Tag Archives: David Sedaris

Elf

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It was the end of a long hot day of trying to sell hemp jewelry and shiny rocks on the side of the highway. (Total sales for the day: $36.) I was eating dinner and reading a copy of the David Sedaris collection Holidays on Ice I’d picked out of a free pile behind a thrift store.

The first story in the collection is “SantaLand Diaries,” a memoir of the pre-Christmas season Sedaris worked as an elf in NYC’s Macy’s store. Early in the essay, Sedaris recalls how he imagined his life in the Big Apple. Of course, his life didn’t go the way of his imagination, and he writes,

But instead I am applying for a job as an elf. Even worse than applying is the very real possibility that I will not be hired, that I couldn’t even find work as an elf. That’s when you know you’re a failure.

Ouch. That hurt.

I had applied for a job as an elf some years ago. Like David Sedaris, I applied to be a Macy’s elf. Unlike Sedaris, I did not apply for elfhood in NYC.  I was in the Pacific Northwest, where I’d recently moved to live with my boyfriend in an apartment his parents had paid a deposit and a month of rent on. The boyfriend didn’t seem to be concerned about finding work (I suppose he’d had a long history of mooching off his parents), but I was scrambling to find a job, any job.

First I called Manpower, the temp service I’d worked through for three years in the medium sized Midwestern town from whence I’d come. The Manpower employment specialist (or whatever they call themselves) who took my call seemed absolutely bored. I asked him if I should go into the office to meet with someone. No need for that, he assured me. There weren’t really any jobs anyway. (No jobs? I wondered. In a major U.S. city? No temp work at all?) He said I could email my resume if I wanted to. They’d keep it on file, but there were currently no jobs.

I dutifully emailed my resume to Manpower. I never heard another word from the Manpower office.

I dutifully spent hours looking at the online employment ads. I dutifully sent off my resume any time I found a position I was even marginally qualified for.

I discovered the bowling alley near my apartment was hiring but didn’t want anyone with visible tattoos. Since when was a bowling alley so concerned about the image of its employees? I could cover my tattoos (so I dutifully sent off my resume), but it seemed like every second person in the city had visible tattoos. Maybe I’d get hired by virtue of my undecorated skin. But no. No one from the bowling alley ever contacted me for an interview.

I discovered the regional chain of convenience stores was hiring, but planned to do a credit check on all applicants. I’d never heard of a potential employer doing a credit check on a job applicant. How could a person with poor credit pay the bills if s/he couldn’t get a job because of poor credit? The no visible tattoos bowling alley tipped me off that the job market was tight, but the credit check for folks applying to work not for a bank or an accounting firm or the freaking CIA  but for a convenience store really convinced me the job market was in the employer’s favor.

I continued to read the want ads, complete online applications, send out my resume, but my phone didn’t ring and my inbox was empty. I started to grow panicky.

Then I saw it: Macy’s was hiring elves. I’d read “SantaLand Diaries,” and thought, If David Sedaris can do it, I can do it to! In fact, I was qualified for the job.

Qualification #1 I am short. I’m under 5’5”. Sedaris recognized the importance of (lack of) height to a career as an elf. Despite being pretty sure he failed his drug test,

still they hired me because I am short, five feet five inches. Almost everyone they hired is short.

If Macy’s was looking for short, they were looking for me!

Qualification #2 I’ve worked with kids. I spent my first two summers out of high school working at a camp for kids with disabilities. Sure, that had been 20 years ago, but I’d done some babysitting since then. I didn’t think kids could have changed too much, even in 20 years.

Qualification #3 I knew a thing or two about taking photos. I’d worked as the assistant to the photographer my first summer at the camp for kids with disabilities. The second summer I’d been promoted to head photographer. I was sure I could handle whatever camera system Macy’s used to take souvenir photos of kids with Santa.

Qualification #4 I’d worked in high volume, high stress retail situations before. I’d been the cashier on multiple occasions during Mardi Gras and Jazz fest at a t-shirt shop on Bourbon Street. I doubted screaming, shrieking, bawling, pissing children and their bossy, rich parents could be any worse than drunk tourists.

I dutifully answered the questions on Macy’s online elf application. I took the application very seriously. I attached my resume. I did my best. It was only a seasonal job, but it could get me through until the next employment opportunity came along.

