On the Ground

A couple months ago, something bad happened at my work. A superior abused his employee, and though I was not present to witness the actual act, I have since watched the slow, sure disintegration of everything hopeful and strong about this place. The emotions ran high, and while I had some peers angry at me for not being more irate about the situation (although I was plenty mad and shocked), I also had a boss who has seemed angry at me for being angry at all. And to this day, remains quite hostile. I swore I would not be a lightening rod for yet another tense and unpleasant group situation, and for the most part, I haven't been. But I've still taken a lot of heat.

It's a very sad thing, to have so much turmoil be so poorly addressed. It's what tears good organizations to the ground. It's what makes people like me think, "God, maybe working for the Man ain't all that bad." After all, I don't need that much stability. I had hippie parents! I'm a great candidate for a start-up nonprofit. But I do need to be able to trust that my job description won't change from week to week, that people won't be secretly promoted all around me, that bosses won't terrify their employees, that people old enough to do so accept some personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions. There are a lot of opportunities to climb onto a high moral horse here, but I've been trying to avoid that. I generally consider self-rightousness to be resolutely boring (although unquestionably necessary in some cases).

And in the meantime, I am holding my breath, waiting for my children's book manuscript to slowly circulate from desk to desk. Seventeen editors, from Massachusetts to Oregon, considering my work. Since I don't really have a back-up plan, each rejection that comes in gives me a little stab in the heart. Four rejections came, all in envelopes that arrive at my doorstep with the address in my own handwriting. Now thirteen possible yes's are left.

Good thing there is so much news that's happy these days. The news that we'll be here another year is great, because it gives me more time to try to be thoughtful or goal-oriented about my career and education. Perhaps the extra months will give me time to assume some sort of direction. Then again, this is me talking, and in terms of making money, I don't have that much of a direction. But still. Now I have more time to confirm that.

And our friends will marry soon, in a quiet living-room ceremony, and in July, I'll marry the love of my life, in a ceremony I have taken to starrily dreaming about. I see orange and pink. I see dancing. I see him in pearl-gray silk. I see us kneeling. Now all we have to do is make it happen; the rings, the food, the wine, the invitations, and of course, the dress.

Thank god we have a place!

Blogger recently published an article called "How to Get a Book Deal With Your Blog," which is by turns envy-producing, weird and alien, and faintly hopeful. I love this blog, but I don't see it as the ticket to a book deal. I do, however, think that writing in it helps me get published. Just by writing. And, it's a diary of my weird work environments, which is my current idea for a book. The Idealistic Cynic Goes to Hampshire, Becomes a Marxist, Goes to Work, Goes to Harvard, And Gets Caught Up in Weird Work Environment After Weird Work Environment.

What? Not catchy enough?


From the Ground

It was like seeing Santa Claus get a medical checkup, seeing Hussein on TV, with his wild beard and mythic eyes. It was an incredible vision, breaking through all simulcra, far from the sensation of seeing grainy footage of him leading vast flatlands of troops, trim and shaven, distanced enough from me by his stony gaze, classic dictator mustache, bad film quality, and extended arms. He was triumphant then, and a menace to our worst president. Like smart bombs on TV, it was all faintly unreal, except that U.S. soldiers kept dying, and now, though they still keep dying, there's video of him, looking old, worn, tired, and human; it's eerie.

And he arose from a hole in the ground, where he was hiding, too scared to kill himself, too scared to leave. He was eating a pot of rice. Around him were rotting fruit and eggshells. Decades of mass graves, scared citizens, threats from the Bushes, shows of military might, astronomically bad decisions, riches and squalor, and it all winds down quietly in a brick hole, right before the holidays.

Last night we saw The Last Samurai, and I was blown away. All today it is with me, and the discovery of Saddam somehow, oddly, helps to frame it. The Last Samurai was, for me, about a dead man. That is, a man who is already dead even though he's alive. And then, and then, he becomes alive. How is this possible? It was, in this story, the way of the Samurai.



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Happily, the busiest month of the year is now over. What if December had no holidays, just ice and snow, with a warm cat inside and some hot chocolate? Oh, wait, that's January. Well, maybe I shouldn't be so dour about holidays. Christmas lights are unquestionably great, and I love a good Christmas tree. And this year I get to wear a beautiful diamond ring, and try on beautiful dresses, one after the other. The season is also made special by another, very important task: eagerly awaiting responses to my manuscript, a novel for children. After my last post, in which I wrote that I mailed out seven manuscripts, I rethought my process and went ahead and mailed out ten more, bringing my grand total to seventeen. Still, I hope, as lucky a number as seven. I decided I didn't want to be able to ask: Is there anything more I could have done for that manuscript?

Thanksgiving: stuffed squash, warm chocolate pie, pumpkin pie made from real pumpkins. A cousin upset, a brother needing hugs, the pleasure of talking to parents, an aunt giving orders. My fiance being amazing: calm, considerate, social, familial, funny, handsome. A party the next day, sleeping in, staying in a little apartment in Brooklyn with a spiteful cat. Champagne in the afternoon. James Bond marathon on the Men's channel (Spike TV). Tuna sandwiches in a Brooklyn deli, watching trash blow by the windows. A cold wind blowing gray clouds. Macy's on 6th Ave, decked in Christmas, too crowded to move. On the drive home, after a week with two families on two coasts, bending under pressure. Very glad to come home.

My life at work seems to be one long crisis, which is eventually going to be very exhausting. It requires stamina just to perform my job with the routines I promise site users, to try to protect my readers from spam, to not let the organization's mission, which I care about very much, spiral into a ridiculous mockery of itself. There is a terrible morale and job security problem among staff. It's a little embittering, I guess. I have some hope that it will stabilize, that I can perform the tasks I am proud of in an environment that I can trust.

Here's hoping! And I hope, too, that your Thanksgiving was rich with family and hope for the future!