For cosmetics workers, of one retailer, there will be no Merry in Christmas this year

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Hundreds of cosmetics employees, of one high-end retailer, arrived at work today and discovered they couldn’t afford Christmas for their families this year. Their hours had been cut by 25 percent. They were not given a reason.

According to one source, management reported that all cosmetic retailers nationwide were slashing hours. Maybe.  But maybe this retailer wants to ensure employees don’t jump ship to a competitor during the busyiest time of year.

Exactly. So why cut hours? Doesn’t it make more sense to have all hands on deck? Why reduce at a time when it inevitably means customers will receive poor service?

But those aren’t the questions corporations ask.  There’s no room for human beings here. Not customers. Not employees. Instead, it’s about corporate greed. Or as this corporation might like to think of it, cutting overhead.  Employees are your highest overhead. Cut your overhead, increase your assets. It’s as old as slavery and as new as overseas outsourcing.

If single mothers, of this retailer, planned to buy those light up kicks Tommy wants or the Hatchimals Egg Jenny desires, they’re now worrying how to keep the heat on for Christmas.

There are very few benefits to working in retail, particularly in retail cosmetics. The customers are demanding, entitled, impatient and even  abusive. Fellow co-workers are petty, back-biting, bitter and mean. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s brings some reprieve. While customers can be more difficult this time of year, longer hours means larger sales, leading to beefy commission checks. Instead, this year, employees of this luxe retailer must piece together their paid time off just to keep their health insurance.

While customers binge on bespoke lipstick collections encased in leather, employees scrape out the balances on their credit cards to pay rent. “How do people survive working here?” One asked. “My credit card has a bigger balance than my bank account and I don’t buy anything.” She’s still relatively new to retail. As one who has worked for major retailers on and off for thirteen years now, I’ve never known anything else. “People don’t survive,” I said. “They get other jobs.”

Corporations make money when employees make less. Because this retailer can’t move its stores to Mexico, they do the next best thing. Cut hours. Each year they’ve been cutting more. Employees hired at full time now work part-time when they don’t make their goals for the week. “When you make your goals, you’ll get your hours back.” Management says. Employees were notified, in a recent email, that health benefits are earned not given.

So when you go to get your makeup at a department store, have a little patience. Imagine how the girls behind the counter feel. A little empathy will go a long way this Christmas. Oh, and if they do your makeup for your holiday parties, tip them. Even if they say no. Tip them. Shove it under the mirror next to your seat. Stuff it in their hands when no one’s looking. They’re not supposed to accept it, but my guess is, they will now. It may mean they can pay for lunch that day.

God Put Trump In And Obama Out

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Like many, this election divided my home. Now I work to untangle love from Trump’s ascendence. 

I’ve been silenced by the results of this election, paralyzed, unable to find words, shocked that my mother voted for Trump. “God has put Trump in and Obama is out!” She said to my younger brother. Even if voting for him meant voting against the health of her eldest who survives  on disability checks and voting against her daughter’s safety, to say the least of it. Never mind all the rest of his atrocities. I’m keeping this close to home.

I feel his election heavy on my body, on my skin. His body is an affront to the office he holds. His skin is a revulsion. The words that come from his foul mouth poison everything, including my relationship with my mother.  I’ll never forgive her for being taken in by the greatest con man of the century.

As I write this I know she could read it. I try not to write about my family. I did that once. Words. Once you put them out there, you can no longer control them, or what you mean to say. Family can’t hear your truth, particularly because it isn’t their’s. And I respect that. Yet, here I go. I will write a thing I shouldn’t. And for that, I’m sorry. But I’m in pain. I can’t write another word, until I write these.

Once my mother’s love flowed like a river. Now I feel her strain to give it. I rejected faith. She took that personally. Not long ago she told me God comes before her children. “I know,” I said, but didn’t tell her I’ve always known. It’s one of the reasons I rejected faith. A God who asks a mother to put him before her children is a petty god.

Words. Once you put them out there, you can no longer control them, or what you mean to say.

During a recent visit she said, “You never read the Bible, never studied it as I have. If you had, you’d still believe!”   I didn’t argue it. What was the point? There were so many factors, a myriad of reasons, losses, and gains that led me to this place, a space so far away from her.

I do not condemn faith. Instead, I have great respect for it, when it brings joy, instead of pain and boundless love instead of fear. In short, when it is consistent throughout one’s life.  My mother’s vote for Trump telegraphed, in an instant, the crisis between us. She either believes Trump is a Christian or doesn’t care to really know. How do you vote for a man whose life demonstrates complete disdain for your values, see his win as an appointment from God, but struggle to love your only daughter because she what, no longer calls herself a Christian?

I have great respect for faith, when it brings joy, instead of pain and love, instead of fear.

After our argument, I didn’t sleep all night. Our fight raged in my head. As dawn broke I decided in order to save our relationship, I’d have to swallow my pride and say what needed saying. I descended the stairs from my room and entered her bright yellow kitchen. It sparkled with newness. I found it ironic and depressing. Nevertheless, it was idyllic. My mother’s home is the All American Dream replete with the American flag waving out front. It creeps me out a little.

