerned, my mother is the perfect immigrant. She is still fiercely proud to be an American, grateful to be here, loving the country that gave her a chance to make a new life. With her third grade education, she learned basic English and took her citizenship test in the language of her new homeland. When I was a child, we kept the European traditions in our home, but she never expected anyone out in the world to accommodate her heritage in any way. She embraced this country the way I wish everyone would – with all her heart.
She arrived in New York, found the love of her life, and had my sister. Too many issues ended that union and mom took her talent on the road. Eventually, she landed in Las Vegas, an up and coming entertainment destination that was happy to hire the charming, beautiful young woman with the perpetual smile who spoke with a delightful Hungarian accent, called everyone darling, danced like she was floating on air, and sang like a nightingale.
That’s where my father met her, coming to her show every night until she agreed to have dinner with him. He was a wealthy building contractor who helped make Vegas what it eventually became. She got to retire and become a wife and mother. But the marriage didn’t last - my father had issues too. By then she was a little long in the tooth to be a showgirl anymore and had developed hypoglycemia. So there was my mother, two children to care for, health problems, no job skills, and a heavy Hungarian accent. I remember going over my English homework with her when I was in elementary school so that she could speak it better and read and write it well enough to be employable. She made a living doing secretarial work which she learned on the job, and waitressing, managing to pay the bills and put food on the table. Yes, she was struggling but she barely let it show. I know plenty of people who would not have recovered from such a fall, whose pride would have made them bitter. But not her. As I said in the beginning, she taught me to be a Pollyanna, to play the glad game about whatever challenge we were facing, to remember that we were blessed to have each other and there was always someone in worse shape. The saying “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” could have been written about her. She sang show tunes in the car, tap danced in the kitchen, could make delicious soup out of the most meager leftovers, and made a night at the drive-in movie theater as much fun as Disneyland. Her influence on me and how I look at life is profound and I thank her for it every day.
She still calls everyone darling, sounding like one of the Gabor sisters, but that comparison makes her cringe. After so many years in this country, she doesn’t hear her accent any more, but trust me, she has one. If you ever meet her, do her a favor and don’t mention it. : )
Happy birthday mom! I love you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It is said that your friends are God’s way of apologizing for your family. All I can say is amen to that! I have extraordinary friends that I plan to talk about here as time goes by. And the ways I found some of them are as interesting as the people themselves. Right at the top of that list is Joan. Joan is beautiful, smart, funny, loving, and a wonderful friend. She is my ex-husband’s wife. Pause for a “what?”……

Alton and I had a child together and a friendship we both valued so staying in each other’s lives, sharing each other’s lives, was the only way we ever considered handling things. He dated some women whose names I can’t remember because the women were forgettable…….until Joan. She got the thumbs up, the green light, the “don’t blow it and lose her” talk. I liked her instantly and she just fit right in. As time went on, we began to have fun with the reactions people had when they found out that we were more than just civil, we were close! I recall a Thanksgiving that we spent together at the home of one of their friends. Joan had told me how surprised the host family was at the idea that we would all be coming together. It was her idea to have fun with it : ) We saw them observing us, like they were waiting for the sound of hissing and the appearance of claws. Shamefully fun…. On more than one occasion, we would put our heads together and whisper or give each other undecipherable looks just to provoke curiosity. It was sport. I thought it was so cool to see the humor in it and play with the situation. Over the years, we have maintained the connection, grown it into love, effortlessly. She has seen me through some difficult times and been a cherished confidant. And hardly anyone has ever made me laugh more! I still have the birthday card that sent greetings from the Cleavers – Ward, June, Wally, Beaver, and Eldridge.

This has been the merest of introductions. She figures prominently in my reconnecting with my fellow Family (read cult) members.

On October 23rd, it will be six years since we lost Alton. As one of my oldest and closest friends, I miss him every day. At his memorial service, someone asked if Joan and I were going to stay in touch. We looked at each other and laughed out loud.

