Archive for April, 2013

Shacking Up

I’ve had a very eventful couple of days.  Couple of weeks?  A little over a year?  And it came together in one big moment yesterday, something that’s terrifying, exhilarating, and altogether a happy thing.

My boyfriend and I found a place and we’re moving in together.  We’re shacking up.  Living in sin (with my cat a compliant accomplice).

"Don't forget to pack the treats."

“Don’t forget to pack the treats.”

The idea of waking up next to my favorite furry dudes is exciting.  But there’s a lot involved in moving.  There’s a lot of drudgery – utilities, packing things you know you don’t need, lifting heavy things, putting things away, brokeness from deposits and application fees, living out of boxes.  I hate all of that.  All of that can suck it, eat it, die.

But there’s no one else in the entire world I’d rather do that with.  Nobody.

Early readers of my blog will notice my dating misadventures.  But now, more than ever I think, I know those misadventures were leading to this.  This man.  This house we’re about to move into.  This hectic next few weeks as we merge our lives into one physical space.

It’s a big step – one I dread for all of the logistical reasons and none of the emotional ones.

 

 

 

 

Jobs for people who want jobs – a love story.

I start a new job. Weeeee!

I did some research, sorta, that talked about the frequency of changing jobs for those under 30.  It’s an inevitability, I suppose, because liberal arts degrees don’t train you for any one thing, and with so many of us floating around with such a nebulous degree, it’s natural that we would be well-suited for many things.

Mainly this, but sometimes you ca....nope, just this.

Mainly this, but sometimes you ca….nope, just this.

So I thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be really helpful if you talked about how to find a job for those currently looking with pointless degrees?”

It sure would, me.

Step #1 – Make a resume, or re-vamp an old one.

When I started looking for a new job  I found an old resume of mine from 2009 and, after a quick read, not only would I not hire me, I would kick the shit out of me.  Or maybe create an LLC, hire a subcontractor, and pay them to kick the shit out of me.

For the economy.  For yourself.

For the economy. For yourself.

A good resume is important.  It’s the thing that says “Hey, this person isn’t a total dipshit.  Let’s invite them for a chat.”  And that’s important because chats lead to talks lead to negotiations leads to job.  J-O-B.  Spend time on this to make it what you want it to be.  Add all the experience you can and elaborate as much as possible.  Make yourself sound important (even if you totally aren’t).  You are hot shit.   Find a good resume template.  Office job?  Boring…but clean and tasteful.  Design job?  Make it typographically interesting.

Step #2 – For the love of God…

make your personal Facebook page private.

“But Chrissie, you have a website that’s accessible to anyone at any time.  Couldn’t they just look this up?”

Shut up, imaginary person.  I’m getting to that.

I put here what I want to put on here.  Some of it’s boring, maybe even scandalous, but it’s true and topical.  If they don’t like cussing, I probably don’t want to work for that sort of company.  I don’t throw f-bombs and s-bombs out to the general public, but I’m a free -wheeler in my personal life – and in the personal life I choose to share with you.

Why is Facebook different?

Because of drinking pictures.  Because of politics.  Because of pages you like.  Because of deargodwhydidthatphotoof megettaggedI’mkillingeveryone.

Quickbooks proficiency: expert.

Quickbooks proficiency: expert.

Facebook is personal.  Work is not.  Don’t let your potential employers peer into that part of your life (or the rest of the internet for that matter).  You’re a fucking weirdo.  Don’t spend time on a baller resume only to have your employment dreams dashed by an unfortunate post after a bottle of wine.  Don’t. Do. It.

Step #3  – Start looking.

Craigslist.  Careerbuilder.  Monster.  Local ads in newspapers (remember those?), or any other classified.  Ask your friends.  Ask people who are friends of friends.  Ask people you hate, I don’t know.  Just look.  Make a resume that appeals to the jobs you are most qualified for.  If you’re like me and went to college, look for jobs that want degrees.  And if you find a job that wants a bachelor’s degree in history, let me know, because we’re going drinking and I’m buying you something that’s not on sale.

Not for you.  Not this time, old sport.

