Some other beginning's blah blah blah

It's not official for the DMV, the bank, the insurance company or even for me yet, but all my stuff is here, so I officially live in New York.

I feel I must make one outstanding, pervading, overarching observation that I am sure will blow apart every preconceived notion any of you have ever had about the state of New York; this observation may even change your lives with the meteoral impact of the great weight of the information it carries:


Let me allow that mind-numbing wealth of information to set in.

Okay, you think you can go on now?

The hilarious part is that it's not even winter, and it's not even that cold, but it's WINDY. Oswego is a port town, right on Lake Ontario, and my house is, quite literally and God I wish I was kidding, two blocks from the water. So take steady 20-25mph winds that will only get stronger as the season goes on, add clouds and rain that have been around since I arrived, throw in regular Oswego fall temperatures of 55 degrees or so, and for spice sprinkle on a Carolina girl who hasn't unpacked any of her winter clothes yet.

Speaking of rain, it was raining when I left North Carolina; it rained for the two days that my mother and I were on the road; it rained when we got here, and lo and behold it's still raining. We saw the sun yesterday for about two hours. I asked Garrett if it's always like this, and he blinked. "I did tell you, didn't I, that they call Oswego 'the land of the steel sky'?"

"...oh. Guess you did."

But if the weather isn't smiling, the people sure are. I had been excited to get up to Oswego because Nu Chapter of Mu Beta Psi is at SUNY Oswego, Garrett's alma mater. Nu Chapter is a great bunch of folks; not that my native Mu Chapter isn't, but each Chapter has its own identity and personality, and I feel so at home with the Nus. When I first met them over a year ago, they welcomed me as their own. Granted, we're all Brothers, so we're all each other's keepers, but they didn't make me feel like a Mu visiting Nus. They made me feel like a Brother visiting Brothers, which is how it should be. This time was no different. They were overjoyed to see me when I walked into their Brothers' meeting last night, and they included me in their conversations when we went out to eat afterwards. They're so friendly that one of them even cuddled with me this morning after Garrett left for work-- with his permission, of course (not that I wasn't a little surprised to see a face that was not Garrett's beside me-- she meant well, really).

I haven't had time to feel any real nostalgia for North Carolina, though I do frequently think about the folks I left behind. I miss them already, and I've found myself wondering what they're doing tonight and maybe we can go out to Franklin Street or something. Then I remember that Franklin Street is a bit of a hike for me now.

Just to let everyone know: I am saving up all the hugs I normally give you folks for when I come back for Christmas. So everyone in North Carolina, be prepared to be hugged to death by a small white girl.


Strong is her hold

Boy do I have bad timing.

I had been waiting a year and a half for what went around to finally come around, and two weeks before I leave the company, eleven years of selfishness and mismanagement explode in my boss’s face in a great karmic fart.

She quit before she could get fired, but the effect is still the same. She remains in the bakery, but being kicked back from team leader to receiver (yes, my job) is a significant pay and benefit cut. Her home life and personal situation struck a match of pity, but that ember died in the next breath because oh right, look at all she’s done to her employees and her department. I’ll spare you the details.

Karma’s a bitch and then you get reincarnated as a dung beetle.

In other news, this is the fifth year in a row that I have missed the NC Literary Festival. This troubles me deeply, because this year it was hosted by the UNC-Chapel Hill Library system, and I had absolutely no reason not to go. In fact, three of my professors were featured in the festival and read from their books.

The Festival is just what its name implies; a celebration of the various writers and books that have come out of North Carolina and the South over the years. John Grisham and Clyde Edgerton were among the keynote speakers, as well as R. L. Stine and Kathy Reichs. If you’re curious: www.ncliteraryfestival.org

I would not be so stricken by this if I were remaining in North Carolina for another year and another festival. But I’m pulling up my Tarheel roots and moving, as my mountain-born friend jokingly put it, “Up thar whar them Yanks gon’ suck all the South outta ya.”

I know I gripe about living in the land of tobacco and NASCAR, about how I feel displaced here, but a gentle Carolina twang rolls so naturally off my lips that, despite myself, I do belong here in a distantly-anchored sort of way. I was born here, grew up here, and except for brief stints out of the country, lived my life here. I know North Carolina well, and even though I may not like her very much, I do love her, because she’s my mother, and she’ll always be home.

Let it be known that I will cry if I hear “Carolina In My Mind” anytime soon.



