Monday, March 31, 2003

I was amused when I saw this article in The Detroit News last week where my blog is mentioned. I had not spoken to the reporter, but guess that he found me through Blogger and surmised what he did through my entries. It feels kind of neat to be part of this community who blogs, as we all do it for our own reasons. It's like an underground drumbeat, barely audible when one is standing, but if you put your ear to the ground, you hear the many different beats from all the drums and realize that there is a whole other world thriving just beneath the surface. For our own reasons, all of us who blog felt the need to type that first line and take the risk that someone out there will see it.

I took the afternoon off at the blessing of the manager. Sales are low, and they are still taking volunteers to go home early.

Once again, I volunteered. Tomorrow I do not work. I didn't want to be there today, which is becoming harder and harder to fight off. Especially when my company at the cashier is a 20-year-old "I know everything already about life" college drop out who usually bores me and others who have mentioned to me his rantings, with his drinking and partying tales. This guy lives for $1 beer night at the mall. Mostly, I just nod and smile, but sometimes I like to shake his tree a little bit about his views and get him worked up. Not hard to do. I can practically see him protectively guarding his comfort zone when I mention life outside Baltimore and what you hear on TV and talk radio. I'm working on other employment and have a prospect. It's once again not a career move, but anything is better than the situation that I'm in now.

I drove home, napped, and am getting ready to go to my art class. Last week, the assignment was a self portrait. I missed last week due to needing a break from my head. Sometimes one needs that, and I felt that I just couldn't output that night. I needed to look through someone else's eyes for two hours, so I walked to my mom's house and asked her to see The Pianist with me. We had been struggling for a night to see the movie, but couldn't find an evening that was good for both of us. The movie was playing in the Charles Theatre, an art film house that is exactly what one would imagine an art film house to be. Downtown, funky decorating, off-beat concessions, and pierced hipsters working the counters, pausing from their drawings to get you your refreshments. Just an all around pleasant experience.

The movie was fantastic. Worthy of the praise that it has received. I believe I may have found a refuge in The Charles Theatre, and will be going there again. I guess I can say that it was hooky, well spent.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Two profound things happened during my art class on Monday.

One, I found out that we were going to war in 48 hours. Two, I was called a good student.

In the midst of the world learning about a forthcoming war, there was a much smaller battle being won in an art studio in Baltimore. One of someone who set out to do something and did it. And that someone was me.

Our teacher had brought a radio into class so we could hear The President address the nation at 8:pm on Monday. I was in a surly mood, already forty minutes late due to some personal matters I had to take care of. I was mixed about wanting to hear President Bush's speech, as I had decided to sit this one out. Ever since 911, it's been a struggle to feel optimistic about things, and I'd been making a concerted effort to not watch television or listen to the news. If that's called sticking one's head in the sand, then I'm about to lay an egg the size of a cantaloupe. It's just too much right now, and I am not willing to visit the feelings surrounding 9-11.

However, I was glad to be surrounded by my classmates. As 8:00 ticked closer, we painted a still life and talked about things other than the war. Like I said, I was surly and didn't feel like painting that much. My classmates though, with their lighthearted chatter and camaraderie perked me up a bit, and by the time the speech came on, I was ready. As President Bush spoke, the class quieted, and students who had been painting in other classes or the hallway gathered around our door to listen. It was a classic scene, with a bunch of young, passionate, and idealistic people sitting around a radio. Eyes concentrated, brows furrowed, in some cases heads were bowed, lost in thought, listening to the President of the United States. I was glad to be listening to him in that room, and not alone in my apartment where I would feel like the only person in the world affected. No one to look at, or to see thinking like I was, and know that I was not walking alone in this changed and frightening new world. Once the speech was over, we continued our paintings. Some talked about the speech, but I didn't. I have mixed feelings about the war, and those feelings I wanted to keep to myself. So I did, and painted in silence, but glad for the people around me who openly discussed what we had just heard. Glad to be in company, and not in isolation.

Our teacher took us one by one and had us put a semester's worth of work up on the wall for her to critique. And that's where she turned to me and said, "You are such a good student."

Not because I came to class, and not because I completed the assignments, but because of how I approached the assignments and tried to take out of them what was intended to be learned. To explore, break out, and tread on unfamiliar and uncomfortable lands. And that showed in my artwork and my performance in class. I dove into the assignments, not worried about the final result, but what I would learn in the process of obtaining that result. My teacher had supplied the hand, and I was willing to take it and follow. And, she recognized that as "good."

I wish I had realized growing up, that being a good student is when you open yourself up to learning. In the school systems that I went through, good students were the kids who sat up straight in class, handed every paper in on time, memorized facts to ace tests, and did some extra credit work to plump up their chances of getting an A. The goals were always on the grade, and not the learning. As a result, I was not a good student. Unfortunately, I took that approach with me to college at Parsons School of Design. I worried what the teacher wanted and not about what I was learning. If I had relaxed, allowed myself to walk through the process of learning, then perhaps I would have gotten more out of my college education. Perhaps I would have retained some of it. Instead, it became a struggle between me and the teachers about expectations that felt I could never meet, and eventually that led to my barely average performance in my classes. It became about what I could get away with not doing, instead of understanding that these assignments were not a test to see if I could measure up, but to teach me something about my craft.

