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Literary nostalgia, and serious question to help a friend - May we be free of torture, may there be peace in hearts and minds
September 6th, 2007
06:28 pm
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Literary nostalgia, and serious question to help a friend
A moment of literary nostalgia - I find this cleverly written and interesting. My friend antastra and our server and I all enjoyed reading this while eating a vegan dinner in SF's Herbivore restaurant. I tried the ravioli this time - actually a decent creamy marinara! The place continues to impress me.

She's involved in a variety of inspirational volunteer activities now, on behalf of the mentally ill, the environment, etc, as well as making photo art from clothing scraps. Also she's putting together a care package for a friend of hers who recently lost his place to live. If anyone here would like to contribute something (well wishes would be great) then I will mail it to her and she can choose to include it in the package. I'm sending off a coffee gift card tonight.

Excerpts from my literary, romantic, idealistic "soulmate," Elena's letter, written to American author J.T. LeRoy after the controversy in which he was involved a few years back:

To: le_terminator22@hotmail.com, starbaby5@hotmail.com
Subject: Hey you, if you can hear me from way up there in book-character heaven ;)

Hello JT,

I don't know if this email will reach you or not. Maybe you're busy up there in literary heaven, carrying on with lots of great luminaries like Harry Potter and Mr. Heathcliff and Oliver Twist and don't have time to read the words of mere mortal readers down here anymore.

Or maybe you don't want to talk to me since one of my best friends had some stern words for your creator in her literary blog? If that's the case then that's ok too, I just wanted to say hello.

Anyway, some of the things you wrote really resonated with me, and I thought you should know that.

I spent years hating myself and thinking I was trash, but in the end I realized I couldn't do that, I had to love myself, as Toni Morrison said in Beloved: "Look at your flesh. The world don't love that flesh, it makes you a slave. But you got to look at it, and you got to love it." Or something like that, not exact quote, but I remember reading that in one of the grandma's speeches. So that's what was awesome about you - you loved yourself no matter what people said and you made your life become something interesting and beautiful, and maybe other people like us could, too.

I remember reading Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate - and Tita and Sister Gertrudis' famous quotes: Decency? Decency? What is decency, to deny yourself everything that you are, everything you have wanted in life? And: The truth! The truth is - there is no truth here! Your truth could be that your love and creativity is one of the most beautiful, truest things in life.

You remind me of the play The Music Man, which I saw with my mom years ago. There's this person who goes around in costume pretending to be a fancy music teacher, who gets all these people together under the promise that he'll work with them to make them into a real band that sounds great on stage. People eventually find out his true identity and the fact that he never went to music school and doesn't know how to play anything, much less conduct, that he's been feeding them a fiction for months. Everyone's furious for awhile, but soon they realize that they got their wish: they, together with the fake music teacher, were all so inspired and motivated by the idea of becoming a real band that they'd worked hard and practiced for months, and believed in themselves and started coming up with real, quality creative ideas. So the teacher realizes he doesn't need the sham he created, and builds a new, true identity together with the inspired townspeople, and after a lot of work they become a real band that does something kind of nifty in the town square one afternoon. The strength, the creativity, the love and the music and beauty were all there all along, waiting for them to come together and realize it. "Who's the Real Music Man?" they asked? Well, it was them, all of them, believing in themselves.

So maybe, hopefully, the street kids and struggling people you inspired who are upset with you now can go on to realize that about themselves, that they can write, can make their lives beautiful too.

You know, I've gone on too long already, but I think somehow you and your Mom and friends and my family and I will all find each other on the pages of that great endless novel in the sky and enjoy a game of Wiffleball with strawberry lemonade. If you see this, tell Heathcliff and Cathy and Anne of Green Gables I say hello, and let everyone know my characters will be joining you all soon, once I finish editing my family saga novel and hopefully find an agent and publisher :)

Love,

Elena Romanescu

P.S. I want a huge maraschino cherry on top my lemonade, pretty please? And an Irish coffee to finish it off, that would be nice :)

Anyway, I have a serious question here: I have a very good friend who has just moved to California and works at a huge chain bookstore/cafe. He's dedicated, hardworking, and honest - but finds himself constantly stressed, overscheduled (left to be the only person managing the whole cafe and nearby bookstore sections for eight hours at a time during busy holidays and weekends, scheduled for early morning shifts immediately after late nights, hours kept just under full time to avoid benefits when he was hired full time, basically stressed out for very little money). Does anyone here know of a way to go about changing a difficult work situation in a positive manner that leaves a good impression? Or does anyone know of a place near the Peninsula that hires entry-level "studenty" kind of people that pays more/is a lower-stress environment? antastra has suggested he apply at SF's Ritual Roasters on Valencia and 21st, as they're a very progressive place known for providing baristas with health coverage and treating them well, and the place has an impressive art gallery (she and I recently visited there.) My mother has suggested he give Barnes and Noble a try, as perhaps they'd be excited about competing for good workers with the store down the street.