As my mother prepared breakfast, I put my hand on her shoulder and told her I loved her. No matter our disagreements, I’d never look down on her or her beliefs. She turned, her face contorted in pain as she tried to smile. She’s a terrible liar. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think she thought I was lying. Was I? No. There’s a half truth there, but here’s the whole of it, my achilles heel has always been that there’s never been another god but she. I’d say anything to bridge the gap between us.

But could I mean it?

I value knowledge above most things. Yet, she raised me to believe that when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge she seduced Adam to eat of it. Then God cast them both out of the garden. Knowledge is associated with the dark arts, alchemy, and witchcraft. While I’m no witch by any means, my education inspired me to pull on the threads of faith and it unraveled. I live outside the garden and strain to see her beyond the vines where she prays she’ll see me bow to God in her lifetime. I long to feel close to her again, like when she held me and played with my hair in childhood, like when we shopped in thrift stores in high school, like when we talked almost everyday in college. I feel the space between us when we talk. Wide gaps stretch out in our sentences punctuated by broken stories as we pick our way through minefields. Tell this story, but not that. Share this anecdote, be careful to leave out that detail.

My achilles heel has always been that there’s never been another god but she.

So  yes, I’m angry that she voted for Trump from her white-picket fence home safe in the suburbs where she’ll never have to feel the effects of his lies.  That said, I get that her  vote is not some grand symbol of her failure to love me. But it is an expression of her lack of interest in facts. It is this that creates a divide between us that can’t be bridged. Yet, what of it? Does that mean love is not possible? What if it’s not she who struggles to love me? What if it’s that she struggles to express it? Now that we no longer know one another, who can blame her?

I tire of these questions. They circle round and round and I can’t find the end of them. I need to leave this post alone and get on with the rest of my writing. So, I’ll leave you with Desiree’s Baby.

Desiree’s Baby is a  Southern Gothic tale written by Kate Chopin. In it Desiree pens a desperate letter to her mother because her husband no longer loves her. Her mother responds, My own Desiree: Come back to Valmonde; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your child. Instead, Desiree kills herself and her baby. I wonder if daughters don’t always value their mother’s love? Or simply don’t see it as enough?

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My mother is from Georgia. There, mothers love their children with a fierceness I’ve not seen up North. When I read that line, in Desiree’s Baby, I recognized a truth within it. I experienced it when I went to college. My mother grabbed hold of me and cried my name. My father had to pull her away. Other people just went to college, I felt rent from my mother’s bosom.  This last time I saw her, on a trip to Portland the week of the election, she grabbed hold of me on the last day and said, “Come home whenever you want. Come home and stay as long as you need.”

 

More Poems From “The Place Where You Started”

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Hannah Consenz stars as Meredith in the Portland State University production of The Place Where You Started.

Director Kristine McIntyre asked me to write some poetry, for the opera The Place Where You Started, in Meredith’s voice. Kristine then displayed the poetry in a projection on the back wall of the stage for Meredith’s final aria. In the aria (think monologue in a play) Meredith discovers her passion for writing again.  In this poem Meredith addresses her frustration with screenwriting, a career she chose for all the wrong reasons. She describes it as a barren house.

1
Words reflect the place
where you live
screenwriting
for example
very little in this house
chair
computer
mouse
I once thought it elegant
an interconnected series of
entertaining scenes
held together by three *brads
and an agent
dizzying
spell-binding
but the dazzling wheel cracked
caked with dirt of a million dead dreams
the rain never comes here to renew
broken yearnings stretch back 100 years
deep into the orange grove
soil
now paved with cement and sorrow
Los Angeles

*Brads are the brass prongs that hold screenplays together.

In this next one, Meredith writes to her boyfriend Steve who takes her for granted.  The screenplay she writes during the opera, a vampire romance, features Roland, a brooding teenage vampire. It makes sense then that she calls Steve, Roland. Both are emotionally stunted. This poem is somewhat of a “Dear John” letter to Steve and to screenwriting.

2
Goodbye
Roland
I cannot stay
a wind blows
my obsession
away
Goodbye and
Good luck
Sorry for the mess
The dirt
The dust
I could not clean up
after you
you’re stunted
eighteen
playing video games
sitting in the last chair
Vampires might live forever
But I do not

Here Meredith reflects on the unique beauty that exists in Southern California. Her relationship with her friend Macario, a genius in the garden, has connected her to the earth. The falling rain is, in a way, a symbol for Macario, but it’s also simply rain doing what rain is supposed to do.

3
The rain falls
It soaks the dust and stirs it to soil
At dusk the jasmine bloom
their night shade fragrance thick
over the garden
A brown house spider spins her web over our door
If I leave the light on
she will feast

Cat Forum Interview with Chloe and Charlie

Hello dear Readers, Chloe and Charlie had the honor of an interview with Snoops and Commando, two very witty cats from Michigan. Take a look to get to know them better. They’ll be featured in the continuing series, Kiss The Kitties. Also, read Snoops and Commandos’ blog. It’s edited by mice. Can you imagine?

