Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why is Utah even part of the United States?

On the plane on my way home Tuesday I read an article in the Albany Times Union about church-owned NBC affiliate KSL in Utah, which is refusing to air The New Normal, an upcoming sitcom about a gay couple who are trying to have a baby via a surrogate. Evidently, the show is "inappropriate for family viewing" and has "offensive dialogue and explicit content."

New readers may not know that before coming to Las Vegas, I lived in Utah for about a year.  Yes, it's a beautiful state and it was awesome being able to hike in national parks whenever we wanted, but let's just say I would never live there again. Call me crazy, but I actually like the whole separation of church and state idea.

I remember they're very careful there about what they want people to see (and hear) on TV.  We had to get satellite TV because the local cable station didn't include Comedy Central.  When Jimmy Kimmel's show debuted, they aired it at 2 a.m.  And our neighbors told us they were watching Jay Leno one night and the sound magically muted while Ellen Degeneres talked about celebrating Thanksgiving with her girlfriend.

I also remember going to Costco and seeing the polygamy families--one old guy and a bunch of women in Little House on the Prairie outfits--who'd come to shop from nearby Hildale and Colorado City.  My friends told me about the "Lost Boys" from those communities, teenage boys with little education or life skills who are forced to leave--sometimes literally dumped on the side of the road--so there would be less competition for wives.

Think I'm kidding?  Check out the documentary Sons of Perdition, a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of teenagers exiled from their families and community by that friggin' nut case Warren Jeffs.  Who, BTW, was in full command when I lived in Utah.  And nobody seemed to care.

And don't think that just because Jeffs is now behind bars, this shit still isn't happening. It's all so wrong.


In case you haven't seen this excerpt from my book:

A glimpse of life in Utah

In this chapter I return to Utah to dump some stuff in my ex's car and give readers just a glimspe of what it was like to live there. It's a middle chapter, so it's a bit out of context, but you'll get the picture.

This is good; I need to get away. I’ve been driving myself nuts getting ready for Sunday night--analyzing, restructuring, and punching up my material. (It’s five minutes, for God’s sake.) Plus I want to get rid of his stuff. My apartment is my sacred space and I don’t need his crap stinking up the joint.

Our old house in Utah looks the same. I could have headed directly to the faculty parking lot, but it takes such minimal effort—in this case, a three-block detour—to perpetuate my exercise in self-torture. Scabs from emotional wounds beg to be picked at, and I willingly oblige, if only to confirm I’ll still bleed. Sure enough, the sight of someone else’s red Neon sitting in the driveway that used to be ours invokes the perfect degree of suffering. Linda doesn’t live here anymore. Another two steps back in the healing process. Good job.

The town looks the same, too. Nestled in the foothills of magnificent red rocks, innocuous little mom-and-pop establishments peddle Victorian gifts, country living d├ęcor, scrapbook supplies--nothing funky or eccentric. The newsstand displays this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan behind a chunk of black plastic to shield us from the shapely model’s allure. While Cedar City’s physical setting calls to one’s sense of adventure, the collective vibe feels bleached and scoured to ensure nothing skirting the borders of decency will ever take root. Yuk.

I could shake off the repressive culture when I lived here, but after five months of enjoying the decadence of Las Vegas, this place now gives me the creeps. My innate defiance against authority yearns to rebel. I fantasize about covering myself in vulgar tattoos and shouting obscenities as I strut down Main Street with a lesbian lover—let’s make her black—in our matching “Jesus Hates Me” t-shirts. It’s a shame; it’s beautiful here. If I could populate the town with the people from Laramie, I’d never want to leave.

His car is parked in its usual spot, and according to plan, he’s left it unlocked. I dump two bags of crap in the back seat. That should be the last of it. I meant to tell him he’d better change the address for his precious Economist subscription because from now on I’m throwing them the fuck out.

It’s weird to be in his energy. But since I am, I may as well snoop a little. I search for a morsel of evidence, some hint of what he’s been up to lately, unsure of what I hope to find. Receipts? Condoms? The Guide to Picking Up Girls, Volume II? I’d still love to know what that was about. I rummage through his glove compartment—“glove box,” as he calls it—and find, of all things, gloves. Damn! He’s not this tidy. I bet he cleaned out the car just this morning, knowing I’d be in it.

