Monday, October 29, 2007

Conversational flotsam and jetsam

Passing people on the sidewalk, one tends to overhear snippets of conversation that make one (well this one, at any rate) wonder. I sometimes build up elaborate (and probably erroneous) scenarios in my head.

Young lady on a cell phone, walking immediately in front of me:

"Melissa honey, you are outta control. It'll be all right. Trust me. It' know what? Come up here next weekend. There are 20,000 boys on this campus, I'm sure we can find one for you." Melissa must've either just lost a boyfriend, or is having rotten luck on the dating scene "back home."

She turns towards the dorms and is lost in the crowd.

Approaching me from the left is another young woman on another phone, voicing her opinion of someone's apartment:

"It's such a bachelor pad. He doesn't even have spoons! That's why he's always over at our place...." and away she goes. I'm wondering how he eats cereal--one mouthful at a time, straight from the box? Interspersed with swigs of milk right out of the carton, of course.

A man and a woman, both dressed like office professionals, are standing on the corner of the street that divides campus and town.

"You're about to watch me perpetrate fraud on my parents," the woman says, reaching for her cell phone. " I'm not proud of this, but sometimes you just have to do it, you know?"

I didn't stay to hear what sort of fraud this was. I'd like to think that it was because it's none of my business, but really it's more that the pedestrian crossing sign had just changed to "walk," and I had no reason to stay.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Solstrom- Boleadoras

Well, I found one from Cirque du Soleil, but the embedding has been disabled on it. This looks like the same two cast members who are in that other video. If you want to see the other one, click here. The masked troupe members look similar to the ones I was describing. I read in the program I bought that the show we saw is one of the older ones, revived and revamped for a different sort of venue.

Visitation and Cirque du Soleil

I just realized I never told you how my parents' visit was. It went something like this:

Friday (after getting blood drawn at the hospital), I scurried about sorting, cleaning, throwing things out. Saturday, ditto. Sunday morning, ditto. My Mom had said they'd be arriving around noon, Dad later said around ten a.m. (!). This meant (to me) that they'd probably be here around eleven, and that's what I was aiming for.

Ten-thirty, there's a knock on my door. I fling it open, spilling belly-dance music out into the yard, without stopping to think about what I look like: the hand not holding the door has an almost-full trash bag in it. I'm wearing a dust mask, which means my glasses are a little fogged up. Hair is pulled back into what was a very neat ponytail about three hours ago. My mother is not fazed.

"Hiya!" She starts dancing in place. "Nice music."

"Thanks," I take the mask I just remembered I'm wearing and pull it down to my chin. "I figured the beat would make me work faster. Do you need the bathroom?"

"Nope. You ready to go?"

"Almost." I survey the living room. "You know, this looks a whole lot better than it did a few weeks ago."

"Honey, I didn't come here to inspect your apartment. I like the way you have the furniture set up now."

"Thanks. Oh, hey, look at this." I drop the trash bag and cross over to the bookcase. "You know those great big zippered bags? Space Bags, I think they're called. This is the biggest one, XXL."

I grab and lift it over my head. Mom's eyes light up.

"Oooooooh. YARN!"

"Yeh. I am not allowed to purchase or receive any more yarn. Seriously. I have at least three sheep's worth in here. And I keep finding more! Some of it I don't even remember buying."

She nods. "Happens to me too. Hey, I'm gonna go wait in the truck. We'd like to go somewhere where we can get salads. Is there a grocery store around here somewhere with a salad bar?"


Lunch is bought, consumed in the parking lot outside the arena. When we head indoors, the ticket-takers scan the barcodes on our tickets (beep!) with little hand-held devices instead of tearing them in half. I wonder how long that's been going on. It's been a while since I've been in here. Mom and I are directed to another staff member, who searches our purses (for cameras? recording devices? WMDs?) before letting us in.

Our seats are right on the floor (one of the things that had Mom jumping up and down when she got her tickets -- "Floor seating!?! Row eleven!!!?!!!"). We gawk and rubberneck, discussing set design. I point out the two lighting technicians above us. At least I think they're lighting techs. They're wearing headsets, and are in these seats that look like something out of a cockpit--and they're suspended from the ceiling, hanging right over the audience. Yikes. Not my kind of job at all.

The Cirque troupe comes out and warms up the crowd for about fifteen or twenty minutes before the show starts. They're pulling members from the audience to do things on stage, interacting with people in the aisles. There are two kinds of costumes for the troupe members -- one set is more elaborate, with wigs and heavy make-up. The other set is simpler: a unitard and with some simple clothes over it, white gloves, white shoes, and a hat of some sort. Instead of make-up, this costume comes with a mask--plain white, like it's made from papier-mâché. There are two little eye holes, one more for the mouth, and a great big hooked nose. The people in these costumes are silent, and somehow they can be both cute and creepy at the same time. They keep sneaking up on people in the audience and hanging over their shoulders. One of the masked ones in blue does that to the woman a row ahead of us.

