Thursday, March 27, 2003

Aphrodite's Temple

Linda decided last night that with the stress we're both under of uncertain job futures, we could benefit from throwing all caution to the wind and enjoy a relaxing evening. The goddess Aphrodite, with her promises of beauty and love beckoned from her temple in Sherman Oaks. You were thinking Paphos, maybe? Please. Although Greece may have been easier to get to versus the traffic in Los Angeles during rush hour, we opted for the location that would allow us to be home by 8:00 for Survivor.

We breezed in past the golden pillars and stunning displays of the Macy's men's department and forged ahead to the inner sanctuary of the Lancome counter. Black-clad acolytes awaited us with promises of beauty and youth contained in vials and bottles of unguents and oils.

The first offering we were required to make was a detailed listing of our skin issues and flaws, along with what we hoped to accomplish at the altars. Under the burning 200-watt torches, our faces were closely examined, analyzed and found wanting.

Mousse-y cleansers washed away impurities and dead skin. Toner firmed up our pores, and tinted moisturizer provided our faces with a healthy golden tone, while also delivering a necessary minimum SPF of 15 and necessary nutrients to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Next was a skin color scrutiny. My skin has slightly more pink-ish (read: Anglo-Saxon non-pigmented boring) tones to it than Linda’s, whose Teutonic ancestry provides her with warmer colors. Her blue eyes were enhanced with a lovely blend of bluish / purplish / brownish colors making them appear even more doe-like and inviting than before. Her beauty expert was very complimentary of each one of her features. “Your eyes have such a nice shape!” “Your cheekbones are perfect!” “Your lashes are so long and beautiful!” “Your pores are so delightfully small!”

Cynthia did not have much to gush about where I was concerned. Though never demeaning or rude, she made it clear through the tips she gave me where she thought my flaws were. They mostly seemed to deal with my eyes, which are apparently squinchier than I thought. “By applying mascara at the ROOT of your eyelashes, it forces your eyes OPEN and makes them look larger.” “This color combination nicely enhances your green eyes and really opens them up.” “Make sure to put a lighter color shadow on the top of your brow – that will really open your eyes UP.” It must be a large miracle that I can even see with all of the squinting I’m apparently doing.

After an hour at the altar, we were invited to gaze upon the images of the new women we had been transformed into. I believe I had more makeup on than I’ve worn in the past five years combined. I do have to admit, however, that my skin looked smoother than it’s looked in a long time. My only concern was the way the under-eye concealer appeared to bunch up the skin. I didn’t realize how wrinkly I was there, but that part of my face looked like it was 50 compared to the rest of the 36 year-old me. I was informed by both Eileen and Cynthia that if I sufficiently moisturize and exfoliate my face, particularly under my eyes, there won’t be any dead skin for the makeup to cling to. Hey, I moisturize! I guess it’s time to graduate from my cheap-o drug store brands to what real women use.

Cynthia began tallying how much my offering to the goddess of beauty was going to cost. One bottle each of foam cleanser, tinted moisturizer, exfoliator and heavy-duty eye cream were deemed as the absolute bare essentials of what my skin needs to not only retain its youth, but keep it there for awhile longer. I balked a little bit at the idea of spending $60 on the eye cream, but she assured me that not only would it diminish the baggy, wrinkly skin under my eyes, it would attract men. Wow! Aphrodite not only heard my spoken desire for beauty but my unspoken wish for love too.

Feeling reckless with the prospect of love waiting around the corner, I threw in a tube of lipstick. One hundred seventy-seven dollars lighter, I left the womb of Aphrodite’s haven with a new-found hope, contained in a Macy’s bag with many free samples thrown in. My beauty may be guaranteed, but I doubt love is. And anyway, I have to wait four to six weeks to find out (the amount of time that eye cream needs to really do its job. After all, Cynthia assures me that’s all I need to catch a man!) No amount of creams and promises of smooth skin can keep me from having my shirt on inside-out unawares for the better part of this morning. I might have the smoothest skin in the world, but until I get some other basic life skills figured out, my Prince Charming will remain just out of reach.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

California Native

I am a California native. Lest you get too far down the road of envisioning me romping on the beaches of Malibu and driving down Sunset Blvd in my convertible, I will qualify that statement by saying that I consider myself to be a northern Californian by birth and at heart.

