Oooh, look who’s back. The proper side of me.

http://pantherqueen.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/feather-duster/

Famous Last Words

“I’ve got an idea.”

For years (and years and years) now, my brain and my mouth have not yet reached an understanding to filter what gets created and what falls from my lips.

I’m supposed to think this stuff out before I talk about it, but that never happens. Maybe it’s my way of holding myself accountable, but it’s more like a hope for other people getting excited for me.

My most recent ideaventure was to start an invitation company. This means something along the lines of taking advantage of my talents in the design genre, and try to make cash from it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve done work for people for free.

A website here, a flyer there, a logo every so often. When I create these things, I get lost in the little world that the high of the creation process turns into, and begin to really enjoy what’s going on. It might take me an hour to find the perfect font for just one letter, but ….fonts! You guys!! It’s habit-forming, and I love it.

As much as I love lining things up so the edges are JUST right, that same OCD will drive me more than a little insane if the design lines up on one side but not on the other, or the fill (for some unknown reason) isn’t coming out in the exact same texture in my head.

I wouldn’t trade that love for any other.

After doing this sort of thing (usually for free) for close to 15 years, it dawned on me the other day that I’m in a good place to pimp my skills. People walk in here all the time that will absolutely need invitations, flyers, announcements, thank-you’s, et cetera. There’s nothing stopping me from putting up my own business cards – except that they haven’t been created yet, but whatever.

So that’s where I’m at with things. It doesn’t feel too much like a conflict of interest, because it’s not like this is a design house, or a print shop, so cross your fingers. I’m not sure where to post all that up online, because I *do* need to have a portfolio, but hey.

It’ll work out, right? Right.

Email Manners

This evening I started cleaning out one of my email inboxes (and feel great about it!). During the process I ran across an old work-related exchange and it got me thinking about what to do and not do in email etiquette. Don’t mind the 2008 dates on the emails, but I just sorted through about 6000 and feel …clean. Hah!

I’m normally one of those people who will respond to everything to keep up good customer service relations, but am trying to cut down on my email obsessions. Since it’s a mildly difficult situation in a “Dear Miss Manners” sort of way, I turn to you, semi-faithful readers.

The short version of my question: when does one stop responding? It’s like when you’re texting back & forth, and they send you a confirmation to a question you’ve asked but don’t *really* need a response – do you send “k” back to them?

Read the emails further for clarification; and yes I’ve edited them to toss out all but the necessary stuff.

===

From: Client
Sent: Thursday, October 30, 2008 12:41 PM
To: larissa

I would like to see pictures of the — room. Also, please send a list of DJ’s so that I can get an idea of cost.

At 01:57 PM 10/30/2008, you wrote:
Attached are photos and a preferred vendor list.

From: Client
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 10:20 AM
To: larissa
Can you please confirm availability of your room for January 18, 2009? We are planning a “Sweet 16” Birthday party.
If the room is available, what do we need to do to reserve?

At 10:37 AM 1/7/2009, you wrote:
It is available. To begin reserving it we’ll need you to fill out a party rental form, which you can either come into the office to get or go to the site map online. That way you can scan/email it or fax it. Once we get that we can make a contract for you, which can also be signed via fax or you can stop by. Then we will take payment.

The total due with your contract will be $1000 – this is for the room rate of $600, and a damage deposit of $400 (doubled from the normal deposit since you are booking it less than 30 days prior). Accepted forms of payment are Visa, Mastercard, cash or money order – no checks (also since we are under 30 days).

As far as 21-and-under celebrations go, the hours of your party will need to be from 2pm-7pm, and you are welcome to bring in any caterer you’d like, even potluck.

From: Client
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 10:50 AM
To: larissa

Thanks for your quick response.

Is the room rental for Sunday $600 or $425? Your website shows $425.
I also did not realize that the party needed to end by 7pm. Are there any exceptions to this?

At 10:57 AM 1/7/2009, Larissa wrote:

No problem!

