Monday, March 30, 2009


Clairvius Narcisse was a Haitian man said to have been turned into a living zombie with the use of a
combination of drugs. The name Narcisse also means daffodils. Narcisse is also the name of a new boutique in Portland that I am in love with. It's right next to Frances May on Washington in the west end. My first trip there was with my friend Alyssa who decided Narcisse fit my personality perfectly, and that Frances May fits her personality, especially because they carry the amazingly cute 
line of Church & State. Here are some more picture of the store from their blog

Just so everyone is caught up with my current fashion tastes: remember that time I was obsessed with everything nautical? My new favorite obsession is now everything victorian and mildly steampunk. Steampunk described a style that reflects on a time when everything was powered by steam, think The Golden compass meets Mad Eye Moody? I am distraught that my mother got rid of our typewriter.

She's a Parelli?

Elsa Schiaparelli was a famous designer along with Coco Chanel before World War II. After the war she refused to adapt her designs to the times and her business closed in the 50's. It's a shame. I discovered her through the skeleton dress featured below. It was on the cover of a book I felt compelled to check out from the library entitled, "Dressing the Gothic Body." She often  collaborated on her designs with Salvador Dali, and I love her work. Her website, was also fun, opening with Elsa saying, "What would I be in another life, if that could happen?" I would most likely be a shoe.... hat.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Owl shift

As the sun rose, I crossed the dusty gravel parking lot, It was almost five in the morning, but I was wide-awake and nervous for my first day of full-time work. Winding the excess fabric at the hem of my father's oversized tee shirt around my index finger I walked past the towering silos, with the Orowheat logo played across the front, towards the door marked "Employee Entrance." The florescent light above the doorway illuminated hundreds of cigarette butts strewn across the gravel, despite the ashtray that was less than a foot away.  Flipping over my orange hard hat, I peered inside ti see where I had written the key code in sharpie: "3145." I pulled open the heavy metal door and climbed the grimy stairs beyond as slowly as possible. At the top U inhaled deeply and pushed past the swinging door to the supervisors office. The woman at human resources had told me to meet Josh there at five, but the office was empty and locked.

After waiting for a couple minutes, it seemed that Josh had forgotten and so I wandered down the hall to the break room. I stood nervously in the corner, awkwardly holding my hat and watching the people. There were few conversations going on, and most people were watching a poker tournament on the miniature television in the corner. This side of the room was covered with a crusty window that looked down on the factory floor below. Everyone was dressed in white uniforms and aprons, and at least to me they looked uniformly tired and old. One of the women walked over to me and asked if I was looking for someone.

"Yes, " I responded, " I'm supposed to meet Josh, but he's not in the office."

"Of course he's not," she said sarcastically. "I'll page him for you." She picked up the receiver hanging next to my head and said, "Josh Harris to break room, Josh Harris to break room." I could hear her voice coming out over the intercom on the other side of the glass.

The woman waited and talked with me until Josh arrived. He was a tall and muscular man, probably in his thirties, who without wasting time on chitchat, handed me a pair of earplugs and a hair net. As I placed my hat on top of the hair net, he led me out of the break room and onto the factory floor. The heat and the droning noise of the machinery  washed over me like a wave, and I don't think  I would have been able to hear Josh if he had tried to talk to me. He led me down an aisle through the machinery and took a left at the very last machine. A hunched old woman was standing in front of a conveyor belt, fiddling with something on the computer next to it. A tiny Mexican woman stood on a platform behind her bending over something. Josh walked up to the woman at the conveyor belt and tapped her on the shoulder. He turned to me and said. "This is Sherry, she'll show you what t do." He gave Sherry a smile and walked away.

Sherry's face was wrinkled but tight, as if she were clenching every muscle in it, as she was able to bark back at me with lips still pursed, 'What's your name?"

"Kirsten." I tried to yell back several times before she finally heard me.

The Mexican woman descended form the platform and looked me up and sown before turning to Sherry, "If she's here, then I'm going to run to the bathroom, " she said as she walked away. 

Sherry nodded at her and turned to me and yelled, "Grab those baskets." Her finger was pointing towards a shelf that had several types of both empty and full plastic baskets. 

"Which one?" I tried to call back.

"Grab those baskets!' she yelled back louder.

I moved towards a stack of empty red plastic crates and picked on up quizzically. 

