piranha - coming up roses.


I feel like I reach a new stage of adulthood today because Seanie and I bought a mattress, which seems very important but also so very grown-up and boring.

Our current mattress is an old thing from the late 1970s or early 80s, a hand-me-down from the guest room of some friend of a friend. It's hard and lumpy and terrible, although it was an improvement over the mattress before that. That horror was a mattress that bumped amongst the Buckley boys for who knows how long, and was a truly miserable sleeping experience.

So for Christmas, Seanie's parents gave us a gift certificate to Mattress Firm. It might have made more sense for them to give us the cash, so we wouldn't be locked down to a particular retailer, but lets' be honest: if we had cash, we would have stashed it in savings and never purchased anything. The gift certificate forced us to stop putting off the chore of buying a mattress. So we went in and tested out mattresses, with a saleswoman constantly trying to get us to buy. It didn't bother me too much - it's her job, after all - but after a while it really felt like she was trying to rush us. We left to think about our options, and while searching for reviews of the Tulo mattresses we realized that there was a huge discount on the exact model we were considering online. The Tulo website had the California King mattress marked down to $599 from $850, which was significantly cheaper than the deal we'd been offered.

We'd also noticed that there was a free bed frame with purchases over $500, which was cool because the bed frames are the kind that can be moved into a sitting position with a remote. Since I like to read in bed, that seemed super handy - and while we hadn't factored in the cost, it was a fact that if we did upgrade to a Cal King we would need a new frame because our old one was sized to a queen.

Annoyed that the saleswoman hadn't told us about the bed frame sale or offered us a better discount, we ended up going into another Mattress Firm location and asking the staff to match the online price and throw in the bed frame. They agreed without hesitation, which makes me suspect we might have been able to negotiate even more, but no matter. The price was good enough and thanks to my uncle's generosity at Christmas, the balance after the gift certificate was already paid for.

The mattress will be delivered next Wednesday. I'm excited. This is the first really big purchase we've made as a couple; with the exception of my bookcases, all of our pieces of furniture and appliances have been gifts or hand-me-downs. (Or cheap thrift store finds.) I'm a little nervous because the new mattress is significantly larger than the current one so space is going to be a bit tighter in our bedroom, but it'll be worth it. Poor tall Seanie will finally be able to stretch out without his feet dangling off the end of the bed!
now - eye see you.

"It must be so relaxing to work in a bookstore and read all the time."

Inventory is coming up on Sunday. It'll be our first time attempting an inventory count with IBIDie, with new machines and procedures. I've done what prep I can: talked through the process with our tech support staff, tested the machines, charged their batteries, and walked through each step as far as I can without actually initializing the inventory process.

I'm a little nervous about it, but I can't really guess at what problems may come up until we muddle through the first time. Yesterday, I made the mistake of saying as much to the bosses, who immediately turned aggressive. One insisted I should be doing more to prepare, and the other countered that she was sure I was coming in the next day (my day off) to do exactly that. When I replied that no, I wasn't planning to come in because there wasn't anything else I could do, they just stared.
"How can you not come in? It's not as if we ask it all the time. Inventory is only once a year, and the least you should do is prepare for it properly."

This comment really got under my skin. Officially, I'm only supposed to work four days a week; that's what I negotiated instead of a pay raise last year. It hasn't actually worked out that way. Due to "once a year" events like inventory and Educator's Night and off-site marquee authors, not to mention in-store weekend author events, tech support, employees calling out sick, payroll deadlines, and just keeping up with the store's communication has me working in the store on weekends at least once a month, and several hours each week off-the-clock from home.

I'm the only one expected to work this much and this hard - to the vast majority of the staff, this is just a fun side gig to help fund a fondness for reading. There's no drive to try new things or hustle. It makes the job unsustainable. My pleas to hire some sort of assistant manager to help with the workload fall on deaf ears even as the owners continue to step back from the business. I'm not sure they even realize how much they've let go, but they can't even operate the cash registers anymore. I'm just exhausted all the time, and at the end of the day it's still not enough and for what? What am I really getting out of this?

First, we get through inventory.
Then, maybe I need to sit down and really think about what this bookseller thing really means. I love this store and this field, but I don't know if I can keep doing this job.
piranha - in a blue period

A celebration of Music for Mister Moon

It was about time for a triumphant return from Trader Vic's.

I was nervous, of course. Ever since my fall and subsequent hospital visit I haven't really been able to drink alcohol the way that I used to. I don't know if I'm having some sort of allergic reaction or if it's entirely psychological, but I start feeling sick so easily. I don't want to stop going to Trader Vic's and other tiki bars just because drinking makes me nervous, but I also don't want to find myself face-planting on the tile floor again.

