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Archive for April, 2011

Traces

One thing I love about my parent’s house in Minneapolis is the quick access to the Arts and general culture. (Whoa. Trying writing that sentence without sounding pretentious.) Within 20 minutes you can get downtown to one of the best theaters I’ve seen outside of Broadway (The Guthrie, of course), great music clubs, restaurants; for all that I keep hearing the Midwest is devoid of culture and general awesomeness, I have to say: growing up outside Minneapolis was a fabulous thing.

It was my hope to find a similar scene in Denver, and I think we’re on track. This past weekend we went to an amazing show at the Denver Performing Arts Center, and I don’t think I can express to you how absolutely breathtaking it was. So, instead, I offer you up a clip of the show, and tell you that if this group comes to your town: go. Go immediately.

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I met my friend Devon the first week of college. She was in my dance class, and she was really good. So good, in fact, I was trying to decide if I should hate her just on principle when I caught her giving me the stink eye and I realized she was doing the same thing to me. I was quite sure she would be my nemesis for the next four years, the person with perfect hair and cute leotards and an annoying tiny waist and I’d just have deal with her presence with what little grace I had.

Luckily for us, she had a wicked sense of humor and I decided her waist was really that tiny [Ed note: it totally is, I am lying here], and we could be friends, after all. And we’ve been great friends for 12+ years since, the kind of friends that even though I think I see her maybe once a year, it feels like I see her all the time.

In that spirit, I took two rare days off work last week and traveled to her parent’s house in upstate New York to help her with final prep for her upcoming wedding. We jokingly called this her Bachlorette Weekend, which is only funny if you expect bachlorette’s to don tiara’s and sashes and go clubbing instead of donning sweatpants and watching Downton Abbey in the basement of your parent’s house, which is what we did (it was awesome, btw) (and by “it”, I mean: the sweatpants, the Downton Abbey, and the parent’s house) (what?)

My only requirement for this weekend was in between dress fittings and hair and make-up trials and gift bag labeling that we finally, FINALLY, get a picture of the two of us, preferably without sweatpants on, fully showered and make up’d and looking nice. A picture I could frame, if you will. Because I have to tell you, after 12 years of friendship, this is the only picture I have of the two of us:

Yes, we’re drinking wine out of measuring cups. Why? Because Devon is too short to reach the shelf where I kept my wine glasses, and didn’t see the point in bothering with asking for help, when the measuring cups were at eye level and would work just as well.

Anyway, we didn’t get a picture.  And while I really, really want a *nicer* picture of us (in focus, perhaps, and maybe with some effort given towards our general appearance), I cannot think of a *better* picture of us – after all, I just spent a weekend recreating that exact motif: sweatpants, wine, couch, laughter.

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This week has been rough. I was traveling for the first half, up at 3:30am to get home on Wednesday, and then had back to back days of 5am conference calls (in the Eastern/Mountain time zone throwdown, I clearly lost). So to be fair, I was in the right frame of mind to be broken. I was, at best, teetering on the edge of hissyfit for the back half of the week.

I got online before my early morning call on Friday, and quickly browsed through Twitter as I waited for the conference call to boot up. And that’s where I saw it: someone on Twitter saying they couldn’t be bothered to worry about government employees losing pay during the (possible) government shut down, as it was “about time they felt the effects of a bad economy just like everyone else.”

Uuuughhhh. Ok. So I (briefly) got into it (see above re 5am/impending conference call), and the thought was clarified that the writer felt that it was unfair for her to have to go through layoffs while government employees had unlimited job security, and, besides, they don’t work that hard anyway (I’m kind of paraphrasing that last part, but I find this overwhelmingly implied sense that people believe all government employees basically sit around and wait for retirement, wasting your hard-earned tax dollars on laziness and entitlement .)

I worked in the D.C. market for 10 years, and it’s impossible to not be in some way touched or related to the Federal government industry (Um, well, impossible if you work for a Federal government consulting firm, anyway. Ahem.)  My job aside, I would say that a majority of the people I know in D.C. work for or with the government. The suggestion that these individuals have been living some kind of high life, immune to downturns in the economy, and that it’s time they got a taste for layoffs and hardships makes me batty.

Example: I have two good friends who work for government agencies: one is a pediatric oncologist who does research at FDA, the other is a lawyer for OMB. Do you have any idea how much money a pediatric oncologist could make doing drug research in the private sector? I believe the scientific measure of the difference between her earning potential in private sector vs. public is “a metric shit ton.” Same for my lawyer friend, who with her time and experience could have easily taken partner track at a law firm and be bathing in Le Mer every night. But they didn’t choose those roles, they chose to go into public service, to work for the government, and I promise you, they are not working fewer hours than you and I, they are no less immune to the rise in gas prices and plane tickets and crashing of the housing market. And I promise you, neither one of them were thinking “oh, gee, I hope the government shuts down, I could really use the time off” — they were thinking “Holy crap, if the government shuts down, how am I going to pay my mortgage this month?” If the increased job security they have over those in the private sector is one of the benefits they get for sacrificing a seriously significant earning potential, well: they deserve it. I personally seriously WANT the really really really smart doctor at the FDA making sure the drugs that get given to kids with cancer are safe. I want her to stay there, and keep doing her work, and not bail out to the private sector (a move I wouldn’t judge at all; I mean, I did.) And I don’t sit there and go “Oh, good, now those lazy government workers can get some perspective for what getting laid off feels like.”

And even if we take people like my friends out, and we are talking about the stereotypical government employee who sits at the post office and is purposefully unhelpful while they count the days to their retirement (and I would argue the number of people that fit this description is MUCH smaller than you would knee-jerk think): I still don’t want them to go without their salaries. Assuming, for a second, that most government employees are part of a major government works program: can you imagine the effect on the economy if all those people suddenly couldn’t pay their rent, mortgage, bills? My God, that would make 2008 seem like the good ole days.

So anyway, I was kind of working my way through all those thoughts on Twitter (really fun in a 140 characters, by the way), and then I see: “And military healthcare is just like welfare!”

And I short circuited and woke a day later, sputtering obscenities and twitching. The Internet (aside: are we capitalizing ‘Internet’ these days? Still?) officially broke me.

(PS: IT’S NOT WELFARE IT’S A BENEFIT FROM A WORKPLACE OH MY GOD)

 

 

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