"Not those!" she exclaimed with frustration, "The ones on top!"

I reached for a similar crate that was sitting on the second shelf behind the metal platform.

"No!" she yelled again, clearly upset by my stupidity, "Go up there." she pointed an exasperated finger at the platform.

Once I was on the platform, Sherry told me to take the baskets from the top shelf and, "keep dumping them." I lifted a red basket full of cinnamon raisin English muffins and dumped it on the table on the other side of me. I later learned that this was called a "shaker table" because it vibrates so that the muffins move from one end to the other, where they fill up slots that then release them to be bagged. After throwing one basket on, I turned to look at Sherry to make sure I was doing it right. She just glared at me and yelled. 'Keep dumping them!"

I felt uneasy as I kept dumping the muffins, but Sherry told me to. When I had thrown on several baskets and there was a big pile in the center of the table I hears Sherry yelling again. 

"That's too much! You jammed it!" she snarled, pushing me aside.

She told me to grab some empty baskets, and started to fill them with the muffins I had just thrown on the table. Her yelling ha attracted one of the foremen who came to help. My eyes started to water as Sherry berate me. I felt like I was in a horrible helpless nightmare. When the crisis was over, the foreman, who introduced himself as Hal, told Sherry that he was going to take me with him. Sherry seemed all too pleased to get rid of me, and Hal, who could tell that I was upset, decided to give me a tour of the flour. 

"Don't pay any attention to Sherry, " he said, "she's going to retire in a year and doesn't have any patience for training new people."

I don't remember much from my private tour with Hal. I was thinking about the training I had gone to the day before. We watched videos most of the day that talked about personal safety in the workplace. They had made sure that one particular film was given a couple hours distance from lunchtime. That video was about hand safety. It was one if the shorter videos of the day, and just consisted of pictures of limbs, mostly fingers, that had been severed of mutilated in factories. The narration repeated a mantra of, "These hands..." followed by something dramatic like, "These hands... feed the ones you love." Then one of the supervisors had come into tell us about the time he had to pull a finger out of the slicer. Actually being in the factory made these dangers seem more realistic, and I kept my hands close to my body, afraid to touch anything. When I first heard about the job from one of my friends I reacted like a greedy cartoon character from a cartoon with dollar signs in my eyes, and didn't hear anything besides how much money I was going to make that summer. Now, faced with the reality, my thoughts drifted back instead to every Charles Dickens novel I had ever read. 

I also thought about what the woman from human resources had said, as we were about to leave training, 

"If when you get here you find that this isn't the job for you, tell someone. We have a lot of people who just take off on their lunch break and don't come back, and then we have to go looking for them."

Now I knew why, I wanted to leave too. I wasn't sure which was more terrifying: telling someone that I couldn't handle it or sticking it out. 

For all those with music in their bones.

I love music. I love to listen to and participate in it. 

Anyone whose played an instrument, danced, or done anything physical for that matter should be familiar with the idea of muscle memory. I play the piano, and can sight read if necessary, but I much prefer to practice and practice until the notes are in my muscle memory. This is mostly because I get so nervous playing in front of other people that I have to be able to play on autopilot. But also because when I have the strength to pull out of my mindless playing, I can focus on putting all of myself into that moment instead of thinking about what will come next, my fingers are sure.

I've often worried that this preference holds me back. I remember comparing in my mind a beautiful but rehearsed performance to my spontaneous and horrible accompanying in Relief Society. I fear that I am just a performer. My creativity is carefully wrought and analyzed, and often keeps me from being spontaneous around many people. Judgement. I fear being mediocre. It seems that many of the brilliant people of the world were also insane, they had no inhibitions, and their insanity created fodder for their craft. My life is prosaic. Sometimes I envy the insane. But prosaic can also be beautiful. I think I will post the beginning of my latest piece. Let me know what you think.

But back to the whole reason I am writing this. Two sundays ago I approached the piano to play one of my favorite pieces, Adagio Cantabile by Beethoven. I haven't played this song in almost a year, but my  fingers still remembered this old friend. There were a couple rough spots, and it didn't help that the e sticks on this particular piano, but I made it through the majority of the piece without mistake (Especially if I didn't try to read the notes and just let go). I was shocked that the music was still in my muscle memory; I also have such an emotional connection with this piece, its as if it is now a physical part of me. I hope so at least.