Especially not at a work event.

But it all went fine. I skipped a cocktail and had something fruity and non-alcoholic so I could focus on the purpose of the evening's dinner: meeting author Philip Stead and learning about his newest picture book, Music for Mister Moon . Legendary editor Neal Porter also spoke for a few minutes about the book, but he kept the focus on the Steads as much as possible.

Music for Mister Moon, which publishes in March, goes something like this: A little girl is practicing her cello when a noisy owl upsets her. She throws her teacup out the window and knocks the moon out of the sky. She and the moon become friends, and he confides that he'd really like to go on a boat ride on a lake he's seen from the sky. She's happy to help him fulfill his dream, but his other request, to hear her perform her music, makes her far more nervous. It's a quiet, gentle picture book, the sort of thing one reads at bedtime to calm children down into sleepiness.

Philip wrote the book with his wife, Erin. Well, he wrote and she illustrated, but they're such a partnership that I tend to imagine it's all collaborative. She is a talented illustrator, and for this book she had nearly finished the art when she decided to scrap the whole thing and start over with a new printmaking technique. It sounds like madness, but when you see the images they're so lovely and perfect for the story that you can instantly see why she'd feel so strongly.

Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, the event was more of a cocktail reception, so there was plenty of time to chat and socialize with other booksellers. Honestly, this is my favorite part of these author dinners. Don't get me wrong – I love meeting creators and hearing about new books! But there's something about being around other people in my field and remembering what an interesting and vibrant community we are that's simply wonderful.

Each bookseller was given a print from Mister Moon to take home, signed by the Steads. I was able to bring an extra print home for V; she LOVES the Steads and wasn't able to make it to the dinner. She'll be so excited.

My photo doesn't do the print justice.
piranha - study hard.

Work Party

Tonight was the bookstore's staff party. The bosses host one every year after the holidays are over at a local cafe. They rent out the upper level and feed us and cap the evening with a gift exchange, a white elephant-style free-for-all with the twist that V&M provided all of the gifts. It's always a fun night, a chance to get everyone liquored up and relax a bit.

Now that I've been at the store for a few years, it's fun to see how new employees will react. We had two newbies this year. One is a quiet mother of two, the sort of woman you might pin as a Mormon with traditional family values. Turns out my coworkers and I missed the mark on that a bit because she drank quite a bit and was quite tipsy all evening. The other new girl is still in high school and looked a little overwhelmed, but she's quite mature for her age and always manages to hold her own with the older staff members.

We've gone to this restaurant for several years because the owner knows my bosses, but in the past few years he's been transitioning away from the restaurant's management. This year was the first time he wasn't at the party, and to be honest the lack of personal touch showed. On previous occasions, he acted as bartender and ensured that no glass ever went empty. This time, I walked in to find a selection of wine bottles on a table and not a waiter in sight. The food was less exciting, too. My first holiday party I had a delectable lamb chop that I still remember with a happy, longing sigh; this year's salmon or steak offerings were far more pedestrian. Throw in overcooked greens and bread rolls straight from a Costco bag and it wasn't the most inspired menu. I suppose I shouldn't be a snob about it, though. The recent minimum wage hike is probably hitting them just as hard as it's hitting us, so corners must be cut when they can.

V&M assign seating at these dinners, and sometimes you end up sitting with people you otherwise don't see more than a couple of times throughout the year. This year, though, I was tucked in-between a sweet old lady who cusses like a sailor to the delight of the millennial staff, and our school visits manager. I work with both of them frequently and it was quite fun.

Every year, as we wrap up dessert the bosses perform some sort of little song or rap about the store. They try to recognize each staff members' contributions to the success of the business, which is very sweet. They sang high praises of our sidelines buyer, who leaves at the end of the month, and welcomed the two new hires. My line in the song tied in with my role acting as tech support, which seemed very accurate for 2018.

The holiday party highlight is, of course, the gift exchange. I had a low number this year, so I was one of the first to go. I picked an oddly-shaped present, and it was an enormous, ugly bird feeder. It was metal and looked like a small umbrella with a dinner plate attached to the bottom of it. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting it, so I was resigned to trying to figure out a place to prop it up in our backyard, but one of the ladies actually stole it for her garden! I was so relieved.

