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I mentioned years ago that the weekend I moved to Providence, the Pentecostal church down the street was having some kind of extravaganza the likes of which I had never seen.  Then I never saw them again, and surmised that maybe the party was them saying goodbye to that church in favor of a newer, better building.  My current situation has nothing to do with Pentecostals, however, but Portuguese Catholics.

Last year, when I was camping in upstate New York, the church down the street had some kind of hoopla.  I heard about it via exclamation point-filled text messages from Gentleman Scholar, but didn’t really get the whole picture.  Now I’m living with it, and I have to say– when will the merriment end?

It all began with the creepiest parade I’ve ever seen, which of course went right past my house.  I took a video:

Sadly, I didn’t get the beginning of the parade when they carry the virgin on some kind of platform toward either the church or the mini carnival they set up in a parking lot, but the video does capture the creepiest voice in the world repeating “pray for us.”  It’s like the female version of the voice in Fitter Happier.  I can get past that, religious ceremonies are interesting, hearing music in Portuguese out my window at all hours makes me feel very urban and I’m glad they’re all so happy.  The problem is, it’s been three days now.

It’s colored my whole existence.  GS and I got into an argument about the origin of Chorizo, and the fact that I don’t know anything about Portuguese mourning customs (why would I?).  Once a day, or more, we talk about what they’re up to, or a parade goes by, or we lament the fact that we’re just hanging out while they seem to be accomplishing so much–though we really can’t leave because they have parades all the time that basically make a ring around our house.

The parades happen with seemingly no rhyme or reason but they always have a police escort as they shuttle the virgin statue from church to someone’s house (this is according to Gentleman Scholar) then back to the church, or maybe just out for a walk–who the hell knows.  I have no idea what they’re celebrating or how they know when they’re done celebrating, but today is VJ Day, which I think trumps this overly-elaborate merriment, but who knows.  Rhode Island is known for both its religious tolerance, and for still celebrating VJ Day, perhaps they two shall overlap?

I’m a fan of facebook.  I’m not proud of the fact that I’ve been called an “active facebooker” by more than one person (though never to my face), but I find it a handy means of communication for a number of reasons:

  1. I hate talking on the phone.  I rarely call people because I feel like I’m bothering them and what I have to say just isn’t important enough half the time, and though I feel special when people call me, most of the time I’m doing something that I don’t want to stop doing.  Plus, most of the people I’m closest to don’t live anywhere near me, so I spend a lot of time on the phone just because of that.
  2. I’m a writer, not a talker.  See above.  I’m a fan of the email, the text, the chat (though that feels like the phone at times, and I avoid it a bit) etc.  I like thinking through what I’m going to say and organizing my thoughts.  I like commenting on other peoples’ thoughts without having to have a long, drawn-out conversation about it.
  3. I like a lot of people.  There are plenty of people who I genuinely like and like having in my life, but whom I would never call.  I used to get little dribs and drabs (what’s she up to these days?) from other people, but asking about other people all the time seems rude and a bit stalkerish.

Facebook solves all those problems, but creates a whole batch of new ones that plenty of other people have elaborated on, so I’m not going to.

Recently, facebook suggested I add a friend from Jr. High.  This is not shocking news, that’s all facebook seems to do these days.  Facebook was particularly aggressive in suggesting this person.  His face was always in my sidebar under “people you may know” and all my other friends from high school were connecting with him seemingly hourly. I barely know this guy. He was a classmate in 7th grade, and then went somewhere else to school, but I thought I’d see what was up.  I looked through his profile, remembered some things he had said that one year we went to school together that I didn’t care for (also recalled that I don’t think we’ve ever actually spoken to each other), and decided not to add him to my arsenal of friends.

As soon as I made the conscious decision to not friend this guy, another person posts on her page, “praying for the family of x.”  I did a little sleuthing, and it seems that the same day I rejected him, he died.

