Thursday, July 27, 2006


It's perhaps common knowledge that the tech industry, NerdCo not excepted, has a distinctly lackadaisical dress code. "Business casual" dips to new lows round these parts; we have a few folks who are sharply turned out, and probably an equal number who can scarcely be bothered to put on shoes (which, EW, because a) stop tracking your toejam cooties through the common KITCHEN, and b) you don't know what I or ANYONE ELSE has tracked in on OUR shoes). The vast majority of us fall in the middle, schlumping around in jeans and one or another of the free NerdCo t-shirts that rain from the heavens at regular intervals. One of my writers once complained, "I wish they would start handing out some NerdCo pants; then I'd have some complete, branded outfits!" NerdCo doesn't care as long as you show up, clad at all, and do the work...and I imagine that if even putting some damn clothes on bent your fragile little spirit too much and you complained to the right person, some sort of accommodations could be made.

Recently I and several editors from my group have been working with an editor from another team who happens to be a very dedicated goth girl. Like us, she scorns dangling modifiers and appreciates the unintended hilarity of a poor comma splice; she just happens to do so while wearing a black lace corset top, a hoop skirt, and pink fishnets. Goth Editor is serious, yo. She is very likeable. I can't help being deeply impressed and kind of fascinated by her, because the level of commitment and time investment her daily ensemble and makeup clearly requires is beyond my ken. If I achieve the "shirt/pants/nothing hanging out" trifecta, I'm good; if I've moisturized and actually blow-dried my hair, that's a bonus. I can't imagine--though I would much like to see--Goth Editor trying to get 12 black crinolines into a gym locker, say.

Today we had a meeting in Goth Editor's office, which I was eager to see. It did not disappoint, chock-full of Edward Gorey ephemera and string lights in the shape of bats, plus the huge ergonomic FitBall she sits on--it stands to reason, I suppose, that wearing such a detailed and extensive wardrobe does require real attention to one's core strength. The thing that most blew my mind, though? She had black Post-its. Black! She had them stuck here and there, little notes on them in bright metallic pink ink.

I could not help myself. "Where do you even get black Post-its--Goth Depot?" I blurted. To her credit, she laughed.

"Actually, I found them at Michael's," she said.

And that was the best thing I'd heard all day, man. The thought of this woman, in her skull rings and black lipstick and gypsy-vampire-squaredance clothing, trudging up and down the craft aisles among ladies hoping to make goose-in-a-bonnet suncatchers or whatever--that, Internets, filled me with boundless glee.

Paging George Costanza

Further evidence that New York City is the finest metropolis on the planet: as I heard on NPR yesterday, they cater to the modern businessperson with specialty boutiques just for napping.

MetroNaps has both Midtown and Wall Street locations (as well as, mysteriously, the Vancouver BC airport), and franchise opportunities are available should you want to open your own shop of crazy ergonomic reclining space pods for people to pay to doze in. They offer punch cards (buy six naps, get one free!), and (my favorite page) a selection of Nap Strategies. For when you feel like nodding off at your desk, but aren't sure how to make that most productive, I guess.

I'm so in love. And I'm sure I would need a little nap in my Sleep Egg after ordering in a different variety of mac and cheese for lunch every day, so it's all good. My Manhattan career plans are virtually set!

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Holy Jesus, it's hot--high 90s and humid for the second day in a row; it feels like New York. Granted, I imagine that actual New York is worse, but you have to understand that this is extremely unusual for the Pacific Northwest and we have no clue how to cope. Big companies might have air conditioning, but virtually no homeowners or small businesses do, since this shit happens only two or three times a year. So we're stumbling around limply, all Boneless Chicken Ranch, making unfortunate displays of near-nakedness. A small, sad percent hurry out to the lakes and rivers to drown. Everyone and everything stinks a little. I've been moving myself and the fan from room to room as the sun blasts different quadrants of my house; I sprawl in front of the hot breeze as if dropped from a great height.

This morning I walked (ve. ry. slow. ly.) up to the Greenwood business district for coffee. I find the snippets of life from wide-open doors and windows oddly touching and funny, somehow: the Dopplering drift of the ball game from one home, the 70s Gold hits that perpetually blare from the Tiki Torch Party House. Someone shouts "I can't, I'm all soapy! I'm all SOAPY!" from the shower. The proprietor of the Turkish rug shop is planted on the sidewalk outside, gabbing into a cell phone and incongruously drinking hot coffee; at the faux German bier hall, the door is locked but the high casement windows all yawn open in defeat: if you want to scale the building, topple in, and steal beer, go ahead, they give up.

