Learning Yiddish and LinkedIn


Date: April 22nd, 2013
Location: My Safe Place
Time: 7:06 pm

Sometimes I wish I were Jewish so that I could go around using phrases such as oy vey, ferblunjit, or meekskait.

Then again, I am an American and we Americans like nothing better than some good old-fashioned cultural integration. 

So, I’m going to say it: Oy Vey!

I’ve been on the prowl for a job nigh on 8 months or so, and besides a brief stint at a bookstore, I’ve come up mostly empty-handed.  This is 100% my fault. Now that I’ve finally come to terms with that, I’m conducting a full-scale re-launch of my professional appearance: from the resume, to the cover letters, to my LinkedIn profile.  All of it must be scrapped and re-built from the ground-up.
But this is not why I say oy vey. In fact, thus far the experience has been cathartic and encouraging. 

I’m finally focusing on the “Why am I special?” and honing in on my skills instead of feeling like a dime-a-dozen candidate.

And finding a toolkit that has inspired this change was a real boon. After all, resume and cover letter advice runs rampant on the web and while the advice does differ slightly, the whole of it is mostly the same – and really bland, and mostly totally unhelpful to me.

Despite this dawning, I can’t help but return to Google for advice on my LinkedIn profile. And this is when I say it:

Oy vey.

Everyone seems to be the expert on how you should present yourself and nobody seems to agree (It’s like a dinner conversation with my family.) Opinions, opinions, opinions. Everybody’s got an opinion:

Make your summary more human, always use first-person.

Never use first-person, it makes you sound pretentious.

Absolutely use all 2,000 characters allotted to you so that you can hit more key words.

Keep your summary brief and memorable – 2 to 3 paragraphs.

Your LinkedIn profile should be an overview of your resume.

Your LinkedIn profile is where you tell your whole story; the resume highlights your accomplishments.

This is about where I start mumbling a string of mostly incoherent Yiddish and go curl up in the fetal position on my bed – the safety zone of the unemployed.  

Ack. I’m such a nebbish.

The Haircut



Date: April 10th, 2013
Time: 12:06 am
Location: My House

The members of my family seem to have this erroneous idea that I used to cut my hair all the time.

I did it once.

Clearly, it was a style worth remembering. 

Fade back twenty-two years ago to a musty basement with exposed rafters and cement floors painted green. Worn carpet in varying shades of brown delineated the play area from that of the TV room with its cowboy patterned swivel chair, crocheted orange afghans, and entertainment center stacked with old vinyl albums and tape cassettes.

The children’s space contained a miniature wooden table and its two matching chairs with the dainty spindled legs and the two orphan chairs of rough cut and square proportions. This room also had a small dressing table of an art deco style – rounded, slightly beveled edges, wooden handle pulls, and a great circular mirror. It was either sea foam green or a light blue – it could have been both at different times. The drawers of that dressing table housed a jumble of crayons, markers, scrap paper, and most importantly, scissors.

Despite having too many brothers and sisters, I often played alone – creating stories and worlds where I played all the characters and no one could force me to be the ugly servant boy who did all the work. On that fateful day, I could have been acting out any number of scenarios: a mother cutting her daughter’s hair, a make-over of Cinderella proportions, a runaway attempting to disguise her appearance. When I held those scissors to my fair hair and sliced away, I remember experiencing extreme satisfaction. As I chopped across my bangs until only an inch or so remained, I smiled.  I looked bee-ooo-tee-fuulll.

And then I heard my mother calling my name from the top of the stairs. I was late to dinner, or had some chore to finish, or possibly (and most probable) someone had narked.  Up those stairs I climbed, looking at my mother leaning against the door frame, waiting for her praise and adoration.

. . . .

Laughter. Chuckles and smiles hidden behind hands. She thought my new coiffure was funny. I was not amused. And then she wasn’t any more either. Stern words and sharp instructions to march myself to my room that instant.

Sometime later I perched atop a yellow highchair with its pullout steps and a cracked vinyl seat as my mother attempted to even out my hacked attempt at beauty.

I never tried to cut my own hair again up until a few weeks ago . . .
I should have learned my lesson the first time.

