Saturday, November 30, 2013

33rd New Thing ~ Nice Working With Proper Villains Again

Last June, I found myself grovelling at the feet of Queen Jackie.

(That's Queen Jacqueline Sue UWT Graduate, to those of you who are not on such familiar terms as myself...).

This is Jackie raising her royal cocktail to all grovelling. 

I'm guilty of Graduation Day atrocities. I'm ashamed to say it. But it's true. It's also true that if I'm going down for said atrocities, I'm taking my co-conspirators down with me.


My sister, Michele (aka, Shelly), my mom, (I'll call her....Carolyn) and "Auntie" Cheryl  were in town for the Glorious Event that was Jackie's Graduation from University of Washington Tacoma.

Graduation Day went like this:
  • Drive car to Tacoma Dome at an unnecessarily early hour.
  • Park car. 
  • Cross my fingers that car will still be there when I return.
  • Scramble up the hill.
  • Push and shove my way into the dome.
  • Locate my family and sit down with a sigh. 
  • Wait.
  • Wait.
  • Wait.
  • Then, across the expanse of the dome floor, attempt to spot Jackie in a crowd of 1300 graduates, marching in from two different directions, all wearing pretty much the same outfit. 

    • "Is that her?" 
    • "I think that's her." 
    • "Where?" 
    • "Behind that girl with purple hair." 
    • "Which girl with purple hair?"
    • "The tall one." 
    • "Oh, I see her! I see her!" 
    • "You see Jackie? Where?" 
    • "No, I see the tall girl with the purple hair." 
    • "Well, is that Jackie behind her?" 
    • "No, that's a short Samoan man."
    • "Wrong purple hair."
  • Continue to scan the sea of black robes and flat head-wear.
  • Listen to the commencement speaker talk about her daughter, who was graduating from a different school entirely.
  • Cheer loudly when Jackie walks across the stage.
  • Swear loudly when we can't find her in the crowd of people outside the dome, afterwards.
    • "Okay. Whose flippin' idea was it to meet at the flagpole?" because apparently 1285 other families had the same brilliant plan.  
  • Picture taking at the dome.
  • Picture taking at UWT campus.
  • Margarita's at Moctezuma's. 
  • Regroup at the hotel then hit the casino. Wait, casino? (I know, I know...hence the grovelling.)

I'd never gambled in a casino and wanted to make it a New Thing. What better opportunity, than when Jackie had gathered all the key players. It was like getting the band back together.

We (Carolyn, Cheryl, Shelly, Jackie & I) parked on the outskirts of the Emerald Queen parking lot. A trolley-looking vehicle pulled up to shuttle us to the main door. I asked the faux-trolley driver if I'd be able to take my camera inside the casino. (Blog photo documentation is a high priority.) Bernard, the Trolley driver, wasn't sure.

But when we pulled up to the front doors, the EQ Photography Prevention Security Team was on me and my dangerous weapon (Nikon 5100), telling me I couldn't take it in. We trolley-ed back out to the hinterland and left my beloved camera in the trunk of the car. (Somehow this felt more risky to me than having Carolyn & Cheryl create a diversion while I tried to run past the aforementioned security thugs.) 

No cameras....I guess I saw that one coming. "Oh well," said Bernard, as he ferried us back. "You can always use your smart phones."

Consequently, I have only a couple blurry iPhone pictures in the casino. Shots taken by undercover operatives, which was pretty daring, being that it's clearly some type of felony to take unauthorized casino pictures. (I'm just wondering here.....but if casinos were the fun, exciting place they're marketed to be, wouldn't they encourage pictures of all that fun on people's Facebook and other internet wasteland sites?)

Upon walking into the Casino-proper, my mouth went dry. Not because it was some kind of magical moment, but more from the questionable quality of the overly-recycled air.
"I need something to drink." I dug into my purse for some cash and headed for the "Deli."
I walked up to the counter where a person, clearly unhappy with her job situation, ignored me.
"Excuse me," I croaked in my state of dehydration. "Can I get a Pepsi?" I held out a couple ones.
"It's free," she said, pointing to the self-service beverage bar behind me.
I slipped my precious money back into my purse and grabbed a free pop.
I quickly located my group of supporters and graduation revelers and whispered with glee, "This was free!!" They stared at me.
Maybe they didn't hear me over the canned noise of people winning lots of money.
"THIS WAS FREE!" I said, pointing excitedly to my high-fructose corn syruped, caramel-colored carbonated water. They rolled their eyes.
But from my point of view, I was already ahead. "'The house always wins,' my ass!"

First, I played a couple slot machines. That was futile and unrewarding, on all levels. (And that's aside from the fact that I didn't win a dime.)

I'd hope to garner the courage to play table games. This felt like big girl casino gambling, to me. But I confess that I found the rules, jargon and etiquette intimidating.

I swallowed my Casino Virgin pride and played Roulette then Black Jack.

I really thought I'd like roulette. The spinning wheel, pretty colors and lucky numbers.  But turns so much.