The second gift I picked out was a massage kit. It was an aromatherapy-style one, similar to what I used to sell at Bath & Body Works back in the day. There was a plastic massage roller and a couple of essential oils bottles, a perfectly pleasant set. I once again assumed I was stuck; who would want massage oils when there were far more exciting offerings like exotic orchid plants, kitchen supplies, and fancy candles? But before long our tipsy Mormon mother stole it with an expression of pure delight. I didn't dare chance unwrapping a third present and getting stuck with something truly bizarre, so I stole a ceramic composting unit from one of my coworkers. It sounds so boring – I mean, compost? - but it'll look much nicer in our kitchen than the broken rice pot I've been using to store food scraps when I'm too lazy to carry things out to the compost bin.

There were some pretty nice gifts this year. A pretty turquoise teapot. A soft, fuzzy scarf. There was a bit of a fight over a cute Indian lunchbox. The high school student initially opened it, and you could tell that she just loved it. My f-bomb droppin' seatmate straight up stole it from her, though. Everyone was a little bit shocked that the nice li'l grandma stole from a teenager, but hey. Gift exchanges are seriously business, and these ladies don't mess around.

Some items were kinda neat, but I wouldn't know what to do with them. A desktop waterfall fountain is cool, but who has space for one? There were five or six large orchids, but I'd kill them just like I kill the miniature party favor plants we get at the end of each year's holiday party. In fact, I really need to research the care of orchids since this year we each received a little yellow orchid in a metal pail. I'd like to keep it alive, if possible. There's gotta be a first time, right?

All in all, another fun party and another year at the bookstore is wrapped up and done.
Good times.
kid - shuu-chan.

A singer, an actor, a songwriter, an author...is there anything LMM can't do?

Just when I thought I couldn't adore the man any more than I do...

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Friends Purchase Drama Book Shop
By Michael Paulson
Jan. 8, 2019
Original article link:

Lin-Manuel Miranda is already a composer, a lyricist, an actor and an author. Now he’s going to be a bookseller.

Mr. Miranda and three of his “Hamilton” collaborators have purchased the Drama Book Shop, a century-old theater district purveyor of scripts, sheet music and other stage-related reading material.

The surprise move is an effort to sustain the store, which is a mainstay of New York’s theater scene — in 2011 it was recognized with a Tony honor for excellence — but has struggled to survive the brutal Times Square real estate market and recently announced that it was being forced to move from its current location.

The rescue plan is a joint venture between the “Hamilton” team and the city, which has pledged to find the store an affordable space in Midtown.

“The store is a gem and a cultural institution in New York, and we want to make sure it’s saved,” said Julie Menin, the mayor’s media and entertainment commissioner. As precedent for the arrangement with the bookstore, she cited the city’s work with the Berklee College of Music to save a Manhattan recording studio.

The Drama Book Shop, which currently sells about 155,000 items a year, will close at its current location, on West 40th Street, on Jan. 20, and will reopen at a new location, not yet being named, in the fall.

The new owners of the store are Mr. Miranda; Thomas Kail, the director of “Hamilton”; Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer; and James L. Nederlander, the president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates the theater in which the show’s Broadway production is running. They purchased the store from Rozanne Seelen, whose husband, Arthur Seelen, had bought it in 1958. (He died in 2000.) Ms. Seelen said she sold it for the cost of the remaining inventory, some rent support in the store’s final weeks, and a pledge to retain her as a consultant.

“It’s the chronic problem — the rents were just too high, and I’m 84 years old — I just didn’t have the drive to find a new space and make another move,” she said. “Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights.”

The new owners all frequented the bookstore at various points when they were seeking to build careers in the theater.

“When I was in high school I would go to the old location and sit on the floor and read plays — I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Mr. Miranda said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico, where he is preparing to star in a three-week run of “Hamilton” in San Juan that opens on Friday. “After college Tommy Kail and I met in the Drama Book Shop basement, and I wrote a good deal of ‘In the Heights’ there.”

In 2016, after a burst pipe caused damage to the shop, Mr. Miranda came to its aid by urging his fans to patronize it. The store needed a lot more help this time.

“They’re like family to us,” he said, “and when we heard that the rent increase was finally too precipitous to withstand, we began hatching a plan.”

The store is particularly important to Mr. Kail, whose post-college theater venture, Back House Productions, was a resident company at the store. “I was in many senses professionally born in that bookshop’s basement — I spent the first five years of my career there,” he said in a telephone interview from London, where he was checking in on the “Hamilton” production there.

Mr. Kail and Mr. Miranda both said that they were also inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which townspeople rally to save an endangered family banking business. “There was no hesitation,” Mr. Kail said. “The Building and Loan was struggling, and we could do something.”

