Sunday, June 28, 2009

Catering Again...

So, to help pay for my wedding there was the need for extra income.

Off to the hotels I went. With a scrappy little resume I applied for banquets catering.

Got to serve weekend brunches, and clear many tables while wearing a tuxedo.

The experience in some ways can be surreal. You have a breakfast served at a fancy hotel and then guests of all shapes and sizes come in to dine.

You will see the guests in suits and refined outfits. Nice morning clothes.

Then there is the more casually dressed. Jeans, polo shirt or nice top.

The next group are the t-shirt and shorts, or sweat pants crowd. They are usually wearing sandals or flip-flops.

However, by far my favorite group are the pajama people. OMG! It's past 10:30am get out of your pajamas you're in public. And, some are not allowed in the dining area for lack of footwear. Who's house are you in?

There also seems to be a directly proportional amount of food consumed to level of attire. The more upwardly mobile the attire - i.e. business suit - the less the food. A bagel, a juice or coffee, and a yogurt or piece of fruit.

Pajama people - robe pockets and sometimes sleeves filled with fruit and such for later, two or three plates of food for breakfast eaten on the spot.

Each person executes breakfast in their own style. They dance around each other and never make eye contact with people beyond their own parties and a server or two.

Life is so surreal.

Oh, Yeah - Got married...

If you truly love somebody. You look at them and can not think of ever living without that person by your side...that's when marriage makes sense.

Did I love my husband. As much as I knew at the time. Loved him with all that I knew how.

However, I can honestly say I was obsessed with the idea of getting married more than anything else. I was nineteen and had already put money down on the dress before he asked. It was the end of the season for the dress and it would be gone forever. Still have pictures of the dress. More of the dress than of him.

Worked second and third jobs just to pay for the wedding. He was supposed to buy our rings. They ended up being $10 for a pair at Bizarre Bizarre. Purchased 2 nights before hand. Woo hoo!

Wanted to cancel a week before the wedding. But, had been chided about cold feet.

Cried up the aisle and through the ceremony.

Fought with each other during the reception and honeymoon.

Moved out 1 year and 11 days after we had said "I Do".

There were deep issues to contend with that I won't discuss. It was a time of great pain, sorrow, growth and learning. Just glad that it is not my present.

Met many wonderful people from that relationship. Have reaped many joyous occasions and splendiferous events from having 'been there'. And, if having gone through the less than blissful times meant getting that bliss - it was well worth it all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cleaning and MacroMind

Left the trades. Can you blame me?

So, what to do immediately? Got a job at Brooms Unlimited. Yes, back to the old standby.

They handled many small client accounts. Brooms also had an account with Arthur Andersen. Loved days with A.A. accounts. You would get 4 units in the same building. Could get them all clean in 4 hours and paid for a whole day.

About 2 months into cleaning I am sent to clean at a business on Wolfram Street; and my life is about to change.

The job on wolfram is a small business with a kitchen. They need the place swept, vacuumed, bathroom cleaned, kitchen cleaned, dishes washed.

It's a small bustling company. And, the phone's ringing away. Marc Canter, my future boss, asks me, "Do you know how to answer a phone?"

That's all it took was a wry look of disbelief that any human being could not answer a phone, and asking the name of the company.

He hired me that day. However, I did let him know that Brooms got a two week notice.

MacroMind was at the time a small company in Chicago. With two spaces down the street from each other. One space was the office, the other space was the studio with a first floor mail room. The studio is where all the computer artists and programmers worked together. The office was the logistical part of the company, accounting, sales, customer service, support. It was a very Organic company. There were under 30 of us.

When I came on board the big project was MacroMind Director. Animation software for the Macintosh / Apple system. This is 'pre' Swivel 3D kiddies. I can still remember the day we got the 512K computers in; and were excited at the amount of memory they held.

Still crisply remember the day one of the first midi cards came in. It was cutting edge at the time.

Could have stayed with MacroMind forever. Grew from a reception job to administrative assistant to the president in no time. Got to beta-test new software. I could make a system crash faster than anybody, plus accurately log how it happened.

The company got an offer to move to California. However, I was newly married and had to stay behind.

So, the company left just the same as it came in for me. Helped them pack. Saw them off. Cleaned up the space. Turned over the keys.

Rock and Roll Baby!

So, what do you do with four months of workman's compensation for emergency surgery?

Let's see I'm nineteen. Getting paid $375 a week to do nothing, with stacks of uncashed overtime checks and over $50K in the bank.

I met a rock photographer; and went to every single heavy metal and punk concert that came through Chicago. For three months solid.

Was great playing assistant. Buying tickets, getting passes, loading film, going backstage, getting interviews, and stage diving. (Just kidding. Only did a stage dive once. Very exhilirating experiment in communal trust.)