Much to my surprise, Black Jack was the most fun. The dealer was very patient and informative. I won two of three hands. I was so excited. "I want to quit while I'm ahead," I said and thanked the dealer for humoring my rookie questions, amateur hand gestures and mockable inexperience.

When I was telling Carolyn and Cheryl how much money I'd won, Jackie was quick to remind me that I hadn't really won that much because I wasn't subtracting the money I'd wagered. In fact, if I considered all my bets, I was behind. "Your degree is in political stuff," I said. "Quit with all the math already," Holding tight to my casino illusions.

So New Thing #33: Gambling in a Casino. I thought it would be so much fun. Doesn't Ocean's Eleven makes it look like so much fun? But it wasn' all. It was interesting, maybe. But mostly, disturbing and depressing. And probably an appropriate subject for numerous studies in human behavior. But not fun.

And it's not like I believe every commercial I've ever seen but don't those casino commercials make it look like such a wonderful social experience? People laughing and cheering! A big party, right?
Nothing personal if you happen to love the casino experience. I just don't get it and I'm good with that.

In the end, the ride to and from the car was the most fun. Disneyland's got nothing on Bernard's Trolley Experience.


I may not have interesting casino pictures but I have some great graduation shots.

This was the same bench Jackie sat her first day of her freshman year. 

"Mischief Managed"

Congratulations Jackie
Well done, You!!

On the Dean's list every quarter of her four years, Jackie graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy and Economics with a concentration in foreign policy and international relations. (Took me almost four years just to type all that out....)

I presume to speak for everyone in the gang, as I beg Jackie's forgiveness....
Sorry we dragged you to a casino on your special day. For the record, I may have been the mastermind but your mother drove the car!

It was very convenient of Jackie to graduate the same year as the 50 Things. My sister probably wouldn't have been on my side of the continent, otherwise.

Waiting for drinks at the end of the night, someone observed, "It's quiet in here." The hotel bar was almost empty. Apparently no conventions at the Dome.
"It's quiet in here."
"Jackie could sing for us," Shelly said.
"There's no karaoke," Jackie said.
"You can sing a cappella," I pointed out.
"Yeah, we can be your Pips," Cheryl offered.
"You want to be my pimp?"
"Yup, you're out of school now, time to start making your own way! Gotta pay back those student loans somehow."

Post Script:

~ Graduation Party at Paddy Coyne's ~ 

Jackie, Bryan & I : Enjoying the ceremonial Irish Car Bomb

Bryan waiting for us to finish.......


"Touchdown!" Or "Three-points!" Or "Something!!"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

32nd New Thing ~ What Just Happened?

When a New Thing goes well, writing the post is a joy. An authentic pleasure. Getting to re-live the fun, the accomplishment, the adventure. Again, embracing the organic giddiness and celebration.
When a New Thing goes less than well, the writing is heavy and reluctant. Begrudgingly, I re-live the feeling of failure and disappointment.

In the case of my 32nd New ThingUnion Delegate, Council 2 Convention, writing the story is a wonderful thing. WONDERFUL!
Frankly, I completely agree with someone who recently reminded me, "Life is magic."
The 32nd New Thing is proof that magic can happen at any moment. In unlikely places with unexpected people. And magic happened a couple times that weekend. (Stop it!)

The first bit of magic happened a few weeks Pre-New Thing.
Arranging to attend the Council 2 Biennial Convention was an absolute accident. I sat at that union meeting thinking we were talking about the sign up for a completely different union-related event.

"There's one spot left. Barbie, do you want to go?"
"I wish I could but I'll be on vacation that week."
Fortunately for me, Elise was paying closer attention.
"The convention is the first weekend of June. Isn't your vacation later in the month?"
"Yeah, I leave on the 19th. Wait...convention? What convention?"
I thought we were talking about a day of training in Olympia. Happily, I was mistaken.
The Council 2 Biennial Convention. The first weekend of June in Spokane.
"Sure, I'll go. Sign me up."
Voila, the Accidental Delegate.

So a couple weeks later, I found myself packing for a trip to Eastern Washington. Spokane.
And a New Thing....Union Delegate. Bonus!
I confess, my expectations going into the trip were impacted by some narrow assumptions.
I figured I'd be educated and enlightened by the experience.
That I'd learn a great deal and return a better informed union member. (True, true and true.)
But I also thought it would be a little dry, leaning toward the serious side. I was fine with this.  

Packing, carpooling, checking-in and clearing security at the airport. Regretting that I hadn't been chosen for a random pat-down....and just as my mind was preoccupied with such practical matters, suddenly another magic moment.

Leaving the ground.

We were buckled into our Alaska Air Horizon flight, rolling down the runway, when the force of take-off pressed me back into my seat and reminded me how much I love to FLY! I do. I'd completely forgotten this important Barbie Fact. I hadn't even thought to look forward to this. I love to fly. I turned to Elise with a silly grin on my face, giddy and squirming with excitement. "I love this." (I clearly need get out more!)

Breaking through the clouds, crossing the Cascades in the little commuter plane.  