Afterward I meet up with my girlfriends Michael and Becky at the bar at Applebee’s. Earth-mother Becky, in her flowing skirt and Birkenstocks, is as sweet as ever. She has papers to grade, though, and stays for only a minute. Too bad. Michael is decked out in Ann Taylor from head to toe, her way of proclaiming, “I’m not from here; I just live here.” She continues to struggle, I can tell. Her clothes are exquisite, but her face looks like she just had a throw-up burp.

Who could blame her? I’d be reaching for the razor blades if I were in the middle of my third divorce. She and Mona are the same age, and like Mona, her “marital dissolution” is much more complicated than mine was. They have assets to divide, a house to give up. But unlike Mona, Michael actually liked her husband. That makes it harder.

She motions for a refill and our pig-tailed barmaid hurries over.

“I’m sorry, ladies, I can’t serve you another drink until you order something to eat,” she informs us.

“Oh, Jesus,” I groan.

“Exactly,” Michael murmurs.

Someone in pigtails is denying us alcohol. “You can’t have more than one drink unless you order food,” she explains. “Would you like to try our cheesy bacon tavern chips?”

Michael can bite that girl’s head off in one chomp. “Whatever happened to separation of church and state?” she asks, as she reaches for her lighter and cigarettes.

Pippi Longstocking is all over her. “I’m sorry, ma’am. You’ll have to go outside to smoke.” Michael rolls her eyes in my direction. She’s deliberately being a pain in the ass, and she’s digging it. “OK,” she sighs, “we’ll take your cheesy bacon whatever-the-hell-it-is and I’ll have another vodka and cranberry.”

“Certainly, ma’am.”

“Make it a double,” she adds, kicking me under the bar.

“We can’t serve doubles, ma’am. I can give you a one-ounce pour and a side car. That’s a one-ounce shot on the side. You’ll have to mix it yourself.”

“You can’t serve doubles?” Michael shakes her head, though she knows the rules damn well. “Fine, give me the side car thing.” God, she’s precious. As long as it’s not directed at me, bitchy people can be utterly delightful.

I want to play, too. “I’ll have another Sam Adams, please.”

“Ma’am, I can’t serve you until you’ve finished that one. You can only have one beer in front of you at a time.”

I raise my three-quarter empty glass. “So if I chug this, you’ll bring me another?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You want me to chug my beer before I drive all the way back to Vegas?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she says, and marches away while she still can.

I turn to Michael, and though I’m no Jack Nicholson, coolly deliver my line. “I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast . . .” I need go no further. She gets it. Michael is pretty when she smiles.

I tell her about my stand-up debut three days from now.

“I can see you doing comedy,” she comments, without a hint of wonder. “You’re the funniest person I know.” Coming from someone whose lips curl only while tormenting a poor coed over morality laws, that means a lot. I think.


A short patch of I-15 clips the remote northwestern corner of Arizona and winds along the narrow walls of the Virgin River canyon. My drive through here earlier in the day was a steady climb through colorful cliffs and rocky crags, a scene, like so many out West, that impels me to thank God for my eyesight. Tonight I cruise downhill in the darkness, a little faster than I probably should. With both hands on the steering wheel, I maneuver the twisting pavement like a Play Station game, accumulating imaginary points with every passing mile marker.

This bit of highway that links the divergent worlds of Utah and Nevada serves as a birth canal of sorts. It was wonderful to see Becky and Michael, but it's clear they're in a world where I no longer fit; that part of my life is over. Even the twinge of nostalgia I felt in front of our old house ebbed straightaway.

After twenty minutes of joyful careening, the road ejects me from the canyon into the wide open sky. Cut loose from the protective parent, I'm on my own, with infinite possibilities lying ahead.

Utah is behind me. I'm a Vegas girl now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vegas bound today!

Today Mom and I are heading back to Las Vegas after an absolutely wonderful time in Albany.  I never get to see everybody I want to, but I was able to spend a lot of really good quality time with my family this trip. 

Can you tell I was happy to see my Quirky Lesbian Aunt Joyce?  She had us in stitches earlier in the day when she was talking about how she always sees people who remind her of animals.  She's seen a frog, a buffalo, and even someone who looked like a pencil. Whenever she sees someone funny looking, she puts them on her prayer wall at church.  Straight to heaven for her!

She came in from Maine!

This pic was taken after Thursday night's event.  I'm with my youngest sister, Stacie, on the left and my brother, Steve, and sister Lori.

Four out of five Haber siblings

Doesn't Mom look great?  You'd never know that less than three months ago, she was in ICU.

