Letters to Holly

Friday, October 9

Dropping Cah-Knowledge Like a Beastie Boy

I arrived at the college alumni house at six in time to see the students cart in the Japanese take-out. The tallest figure was the boss, himself a recent graduate, and the guy I talked to through a few emails. The students (and I am making such an effort to not type "kids") circled inside the Alumni House living room and gobbled the dinner. There was no formal introduction, and they chatted about classes and their varying sports clubs and dorm life.

With the food mostly gone and the time to get to work approaching, the boss huddled them up. These were the kids (there it is) who were hired to call alumni for donations, and this was why I was here. I did this as a student, and we were the first class to be paid. We were told at the time that the paycheck was a leash; if we slacked off, we could be fired, something that can't be done with volunteers. The boss used that tip to remind the students that earlier folks didn't get paid.

He had a poster list of tips for them to use in the sales pitch, including some material I didn't know. The college's decision to resurrect the football team was controversial, but it gave entree to the NCAA, and that allows the other teams to compete on that level. I wasn't aware, and I told them that bit of info in a cold call would have gotten my money. I suggested they incorporate homecoming conversation into the calls. Before they got to work, they asked questions about my student days. Were we required to attend chapel? Where were the parties held? What's changed the most? Then they headed to the phones.

Their boss and I talked up shared acquaintances and college activities. He gave me a tour of the house and showed me the call center. I handed him my check; it was twice what I had pledged, but the experience was worth it. And they fed me Japanese take-out. Win-win.

Your Sister's follow-up appointment is today, and my office is closing early for the holiday. I've offered to go with her, but she's dismissed it. She's not concerned. Outwardly, anyway.

Picture of the Day
One of the Mars rovers discovered a meteorite recently. Those rovers are working years and years past their expected work life.

Thursday, October 8


See, the plan was that I would come home, run, and prepare dinner. Earlier in the week, as we always do, we planned out our menus before buying groceries and so we didn't coincidentally make the same dish. I was going to make leftovers this week. Monday was the spaghetti, and yesterday was to be the lamb and cabbage soup. It's been in the freezer since last week.

I forgot to take it out to thaw. I didn't remember until before the run. I came back, and an hour was not enough to get it started. Seven minutes on "defrost" in the microwave wasn't enough. I realized my cunning plan had fallen through. Your Sister had just gotten home.

Me: Um, yeah, this isn't happening. Sorry.
Her: Oh, how many times have I had to take you out because I forgot to thaw dinner?
Me: Yeah, I s'pose. Alright, let me fetch my pants.

No one can pitch a romantic dinner like me, buddy. The dinner was fine, and we got cheaply tipsy on one glass of alky-hall each.

My run was a chore. I tried a shorter stride, and it durn near killed me. I think my lunch was too heavy. It was a real struggle once I hit the two-mile mark, but I did finish two seconds quicker than Monday's time.

I finally got my list of genres for the library project, and I can begin sketching. The senior making a comic for his independent project seems to have zoned out. It's his responsibility to contact me and bring me into his project, and I just sit back and wait.

I got an email from the leader of the script committee about a theatre schedule conflict. We planned the new theater season last month, and it included The Odd Couple. Unfortunately, very recently, a smaller group in a local gated community announced they're doing the female version of Odd Couple at roughly the same time. That community constitutes a sizable chunk of our theater's audience, and there's worry that the conflicting shows will cost us at the box office. The plan is to move our production to the summer. I have an idea that's seems so obvious and simple that it's sure to become an impractical, complicated fiasco: Combine the two shows.

In Odd Couple (both versions), the two leads set up a date with neighbors upstairs. In the male version, this is with the Pigeon Sisters. In the female version, it's the Spanish brothers. Why not have the leads of one production play the dates in another? The two groups can collectively market and package the shows as a community theatre experience and offer discounts for people who commit to seeing both shows. If they're really adventurous, they can ask two distinct restaurants to provide a meal-combo for the dates of the show, and the restaurants (say a Mexican and the low-country seafood joints) can be referred to as an odd couple themselves. The motto of the whole thing can be something like "see what happens when the roles are reversed."

If this were, say, my Greenville theatre and one of the smaller companies, I'd suggest it and push for it. Here? I suspect diva behavior would scuttle it.

Picture of the Day
Berlin celebrated the destruction of the wall and the reunification of the two Germanies (20 years ago, omigod) with an art project. Two giant marionettes paraded around the city in a narrative of a reunion. You can see the whole project here.

Wednesday, October 7


Can any day truly be bad if it ends with sudden-death playoff baseball, beer, and pub food? I say no.

Your Sister worked late -- like LATE late, not just late -- and I rewarded her toil with a bar dinner. She embraced the cider like a treasured heirloom recovered from a shipwreck. She earlier had another in the seemingly dozen organizational meetings. This one is led by a teacher new to the boss position, and Your Sister is playing the part of manager. She helped him prep and seemed as proud of his success as he was relieved to have it done. I was at home finishing today's FB drawing. More plans were made for Thursday's rendezvous with the college callers.

I'm scanning store shelves for new Halloween decorations, and I'm debating buying a fog machine or making one to work with the dry ice sold at the grocery store. I've operated a larger version of dry-ice machines in larger theaters; it's one of the perks of backstage work. Although you have to take care not to smother the actors with smoke. That happened during Glass Menagerie. But we only get a dozen kids each year. Is the effort worth it? Would a fog machine and new decorations lure new children into our delicious tiger traps? One must ponder.

