Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Phat Cat Says...

Tears swell but never fall like humidity trapped inside a thundercloud. Storm rages inward as you can see the turbulence build across a darkened horizon. Thunder booms giving evidence to inner conflict. Lightning strikes lashing out proving how volatile and yet simultaneously how fragile the situation really is. But nothing falls as the pain isn't enough to let go of. We look for funny shapes in the familiarity of the changing cloud formations to soothe our curiosity of what might happen but the feeling can be felt without a glance. You can smell it in the air. The dam is held up with so much strength that no force could ever make it give way. Just when you think the weather isn't going to do anything but pass over, you feel a drop. Then two. Before long it begins to rain as the heart breaks and water is set free seeping through the cracks in the wall you built up around you. The tide cleanses and makes new. The weight of your body collapsing to one knee is only relief that the storm will rip you apart and hopefully flood washing away everything in its path. But there is always something left behind after the havoc. You. However, I'll be the first to admit the sky always seems so much clearer after a downpour as we begin to realize and understand what it is to let go.

Tales From the Mushroom

Bloody Pirates

I love movies in which the action seems more real than generated.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Idiots Guide to Surviving the Queen of Hearts in a 9 to 5 Setting

 I'm told that there are topics you should never talk about openly in mixed company for fear it may cause you harm or ruin your standing in society now or in the near future. Those topics of never never include religion, politics, sex, gender, racism, and your job. I have single-handedly defied every one of those rules of taboo as you know I have mentioned those topics freely with as much support, criticism, and educated sarcasm as I can muster from time to time. Yes, the rumor is true. You will get in trouble for speaking your mind. But I like to look at it as if there would be no point in having a mind if you didn't say what was on the damn thing. Somehow that makes me an idiot for using my brain. Interesting concept being considered stupid for voicing my  hard earn and well thought out opinions.  Which leads me to my topic of choice for this strange endeavor. There are days like today when all you can do is bear down and hold on in hopes of sliding through unnoticed by the boss or bosses just to make it to that Yaba Daba Doo 5 o'clock whistle. I somehow never make it and always get noticed before I can run out that door at night. It must be my magnetic charisma that attracts people to me before I can punch that freaking time clock in the gut and go home. I've heard it said that people ask me to do things more than they would ask my other co-workers because I am the calm one that doesn't make waves. I somehow have a zen approach to work. So I'm told. So because of that I have learned to adapt and survive the onslaught of commands that stands between me and my parked car that is just waiting to go home at the end of every day.

I have to say my employer is pretty cool, but we all know some that are not. I work for a private contractor so we work for many Commanders and Chiefs as some prefer to be called. Some feel right at home with the job title of "Dictator". For those select few I prefer the term "socially inept". You see it takes a real ASSHOLE to not understand that making people fear you is not the same as respect. When your crew (or in some cases, minions) have been forced to the point of fear and anxiety waiting on your every response, then they can't wait for your rude and painfully timed demise. When they say good morning to you what they are really saying is, "I hope you get your neck tie caught in the elevator door and it hangs you on your way down to HELL you fascist leach of corporate greed!" Or can I get you a coffee translates to, "can I pour this vat of lava liquid down your gullet so I can watch melt away through the gutter grate in the mop closet you piece of slithering sewage slim!?" Yes, I have heard it all before. I have seen the faces wink and nod to one and other as co-workers walk by. People talking about the boss behind his or her back. That is not respect. Employees talk to us outside contractors as if they are looking for a kind ear to fall upon, or a sense of sympathy, or simple justification that the are right and the boss is wrong, or maybe the hope that we work as a hitman on the side and need a little overtime. I'm not sure really which, but I do know I get an ear full the minute I go into a company that is run by a tyrant.

Case in point, just the other day I show up at this company ready to hang art from their private collection. I have found that in most cases that the prettier the building from the outside, the sadder the people are on the inside. Power loves beauty. However, beauty most often is shredded down to nothing but surface due to the corruption of power leaving much less to be desired from within. When you walk in there is not one smiling face and everyone looks at you like you shouldn't be there. How DARE you walk through those doors when I worked so hard to be aloud to be here. I earned MY RIGHT. Just who or WHAT do you think you are? But as a contractor we can leave after the task we have been called upon is done. Who are we? WE are the freedom from captive beauty.

So I'm early and call my contact to let her know I'm there. There is already anxiety on the line before I even meet face to face. I get a bad feeling as I get into the elevator trimmed in gold. The doors close in this pristine symbol of workmanship, but I can't help but feel like I just fell into a rabbit hole as I hear the echo of the elevator shaft churn my way to the the next level of the game. The door opens and I stumble out with all my tool portable and at the ready only to see my contact race over quickly to me. She gives a big sigh and roles her eyes.