Adventures in Cheeseland

Today we are here with Chloe and Charlie from Insights from the Edge  (We are not sure what it is the edge of; it must be a human thing.) It is written by their mom Amy. She does not write about cats, but it’s pretty interesting anyway. Apparently she writes for a living, so that’s probably why it’s pretty good. It would be better if she wrote about cats.

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Tell us a little bit about each of you.
Chloe: My lady told me other humans found me under a dumpster at three weeks old. I was the only girl. I had many brothers. One was blind. He was a good guy. The rest were annoying. I met my lady when I was eight weeks old. She ignored me, so I liked her. All the other humans who came were so annoying. They picked me up and tried to…

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Fiction Friday-Kiss The Kitties Resumes In a Week

IMG_0174I’ve started a story called Kiss The Kitties. Each entry will go up on Friday and will be about 1000 words. If readers tell me they want more, I will definitely comply. I just find that 1000 is about as much as anyone, including myself, has time to commit to at any given moment of the day.

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and sadness. Last week our opera, The Place Where You Started, premiered in Portland on November 12th. The first night of dress rehearsal was November 8th. My husband and I barely stayed focused. We barely slept and by the next morning found the ground beneath us gone. It felt as if we floated into unchartered and terrifying territory holding on only to each other.

Protests vibrated in the streets and strained the already taught space between my family and I, half of whom voted for the other party.  I can only imagine what the election results will do to families across this nation as they gather for Thanksgiving. Maybe people should lay off the libations a bit. Spirits already run high. But then, how does one manage that kind of strain for an entire day sober?

Anyway, last week was intense. I’m sick now. I haven’t been able to get myself to the keyboard. Additionally, and sadly, I must drag myself to a day job that frustrates and drains me.

Next week, thankfully, I’ll resume my writing. Thanksgiving Day I’ll be at home, in Southern California, with my husband and my two glorious, magical, majestic cats. We will cook a turkey, the cats will allow us the scraps, and all will be well on that little day. Chloe will hold court on the state of the nation. Fortunately, William won’t be here to argue.

Kiss the Kitties will resume next week. I have lots in store for Chloe, Charlie, and William. You’ll also meet Helen the Siamese, Jack the Mancoon, and Akihla the Abyssinian. There are many adventures ahead. I hope you stay tuned. Thank you for indulging me this break.

Fiction Friday-Kiss The Kitties

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Chapter 1–Santa Cruz, CA Present Day

I kiss kitties for a living. I once wanted to write, but found I was much better at kissing kitties. I have a large home and an even larger backyard with trees and kitty tree houses. All cats are neutered and spayed and their vaccines up to date. Over a hundred live here. I know each by name. If a cat is ill, I can sense it right away and herd her to the the vet, my sister, Lisa, who hates cats, which makes her brilliant when it comes to putting them to sleep and cutting them open. Cats hate her too.

That’s where I come in. I have no husband, or wife. Who wants to kiss a woman who kisses cats for a living? It’s pretty gross even when I think about it. Yet, kissing kitties is akin to kissing love itself, but better. Kittens are the easiest. I kiss their pink paws, their fuzzy bellies, their silken heads. I kiss and I kiss and I kiss and it’s never too much for them. I could charge a lot less than I do for them, but I charge more because of higher demand. Its supply side economics. After I’m done with them, you’ll have yourself quite a smashing kitty. Someone who loves you, greets you at the door, follows you from room to room, and will even sleep on your head. Most people don’t like that last bit. It’s a joke between the cats and I. I tell their humans it’s just part of their new kitty’s nature, but we both know better.

The older cats, the ones who’ve been abused, abandoned, ignored, and even never loved, well, they’re my specialty. I don’t charge much for them. They’ll be dumped again, or killed if someone doesn’t like my price. My sister would like nothing better.

That’s how I met William, an irascible orange fellow who’d lost an eye and part of his ear in a barroom brawl. William was mean. My sister was about to kill him, but because she enjoys it when I fail said, “Here, take him. Just try kissing him. He’ll scratch your damn face off. You’ll probably end up killing him sooner than I. I’ve got a backlog. Cancer. Incurable. They’re dropping like flies.” Then she laughed like the villain she was.

I took his cage and looked at him. What to do with William? We squared off. Don’t you dare, he said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” I said. Kissing kitties meant getting them to want to be kissed. And their psychology wasn’t too hard to pin down. Make them think you don’t want them. But William was used to that. I had to think about this one.


“I think you care more than you say you do.” I said. Lisa stood in the kitchen cutting steak into cubes.

“I think you care less than you say you do.” She said. She lifted a glass of expensive merlot to her lips. Johnson, her new whatever, was coming over. Both of them were meat eaters. Fresh blood dripped down her hand and dribbled down the glass.

“Blech,” I turned my head. “Prove it.”

“William,” she snarled

“What about William?” I spat.

“Exactly.”

“We love each other.” I paused. “He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Hah! Ridiculous. Admit it. He’s just not that into you.”

“You’re cruel.”