Mom, my niece Marlee, and Lori

On Friday a bunch of us went up to the Saratoga Race Track. 

If I were a little smaller, maybe I could get a job as a lawn jockey

Click on that photo to get a better look at those shoes. I get so many compliments on them.  For those of you with small feet, Nine West has a children's line, which is available at Marshall's.  I take a 6 or 6 1/2, which is a size 4 in girl's, so I can wear kids' shoes if I want.  They are cuuuuute!

Here I am with my grandson, Connor, out in the paddock.  Shouldn't everyone have a beer-drinkin', horse-bettin' granny?  

Sitting out in the paddock

Yep, I bought him that shirt
With our dear friend Gina -- we've known her for 49 years!

On Saturday we hung out at Lori and Russ' pool.  The weather has been beautiful the whole time!

Hazel needs SPF 2000

Courtney and Hazel

Here's a pic of Hazel showing how much she loves her Aunt Lori.

Still the most serious baby on earth...

On Sunday I went over to see my old friend Chuck, who I told you about a while back.  He's in need of a kidney-liver transplant, and has a long road ahead of him.  Chuck's looking good, though, and I know that once the transplant is over, he'll have a new lease on life.  On Sunday night I took Connor to see Ted again; it was his second time and my third.  If I added up the cost of movie tickets I've spent on that film, I probably could have fed a poor African child for a year.

Last night we went out to see my son, Christopher, and his bride, Ketti.  They're freakin' adorable, and they have the cutest house and the cutest car, too.  They're just so cute!  Chris would kill me for all this cuteness, but it's true.

I don't care that he's 34.  He's still cute to me!

It's been a practically perfect trip; I just wish Mike could have been here.  But I'll see him later today, and that makes me happy!

The kids are back in school, Mom goes back to Boise on Wednesday, and real life will start up again soon.  Real life.  Not yet, though...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Our BIG night couldn't have been better!!!

Surreal -- my family's in lights!

Thursday night's fundraiser to benefit the alumni fund for St. Anne Institute was a HUGE success!  The Blackwell Sinners rocked it, I did really well, my sister Lori did an incredible job producing the show, the venue was fantastic and standing room only, and we made all kinds of money for the cause.  Sorry it's taken me so long to tell you, but as you can imagine, I've been going, going, going since I rolled into town.  As I write this, it's after midnight EDT Saturday night and I'm tired as hell, but I at least want to get some photos up.

Here are some of us in the green room before the show.  The kids' dad, "Lefty" Blackwell, put on a spread for everyone, which was really nice.

Christopher, Ketti, Brad, me, and Courtney

I wish I could have seen the Sinners perform from the green room, but I could hear them and they sounded amazing.  Fortunately, our friend Michael Joyce is a talented photographer and captured their performance.  He's still working on the video, but here are some of the pics he took.

St. Anne's CEO Tony Cortese opened the show with a big thank you to all, especially for Lori, "the committee of one."

St. Anne's CEO Tony Cortese

Then Lori spoke a little before introducing The Blackwell Sinners.

My sister Lori put the whole event together!

That's my ex Lefty on lap steel guitar, Dave Jenkins on bass, my daughter Courtney on guitar and vocals, my son Christopher on guitar and vocals, and Brad Towle on guitar.

The Blackwell Sinners



Of course, I was a wreck before my set--I so wanted to do well--but thankfully, the sound of my kids' music was just what I needed to calm my nerves.  I knocked it out of the park!

THANK GOD I did well.  There were so many people there; I really didn't want to suck.

Afterward, I signed books...


...and then a bunch of us--family, friends, and even the house manager of The Linda--headed to the bar across the street, where I had a big, dark celebratory beer!

That's Mom, front and center

I have lots more to say, but I'll save it for another time.  The bottom line is, words can't describe how appreciative I am.  Thank you to everyone in the Albany area who came out to the show, and thank you to all my readers for your words of encouragement. 

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No time to write--gotta boil the house!

Mom is coming today!  I pick her up at the airport at 7:10 this evening, so you know what that means--this house is getting a supercleaning.  Not that it ever gets that bad; I'm just neurotic.

Man, I've been so busy these past few days getting ready for Thursday's show.  I'm planning to do an hour-long set, and that's a lot of material, not only to write and structure, but to memorize and rehearse.  I'm a mental patient.  One of our friends is going to tape the show, so I'll have clips for you.

