Friday, March 30, 2007
Welcome to Weird Coincidence Central!
5:24 pm cst
Sometimes it's just too strange... you're watching tv and you say something, only to have a
character on the show you're watching say the exact same thing only a moment later; you hum a song and turn
on the radio to find it playing; you think of someone you haven't seen in years and the next day you get an email from them.
Bizarre stuff that pops up in the strangest places.
Like on my drive home from work tonight. Only yesterday, our company delivered eight
copiers to a small school district in Illinois. I'd never even heard of this town when I scheduled the delivery and
created the maps and driving directions. The town: Stillman Valley, Illinois.
So, I'm driving home tonight after a long and frustrating day, and what do I see in the lane
next to me?
I dig in my purse for my new digital camera (which, in case I haven't said so already,
I really really really love, because it's got the five mega pixels and the optical zoom and is small so it fits in my purse
- whoops, you already knew that - and I can snap pics just about anywhere, even barrelling down the Beltline at 65mph during
rush hour on a Friday night, just don't tell my parents!) and I take a picture. Yeah, I know it's small, so here's a
Yup. It's from Stillman Valley, Illinois.
Weird. Weird. Weird.
Too bad it wasn't a typical semi. We could have had them drop by and pick up the copiers
and save our company the expense and hassle of having to drive down to flatlander country.
Hee hee! It's still weird. But at least it cheered me up!
Saturday, March 24, 2007
The Ballad of the Ugly Blanket
11:31 am cst
You know how people way to be careful when you knit a gift for someone? That
the item you spent hours and days and weeks of slaving over your needles to create may languish in a closet, or even *gasp!*
be re-gifted or donated to Goodwill? Well, several years ago I tempted fate and
knit a gift for my sister’s wedding.
I couldn’t afford anything on their registry, and had no idea what else they needed.
So I delved deep into my creative-crafty side and knit them a car blanket.
I’d found three bags of garish acrylic yarn at a local thrift store, and decided to make a patchwork pattern of squares
called “Trip Around the World”. That the periwinkle
blue, burgundy, lemon yellow, lime green, crimson, and bright orange colors of yarn didn’t actually “go together” didn’t matter
at the time. They were cheap, they would last, and there was enough for a good-sized
blanket, one that could be thrown on the ground for a picnic, or draped over two chairs to make a fort for a future niece
or nephew, or for whatever use they wanted.
So I knit and knit and knit, and finished up the edging while I was sitting at the auto shop waiting for my oil change
the day before the wedding. I folded it the best I could, found the largest gift
bag at the discount card store, and packed it inside.
My sister sent me a generic thank you card, and that was the last I heard of it.
Until this winter.
Back last November, my brother-in-law was one of the many PS3 fans camped outside a big-box store waiting to be the
first to buy the new gaming console. He’d prepared well, with long underwear
and sleeping bags and blankets enough to keep him warm through an unusually cold night, including the car blanket I’d made
for their wedding. But the guy in line behind him hadn’t.
This poor guy was slowly turning into a popsicle. And my brother-in-law
felt kind of sorry for him, so he offered him the blanket. Next Guy In Line took
one look at it and, with a level of disdain not usually seen in a resident of the glamorous and sophisticated metropolis of
Green Bay, Wisconsin, declined the offer with a comment that the blanket was “just too ugly”.
Hours passed. The mercury fell.
My brother-in-law was toasty, but NGIL was getting to the point where he couldn’t feel his ass. Eventually necessity trumped fashion, and he humbly asked if he could borrow the blanket. And my brother-in-law, nice guy that he is, handed it over.
The next morning, when the store was opening and the gamers were beginning to stir from their slumber, NGIL handed
back the blanket with a heartfelt “thank you”. And what he said next (according
to my sister, who told me this story this Christmas) was something that made all the knitting and purling worthwhile.
“It may be ugly,” he commented, “but it sure is warm!”
Saturday, March 17, 2007
11:40 am cst
Saturday, March 10, 2007
12:55 pm cst
So last night Jay and I were enjoying our Friday night out and we got to talking about… honestly, I don’t remember
what. We tend to have these rambling conversations. One minute we’re discussing root beer floats, the next minute, how the IS guys at work are freaking out
over the three-weeks-earlier Daylight Savings Time change, and two minutes and an abrupt left turn finds me gloating over
the money I saved on the oil change I got Thursday. (What’s not to gloat about? It isn’t every day that you take a coupon for an oil change and get free fuel injection
cleaner and two-for-one windshield wipers thrown in. Heck, it isn’t even every
three months or 3,000 miles.) But anyway, we were scarfing down fish, because
it was Friday and it’s Lent and we’re in Wisconsin and some deep, deep genetic marker triggered an intense yearning
for cod, batter, potatoes, and lots and lots of grease, and you know fish fry has no calories because it just slides right
through you. At least that’s my story.