I signed up for the Halloween race. I'm officially official.

How's your car?

Picture of the Day
Just saying.

Tuesday, October 6

Running on Fumes

I realize my diet is slight. Unhealthy, perhaps. But it works for me.

I eat two granola bars for breakfast around 8:30. This is during my commute now as the boss doesn't want us to eat at our desks anymore. She's afraid crumbs = germs = Swine Flu. The edict also means I lose my lunch habit of scarfing down a sandwich at my computer and using my full lunch hour to drive around town and rest my eyes. Now I take my lunch hour around noon and grab a Starbucks drink (something thick) and a hand-sized bread snack. Sometimes a muffin, sometimes a croissant. I nurse the drink for the rest of the workday. That tides me over until I get home.

On days like yesterday, I'll open the door, drop everything, change, stretch, and run. Maybe this flimsy diet is working; I stormed through my 5k route. That's seven minutes better than my first 5k run. I'd like to cut that by another three minutes before the Halloween race. That would be only ten minutes off the times of the local college athletes.

It was an odd start. I was beat up from the floor exercises, and my initial pace was quicker than usual. I managed to stay at that pace for the rest of the route, surprisingly. The local indoor climbing-wall business is holding a kids' health camp, and they're now on my route, doing short laps in the parking lot and ground exercises as I run past. I like to think my running catches their eye and nudges them to try it.

Maybe the increase in runners will encourage the dog walkers to handle their mutts differently. Come on, people. Put both leashes on one hand. Stop sprawling. Just yesterday, I had to run into the road because two walkers, side by side, heard me behind them, stopped cold, turned, and stared at me as I ran toward them. They made no effort to share the path. Does cold make people stupid?

Your Sister worked late, and I thawed out the Spaghetti Bucket. A sauce from veggie trimmings actually gets better after it freezes. I think the slow evaporation of water reduces it to the core taste components. Either way, we wolfed it down last night when she got home. Dinner is now my one true meal each day. There haven't been any negative effects as I've noticed. I'm thinner, yes, but toned from the running, and I've got my normal Daffy Duck energy.

Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I strolled through Lowe's for repair ideas. I think I figured out how to fix our gutter leaks and which new lawnmower I'll get. I compared prices for ladders, and I had no idea height was so expensive.

Picture of the Day
Communist China's air force celebrates the country's 60th anniversary.

Monday, October 5

Gutter Sniping

Your Sister had a meet-up with another teacher to hammer out a committee document, and I knew that would leave me alone for most of Saturday afternoon. I laundered and sketched and rearranged the workshop mess, but I really had a hankering to look at the gutters. They've hung over my head, both literally and metaphorically, and the weather was just nice enough to get me outside on a ladder.

I suspected they needed cleaning only on the corners at the downspouts. The previous owners installed both gutter covers and downspout filters. The filters are little green wedges that keep big items from clogging them. The covers are cheap plastic lattice tops. They also keep the chunky stuff out. Our gutters, however, attract and retain residue from the roof, mostly shingle grit, and I feared the summer rains had topped off the gutters with a stew.

They had. What I had hoped would be a half hour turned into two solid hours of scooping. It was a sludge an inch deep all around the house frame. It required me to pop the covers, claw out the slop, fling it into a bucket, and repeat about two dozen times. I could use this stuff as mortar. The joys of home ownership and maintenance. I want new covers on the cutters very soon. Something solid and sturdy.

Saturday night, I flipped around channels and found a Sherlock Holmes mystery on PBS. We watched, mildly curious, and then I realized we wear watching a PBS mystery on a Saturday night. This is an old-person activity. It gave me the mortal willies. Luckily, the show was weak enough to discourage us from going back to it on any night.

Your Sister wanted to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit the next night. This is a film I reluctantly know by heart. It played on our wall of TVs when I worked at Wal-Mart. I can quote the film. She had never seen it, and I was curious how it held up. This was a film that squeaked in before CGI took off. James Cameron was noodling with it on The Abyss and Terminator 2, and I don't think either had been released yet. It was around before, but not on such a scale that this film could take advantage. The art doesn't really hold up. The story is slight, and the dialogue becomes a thin frame to move the plot along. It's technically impressive to watch the real props move as if the cartoons are affecting them and try to guess how they did that is more fun than following the story. Your Sister bailed about halfway through, and I was relieved to turn the channel.

Earlier on Sunday, I got a call from Brevard College asking for money. I recognized it as a student effort as I was in the exact same position about 20 years ago. I was a paid cold-caller. We exchanged notes (she was conversational, a good public persona for the fundraiser), and she asked if I'd come in and talk to them with tips as I've been on both ends of the phone line. I agreed to meet up with them on Thursday. There's not much I can say other than tell the school that $100 minimum pledges are impractical for those of us not living in a gated community. I did find out the school no longer requires community service for graduation. Baffling. The school needs to do more -- anything -- to reach out to the town. They never host a table at the local street fairs. They don't host the Halloween run anymore. They need to branch out.

I started a new drawing for FB, and it should be online before Wednesday. It's of Your Sister, captured in the fleeting nanoseconds betwen naps.

Picture of the Day
I woke up with the House theme in my brain this morning. Luckily, I had it downloaded on my iPod so I could drive it away by playing it once and only once.