Last night I did a little shopping for something cute to wear; I'm still not sure what I'll end up in, but no doubt it'll be whatever makes me look the thinnest.  Speaking of, I've been really good these past few days cutting back on the carbs and am down below 140 again, which is good.  Ha! If I'd seen that sentence five years ago, I would have been like, "140!? You're a pig!"  Whatever.  I have bigger things on my mind right now.

Fortunately, I'll get the show off my plate the night after we arrive in Albany and so I'll have the rest of my time there to relax and visit.  You know I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Hallelujah! Granny's coming!

 I won't be able to post on Thursday, but I'll definitely have something up on Saturday.  And I'll be posting regularly on Facebook, so feel free to friend me.

Ticket sales for the show have been great--we've already netted more than a couple of thousand dollars for the cause.  I really want to do well.  Thanks so much for all your support; it means so much to me, especially during this time of mental insanity.

With love,

Miss Blotchy Neck

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I am who I was... a child of the "other" 1970s

I had trouble figuring out what to write today, and then this evening it all came into focus.  There's a part of me that's been dormant for far too long.

While making dinner tonight, I decided to plug into the Warren Zevon station on Pandora.  I rarely listen to music in the house--there's always too much going on downstairs and when I'm upstairs I usually have the TV on.  But the kids have been at their mom's house for the past few days, and I decided to listen to some tunes. 

At one point I caught myself dancing in the kitchen to the Dead's "Friend of the Devil," nearly stopping mid-twirl.  Wow, it's been so long since I danced around the house.  Too long.

Mike and I had a nice, quiet meal (low carb because I need to lose about 7 pounds before Thursday night) and then afterward I sat at my laptop in our office, scanning the selections on Netflix for something for the two of us to watch later on.  I came across a title, Jackson Browne: Going Home, and spent the next hour and a half mesmerized by "this chronicle of Jackson Browne's remarkable career containing interviews, performances and rare footage spanning 25 years featuring Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Graham Nash, The Eagles, David Lindley, Jennifer Warnes and many more.."

Watching the Netflix movie brought back a flood of memories, specifically from the years between 1976 - 1980.  I met my first husband, Chris Blackwell in 1976 and the babies were born in 1978 and 1979.  While most people might think of that as the disco era, it was anything but for us.   We were into singer-songwriters, many of whom emerged during the early part of the decade.  Our turntable played the names listed above, as well as the likes of Neil Young, J.D. Souther, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Karla Bonoff, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rankin, Asleep at the Wheel, Joni Mitchell, the Grateful Dead, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon, and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. 

Jackson Browne was our ultimate favorite, and namesake for our son, Christopher Jackson.  If you're a fan, you will appreciate this YouTube video.

We had music in our house--well, apartment--all the time.  That's what our kids grew up with, and it certainly influenced the choice of music they play today.  Our friends--especially Tim, Susan, and Chuck--would come over to our house (we were the only ones with kids) and we'd have parties what seemed to be every weekend.  It would be only a matter of time until the guitars came out and we'd all start singing, though alas, even back then my voice sounded like the ironing board opening. 

One night in I want to say it was 1979, Susan and I decided to play dress up.  I dug out some old prom gowns and we vamped it up on the piano.


That denim wall hanging that in my 21-year-old mind passed for living room decor was one of the two things I ever sewed.  I remember saving my old jeans for ages to make that.

The second thing I ever sewed was these kitchen curtains, which were actually pillowcases from Sears.

 Cooking Jiffy Pop in a Danskin--those were the days!
I think that one, too, was taken shortly after Courtney was born--look at those boobs, and I bet I weighed all of 112 pounds!

I felt so nostalgic tonight.  God, how time goes by.  And to think that in a few days, these two and their dad will be opening for me on stage. 

"And the seasons, they go 'round and 'round..."

Hey, coincidentally, I happen to be wearing a 70s-inspired dress today.  It's pretty old--though not that old--and I often feel it's out of place here in Vegas.  But it's me, and it's the me I sometimes long for without even realizing it.  So here's my campy piano photo, 2012.

Thirty-three years later

Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One week until the BIG night!

I am just out of my mind with excitement.  One week from today is my big night in Albany, where I'll be headlining at The Linda (how nice of them to name a venue after me!)

What a thrill it will be to share the stage with my kids and their dad, a.k.a. The Blackwell Sinners.