I was born in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco. If you count living 33 miles away from The City and across the Bay Bridge a suburb, which I do. For years, I even had the same area code as San Francisco -- 415 -- the original Bay Area area code.

Growing up, the Dodgers, 70 degree winters and hobnobbing with celebrities were as foreign to me as to most of you. For me, it was the Giants, 49ers, rainy winters and foggy spring mornings.

However, for the past seven and a half years I have lived in southern California. I always knew that I would eventually end up here. I wasn't exactly clear on timing or motive, but the few times I would vacation or visit, there was a tug pulling me here. Not a yearning really, but a knowledge that this would someday be my home.

I believe I have adapted nicely to my new surroundings. The weirdness and weirdos are different, but unchanged, really. They just have different names. One has hippies on Haight and Ashbury, the other yuppies in Beverly Hills.

Being so familiar with both cultures has its advantages. I am just at home in one as the other. Best of all, it affords me the luxury of not being a slave to either or both. For instance, I don't have to be caught up in the narcisstic attitude of the southern half because I come from the more au natural environment of the north. Botox? Gah. I would never dream of doing that to myself and can unapologetically mock those who do. Driving? Surely you know we southerners invented the sport of what would to anyone else be an unsafe lane change at high speeds, but here is minimally required to survive.

I've had my fair share of reality check moments of needing to pinch and remind myself of where I am. Palm trees! Hollywood! Movie studios abound on every corner, not to mention stars. I can be just as star struck as the tourist from rural America given the right opportunity. And can act as though sightings of the rich and famous are just as mundane and ho-hum as all those palm trees.

For instance, on Thursday I was in Hollywood with Linda to see a preview at the El Capitan. Sounds cool, doesn't it? A preview in Hollywood. Aren't you impressed? (Okay, it was a preview showing of "Holes" for local educators. Since it's based on an award-winning children's book, they want to make sure that teachers will promote it in the classroom, etc.) We parked in the garage behind the Kodak Theater. Yes, where the Academy Awards will be broadcast from in two days. That block of

Hollywood Blvd.was blocked off to traffic since they were raising the catwalk, the 40-foot Oscar statue and a huge gold drape over the entrance to the theater that all the elite will enter in wearing their designer finery while fans and paparazzi ooh and aah over them on Sunday.

It was very cool to be walking on the same red carpet that the cast of Chicago will traverse. I would have enjoyed it more had we not been running a little bit on the cutting edge of lateness. There was no time to savor the moment. There were plenty of tourists, though, who not only were savoring but downright lollygagging and generally preventing me from moving as fast as I would have liked. I mean really. You'd think they've never seen Mann's Chinese Theater before and all those famous stars in the sidewalk. Okay, they probably haven't, but is that my fault? Move outta my way. Some of us are actually natives and have places to be!

See what a snob I can be with my dual citizenship status?

But I can't pretend that it's not a cool place to be. The first time I drove past the Walt Disney Studios with the huge sorcerer's hat marking the home of the animation building, and the seven dwarfs holding up the office building on the other side of the lot, well, I just thought it was the coolest thing evah.

One of my friends' and my favorite games to play is Mock Celebrity Sighting. You know -- pick a person out of a crowd who looks like someone famous. Playing that here nets the most interesting results. One night my friend Steve and I were outside the Ahmanson theater waiting to go inside. Steve said, "Look! It's Steve Allen." I looked, thought about it, and said, "Yeah, I guess I can see the resemblance."

Steve: "No, really. It's Steve Allen."

After I recovered from the whiplash the triple take had given me, I went up and asked for his autograph. He died three weeks later.

Other real star sightings I've had: Scott Bakula; Henry Winkler; Jay Leno driving one of his Harleys a block from my house, Penny Marshall; Jerry Springer (not really something to brag about) eating by himself in a booth at a 50s-style diner, trying to pretend he was a normal person, but getting mad when no one would acknowledge him; Brett Butler in the Macy's in Burbank; Bonnie Hunt; Kato Kaelin (in the elevator at my office building! Sure, I know he's more infamous than famous, but still...); and I can't remember who-all else right now.