A little while later, while I am watching a troupe member playing with a kid from the audience, I feel this presence over my left shoulder. I turn, look right into one of those hooked noses, and shriek. The clown runs off, mission accomplished.

The show itself is amazing. We each have favorite acts. Mom likes the bungee and trapeze acts. Dad is very taken with the acrobats working with the Chinese poles--at intermission he talks about their impressive arm strength. My favorites are the bicyclist (he did everything to that bike but ride it completely upside-down) and the boleadoras (no picture of them on the web site, but I found something on YouTube that I'll post later).

The boleadoras are like flamenco dancers with accessories. A man and woman come out onto a stage that is set up specially for them. They're dressed in red and black, and each carries a drum. First they dance together, drumming at the same time; then they take turns accompanying each other. Then they set down the drums and bring out these little metal balls on thin silver chains (bolos, I'm guessing), spin them around, strike the floor with them, and dance. Wow. At times the bolos are moving so fast, it looks like they're dancing in/with silver hoops.

All in all, it was a great time. Mom said this is something she's going to remember forever (aw!). And, as an added bonus, Dad enjoyed himself. He can't stand watching Cirque du Soleil when it comes on TV, so I was a little worried he was going to be bored for two hours. Nope. He says it's much different live.

It sure is.

My teacher's on YouTube!

This is the woman who teaches my dance class. I think I'm in pretty good hands, don't you?

Monday, October 08, 2007

A new experience

Well, that's it, I think to myself. I have no more gifts to catalog, no more surrogates, level changes, or call number requests to work through. I've gotten caught up on my end of a project I'm working on in conjunction with someone from Circulation, and am awaiting further instructions (we correspond via email). I've sorted out everything in my problem pile. The only thing I have left to do is my last-resort project (ugh), the never-ending search-and-correct list from the Government Printing Office's Administrative Notes Technical Supplement. I can do that for a while, but after about four hours of unadulterated hey-I-already-fixed-this-record crap (Admin. Notes has a habit of repeating announcements a few times, just in case you missed them the previous month. And they mix them in with new announcements in such a way that you can't just cull out the stuff you've seen before. 'Cause it all looks the same after a while, see.), I'm going to be found under my desk, rocking slowly back and forth, sucking my thumb. Time to bite the bullet and go see a team mate.

"Hey, Bess?" I poke my head into my coworker's cubicle. "Do you have anything for me to do?"

She swivels around and scans her desk.

"Um. No. Well...wait! You could see what's going on with this." She indicates the gray tub just inside her entrance. "Holly thinks there's something wrong with the records, and I haven't looked at 'em yet. It won't take very long, but it's something."

"Okay!" I swoop down on the bin and carry it back to my desk. It doesn't take long, really, because there's nothing wrong with the records. I prettify them a little, write a longish note to Holly, put everything back into the bin and schlep it over to the mail room to be delivered. Half an hour down. Four and a half more to go. Not counting lunch. When I get back, Bess is in muffled conversation with Lana. I hear the phrase "not really enough to train her with" waft over a wall. They're trying to find something for me to do.

Bess comes over to visit a little while later.

"I'm going to talk to Janice about you needing stuff to do. This is a brand new experience for us. We've never been caught up before, and we've never, ever had to scrounge around for work. The monograph team is in a similar situation. It's weird. It's like no one's ordering anything. I think we need to ask for projects. Janice's out today, but I'll talk to her first thing Monday."

"Okay." My eyes drift to the red folder full of Admin. Notes photocopies, and I sigh inwardly. I can probably handle it if I know I won't be doing it all day, everyday. And Tracy might email with the next part of our project (hope springs eternal).


Bess emails our supervisor because she can't seem to catch her in her office when she's not busy. Janice answers the email quickly, and Bess forwards it to me with the comment that I should probably expect a visit after lunch.

And I do get a visit. I'm now going to be reclassifying of a bunch of serial microfilm from some obscure, arbitrary, in-house call number scheme over to Library of Congress call numbers. Not only that, but Janice told me to go ahead and contact the documents librarians about some cataloging projects they briefly mentioned they'd like done, but didn't go into detail about at the time. I tell Bess about this after Janice has left.

"Odd," I say. "Where I was before, things like this involved intense negotiation between my supervisor and the whoever wanted the work done, and I got brought in at the end. Now it's just me doing the talking."

"Uh-huh," Bess smiles.

"Is that normally how it works down here?"

"Well, sometimes. With some people, no it wouldn't. Some people around here you really have to watch closely, for a number of reasons. But sometimes...yes. With you, yes."

I look at her quizzically. "Because I know the documents collections so well, and I used to work with those folks?"

"She trusts you."

"Oh." Huh. So that's what that feels like.

[All names changed to protect the author]