I wish Mike could go, but he's done two trips back East already this year, and with the kids starting school the following Monday ("It's the most wonderful time of the year..."), he just can't swing another trip this time.  But YAY--Mom has been given clearance to fly again! You may remember she had to miss my son's wedding because of that sky-high blood pressure incident last May.  Well, she's flying into Vegas on Tuesday and then we're heading to Albany on Wednesday.   I'm so glad she can make it--I have some new material (at her expense, of course) and it's so much fun when she's in the audience to witness it.

I'm SO psyched to be seeing so many people from my past and present--friends from high school and college and even my old Lincoln Avenue neighborhood, folks I used to work with, and new friends I've met only in the past couple of years.  Of course, my sister Lori shares many of the same friends--she said it will be like going to our own wake and we don't even have to die!

Speaking of wakes... stay with me here, this is funny... one of the people I'm really looking forward to seeing is my father's old friend, Hub.  Dad and Hub were friends since they worked at their first job together at the National Commercial Bank and Trust Company fresh out of high school.  Well, back in 1966--when there was still only three of us kids--my father gave Hub a picture of us.


That's me on the left!

Of course, Hub has gone through how many wallets in the past 46 years, and every time he gets a new one, our picture goes in it.

Long-time readers may remember my telling you that my father died suddenly of a heart attack while vacationing in Florida back in 1999.  We had an awesome wake and funeral, complete with a billboard of Dad from his days as a male model.

Okay, he was really a bus driver

Anyway, at that time we hadn't seen Dad's friend Hub in years.  I'll never forget how happy I was when Lori flashed that photo of us in front of my face in the receiving line and said, "Guess who's here?!"  Hub was always so nice to us, and he was just the comfort we needed.

I can't wait to see Hub next Thursday night.  I can't wait to see everybody!  Yes, I do feel a little (self-imposed) pressure to do well, but I'm going to give it my all.  If you're in the Albany area, I hope you can come!

I know we're supposed to live in the present moment, but man, there's so much to look forward to!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Not so wicked after all

In case you haven't inferred from some of my posts this summer, being a stepmother can be challenging, to say the least.  And no doubt, it's hard on kids, too, to have an outsider suddenly become a member of their family, and only a couple of years after the fracture of their original nuclear family. 

We all do our best, and remarkably, we live in harmony.  Yes, I have my moments--everybody does--and sometimes it's especially hard for me because when it comes to having kids around, I've already earned the "Been there, done that" T-shirt.  Mike's kids are amazingly well behaved (believe me, I wouldn't be here otherwise), but the fact is, I should be enjoying the time of life when I shouldn't have to worry about stepping on Legos or looking at dirty socks all over the living room floor.  Plus, you know me, on a good day I'm not the most patient person. 

So I thought this was funny--the other night Mike's 11-year-old son says to me, "You remind me of Sharon Osbourne."  He knows her from America's Got Talent

"You know, honey," I said, "I've been told that before, several times even.  Mostly when my hair was shorter."

"Well, it's not that you look like her that much; I think you act like her.  Like she's always nice and positive."

HUH?  Nice and positive?  I'm thinking all I do is say stuff like, "Who thinks I should be the one to pick up this crap?"

"Awww... Well, thank you," I said.

And then he went back to playing Minecraft.  And I didn't mind cleaning up the empty plastic cups all over the kitchen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"I'll get my vitamin C through Buffalo Bill's Orange Blossom Cream Ale, thank you."

Yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted this photo:

My comment?

Unfortunately for the most part, I friggin' hate fruits and vegetables.  Okay, I like corn and broccoli, and I like zucchini, but only the way my mother or I make it.  As far as bare fruits go, I'll eat watermelon and and blueberries.  The other morning I cut up some cantaloupe and strawberries for Mike's kids and then showed them how much better they taste with chocolate syrup over them.  Stepmother of the Year.

Forget bananas--my mother says I used to spit them out when I was a baby.  (Ironically, I'm addicted to Starbucks' banana walnut bread.)  Celery?  You couldn't pay me a thousand dollars to eat a raw celery stalk.

When my kids were little, when offered a food they didn't care for, they would shake their heads and say, "I can't like that." I feel the same way when  I look at that "I'm Eating Healthy" picture--I just can't like it. 

The other day in yoga, the instructor was going on and on about some friggin' farmers' market and I'm thinking, "Bleeeech!"  I felt like such an oddball because everyone was like, "Oooooh, I'll have to check that out..." and I'm thinking, "I'll get my vitamin C through Buffalo Bill's Orange Blossom Cream Ale, thank you."