Mr. Seller’s office, which is already running a “Hamilton” merchandise store in Midtown, will oversee the day-to-day management. He said the book shop would have a revamped website and expanded programming; the goal, he said, would be to break even, which in recent years the store has done occasionally but not consistently.
kid - because i can bitch!

Dishes: Nobody's Favorite Chore

Me: Wash the dishes! If you do it every day it only takes a few minutes.
Also me: Sean’s home on Friday, that’s not so very far away...

Usually it's Sean's chore to wash our dishes, but he's out of town this week so if I don't want them piling up in a gross mess, I have to do it.

I timed myself and it took about eight minutes to wash all the dirty dishes on our counter and about half an hour of procrastinating beforehand. But now that the counter's empty it looks so nice and I feel like I can actually cook!

But Sean hates doing dishes, and will let them pile up for a week or more. No matter how many times I've suggested in the past that he just do it every night, he says he doesn't have time. I think if I want to keep this counter clean, I'm gonna have to start doing all the dishes myself.
now - glamour & haute.

Movie: Death Becomes Her (1992)

Death Becomes Her (1992)

Once upon a time, a friend described a movie that she thought I’d enjoy. It sounded crazy, a story about two vampire women trying to kidnap the one man who can save them from some sort of disease or disorder that renders them unable to heal after injury, so every scratch or scrape remains on their skin forever. If she mentioned the name of her movie, I forgot it almost immediately, but after seeing Death Becomes Her this weekend I think it must have been the film she was trying to remember.
Her description was also wrong on several key points, so I wonder if she fell asleep during a portion of it or only caught half of it.

Two women, formerly best friends, become bitter rivals after Madeline (Meryl Streep) steals the fiancé of Helen (Goldie Hawn). Helen spends years in a psychiatric hospital plotting revenge, as Madeline marries Ernest (Bruce Willis) and settles into an unhappy marriage. As the women grow older, Madeline’s acting career dries up as her looks fade, but Helen becomes a bombshell and rising star author. Determined to outshine her rival once more, Madeline bargains with the beautiful, mysterious Lisle (Isabella Rosellini) for an immortality potion. It restores Madeline’s youth and beauty, but at a price: when Madeline is killed by a fall down the stairs, her life doesn’t end. Like a zombie, her body continues on, unable to heal or recover from the injury. When Helen returns to see Madeline’s body, it’s revealed that she, too, has drunk the magic potion. Knowing their dead bodies will be in constant need of maintenance, they conspire to kidnap and control one of the most talented mortician they know: Madeline’s husband, Ernest.

Death Becomes Her has the same delightfully campy, macabre humor as films like Little Shop of Horrors. It’s so much fun to watch. The offbeat story is entertaining as heck and utterly weird. What really sells the story is how good it looks; the special effects are top notch for a movie produced in the early 90s. A mix of practical effects and computer-aided illusions completely sell the bizarre concept. It’s no wonder the film won the Oscar that year for Best Visual Effects; it earned that award.

Looking back from twenty-five years later, I also appreciate the costumes and make-up so much. Madeline Ashton wears some of the iconic fashion looks from the time: giant hair tied up with an enormous scrunchie, black catsuits under semi-sheer drapes of fabric, and always tight dresses and blouses with a plunging sweetheart neckline. Goldie Hawn’s dead blue eyes are so unsettling, especially against that flaming orange hair and blood red lips. If my friend happened to tune into the movie as Helen climbs out of the pond, water dripping everywhere, I can see how the idea that she was a vampire took root. I also love the theatrical, Egyptomania clothes worn by Lisle. The timeline doesn’t quite work to place her at the height of her beauty during the 1920s, but she certainly looks like a displaced flapper. In another version of the script, she was meant to be Cleopatra herself...I rather like that interpretation of the character. 71 seems a trifle too young for Lisle to amass the fortune and beautiful people with which she surrounds herself.

Also, is that really Bruce Willis? I’m so used to seeing him play action-oriented roles, like in Pulp Fiction and Die Hard and Looper. It’s weird to see him as a henpecked beaten down little man...but it’s also super fun. He did good.

I’m so glad Donna suggested we watch this movie. It’s just the sort of thing I love, and it’s really unfortunate that I wasn’t exposed to it sooner. My old friend certainly tried; if only she’d gotten a few more details right this would probably be a household staple every October.

Also: I really think that Jeans, Seanie, I should dress up as Madeline, Ernest, and Helen for Halloween sometime.
piranha - ice.

Family time!