Invited many of the bands back to the Oak Park house after their concert.

Yes, it was totally cool talking about how this band or that band came over. And, how some of them did not seem to want to leave. ('Meatmen', 'Love and Rocket's talking about you here.)

By the time most bands get to Chicago they have bounced around endless number of gigs on their tour.

They are seriously appreciative to have a house to go to after a concert, instead of several little hotel rooms. A living room in which to watch cable. A kitchen with a full fridge to make whatever meal they can fix.

Many bands are on a per diam, and don't have much for extras while on tour. Compound that with hours that have you finishing work later in the evening. Most meals are from 24 hour stores and restaurants purchased on a budget.

So, sorry to pop any bubbles. Don't have stories of rockers partying out. It's more like comforting down. Think the biggest vice may have been too much soda and sweets right before bed time.

Oh, and the realization that we are all human and enjoy winding down after work.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

From HS to Where? I.B.E.W. 134 That's Where

So, where does an honor roll student with high PSAT and ACT scores go after high school?

Take up one of the scholarships from: Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois Chicago, or Westminster College?


Stay at home and continue to run her maid service. Well, at least for another 6 months.

Much to my father's dismay. He said he was NOT going to have me at home all day making phone calls and visiting with girlfriends. A.K.A. making appointments and assigning work.

So, on an extremely cold day in winter at 4:30am I bundled up and made my way to Humboldt park. To stand in line with several thousand other people. For over six hours. The electrical trades had just opened up and we were all hoping to get accepted as residential apprentice trainees.

By the time we had gotten into the field house, that did not open until 7:00am, they would have to help us hold a pen to fill out the form. Many of our hands were too cold to clutch the darn thing.

As fate would have it I made the cut.

Next step was to go to Washburne Trade School. On the first day there were over 500 of us taking an eight hour test. Before the test they let us know that only 100 of us would make the cut.

Made the cut and immediately started an eleven week intensive. We had four classes. Basic Math, Basic Wiring (low voltage), Electrical Code, and Pipe Bending. There were exams every three weeks, and final exams at the end. If you got three F's you had to start the course all over again. You were given three tries.

With the intensity of the classes I had to close or sell my maid service. One of my lead girls bought the service with a loan from her dad. A sweet $50K. However, all I was doing was hanging out at home and talking with my girl friends all day. Right?

Math, Basic Wiring and Code were a breeze for me. Pipe bending was a little more difficult. The math part of figuring out how much pipe length would be lost in a bend, how to make the degrees precise, and how to make the pipe lay flat with two or three bends in was doable. No problem with half inch pipe. No problem with three quarter inch pipe. However, one inch pipe and larger was ridiculous. At all of 110 pounds I was hanging of the bender like a monkey on a stick. No matter how much longer I made the handle I just could not get the leverage. Thank goodness for my pipe bending partner. The guy towered over me and could probably bend the stuff with his hands.

The cockroaches at Washburne were huge. We would joke about them by saying that they wore leather jackets and had tattoos. Many of the students wore their pants tucked in their socks for fear of a leg crawler.

Between classes we would sit in the halls waiting for the doors to open. On one occasion one of the bigger roaches was making it's way down the hall. There is nothing so funny as watching big guys screech and move to their feet to get away from a bug. We got in big trouble that day. With a piece of string I lassoed the little monster. And, another student hung him from an administration door in the hall. Hey, we thought it was funny.

Washburne housed more than classes for tradesmen. Yes, it was training Electrical Residential Apprentice Trainees - or RATs. And, it was home for the Carpentry Apprentices. However, it was also teaching several classes for upcoming chefs.

The lunches at Washburne were incredible. For $2 you could fill up your tray with gastronomic delights and foo foo pastry deserts. Lunch was definitely my favorite part of the day.

Well, when the eleven weeks were up we assigned our first jobs on the last Friday of school to report to work on Monday.

It was my first time on a construction site. The foreman, boss, did NOT want me there. He told me to go back to the union hall and get another assignment; that he did not work with broads. That morning he showed me how to load a Hilti stud gun and handed it to me. Showed me where the 20 foot ladder was; and had me start shooting studs into the cement ceiling.

The gun was difficult at first. I thought it was just because it was new to me. On the fourth or fifth shot the gun recoiled and threw me from the ladder. The safety steward, an older electrician, came running over to see what happened. First to see if there was any bodily damage, which besides bruises there was not. Secondly to see my Hilti license. Which I did not have. Did not know I needed. Then he asked me which box I had gotten the gun from. Replying there was no box the foreman handed it to me, the steward went to see which gun I had been using. It was the gun that had been marked do not use. The thing was broken and had recoiled the previous week sending another electrician to an emergency room. The foreman purposely tried to get me off the site since the union would not pull me. Wow, and not even lunch yet.