Macy’s never contacted me, not a phone call, not an email. Nothing. Of course, not hiring me was a good move on Macy’s part because during the first week of December, my boyfriend convinced me we should ditch the apartment and travel the world on foot and via Greyhound.

Still, I was devastated. I didn’t even make the first cut for a temp job as an elf, a job I was actually qualified for.

I’d felt like a failure then, and here was David Sedaris, eight years later confirming that indeed, I’d been right.

Podcasts

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The first time I ever heard a podcast was when I moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. My traveling companion had loaded her MP3 player with music and words for our journey. At some point we listed to an episode of Stuff You Should Know about fluoride.

SIDENOTE: On that road trip, we also listened to David Sedaris read essays from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day. My favorite story in that book is “Jesus Shaves.” We had to stop playing it before it was over because my traveling companion was laughing so hard she was crying, making driving dangerous. (The image to the left is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it to shop, I will receive a commission from your purchases.)

If you don’t know, a podcast is

a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.

The first podcast I really, really liked was RISK! Here’s what the RISK! webpage has to say:

 RISK! is a live show and podcast “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public” hosted by Kevin Allison, of the legendary TV sketch comedy troupe The State. The award-winning live show happens monthly in New York and Los Angeles…The weekly podcast gets around a million downloads each month. Slate.com called it “jaw-dropping, hysterically funny, and just plain touching.”

If you want to hear people tell true stories about sex, drugs, feces, humiliation, and sketchy parenting (among other things) while using lots of curse words, RISK! is the podcast for you. It is not a lie, cliché, or hyperbole when I say I’ve laughed ’til I cried while listening to the stories of RISK!, and sometimes I’ve just cried.

If these are the kinds of stories you like, you can listen to RISK! for yourself.

I like to have a podcast on while I’m doing work with my hands, typically work that doesn’t take too much brain power. Washing dishes? Podcast. Making hemp bracelets and necklaces? Podcast. Creating hats from yarn? Podcast. Cooking a meal? Podcast. Folding clothes? Podcast. Gluing little bits of paper into a collage? Podcast.

I revisited Stuff You Should Know a few years ago while house sitting in a secluded location. The house had no television, and it was just me and the dogs out there. I missed human voices. Hearing the banter of the hosts of the podcast, Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark, made me feel less alone.

Stuff You Should Know led me to Stuff You Missed in History Class since both programs are produced by the same parent company, How Stuff Works.

Stuff You Missed in History Class has gone through a series of hosts since its beginning. My favorite hosts of the program are the two current smart and sassy women, Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. I enjoy their comfortable presentation style while feeling confident they did their homework before hitting the record button. The amount of reading and research these women do for each episode is amazing. Holly and Tracy give us more than just the history of rich white dudes. I appreciate their inclusion of episodes about feisty women and LGBTQ folks fighting for civil rights.

While downloading podcasts from iTunes, I discovered Death, Sex & Money. The show’s website calls Death, Sex & Money

[a] podcast hosted by Anna Sale about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.

I appreciate the way Anna Sale asks really personal questions while managing to express deep kindness and intense curiosity. She really knows how to get root of the matter without seeming pushy or mean. Of course, many of the episodes are heart-rending, covering topics from dead mothers and fathers (sad) to dead infants (super sad). The episodes focusing on sex and money tend to be a little more fun, although no less thought-provoking.

One of my favorite episodes of this show is an interview with Lucinda Williams. Lucinda starts off honest and raw and stays that way for nearly half an hour. Also fantastic is the five part series about New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina.

My newest favorite is Myths and Legends, featuring my podcast boyfriend, Jason Weiser. (Shhh! Jason doesn’t know he’s my podcast boyfriend. Neither does his wife.) Not only do I enjoy Jason’s calm, soothing voice and his snarky-funny comments (he holds nothing back when he talks about The Little Mermaid), but the stories from around the world are fun to listen to. Sometimes when I’m stressed out, I put the volume of my phone down low, start this program playing, and let Jason’s tranquil voice comfort me all night.

Here’s what Myths and Legends has to say for itself:

This is a weekly podcast telling legendary stories as closely to the originals as possible. Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories that might be new to you, but are definitely worth a listen.