Screw the landlord, I'm keeping a cat in my apartment.

He's the tuxedo, the dark-colored one, the last one standing of six kittens from the litter Mama Cat had when I first found her this time two months ago.

Since he was dark-colored and very shy, he was my least favorite kitten of the bunch.  I've had solid-colored black or grey cats all my life (except for a brief stint with a tuxedo named Gus which I try to wipe from my mind), and the white and orange tabby kittens were of much more interest to me.

But for some reason, Little Bit was the only one who stuck around.  Three of the kittens found homes, two disappeared, but Bit stayed with his mother, despite the apparent terror my presence caused him.  I did like every good foster would do: tried to socialize him, used the safety of his mother to help make him comfortable around people.  But I despaired; he would not come out of his shell.  It would be difficult to find him a home if he ran at the sight of people. 

Then, Mama Cat got herself knocked up again.  I was reasonably sure when I saw the tuxedoed tom wandering around; I was dead sure when Mama Cat turned up at my door looking like she'd swallowed a dodgeball.  I'd made her an appointment to get spayed today, actually, but that's another ordeal to tell.

Mama Cat thereafter wanted nothing to do with her remaining son and began reprimanding him for breathing her air, in that special clawy-bleedy way that cats do.  Which is normal, but a bit heartbreaking.  Mama Cat has wanted less to do with me as well, but Bit has completely changed his tune.

He has become my dream kitten.  He has become the cat I've always wanted, the cat that will actually cuddle with me instead of allowing me to touch him on his terms.  Bit will let me hold him for as long as I can stand and longer, he will curl up in my lap wherever I sit and purr until it gets awkward, he will cry and cry and cry until I pay attention to him, and whatever attention I give he will cherish.  In turn, I try to give him as much attention as I can, offer him as many playthings as I have on hand (sacrificing a pair of socks, a dish towel and a set of shoelaces in the cause), and welcome him with a purr of my own whenever he seeks a warm place to sleep.  I love him deeply, as much as I have loved any animal, as much as I swore to myself I could not.

In the back of my mind I knew I had to find a home for him before I leave for New York, but in the rest of my mind I gripped jealously to the hope that I could take him with me.  But I made a vet appointment in any case, and I took him to get his vaccines yesterday.

Imagine my surprise when he stepped out of the cage and the vet tech dropped her jaw and went "Oh my God."

What?  I know I'm not schooled or qualified, but I'm not blind.  Is there some horrific ailment on him that I'm not seeing?  What??

"Is...is he... brown?  What color is he?"

"I... don't know.  I guess he's brown.  Brown-grey."

"I have never SEEN a cat that color," the tech squealed, and called in the rest of the staff that was not elbow-deep in animal.

I thought Little Bit was black when I first saw him, but as he got older his coat lightened to a shade that I couldn't really call grey, was too light for black and was too black for brown.  Not that "brown" would be a cat color, not like the earth-brown of a chocolate lab or the flecked agouti of a rat.

Like brown horses, brown cats just don't exist.  In the genetics of horse coloring, there is no "brown" gene, but two base colors, black and red, and a series of "dilute" genes that bleed the melanin out of these colors in different patterns and make all the variations you see.  The closest to true brown you can get are the diluted-black combinations of bay, liver chestnut, and a seal color that's really just a black mane and tail and tan highlights in the flank, muzzle and underbelly.  Since I had never seen a brown cat, I figured something like the genetics in horses applied to cats as well, so though I was seeing "brown", I thought "grey". 

"Cats like you just don't exist," the veterinarian cooed as she held the ever-purring Bit up to examine him,  "especially not in tuxedoes."  The doctor told me that some rare exotic breeds are just straight-up brown, also called seal, but without much of the highlights horses have.  She asked me what color his parents were.  I said his mother was white and I thought his father was a black tuxedo, but I wasn't so sure.  She asked me what color Bit was when he was littler, and I said I thought he'd been black, which is why I named him as I did.  She nodded sagely and said, "He probably was black.  I really wonder if he'll change color again."  I asked her if she thought he would, and she said she'd no idea.

"You're a little chocolate kitten, aren't you," she said, which set off a flurry of chocolate-related names from the staff all crowded into the room.  "Godiva," said one.  "But he's a boy," said another.  "Hershey," "Nestle," "Ghiardelli," "Too fancy!"  "Truffle," "Cocoa,"... it went on.