That One Time . . . In Boracay

The "look but don't touch" beach that is Lapuz-Lapuz

Date: March 3rd, 2013
Time: 10:39 pm
Location: My room

Recently I’ve been missing my life abroad.  I like to forget the everyday drudgery and focus on the good times, like that one time in Boracay when I was detained by the police. That was fun. . . 

The clear light filtered through the palms and glinted off the windshields of the passing tricycles. I sat back with my coffee in hand and looked at Kate across the remains of our breakfast. We considered the options the island had to offer and decided to dismiss the popular White Beach in favor of an adventure.  Veering left after crossing the bridge that led to our hostel we made our way to Bolabog Beach where the wind tore at our hair and lifted hundreds of surfers’ kites into the air. Realizing this was not the place for sun bathing, we consulted our map and located a seemingly secluded beach to the northwest. I convinced Kate not to hail a tricycle and to mount the hill by foot.

 As we climbed, tours of rented quads and dune buggies passed us, often manned by slight Asian men and their squealing wives. The heat from the pavement radiated up and burned through the soles of our flip flops and sweat gathered on our foreheads.  Nearing the peak we caught sight of a pristine coastline, aquamarine water, and not a soul in sight on the golden sand.  With that glimpse of a promise we soldiered on, consulting the map from time to time in hopes of gauging our position. Eventually the road began to descend, and we still hadn’t encountered a side path or even a sign. Turning onto the main road that ran the length of the island we passed a grand entrance to a golf course and resort.  Our map indicated by a solid black line that our destination was directly beyond those gates via a paved street, but dotted black lines on the hill above seemed to suggest a path we’d somehow missed. 

Despairing of a return climb, we scrambled aboard a tricycle and pointed to the general vicinity of where we wanted to go.  The man dropped us off near a house listing to its right and a woman hanging linens across a rope slung between some trees. Exchanging a patter of Tagalog with the driver, the woman glanced our way and shook her head. Some local children ran ahead of us down a pitted dirt road and we cautiously followed. 

After fending off repeated requests for money from the children and sidestepping some carrion, we finally hit a wall. Grey cinderblocks topped by barbed wire unceremoniously cut across the road – blocking would-be access to our coveted beach. Trudging back up the deeply rutted dirt road I cursed our luck and damned the island. As we again approached the dilapidated house, a teenage boy on his motorbike intercepted our progress and in questionable English told us that he could guide us to the beach we sought.

Leaving behind common sense in our desperate quest for cool water and bay breeze, we followed the boy to a secluded narrow path, down a hill, and past a reservoir.  Dodging low hanging branches and skidding down steep embankments, our guide assured us that this was the path locals took. Ducking through a hole in a fence he led us out onto a pier and was taking us around a bend when a shout halted our expedition. 

As we looked over our shoulders a security guard sprinted to where we stood. He gestured to the rocky cliff and the natural arch spanning the pier. He explained that because of falling rocks and potential injury we were prohibited from going any further. Kate and I looked from him to the beach behind him and asked if we were allowed access to that particular stretch of coast line. The man nodded and after tipping our guide 100 pesos we followed the security guard across the vacant beach.
After laying out our towels and stripping down to our suits, we gratefully dove into the refreshing waves. We paddled about for 20 minutes or so until we were again interrupted by shouts.  I turned back toward the shore to see yet another uniformed guard motioning for my attention.  I grudgingly left the water to engage in conversation with the guard. Without any preamble he asked me how I’d accessed the beach, whether I was a guest with the resort or whether I’d come by boat. Unfortunately, he either didn’t understand my English, or he simply didn’t understand my answers in general because we continued with this same line of question and answer until I waved Kate over, the second guard motioned over the guard who’d given tacit permission earlier, and eventually got on his radio to talk to yet another person. 

More of the same questions were asked and we were then informed this was a private beach and we needed to gather our belongings and follow the security guards to the resort because we were guilty of trespassing.  Leaving the ocean to enjoy itself we ascended the stairs leading up to a large building where we were told to wait on some stone benches. Then, some hotel staff came out and questioned us again on how we’d arrived at the beach. When we told them a local boy had shown us the way the staff wanted to know what agency we’d used. We denied using any sort of formal company and that we’d simply run into a teenager who had volunteered to guide us. They persisted in asking us what company we’d hired and where it was located.