Sorry, I have been looking at Saturday prices all day. 🙂 You’re right, the Sunday price is 425. As far as the time limitations, if it’s a sweet 16, 21st birthday, 18th birthday, quincenara, etc., those are our restrictions, 2pm-7pm. I know that adults will be present but we’ve just had too many past incidents with 21-and-under events, so management started a policy for that a few years back.

From: Client
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 11:19 AM
To: larissa

Thanks for clarifying the price and time restriction. I will get back with you tomorrow with a decision.

At 12:18 PM 1/7/2009, Larissa wrote:
Alright, talk to you then 🙂

From: Client
Sent: Thursday, January 08, 2009 1:25 PM
To: larissa

Thanks for answering all of my questions. Unfortunately the time restrictions will not work for us. Maybe our next event can be held at your facility.

……………..Obviously the email exchange is over, and usually I’ll send a quick “Glad to be of assistance, perhaps we’ll talk in the future”, but it depends on my mood and time. I try to never get stuck in the thank you / you’re welcome / no, YOU’RE welcome cycle though.

What do you guys do?

Solid Gold 90’s

I’ll paint a picture, it will remind me
Don’t call me daughter
I fade away
A picture
It will remiiiiiiind me

It was 4 in the afternoon; the only light was coming from the huge boxed TV set, super vintage, wood paneled. “Daughter” was on MTV, back when it meant music television because that’s what it played – music videos. I’d lip sync along with the lyrics and love how they packaged that CD, all the while really really really really REALLY wanting that one guy to call.

I just saw an article called “Tragic Kingdom Saved My Life” over on Jezebel, and it reminded me to write one of many posts that are building up in my head, reminding me of my true nature – early 90’s Pittsburgh.

Technically, Aliquippa, but nobody knows where that is, so I claim Pittsburgh. Spent enough time there. Didn’t go to Pitt or Penn State or Duquesne or CMU, but most of my friends either went there or PTI or CCBC or nowhere at all.

My ride was the family Buick LeSabre, until it was my own maroon-colored 1996 Grand Am. Its name was Riven, like the game. I wanted to get that in Olde English font across the top and am glad that never happened, but it would’ve been SO cool at the time. Window tint and fresh speakers. My music was standard alt-rock and grunge when it wasn’t Rap or R&B. WAMO is now apparently a Catholic church talk radio station but it was the station to listen to when you weren’t taping stuff off of B94 and hoping that the DJ wouldn’t talk over the beginning or end of songs.

I’d get out the Cassette Tape Singles – Shaggy, or Bone Thugs N Harmony, and I’d put it into my Walkman (!!) and go biking on trails we made nicknames for, or over to a friend’s house. They call him Mr. Boombastic, apparently, and his CD nearly got worn out from all my playing. Sometimes it would be Crystal Waters, sometimes it would be Skee-Lo or B.I.G. or Foxy or Diddy; sometimes it would be Spin Doctors. We’d go to the corner store for sunflower seeds and penny candy (Swedish fish or chocolate-peanut-butter Knuts, because things never change), and I remember saying “Someday this will play in my car as it’s drivin down wherever, bumpin bass with the windows down and the wind in my hair.” Eventually I got to drive my grandparents’ car, then my mom’s, and the music went into the tape deck, then the CD player. We’d just cruise around, and there was always bass, even when there shouldn’t have been.

