Sunday, March 27, 2011

Signs of Our Times

Today, as I drove out of my parents' driveway, I rather unexpectedly encountered a schoolmate's elderly grandmother, out for a stroll in the winter sunshine. As I waved and slowly drove around her, it occurred to me that it had been a long time since I had seen these signs that formerly greeted every person to drive up our block:

There simply aren't that many young children, slow or otherwise, running wild in the streets anymore. Instead, as our neighborhood increasingly reflects the demographic of our whole county and the northern half of the state, soon it will be time to replace those signs with something more like this:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Out of Sync

I often feel out of sync with the man-made universe. When I am doing a job that requires some amount of creativity, planning or thinking, I am stifled by the 9-to-5, Monday through Friday routine. My creative energies ebb and flow according to some plan that doesn’t align itself well with what we’ve defined as a “normal” workweek.

Two things this week have disrupted my work energy: the transition from daylight savings time last weekend and now a mandated furlough day this coming Monday, forcing me to take a three day weekend now.

I am extremely sensitive to daylight, so when the hour shift in time came this week, I wound up oversleeping. Usually I wake up easily without the help of an alarm (though I keep one set just in case), but this week I never even heard the alarm at 6 AM. I slept soundly and comfortably until 6:45 or, one day 7:10. Oops.

But once I got up and got going, I discovered I was energized to do my job. This week was a lot of deskwork, but I came back motivated from a three-day conference last week. I had several productive meetings and encounters during the week, and I felt things clicking into place. After several long days at the office, I was accomplishing things.

And then Friday night arrived and it all came to a screeching halt. Being interrupted by a normal weekend is bad enough, but being interrupted by a three day weekend ending in a day where you’re not allowed to do any work at all is, right now, torture.

And to think of all those weeks when I so desperately needed a three day break. There are times for all of us when time away from the office would do us more good than time at the office. This isn’t one of them. Sure, I could go in on Saturday or even Sunday, no rules against that, and I did bring work home just in case, but it’s almost too late. The curtain has fallen, and the flow interrupted. Knowing I can’t work on Monday and that I should try to be otherwise productive with my allowed time off has killed my momentum.

I pray for the wisdom that some day I will have the confidence to follow my energies. That when I need time away doing other things, when I am being energized by life outside of work, that I will allow myself to follow, knowing full well that the energy for work will come again, and I will more than make up for the time off by being fully focused and many times more productive. And, to be able to find a way to do it in a place that doesn’t believe in alarm clocks, but allows me to track my day by the rising and the setting of the sun.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tiny Bubbles, in the Ice...

On Friday I broke out my flip flops, pinned a flower in my hair, donned a lei, and traded in my cabin fever for island fever. Or, at least that was the plan.

Not a bad plan really. Winter’s gotten to that long stretch with a few days that hover around freezing and sunlight that tantalizes icicles into dripping, only to return to a fresh dose of snow and icy winds the next. So, a nice break from the cold with a contrived Wisconsin Luau seemed just what the doctor ordered. Getting to go to a luau for free as a member of the band (yes, the phrase, “I’m with the band” is a great door opener), even better.

The luau was a local performing art center’s first attempt at a late-winter fundraiser, and again, good in theory, though apparently not so great in practice. They contracted with the award-winning barbeque and rib house across the street to smoke up a couple whole pigs (complete with apples in the mouth), so the menu was fine, and they roped in our newly-formed dance band (made up of members of the community band that practices and performs in the center) to play big band music for dancing after. So far, so good.

But then there was a complete failure to market beyond their audiences, other than a few posters hung around the area. Then, there was the price: $35 per person in advance, $40 at the door. So, for a couple (pretty much a prerequisite for swing dancing), it would be $80 for dinner and a dance. Even that might not be so bad, except for $80, I would expect to be seated at a table filled with fine china and served four full courses by a sexy young thing in a cummerbund and tuxedo, fundraiser or no. Especially since the band was getting paid in food only - heck, I would hope a bottle of wine would be thrown in.

In the week before the big night, word came down that ticket pre-sales had been dismal and there would, in all likelihood, be leftovers. My ticket in and meal would be free, but as they were desperate to fill seats, I cut a deal to buy one ticket if I could bring along two more people who would do some eating and some dancing.

And it’s a good thing I did. In all, there were maybe 30 people there, not including the nine of us in the band, the volunteers and the restaurant serving staff. All of them, it seemed, were in some way intimately connected with the center. All probably would’ve just forked over the $40 apiece as a goodwill gesture and saved them the trouble of printing and distributing posters, making too much food and dragging tables into the hall.

Yet, they gamely put up with an evening of vaguely luau-ish activities and overpriced raffles. They also hung around long enough for us to actually play through our entire program, save for the last set of three songs which accompanied the folding of table cloths and tables. My conscripted dancers did their duty as one third of the couples on the dance floor for most of the evening. At then end they distributed the copious amounts of leftovers - for $30 per doggy bag.

The food was really good, the band received rave reviews, and the atmosphere was rather festive. I really enjoyed playing and the view from the bandstand, though the downside to that is I didn’t get to do any dancing.

I really hope that they reconsider their model for the next time (if there is a next time), halve or even quarter their ticket prices, charge for the food, and then advertise the heck out of the thing (ever heard of the free PSAs on the radio? How about the community events calendars? Facebook? Seriously, Facebook, people), get a haul of raffle items and sell cheap tickets, and continue to convince our not-for-profit band to sing for their supper. I know a lot of people who would come then. This really could be good, folks.

That will help heat up this frozen tundra. And defrost my poor toes.