Not for you. Not this time, old sport.

Look everywhere, but don’t be dumb about it.  Don’t throw your resume at every open hand.  Throw it at hands that want what you have.  And if you don’t have anything?  Look for entry level, look for places that will train, look for something in a field you’re interested in and try to squeeze your way in.

Step #4 –  Interviews

Yay, you made a cool resume, applied for some cool jobs, and somebody wants to talk about giving you money.  That’s a neat thing.

Be personable.  Be polite.  Be on time for the interview.  Thank them for giving you an interview.  That’s really it.

But while you’re there, look at your surroundings.  Do people look happy?  Are people genuinely happy to see other people?  How do they describe the job?  Does the environment seem workable?

helloffice

If a place has a lot of turnover, nobody looks happy, the environment feels oppressive, and things sound to good to be true, don’t work there.  They’re in the market to find somebody, but lest you forget that you’re also on the market.  You can pick and choose just as easily as they can.

But if someone makes their cubicle like this:

cubicle-castle

become best friends with them.

Step #5 – Negotiate

Yay, things happened blah blah and now you have a job offer.  That’s neat.  But negotiate what you’re worth.  If someone advertised the salary being a certain thing, hold them to it.  All companies lowball, it’s what they do, but you don’t have to accept it.  If the pay is right, the company is right, and the people are right, then you take it.

I’m excited about the new job and the new people.  May you all have the same sort of luck, or maybe better.

And if none of this works, just bang an old oil tycoon and wait for him to die.  There is always that.

American Seeks Sacred Cow

I’m going to be doing a storytelling event at the Red Light Cafe tomorrow hosted by The Iceberg, a new podcast featuring real stories.  I struggled a bit with what to talk about, but finally decided, after 2 years, to talk about India.  If you’re in Atlanta, be sure to check it out, or at least check out the Facebook page to get updates on the podcast to listen to later.  Whatever you want.

 

American Seeks Sacred Cow

June 2011 was the month and year that I should have become insane.  

On June 1st, I moved into a beautiful house in East Atlanta with two pretty lesbian girls.  I found them on Craigslist and, to my relief, they weren’t weird or psycho or mean or any other adjectives one associates with Craigslist.  I had my cat.  I had my own space with a bathroom that was mine to clean or not to clean.  

Moving is a stressful experience for most people but what made it different this time was that my husband wasn’t coming along.  We were separated and we were going to divorce.  I got married when I was 18 to the first boyfriend I’d ever had – the first man that had ever shown any interest in me at all, and now it was in the final moments of what I thought would be forever.  The space from him in my heart and my brain was now a physical one.  I was on my own for the first time as an adult.  That was a scary place.

But I had a job that could support me…until June 3rd when I came to work and was told by my boss that the company was closing down.  The income I relied on to support my new venture now wasn’t there.  And that was a scary place.

The company was being taken over by an Indian company, and a lot of what I would do for my remaining weeks of solid employment was get them up to speed on what I did.  On June 14th, the Indian boss asked if I’d be willing to come to India to train his staff.  On June 27th, I got on a plane for Delhi for what would be a one month trip training the people who had replaced me.

There are movies and underwhelming TV shows about this sort of thing, but this was really happening to me.  I was excited about the opportunity to go to a place so different – a place so very distant from anyone and everything.  This was a time of transition for me, after all.

Before India, I never thought of myself as an uncultured person.  There were other typical Americans out there, but not me.  I’m educated.  I’m accepting and welcoming of the differences of others, across all cultures, ethnicities, religions, castes, and income levels.  I am a beacon of understanding and harmony.  A paragon of equality.  I am unmatched in my tolerance.

And then I saw a man shit from my hotel balcony.

My trip to Jaipur had been eventful.  A 16 hour flight followed by an 8 hour drive from Delhi in the middle of the night.  There was a delay of about an hour as my guide went to a McDonald’s.  I ordered a McChicken sandwich that in all of its greasy, over-mayonnaised glory reminded me of home.  I got to the hotel and went to the balcony to have my first cigarette in a day when I saw the shitting man.  He was driving a cart pulled by a camel.  He dismounted and walked over to a patch of grass and took a nonchalant dump as I puffed on my cigarette.  My McDonald’s dinner was now a reminder that no, I was not home, no matter how much Iceberg lettuce and sesame seed buns you throw at me.