Sure, I try to pretend it's an everyday occurrence, these occassional brushes with stardom, but it can be exciting. No matter how cool I think I am, I am not immune to the little shiver of delight that invariably runs down my spine in moments like these.

California. No matter which half you live in or which area code (did I mention I have one of the original southern California ones? 818. Yep, I'm cool.) you have, it's a good place to be.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Work. It Can Be Fun...Really!

Here’s some background on this. It’s really nothing more than an email exchange between me and a friend of mine who works for a mortgage/loan company. (Never having gone through the home-buying process, I’m a little unsure as to all the right lingo, so get off my back about it already!) Even in today’s world, in the new and enlightened century we live in, this company retains some very stodgy banking cultural attitudes that you wouldn’t necessarily find in similar places. Like the dress code. You know, stiff and formal. Even though they say they’re “business casual,” they really want you to be business professional. It’s a rough road to hoe, especially for my friend who is much more comfortable in jeans and tennis shoes than dress pants and frilly blouses. Anything less is a punishable offense. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for all the eggshells she feels like she’s walking on. She just never really knows if an action or pair of shoes will be acceptable or not.

One of the vice presidents has taken it upon herself to send motivating “thought of the day”s and friendly reminders about acceptable behavior, eating habits and dress standards. I don’t know how she got that job, but I’d like to know where to stand in line for it. How cool would it be to be the jerk who gets to tell everyone how to act and condescendingly tell them to enjoy their jobs!

Anyway, please note that I have not edited anything from the original messages. Really. You can’t make up stuff that’s this good.

-----Original Message-----

From: my_friend@thebank/


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

7:29 AM

To: me@work

Subject: ABCD Awards

Yet another heartfelt communication for our very own VP In Charge of Whatever:

VP In Charge of Whatever

To: all@thebank/

Subject: ABCD Awards

I just wanted to reiterate my statements on Friday regarding the purpose of the ABCD awards. As the acronym states, Above and Beyond the Call of Duty, these nominations/awards should be reserved for those individuals who have extended themselves beyond their normal work responsibilities. Individuals may be recognized for exceeding expectations, assisting someone else with a project, or taking on additional responsibility. Employees can receive a nomination for this award directly from management or from a peer.

Management wants to ensure that employees who receive an ABCD award are recognized based on the conditions above. Therefore, starting last month, a preliminary review of the nominations was conducted (prior to the presentation of awards) to ensure the worthy efforts would be acknowledged. Those nominations which did not stand out as exemplary nominations were removed from the ABCD selection process even though they were included in the honorable mentions. This process will continue going forward to ensure we are truly acknowledging employees who are going above and beyond their normal job responsibilities.

So, to ensure that your nomination is worthy, follow these simple requirements:

* Nominate a permanent Port Comm employee (full-time or part-time); and

* Make sure your summary identifies how this person exceeded your expectations,


* Include the specific project/task that the other person helped you with, or

* Identify the extra projects/tasks for which the individual took responsibility.

Test Yourself!

Select the write-up(s) below that would be worthy of an ABCD award:

a) I want to thank Jessica for always being there when I need her, especially last week.

b) I needed to get some volumes to my supervisor ASAP, but I had some challenges completing the necessary Access query. I called on Pam, and she dropped everything to help me out. She even created this neat report so I don't have to export the information to Excel.

c) Kathy's attention to detail really came in handy for me last week when I needed a second set of eyes to review a report I had prepared. She caught an important detail that I had left out.

d) Whenever I'm having a rough day, I know I can count on Eida to maintain a positive perspective. Thank you, Eida!

Applaud yourself if you selected "B" and "C". What makes them worthy? In "B", Pam dropped what she was doing to help and she went a step further by creating a report. In "C", first of all, Kathy was second set of eyes when she didn't have to be; and second, if Kathy hadn't caught that important detail, an incomplete report would have been submitted.

Please feel free to see me, your manager, or your team leader for any questions you may have regarding the recognition program.

