Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Aloha Again

Trying to write while sitting on our balcony in Poipu Beach, Kauai, but the whales are just so darn distracting. Spouting, cavorting, doing belly flops. Every time I try to look away, they draw me back. Oh, look. There it is again. A spout. A fluke. Just magnificent. Eric swears he can smell the whales. He may have read Moby Dick one too many times.  

I absolutely love Hawaii. Mostly because my skin is happy here. And when my skin is happy, I'm happy. Over the years I've been to a couple other tropical places. Belize, the Yucatan. For me, Hawaii is better. You can drink the water. You can eat the food and brush your teeth without fear. It's part of our country. The currency and language are the same.  

You can also slip in and out of Hawaii without being witness to soul crushing poverty. I already feel bad about destitute people with no hope for the future. I don't need to see sad, skinny kids begging when I'm on my vacation. I'm worried that I can't really afford the trip in the first place. Maybe it was a poor financial decision on my part. Maybe those folks made similar poor financial decisions and look at them. See where I'm going with this? I may have a problem with over-empathizing.

Hawaii also has the "aloha spirit". Traditionally, "aloha" in the Hawaiian language meant affection, peace, compassion and mercy. Good stuff. Now it really means a welcoming culture. Locals seem so warm and kind to children, although it doesn't pay to generalize. Or mess with the wrong dudes. My step-brother, Peter, lost his life in a drug deal gone bad on Oahu. So not aloha.

A couple things about Hawaii just crack me up. The Haole couples with his and hers Hawaiian outfits. She's wearing the new dress in a loud, floral print and he's got on the male counterpart, also in bright colors. You've got to love the vacation impulse - to buy what you wouldn't be caught dead in later. Also the strange artwork and souvenirs one will purchase when traveling. We've all done it. Much of the tourist economy is based on it.

I also love the exercisers. You're in one of the most beautiful places on earth yet you work out on a treadmill, just like home. A treadmill? Why not bring along the millstone for around your neck? The power walkers are slightly better. All ear buds and fanny packs, they walk with grim determination, but at least they're outdoors. The ones who walk along the busy road in the mid-day sun really confuse me. People, you're in Hawaii. Go jump in the ocean and take a swim  

Tropical vacations have their own stresses. All the sun and swimming take a toll. I've had trips where each day I felt more tired than the day before. Happy, but a little exhausted. That may have been when the girls were young and they just never stopped. The requests all ran together. Mommycanwegotothebeachnow? Mommyletsgotothepool. And so on. The pace is pretty mellow with the two of us, though Hawaii does dictate a certain schedule. One MUST be up to see the sun rise. You also have to be in place for the setting sun. It's mandatory. You just don't want to miss it.    

There is a gentleness to the air here that is so soothing. You can see people, obviously in their final hours on the island, soaking it all in. Like they're trying to remember it - now wonderful it all feels. Hoping to take it home with them. I'm pretty sure there's a trick here. You remember it well enough to know you want to replicate the experience, but not well enough to internalize it. Why is it so difficult to really learn things - even simple stuff? Like how to breathe when you're feeling anxious. To put in your contacts before applying lotion.  

I love the rhythm of a beach vacation. The lazy hours with books and magazines. Lying on the sand just staring off towards the horizon. The smell of the sunscreen and all the layers of dried salt on my skin. The naps. When you shower at the end of the day you can inspect the tan lines and burned places and think about boat drinks and where to go for dinner. Repeat the next day.     

I'm so sad it's almost time to go home. It's been way too short. Oh well. It's not so great here, anyway. All the hours with nothing but leisure, no deadlines. The peace, the quiet. What's the fun in that? It's not even all that quiet. The waves constantly roaring in the background. Pounding pounding. So relaxing you can't even remember which day it is. Who needs it? And day after day sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset.      

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Resume

Holidays 2011 are gone, 2012 has arrived and, as usual, nothing was the way we expected. Not necessarily better or worse - just different which is a sameness we can count on. 

The biggest surprise is that after looking for five months, numerous interviews, a few real disappointments and much frustration, I have gotten a job. At least for now, the search is off. Serendipity finally decided to get off her little fanny and give me some help. It is everything I had stated explicitly that I did not want. After twenty-five years waitressing and working in real estate, I wanted regular business hours. I didn't want to work while everyone else was enjoying their weekend. I didn't want to work with the public or stand on my feet all day. Baby, I've got it all and strangely enough, I like it.