Soon, we began our descent. 

We gathered our bags and headed through the airport, just following the flow, when it happened again. I'm walking along and start to wonder, "Why does my face hurt?" An unexpected and uncontrollable smile has taken command of my face. And my energy.  I could not stop smiling. A silly, goofy grin propelling me along. My cheeks hurt. It was so unexpectedly wonderful to be out of Pierce County and Western Washington that I wanted to skip.  Skip, as in "We're off to see the Wizard..." Really, I did not see that coming.

I didn't know the specifics quite yet (we hadn't even located our rental car), but I knew that this was going to be a wonderful weekend!

Welcome to the Davenport Hotel!

I love to fly. True.
I also LOVE staying in hotels. I do. Flying, hotels, room service! It's been WAY too long.
(I feel the urge to clarify, I had no idea where we were staying when I signed on. But once I found out, I certainly wasn't arguing with anyone.) 

From the moment this dashing gentleman opened the door, I was completely smitten with the Davenport Hotel.

At the desk, checking in, these nostalgic old mail slots, like a scene from a Cary Grant classic, directly in front of me and the tempting boxes of soft chocolate brittle candy in the gift shop window behind me.

I wanted to soak up every detail.

With some time before convention business began, we explored some of Spokane....

 Book stores.....sidewalk shops.

Then back to the Davenport, for orientation, executive board meetings, workshops....

There was a Welcome Reception in the Marie Antoinette room and beverages in a Hospitality Suite, Friday evening. Mingling and meeting new friends on a roof top patio, the Garden Terrace. Among the many types of public employees, library workers drawn to each other. Comparing and sharing library experiences.

The next morning I went for a luxurious swim before a relaxing breakfast. Coffee and Eggs Benedict.
The convention re-convened. We enjoyed a library members luncheon.

Between scheduled events, I explored the Davenport.
My hotel crush deepened.

My favorite workshop was the Resolutions Committee.

I've found that one of the most interesting, surprising and, at times, infuriating aspects of the 50 New Things is the writing. Have I mentioned this?

My original thinking was that I'd accomplish (or attempt to accomplish) a New Thing....then within a few days, I'd sit down to blog about it. Easy, right? Getting the post up in a timely manner? Chronological and methodical? Barbie's idea of sexy. Okay, yes...I know! Stop smirking.

But what actually happens is not at all 'methodical.' More like 'maniacal'....
unforeseen New Thing opportunities....
a parade of unpredictable real life occurrences....
and surprising personal encounters.

Consequently, the writing comes weeks and months after the New Thing.
I've found a reluctant peace in this timing. In fact, I'm frequently stunned by the cosmically-aligned, ironically-timed and comical intersecting of the storytelling and later events.
Events that invariably occur in such a way, that I'm reminded once again, "This is exactly how it was meant to happen."

Saturday evening held in store a hosted reception
followed by dinner and dancing. 

Lee Saunders, AFSCME President (center)

At first I had my camera with me, but soon realized that I had better things to do than keep track of the bulky thing, deciding to stow it away up in the room. 

Although, I did grab this shot, when I ran upstairs to slip back into my suit for a late night swim, discovering that a Davenport angel had been in the room to turn down the bed, leaving sweet treats behind. 

Sunday morning, I took one more swim in the pool and another delicious breakfast before we convened for the last time. 

With some time after the convention but before our flight, we spent a few extra moments in Spokane. At a couple cool places, including Auntie's Bookstore and Uncle's Games. While my PCL friends grabbed some lunch, I took a solitary Spokane stroll and found myself standing in front of a building that connects me with a sweet time from my past. I stood alone. But not really.

Sometimes life tosses us about in such a way that our mind can begin to focus exclusively on the fact that "Anything can happen at any moment." A tragedy, a loss, a set-back. We may find ourselves, emotionally backed into a corner, standing braced for the next 'Anything.' Futilely attempting to protect our intense vulnerability.
But then it takes just one unexpected moment, to remember that, indeed, "Anything can happen at any moment!" Anything magic! Anything wonderful! At any moment.
And it's that same vulnerability that makes it possible for unexpected gifts, unexpected souls to spontaneously materialize.
It's an amazing truth: Anything can happen at any moment. 

I can't explain fully what a surprise this New Thing turned out to be. I can't. 
  • That the New Thing fell into my path, at all. Particularly, when I was distracted by other New Things. 
  • The unexpected pleasure of getting away. Being in Spokane. 
  • The absolutely stunning Davenport Hotel. 
  • The pool. 
  • Dancing in the Grand Pennington Ballroom. (I am having the best time simply writing this post. Re-living the New Thing. Face hurting again!) 
  • The gracious company of Aisha, Michelle, Yuri, Cathy and Patti from PCLS: Local 3787.
  • The ever-generous and supportive, Elise.
  • And quite surprisingly, Miles: the charming, attentive and engaging. Thank you, especially. 

My 32nd New Thing ~ Union Delegate
The pebble that causes a ripple in the Force.