Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Fun

So here Larry and I are as Sirius Black and Bellatrix Lestrange. The video was shot by some friends Saturday night prior to our going downtown. The title includes my middle name, "Victoria" which I answer to outside the blogosphere. For those who are curious, my first name is Morgan.

We had a great time downtown. There were lots of clever costumes. The creepiest was Jigsaw from the infamously popular Saw movies. This guy had the look nailed, right down to the tricycle he's sitting on in the picture. I was glad that Jessica and I were able to get our picture taken with him, even if he gave me nightmares! Oh, and note that Jessica is dressed in the inmate costume I made sure was exchanged for her. For details on that little story, see the post below this one.

This was just the nicest pimp I've ever met. He even offered me a job in case this whole Evil Witch thing doesn't work out. Wasn't that sweet? His T-shirt was as funny as the rest of his costume. It said, "I taught your girlfriend that thing you like."

My oldest son, Wes, decided to come downtown at the last minute and didn't have time to find a costume. Not that it matters. I told him it was cool that he'd chosen to be a Handsome Devil.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lessons from a Squeaky Wheel

I hate bad customer service. It's one of my pet peeves. Yes, I know that dealing with the public sucks, but if you must do so either do it properly or find some other job.

Yesterday I encountered the most obnoxious store manager ever after my 22-year-old daughter Jessica called me, frustrated and nearly in tears, to recount her experience at one of our local Halloween costume stores.

She’d gone there between classes and work to pick up an inmate costume for the downtown festivities we’re all going to tonight. Since the package said “One Size Fits All,” she plunked down her twenty bucks without trying the costume on. Once at home, she took it out to hang it so the wrinkles would come out and found a huge rip along one seam.

But when she called to let the store manager - a woman named Julie - know she’d be exchanging it, Jessica was told that All Sales Were Final. Arguments that the product was defective didn’t sway Julie. As far as she was concerned, Jessica was screwed.

So Jessica did the smartest thing she could do. She called me, thus invoking the Maternal Power To Get Things Done. And since Hell hath no wrath like me when you’ve screwed with one of my kids, I couldn’t wait to get to work.

My first act, surprisingly enough, was to be merciful to Julie and give her the chance to change her mind. But I didn’t get any further with her than Jessica did, even after explaining to Julie that her rudeness to my daughter was likely because her store was so swamped and she was so stressed. But the soft touch did not work. Julie not only repeated the All Sales Are Final sign, but told me that customers are told that after October 17th no returns can be accepted.

“I understand that,” I said. “And if my daughter had bought the costume at the first of the month, damaged it and now insisted you take it back, I wouldn’t be helping her. But she bought this costume an hour ago, it’s defective and you should stand by your product.”

Julie began talking over me, her voice raised and shaky. I could tell she was a lost cause, but I still gave her once last chance. “Am I going to have to call corporate?” I asked her. “Because you don’t want me to call corporate."

"Fine, call corporate," she snapped.

"I will then," I said. "And I guarantee you that by the end of the day you will exchange that costume. Now what's the number for corporate?"

That's when Julie hung up on me.

But no worries. I've been hung up on before. I called back, and while her associate manager refused to put her back on the phone, he did give me an 800 number which - after a forty minute wait - directed me to one of three beleaguered customer service representatives who promised me that a district manager would contact me within ten hours.

As if. Like I was actually going to wait for some district manager. Pfft.

Instead, I called the Internet customer service line, explained the situation, and asked if they had another number. I found out that the costume store chain was owned by Spencer gifts, so I got their corporate number. It was now quarter till five, and time was running out as I listened to a list of departments. When I got the option for “Legal,” I chose it and got - lo and behold - one of the company’s corporate lawyers, a really nice guy named Vince.

I explained to him that while he may find it odd to have a disgruntled customer calling, I felt he might want to know what was going on in this particular store. Within five minutes I had him nearly as mad as I was. He looked up the store’s number and told me to sit by the phone while he had a word with Julie.

Three minutes later he called back and told me Julie was prepared to exchange the costume, and asked that I accept an apology from him on behalf of the company.

My daughter’s friend Stephen was already in the parking lot with the costume, and I got a play by play from him via cell phone as he swapped out the costume. Julie was apparently quite pissed, and too stupid to realize that her anger only made my little victory even sweeter.

Later, Jessica said her friend wanted to know how in the earth I pulled everything off. The answer is quite simple. Never accept ‘no’ for an answer from someone not qualified to give you a ‘yes’ in the first place. Years as a working reporter have taught me that the less significant the peon, the less willing they are to work with you, for they have less at stake. The higher up one goes in a company, the more of a vested interest they have in that company’s reputation. And the more willing they are to correct mistakes.