“That’s correct.” She pierced a chunk of bloody flesh with a skewer.

“Has William told you something? Have you been talking to him?”

“He talks to me.”

“Why is he talking to you and not to me?”

“He’s begging me to put him down.”

“What? He’s suicidal and you didn’t tell me?”

“Don’t be dramatic.”

“You’re such a witch!”

“And you’re so boring.”

Tears streamed hot down my cheeks. “Why? Why do you hate me?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t hate you, dear girl. Now go. Johnson is coming and he needs to think I’m a good person. I can’t be good when you’re around. You’re too irritating.”

“Where’s William? What have you done with him?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you kill him?”

“Absurd. I don’t do anything for free.”

“You would if it hurt me.”

“True. But no. I actually haven’t seen him since last Tuesday.”

“That’s when I last saw him.”

“So go. Find him.”

“Do you think he’s dead?”

“You’d know.”

She was right. I would know. I always knew when one of my own died. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew. I ran from the house and let the screen door slam. Dear William, don’t give up on us, you jerk.

Chapter 2 Los Angeles, five years earlier. 

 

“I believe in you.” Chloe said. She was my first cat, a tiny calico with enormous grass green eyes. “I believe you can do anything because you’ve always done everything. You saved my life lots of times.”

“I did, didn’t I?” I was sobbing, again, because of all of the failures.

“I love you, mom. You always figure it out.” She stared at me. Charlie, her brother, an orange domestic, said nothing. Like most guys, he was useless in a crisis.

Chloe had three chronic illnesses. I’d been keeping her alive with love, the right food, and prescription medication. Now that I’d lost my car and my job, we were all about to be homeless. She’s right. We’d been destitute before, but I’d had hope. I’d always had my eye on the next thing. Always had one foot out the door. Always had the resources to get there. Credit. A car. A winning smile. My youth.

But Los Angeles had stolen all of that from me. Rent was too high. School loans were in the triple digits. I quit or was fired from every job I’d had in ten years. At the end I  worked, in sales at a for profit screenwriting school, peddling dreams like snake oil. The CEO charged thousands to cash-strapped writers and tacked on interest when they couldn’t pay. One day, because a writer didn’t make her payments, he ran her debit card three times consecutively.  She stood at the grocery store checkout line trying to pay for groceries for her three children and found that he’d emptied her account.  Los Angeles, land of the great con. I first came out to write movies, perhaps direct. Now, I was a cliché like the millions who preceded me and the millions on their way. Exhaustion plagued me day and night, as it does in poverty. He paid us $30,000 annually.

Writing was out of the question when getting out of bed was the major accomplishment everyday. In addition to shattered dreams, disastrous jobs, I’d left a string of empty, useless relationships behind me. I was incompetent in life, career, and love. But not at kissing kitties. Charlie and Chloe were the only reason I didn’t throw myself in front of a bus. Every earth-shatteringly terrible day when I returned from the seventh circle of hell that was my job, both greeted me with enthusiasm with loving eyes, and their little tails tucked around neat paws.

Yet, today was an exception. Today they weren’t at my door when I came home. The apartment echoed. Not soul stirred in the dark, dusty place.

Betrayed

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This piece is not meant to represent any specific person, place, or event. It’s a compilation of conversations and experiences I’ve had in many different places. I’ve written one experience here to represent many. Any similarities to specific people, places, or events is a mere coincidence.

“If you’re so miserable, why don’t you just do something about it? Everyday you come in here and you just complain. Just get another job already,” Sandy said.
It was late. We stood near our counters. The department stood empty. Yellow track lighting glared above us. The chrome counters glistened. Bright shades of lipstick waited in their black heavy plastic units, ready for the next day’s clients. Her counter always looked great. I was in the process of dusting mine with an old powder brush.
“Wow. OK black,” I said.
“What?”
“Pot. Black.”
She gave be a blank stare.
“Pot calling the kettle black.”
“I’m not miserable.”
“You complain as much as I do.”
“I don’t complain everyday. And I don’t complain about my job. I’m working through bigger life goals. And I’m doing something about them.”
“OK. Got it,” I said, a little too loudly and too aggressively. But I was pissed and all I wanted to say was, Fuck you. You absolutely complain as much as I do. And when that’s the only thing you can think of to say, you walk away. Conversation over.
Her voice rose the further away I got. “I’m just not telling you about them.”
My eyes grew wider, in what I can imagine was my mother’s, I’m going to silently punish you face. “OK, I got it, Sandy.”
“Well if you’re so miserable don’t take it out on me,” She turned away.

Which I should’ve seen coming. A few weeks back I told her that a co-worker took some products from her counter. She told a mutual friend of ours. Our mutual friend told me. I did not know she already knew, that she had been the source of the information. I told her, because I thought I was doing her a favor. She flipped out. Completely and totally melted down. I was shocked. It’s not like I had betrayed state secrets. This wasn’t the Pentagon for Christ’s sake.

