Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I realized the only way I'm going to actually write these things that I want to write is to not worry about any sort of order and just throw them out as they occur to me.

So, Glenn.

I moved to Grand Canyon, Arizona in May 1999. I moved there because I no longer wanted to live in Pittsburgh near my parents. Also, I fell deeply deeply in love with the Southwest United States on a family road trip in 1995. The hot, dry air, the subtle colors of the rocks and sand, the surprisingly varied plants - from Ponderosa Pine to short and spiky yucca. And the Grand Canyon herself... The Canyon seemed like a religion to me. You know, a religion that wouldn't make me want to beat my head against the wall or go out a shoot someone. A pretty damn rare and special kind of religion.

Sadly, I've never been especially good with religion, and I never quite made it into the ranks of the True Believers, which is partly why I left the Grand Canyon in May 2001. But that's not really relevant to this little essay which I'm pretending is about someone I once knew who made a lasting impression on me.

So. Glenn. Glenn was one of the leads (like a supervisor) at the Bright Angel Transportation Desk (the BAT desk - hah). Unlike the myriad employees of the concessionaire who sported name tags proclaiming origins of "Iowa", "Indiana", "Pennsylvania", or "France", Glenn's read "Arizona", though to be more precise, it could have just as easily read "Navajo Nation". And also unlike the mostly transient employee base, Glenn, like many of the other Navajo employees, were much more permanent residents and workers.

When I started working at BA Trans, Glenn had been there for five years. He'd been in the park for 10. This in a place where the average length of employment ran about 2 months. He didn't speak to me. He rarely made eye contact when he did speak in his low and steady, nearly-monotone voice, and he said the most appalling things to the guests. At least, as far as I was concerned.

One morning, a couple approached the desk and asked if the weather was going to hold for their overnight mule trip to Phantom Ranch. "Let me consult my crystal ball," Glenn replied. The thing I heard him say most often was, "Ma'am (or sir), you need to calm down. I'm trying to help you." As part of my training, I went on that particular overnight trip and had to listen to this couple complain about how rude Glenn had been to them.

Of course, after 2 years of dealing with similar questions, I couldn't believe how calm he managed to remain. We never had a close friendship, but I know we appreciated each other's competence at the job. Most likely because competence was in ridiculously short supply.

If you listened carefully, you might have realized that the man had a wicked sense of understated humor, and that he always called 'em like he saw 'em. He would not hesitate to tell you if he thought you were wrong, or being an idiot. He was never late for a shift (shockingly rare trait in the staff there) and he never made any of the tragic mistakes that some of the other leads did (like overbooking or letting guests with questionable English skills go on the mule trip). Of course, by the time I got there, he had spent five years at the job, so maybe his mistakes had been ironed out by then. I do know that while guests complained about his rude treatment (as they perceived it), they never complained that he gave them incorrect information. I saw him spend hours at a time trying to help visitors with travel problems or reservation difficulties. He wasn't perky about it, but he really would do everything in his power to solve a problem.

And even though, when a mutual friend and former coworker stopped in for a visit at the Canyon (yes, Glenn's still there), Glenn claimed not to remember who I was, I still remember him fondly, with just a tinge of exasperation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I'm strangely proud of this one:


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

Not that I needed this quiz to tell me any of that. Heh.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Yeah, I don't know what happened to April, either.

So... moving on.

I worked with Mike at the grill in our college dining services. He was a full-timer, I worked about 10 hours a week as a freshman, and later closer to 20 hours a week as the student area manager my senior year.

Mike was a little nutty - suffered from major depressive issues - had been a roadie with different bands in the 80s and was married with three kids when I knew him in the 90s. I would guess his age at 37 or 38 when we first met. He also had a band of his own and on a few occasions they played at different frat parties on campus.

From the beginning, I was one of the few students who could manage Mike and his moodiness. (The gifts of growing up with an alcoholic parent? I don't know.) On the good days we would play practical jokes on each other, or do stuff that would have gotten us fired in another situation. On bad days I would tease him and be silly until he rose out of the funk a bit.

