I'm going to start this post off by covering my other news first, because there will be spoilers later on, and those of you who don't want to know how the book ends will miss the other stuff if you stop reading at the spoiler alert.
Anyway, as for the other news, it is completely badass and completely lame, all at the same time. The badass portion is the bit where I tell you that today was my first managers' meeting ever as a kind of assistant manager (I'm not sure what my position will be called yet). I feel so official, and I feel like I have a lot to contribute. I also feel so young, and that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I guess on your first day, you're supposed to feel that way.
My second piece of news, lame as it is, is that I had forty-five page views on my blog yesterday. Awesome, right? No. Most of them, I am thinking, were me, trying to figure out where most of my prior traffic came from. That's pathetic. Anyway, on to the book, even though I'm sure no one is reading this.
Water for Elephants follows the narrative of an old man and a young man simultaneously. The old man is the ninety-three year old version of the twenty-three year old Jacob Jankowski. The present Jacob is living in a nursing home, attended by nurses who don't really care what he wants, save for one nurse in particular, Rosemary. He is visited every Sunday by some member of his extended family, and the week before the next visitor, a circus sets up within view of the nursing home. This causes a flood of memories for Jacob, memories of his own circus days, working in a traveling circus as a veterinarian. He was in charge of a large menagerie of animals.
I admire the way the book was written, interlacing the past storyline with the present. The author plainly spends more time constructing the more elaborate past, making it the focal point for the majority of the book, but it becomes clear that the present storyline is integral to the book. This is not just a story of the exploits of a young man in the circus, nor is it the empty ramblings of an old man. This a story that explores the fate of those who truly live their lives to the fullest, and perhaps a warning to current society about how we should treat our elderly.
Jacob begins his reminiscing with his parents deaths in a car accident, and his imminent jumping of a train. This train happens to be the Benzini Brothers' Most Amazing Show on Earth. What Jacob comes to learn and reveal, is the seedy underbelly of what circus life was in the old days. Witnessing acts of animal cruelty to a much beloved elephant, redlightings (the removal of staff from the moving train, sometimes over train trestles), the refusal to pay a month's wages to half of the staff when times are tough, and ultimately the beating of a lovely wife and performer.
As Jacob learns the ropes to the circus business, whose toes it's okay to tread on, and whose toes he should stay away from, he falls in love with the very person he should stay away from: the wife of the superintendent of the menagerie, Marlena. Marlena's husband, August, is a very jealous man, who is paranoid schizophrenic, imagines the affair between Jacob and Marlena, resulting in beatings of the circus elephant, as well as his wife. Jacob and Marlena plan to run away together when Jacob's life is threatened by the ringmaster and August. However, when the men who got redlighted over a trestle in place of Jacob and managed to survive catch up with the circus at the next town, all hell breaks loose. They release the animals, causing the stampede that was considered the third biggest circus disaster in circus history. During said stampede, two murders occur: that of August, who is killed by the elephant driving a stake through his head, and that of the horrific ringmaster, who was hung by the men he tried to kill, both murders a sort of revenge. Jacob, witnessing the murder of August, keeps the elephant's secret for years and years. He and Marlena, having an elephant and eleven horses, having nowhere to go after the Benzini Bros. circus falls apart, join up with the Ringling Bros. circus, and eventually settle down, donating the elephant to the zoo where Jacob takes a job as a vet.
In the present, Jacob is disgruntled because no one will listen to his wishes, when it comes to taking his medicine, or even opening the blinds. One single nurse treats him with respect. This principle applies to Jacob's family as well. They come, bearing news of no real importance. Jacob catches important information by eavesdropping, and none of his visitors come often enough for him to remember who they are, save for his children. For them, it is a chore to sit with him, and every family member is eager to leave at the end of visiting time.