I got an email from her today. She has some wonderful ideas about how to handle things when Spielberg comes to me for the movie rights to this blog……..
More will be revealed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If I swear at fellow drivers..................

............and they can't hear me, have I really committed an offense? I've come a long way, actually. I no longer use hand gestures to accompany my vitriol. I no longer plead with the universe to have them drive as though their IQ was normal. Well, that's not completely true........but I do chastise myself for doing it. Of course, my fellow drivers can't hear that either.

I'm sure they are all wonderful people with wonderful qualities. In fact, I can honestly say that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to find more open, friendly, generous people than the ones in my area. A smile at every business, compassion at the doctor’s office, ready to help if you’re stuck on the street, a pleasure to encounter almost everywhere you go. Probably the only place where they are not at their best is in their cars.

Having spent time in LA where eye contact is one of the warning signs of mental derangement, I am used to people wanting their privacy. Here, it seems to extend beyond the usual desire to protect personal information to the use of the turn signal when driving. It has become a typical experience to be waiting to turn left into traffic only to have the approaching vehicle turn to the right in front of me, that little maneuver being a complete secret up until the moment of its execution. Of course, the only reason this is any kind of issue is that turning left into traffic is nearly a blood sport, with two or three cars frequently jockeying for the same position at certain intersections. So when that window comes for me to make my move, having someone who uses their turn indicator is a tremendous tactical advantage as well as a safer way to proceed. I can certainly see why the police think so highly of it.

I understand that it is essentially none of my business where a person is going. Trust me, I really won’t be looking behind me to see the next leg of your journey. I just want to turn left at the first available opportunity. That is not just to accommodate some kind of hurry I might be in, some appointment I am trying to keep. I don’t know about you, but I am painfully aware of the growing number of cars behind me, waiting for me to go. I have visions of angry villagers carrying torches, chasing my car, hurling rocks and epithets. Similar things happen on the straightaway and the freeway – no turn signals, just a gentle lane change by someone who, when I look in their direction, seems blissfully unaware of my presence. I can’t decide whether that is an attitude or a vision problem. Either way, it has kept my powers of observation and personal response time in tip top form.

Maybe it would help if I tell all you readers that I drive a small pickup truck, so when you see me, feel free to signal. It will only indicate your immediate course, not your final destination. Even if I see where you’re going, I promise I won’t tell.

Monday, August 22, 2011

No country for old women......

There it was again, that look. The one that says you are either pitiable beyond belief or in the middle of a psychotic episode, so approach with caution. All because I dared to represent myself as employable even though I don’t have a college degree.

It used to be that if you learned from the school of hard knocks, it counted for something. Your experience was valuable. These days, experience without a college degree is the school of keep on knocking but you can’t come in. Now, keep in mind that I was quite willing to start at an entry level. Any VP or Director position would have been fine. Surely they realize that entry level is defined differently when you’re over 50, don’t they? If I started in the mail room, I would die there. And that would be after years of living in either my car or the company women’s room. There’s not even enough time left to sleep my way to the top!

I’ve come a long way to get to that level of understanding about what I should expect and accept. The one that comes after you turn 40 but before you start wearing purple, the one where you realize that if exceptions aren’t made for you, you’re screwed. It takes backbone to expect policy to be rewritten just for you, but that’s what your 40s are for – growing one.

Regrettably, it is not a given that people will automatically hop on your little Delusions of Grandeur Express, so desperate measures may be called for. Sadly, I have found lying to be the most useful and the most necessary. Such is the state of the workplace that you can’t stop at mere embellishment. Actual fabrication is the most dependable tool of the uneducated who wish not to be the unemployed. I can almost hear someone reading this and saying aloud, or to themselves, but I hear it either way, that I should simply go back to school. When you’re in the middle of your 5th decade of life, there are aspects of that proposition that are decidedly thought provoking. I mean, the prospect of being back in an academic setting, the air buzzing with youthful energy, fresh ideas, and amusing examples of people learning things the hard way can certainly be a draw. The downside, however, is that it takes so bloody long! I could be almost 60 before I get a degree that would be useful somewhere, but who wants to hire someone with a future working life span of 5 minutes? That kind of accomplishment is lauded by people who did it right the first time and are proud of you for being better late than never, but other than a couple of compliments that overuse the word “special”, it won’t even get you a human interest blurb in the local paper. Unless you’re over 100 years old.