The problem with most people is that they cave too quickly when they are told ’no.’ That’s a mistake. A squeaky wheel doesn’t have to make much noise, it just needs to know how to roll.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Maturity Police

My sister Andrea, bless her heart, is worried about me. This morning I received an email from her that bluntly expressed some of her concerns. Here's a juicy snippet:

This will sound harsh, but when a 42 yr old woman is playing dress up, posting pictures of herself on the internet, and singing some salacious songs in a cheap bar, the husband has reason for concern. And we can't say it's all innocent. Everything we do, we do for reason. .... I ask why do you feel you need the attention? Are you getting attention from Larry? Are you unhappy with Larry? Are you trying to recapture your youth? Perhaps you're going through a midlife crisis.

This particular sister and I had a rather rocky relationship in the past and lashing out is in her nature, so this didn't strike me as particularly odd. It's just how she rolls, and I love her in spite of it.

What does seem odd to me is how a smart woman like her has managed to go through life without acquiring any creative and unusual friends. More eccentrics in her circle would do Andrea good. If she had more weird friends she'd realize that there's a whole subculture of people out there just like her Disgraceful Little Sister - adults who love to dress up, share pictures and stories about themselves with others and *gasp* even sing karaoke in trashy bars. If she had more creative friends she'd understand that some people don't need a reason to be outrageous; they simply can't help it!

I did have to call her out on the bar comment, though. Larry and I went out a few months back to a karaoke dive and happened to walk in on lesbian night. I sang Touch Myself for him and he and the crowd appreciated the performance. It was fun. I highly recommend serenading one's husband with salacious songs in cheap bars. Those with the spirit to try it might find it more fun than they ever dreamed.

What seems odd and outrageous to my sister seems normal to me not because I'm anything special, but because I've surrounded myself with so many special people that what seems crazy to her seems average to me. Cases in point: My friend April. April is 39, rather portly and not the most attractive woman on the planet. But, oh God, can she light up a room. She has a great sense of humor, lives completely in the moment and is blessed with an imagination that won't quit. April is a Harry Potter fanatic and loves to write fan fiction. Recently I got a letter from her HP alter ego, "Delite" informing me that we'd both been invited to guest lecture at Hogwarts. Of course, how could I say no. I immediately wrote her back and sent the message by owl, of course. April is the goofiest person I know and I love her to pieces for it. And no matter how many years go by I will never see her as old. Same goes for my friend Dan, who starts planning his annual Halloween party in March and works himself into such a frenzy by October that co-workers run the other way when he approaches to avoid hearing about his decorations. Or my friend Elizabeth who - when I told her I thought the holly tree in her yard was enchanted - simply nodded and said, "Yeah, I know."

But April, Dan and Elizabeth are just three examples. Most all of my friends are oddballs, although I still associate with some normal people, mostly out of a sense of sheer pity. I mean, normal people can't help that they're normal. I've always figured being normal is a little bit like being retarded, and it's always better just to be nice. Better them than me.

Creative people tend to gravitate towards one another and are only reminded of their eccentricity someone from the "outside" points it out, usually with much hand-wringing and cries of "Act Your Age!" Those people don't realize that people like me and April aren't about recapturing lost youth; we never really grew up in the first place.

I wish more people would enjoy life, which is too damn short given how delicious it can be. But unfortunately this society conditions more to become conformists than oddballs, to delay gratification until we're too old and sick to enjoy it. Conformist drones are easy to spot; they're largely angry and unsatisfied. But mostly angry. When the oddballs try to have fun or act too spirited we only need to look around to find a drone standing there, pinched-face and sullen, tapping their watch and wagging their fingers as they remind us of the deadline they believe has been imposed on Fun and Games. Those of us who insist on missing that deadline drive normal people to distraction.

Oddly enough though, some of those same conformists - at the first sign of wrinkles - run for their Botox treatment, not realizing that the Youthful Glow isn't something you can pump into your exterior, but something that shines from within.

One day I will be an old woman. As I told Andrea, I'm quite looking forward to it. Should I be fortunate enough to live that long, I plan to have long gray hair and - if possible - be even more eccentric than I am now. In fact, I even have a role model: children's book author Tasha Tudor:

Now in her nineties, Tasha Tudor lives in a house in Vermont where she still writes, illustrates and yes, dear sister - even continues to play dress up. Her collection of Victorian clothing is something to see, and she is known for hosting elaborate tea parties where guests are also required to be in costume.