I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff from that genre lately. Pearl Jam, Barenaked Ladies, 7th House, The Clarks, No Doubt, Live, The Clarks, Skee-Lo, Alanis, Snow, Everclear, Dirty Otto, all of it. Okay, maybe not Dirty Otto. You guys know about Dirty Otto? I went over to Humphrey’s one time – that’s right, they had awesome chicken salads – and they were playing live. Afterwards, the lead singer bought a round of drinks for everyone in the house. This place was a Bar And Grill (no ‘e’ at the end of that Grill) at its Beaver Valley Finest, and therefore the bar was right in the middle of the restaurant. When I say a round for everyone in the house, I mean everybody standing in the vicinity of the bar. That included me, at the age with no answer when the bartender asked, “Whaddya wanna drink”. He didn’t much care to answer my blank stare and comment of “Dunno, yinz got some ……strawberry dack-ree?” but served me up something that probably was made out of ice and food coloring. The lead singer was kind of cute, in that drunk-in-the-garage-rocker kind of way, and gave me a halfhearted grin when I told him the show was cool. Trying to play off my age, clearly under the legal limit to even be speaking let alone standing in the same area, so he said “Isn’t it about your bedtime?” in that holier-than-thou voice. Sorry I complimented you, buddy – I should’ve told you what I really thought, that your band sounded like a nondescript whatever that should’ve stayed home.

Oh music. I remember how you made me feel, music of the 90’s, each song’s different strains setting up different themes in my head, doing weird and good and bad and fun things to the various cells up there. College was walking down the street, playing Matchbox 20, wishing my boyfriend wasn’t 3000 miles away. Or it was driving to an earlier boyfriend’s house to hang out for the evening; we’d go to the movies and then Perkins every Friday, like clockwork. “It’s sittin by the overcoat, the second shelf the note she wrote…” Driving down route 60 in the dark for the first time, going to the mall, the ice rink. I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky, I believe I can hang out at that ice rink every weekend for two years. Fell in love about ten times a week with that guy who drove the Zamboni, but he was what we call An Asshole. I always had a thing for hockey players though. That explains the random driving trips, getting lost with a friend, just so we could hang out with a cute boy. I fell hard for quite a few of them though, some fell hard for me as well, but most just seemed to go away. There were a lot of nights spent in my room just feeling sorry for myself, as teen angst tends to make you do. You just make another knotted yarn thing for your hair and move on.

Train and standing in line hearing Drops of Jupiter yet again. Dave Matthews and The Freshman on a mixtape in my car. Blues Traveler. Counting Crows, Live. Blur. Tonic. Disturbed. Seal. Prodigy. Silverchair. Eve 6. Reel Big Fish. Nada Surf. Marvelous 3. Liz Phair. Dishwalla. Meredith Brooks. Joy Drop. Marilyn Manson. When Marilyn Manson first came out and everyone thought he was Satan Incarnate. When we found out his name was Brian. White Town. Green Day – and I had the Dookie t-shirt, but have no idea where it is. Presidents of the USA. Dead Milkmen. Savage Garden. Backstreet Boys. Hanson. Jars of Clay. GooGoo Dolls. 2Pac. Snoop Doggy Dogg. Tiffany. Paula Abdul. Ice Cube. Cranberries. Superdrag. REM. Nirvana. Foo Fighters. Oasis. Aerosmith. The City of Angels soundtrack. Mobb Deep. Dr. Dre. Eminem. When Eminem was a HUGE controversial deal. Korn. Prodigy. DMX. Limp Bizkit and their horrible, horrible music. SR-71. The Ataris. MXPX. Goldfinger. Punk rock and skateboarding and rollerblading. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Soul Asylum. Soundgarden and the melting Barbie in the video. Weezer. Radiohead and the really long video. The Smashing Pumpkins. Metallica. Slayer. Pantera. The t-shirts to go along with them. Alice In Chains. Rage Against The Machine. Tool. Garbage. My friend saying that the orange CD was only good for strippers. That friend dying. My OTHER friend dying. Trying to go to school full time and work full time and not go crazy and then leaving.

Pittsburgh living was Marlboros and heartbreak, guitars and drums, climbing trees and walking alone at the side of the river. Standing under bridges and wondering why the humidity was 500% and walking around inside the mall because there was just nothing else to do. Biking around, falling in and out of love, thinking that there was a world out there but not really knowing if that was true. I knew if you drove far enough, you’d get to Cedar Point. Los Angeles was just a song lyric and New Orleans was where the ChatHouse.com friend lived. Someone called me once from the UK and it was like something from a movie. We finally went to New Orleans, in 1997, my church’s youth group (fourteen people in a Pace Arrow), and it was the biggest adventure of my life at that time. A soda was three dollars and you couldn’t get an ice bucket at the hotel; I saw the Victorian houses on the water and romanticized everything. It changed my life. Anne Rice was right – there was life beyond the tri-state area.