This is about when I discovered my belligerence and decided I was done answering the same questions over and over again. 

Then the police showed up, guns and all. 

Apparently, firearms and displays of power only make me more obstinate.  Luckily for us, this was not the case for Kate as she graciously fielded the expected questions, apologized profusely for our ignorant trespassing, and laughed good naturedly at our blunder. I sat across from her stewing about private land, the lack of any proper trespassing signs, and the waste of a perfectly good beach. (In hindsight, I realize slipping through a fence should have raised some questions of legality.) After signing a paper we were ushered into the back of a van with other hotel staff and transported to the front gates of the resort.

By the time we hit that main road, Kate and I were ready to be done with adventures – for that day at least. 

In case you ever vacation in Boracay, Philippines, I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Lapuz-Lapuz Beach – I don’t think it’s going to work out for you.

Bugbears Are the Worst.



January 23rd, 2013
Time: 4:28 pm
Location: My House

Do you know what I hate?

Pet peeves.

As in, I hate the very phrase pet peeves.

My little sister has this awful cat with a meow that would overpower Mariah Carey and Nicki Manaj combined. And its meows are incessant.  That damn cat will meow at the front door for ages until you finally let it in, only to immediately slink to the back door to be let out.  I loathe this cat’s very existence. I don’t want to gather that cat into my arms and stroke its fur and love the crap out of it.  I want to dropkick the stupid thing off the Sellwood Bridge.

My point being, why do we call the little things we hate pets? Poor word choice. I am henceforth vetoing it forever.

Except now I’m a bit stuck on what to use in its place.  Thesasuas.com offers bête noir, bugbear, pet aversion, and grievance as potential substitutes. Those mostly suck, but bugbear does have a certain je ne sais quoi quality. 

I’m not an especial fan of bugs and I can’t imagine hanging out with a bear would be great for my health (Am I right, Timothy Treadwell?). So, bugbear it is. 

Everyone has their respective bugbears, but I think those who work in retail are especially susceptible to the most ridiculous of annoyances if only because we are exposed to the same inanities hundreds of times in a day. 

For the sake of my health and humor, I’m going to do a bit of a purge and allow these bugbears to get a breath of fresh air.  May it also serve as an education to all my readers that you may be unknowingly pissing off clerks the nation over with your antics and should forthwith refrain from all pesky habits lest one of those clerks happens to be the proud owner of a concealed weapon permit and a family history of crazy.

This scenario goes out to all the slow, unorganized, spacey people of the world, excepting the handicapped and the elderly (but sometimes they piss me off too – the elderly; not the handicapped. I’m not that horrible).  

Get it together.  

Here’s how it plays out:

Maybe you just waited in line for 10 minutes and you kind-of wished the line would hurry up already.  But during those ten minutes you chose to play on your phone or stare blankly into space – I can only assume you were dreaming of unicorns. After I’ve had to holler at you and the customer behind taps your shoulder to get your attention you precede to my register where you set your books on the far side of the counter, causing me to stretch half my body over it in order to reach them.  While I ring you up, you don’t get out your wallet (which you could have done during those minutes spent in line) – you look at all the candy and stickers that you probably won’t end up buying but have to finger and consider.  When I give you your total you kinda jump like “Oh! That’s right. I forgot that I needed to pay!” 

Now you dump the entire contents of your mother f’ing Mary Poppins sized carpet bag onto my counter, root around your wallet for some crumpled up bills, unzip your coin purse to unload some weight, and write a check for the remaining 50 cents you weren’t able to scrounge up despite looking in every crack and crevice of your gianormo bag.  And now, because you’ve written a check, I have to see your ID – which you coincidentally don’t have.  Or you just recently moved and the address doesn’t match.  So then you decide to pay with your credit card, but that also has CID written on the back but “Won’t you just please run it? You can call my husband to prove it’s me.” Ironically, you’re the same customer who gives the clerk the stink eye when he doesn’t ask to see your ID.

At this point, you’re lucky I don’t stab you in that stank eye.