Sandy seethed. “I told Alison that in confidence. I can’t believe she told anyone. Who else did she tell?”
“No one, I’m sure. She only told me because we’re all friends. Listen, I thought I was doing you a favor. I thought we were friends. I would want to know. Jesus Sandy. What’s the big deal?”
“That’s fine. It’s not you. I just know I can never trust her again.”
“OK, you’re overreacting.”
“I don’t think so.”

I walked away from her counter. Fallout would come. She’d confront Alison and punish us both. I was too chicken to tell Alison I’d told Sandy. I can’t remember if she’d told me not to say anything.

Sandy confronted Alison. Alison, indirectly, communicated to me, she knew I’d told. In the end, it seemed, it blew over. We shared laughs, covered each other’s counters while the other went on break. In general, we enjoyed an ease and camaraderie one needs when working together in about a 500 square foot area.

Until last night. Sandy’s sanctimonious direction to “find another job if you’re so miserable,” revealed she hadn’t let it go. Her barb, “I’m doing something about it. I’m just not telling you,” was a clear message. It was meant to impugn my character. I can’t be trusted and I’m too afraid or too lazy to find another job.

Sandy got me when I least expected it. So yes, she won. I know that revenge can feel sweet in the moment. I hope she enjoyed it because the effects are final. Maybe she just wanted it that way. Alison’s the only ally I have left. I plan on protecting that with my life. No one can survive that floor on her own. You’re bait.

On Working With Women

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Cat Fight

This piece is not meant to represent any specific person, place, or event. It’s a compilation of conversations and experiences I’ve had in many different places. I’ve written one experience here to represent many. Any similarities to specific people, places, or events is a mere coincidence.

“I can’t stand her,” she said of me. Though I was not the one who heard her. Ariana told me.
“Are you friends with Sally over there?” She pointed to the makeup counter on the other side of the department. I had to strain to see her around all of the chrome towers piled high with soaps and body scrubs.
“Who’s Sally?” I asked.
“Sally over there at that counter.”
“Obviously no. I don’t even know her name.”
“Well, she said she can’t stand you.”
“I’ve never had a conversation with her.”
“I’m just telling you so you know who your friends are.”
“OK, thanks.”
“I don’t want you getting close to her or anything.”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Did she tell you that?”
“She told Marina and Marina and I were talking when we had nothing to do the other night.”
“She’s just young and bored and she wasn’t raised right.”
“She said they were standing at the registers and Sally said, “I can’t stand that Barbara Bastet* girl.” When Marina looked up you were the one standing there.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I didn’t say that to bother you or anything. I just thought you should know.”
“I got it, thanks.”
“Well, don’t get defensive.”
“I’m good. What else do you want me to say?”

Later, Marina and I had coffee.
“So you don’t like Sally, huh?”
“What? I don’t even know Sally, but I understand she doesn’t like me.”
Marina’s eyes widened. “She doesn’t like you. I’d stay away from her.”
“She doesn’t scare me. She’s half my age.”
“I know. Just don’t deal with her.”
“I’ve never had the occasion to. I’m certain it will not come up now.”

Recently, due to this election season, I’ve been thinking about the misogyny in this country. Women can be worse than men. I don’t know how men take out their aggressions on other men in the workplace. Women are vicious to one another, particularly women who are bored, hate themselves, and hate their jobs. We’re all looking for a scapegoat when we feel like shit. It feels better to dump on someone else then to take responsibility for the life we feel powerless to change.

It’s not a good feeling when somebody doesn’t like you. Sally’s comment made it even more difficult to walk through those doors everyday and face clients with screaming children or menopause, all of whom are frustrated, agitated, and looking for someone to take it out on.

I’ve said the same thing Sally said about me twice about two different people on two separate occasions. The message got back to both of them. I regret that now. They didn’t deserve it. I wish I could apologize. They’ve both left those jobs. Their positions got the better of them. Most people can’t take the suffering. They just didn’t know how to complain. I find that if you know how to do it, you can stand almost anything.

I actually had a very good upbringing. I was taught to be kind, respectful, and hardworking. But I changed after I moved out. And I grew worse when I moved to Los Angeles. I can’t explain what has happened here. It’s a rude and mean town. That seeps in. I could say that Sally’s comment is Karma, but I don’t believe in it. The people around me are unhappy. It makes for a toxic environment, one where we turn and eat each other.

Feminists talk about lifting one another up, giving each other opportunities, offering support in the workplace. I don’t know where they work, but I’ve never seen that happen. Not in the corporate world, not in restaurants, not in retail. It doesn’t matter what their education or success, I’ve never met a woman interested in helping other women. Mostly, the women I’ve met, prefer men. I think it’s just an easier transaction. They know how to get what they want from them. Men don’t usually play the same head games or get into Machiavellian schemes. At least women can’t imagine it. Machiavelli was, after all, a man.

In 2006 I moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. I needed to get away from a possessive boyfriend who lived in New York. I figured that by 2008 I’d have untangled myself from him. I wanted to move to New York without complications. It seemed like a good place to be a writer, meet interesting people, and put together an exciting life.