The guy from ChatHouse.com is still a friend, by the way. After more than a decade I can say he’s a wonderful human being, despite never having met him in person. No idea where the pen pal from Germany is, but I hope she’s doing well. The days of X-fest and Starlight Amphitheater and listening to Art sing about those houses up on the hill… they blended and ran into something that made me lose track of time, I have been to the hills he sang at the foot of, and live on a hill a little south of the ones he sang about. The palm trees make me constantly nostalgic for a place that I live in.

Oh music, music from days gone by and loves lost, left unchanged. I could go on about you for hours. You make me want to share with my friends, want to go back in time and share my Now with them. We’d have a pretty good time, I think.

PS: He never called.

What’s That You’re Doing There, Wendy’s?

How long do you have for lunch?

At my full-time office job, we have 30 minutes that we are responsible to punch out for. We don’t necessarily have to go anywhere or even eat anything (many are the times I’ve eaten at my desk between projects), we just have to make sure we swipe our timecard twice during our shift. Example: 830, clock in. 1230, clock out. 1, clock in. 5, clock out.

Skipping over various labor laws, corporate policies and internal drama, it’s a fairly simple procedure. It also doesn’t allow much time to actually go anywhere, but luckily for us there are a pretty large quantity of choices available within a couple miles. (Insert Perk #5738295372 of living in San Diego.)

Typically if I’m caught in LCP*, Wendy’s is a solid option for me. What’s up, Dollar Menu? Besides – Wendy’s is familiar. It’s consistent. You know what you’re going to get when you go there, how quickly you’re going to get it. They add in new menu items every so often, but the staples are there and they don’t mess around, for which I thank them. (By the way, has anyone tried their new Frosty selections?) If you’re in an airport in a strange place, and you see a Wendy’s, you know what’s going on. Wendy’s = Home.

It was also my first job ever, at the ripe ol’ age of 15-and-a-half, way-back-when. I stayed there for about eight months (a legacy, at that age), and actually REALLY enjoyed it up until the very end. Which is typically why you leave a job. It was steady, honest work, and the food wasn’t terrible. Even the customers were pretty cool.

So these days when I go to a Wendy’s, I reflect on how we had a 30 SECOND MANDATORY SERVICE TIME – from order to pickup – and how we were actually respectful of that while staying cheerful to the customers. I reflect on how things always had to be clean, organized, stocked up. For the most part things have not changed as far as the procedures go, but it’s just not the same anymore.

Today, however, was different.

Around noonish I got to thinking of my upcoming meeting this afternoon, how there will be food involved, but how that’s still a good three hours away. Why not head over to Wendy’s for a quick bite and some light reading, right?

The first thing I notice is the guy at the register. He’s actually kind of cheerful, but in a genuine way. Let me go ahead and say that I too work directly with the public (customer service), so that sort of thing is kind of embedded into my radar. The interesting things is that while he’s going through the standard procedure, he’s actually interacting on a real level with customers. He’s smiling, for chrissakes! He asked me how it was going, nice day huh, that sort of thing – but didn’t make it awkward or robotic. And you know that awkward pause that I mean, where somebody automatically asks the question but doesn’t expect an answer.

Then I notice the guy serving my food to me is doing the same thing, nice guy, good interaction, good service time. Well, that’s cool.

The dining room is packed, but there are some corner window seats (score!). I’m enjoying my food, when I notice that the counter guy is walking around, doing an Actual Restaurant procedure. He’s doing a brief stop at people’s tables to check on them, he’s not pressuring, he’s asking if we want refills. He’s asking how we are. He actually… cared about his job!