Quite honestly, and I've written about this before, I find yoga people kind of annoying.  But a couple of weeks ago I started taking a Yoga for Stress Relief class and I told the instructor right off the bat that I need this class because I'm about to kill somebody (remember those posts?) and now--I swear to God--I think I'm her favorite student because every time I see her she's super nice, and I don't mean super nice in that fake holistic yoga way.  I mean she smiles at me like we have a secret handshake.  Cool.

And then last week I overheard a woman tell the girl at the desk, "I need this.  I'm a mess."  I looked at her and said, "Sister, you are my new best friend."  Then after class we went out for coffee and bagels--yeah, fattening bagels and cream cheese--and we had a great time bitching and swearing.  It's so nice when you meet somebody who hates the same things you hate, no? 

So not everybody who does yoga is annoying, and I'm not making judgments about people who like fruit and vegetables.  I'm just saying they're not for me. I'm still a lovely person.

Oh, before I finish, I want to share this fond vegetable memory.  When we were kids, my father would eat about four ears of corn and he'd always end up with kernels and greasy butter all over his face.  Well, we thought it was hysterical and we'd giggle and point at him and he'd yell to my mother, "Jesus Christ, I'm trying to eat my goddamn corn and they're laughing at me!"  Which would make us laugh even harder.  Fond, fond memories.

One last thing.  You know I'm the most politically incorrect person on earth, but don't you think it was a little cruel when they used to refer to people as "vegetables"?  I mean, wow.

Honestly, I don't know how you can possibly comment on this one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Repost: I'm problematic, you're problematic

I read another blogger's post yesterday where she said something to the effect that her friends were rolling their eyes about her current boyfriend.  That got me to thinking that it wouldn't be a bad idea to repost the following, from last July.  At the time, I was living in Linda Land and Mike and I were "on a break," and yes, and that was only a year ago. I have a lot of new reader since then--and a lot of them are men--so I'd love for you to weigh in.

The other day one of my best friends (who doesn't read this blog) emailed me and asked if I was back with Mike yet.  "You don't have a good history of ridding yourself of problematic men," she wrote.  "As a matter of observation, I would say you are magnetized to them."

Um, just how am I supposed to react to that? 

I suppose I could start by asking, who the fuck isn't problematic?  By the time we're 50, most of us have a shitload of baggage and personal idiosyncrasies that would drive anyone up the wall.  It's not like when we were in college and were pretty much a lump of clay yet to be molded. 

We all sit somewhere on the "problematic" scale and granted, some of us weigh in a lot more heavily than others.  Bastard Husband was/still is a drinker and that was definitely a problem in our marriage.  In comparison, Mike's a lightweight.  He's a certifiable genius, but that brilliance can be a freakin' curse when it comes to day-to-day life skills.  Add young children into the mix, plus the fact that I'm a self-diagnosed "Highly Sensitive Person" (a.k.a. "Pain in the Fucking Ass") and we have a perfect storm.

Those of us in our 40s, 50s, and beyond have decades of experiences under our belts that form the basis of who we are and how we look at life. As a result, the older we get, the more we're set in our ways. We know what works for us and what doesn't.  In effect, and especially for a picky-ass person like me, the window of relationship opportunity is open just a crack.  It gets harder to find someone who has the winning combination of personal characteristics, professional accomplishments, logistics (such as availability and geographic location), and chemistry that we look for in a partner. 

So when I find someone I really dig and fall in love with, yes, I will leave no stone unturned to see if somehow we can make this work.  If you read my book you know I would have done anything to save my marriage to B.H.; I call it a love story for a reason.  And I can't tell you how many times I've hit the wall of frustration with Mike only to go back with him, believing there has to be some way to keep this together. 

I don't often get defensive, mostly because I don't give a crap what people think, but I find my friend's remarks insulting.  I continue to be amazed at what people, I'm gonna say married people, will say to us single folks.  I swear, someday my eyeballs will need to be surgically removed from my cerebellum. 

So single folks, tell me about the crazy shit you hear. And for those of you living in wedded bliss, here's the link to a post I wrote a while back on what you should never say to single people.  Please, I beg of you, read this!

And for the record, Bastard Husband is a professor with a Ph.D. and Mike's a computer wiz and successful businessman who was able to retire at 38. That's the caliber of men I'm magnetized to.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

If you thought I was done talking about Billy Jack, you're mistaken

Awesome comment on my last post from lightning36 answering the question, "What would Billy Jack do?" about the increasing demands employers are making on job candidates:
What would Billy Jack do? He'd start by rubbing his face with his hand, saying, "I want you to know... that I try. When Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I'm supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, I try. I really try."
That just made my day!