Then I met my husband one month before I was set to leave. I’d already given my notice to my landlord and was looking forward to quitting my low-paying, abusive entertainment job. But I knew, as soon as we met, I wasn’t leaving. Love is not a readily available commodity, as my mid thirties unmarried friends discovered after they’d given it up for their careers.

L.A. exhausts me. Half the time I don’t know the season. It’s 100 degrees in November. I wake up every morning and feel like I’m trapped in and endless summer job. I’m aging. The world is moving forward. And I can’t find the exit.

*All names have been changed. Barbara Bastet is a pseudonym for a makeup line.

The Huddled Masses Shouldn’t Vote

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Me on November 8th awaiting election results.

 

And so we are, as a nation, without principals. I grieve for what we could be, what we promised to be. But I shouldn’t be surprised, right? The Founding Fathers wrote equality into the constitution even as they raped, pillaged, and oppressed. Aren’t we then, both the ones who oppress and, the ones who free?

Yes.

We’ve been waging war against one another since the beginning. Those in power protect themselves. The disempowered demand a fair shake. This, of course, has gone on since we stepped outside the cave. But, the Founding Fathers wrote the possibility for something more into the Constitution. They aspired to something no one had before–the evolution of thought. As the population grew, ideas changed, and amendments were written. The Fathers knew that they didn’t know what they didn’t know and thankfully, their humility allowed us to lurch forward.

Now we have a serious problem. The largest economic recession of our time created debt the likes of which people have not seen in their lifetimes. I cannot pay my student debt. I cannot even use my Master’s degree. My fault, perhaps, but not one that exists in a vacuum. Everyone needs support, a thriving economy not just for the well off and the wealthy. There must be opportunities at every level. Instead we have a glut of jobs available in technology and the sciences and none for those with little to no education. And that trend continues. As education grows more expensive, only the elites can afford to have a career.

And so we have the GOP and we have the Democrats, both propping up candidates that don’t represent the population. One an anarchist and dictator. One a conservative boomer, her understanding of the world, in many ways, stuck in the 20th Century. Economic evolution will not happen in the next four to eight years. We face the option of total mayhem, or stability and a little bit of growth. I believe in Hillary. I am, however, losing hope in our country.

The seething masses don’t think for themselves. They blame the media for liberal bias. They don’t trust anything the media covers. We can thank the Republicans for that.

The GOP has been winning the narrative for years. Decades. This idea that the media is biased, that they are Clinton shills is their story. They are the masters of the sound bites and political tag lines. It’s the media who gives them a platform, follows them around, begs them to weigh in, never challenges their hypocrisies and lies. Fighting makes for better television and no one fights dirtier than the Republicans. So, who is the media shilling for?

This week, just 11 days before the election the Guardian, a highly respected news source led with a headline stating, Newly discovered emails relating to Hillary Clinton case under review by FBI. 

What does that title suggest to you? That they’ve discovered new emails. That the investigation has been reopened. Neither are true. Incidentally, the Guardian has since removed this article.

They had jumped into the media feeding frenzy, then discovered, only after the fact, that the emails were not new. They were in the original investigation and that it had not been reopened. But the damage is done. The GOP won again. The voting masses will not read past that initial headline. Thanks media.

I’ve been wondering a lot if voting should be put in the hands of the huddled masses.

In California we vote our judges onto the bench. On it’s face, it may seem like an empowered and even liberal idea. Judges determine civil and criminal matters, set precedent, make laws.

They must remain impartial, communicate their work ethic, demonstrate their knowledge of the law and issues that face the community. Yet, how does one communicate impartiality if they’re appealing to voters? Voters want to be courted. They want their candidates to prove they care about the same issues. That is, if they care at all. Voters, in large part are uninformed. They don’t know and they don’t care to know.

This email thing with Hillary will be our undoing, not because it’s true, but because it feels true.

FICTION FRIDAY: The Place Where You Started–a libretto

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I’ve just finished collaborating on an opera with my husband, which will open in Portland in November. I wrote the libretto (script) he wrote all the music (much harder than the script). We developed the story together. This is the first act–about a five to eight minute read. The synopsis is just below the cast list should you only want to read that. I may post the rest, should anyone like it. It’s modern, funny, and toward the end, tragic. Enjoy.

Characters

Meredith – Frustrated writer
Macario – Gardner
Steve – Meredith’s long-time, underachieving boyfriend Brianne* – Steve’s sister-in-law
Brendan☩ – Steve’s brother
Samantha – Meredith’s agent

Soprano Baritone

Synopsis

A literary phenomena at age 19, Meredith never imagined that now, some years later, she would be writing un-produced screenplays and teaching part time at a community college.

Macario finds peace working as a landscaper and gardener. These daily tasks help keep him from becoming consumed with memories of a terrible tragedy in his past.

Through a chance encounter, Meredith and Macario discover they have much in common and form an unlikely friendship, transforming them both. But a petty act of jealousy will tear the friendship apart.

The Place Where You Started is about living fully in the moment, not being held hostage to past decisions, and discovering a future wide open to possibilities.

 

 

*Each scene should proceed immediately and without pause into the next. The one exception being between scenes 4 & 5, where a significant pause should be taken.