He was hit by a car while on a bicycle, and died a few hours later at the hospital.  I haven’t thought about this person for 15 years, then for two weeks I see his face every day, then he dies suddenly and tragically.  It was the most surreal turn of events possible, and now I almost feel like I should feel guilty that I’m not more upset.  Also, every time I search for another of my blogs in facebook, his regular profile, and memorial page show up second in the list.

I was telling Jewish Friend about this the other day, and it seems mere hours before I mentioned it, a friend had sent her a New York Times article about that same situation.

So many of Facebook’s early users were young, and death was rare and unduly tragic,” Mr. Katz said.

Now, people over 65 are adopting Facebook at a faster pace than any other age group, with 6.5 million signing up in May alone, three times as many as in May 2009, according to the research firm comScore. People over 65, of course, also have the country’s highest mortality rate, so the problem is only going to get worse.

Tamu Townsend, a 37-year-old technical writer in Montreal, said she regularly received prompts to connect with acquaintances and friends who had died.”

I guess I should get used to stuff like this as I get older, and certainly this is not the first person I went to school with who has died, but I’ve never felt so involved before. In terms of connecting people, facebook has officially succeeded.  It would be insincere for me to be more upset about his dying than I would be about anyone my age who is suddenly killed, but I’m glad I got to know that he had a good life and was loved.

I’ve had a lot of friends looking for jobs lately since we all graduated around the same time.  It’s funny, but this is actually the first time that I’ve been in this situation, since I’ve been hiding my head in the sand of grad school and cavorting almost exclusively with students for ten years.  Now I’ve run into something that I never anticipated, and find both odd and insulting in this whole interview process–when the interviewer has preconceptions about you and you can’t change his or her mind.

I first became aware of this when Wise Lawyer Friend was going on a lot of job interviews.  She graduated a semester before me, and I got to learn all about this hateful process from my safe nest of “one more semester.”  She was interviewing all over the country, jetting here and there, and even though the interviewers had thought her serious enough to fly out, feed and put in a hotel, some also seemed to not believe that she would actually relocate, and told her so (very carefully so as to not break any laws) in the interview.

A similar thing happened to me last summer, when I interviewed for a cafe job and the interviewer seemed convinced–through no action on my part, that I must just be biding my time and saving up enough cash for a U-Haul back to the Midwest.  I could do nothing to persuade her otherwise, and got a clipped email within a few hours of the end of the interview telling me that I wasn’t a good fit.  Jewish Friend actually landed a job a very commutable distance from her home, but now her co-workers are chastising her for not relocating.  One even went so far as to try to sell her a condo.

Penelope Trunk wrote a blog a while ago about long-distance job searching where she basically said that unless you tell an employer you’re already planning to move somewhere, as in “I’m packed and waiting for the movers to show up”, you will not beat a local candidate.  That’s disheartening to someone who likes to move around, but I guess it makes sense.  In the case of the cafe job–I’m already here, but I couldn’t beat a local candidate because everyone seems to think I should be planning to go back to where I’m from.

The problem, in my case, is that I’m not really from anywhere.  I grew up in two states, and moved among five different towns.  Since my first major move was at age one, I’ve spent my whole life being told, “you’re not from here.” When I lived in Hallock, Minnesota until age 12, I was from “somewhere else.”  After moving to Cavalier, North Dakota, I was “from Minnesota.”  Once I moved to Fargo, I was “from Cavalier,” and now that I live in Rhode Island, I pick and choose whether to tell people I’m from Minnesota, North Dakota, Fargo (always mention the movie to give people a frame of reference) or just generic Midwest.  If I want a bit more street cred, I mention things like “30 minutes from Canada” or “damn cold” but for the most part, I don’t go into detail unless requested.  My parents live in a town they moved to while I was in college and my small extended family (who I’m not close to) is scattered across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.  Where I’m from, doesn’t matter.  Short of telling someone that entire story, I don’t know how I’ll be able to convince anyone.

I thought we lived in an increasingly nomadic society where you have to widen the net when doing a job search, but it seems harder and harder to convince people you’re serious about relocating.  Now I’m hearing you have to pick a town, move there, and hope you’ll find a job.  There has to be a better way.