I for one preferred "Chococat", after this fellow.

He's cousin to Hello Kitty and cuter than her, I think.  I also tried "Charlie", after the famous book about a chocolate factory, and so far Bit has yet to show his dislike.

But really, it's not up to me.  It's up to the lady that will be coming to pick him up later today.

Since he was such a celebrity, if not for his color than for his patience, good temper and surprising lack of nervousness that most cats exhibit when being poked and prodded in uncomfortable places, the whole staff said that they'd find someone to foster him right away.

They weren't lying.  I was barely home when I got an email from one tech who gave me the phone number of a foster lady.  I called her and that's that.

I will miss my Little Bit a lot-a-bit.



So Fresh and So Clean Clean

It's hard to believe I started my blog three years ago.  I was still in college three years ago, Lord bless me.

I decided to lay it to rest for several reasons.  First, its original purpose was to be a public diary for those homebound to read while I was abroad in New Zealand.  I wanted to give my friends and family a taste of life over there, filtered through the unique and sometimes humorous lens of my writing.  I had intended to delete it after I got back home and save the archives.  After I got home, though, I kept at it for a more selfish reason.

Second is the selfish reason.  I wanted to keep myself verbally lubricated; I wanted to use it so I wouldn't lose it, but a blog just wasn't the place to do it.  A blog, being in a public place like the internet (hard to imagine somewhere more public), should contain material that is tangentially, marginally, slightly, obliquely of interest to the public.  My blog, after New Zealand, was not that.  It had its moments; in its last year I tried to restrict entries to humorous vignettes and works of semi-fiction.

Third and probably most important was my realization that I was writing freely about events at my place of employment that, if found and connected to the company, would get me in big trouble, despite their truth.  So from here on out, I won't mention anything about my work other than in the vaguest terms, because I do not want this blog to appear whenever someone Googles my place of employment.

That being said, welcome to the new blog!

There are yet three more reasons why I'm starting this one:  First, even though I haven't done any real writing in a while, the itch never really goes away.

Second, I wanted this one to be a throwback to my last one.  I started that one for New Zealand and I'm starting this one for New York.  I will be moving there at the end of this month, not for a visit or for a study abroad, but for actual real.

Most of you know that I'm moving upstate, right on lake Ontario, to a college town called Oswego. It is home to SUNY Oswego, which is home to Nu Chapter of Mu Beta Psi. By no coincidence, SUNY Oz is Garrett's alma mater, and his new teaching job is in the next town over.  He's taught at Mexico High School before, so of course all the school knows him and he was given an interview and then a job in two days.  Because that's how he rolls.

The third purpose of this entry really is to just flail with glee and proclaim to all the world that I am officially ending my current employment in 12 days. I would have posted something on Facebook, but my boss recently got an account there.  Oh what is this world coming to.

Handing in my two weeks' notice usually wouldn't be worth more than the breath it takes to say it, but compare this situation to retiring honorably from a year and a half service in the Revolutionary War, rather than dying (not from your leg being shot off by a six-pounder but) from a botched surgery and gangrene or blood poisoning.

Not that working under my boss is as life-threatening and disease-ridden as marching on the front line of an 18th century battle, but it's just as nerve-wracking and maybe a bit louder.

Soldiers in my department get mown down too soon more often than not, most for no good reason.  One quite literally has to keep one's ass down or it will get shot off.  That is the philosophy under which I have been operating for these past 17 months.  It's paid off for me, but sometimes that's not even enough.  I won't try to psychoanalyze her because to attempt it would surely send me down a spiral into madness.  But I have known good soldiers, honest soldiers, hard workers with good hearts that she pink slipped out of the blue.  Since that is the only thing, I repeat, the only thing about which my boss is tight-lipped, we have to rely on the extensive ant-tunnel spiderweb root system other nature metaphor network of gossipers to get any sort of answer or story about why they were fired.  And the only story for some of those folks is a shrug and a tenuous speculation diluted by its frequent use.

But I have survived.  I have survived 4 a.m. shifts, three different buyers, a major store renovation, a promotion, a new assistant team leader, a new store manager, two new assistant store managers, several cycles of employee turnover, two summers of slow sales, hundreds of angry customers, an economic meltdown, a personnel meltdown, and most importantly, I have survived the slow and inevitable decline of our department.

And in case you're wondering, yes, it was worth it.  I made friends and money.  That's one more thing than I was expecting to get out of it.