Duration: ca. 1 hour and 35 minutes 3

SCENE 1

(Lights up on MEREDITH in the living room of a small, very modest Southern California bungalow. There are hints of a window, a door to the outside, a door to another room. MEREDITH is sitting in front of an open laptop, staring at the screen.)

MEREDITH

Why is this hard?
Why is this so difficult?
It never took so long
To write a simple line of dialog

Stuck in a rut with a –
What?
A black cursor on a blank page

How can I not write this?
This should be easy
Samantha said it would be easy

Write it in a week or two.
It’s been three weeks instead

And I’m banging my head

Night and day

Be romantic, Meredith!
Be sexy, Meredith!
Be everything, but don’t be you, Meredith!

It’s good girl meets bad boy

Fantasy romance
I know how this goes
And yet I got nothin’.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself

Just do it.
Come on, let’s go.

Oh!
I just received an email
Turn off your goddamn email!

Focus, Meredith, focus Here I go  (She writes)

 

FADE IN

Lucinda and Roland…

(Lights come up on LUCINDA, hip virgin and ROLAND, brooding, sexy vampire – think “Twilight.” They sing dialog as MEREDITH writes.)

LUCINDA

Roland – I’m excited And nervous
But I feel safe with you.

ROLAND

You should not feel safe with me, Lucinda Ever

LUCINDA

But I do
You’ll never convince me you’re evil

ROLAND

I’ve done terrible things

LUCINDA

I see kindness in your eyes

ROLAND

You’re so innocent

Vulnerable to the world
A world that takes advantage

That is my world

LUCINDA

I want to see your world

ROLAND

I will show you things you cannot imagine

Terrifying things
Wonderful things
Things no mortal should ever see

LUCINDA

I want to see

ROLAND

I want to show you

 

LUCINDA

I want to spread my wings

ROLAND

Spread your wings and let me in – To your mind

(ROLAND takes LUCINDA’s hands)

LUCINDA

(Reacting to his cold hands)

Ah!
Your hands are so cold

ROLAND

You smell like life

LUCINDA

Smell me, Roland, smell me!

(ROLAND and LUCINDA freeze in their current position)

MEREDITH

Smell me?

(Lights down on ROLAND and LUCINDA)

Is this the best I can do? I can do better
I’m better than this

Vampire romance sickly sweet

Uninspired fantasy

How did I get here?

Once a “literary phenomenon”
A fresh new voice!
Endless potential
The New Yorker at nineteen!
“On the threshold of a spectacular career!”

That’s what they said

But I chose film
Derailed by flickering promises of fame and fortune

 

Ah well, too late to undo

I might have been more

There were no guarantees

But I was on the right track

On my way

People believed in me, heard of me I want that time back

I want to rewind
Start again, start over, have another chance!

I’ve wasted so much time!

Is this the best I can do?
I can do better
I’m better than this
I want to be better than this I want…

(STEVE emerges from somewhere)

STEVE

I want a beer
Do we have any beer?

(Opens the fridge – success!) (Opening beer)

How is it going?

MEREDITH

It’s not

STEVE

Want a beer?

MEREDITH

No

STEVE

Hungry?

MEREDITH

Nope

STEVE

 

Wanna watch TV?

MEREDITH

(Getting frustrated)

No

STEVE

(Thinking, taking a long moment)

Want to…fool around?

MEREDITH

(Thinking, shrugs)

Okay

(Fast lights down. End of scene 1)

 

SCENE 2

(The next morning. MEREDITH is getting coffee. Her laptop is open on the table as it was in the opening of scene 1. MEREDITH’s cell phone rings.)

MEREDITH

(Answering)

Hi, Samantha

(Fast lights up on SAMANTHA, wearing a power suit. SAMANTHA is located somewhere on stage indicating that she is calling from her office.)

SAMANTHA

Hi, honey!
Is it going well?
Are you almost finished?
The studio loved your treatment

They had some notes:

Make it more romantic
More sexy
But not too much!
Lucinda should be sweet and innocent

But not too much!

They have other writers working
But don’t worry, you’re their first choice I know you’ll get the offer
If you finish soon
No pressure
But finish soon!

How about tomorrow?
Is that possible?
This is such an opportunity

You’ll be set

You’re on your way

On the “A” list
Their go-to writer

We’ll be on our way! So finish soon

Can you finish soon?
I know you’ll finish soon

Remember: keep it hot

Make it steamy
But not too much!

 

Roland should be dark and dangerous

But not too much!
I’d love to send them a draft
Perhaps tomorrow, or Wednesday?

No pressure

But finish soon!

I know you will
You’re perfect for this

Just the right voice
You always come through

Know how to deliver

Work well under pressure

You’re on your way
We’re on our way
So finish soon

Let’s get a draft to them tomorrow, or Wednesday

But no later than that
Call me when you’re finished
Once you’re finished

I can send it to them
Before the other writers
Don’t forget the other writers
But you are their first choice

Make sure you’re their first choice

No pressure!
But finish soon!

Okay, honey Call me!

