Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Job title: Me

The dating has commenced, and along with it, a few revelations.

Last week I met a man I found intriguing online and subsequently felt a lot of chemistry with in person. It was probably one of the longest first dates I've had, and there seemed to be mutual interest, but... it hasn't progressed to date two. With my new mindset at work, I am chalking it up to "he's just not that into you," and letting it go after having made one attempt to schedule a get together. The rub could be anything (and of course he doesn't know me well enough for me to take it personally) but of course I can't help but wonder what happened.

There were a bunch of differences, but nothing insurmountable, and my mind did wander to think that he could have even thought I'd find some things to be troublesome when they didn't matter to me. (And yes, I know I am putting more thought/weight on this than he likely did. Just indulge me.) One was the difference in our backgrounds. He's pretty much had working-class jobs all his life while I've done the corporate thing. Maybe he thought that would cause problems in the long run -- different expectations, different lifestyles, who knows.

I'll admit that stuff like that used to mean something to me, but not so much now. He's smart, funny, interesting -- his job title means nothing to me. Rather, I was impressed that he does something that matters to people and contributes to society being able to function in an orderly way. In fact, his work sounds pretty cool.

Anyway, this got me thinking: for the past year, I haven't had a title. Except for Being Me. In a part of the world where so many people put so much importance on others' professions, I have none. Well, yeah, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I tell people I'm a writer or a communications strategist when I have to own up to a job. And of course I have the volunteer stuff. But bottom line, I've spent the last year being me. Really being me.

It feels pretty good, actually. The closer I get to the Authentic Me, the happier I am when all's accounted for. Crap stuff comes, and I can be at peace with the way I handle it, because I know myself and what works for me. I'm reminded of the closing words of Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise: "I know myself, but that is all."

I may not be completely there, but I'm always getting closer, and that's just fine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another first

Today was one of my volunteer days at Edison's labs, and I was, for the most part, scheduled for Building 5, the main lab building with his library, offices and recording studio. Visitation was pretty steady, so there were more than a couple of people to chat with over the course of the day.

I was scheduled to back up one of the other volunteers for the phonograph demonstration in the recording studio, and when I got up there early, three visitors were already waiting. While waiting for the other volunteer to show up, we talked a bit about the evolution of recording media and the difficulty of explaining the science of record discs to kids who've only been exposed to CDs and MP3s.

The other volunteer didn't show up, though one of the friendlier rangers stopped by and suggested that maybe I should just do the demonstration. Uhhhhhh.... I haven't done it before, and honestly I was a bit on the spot and didn't have my thoughts together. Then again, the visitors were really nice, we had the conversation going, so what the heck. I stumbled through it, didn't cover nearly what I would have wanted to with some prep, and the visitors were really appreciative. Turned out they were musicians and really dug the whole process and the fact they were standing in the world's first recording studio. Yup, and it's really a throwback when a contemporary musician is recorded using contemporary electric instruments, as they've done over the years at the park.

Following the demo, I walked them out to the exhibit showing the evolution of recording technology, and after a little chat, they started walking down to the next exhibit. Then they came back to ask whether they might be able to record there. Turned out they were members of Jay and the Americans, a 60's era band I'd heard of. Ah -- yeah, I know you. The ranger and I got some info for them; I've got no idea if the right person from the park will ever call them, but it's pretty cool to think I might have had a part in it.

So, at one park I was promised George Clooney. At the other I got an old 60's band.

And yeah, I got my first phono demo under my belt. It can only improve from here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inspections gone wild

To take the utility bridge to Ellis Island, you've gotta go through security. That means bringing your car to a complete halt, raising the hood and trunk lid for vehicle cavity inspection by US Park Police, and showing identification to the guard at the booth, to be matched against a list of expected visitors. If you're driving a delivery truck, they'll bring out the K-9 officer and his partner so the dog can make an olfactory inspection of the cargo area.