On the visit that was supposed to happen during the circus weekend, Jacob's son forgets about visiting him. No one was able to come and visit, and Jacob has been left behind. Not to be deterred by one city block, some wobbly legs, and no one to accompany him, as he's just been told he's being abandoned by the only person that respects him (the nurse, Rosemary, is moving away), Jacob sets off for the circus on his own.
When he arrives at the circus, he is stopped at the gate by a teenage boy because he cannot pay. The director comes out and welcomes Jacob in when Jacob tells him he used to work for the circus. The director is even more delighted when he finds that Jacob was present for the Benzini Bros. circus disaster of 1931, and invites Jacob back to his trailer when the show is finished. Jacob tells all. Even the elephant's secret, that he kept for so many years. And the director listens. Respectfully. The cycle comes full circle when the police show up looking for Jacob. The director lies, telling them that Jacob is his father, and agrees to take him on in the circus as a ticket seller. Jacob has a new family, as the ringmaster of the Benzini Bros. called them, he's back in business doing what he loves, and he has a family member who likes to listen to his stories. Jacob, a man who embodies Carpe Diem, is finally respected and heard.
I loved everything about this book. I love the way the story was told. I loved the dual storylines. I love the way the book ended. I loved the symbolism. I loved it all. Prior to this book, my favorite novels were the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, but I think that this book has blown those novels out of the water and now sits in the slot of my favorite book of all time. Props to Ms. Gruen for writing a brilliant novel.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I'm going to start this post off by covering my other news first, because there will be spoilers later on, and those of you who don't want to know how the book ends will miss the other stuff if you stop reading at the spoiler alert.
Posted by Chicken at 12:26 AM
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Alex and I went to the zoo today. I'm sure that we spent way too much money, but we got a good four hours of exercise in in the bright sunshine (Well, it was shining for the first hour anyway, which is about all you can ask for in the Pacific Northwest, especially in March). Luckily, I had the day off so I could enjoy it, another rarity for a sunny Sunday, or any Sunday for that matter. Generally speaking, good sales associates are in high demand on the weekends. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and saw all sorts of different animal, or "Aminals" as one woman (yes, a grown woman) called them. Way to encourage your child's vocabulary. I bet you say "Libary" too. I don't know that I have a bigger pet peeve than the mispronunciation of words, and I realize that makes me a bit of a hypocrite, because while I will never admit it to AAS, I have a slight problem with the words "salmonella" and "vicinity". But I'm working on it, okay?
Anyway, back to the zoo. Maybe it's that AAS and I never really grew up, but we really enjoy our trips to the zoo. We'll start out at the entrance with the map, giggling excitedly, and animatedly planning our route. Unfortunately, most zoos aren't arranged in a perfect circle, so we often find ourselves doubling back, because WE CAN'T MISS ANYTHING! Seriously. Honestly, there are so many animals that I can't say what my favorite is. I will push parents out of the way to see the different breeds of monkeys, press my little nose against the glass to watch the penguins swim, and trample small children to see the giraffes, elephants, and the big cats.
AAS really likes all the animals with the name dragon tacked on to the end. He's obsessed with dragons. He's got a collections of dragon figurines. If you even breathe the word dragon, he's there. So you can understand his excitement at the komodo dragons, bearded dragons, ect. He has also proclaimed that he loves the sloth bear, and the taiper. Check 'em out folks, they're cool animals.
