Friday, June 26, 2009

Somebody doesn't like Sara Lee

I originally meant this blog to be a place to post short remarks, observations, etc. of the kind I post to Facebook and Twitter, but longer than those services allow. In practice, this has become another place for me to run off at the mouth at length. I'm going to try and reclaim this place for short posts, or expansions of Facebook posts. So I'll start with this:

I'm on a vacation day today, so I walked down to Starbucks for my morning coffee, and on my way, I saw a Sara Lee truck with their age-old slogan on the side, "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." I suddenly had an epiphany: I don't particularly like Sara Lee! This only means something if you know that I grew up in a Sara Lee household, having Sara Lee coffeecakes for breakfasts and Sara Lee pies for desserts. I liked them well enough when I was 8, but I don't think I've bought a Sara Lee product for myself in 30 years--maybe a couple of their streusel coffeecakes now and again, when I've had to entertain for breakfast. My 80-year-old mother would probably have a stroke if she read this (and she might, as she does have Internet access and occasionally glances at my Media Playroom blog), since she still loves Sara Lee. For myself, it's just a part of growing away from eating so many things frozen or boxed, and I guess that's good, but the taste of a Sara Lee product will still bring back fond childhood feelings--and when I'm at Mom's on Christmas morning, Sara Lee still provides our pre-present opening food.

Then, at Starbucks, I was entertained by hearing the most ludicrously superfluous conversation starter ever, spoken by a vacuous looking blonde female runner to her barista while waiting for her soy-free, fat-filled, dark/light mocha blobachino: "O My God, did you HEAR that Michael Jackson DIED yesterday?!?" His reply: "Uh, ... yeah." If she was flirting, she failed. Of course, I took a different tack when I said to him, "Nice shoulders--you been workin' out?" His reply: "Uh, ... yeah." [No, I didn't really say that, I just thought it, and even in my fantasy, he rejected me. I guess I'm too much of a monogomist to stray even in my idle fancies.]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Save Ohio libraries (and, BTW, my job)!

Here in Ohio, the governor, Ted Strickland, is proposing a state budget to go into effect in just a few days that would cut by 30% the amount of money that Ohio libraries would get to operate. This is on top of an average 20% shortfall we've experienced already this year due to the overall tax collection shortfall. I'm not a mathematician, nor am I an economist, but it does seem like we will be running our libraries with nearly 50% less money that we did last year. My library, like many in the state, doesn't depend completely on state funding, but still, this cut will mean we'll have 30% less money at our disposal.

In this economy, library use is way up, not just for "free" entertainment in the form of books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs, but also for free computer and Internet use (something that has been growing exponentially in the past few years), job search materials, and community programs. We have already been trimming back here and there (not filling jobs which have been vacated, charging more for fines), but a loss this big will truly mean major cuts in our staffing, hours, and programs. How does a "business" that is in more demand than ever wind up like this?

There is a rally at the Statehouse today which I won't be able to attend, but I hope that lots of people, and not just librarians, show up. Unfortunately, I think the everyday visitors to our library who take us for granted (whether for services or just to have a place to relax and a friendly person to talk to) are probably not likely to show up, but they are the ones who will feel the pinch first. Here's hoping these folks, who will have to be at the core of any meaningful protest, do show up, and that our legislators listen to them. The flood of e-mails and phone calls being recieved by the governor and lawmaker in support of libraries is heartening, but I'm not sure that alone will send the message.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seasons, the night sky, and cabana boys

I am hardly a nature boy but the romantic in me loves nature in small and controlled doses. I've never gone camping (except when I spent the night with pals in a tent pitched in our neighbor's back yard when I was a kid) but I've enjoyed the "cabining" I've done with friends at state parks. I can't identify trees or flowers, but I like to go on the occasional hike through parks and woods and arboretums. And though I've never learned the constellations, I love to look at the night sky (approximated above on my work computer wallpaper). Where we live now, in a suburb attached directly to a big city, we're lucky enough to be just far enough away from the major light concentrations of downtown Columbus to our southeast that on cloudless nights, we can stand in our front yard and see some stars.

When I was young, our family had a cottage on Kelleys Island in Lake Erie, and many of my cherished memories of our island vacations are of our walks back to the cottage after a drunken carouse downtown (that should be "downtown" in quotes, as it was comprised of three bars, a small grocery store, and a Dairy Queen), throwing ourselves on the hoods of cars, and staring up into the deep, sparkling night sky. With virtually no noticeable light pollution to the north or west, the stars were brilliant and numerous. When I was very young, my dad, who had been a navigator in the Air Force, would point out to me and my brother the stars and constellations but I would never remember them from year to year, so each year he would be able to go through the ritual again. (Well, I did remember Cassiopeia which, in his earthy way, he identified as "the big tit in the sky.") As we got older, we would re-enact this event with our visitors (friends, boyfriends, partners, wives)--it was part of the initiation event of belonging to the extended Ritchie clan, and it is the only thing I really miss about not having property on the Island anymore.

Anyway, I think of this today not because of any night sky experience, but because of how gorgeous it is out this morning. It rained through much of the night, and the skies right now are cloudy but not ominously so. When I got out of my car at Panera (to get my coffee and cinnamon roll, bright and early at 7 a.m.), the breeze hit me in a way that it hadn't since sometime last summer. I call it a "tingly breeze": it's noticeable but not exactly forceful, and with an air temperature of 70 degrees, it's right on that rare and perfect edge between cool and warm. As I stood in the parking lot for just a moment to enjoy the wind, I got a tingly sensation along my arms (hence the "tingly breeze") and could imagine for a moment that I was on a beach in some paradisaical location, about to throw myself into the crashing surf (after the taut-bellied cabana boy brings me a margarita; why do carnal desires intrude into even my most beautiful wholesome fantasies?)

...Leading me finally to the title of this post. I realized recently that the seasons, sadly, have become less important to my everyday life. In school, in college, in grad school, and while teaching, seasonal changes were a big part of my life because my routine depended on the season. For most of my life, summer has meant either time off, time for vacations, or when teaching, just a different pace when teaching one summer class. Even when I was working in retail, summer felt different, partly because I was at the peak of my "swingin' singles" era, and summer nights were clubbing nights--we clubbed all year round, but somehow in my memories of those times, it was always a hot summer night.

In the past few years, with the library work cycle not particularly dependent on seasonal changes, and with tranquil domestic routines well established (not to mention central air conditioning), summer has largely become just like any other time of year. The past few years, I've felt bad about that, panicking that the summer was going to pass me by without registering on me at all. This year, for the first time, I don't seem to care. Part of it is that I've accepted that, like at Christmastime, I can't force myself to live up to these unrealistic expectations (I MUST be jolly in December, I MUST find time to lie in the sun in July). But the other part is that the weather the past month or so has been delightful--warm enough to sleep with windows open and the ceiling fan on, but not so hot that the AC is running all the time, though a little AC to accentuate the fan at night is nice. So I might get to swim in a pool or at a beach, I might not. I might get a little tan, I might not. I might sit on the porch and look at the stars in a warm night breeze, I might not. I guess I'm finally OK with that. But I did get at least one tingly summer breeze!