"Well, Of course things have changed since I set this job up." She said in a worried manner. For the sake of privacy we will call my client Alice.

"Cool. No big deal. I can work around whatever. That is why you called in the specialist. And if i can't... well, no one died if they didn't get their art hung on the wall." I smiled and tried to pull it all off as ice breaking joke, but there was no smile... or facial expression for that matter. I like to joke to ease tension. People get wound up about there art and personal belongings. They call on my company because we specialize in handling delicate objects. Still they treat you like you were just found out on the street corner and given this menial job. Awe look, they taught the bum to speak and get all prettied up for work. Can you say the rain in Spain lies mainly on the plains? They are blown away when I can. I joke to remind them that we all have our place. However, I could tell that Alice would not be impressed with my vocabulary after monitoring her stress level. That is when I realized Toto that we were no longer in Kansas.

Alice motions to a painting on the wall, "She wants to de-install this piece and put it into her office with a few others before we can get stared with what I called you here for."

"SHE" is apparently what the boss liked to be called because EVERYONE referred to her as "SHE". I took the painting off the wall form its security mount and we proceeded to take it to HER office (another word for the boss but not as favorable as SHE). It was like going through a castle of twisted mazes, fancy over sized fixtures to show off grand wealth, locked doorways to empty rooms, and over extended hallways that lead to nowhere in particular. I'm already lost when we finally reach HER layer in this extravagant building. Through the door and down another long hall. Offices on one side and cubicles on the other. We are heading towards an EXIT sign when I begin to think, "Where are we going now?". And then we suddenly stop by the EXIT sign pointing left and beside the exit door to the right was HER office. But it was funny to me that it looked like the exit sign was pointing towards HER office. The door was open. There was a receptionist in a station right across from the door and she and Alice started whispering to each other. But this was no ordinary whisper as they were more like mouthing a conversation without any noise at all. I was standing right there and could not understand one word. Then my client sticks her head into the open doorway and announces that I was there ready to install her art. What I heard next was very loud and VERY clear.

"I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR SUCH NONSENSE! ARE YOU AWARE OF HOW BUSY I AM AND HOW IMPORTANT MY TIME REALLY IS?!" A voice boomed from the room meaning to inflict stress into who ever crossed its path.

"Uh... yes... yes, I do." Alice spoke back softly.


"Yes... I understand."


"Okay, I'll just start on some of the other floors with him."


I had a feeling everyone waited on HER in any case and the change would have been if SHE had called into the office and couldn't be there because SHE was sick forcing everyone to have a day off of waiting on HER. But even then SHE would probably have people leave work to bring HER things to HER home just to feel important. We turn around and start the long walk back to the elevator. My client informs me that we will start work on another floor.

The door to the elevator shuts, "I asked her when a good day to do this would be and she said toady. I had to plan this for months now. NOW she doesn't have time. Oh well, she is busy with that important grant. You stick your head in only to get it bitten off. She just has to vent. You just can't take it personal you know. You can't take it personal." She was talking to me without leaving me any room for responding. Alice was pretty much just talking to herself.

The elevator opens and we walk into this vacant room. There are two maintenance workers unloading art out of a box looking totally lost as to what to do with it. The have this look on their faces as they subtlety roll their eyes to each other as if saying, "You call this art?". They were being led by a tall man with white curly hair who was frantically in conversation with himself under his breath. He had the crazed quick "I will snap on your ass" look to him like someone you didn't want to say the wrong thing to. He had this expensive gray pinstriped suit on. Apparently he is in charge of all the art in the building and from what I can tell he just inherited the job only hours before and was not happy about his new position. Discussion begins soon after introductions about where everything goes.

"Well, we have two on the ground level," the curly haired man began.

"Two? I thought we had three?" Alice questioned.

"We do, but I'm not happy with the one over the desk. So I'm going to change that one."

"Well should I have Keith start on another floor?"

"No he can start there and hang the two and then come back when I have figure out what to replace the one with."

"So should we go floor to floor."

"Sure. Right now there are two for ground, one first floor, three for third, maybe six for fourth..."

"What about second floor?"

"I don't have anything yet. Oh and I may change first floor. So maybe go to third next."

"What about fifth floor?"

Maybe we should start there and work down."

"Do you have anything for fifth?"

"No. Maybe we start with ground then go to third?"