***SPOILER ALERT*** This is where it starts to get emo, so if you're here for the humor, bugger off.
Towards the end of the day, AAS asked "Doesn't it feel good to take the full day off and not do any chores?" I answered yes, but in my head, I was thinking God, no. You see, when I take a day off to myself to not do anything but relax, hang out, read a good book, my mother, with whom we're currently living with (yeah yeah, I'm 22 years old and living with my mother. Get over it. Our economy sucks so much that I, having just graduated from a prestigious school with a psychology degree, can't get a job in my field, and all the other jobs don't pay enough to pay the bills. So yeah, I'm living with my parents), guilts the shit out of me when she gets home from her four to eight hour a week job for not doing any chores while taking a day off from my thirty-two to forty hour a week job. So any time I take a day to myself, I mentally prepare myself through the second half of the day for receiving the pissy third degree for all the dishes in the sink, and the floor not being vacuumed, essentially nothing done. Mom had even called this morning to tell me that she found ants in our room, that we possibly have rats, and that she hung up Alex's towel "so the door could close to keep the dogs out of our room" (not that they do any damage when they're in our room to begin with). Really, the truth is that she's so neurotic about the door molding. She's actually neurotic about a lot of things, like making sure everything, (and I do mean EVERYTHING, including all the stuff that normal people would leave plugged in, like the TV, and the lamps) is unplugged so there is no chance of fire, and locking both locks on the door, to prevent break-ins, regardless of whether someone is home, or anticipated home within the hour, and about the way the dishes go into the dishwasher, and keeping the shower curtain closed after all showers, ect. And AAS wonders where I get my OCD. Thanks Ma.
On an unrelated note, AAS and I had complimenting dreams a couple nights ago. He dreamed he left me for his two-bit whore, cheating ex-girlfriend, and I dreamed I called him a jerk (for something completely unrelated, but I thought it tied in well together.) Same night. No joke.
Posted by Chicken at 11:45 PM
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I don't know that I have social anxiety exactly, but it is extremely hard for me to make friends. I am uncomfortable talking to strangers and making conversation with people I don't know. I work retail, so I have no problem talking to people, but I am uncomfortable coming up with subjects to talk about with people I know nothing about. When AAS and I moved up from Salem, we were optimistic about meeting people, both at work, and at our new hangouts. Problem is, we don't really have a hangout like we did in Salem at the Spur. All the country bars are too far away to drive to, and the one that is near is an older crowd that dances almost none of the dances that we know. As for work, I'm working at the store that I started at years ago, and I am not comfortable inviting people from work out to hang out in a social setting. AAS hasn't found a job yet, but stays home doing various household chores and cooking, so that's out. Anyway, my life has been reduced to reading, blogging, movies, and work. Near to no social life, aside from my mom, AAS, and my step-dad. So if you want to be my friend, leave a comment with your email. I promise to be a hoot. Not as much of a downer as this post makes me seem. :)
Posted by Chicken at 7:06 PM
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
My first thoughts upon finishing the book:
Good book, but maybe three out of five stars. I thought I might identify with a book called The Sometimes Daughter, and I did for some things. Maybe I didn't care so much for it because the writing was strictly narrative with no underlying meaning, or maybe I just don't care for hippie stories, but this isn't a book I'll be passing on to anyone anytime soon.
***SPOILER ALERT*** (and brief synopsis)
The book follows a young girl named Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, starting at birth, and spanning almost two decades of Judy's life. Judy's mother was a hippie, and didn't always take the best care of Judy. For instance, she would sleep with men other than her husband while Judy was in the next room, unattended and eating marijuana brownies. Cassie, Judy's mother, runs off with her daughter to a hippie commune in Kentucky. When Judy's father finds out that her mother kidnapped her, he goes to get Judy from the commune, and sues for custody. This is when the disruption of Judy's life begins.
Throughout her elementary years, Judy was teased and tormented because of her crazy mother and her ridiculous name, all while resisting more kidnapping attempts. Her mother eventually joined up with Peoples Temple and was nearly involved with the mass suicide that occurred in Guyana. Luckily, Cassie turned up, physically unharmed, but extremely emotionally scarred. When she has healed, she disappears again, and Judy doesn't hear from her for years.
The next time Cassie enters the story, she has met a new man, Navid. She is pregnant, again, and she is engaged to be married. Judy visits her twice, the first time for the wedding and the birth of her half-brother, Kamran, and the second time a year later to visit. The second time Judy visits, she notices her mother repeating the behaviors that she exhibited with her father: cheating and leaving her new family. Cassie ends up in an ashram in India, and has once again disappeared from the novel. By the time she reappears, Judy has been a drug dealer, a cheerleader, been arrested, been broken up with, and had an abortion. The book ends with Judy cleaning up her tumultous life and asking her mother the questions her mother should have answered years and years ago. We also find out that Cassie went through some of the same experiences that Judy went through, like the abortion, and we find out just how screwed up Cassie is, as a result of her mother.