Now you have to decide which item you can live without and you ask my opinion on which pack of Tarot cards I would prefer or what book looks better. Lady, for you, I’m going to say go with that self-help book you picked out – probably a wiser choice than that book on the existence of unicorns. Cool. You’ve made your choice, I’ve finished ringing you up and I ask “Would you like a bag?” First, you look at me blankly and so I repeat myself.  Then, you look out the window, do a little wince and then justify your decision to me as to why you’d like a bag, even though normally you’d never do anything so harmful to the environment.

Here’s your crap, please exit the building. Oh, but you can’t.  Because now you have to put all the junk back into your overflowing bag, struggle into your coat, zip it, button over it, pull on your hat, start to put on your  mittens, drop one, bend over to get it and knock over the display on the counter.  While the customer behind you picks everything up, you slide on your second mitten and walk away, leaving your keys behind.

And yet somehow, I never see you again.

(On a brighter, completely unrelated note, neither hide nor hair of the demon cat has been seen in two weeks.)

This is what you get when you Google image search "Bugbear"

That One Time . . . In Mexico




October 11th, 2012
Time: 10:10 pm
Location: The House

Above my desk, tilted precariously to the right and sagging away from its frame, hangs a cork-board weighted down with snapshots of places I’ve been and people I love. And every time I sit down to try to do some work I’m transported back to “that one time” – which ever memory my eye happens to settle on. 

There was that one time I traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico with my best friend the summer after we graduated from high school.  Most evenings we would perch ourselves on the bar to enjoy happy hour and our newly discovered taste for Sex On the Beach and Miami Vice. We would read, listen to music, and mourn the fact there were no young men at our hotel to spy on. But there was this one late afternoon where we decided to leave the safety of our resort to venture into town to see what local color would offer.

Along with other hotel guests, we boarded a crowded bus into town, exchanging our pesos for paper tickets and pretending to ignore the intoxicated middle-aged men who chose to sit near us, but whom we surreptitiously glanced at and judged with slight shakes of our heads.

We disembarked near a Senor Frogs, but we didn’t go in.  I imagine we were escaping from the sunburned, cervaza flushed crowd back on the bus. I don’t recall much of what we did in town – although another round of Happy Hour did occur at some point, but I do remember when we decided to go to Wal-Mart.  This might seem strange to you, but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, Wal-Mart was kind-of a thing we did on weekends. And so it seemed like a thing we should do in Mexico.

Erin, with her high school Spanish, deciphered the bus and I was left with the job of hailing it down.  After settling into the cracked plastic chairs, we chatted until the Wal-Mart came in sight.  Except that the Wal-Mart never did come in sight.  As the bus chugged along, it slowly emptied itself of tourists and refilled it with locals. And still we sat, each silently willing the courage to speak our fears, but deflecting to topics worthy of 18-year-old interests. With each passing mile we would receive questioning looks from fellow passengers and finally, amidst ramshackle huts with corrugated metal siding, we pulled ourselves from our seats and alighted in the middle of nowhere. 

There was a wide lane running between what seemed like fields of houses. Dusk was quickly becoming night and the only light was the occasional passing bus.  The plan had originally been to take a bus returning in the opposite direction but all were headed farther into the hinterlands and away from our desired goal.

Despite the fading horizon and our diminishing hope, we never acknowledged our fears to one another – as though cheerful smiles and strained laughter would somehow bind us to a solution.  Surveying the road for a bus I shot up quick, desperate prayers. And lo and behold, like an angel emerging in the dusky twilight, an off-duty taxi rumbled up. 
  
While I waited anxiously behind Erin, she ducked her head in the passenger window and stumbled and tripped her way over her Spanish and managed to maneuver us into the backseat of the cab for a mere 50 pesos. We held our breath for the next 30 minutes until the main drag was in sight, and only then did we unclench our fists and heave sighs of relief.  We tumbled out of the taxi with a million “¡Muchas Gracias, Señors!pouring from our lips, and whoops of exaltation as we finally admitted to each other that we had been scared witless.

We celebrated our survival with fruity ice-cream treats and a promise not to tell Erin’s parents the full tale of our supreme idiocy lest they trap us within the walls of the compound for the rest of the trip.

I don’t think we ever rode a bus together again.