Remembering what my father said about how some people out there would make it tough on me, I stood strong. Stayed there and worked my day out, worked the next two months out on the same site.

But, that first night when I went home - boy did I have the break down. Cried like a child. Heck at 17, you still are a child.

The electrical apprenticeship program at that time lasted for four years. Once a year you would go back for another education intensive. Second year classes were for eight weeks. Third and fourth year classes were for six weeks each.

Many of the men treated me like the original foreman. There were many slashed tires at the end of the day on my car. There were letters on my windshield telling to: 'go home', 'leave now', and asking me 'do you have a death wish'. It seemed that the only workers that had no issues with me were the older journeymen, and guys in the other trades.

There are many things I learned in the trades that I still love to this day. One, I will never need help with electrical at home, even though I only worked in industrial and commercial. And, then there all sort of other things like the thrill of power tools. Coring holes in cement, threading heavy wall pipe, the chipping hammer, and band saws. Learned all about welding - prefer oxy/acetylene to mig or stick. Oh, and best of all - learned that on the job site you use an electric pipe bender for all pipe one inch and large on a sweet machine by Greenfield. You could even set the degree of the bend.

Learned that men really do act differently without women around. There is more of a pack mentality. And, boy can they waste time talking and talking and talking. Getting to see men in a no woman zone had really given me a more informed and enlightened view of them. In ways a whole new respect.

My favorite job site was the Brookfield Zoo Dolphin building and life support building. My name is written on the ceiling in the ladies washroom above the tiles of the suspended ceiling. It was my first chance to work with PVC pipe. Got to meet the man that invented the pipe. But more than that had a chance to walk the floor of the tank and look out like a dolphin would.

The last job site was the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare airport. There were over 3,000 construction workers there. We were all on mandatory overtime - ten hour days, seven days a week. You work so much you don't have time to cash your checks much less spend the money.

While at O'Hare I collapsed. Had had a stress stroke four months earlier while working at Stickney sanitation plant installing new fiber optic meters. That's when they found the gallstones. They had to clear a group of runways and send an ambulance through. Was cut open in the ambulance to relieve some of the pressure so the gallbladder would not burst.

Had 3 months off of work. Went back for three months and quit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oak Park and River Forest High School

Freshman Year to Senior Year
1980 - 1984

A-Period - Homeroom - Mr. Krass
Nice quite guy that taught shop.

Shared homeroom with a great bunch:

Dallas Barber, Tony Dornacher, Bill Earle, Susan Ebert, Anne Eckstein, Karin Eitrheim, Ali ElSaffar, Ray Elliott, Susan Engel, Ellen Engelhardt, Dianna Englehart, Mary Enright, Robin Enstrom

Shared Lunch with:

Michael Bloch, Mario Bobzin, Allan Bolchazy, Steve Cline, Tony Dornacher, Bill Earle, Ali ElSaffar, Joe Foley, Eric Sanders, John Szadziewicz

and at times: Sean Gleeson, Cary Lahucik, Paul Wagner

And of course: Kelly Morrissy to lighten things up.

Had way too many classes and fellow student to mention them all, however, some teachers stick out more than others.

Mr. Granias - English - He was inspirational. His favorite book and one of mine, in turn: 'The Little Prince'. Can still picture a snake that has eaten an elephant.

Herr Schoepko - German - Always a surprise. He would tell us on chilly days - One - It is not cold it is invigorating. Two - Deutsch is cool. Three - warmth comes from within.

Ms. Vana, now Mrs. Anderson - Biology and Anthropology - Brilliant relaxed teaching style. When she and fellow science teacher Mr. Anderson got married she invited her students to attend.

Mr. Pekala and Mr. Fuller - Chorus - Two men that filled our lives with music. Still think of Mr. Pekala every time somebody says when without a whispery 'h'. Because, WEN is a tumor NOT a time.

Mr. Campbell - English Literature - For smelling really good and getting dressed for school. Had a huge crush on him and would grade freshman papers last period to sit and watch him. After graduating went to his house and had tea. His wife was stunning.

Mr. Swierk - Math - Liked his teaching style, but even more than that - the guff he gave my older sister.

Worked during High School:

Freshman Year - SAGA Foods or as we called it 'Soviet Attempt to Gag America'. They had the food contract with Concordia Teacher's College. My sisters and I worked banquets as servers.

Sophomore to Senior year - Maid service.
It started as a few houses to clean from the high school job board. By my senior year - had over 10 girls working for me cleaning houses.

Learned some extra jobs while cleaning for clients - like what it takes to work in an upholstery shop, how to properly pleat curtains, and how a kosher kitchen is ran.