"Could we start with fourth?"

"NO. She has that grant meeting until noon. We can't start on four."

"How about I start on the ground and you guys come and find me when you get ready for the next floor. Maybe start on the first next," I finally chime into the conversation.

"Yeah, yeah. Sure. You just get started," said Captain Curly trying to regain control of the ship that wasn't HIS.

Th two now appearing to have morphed into Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee right before my eyes get into the golden rabbit hole to venture into another realm to discuss what would be, could be, and should be next. I can hear their conversation fade as they go up or down or sideways or back in the echoing elevator shaft. I go into the rabbit hole soon after and find my way to the ground level. I see the two paintings. They are in an entrance way right as you walk in from the automatic doors. The doors were extremely sensitive and I kept triggering them off with every move I made. They kept opening and closing frantically. I began to work while the doors mimicked my every move. I started to feel like I was going mad with the sensor catching every motion I made in this small space. Open/close, open/close, open/close.

I had a hammer in my hand and a wicked thought came across my mind when suddenly from no where I heard, "So, you are about done here?" a voice calls from behind me.

It took me off guard and brought me back to reality. The anxious familiar face of Captain Curly and I talked in great length in just a few seconds about how long it took me to security install one painting. This bit of information would let him know how far ahead of me he would have to be if he was to keep me moving along.

"Well, he have a few changes." He said formally. "We have added some pieces. You can stay longer if needed right? Good," he spoke quickly never giving me a chance to respond, " what I think I'll have you do is go to second floor, then to first, and follow up on third. You might want to go to fifth after that and by that time we should have ground figured out. Then lets met up on fourth. She should be done with her meeting by then. I may have some pieces I may add here and there so you may have to go back to a few floors, but I'll let you know."

"That's fine," I said trying to stay calm in thinking about his little geographical map of layers to their little labyrinth while the automatic doors kept their uneven rhythmic beat. Why these people felt the need to make this more difficult to follow than an M. C. Escher painting is beyond me. But like I have always said, dysfunction comes form the top down and a ship runs only as good as the captain that is steering it. Or in this case the SHE behind the helm. "Just out of curiosity though, I was told there were ten pieces to hang. It sounds like there could be more. How many paintings are we now talking about?"

"Well," I can see the the imaginary chalk board he begins to look at in order to figure out this equation, "let's see. There is the 5 and 3 from earlier. Take away the 2 but added 6 on the fourth. I don't know maybe double the original you were told."

Now what started out as a two hour job is now looking like a good part of the day with the added pieces and playing floor tag with the elevator. It is also looking like my lunch is going to be late due to HER scheduling of when I can be on the fourth floor. My stomach starts getting angry, and when that happens then the day is pretty much shot until it gets what it wants. So i start busting my tail to get the job down racing in and out of the elevator. I get to the point I barely put my tools away in order to hit the ground running as soon as those golden doors open. Before I'm I can finish on each floor, Captain Curly adds another piece and keeps telling me we can probably stop after I do the third floor because She would no be ready for me to do the fourth floor today. But every time I thought I was going top the third floor I would get pulled to another. The third floor was like this dangling carrot being held over me. And I was SOOOOO hungry. Then there was finally no other floor to do  but the third. I was heading for the rabbit hole for one last job when it opens... and there stands Captain Curly.

"Good news," He said. "She is out of her meeting and we a short window of time that we can do the fourth floor. We will do that one first since there are so many to do. Then you can finish on the third."

By now I knew there would be no lunch. Why was I jump through hoops for these people like this? We get to the fourth floor and I look around. A second elevator door opens and it all made sense to me. A man rushes out yelling, "I'm late, I'm late! I'm so sorry, I'm very late!" Apparently he was supposed to have a meeting with HER and was running behind schedule and literally RUNNING down the hall crying out that he was late with papers falling behind him. A grown man in a three piece suite acting like a cartoon character. I got it it all of the sudden. That place made people CRAZY! SHE drove everyone insane with her schedules that twisted and turned making time in keeping appointments with HER even more difficult than keeping up with what floor you needed to be on. She confused people and pushed them with massive pier pressure. She undermined everyone's decisions to the point that they could not make logical conclusions on how to start and finish any given project. Anyone that walked into this establishment felt HER presence and instantly fell into an abyss of anxiety. I had to get out of there. Then a huge commotion happened when some people apparently higher up on the food chain started questioning Captain Curly about what I was doing on the fourth floor.

"Who gave you authorization to hang these painting? Did she give you that authorization?" A very stern woman barked firmly.