Sorry I haven't been posting as much lately, I'm under the weather this week with strep throat :( I'm on penicillin though now so should get better soon. Did finish the WS scene for this week and will share it with my Friday writing group, though.

Check out http://www.jubileeusa.org - support the Jubilee Act, for cancellation of Third World debts to the IMF-World Bank. These debts were incurred oftentimes in a hurry by now-ousted and disgraced dictators, and countries such as Zambia have improved people's health by funding medical research and treatment. Also some countries have been able to lower taxes and provide their people with more cash to start businesses (see, I can even get you Republicans and Libertarians to support this).

It's always struck me silly that we provide many of these countries with humanitarian aid, then take a lot of their money away in debt service. Food aid, while often well-intentioned, can flood the market and put local businesses out of business, so supporting native industry can better assist countries.

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From:ladycatherina
Date:September 7th, 2007 02:15 am (UTC)
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P.S. Is there some new different way to make lj-cuts now? They weren't working for me and I had to edit parts of this post as it got too long.
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From:phen0type
Date:September 7th, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)
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I rather like the JT LeRoy letter, and I do hope that our friend is able to get out of that situation. He deserves far better than what he is going through right now.

Do get well soon!
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From:ladycatherina
Date:September 11th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
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Thanks! And I enjoyed writing the letter, too. That is a shortened version of it for the public - the long version shares a few more of our experiences and hopes.
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From:ladycatherina
Date:September 11th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC)
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Writing the letter was just as much about US as it was about him/her (however Mr. LeRoy/Laura Albert is referenced these days, I am not sure). About our memories and writing and self-acceptance and finding beauty in our lives, trying to live out "purity of artistic intent" as the author said she was.
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From:swampgirl
Date:September 8th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
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it doesn't leave a good impression and it's a struggle, but unionization is one strategy. i think some borders workers did win unionization, even though the company fought it and the process was hard. so, not a quick, easy solution that will help your friend right away -- it sounds like this company is just exploitive and crappy and looking for a new job may be the best strategy. but if he isn't hopeful about getting a new gig soon, talking to a union rep might be worth his time. you can do some online research to see which unions have unionized other bookstores or cafes.... wish i had a better solution!! maybe he could try negotiating with management, with a proposal for something that would be better for him and serve the customers better....
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From:ladycatherina
Date:September 11th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the suggestion! Hopefully he can find something that works.
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From:zenboiuke
Date:September 8th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
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It sounds as if either the employer is a greedy jerk who is taking advantage of someone who they don't think will stand up to them, or perhaps there are a few people involved in the scheduling & not enough communication going on.

Personally, I think these guys sound fishy ;p

BUT, if your friend wants to try & keep his current job, I would speak to the manager & clearly outline his concerns. Ask for full time hours up front, highlighting his accomplishments & responsibilties thus far to prove that he can be depended upon and that he deserves the benefits. I would also politely but firmly decline any unreasonable requests (ie working a double shift). He is not a slave, and has no reason to act like one. If they fire him, then he should be eligible for unemployment. Also, if he just started working there then they wouldn't be able to provide a significant amount of feedback, so I wouldn't even list them as a reference when he leaves.

antastra had a good suggestion--that other place sounds much better, so while attempting to resolve the issues at his current job, I would apply to the other place. If he gets the job there he can always give two weeks notice (no longer obligatory in a time of at-will employment, but an act of courtesy to allow for time to train a replacement) and hopefully things will be better at the other place. If he doesn't get the job, at least he will have taken steps to address his concerns at the current job.

What kind of work does he enjoy? The problem with jobs these days is that most people just grab the first thing that comes along, in order to pay the bills, and then spend all their time stressed & miserable, waiting for the end of the day or the weekend. It's a damn shame :\ I do understand that bills need to be paid & the area your friend moved to is expensive (I'll be moving to the Bay area in a year & a half lol) so he probably doesn't want to just walk out with no fall back plan. Wish him luck for me!!!

~Kier
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From:zenboiuke
Date:September 8th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)

And now for YOU

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Bad strep, no biscuit! Feel better soon :)

*hugs*
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From:ladycatherina
Date:September 11th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)

Re: And now for YOU

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Thanks for the suggestions and support :)

I've also told him to go out and look for other jobs on his days off - and I think if anything the store will give him a good reference given that he's put up with working so hard. People shop around so they won't be overcharged - so why not shop around so as not to be overworked?

I am feeling much better, thanks. Turned out to be a viral infection instead of strep, but it certainly felt bad enough!
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