(SAMANTHA hangs up. Lights off her quickly. Beat. MEREDITH’s phone rings again. Fast lights up on SAMANTHA.)

SAMANTHA

Oh, I almost forgot
Can I bring anything on Saturday? No?

Okay, honey
Call me!

(SAMANTHA hangs up. Fast lights down again. MEREDITH sits down at the computer.)

MEREDITH

Finish soon

 

Tomorrow?
Don’t sleep
More coffee
I can do this
It’s just girl meets boy

Who wants to bite girl

(She takes a deep breath as she begins to type. Lights back up on LUCINDA and ROLAND)

LUCINDA

You can’t understand how I feel

ROLAND

I can see into your soul

LUCINDA

You only see my youth

ROLAND

Your beauty is eternal

LUCINDA

Beauty is fleeting
My body has a sell-by date!

ROLAND

I…don’t understand

LUCINDA

I’m on the clock here, Roland! Yesterday I found a gray hair

Down there!

ROLAND

Um…

(Sound of a weed-whacker – loud. It’s coming from outside Meredith’s house. LUCINDA and ROLAND freeze momentarily. The weed-whacker stops and MEREDITH sighs and continues.)

LUCINDA

Roland, aren’t you hungry?

 

ROLAND

You have no idea!

LUCINDA

Then take me…

ROLAND

Never!

LUCINDA

(Pouty)

Don’t you want me?

ROLAND

More than anything

LUCINDA

Then what’s the problem?
Make me like you, and we’ll have eternity! Everybody’s happy

ROLAND

I will not condemn you to my existence

Roaming the night
Never aging

LUCINDA

As long as I’m young I’ll always be relevant

ROLAND

Frozen in time
In perpetual youth

LUCINDA

I don’t see the down side…

ROLAND

Ah, sweet innocent, pure, Lucinda

LUCINDA

Would you bite me already!

 

(Weed whacker. Everyone stops. Waits. MEREDITH aggressively erases last few lines, stabbing the “delete” button. She starts to type again, aggressively)

LUCINDA

I need more time…

ROLAND

Be careful what you wish for

LUCINDA

I wish to live forever!

ROLAND

Forever is damnation!

LUCINDA

Oh, don’t be dramatic!

ROLAND

I only want to protect you

LUCINDA

Okay, here we go!

ROLAND

You are my everything

Only you understand me

LUCINDA

Of course I do
You were born in the 18th Century
To you mouthwash is a technical marvel

ROLAND

(Wistfully)

It’s so minty…

LUCINDA

(Exposing her neck)

How about it, Roland, just a little nip You know you want to!

ROLAND

No!

 

LUCINDA

But I need more time to restart my career!

ROLAND

Wait…what?

(Hysterical weed-whacker. Lights off immediately from ROLAND and LUCINDA)

MEREDITH

Jesus!

(MEREDITH slams the computer closed and stomps over to the door to the outside and goes out. Lights up on MACARIO, who is yielding the weed-wacker and wearing ear protection)

MEREDITH

Excuse me! Excuse me!
Do you mind…?

MACARIO

(Jumps – surprised. MACARIO removes his ear protection.) My apologies, Señorita
I was not aware…

MEREDITH

Can you do that somewhere else?

MACARIO

I am sorry for the noise
But I noticed this area needed work

MEREDITH

Do you have to do it now?

MACARIO

No
It can wait (Turns to go)

MEREDITH

(Guilty)
Wait! I’m sorry Please – it’s not you

I forgot the day

 

MACARIO

It’s alright

MEREDITH

Please, continue

Anyway, I need a break

(MACARIO goes to put the ear protection back on.)

MEREDITH

Oh – may I ask you a question?

MACARIO

Of course

MEREDITH

I was thinking that some flowers here might be nice

Growing something might inspire
It’s just…
I don’t know how

MACARIO

It is not difficult
Depending on the flower
But they all require some attention

MEREDITH

I can learn
It would be good for me
Are Marigolds difficult to grow?

MACARIO

Not difficult
But they are…
(Attempting to translate internally) Not – nativo?

MEREDITH

Native! Of course
Hard to grow in the desert

MACARIO

(In his element)

Have you thought about… Cacti, aloe

 

MEREDITH

Succulents

MACARIO

Si

Zanzibar, agave, echeveria, rosea

Some even bloom with proper attention

Plenty of sun
Not too much water

MEREDITH

That sounds like a lot of work

MARCARIO

At first much work
But rewarding!
Working with nature

Calming the mind
One simple task to the next

Brings…paz interior

(Taps his chest)

Peace

MEREDITH

I could really use that

MACARIO

If you would like, Señorita, I can help you get started

Bring the right soil
Next Tuesday

Arrive a little early?
Show you how to elevate the ground

MEREDITH

Yes
And please, call me Meredith

MACARIO

Macario

Encantado

Next Tuesday then, Meredith

MEREDITH

Thank you

Gracias

 

(MACARIO puts ear protection back on. Lights down as MEREDITH goes back into the house and MACARIO goes to re-start the weed whacker. End of scene 2)