Once he threw a wad of raw hamburger at me. In retaliation I pretended to slit his throat with the bread knife I was using at the time, only to reverse it at the last second and run the dull edge across his neck. We would put on finger condoms (for food service workers who have a cut on a finger), blow them up and then shoot them at each other. (Seriously amusing in case you've never tried it.) On a couple other occasions, one of the other student workers and I put all the grill tools in a pan of water and then stuck it in the freezer for Mikey to discover in the morning. He acted pissed, but you could tell he loved the attention.

After I graduated, Mikey fell apart just a little bit more - left the grill that he had made popular, moved to another work area, got divorced, and so on. Until I moved to Vermont, I would get a phone call from him every six months or so just to catch up... Not to say that his collapse had anything to do with me, but I was not hearing good things after I left.

In one phone call from him, maybe 3 years after I graduated, he told me about giving his wife a diamond ring for their anniversary. He said he surprised her with it and her reaction made him think about me. (yes, creepy, I agree) A year or so after that, when they split up (she left him for someone else) he told me that she had always been jealous of me and "ha ha" wasn't that ridiculous.

Yeah. So I'm a little more cautious in the relationships I have with people at work now.

It's been a while, and last I heard, Mikey had all three of his kids living with him and was dating a woman he had known for years, and all seemed to be on the way up. I hope things worked out with them and that they're happy together.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


We'll start relatively early I suppose, with a person I met in the summer of 1993.

That summer I finished my second year of CIT (Counselor-in-training) at Camp Henry Kaufmann in Ligoneer, PA (not far from Johnstown). The camp has since been sold out of the Council because it was too big, too old, and in need of too much repair for the Council to maintain. Plus, before the rezoning, it was technically outside of the Pittsburgh-based Council's territory. Now, of course, it's smack in the middle, but hey - what can you do?

Anyway. Ruth was from England, one of the counselors brought in from overseas every year, and she quickly got tagged with the camp name "Doc", for reasons I hope should be obvious. For whatever reason, she and I really hit it off. I spent the last week of the program in her unit, assisting her and the other counselor ("Chatterbox") with programming and whatnot. I recall that I was put in charge of the All-Camp skit.

For anyone not familiar with All-Camp, aka - just about anyone reading this, it took place on the final night of the 3, 4, or 5 day session, and all ten units in camp would bring their groups down to the Maple Ridge field and put on a little skit or show. Each session had a theme (fairytales, cartoons, christmas, talent show, etc) and the skits were supposed to have some relation to both the camp and the theme. The productions varied - sometimes the counselors would write the skit or song, sometimes the scouts would, sometimes the troop leaders would take charge. It depended a lot on how many days the group was in camp, how old the girls were, and how pushy or confident the leaders were.

I don't particularly remember what our skit was that night, though I want to say it was "Snow White and the Eleven Dwarves", a production that also featured Goldilocks and the Five Bears and Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Elephant. What I do remember quite clearly is that after spending the week with Doc, I had developed a freakishly good English accent and that when I opened my mouth that night to introduce our group, I did the whole thing in Brit-speak. God, the rest of camp teased me about that for days.

Ruth and I kept in touch for a few years, but this was before email was universal, and I'm not sure whether or not she ever got my last letter, because I never got a response. I remember that I loved her address - Rose Cottage - even though I don't remember the town it was in. The last I heard from her was in 1997 or so, I think. I remember that she always talked about her boyfriend Alan. I wonder if they stayed together.

I don't know where she is or what she's doing, but she's definitely a character who made her mark on me. I hope she's well and occasionally thinks of me as I do her.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I lost track of the date.


All's well with my dad - his doctor and therapy crew keep yelling at him to slow down and not puch himself so hard. He's still got some weakness in his right hand and he says his signature might never be the same, but other than that, he seems to be doing pretty well. Driving my mother batty, in any case, so that seems about back to normal.

I survived February with friends visiting, a conference in Nashua, four twelve-hour work days in a row, and throwing my back out so badly the pain is still lingering even now -- two weeks later.

Anyway, I don't really have time right now to write the post I wanted to write, so I'll just tell you what I intend for the rest of the month. I've lived in a few interesting places, worked a range of different jobs - many with a constantly rotating cast of characters. So my plan for March (and possibly beyond) is to memorialize some of the more colorful or influential individuals who have crossed my path over the last 14 years.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Regular blogging to resume March 1st.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Yes, still alive.

Remaining on hiatus for now...

I still cruise all my links though, so I am "around" if not active.