Wait a second. You… can get a refill at Wendy’s? Someone will get that for you? Okay, look. I don’t spend a lot of time these days inside a Wendy’s (despite the ideas this post might give), but of all the times I’ve been inside one, nobody has ever asked me how things are or if they can get me anything. That was AWESOME. You know why it’s awesome? Because it cuts out the awkwardness. Let’s say you get your order, you sit down, but oh crap you’ve forgotten to ask for your special item that makes things tastier. Sauce, whatever. You now have to cut the eight people in the lunch rush line to ask really nicely, blushing, if you can please have your whatever. It’s fine (because it’s a restaurant), but it’s awkward. You know what I mean! And refills? No. No, you just forget about that. You don’t really need a second 60 ounces of soda, honestly, but I know you’ve got a long drive ahead of you and maybe you just want some more soda, okay?

You have to go up there. You have to ask. It’s a little embarrassing; it always is. But this time… it wasn’t. I’m not saying that all policies should be to check on everyone and get them whatever they need,, because that would kill the service time, but it was a really nice touch. Maybe in between when they’ve got an extra minute or so, or when they’re out cleaning the dining room, say hi. See how it’s going. This guy went the extra step and did kind of what waiters did when you go to a nice restaurant but without making it seem like it was something he was forced to do. Kudos to whoever motivated him, that’s for sure.

So… in conclusion, thank you, Short Dark-Haired Front Counter Guy Whose Name I Didn’t Get, Working Around 12:30PM at the Midway Store (3760 Midway Drive, 92110). Thank you for reminding me that just because we’re used to fast food being a bad experience doesn’t mean that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

I don’t know what you’re trying to do, Wendy’s, but I like it. I’ll be keeping my eye on you.

*Lunch Confusion Phase, in which you know you should probably eat something, but don’t know what, or aren’t even really that hungry. You mainly just want to get out of the office for a bit.

Virtuality

Just finished watching the commercial for Cisco’s Virtual Changing Room (http://www.inspiredm.com/2009/10/12/virtual-reality-is-now-more-real-than-virtual/).

I don’t know how close to being complete that really is, or if it’s not something that will actually happen, but… they should realize how life changing that would be for so many people that really, truly loathe changing rooms. The horrible lighting, the tiny space, the pressure to wonder why the last nine outfits we’ve tried on sorta fit in one place but not in another… all of it. Plus you don’t even mess up your hair.

Revisiting joie de vivre

After the dust finally settled on our move, we started unpacking – both physically and mentally. One of the boxes in the back of my mind was on the Vintage shelf, where I store my love for many things vintage, retro, antique and timeless.

My love affair with all of that was rekindled when we ended up purchasing a Craftsman style 1940’s home. Spiders in the sink? Ants on the floor? Sticking windows? Creaky noises? It all bothers me much less than it would have two months ago, and I am smitten. The thought of having a cute little tiled kitchen to cook in… comfortable reading corners… tiny cups of tea… solid glass doorknobs… it’s just too much Wonderful for me, and has to have an outlet.

I’m lucky enough to have a large amount of creative freedom at work, and after redoing the general design on the brochures, my thoughts turned to revamping our website. My design preferences for flourishes, fine lines, parchment, typography – it all began to show through in my mock-ups.

There is quite an abundance of vintage stuff online, so I’d like to take a moment and share some of my inspiration, the most recent of which can be blamed on Anthony Bourdain. That’s right, Tony, I said it – this is your fault! His Disappearing Manhattan episode showcased “Marlow & Sons”, a classic French restaurant in Brooklyn, which spoke to me immediately. All his shows (and books, and general presence) inspire me, that one was just the most recent memory and appealed to my art side as well as my foodie side.

While the thought of chicken liver paté doesn’t currently spark my appetite – the ambiance definitely struck a chord. The decor! The menus! The flourishes!! It was just lovely. View their site here: Marlow And Sons

Other interesting sites of the moment are as follows:
Vintages
Tongue In Cheek
Vintage Indie Wedding Guide
Royal Steamline