It took years to unlearn.

And the result of that unlearning happened on Monday. I am taking this class for a grade, but that is secondary to what I came there to learn. I know that part of this comes with maturity, and in college I was not willing to be a just a grade factory. So I rebelled, simply because I did not know what else to do. Now, I am a good student, in the truest meaning of the term.

And that makes me proud.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

There are some things that we women just don't have to endure, well, because we're women.

One being an incident that happened to a coworker yesterday. He was in the men's restroom, washing his hands when an ample sized customer walked in and cut a huge fart. Without shame, he fired out about three more loud blasts, then turned to my coworker and said, "Well, if you can't do that in the men's room, where can ya?"

My coworker replied completely deadpan, "Hey, it's you're underwear, not mine," then walked out.

I just can't see that happening in the women's room between two women.

This same coworker had a similar incident today. He walked in to the men's room and noticed that the stall was out of toilet paper. He went to the supply room and grabbed a roll, and was on his way back in when a fat guy rushed past him into the stall. Seconds later, he heard let's just say, some rapid fire farts and waste expulsion. Thoroughly disgusted, he walked out, but not before he heard the man jiggling the empty toilet paper dispenser.

He told me to keep an eye out for a customer who might be missing a shirt.

Yesterday wasn't a shining example of my better judgement when I drove to work on a car that was running on fumes. The night before, the last thing that I wanted to do was go to the gas station, so I didn't. I thought I could eek out one more drive to work.

I was almost right.

About half a mile from the store, my car started to gasp, thrust, and cough. "No," I said, as it continued to die. A large pickup behind me was on my ass, and I turned on my hazards. It lurched again, and I had hope that I could make it to the gas station, but then it just died. It was the first time ever that I had run out of gas, and felt like an enlarged idiot. Traffic piled up behind me and the truck pulled around my helpless car. A man in an SUV pulled up beside me and asked me if he needed me to call someone or I needed a ride. I told him, "I'm out of gas, I'm such an idiot." He shrugged and said, "It happens."

I then told him I'd take him up on the ride, and was just about to get out when I said that I'd try it one more time. I turned the ignition, and my little Honda fired right up. I thanked the man and told him that I'd try to make it, and he pulled in behind me to be a buffer from the other traffic in case it quit again. I don't know if it was the sight of the gas station, but after lurching and spitting and teetering on another stall, the car shot into high gear and made it all the way to the pump.

I felt like a complete and utter fool. It was a lesson learned.

Perhaps that's why I've been in a better mood the last couple of days. A stranger who could have kept driving extended help to me. Kind of like a pair of gentle hands that had my back when I almost fell. I think the reminder that we are never alone even when there are no familiar faces around, was exactly what I needed to know on that cold morning.

Perhaps it was meant for me to run out of gas, so I could see just that.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Today was the 2nd anniversary of the day that Rob took his life. I got through the day pretty well, all considering. As the hours came closer to the time that I got the phone call, I wondered what must have been going through his mind to do something so drastic. I miss him and still think of him every day. However, a lot of those memories are happy ones and I giggled to myself several times today thinking about the chats we'd have on IM, the tangents we'd go off on, and the uncontrollable laughter that ensued. The teasing, one liners, and funny observations. Incidents like when my dad got a fancy meat thermometer for Christmas, and as we were outside on the terrace cooking the Christmas bird, Rob held it up to my dad and said with a completely straight face, "Now Jim, under no circumstances are you to stick this up your anus." I almost died laughing. My dad was speechless but took it in good stride. Rob could take the grandeur of my dad and reduce him to an object of fun ridicule. Or, dubbing the knitting group that my stepmother Marie attended the respectful name of, "Geezers with Tweezers."

And, there wasn't anyone in the world who knew more about baseball and particularly the New York Mets than Rob. He was an encyclopedia of sports knowledge, perhaps because due to his mild cerebral palsy, he couldn't play them. He always had everyone else's happiness or well being in mind before his own. His intelligence was astounding, as was his sensitivity. He was twenty years old.

It is also the day that Blogger chose my blog as a "Blog of Note." I do not think that the two are merely a coincidence. I started this blog to deal with the loss of Rob, and in place of our Instant Message chats I started to write to him in a blog called "Letters to Rob," hoping that somewhere, somehow he'd get them. I started this blog after that one, needing a cathartic outlet for the day to day things of life going on. Because life does go on. It's a huge pain in the ass sometimes but it's supposed to be that way. No one has all the answers or ever will. There will be many wrong turns, but the important thing is to work your way back to the right road. Not to stop. Not to give up, but to understand that this too, will pass. And when it does you may find yourself in an art class really glad to be alive as you paint, knowing that you are responsible for getting yourself here. And, proud that you have stuck to it and in the greatest moments of despair, kept going. Kept going, so you can see what you are capable of when you are at your best, instead of ending it all when you feel your worst.

I plan to keep going. I wish that Rob had, too. But just because he didn't, doesn't mean that he never was. So, I'll take this opportunity of increased traffic to let the world know:

Robert Detoro was.