One of my Indian coworkers would pick me up around 1 in the afternoon.  My breakfasts consisted of orange marmalade and the ripest, juiciest mangoes I’d ever had.  I watched Scooby Doo dubbed in Hindi.  I went to the factory and listened to music on a laptop and came back to the hotel around 11.  I would order Chinese food from a Nepalese man down the street.  I would stay up until 4am and talk to my friends and family on Facebook.  I watched as my limbs became overcome by mosquito bites.  Because Jaipur is in the dry, desert state of Rajasthan, my risk of Malaria was pretty low.

I worked Monday through Saturday and had a free day on Sunday to sight-see.  I visited the magnificent forts that sit on hilltops surrounding the city of Jaipur.  The driving in India terrified me and I quickly learned to not look through the front of the car but to keep my eyes on the side.  I learned that the lanes on the road, as opposed to in America, are merely suggestions.  On every car trip I was amazed at the variety – rusted bicycles next to camel carts, next to scooters seating entire families, next to large trucks decorated with ribbons and flowers, next to small European cars, next to large Mercedes jeeps.  Four lanes?  If you’re a pussy.

I visited a tourist trap called Choki Dhani just outside of Jaipur with my boss and his family.  It’s a theme park, of sorts, that tries to recreate what an Indian village looked like 300 years ago, very much like our Colonial Williamsburg.  The elephants were painted elaborately and all the camels had their finest spit guards.  It was here, however, where I began to feel pitifully lonely.

As the days passed I learned that Indians value consistency above many things.  Stability is a very good thing.  Eating the same food is a good thing.  Working a long day is a good thing.  Just outside of the factory there was a small village where I frequently saw children without clothes rummaging through piles of old fruit from the fruit carts on the main road.  The shacks had no doors and wild dogs, pigs, cows, and sheep wandered from house to house.  This was a life of instability.  Every day was different there.  And that was a bad thing.

And I felt the distance more and more.  I was 7500 miles from the people who cared about me and I was utterly alone.  As an American woman it wasn’t wise for me to leave the hotel alone.  I wanted to take long walks.  I wanted to explore.  But I felt like a prisoner a lot of the time.  But the part that really re-enforced my loneliness was the lack of touch.  None of the men at the factory, and there were only men there, felt comfortable with touching me, even in the most benign of ways.  A casual handshake was out of the question.  If they handed me papers, they made sure to not inadvertently skim my hand with their hand.  After two weeks I realized that I had not touched another person since I got there.

After 3 weeks, a former co-worker of mine joined me in India to train her replacements, and I hugged her as soon as she came out of the car.  It was good to have a familiar face with me.  That next weekend we were going to the Taj Mahal – the thing that was going to be the highlight of my trip.  It was the thing I had been waiting for.

Agra is a 4 to 6 hour drive from Jaipur, but it depends.  In India, “it depends” is a standard measurement for many things.  The cost of this can be this or that, but it depends.  A drive from here to there can be this time or that time, but it depends.  Everything depends on something else.  The variables in India are expansive.

The Taj Mahal has been undergoing a big preservation project since the 80s and due to the pollution, cars are not allowed within a mile of the Taj, which is what every Indian calls it.  There are peddlers in every direction and some people ride carriages to get closer to the ticket booths.  Small boys, no older than 8 I assume, try to sell you keychains, snow globes, bottle openers, postcards, and other trinkets on the way.  One boy spoke French, Spanish, and English to me in order to figure out where I was from so he could sell me a refrigerator magnet.  My friend and I walked with the crowd and the entire time I wondered where the Taj was.  This huge building should be close.  I should be seeing it by now.  Where the hell is it?  The thing I’ve been wanting to see, the thing I’ve waited for, it’s supposed to be here.  The one thing that’s supposed to make this trip worth it is hiding from me.  Fuck this place, I say.