So Mike and I have been all Billy Jacked-up since our trip to Prescott last weekend, right?  Well, last night we were at our Henderson Writers' Group meeting and somebody brought in a bunch of books to give away.  And look what I just happened to pick up:

Yes, that would be the screenplay by Frank and Teresa Christina of the greatest youth culture movie of its time, published in 1973.  (lightning36, your quote is on p.40.)   Although it endured years of red tape to get to the theater, the movie cost $800,000 to make and grossed over $65 million.  So I guess that little independent film was pretty successful.

Its hard to believe, but Tom Laughlin, the good looking guy who wrote, directed and produced the movie, is almost 82 years old now.  I've done a little research--he's very interesting! 
  • He began acting in the 1950s, but in the early 60s, he temporarily left his film career behind to start what would become the largest Montessori preschool of its kind in the U.S.  Once of its students was Christian Brando, son of Laughlin's friend, Marlon Brando.
  • He's done extensive research and written several books on Jungian psychology and alternative cancer therapy treatments.  
  • He once beat up actor Gene Wilder when they were in Washington High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • After working on a film with Laughlin, Robert Altman once called him "an unbelievable pain in the ass." 
  • In real life he's been married to Dolores Taylor, who played Jean in the movie, since 1954. That year he wrote the original screenplay for Billy Jack after witnessing the treatment of Native Americans in Taylor's hometown on Winner, South Dakota.
  • He ran for President of the United States three times (1992, 2004 and 2008). 
  • He once said that the day OJ Simpson was found guilty was "one of the sickest, sorriest days in our culture."
  • Since 2001, he has had a serious of health issues including cancer of the tongue, an auto-immune disorder, and a series of strokes.  
  • If you go to his website, you'll see videos that show he's still speaking out--even saying that John Travolta is being blackmailed.
Don't tell me you didn't learn something today.

But isn't it weird that I probably went close to 35 years without the thought of Billy Jack crossing my mind and the day after we get home from Prescott, where filming for the movie began, we come across this book?  I mean seriously, before you read about him lately in this blog, when's the last time you thought of Billy Jack?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Home from a nice weekend away, and more thoughts on the job search

Aaaah!  Mike and I just got back from a glorious weekend in Prescott, Arizona.  As I've written before, I love Prescott--it's artsy and laid back and full of my type of people.  And there's tons of live music.

Mike had never been, and I think the highlight for him was seeing the courthouse square in downtown Prescott where the famous scene in the 1971 cult movie Billy Jack was filmed.  This clip shows you exactly where we were.

We watched Billy Jack on Netflix a few months ago.  What a cool movie; a great reminder of our youth. That's the beauty of being with someone the same age as you--you have the same pop culture reference points.

Man, Billy Jack is cool...

Anyway, thanks for all your support on the job search front.  I appreciate hearing your comments and knowing I'm not alone in my frustration.  Misery loves company, no?  In case you missed it, I want to share what my buddy Vegas Flea had to say.  I know Vegas Flea in real life, and believe me, he's a no bullshit kind of guy.
I've experienced the same kind of thing. I once went for an interview for an IT position and was handed a ten page test. Basically, a college exam. I made it through about 2 questions and went back into the manager's office and asked,

"What's the salary for this position?"

I put the exam on his desk and left.

I've since tried to nip this bullshit in the butt, by forcing someone from the company to answer some questions before the interview process even starts. 
I had a similar experience a few years ago.  I passed the screening interview for a six-month instructional designer position.  Then I got an email with an attachment that was essentially a final exam for Instructional Design 101.  I called the recruiter and said, "I'm not filling this out.  I'm sorry your client can't assess my qualifications from the experience listed on my resume."

A couple of days later the recruiter called back and said their client was really interested in me and that I didn't have to do the test.

"Not interested," I said.  "Any employer who would expect a candidate to complete a test like that is going to be a real pain in the ass to work for.  Nope, not interested."

Of course, it was easy for me to say that because at that time I still had a job (that I hated) and was pretty much testing the waters.  So I could be picky.  Would I do the same now?  Yep.  Let them know they're missing out on a great candidate--and someone's who's a friggin' blast to work with.

Bahs-terds.  Hmmm... gotta wonder, what would Billy Jack do?