That’s what I’m listening to these days, when I’m not listening to music. I hope these suggestion inspire my readers to listen to some new, educational podcasts. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite podcast.

Today is Book Lover’s Day

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Pile of Books in Shallow Focus Photography Since today is Book Lover’s Day, I thought I would share some of my favorite books with you.

The first book on my list is Me Talk Pretty One Day by the fabulous David Sedaris. This book made me laugh out loud. It made my laugh hysterically. It made me laugh until I cried.

I especially like the essay in which David’s French class is discussing Easter. (The name of this essay is “Jesus Shaves.”) I won’t spoil it for you (and my explanation can’t do it justice), but you MUST read it for yourself.

The next book is RE/Search #11: Pranks by V.  Vale. (According to Wikipedia, “RE/Search Publications is an American magazine and book publisher, based in San Francisco, founded by its editors Andrea Juno and V. Vale in 1980.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RE/Search) This book is exquisite!

It’s a series of interviews with folks who have pulled colossal pranks. Some of these folks have been pulling pranks their whole lives. The pranks are really clever (not slapstick) and often make people question their assumptions and the things they take for granted about the world we live in. I think this book is all about making people think and question and feel.

My one critique of this book is that hardly any women are represented. Do women not pull pranks, are they difficult to find, or did the author of this book just not try hard enough?

The next book is a memoir, Sleeping with Cats by Marge Piercy. This book is so fantastic!

I love so much about Marge Piercy. I love the way she decided to remain childless because she knew she couldn’t sacrifice her writing and her time to be a good mother. I love the way that she knows she can be a difficult person. I love the way she is a true, strong feminist who wants equality for women, equality for people. I love the way she understands poverty, having grown up in it. I love that she gardens, grows food, barters her produce for food she cannot grow. I love that she uses the word “zine” throughout her book. I love her strength, her determination, her fortitude. I love that she loves cats, sex, and travel. I wish I could be her friend.

This book is the story of Piercy’s life, everything that’s happened to her woven around the core of the cats she has known and loved. She writes about her husbands too, her books, her friends, but at the center are her cats.

Piercy ends each chapter with one of her poems. My favorite is “The Weight” which concludes chapter seventeen.

This book is substantial. The writing is solid, engaging, challenging, but not difficult. I read with my new dictionary at my side, looking up the dozen or so words I didn’t know.

I think this is my new favorite book. I think I need to write Marge Piercy a fan letter.

Another favorite book is also autobiographical, A Working Stiff’s Manifesto: A Memoir of Thirty Jobs I Quit, Nine That Fired Me, and Three I Can’t Remember by Iain Levison. I laughed until I cried reading this book. It is excellent, excellent, excellent.

The author chronicles many of the shit jobs he’s had since graduating from college. That’s right, he graduated from college, and he’s still reduces to working shit jobs. Any of us could find ourselves in his situation.

Another book dealing with labor issues is Sabotage in the American Workplace: Anecdotes of Dissatisfaction, Mischief, and Revenge by Martin Sprouse. This book is SO GOOD! I have read it twice and gotten a huge kick out of it both times.

It’s all about how people purposely messed things up at their jobs, mostly because they had been mistreated or had seen a wrong perpetrated against a fellow worker. These clever true stories are told in first-person accounts by the people who did the deeds.

The first novel on today’s list is The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker. I love the way this book validates all kinds of different relationships and doesn’t hold romantic/sexual love above all other kinds relationships. I buy used copies whenever I find them cheap so I can pass it out to people I like. It is a fantastic book and highly recommended.

The final book for today is Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique by

. This book is awesome!

The author breaks down the institution of marriage and shows it for the oppressive institution it is. She does so by taking to task the wedding industry, critiquing every thing from buying the dress to getting the reception catered.

I don’t even know how to say how fantastic and important this book is. Please read it.

I hope these mini-book reviews inspire you to read a book today. I hope you enjoy whatever you read today as much as I enjoyed these books.

The first image in this post courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/pile-of-books-in-shallow-focus-photography-264635/. The other images are Amazon advertising links. If you click on any of those links, I will get a small advertising fee from anything you put in your cart and buy during your shopping session.