"Oh, I have authorization," commanded Captain Curly.

"Yes we have authorization. I put in a work order months ago for this to happen today." Alice was trying to come to the Captain's rescue.

"But did SHE give you the authorization to hang those there?" The stern woman pointed at the pieces of art on the floor against the wall.

"We have authorization," Captain Curly said with a certain confidence.

"BUT did SHE give you authorization to hang THAT particular art there?"

Captain Curly looked a little sheepish for a moment, "Uh... no, no she didn't give me authorization to hang those there. I just decided..."

"Well that is what SHE wants to know. WHO decided. Who authorized those particular pieces." The stern woman looked very pleased with herself that she won the war of words as she crossed her arms. "I think you should go talk to her."

Captain Curly sunk and swallowed, "Fine." Then he and the others walked down the hallway to HER office leaving me there by myself.

So I start working. Then a huge a staff of people file out into the room of unhung art lead the QUEEN herself. You could see it in her eyes that someone was going to loose their head. she stormed through the room giving everything and everyone a look of disgust.

"I do not like this." SHE finally spoke. "This is NOT what I WANT." They talk briefly about options. Then SHE throws her hands up in the air and leads the mob back to her office. A short time later Captain Curly walks up to me.

"We are done today. just finish that one you have in your hand and we are done."

"What about the third floor?" I asked knowing that was my final task.

"No third floor. She wants to... CHANGE somethings around now." And just like that he walks off and jumps into the rabbit hole.

Then Alice pops out. "Don't hang anymore. Just finish that one and you can go." She then disappears.

Then the stern woman walks up to me. "You know she doesn't want you hanging anymore right?"

"Yes. I'm just finishing this on then I'm out of here," I reassured her.

"Good," she said with this "I told you so" tone to her voice. Soon I was all alone.

I didn't bother putting all my tools away. I just piled them up and jumped on the elevator. I got down to the floor with the parking lot. Did you ever get that feeling when you were a kid when you got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and It was dark so you ran back to your bed because you just KNEW there was something there that was going to reach out and eat your face off? Well I am a grown man and definitely felt like that way then. I ran for the door. I dropped the extension cord. Fuck it! I'll but a new one. I was making a break for it and not looking back. The automatic doors didn't open right away. I guess I used up their batteries earlier that morning. The doors finally opened and I ran to the company vehicle. I tore out of the parking lot with the idea that speed bumps were more like shock testers and if your car didn't break away when you hit them hard then your vehicle was in great shape.The vehicle past inspection that day with FLYING colors and I only lost one hubcap.

I began to calm down the closer I got to the shop. I pulled in the driveway and laughed as I told myself I made it. I walked in the door hungry but relieved. But before I could put my appointment book down at my desk my boss walks over and tells me there is a message on the answering machine for me. I slowly walk into the room with the message machine. I creep up on it slowly. I reach my hand out to touch the playback button. I notice that my hand is shacking. I tighten my grip and shake it off. I play the message.

"This message is for Keith," It was Captain Curly, "You were here this morning and we were wondering if you could come back this afternoon and finish putting the paintings up in the Director's office?" I could hear the "Psycho" theme music in my head right then.

I head back to Wonderland. I jump in the rabbit hole. I walk the maze. I venture down the long hallway to HER office. I can hear her telling someone off on the phone. Captain Curly approaches me and tells me that I will be working directly with HER for the afternoon. Then he escapes as he hears her slam the phone down. SHE appears in the doorway.

"DO you know what you are doing?" SHE questioned snidely. "I mean, do you think what you have done here is acceptable? Do you not know your job and can't see that these do not look good the way you have installed them? Just what were you thinking?"

I felt a little mad in every since of the word by that point. There was no sense in justifying my action especially since she was pointing and complaining about something I didn't even hang. This was a wrestling match I couldn't win. Or could I? I had to work for her that day but I didn't have to stay there. I knew where freedom was and just needed finish the job at hand and find my way to the door. I knew what to do. I felt a little naked without my hat but madness is really is all in the eyes anyway.

"Well, when I think about the things I thought I begin to realize that what I thought I was thinking about is totally irrelevant to what I'm thinking right now, which is not what I thought. However, I find it to be a good practice to always go with my first opinion which is whatever was the first thought out of my mind to think." I let my eyes wonder around the room aimlessly to create the effect.

"What?" SHE was a deer in the head lights now. Stunned.

I had to act fast. "What, what?"

"What are you talking about? Are you making fun of me? Is this how you represent your company?" She was clearly angry.