For this review, I think I will pick from some of the reading questions in the back portion of the book:
What responsibility, if any, does Cassie's mother bear for her daughter's choices?
When we find out that Cassie had been raped at a party, and that rape had caused Cassie to become pregnant for the first time, Cassie's mother shamed her and sent her to a home for pregnant teenagers so the baby could be given away when it was born. Cassie's mother had called her a slut when Cassie told her what had happened at the party, instead of validating Cassie and her feelings, calling the crime what it truly was. As a result, Cassie felt rejected, and as Kirk (Judy's dad) argues, Cassie leaves her relationships and her families because she is afraid of being left, and being hurt again. I would argue that Cassie's choices also reflected on Judy, and caused some of the behavioral problems with Judy. Judy, who formed a clear ambivalent attachment to her mother developed less-than-healthy behaviors in her young adult life. Selling drugs to make money, and then having sex with a random stranger after her breakup were poor choices on Judy's part, and while I have to say that she made a choice in those instances, I will also suggest that it was partially the fault of her mother, for indirectly encouraging unstable behavior by not fulfilling her role to Judy as a stable role model.
While I'm on the point about Judy having sex with a random stranger, I would also like to address whether this incident should have been classified as rape. Kirk is understandably angry with the boy Judy had sex with when she tells him that she is pregnant. The critique that I have for Sherri Wood Emmons was the lack of a clear line, defining what he did as rape. I think that she was trying to draw a parallel between Judy's experience and her mother's but it needed to be more clearly defined as rape. What labeled it for me was the fact that the boy who raped Judy gave her alcohol before he started taking off her clothes. She also never really consented, and she was upset, and waited for it to be over. I think that it wasn't clearly identified as rape because of society's misconceptions about what rape is. If someone is taken advantage of while under the influence of alcohol, it is rape. If the victim isn't able to make clear choices about what they are doing, it is rape. I think the young man should have been reported for raping Judy, even though Judy wrote it off as not rape.
On a final note, Cassie's own story about her baby's adoption and her own rape explains her behavior to a certain degree. I think that what effected Cassie the most was her mother's response to Cassie's rape. However, despite the terrible occurrance in Cassie's life, I do not believe that it is any excuse for her to act the way she did toward her children. What she needed to do was see a counselor or a therapist to heal from her childhood issues before trying to become a mother herself. If she had done this, she might have broken the cycle, and not have started her daughter on the same path.
The book ends on a good note with Judy seeking closure from her mother, with the suggestion that with time, everything will be okay.
My father was in my life until just last year, and everything is not okay. Even after I had my closure. I don't think that the ending of this book was realistic, but in a society that sells books and movies by happy endings, it was doable.
Posted by Chicken at 9:35 PM
Posted by Chicken at 8:39 PM
Monday, March 05, 2012
Posted by Chicken at 10:18 PM
Friday, February 10, 2012
This afternoon, I saw my life crash down around me
In the middle of the fabric section at Walmart.
Funny place to leave sharp shards of a life.
As I leaned down to pick them up,
Toss them into my bag,
I noticed the faces of my college friends in one,
My high school clique in another.
The generic face of someone I've never met,
Topped by strawberry blonde hair.
A glimmer of a bad date,
And another of a good date gone bad.
A mother who can (but won't) support her daughter.
A sliver of school drew blood from my fingertips
And tears from my eyes.
I had worked so hard to pick all those pieces up,
And put them back in the shape of my life,
But they kept slipping though my fingertips,
Slicing the flesh,
Before I could get them over my purse.