If we diminish the overall

VP In Charge of Whatever

Portfolio Communications

-----Original Message-----



Wednesday, March 12, 2003

7:29 AM

To: my_friend@thebank/

Subject: ABCD Awards

Ooh! I have so many comments on this! First off, the infallible Karen Abrams did not, repeat, did NOT finish a sentence at the bottom of her email. Coincidence? Or was she knifed to death just as she was finishing it, and her killer hit the "send" button for her? Hmmm.. .

Also, I think that B & C are the correct answers, not because they demonstrate the willingness of Kathy and Pam to go above and beyond the call of duty, but because the person writing the nomination gave the more suck-up essay-type responses. For all we know, Jessica and Eida really *do*deserve the award, but the person nominating them is too lazy to actually acknowledge why.

Lastly, I nominate you. "C is a wonderful employee. She does more for less money than those other idiots who work in her group. She really took over a difficult situation last week and acted calmly under extreme pressure. She was under a rush job to get hundreds of reports printed out, and the old man in the print room, Pops, was having a little prostate trouble and feeling really grumpy. He lashed out at the first person who actually asked him to do his job. Sadly, it happened to be C. The way she reacted though, can be a lesson for us all. She did not yell back at him, stomp out or even wonder, 'Why me?' No, instead she listened to all of Pop's woes and troubles, called the pharmacist, picked up the medication, handled all the other print jobs that were in the queue, distributed all the reports, and STILL managed to meet her own horrific deadline.

"C is a star. Not only do I nominate her for the whatever-stupid-name-duty-calls award, but I think she should get a cut of all those fees that customers have to pay when they pay a loan over the phone.

"C is a supreme example of what we should all strive to be here at The Bank/Loan Place. She demonstrated kindness, integrity, calmness and patience, all while wearing restrictive bankers' clothes.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Hello, Cyberspace

Whoa. This is weird. I mean, this thing about sharing my thoughts and life with an unseen world. It's one thing to tell my best friend and roommate, Linda (I'm sure you'll be hearing more about her), the happenings of my day, and I have other friends that I talk to about my life, but since they're all different, they all get different versions, or things that I think matter to them. Linda's the only one who gets the whole unedited thing, and her I can trust. You? I'm not so sure about. It will help that I can't see you, I suppose. But I'm a natural-born pleaser. I want you to be happy with what I write. Even more, I want you to be impressed with my wit and style and literary prose. I also am aware of my literary puniness and know that if I can accomplish that even once it'll be a miracle.

I want you to respect me in the morning.

You, dear readers, pose a problem to me. I find myself in the same dilemma when I'm burning CD's for my friends and family. I like to make CD's of my favorite (then) music for people to listen to. I think it's a fun way for them to get to know me at that point in my life (that really makes me sound selfish, but that's not what it's about, promise!) because music means so much to me and expresses me so much better than I can sometimes, that it's easy to see what kinds of things I'm experiencing based on the songs that mean a lot to me right then.

Anyway, when I'm putting songs on them knowing that they'll be going to my family members and friends, I second-guess myself, which I hate. I think, "Ooh, she won't like that," or, "Oh, my dad will be disappointed with that selection," and I get on my own nerves. It ends up being more of an expression of what I think they think I should like rather than who I really am.

That is my fear with doing this. I want it to be an expression of me -- my thoughts and feelings (as dreary and mundane as they may be) -- without having to cater to anyone else.

Case in point: some of the things that I may want to write about are my friends and family members, but how do I do that honestly knowing that they may end up as "audience" members? Even some of my best friends can also be my archest enemies at times, and how can I be honest with myself if I'm censoring myself?

I prefer to be honest in a round-about way, really. Maybe I just won't tell them about this! Yet. Maybe later. I don't want them to be ashamed of me. I will continue delusionally hoping that total strangers will read this and love me. From afar. Maybe I need therapy.

Or not. This is cheaper. I can't see you and you can't see me, and I get to practice my writing too.

Here's to my thoughts then! {clink} No, wait. Here's to my edited thoughts! No, not quite. Here's to what my fingers end up translating what my brain thinks it's thinking. That's just stupid though. Here's to....

Me being me. {clink}