But anyway, we were talking, and somehow I started reminiscing about when my high school band director hugged me.
Now, George was a nice guy. He was short, about my Mom’s age, and had
an odd fondness for Sousa marches, which we clarinetists hated because of all the tweedly-deedly-diddly parts. (No simple quarter-note melodies for the clarinets. If the
clarinet part of a Sousa march had anything less than a sixteenth-note on it, it was a typo.
The horn section got all the easy stuff. Damn horns.) But anyway, George was a pretty decent band teacher, for a trombonist.
He and Greg, the choir teacher, made up the music department at my high school.
And no, we didn’t call them by their first names… at least, not to their faces.
Our high school was pretty small: about 450 students in grades 9-12. At
the time (I’d really rather not reveal exactly how many years ago this was but, suffice it to say, a baby born my freshman
year would no longer be expected to have their ID ready at the liquor store) my high school was known for their gymnastics
team and their music program. Competition to get into the elite performing groups
was pretty stiff. And I was a really shy kid.
I mean, excruciatingly shy. As in not making eye contact, not going anywhere
by myself, I’d-rather-not-call-for-time-and-temperature-because-what-if-they-hang-up-on-me shy.
But anyway, when I was a freshman, all band students were required to have once-a-week private lessons. You’d leave study hall and go down to the band room and sit there with the teacher and play through all
the stuff the band was working on. I never got through a lesson without breaking
into tears of humiliation and frustration. George must have thought I was a basket
case. Here’s this little fifteen-year-old,
and she’s using up all my kleenex. Good thing snot doesn’t damage a wood clarinet.
When I was a freshman, we had a talented pool of seniors that were the leaders of the music department. After they graduated, there were a lot of places to fill; in band, in choir, in the audition-only performing
groups. And everybody – I mean everybody – auditioned. Even I sucked it up and warbled out Bread’s “If” from my fourth-grade Piano Book Of Contemporary Tunes. And then we waited. And then it was Monday. 10:06 am. The end of second period. And Greg was posting the lists. And I
had to go to Geometry class.
The long, long, walk down the hall to the bandroom seemed to stretch forever, and no one would get out of my way. Didn’t they realize? How couldn’t they
know? My future was on the line here, and when my best friend met me halfway
down the hall and stubbornly refused to give up any information or even hints of what she had seen 52 minutes earlier because
she was lucky and got to take Choir instead of being bored to death by length and circumference and pi, and for heaven’s sake, just tell me! But no. She just pushed me to the chalkboard and the three pieces of lined paper taped to it, names written in
pencil in Greg’s distinctive handwriting. Under “Chamber Choir”: my name. Under “Swing Choir”: my name. Under “Madrigal”: my name. I had to touch the paper before I could believe
it. I’d hit the trifecta. The turkey. The hat trick. I was IN.
Fast-forward to the end of the next year. George had asked me to play
the alto clarinet part in a top-level-difficulty piece we were performing for Band Contest.
Not Sousa, but an Asian-inspired piece that had its own variety of tweedly-deedly-diddly stuff. We’d practiced every day for three solid months, over and over and over until we could sing the stuff in
our sleep. Unfortunately, we had to perform it on our instruments, and while
we were awake. But anyway, we’d finished and packed up and were heading to the
bus to go home, and we didn’t even know how we’d done. Some years we didn’t find
out the judges scores until school on Monday, but this year George came walking out of the host school with a big ol’ grin
on his little German face, and as we were waiting to get on the bus he told us we’d scored a First. A gold plaque to hang on the bandroom wall. And as we all
broke out in cheers, he hugged me. And he told me it was all because of me and
my alto clarinet.
I wonder if, at that moment, he remembered the weepy kid from two and a half years earlier. I didn’t really compare the two until last night, with Jay and the hash browns and cole slaw and bran muffin,
that I ordered myself, looking the waitress straight in the eyes.
Any self confidence I have now was planted in the music department of my high school.
Summer camp fostered it, college fed it, and meeting Jay has brought it to maturity, but it was George and Greg that
figured out how to overcome the little voice that always told me “you’re not good enough”.
One of these days, I should thank them.