I went to Starbucks for the air-conditioning. Yeah, yeah, giant ruthless billion-dollar corporation, yadda yadda--my dollars BUY that air-conditioning. It was delicious, and I lingered as long as I dared. Outside again, the heat clapped down like a heavy arm around your shoulders: the boisterous, blowhard colleague, the close talker you just cannot shake off.

In high school, both Holly and I worked in a weird little gift shop on Capitol Hill, selling greeting cards and exotic chunky jewelry, crystal vases and wedding-present-type items. The owner was an older woman with a pronounced Norma Desmond streak; she'd swan around the place in palazzo pants and the occasional turban, and was given to breathy, dramatic declarations: "WATCH these babies fly out of here!" she'd proclaim over a new shipment of lurid handbags, or "I don't want any STOOL-SITTERS." This last meant that you could not simply perch behind the cash register, but had to appear busy, usually by dusting. "Norma" kept vast bales of rags in the stockroom and an endless supply of Windex. Holly and I spent countless Sunday afternoons poking around the dozens of shelves and rearranging the film of dust that lay over every piece of china and stemware.

Norma had several wretched prejudices. She or her husband would count in the cash drawer in the mornings--frequently wrong. The register was ancient, the kind where you had to punch keys for each decimal place: TEN dollars and FOUR dollars and SIXTY cents and FIVE cents, putting your whole weight behind it so that the correct little tabs would pop up in the glass window on top. The till rarely balanced at the end of the day, and Norma would give us the fish eye. More than once, Holly and I crawled on the floor searching for every last dropped coin, or even scrounged change out of our own purses to remain above suspicion. Far, far worse were the occasions when a customer of color would come in while I was working, because if Norma was present she'd sidle up to me and hiss "Watch the BLACK." Oh my God. I was seventeen, mortified but not bold enough to defy her, and so I'd miserably trail around the store behind the rare African-American shopper. I am still sorry about this, still ashamed.

But Norma had her moments of strange tenderness and generosity, too. When Holly and I finished our last summer at the shop and were leaving for our respective colleges, Norma presented us each with a big honkin' footlocker. (Because she'd known my family since I was in kindergarten, I was also shocked to receive two pieces of Oleg Cassini luggage.) At one point or another, three generations of my family worked in Norma's store: my mother had, when she was newly divorced and back in college; my grandmother, when she was freshly widowed and half-mad with grief and needed a distraction. I don't think Norma needed her, frankly--but she saw Grammy's anguish and found space in the budget for her wages, kept her busy dusting dusting dusting and allowed her to empty her mind, an extraordinary kindness.

This is how I prefer to remember her, and what I'm thinking of now when it's blistering hot. The store was in a small brick building that held heat like a pizza oven, and on certain summer days it was easily 20 degrees hotter inside than out. One day like today, Holly and I were drooping like our own dustrags while Norma sat in her windowless office in back, even hotter, a wet towel wrapped around her head to cut the misery. It wasn't enough, and finally she emerged, gruffly booming "It is entirely TOO HOT! We deserve A TREAT!" She stomped regally out the door. Holly and I shrugged at each other.

Ten minutes later, Norma stalked back. Carefully aligned between her fingers were three already-dripping vanilla ice cream cones from the place down the block. "Here," she said grandly, and the three of us loitered at the counter, chasing the rivulets of vanilla, trying to outrun the inevitable mess. No more dusting that day...just a momentary cooling off, a quick sweetness that, it turns out, has lingered.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The greatest city in the world


S'MAC: an East Village restaurant that specializes exclusively in varieties of macaroni and cheese. Evidently served up in big ol' cast-iron skillets. And they deliver.

The mountains and lakes n'all are pretty, but occasionally I have no freaking idea why I moved back home, man.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Decisions, decisions

A mysterious sidebar ad on the Seattle P-I's Web site declares simply "Vote for Ann Coulter!"

Unless that's " be fired from a goddamn cannon into a solid brick wall," then no, I don't believe I'll be clicking.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's probably just my clamshell bra

I was in a public restroom at the mall, running a comb through my hair, when a mom with two little girls came in. One kid goggled at me for a moment and then blurted, "Mommy, she has RED HAIR!"

True enough: Feria "Cinnamon", $9.99 a box at Bartell's, dear heart. I chuckled.

After a pause, the kid elaborated: "She looks like ARIEL!"

Well, now I know what to say in my personal ad under "Celebrity you resemble most."