"Representation is only half of my strong suit. We aim to please and pleasing is what we aim to do. Clearly you have been upset by the work I have done and this is my chance to correct the problem. For example I can hang this here," I remove the painting I didn't hang in the first place and hold it on another wall,"or I can hang it here." I ran across the room, "How about here? Or maybe over there. OH, behind that door. You know, these would look really great upside down. It would give it this really cool abstract effect. I have hung things from ceilings before but the lighting in here is that great."

She looked at me trying to figure out what I was up to. My behavior might have warranted the suspicion of extreme sarcasm, but the fact that I could act as well as mouth off was hard to read. Now she began to think I was a special needs person or one of those waaay out there artist types that couldn't get a job anywhere else. My commenting on the lights was intentional as knew she was a person that fancied herself a perfectionist and any mention of imperfection would get her complete attention. "No, I like them where they are. Just move the paintings in closer together. What do you mean the lighting is bad in here?"

"Clearly you have been inside much too long now. You can't see that the walls are sick and absent of color. Everyone in here looks so miserable. We really should change that."

"The walls ate not absent of color. They are a tradition white that I picked out myself."

I grab a drill and drill through the wall.

"What do you think your doing? You just put an unnecessary hole in my wall!"

"I'm letting the wall breathe. Why you yourself just told me how the walls looked pale. They are sick I tell you. They need to breathe."

"I said the walls are WHITE not PALE and don't appreciate..."

"Exactly. WHITE! Is this an insane asylum or a productive place of work. You need color in here. Reds, yellows, and blues. Green would go nicely there. You know all the fine arts museums are going with color."

I knew I had her attention now. "The museums are using color?"

"Oh yes, very lavish color. It makes the art pop out. You should also turn off these neon lights and use lamps. It creates more of a mood. It makes you feel like you are home. Especially since we live to work and work to live. I mean with as much time as we spend at the office we should be comfortable here and it should feel like home because we are rarely at our own homes." Before it all has time to process I move across the room. "I would remove the blinds and put in curtains. I would also remove that EXIT sign by your office door and put an ENTER sign in it's place. I think it would make it much more inviting."

"Somehow I don't think the fire marshal would approve." The receptionist finally spoke up.

"I'll be the judge of that." Her Majesty spoke reminding everyone of who was still boss. "I never liked that sign being there in the first place. Curtains you say?" She turned towards me.

"Paisley." I responded.


"Absolutely. I've seen them in major institutions. I mean it makes perfect since. Could you imagine anything else other than paisley?"

"No, I was just thinking that the other day in fact."

"I'm sure you were as we all know great minds think alike."

Flattered she then tells me, "Why don't you finish re-installing these here. When you get done with that there are other pieces in the three remaining offices here. Just put them where you see fit."

"Are you sure. You have much more of an eye than I."

"Well that maybe true but I trust you judgement." She turned and looked in her office. You could see the wheels turning from the back of here head.

"And what would be the distance between these pieces here you would want me to change?"

"Just use your judgement," she said never looking back at me. Then she walked into her office.

I put the piece I never installed in the first place right back on the hook from where it originally hung and then walked off to install in the three other offices. After I finished with that I pack my gear up to go home. As I was walking down the hall I happened to turn around and I see HER saying good night to fellow co-workers. I try not to look obvious as I speed up down the long hallway. There was only one elevator and I didn't want to leave room for conversation. I push the button. Come on, come on. The doors open she is almost to the elevator. I rush in and push the number to freedom.

"Can you hold that elevator" I hear HER voice as SHE manages to slide through just in time.

The doors now closed with the two of us in the golden rabbit hole. "You definitely have a strange approach to what you do." She told me. "But I guess in the art world you have to look at things differently."

"There is more than one way to view the world. There is more than one way to look in. There is more than one way to look out."

"I guess that makes sense... to some in any case."

"I find there is no sense to be made when there is no sense in making sense to someone that has no sense at all." The doors of freedom open. "And there in lies the irony."

I walked out. "We have more for you to do at some point." SHE holds the door to tell me that the game between us is fare from over.

"I look forward to that encounter." I smiled.

"I'm sure." SHE let the door go and it closed taking HER away.

The moral of the story? You can't fool the foolish or make sense out of nonsense. To play the game you must first understand the rules and know that the rules can be broken. NO ONE can hold anything over you. And when you realize that,... check... mate.

Tales From the Mushroom

The Wizard

The problem I have with the Harry Potter movies is not enough hats.

Tales From the Mushroom

Jambalaya George in the 
Curse of King Killgaro

I really miss the old time summer movies.