Yesterday marked the official end of the Christmas season. Mom had all of us kids over for a turkey, but the bird was a bribe so that after dinner we'd do the chore that nobody loves: removing Christmas tree ornaments and packing everything up until next December.

It usually takes a couple of hours to get all the decorations wrapped up, but with Jeans, Donna, Kenny, and me all pitching in we got everything taken care of in about forty-five minutes. Go team! Seanie would have helped if he could, but he had to rush home to finish packing for CES (he flew out to Las Vegas this morning) and track down his passport, since we're not sure if he needs it due to the new regulations regarding air travel and ID.

Today Donna hosted Jeans and me for a girl's day in. We drank tea, wore face masks, ate lots of unhealthy snacks, and watched Death Becomes Her, a comedy horror movie from the early 90s starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn and excellent special effects. It reminded me that there are so many enjoyable films I've missed, and I really should try to make the time to go back and catch a few.
bath & body works - aquatanica spa

5 Things: Podcasts

5 Podcasts I'm Listening To Right Now

1. Pod Save America
For my politics jam, the Pod is where it's at: four intelligent adults, former Obama advisors all, discussing the weekly news in all its crazy scary Trumpian glory. Obviously, the show skews to the left, but after two years of this President and this Republican party, my interest in neutrality is gone. The Pod hosts have the background to understand the issues and the ability to explain it in a way I can comprehend, and listening to them kvetch is extremely cathartic.

2. Dressed: The History of Fashion
It's fashion history! Of course I enjoy it. Each episode focuses on a particular garment or designer or cultural moment, and the hosts frequently interview fashion experts from a wide variety of backgrounds. Most episodes are about an hour long, which is the perfect length, and if you follow their Instagram account you can see pictures of the different clothes discussed.

3. Stuff You Should Know
This is the perfect bedtime podcast. I pick a topic (they are many and varied) and start the show. I may nod off right away or listen for a bit, but the soothing voices of Josh and Chuck eventually send me to sleep. I do a very poor job of retaining the information, and sometimes I'll listen to the same episode 2-3 times in a row because I fell asleep so quickly, but Stuff You Should Know has become my favorite sleep aid.

4. Lore
Aaron Mahnke has built a bit of an empire off of this podcast, with a TV show and a book series in addition to regular new episodes. It's very impressive. He has a very distinctive way of reading his scripts that seems a bit stilted but once you get used to it, it really works for his style of storytelling. I also like his other show Cabinet of Curiosities, and his history podcast Unobscured was fine.

5. The Daily
Each episode of The Daily, which is produced by the New York Times, is a half-hour deep dive into a particular news topic. While it's often politics, they also file reports on international current events that I otherwise would never hear about. I'm really impressed that they produce the episodes with the regularity that they do, and the quality of the reporting is top notch.
kid - shuu-chan.

Piles of notebooks as far as the eye can see...

I was never very good about keeping diaries or journals, but I've always loved notebooks. I'm one of those chronic people that buys them and then stashes them away to use later, or starts a few pages and then loses track.

Right now I've got several active books, and I'm going to try to keep up with them this year.

From the top of the pile to the bottom (or from right to left, if you'd rather):
E. E. Cummings: I received this little book in a subscription box. I'll be using it to record the list of books I read in 2019. I'ts been several years since I tracked the titles I read, and I don't know how large the total will be. Maybe 100? It might get as high as 200 or 300 if I include graphic novels and picture books!
Honeycomb Decomposition Notebook: This was a sample from a trade show, I believe.  When I started at the bookstore, I used this for taking notes because of the "bee" in our store's name. I started using it again recently for my work to-do list. It will soon be full; I think there are less than ten pages left.
Jane Eyre Journal: My personal to-do list. It's full of chores and tasks that are probably quite boring for other people to read, but if I didn't have a line reminding me that I need to get my glasses adjusted or return my mom's tupperware containers, I'd probably never do it.
2019 Planner: That's pretty self-explanatory. I didn't pick out a very pretty one this year, just the cheapest one at Walgreens. If I find myself using it faithfully, perhaps I'll upgrade, but I didn't want to make a large initial investment in case I stop using it in two weeks.
2018 Planner: I haven't finished transferring information from last year's planner (which was used very intermittently) but once I do this will be headed for the trash bin.
Budget Book: This blue notebook was a freebie at the 2017 Winter Institute in Minneapolis. We were meant to use it to take notes, but I always forgot it in my room and ended up bringing it back home with empty pages. I'm not using it to do monthly budget calculations and cashflow worksheets.  Boring, but very useful.