I go through the ticket booth and our guide shows us the red buildings at what is supposed to be the entrance of the Taj.  I walk closer and the crowd begins to tighten.  It’s hot as balls.  We’re going through an archway.  The flies are everywhere.  A few more steps through a darkened hallway and suddenly it’s there.  I look up and I see the Taj and the long reflecting pool and the gardens all around and it’s finally here.  And it’s the most beautiful thing that I can recall ever seeing.  There are birds flying over it and I convince myself that it’s a painting, that I’m not really here.  But I am.  And how lucky am I to see this, to be so close to it?  Thirst and hot and flies be damned, this is a good day.

A week later I came home.  My new home without my husband.  My Indian boss, after seeing all the work I did, decided to just let me work from home, so I still had a job, at least.  And I tried to think about what to take away from the experience and it was difficult to pinpoint it, at first.  I had been isolated and now, among the people who knew me, I didn’t feel like the person I was before.  I was a sadder person.  I was more aware of my distance from others.  I was socially awkward where I wasn’t before.  I had seen so many things that I never thought I would see, but it all felt like an inside joke that only I would get.

What I had wanted, I think, was a spiritual journey.  I wanted to find the real me within the ancient and overwhelming history of a faraway place.  I wanted to find the sacred cow.  I wanted to know my place in the world.  But my real place is with the people who love me, in holding hands and hugging people.  I realized that the only adventure worth having is the one that can be shared.  My favorite part of the Taj Mahal was knowing that Cassie, my former co-worker and now my lifelong friend, had shared that sight with me.  She saw it just as I did.

I think one day I’ll go back. I know there’s more to see, things I probably missed by being homesick.  I never went to Mumbai.  I never saw the Ganges.  There are more adventures to be had.  Maybe in a few years.  It depends.

 

The Big History Nerd-Out

Look at me.  I’m a lazy asshole.  Mainly an uninspired asshole.  Alas.

 

I’ve been listening to the podcast “Stuff You Missed in History Class” from the How Stuff Works people for the past few days.  And when I say “listening” I mean “frantically and obsessively making it fill all my ear holes as quickly and as much as I can.”

'Ugh...teh fullz."

‘Ugh…teh fullz.”

It’s reminded me of something that I know I love to do but very rarely let myself indulge in – which is a full-blown history nerd out.  I bore people with history – I find a cool history story or tidbit and I will talk about it until people beg me to stop.  I will make something so cool completely uncool through sheer will – all because I love it too much.  Like when little kids squeeze dolls until their heads pop off and then they can’t enjoy them anymore.  It’s a dark and terrifying kind of enjoyment.

If I can't have you, no one can.

If I can’t have you, no one can.

I wanted to compile a list of my favorite history things to go full ‘tard about, so that if you ever see me on the street you’ll be able to connect with me on something.  Here we go:

 

1.  US Presidents

A lot of history people are divided into two camps – US history buffs and the people that study everything else.  People that like to study “everything else” tend to not like US History at all, though there are exceptions, but this is mostly a true statement.  My brother had a girlfriend who studied history in college, just like me.  We’d be best friends, right?!  Wrong.  She thought US History was, in her words, “really dumb”.  I personally find studying the ancient world (which she studied) a little “old hat.”  She didn’t like me much.

Your argument is soooo invalid.

Your argument is soooo invalid.

The thing that makes US Presidents especially interesting, at least to me, is that it takes a certain kind of crazy to want a job where you have a 50% chance of someone shooting a gun at you, a 20% chance of a bullet actually hitting you, and a 10% chance that you could actually die.  All for what is, ultimately, a job.  A very important one, sure, but a job nonetheless.  And the kind of person who pursues that sort of thing is usually quite ambitious – maybe even creepily so.  And also weird.  Super weird.

Had a dog named "Satan".

Had a dog named “Satan”.

 

Fought in over 100 duels.  And somehow didn't die.

Fought in over 100 duels. And somehow didn’t die.

 

Nicknamed "Rough and Ready."  Liked telling foreign generals to "go to hell" through telegrams.