I finally realized I wouldn't get them all,
So I left some of the most unimportant pieces behind.
Now I'm sitting here at this desk,
Which ones fit where?
I can't seem to find the school piece,
But I'm sure I grabbed it.
And without that piece,
The piece with my friends evaporates.
The sharpest shard,
The one with my mother's face on it
Leaves no room for the school piece.
Like the large one with the generic face,
Seem to overlap much of the other pieces.
And then I saw the shape of my life:
My compass is broken.
I've lost my direction.
I don't know how I've managed to get home;
Or is this my home?
It certainly feels more like a prison,
The screens on the windows acting as bars.
The piece that had been missing since before the break in the store
Now stares up at me,
Laughing as I grasp frantically at the pieces,
Cutting myself even more,
Just looking for that school.
He should be happy about that.
And then I see the needle.
The bent metal that reflects the familiar blonde hair and brown eyes.
The best friend long gone.
Nodding towards the piece that overlaps,
Then looking up toward the heavens,
And I get it...
Posted by Chicken at 11:29 PM
There were two of them tonight. Two. And it wasn't even busy. So they screwed up my conversion. And on of them called me a bitch. Signs of shoplifting:
- Well, I won't tell you all of them, for those of you looking to get ideas. But I will tell you what got my attention tonight. The first girls had large, open bags.
- They also looked like they "shopped" at higher end stores, but they were looking in clearance for a gift.
- When someone takes a certain number of clothes into the fitting room, then comes out with less than what they went in with.
The second lady that came in was visibly upset, but she had some bags on her as well. She took six items into the fitting room, and came out with five, and gave me four. I checked her room for the last item, a pair of black sweatpants that I had set in there when I started the room for her. I asked her about them in a lower voice, like, "Hey, I noticed you didn't leave those pants in the room. Did they work out for you?" She told me she had already put them back, and I told her that I didn't see her come out of the fitting room, but I must have missed it. She still told me she didn't have them, so I stopped asking, and continued following her. When the last customer had left, she pulled them out of her bag, along with the hanger, apologized several times, and gave them back. I told her that it was okay, that it "takes a lot to give things back." "I'll never come back," she said. She quickly exited the store without another word. She continued to look back to see if I was still watching her, and she looked remorseful, so I hope what I said and my trust in her to do the right thing had an effect on her.
The one thing that I wonder when shoplifters come in is do they steal because they need the clothing, or because they need something to pay the bills, or to trade for drugs? It's the same question that we asked at the service project that I went to to serve the homeless.The question was do panhandlers really need the money? So what if they need the drugs? That is what they need at the moment. Maybe they need to clothe their children. Maybe they need new, clean clothes for a job interview. Maybe they need a coat to stay warm.
Then I think about it some more. And there are agencies that help with those things. A person shouldn't have to resort to crime to make their lives work. And resorting to crime, often makes their lives worse, makes it harder to get a job.
Anyway... just my musings. Maybe that's something I can do with my life.
Posted by Chicken at 11:19 PM
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I could be silly and say "and the reason is you" (quoting Hoobastank, of course), but I think that's an awful song, and while you are awesome, just for sticking around to read my stuff, or wait, that might be all me setting off the view counter, in which case I am brought back to my original point, that I am a badass.
The real reason is because I caught a shoplifter today. Red-handed. By myself. Okay, my boss helped a little, but mostly by myself. Here is the story about how I caught a thief, and my first ride in a police car:
I was working with my boss, HC, and this lady came in with a big coat and a backpack on. She was wandering around gathering items, and I was watching her to make sure she didnt steal anything, because usually people who take backpacks shopping are shoplifting, and same with heavy coats. As she shopped, she raised several red flags, so HC and I were both trailing her. I started her a fitting room, and she brought back a few more items to try on. She went in, and I checked on her twice, both times bringing back more product. By this point, she has five pairs of jeans, two red sweatshirts, and three black vests. So I ask her if I could take the stuff that didnt fit, and she agreed, and handed over two pairs of jeans, two vests and one of the red sweatshirts. Anyway, I knew she had a sweatshirt, a vest and two pairs of jeans left in the room with her. That's about $150 worth of product. A few minutes later, I heard a zipper close and she came out, looks surprised that I'm standing there, then closes the door behind her and books it out of the fitting room hallway. I immediately looked in her room, and saw she just left one pair of jeans, and she's booking it to the front door.