It's all part of the effort to safeguard Ellis and, more importantly, the Statue of Liberty. The two islands are close enough that something bad on Ellis could definitely hurt the Statue. There's even one of those tough metal plate drawbridges at the base of the bridge -- a barrier that can be raised to further prevent a possible assault by a loaded truck or car.

The Park Police pretty much recognize me and my car by this point, so the inspection is usually pretty quick, though last week one actually chided me for still having this summer's beach towels in the trunk. (Not a chargeable offense, it turns out.) Once in a while they ask for my ID, or there's a SWAT team cop there who's a bit more thorough. But more often than not, I pass through rapidly, sometimes even when they've detained someone else for further investigation.

Getting off the island is nearly always effortless. Sometimes the barrier is in the raised position, but the guard will drop it when he sees me coming.

Today's exit was a little different. From a distance, I saw that a white school bus was stopped at the guard shack at the entry point, and the barrier was up. Even as I neared, the barrier stayed up. Hmm. This should be interesting.

I stopped behind another vehicle which had gotten to the barrier just before me, and waited for the barrier to drop. Then I saw that people were leaving the white bus. All in the dress uniforms of U.S. Marines, and one or two with impressive clusters of service medals on their chests. They stood quietly while a cop and his search dog jumped onto the bus.

Now that's impressive. You don't trust the Marines to come to the Statue of Liberty with a clean vehicle? It had U.S. government license plates, to boot.

I've no idea why the Marines coming to Ellis by the back entrance, but they also appeared to have rifles with them, so maybe there was some sort of ceremony happening there. I am a little disappointed though -- I never thought a simple barrier would prevent Marines from going anywhere. The distance from shore to the island is only about a quarter mile. Surely they could have swum it if they weren't so worried about the dress uniforms.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Telling stories, yet again

So the relationship with the boyfriend is over. Too much attentiveness turned a bit suffocating... to the point where I felt I couldn't be myself anymore. And, of course, we all know that when you don't feel like yourself, you have to stop and wonder why.

I did, and I ended it. Really, when it came down to it, it was a matter of future. We'd been together a year, and by that time, I figured, you either know if you want to spend all eternity with this person, or not. Either the relationship is growing or it's got cracks that can fast become fault lines.

Ours was the second, not the first. The parting was a bit dramatic (on his end) for a week or two, and then he calmed down and accepted the reality of the whole situation. So at least, hopefully, I didn't create any additional bad karma for myself. I'm still amazed at how naturally the breakup came to me and how quickly I've moved past it. Maybe I saw it coming all along. Maybe that tsimmis back in the spring was the start of it, but I've done my crying and my mourning for what it was. And, if anything, I've given gratitude for what the relationship gave me, and what it taught me, which was a lot.

Now, for whatever crazy reason, I decided to re-up with eHarmony. Yeah, yeah. Maybe it's premature, but they were having a special, anyway. What the heck. I figured that my relative lack of success on getting attention in the past would only persist, anyway.

Apparently I was wrong. Within a week of joining, I've had plenty of communication. Now there are three different matches (and by different, I mean different) who seem interested enough to want to meet. I've got two phone numbers to call, and it seems that the third will be coming soon enough. Maybe it's the 'new' (or 'original') me who's been able to emerge from the overworked, cynical frustrated woman I was before I quit my job. That's encouraging.

The attention is kinda nice, even if it turns to not much overall. At least I seem engaging enough on paper (which I always thought I was, at least before the job dragged me down), and I guess my photos are appealing enough (which has been a perennial sore point for me). After so many shut downs in the past, I'd pretty much come to the conclusion that I wasn't all that attractive to many men. But the last couple of men I've been involved with (most especially the last one) were more than enthusiastic about my looks and overall attractiveness. I personally think I'm somewhere in the middle, but I'll admit the scale in my mind has bumped up a few notches with some encouragement over the years.