So the fact is that school doesn’t pay. Quite the opposite. It collects ransom while it holds your future hostage. Time consuming with an uncertain outcome. So the question arises: how fine is the line between reinventing yourself by playing up your learned- on- the -job qualifications and just flat making stuff up? Is it okay to tell a lie that doesn’t hurt anybody? For those of us to whom truth is beauty and beauty is truth, any type of lie is unacceptable. But it really boils down to a matter of survival. Am I the only one whose nightmare is being 90 years old, eating cat food and waiting tables?

To further explore the realm of the ridiculous, it seems to make no real difference whatsoever what kind of degree you have when applying for a position somewhere! One can only surmise that what the employer is looking for is a person’s ability to commit to a goal and attain it, to finish what was started, not expertise in the field in which you want to work. I can understand that as criteria for someone just out of college. They need to prove that they have the level of maturity necessary. I’ve also read that young people entering the job market are being counseled to be prepared to change careers more than once over the course of their working life. Doesn’t that put me ahead of the game, having committed to life and still be standing? Having had several careers at this point, I have already recognized the greater value of employability security as opposed to job security which doesn’t really exist!

If I were to assess my situation with the cold, clear eye of truth, I would have to say that it looks hopeless, that I just took too many unproductive (“wrong” is such a value judgment) turns to correct my course, that I have made zero provisions for retirement, hence the waitress nightmare, and that unless I lie, I might as well sit down and wait to stop breathing. Many people have done that. I guess I just feel that as long as I have a creative imagination, and avoid the kind of lies that have dire consequences, like performing brain surgery without actually having attended medical school, I should say what I need to in order to get a job and hope that by the time my employer finds out that I lied, I will have made myself indispensible.

Oh, oh, oh wait! I just had a great idea!!! I can write the definitive book on surviving repeated failure! I’m sure there are patrons of the arts who are willing to invest in a chronic goofball who wouldn’t know a right choice if it bit her on the face, just by virtue of the fact that I am the worst in the category of those who actually made an effort. Wow! I bet there’s even a movie in there somewhere. I’m a bit hazy on the ending though. Maybe I’ll just make something up…..

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then I'll begin. I've written quite a bit for other people. This is my first venture into the purely self-indulgent. Just the idea of that makes my toes curl! I've named this blog as I have because if you read this and think it's a waste of time, then........never mind. I have colorful stories to tell, unique experiences, a family tree that looks like it's been struck by lightning, and, like everyone breathing, opinions about things. So, I think this is going to be rather like having a cocktail - or two- with a friend where you both opine, ramble, and reminisce. Except I'll be doing most of the talking......
My mother is a Holocaust survivor who went on to be a Vegas showgirl. My father was one of the contractors who helped build the city. I belonged to a family (read cult) in the 60s. I was a hippie. I lived in Hollywood in the 60s and saw the Doors play at the Whiskey and got to know quite a few of the renowned groupies of the time. I have the Cinderella story of all adoption stories. I am a runaway bride......and my ex married my sister. I went to the Vatican and held up a shot glass to be blessed by the Pope for my friend, Robert.
But wait! There's more! Some if will have to wait until certain people are dead.....but there's plenty to write in the meantime. And it will all be revealed as I go. Rambling. Remembering. Blah, blah blah.... and finally being able to tell all the friends and acquaintances who have told me that I should write a book that I don't feel like being particularly linear or chronologically accurate but I do have a blog! I'll be back.....