I told my HC, and she tried to stop her and asked for the stuff back three times, then we called the police. HC watched her cross the parking lot into the parking lot of an adjacent building, and within ten minutes or so, a police officer came into the store to ask us to come identify the suspect. I accompanied him to the car, got in the back seat (which was very uncomfortable, by the way. Don't get arrested.) and we drove to the parking lot. We stop, and the other police officer pulls the woman out of the car, and sure enough, it is the woman who stole. He also brings the black vest from my store to the window and asked me to verify the product, and sure enough, it was our product. Shortly after the incident, the other police officer brought the clothing the woman had taken back to the store, and HC and I received statement sheets that we need to fill out for them to pick up tomorrow. It was a very exciting night.
Posted by Chicken at 10:51 PM
Friday, January 20, 2012
So I have a few new updates to share. First off, I did not get the Assistant Manager job at EB, as expected/promised. This was due to nepotism. Yes, I am bitter. However, I won't dwell on it. ...Who am I kidding? Yes I will, but only until my life gets better than the life of the person who got the job, because I truly deserved it, and I was the best candidate for the job (according to my boss, who was supposed to make the decision, but was strong armed into choosing the other guy). Anyway, this has led me to a variety of things. I will be going to grad school sooner than planned, I will be trying to find a better job elsewhere (as in screw my current company, they don't deserve me anyway) as an assistant manager, because believe it or not, there are other companies hiring for that position, and I received a traveling red dress. I've also started attending church again. That's a big step for me, since I've spent the last three years or so questioning God's existence and being angry at Him when I did believe in him. Firstly, I guess I should start by saying that I have decided to go to grad school to be an attorney, a mediator, or a clinical psychologist. This means either law school or basic grad school. Woohoo! If I choose to go to law school, I'll probably end up back at WU. They are less expensive than Berkeley, even if I was a California resident. If I go for clinical psychology, it will be at UW, which is kind of ironic, seeing as it's the opposite of WU. lol.
Second and only other piece of information that needs other explanation: The Red Dress. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but with a Red Strapless ball gown. Basically, Jenny the Bloggess at www.thebloggess.com is a badass, and started this trend of taking pictures in a red ball gown, simply because she wanted to, and because it would make her happy. She had to share the dress with other women in need of confidence, strength, hope, faith, self-esteem, and empowerment. Needless to say, the dress was worn by many amazing women of different shapes and sizes, and it started to wear out, so Jenny has purchased two more red dresses from the proceeds of her store, and she tweeted about it. This sparked a flood of offers from random strangers to other strangers, giving their strapless red dresses to women in need. This happened right about the time that I was denied that job, when my hopes were crushed. Miraculously, I found a dress on flickr in my size (18 if you need it). The lady who found the dress at Goodwill was not too far from where I live, and she just shipped it to me, no payment or shipping reimbursement requested. It arrived right before I returned from California, and aside from my chest being too heavy for the boning in the dress, it fit perfectly! I had no idea what I wanted to do in the dress. I thought about going snowboarding, but I didn't want to ruin it for the next girl. Then it snowed. A beautiful bland background to emphasize the color of the dress. So we drove to the nearest waterfall, took some pictures, then I played on some trains in a train museum in the same town. It was a wonderful day, and I had a blast, in part because of the red dress, but also because I had the two people I love most in the world, and I was able to let loose and enjoy myself, because I was a badass for a day. Here are some pictures:
|Possibly one of my favorites|
Posted by Chicken at 8:18 PM