I approach the 'open communication' or phone-call stage of eH with a little trepidation, though. This is the point where you e-mail freely within their system, having gotten past their more structured Q&A format. Anything is up for discussion if you want, including what you do for a living. I've listed my occupation as "communications strategist," which I suppose I still am. When it comes to the job, well... I'm still figuring it out and feeling an impending sense of dread.

Yeah, too much time thinking (or not thinking) and not enough time doing, especially lately. Not a lot to show for it, but for a blog, some photography, half-done research on the documentary thing, and somewhere around 400 hours of volunteer time with the National Park Service. Oh, and maybe some restored sanity? But none of that pays the bills. Which makes me nervous. And potentially could get a prospective partner/mate/whathaveyou a bit suspicious about my intent, or at least skeptical about the fire in my belly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All clear...

Good news today.

I went in for my six-month recheck on the mammography. Technically, it was my 'annual,' but it was the first time since my biopsy that I was going to get checked.

I made the appointment last week and then didn't think about it until today. Then this morning I started getting kind of emotional about it. What would I do... how would I feel... if something showed up on the film? By the time I got to the imaging place, I was antsy about just getting the damn thing done.

Long story short, everything's okay. I don't have to go back for another year. What a relief.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No matter where you go, you end up somewhere*

In the time I've been volunteering at Ellis Island, I've heard about various notables coming to visit from politicians to Bruce Springsteen... yet I've always heard after the fact, so I couldn't plan to be there to possibly see them.

This time was supposed to be different.

About a month ago, we were informed that the Bob Hope Library would be rededicated on October 12. It's the main research area in the museum and is also home to the park's oral history library. And, of course, it's named for one of the most American of 20th century entertainers, who just happened to emigrate from England, through Ellis Island, as a youngster in the early 1900s. Hope's family would be on hand for the private ceremony, joined by a host of luminaries, including, we were told by reliable sources, George Clooney.

Now, I don't regularly go ga-ga over celebrities. In the early part of my career, I met several through my work and never saw the reason to idolize any of them, but I'll admit that there are a couple that get my interest up. George Clooney is one of them. Forget that he's impossibly good looking; he's got a great sense of humor, and he's true to the same friends he had as a struggling actor more than 20 years ago. And he gives a shit about worthwhile things. I'd still want the chance to meet him if he looked like Yogi Berra. (Admittedly, I wouldn't want to date Yogi the way I'd like to have a few dates with George, but cut me a break... I'm only human.) And yeah, I wanted a photo with him for my Facebook page. I've already got Mr. Met and Thomas Edison, so I need a third. I'm weird like that.

You can imagine that I woke up yesterday morning with some anticipation. Fortunately I didn't have to think about what to wear, as the Park Service shirt was de rigeur for volunteering. As I was getting ready, I was trying to figure out what time the ceremony would be, and, thus, what time the celebs would be getting to the Island and how they'd arrive without causing a ruckus among the populace. Then I saw that George was on the Today show, talking about Sudan. At 7:45 in the morning, during the show's usual hard news hour. Clearly that meant he had to be somewhere that required him to be on the road by 8 a.m. Knowing the traffic I faced to get to the Island, I got out the door early.

The big question was whether the celebs would be coming by boat or by land... which meant that Mr. Clooney would either face annoying traffic down to the Battery or a slightly easier route through the Lincoln Tunnel from Rockefeller Center. Things looked good as I drove through Liberty State Park and saw a sign pointing VIPs to the temporary bridge to Ellis. A black town car with New York plates was leaving the security check to cross the bridge just as I drove up to have my car checked by the Park Police.

I got through security and across the bridge just in time to see three people who were Not George get out of the town car, so I figured we were safe. My fellow volunteer for the day was also eager to see Mr. Clooney (I think his exact words were, "He's the only man I'd go gay for.") and reported he hadn't had any sightings yet, either. A ranger confirmed the plan for the day: the notables were coming by the island by car and taking the same back hallways we do to get to the public area, but they'd be sequestered on the third floor near the library until the 11 a.m. ceremony. Everyone was expected to be on the island by 9:30.