Nicknamed “Rough and Ready.” Liked telling foreign generals to “go to hell” through telegrams.

 

Hunted lots of shit.  Kicked malaria, assassins bullets, asthma, and death in the balls.

Hunted lots of shit. Kicked malaria, assassins bullets, asthma, and death in the balls.

 

2.  World War I

War is big in the history world.  When people complain “Ugh, why is history all about WAR?!”  I have to explain a couple of things: in the book about your life, are they going to write about that day in 1998 that you brushed your teeth and took a nap or are they going to write about that one time where COUNTRIES DECIDED TO KILL EACH OTHER??

The war on tartar.

The war on tartar.

What makes World War I my war of choice is not it’s awesomeness, or it’s great humanitarian undertones, but the very antithesis of those things – just how un-awesome and how inhumane it really was.

Nearly 17 MILLION people died.  Yep, that’s right, MILLION.  And the good majority were young men under the age of 19.  The wounded are nearly 8 million, and not just any kind of wounded – really, really wounded.  Tear gas.  Amputations.  Barbed wire.  Shell shocked.  Blind.  Disfigured in ways that are horrifying and nightmarish.  And what did the around 37 million casualties of war sacrifice their lives, their bodies, their children, and their livelihoods for?

Nothing, really.

Some public figures thought it was going to be a “good little war”.  Technologies were advancing.  Chemical warfare and the invention of mustard gas moved things right along.  Tanks, barbed wire, submarines, sophisticated means of communication, the whole bit.  When shit went down between Serbians and the Austro-Hungarian empire, shit was ON and everyone was itching to test out the toys they’d been working on.  It wasn’t supposed to last long – maybe knock down an empire or two, see what those shifty Germans were up to – but what they didn’t account for is just how long war can last when you have boys sitting in trenches for months on end.  It can last a really long time – and when you have weapons long range enough so that you can kill an enemy without ever seeing the whites of their eyes – it gets really ugly.  All this war did was lead the way for other wars.

If you ever want to lose all faith in the human race, read about World War I.  And thank your lucky shit stars you didn’t have to experience that sort of hell – and hopefully never will.

 

3.  Places where people were and then suddenly disappeared (more info forthcoming)

I like mysteries, as I think most people do.  For as long as there’s been a way to document things, people have primarily done just that.  There are records for many things – birth and death records, property records, treaties, hotel logs, interviews by people who were there, newspaper articles, diaries, things carved in stone, giant fucking buildings – but historical mysteries are fun because there are pieces missing in the records.  When things happen and they don’t get documented, it’s a big mindfuck for historians.  Here are some examples:

The missing colony of Roanoke was a place where colonists were and then suddenly weren’t.  John White, the guy who founded the colony, went back to England to get help because (as most early colonies realized) things were pretty shitty down in the Americas.  He came back three years later and everyone was gone.  No signs of battle.  No signs of struggle.  And the only thing left behind was the word “Croatoan” carved on a post and “Cro” carved on a nearby tree.  Every man, woman and child disappeared.  Did they move inland?  Were they attacked by the Spanish?  Did they peacefully assimilate with a local tribe? Who. the. fuck. knows.

The Mary Celeste was a boat discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872.  Lots of food and fresh water on board.  Ship in perfect working condition.  Only one lifeboat missing and no passengers or crew anywhere.  Everyone’s personal belongings were in tact and the cargo was untouched.  So what the fuck happened?  The captain’s log doesn’t say shit.  No signs of distress.  The people just up and disappeared.  There are a lot of theories about what may have happened – alcoholic fumes forced them off the ship, a mutiny perhaps, or maybe the worst pirates to ever exist commandeered the boat.

Arrgh, let's leave everything as we found it, boys!

Arrgh, let’s leave everything as we found it, boys!

There are lots more of these, but hopefully you get the idea.

 

A few other things that get a little less detail (but no less love): The Elephant Man (and sideshows in general), Famous Recluses, The American West, Ghosts and Ghost Stories (even though I’m a non-believer), Being Sad about the Loss of the Library of Alexandria, and Famous Foods and How They Were Invented.

 

Phew.