Having an adventure

Sorry for no post yesterday--I'm having an adventure (again).  Be back as soon as I can!  Life is good...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Job search 2012 -- what a pain in the ass!

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that as far as my day job experience goes, in the past 20 years since I got out of grad school I've worked primarily as a contractor, doing either technical writing or corporate training.  I love contract jobs--you work for a specified length of time, and when it's over, it's over and you do the unemployment thing for a while until you find the next job.  As a result, I'm pretty much constantly conducting a job search, looking for the next opportunity.  No complaints.

Until now.  My last gig ended in early May, which means I've now been trying to line something else up for three months now.  And I'm telling you, looking for a job has never been more of a pain in the ass. 

First, let's talk about online applications. I'm getting mighty sick of having to cut and paste every position and bit of education into each field--after I just uploaded my resume.  Recently I found a posting for a technical trainer with "Company A" that I thought looked interesting--and therefore worthy of the 20 minutes I spent cutting and pasting and looking up street addresses of former employers.  But I did it.

Then I saw another position with the same company and guess what?  There was no way to access all the crap I just entered; there was no way to apply for more than one opening without going through the whole goddamn process again.  So you know what I did?  I sent an email directly to the sales department, with my resume attached.  And guess what?  Two days later a recruiter called me to come in for an interview.  I have yet to hear anything about the first position, which only confirms my suspicion that online applications go into a friggin' black hole, never to surface again.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite a match for the job I interviewed for.  I could say, Why the hell did I get all dolled up for nothing then? but I loved the guys who interviewed me and at least I know that Company A is a place I'd actually like to work in case they have something better suited to my background.  Everyone I interacted with seemed happy.  Good sign.

Okay, so the bottom line with the online applications is, I'm getting to the point now where unless the job looks super appealing, I'm not even bothering.  Oh, one of the major casinos here expects you to enter your social security number.  AS IF!

Here's another thorn in my side.  I apply for a job with Company B and get a reply saying they're interested in my background and that I should go to this website to take an assessment test.  And I should put aside 2-2 1/2 hours of uninterrupted time to complete it.  F-U!!! I don't even know what the job pays!  Nexxxxxxt!

Let me tell you two more things.  (You don't have to keep reading; it just feels good to let this rip.)  I responded to Company C's posting on Craig's List for a trainer--no online application, just a return email.  The next day, I hear from the hiring manager; the job is with a major casino.  Yay--I bypassed the online app bullshit!  As part of the selection process, I'd have to conduct a mock training session so they could get a sense of my style.  Fair enough--I've done that many times before where I just had to present 10 minutes of content on any topic I wanted.  No problem; I have plenty of stuff in my archives to choose from.

But noooooo.  Company C sends me an email saying they want me to conduct a 45-minute session using their curriculum.  FML, it takes a lot of work to internalize someone else's curriculum to the point where you can present it well.  But I did it... and never heard anything.  Weeks later, I got a rejection form letter.

It gets worse. Yesterday I did a 45-minute mock training session for Company D.  The topic was "How to sell an iPad."  And guess what?  In addition to presenting the content, I had to design the curriculum!  And the job is not even an instructional designer job--it's strictly training presentation.  So I spent friggin' hours writing up an agenda, identifying training objectives, preparing a competitive analysis and a features/benefits matrix... in addition to creating a couple of exercises to measure training effectiveness.  Believe me, it was much more involved than simply demo-ing an iPad.

I think I did an okay job, especially considering the topic is HUGE, but whatever--it's pissing me off the way these goddamn employers are making candidates jump through hoops.  I came home and told Mike, "Never again."  Period. 

I have a feeling it's mostly companies here in Las Vegas that are expecting this bullshit.  When I was in Albany two summers ago, a half hour after my phone interview they called back with a solid offer--they never even saw me in real life!  (Though they would have been quite pleased, if I do say so myself--ha!)  Then last week, I had another fantastic phone interview for a different job in Albany, but as it turned out, the gig is for a year.  I would love to be around my kids and grandchildren, but a year would be too long to be away from Mike and the step kids.  (Plus we'd be getting into the winter months in NY--yikes.)  My point is, they have a simple hiring process. 

I figure I either need to work for a small company that doesn't have layers of bullshit or work for myself.  I'm the only one I can stand, anyway.

But I am good at what I do.  That I know. Employers are going to miss out on experienced people who are just not going to be bothered.  Their loss.

Are you conducting a job search?  What's your experience with the selection process?