Then reality came crashing down. One of our ranger buddies came by to tell us that George wasn't coming. No joke. He was headed down to Washington to meet with the president on Sudan. NO! Say it ain't so! Well, I guess a potential civil war is a bit more important than meeting me, but at least tell me it came close...

After lunch, we were subjected to a stream of self-important-looking people walking past the information desk, back to the staff-only area on the way back to their town cars. One had a profile that seemed to indicate he was Bob Hope's son, but mostly these folks weren't faces you recognized.

Until... who walked by but... you guessed it...


Yes, the fabled Yankee walked right past our desk, waving and smiling to us as we called out his name. Somehow I squelched the urge to plead for him to manage the Mets. And then he was gone, with no other notables to follow.

So... the day wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped it would be, but at least we got one nice-guy legend out of it. One wonders whether he'd called Clooney in advance and warned him, "Nobody goes to Ellis Island anymore. It's too crowded."

*I was tempted to use the quote "Wherever you go, there you are" and attribute it to Yogi. However, a quick Google search brought up questions about the statement's origin, and the "you end up somewhere" is more reliably attributed to Berra.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Six degrees of history

Once in a while, I get a ‘six degrees’ experience when I volunteer. It’s happened a lot over the past several weeks. Someone comes up to the information desk at Ellis Island, or chats me up in Edison’s library, and tells me their dad or grandmother was there when the place was in operation… or maybe even they, themselves were there.

Everyone knows Ellis Island as the portal for the great immigration that took place in the first few decades of the 20th century, but fewer people know it was used as a detention facility before and just after the Second World War. Not only did the government hold resident enemy aliens there, but the army also held some prisoners of war at Ellis. That’s why I wasn’t totally surprised when a pleasant young German man approached me to ask if he could see the building where his grandfather might have been held. Unlike many other German POWs, he’d never returned to the US following the war, but he told his grandson he’d been treated well during his stay on the island. That was good to hear.

About a week later, a woman in her 60s came up to ask about the dormitory building. When she and her family emigrated from Scandinavia in 1949 by airplane, her father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and brought to the Ellis Island Hospital for treatment. Thus, she, her mom and sister were held in the island’s massive Baggage and Dormitory building until dad was cured. Having been only three years old at the time, the visitor couldn’t remember much of any of it, but she still wanted to check everything out. After my tour, I saw her wandering all around the main building, seemingly trying to place herself through a toddler’s eyes.

Then there was an older woman who told me her father had been one of the Public Health Service physicians stationed at Ellis Island. Their role, besides caring for the sick, was to examine every immigrant for signs of disease that could cause contagion, or disability that would prevent them from supporting themselves through gainful employment. The woman herself was born after her dad had been stationed on the island, and she took a look at the few staff pictures we have, in hopes of finding her father in one. She came along on my tour, and I noticed the hint of a smile on her lips when I told the group about the PHS doctors’ care and concern for their immigrant patients.

While none of the Ellis Island visitors had much information of their own to share, I was tickled to talk with a gentleman at Edison National Historical Park who wanted to speak at length about his father’s experiences working with the great inventor. He had quite detailed recollections of his dad’s stories, both in working on research, and in managing aspects of Edison’s radio business. (Incidentally, TAE never went whole-hog into radio, and the business was short-lived, never having much success.)

Talking with these folks always reminds me how much I don’t know, and how many facets history ultimately has. As children, we tend to take what we learn as fact, when it’s often just one person’s perspective on what happened a long time ago. Talking with someone who might actually have lived it gives me the chance to learn more, and hopefully get confirmation on some of my standard tour dialogue. Yeah, I live a little in fear of having gotten it totally wrong, but after a while you just have to let that go.