One night in mid-December we walked by a brand new shop in a gorgeous, old space in downtown Mill Valley called El Paseo. It's all brick with a secret passageway and has a very European feel. This new shop is on one end of El Paseo. Eric looked through the window at the owners getting the store ready and told me I should work there. The next morning I checked Craigslist, as was my habit every day. There was an ad for help in the shop. I sent in my resume, they called me immediately and I was hired that day. I went from walking by to doing the job within a day. The first day I unpacked boxes and the next day we opened. As the first and only employee, I worked the next nine days straight. I worked Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. 

My work experience is multi-faceted and the resume is interesting. Not everyone gets it. The woman who hired me got it. My first job was nanny to the musician, Beck, and his brother when they were young. After a couple years I also began to work for Starving Students moving company in Hollywood. I was sad about leaving the little boys, but Starving Students looked like it could be a way out of Los Angeles, and it was. My boyfriend and I moved to San Francisco and opened the very first franchise of the company which is still operating in thirty-three locations in ten states. I was nineteen and had a dozen guys working for me. 

Young and restless, we moved on from the moving business, although staying with it would have given me a lot of financial security. Oh well. I learned stained glass and did commissions for years. I turned twenty-one and began to waitress in nightclubs. I worked at the Palms in San Francisco and then moved to Mill Valley and discovered Sweetwater. 

I was a cocktail waitress through all three of my pregnancies, and eventually became assistant to Sweetwater's owner. Sometimes I counted the cash, sometimes I did promo or dealt with the bands. One night, when they were filming a BBC special, I had to vacate my desk so Bonnie Raitt could sit there and put on her makeup. I saw more live music than I ever needed. Leaving at night, when the kids were getting cozy in their jammies, was traumatic. I just wanted to be cozy, too. 

Eventually I did some catering for Comforts and served Paul and Linda McCartney out at Skywalker Ranch. Paul was very excited to learn that my mother had just performed his first classical piece with her chorus - the Liverpool Oratorio which they sang at Grace cathedral. He called Linda over to tell her and I had him sign the program for my mom. 

I began to do licensed home daycare so I could spend more time with Lucy. The plan backfired when she became jealous of the other kids taking my attention and using her toys. It was not enough to try to support myself and care for a toddler. I also went back to college at San Francisco State University. Two days at school, two days doing daycare, four nights waitressing and Saturday and Sunday mornings working at Mama's Royal Cafe. Some days I'd serve breakfast to the same people I'd given drinks to a couple hours before. None of us were feeling too happy about it. 

Monday I was off and would spend the whole day with Lucy. We'd go to Mama's and pick up my tips and have some breakfast. I really can't remember when I studied. When I remarried and had two more girls life became easier in ways and harder in others. I did a lot of volunteer work for the PTA and and was the girl scout cookie mom. Every March our house would be filled with cartons of cookies. Lucy found Strawberry Swim Team and we all became part of it for many years. I eventually became president of the team which was more work than actually working.         

Time marched along and college for Lucy was looming. She was a high achieving oldest child and worked so hard at her sports and academics. She deserved a great education, but finances were a problem. A friend owned her own real estate company and suggested I get my license and work with her. My commissions helped get Lucy through college and I met some wonderful people who became good friends. I met some nasty people I never wanted to see again. The economy changed, as did the culture of the business. Loyalty became a scarce commodity. 

I didn't enjoy the business of real estate even when I was making a bunch of money. I was good at the job, but not great at selling myself. I used everything I'd learned in my psychology classes and all the patience I'd acquired as a mother to deal with the difficult, demanding personalities. After thirteen years I wanted out. Hence, the need for the resume. I've had so many jobs and like to brag that, so far, I have never been fired. The hardest position I've ever had is not even listed on the CV. It's the job of raising my three daughters and they CAN'T fire me.  

The company I work for is wonderful. The store is called "Moss & Daughters" and it's part of the burgeoning Tyler Florence empire. Although the shop where I work isn't food related, it's owned by same people. It's charming and tasteful. There is a lot going on and it's exciting to be around. Their restaurant "El Paseo" was just named one of the top ten new restaurants in the San Francisco area. After the food reviewer had his three star meal he stopped by to check out the new store.

Going back to work has been a bit of a shock. I worry about having the discipline to write. I need to keep focused on the Boyle tennis court project, but for me, playing tennis is no longer a priority. It's a challenge to keep the home fires burning. Words with friends? Not so easy. But hey, it's another line on the resume.