But I'm not quite there. Not yet, anyway. At a spritely 42 I feel I can still dress up in breast-boosting corsets, plan my trip to Hogwarts and sing salacious songs in cheap bars. Eventually, I'll have to slow down. But I'll never be normal, not even to please a beloved sister.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Witching Hours

I love this time of year. The approach of Halloween puts a spring in my step. The days are shorter, the leaves are brighter and otherwise stuffy grown-ups turn a bit giddy at the idea of playing dress-up for one magical night. Plus the whole notion of people making light of Death and Darkness puts the True Christians™ in the most amusing self-righteous frenzy. Bonus.

Halloween preparations are in full swing at our house. Alex and Lucas helped me put up the spider webbing this weekend. Once again the poor Barbie doll has been victimized, this time by an even bigger spider.

In another web, a hairy mother spider guards her hatching egg sac.

Oh, and the jack-o-lanterns!

My favorite addition this year is a plaque made for me by a dear friend. It's not a Halloween decoration, but a permanent fixture. Still, any trick-or-treaters looking to nick anything besides extra candy would be wise to consider its message. Oh, and ten points to the House of anyone who can tell me what book series this poem was adapted from.

Along that same vein, I've decided what character I will be for Halloween this year: Bellatrix Lestrange - Death Eater, devoted lieutenant of Lord Voldemort, murderer, and all-around bad-ass witch.

I've done a good job adapting the costume with a low-cut, lace-sleeved shirt, black skirt, underbust corset, black stockings and knee-high lace-up boots. I even dyed my hair nearly-black for the role. I'm pretty psyched.

Alex is going as Samara, the creepy kid from The Ring and will spend part of Halloween night crawling out of a well we built last weekend in my friend Dan's front yard. Dan's party is a holiday staple for us. We never miss it. Lucas is going to be Harry Potter. Larry hasn't yet decided between werewolf or vampire. I thought he'd make a good Sirius Black. He's got the dark good looks and the beard, the costume would be easy to make, and I could kill him. I'm still hoping to talk him into it, so wish me luck. I don't know what the older kids are going to go as. They haven't completely decided yet.

So, what plans are you making for Halloween?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Owl tattoo

So here it is, the lifetime ramification of my decision to get a tattoo.

And I don't regret it a bit. I've thought about it for so long and debated myself, worrying that getting inked would scream "Midlife crisis!" Then I stopped and asked myself when I ever based a decision on public opinion and the answer was "Never."

The tattoo artist, Phil, was awesome. We spent a lot of time talking while he worked adapting a photo I'd chosen into a piece of permanent body art. He's also interested in esoteric matters and the conversation was so lively and fun that the hour in the studio passed before I'd even realized it.

My oldest son, 20-year-old Wesley, went with me for moral support and it was so special having him there. And how cool is it for a guy to go with his mom when she gets her first tattoo?

Jessi had to work so Wes and I went to see her afterwards. She got her butterfly tattoo a couple of years ago and was supportive about my getting one. Wes wants to get one for his upcoming 21st birthday; he just needs to decide on a design.

The tattooing process did hurt a bit, but not as much as I'd expected. And Phil cut me a break on the price, I think, given all the detail he ended up putting into the work.

And I'm so proud. I've worked with birds of prey for over a dozen years, and have a passionate obsession with owls. I remember every one that's ever been in my care. There's something mystical and otherwordly about them - something magickal. I've been fortunate to have had numerous owls perched on my arm as I prepared them for their journey back to freedom.

Now I have one that will never leave.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I'm getting some. Tonight. My 20-year-old son, Wesley, is going with me for moral support.
To those who would like to guess what my new "image" will be - and where - have at it.
And no, this isn't an impulse decision. I've thought long and hard about it for over a year now and finally know what I want for my permanent brand.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Obscure movie recommendation...

I'm busy preparing for a trip out of state and don't have much time to blog this week, so in my absence please check out this movie featuring Madeline Stowe and Alan Rickman. It's called Closet Land and it's just about impossible to find now on VHS or DVD. Fortunately it has been uploaded in nine parts on YouTube so if you're intrigued after watching the first scene, click on the link below it and it will take you to the second clip on YouTube, where a sidebar there will have links to the remaining seven scenes.

I only recently learned of this movie, and will only say that I found it timely given our government's increasing practice of spying and snooping. I also found it very disturbing, so disturbing in fact that at one point I nearly ended the imaginary affair I've been having with Mr. Rickman. Almost.

So here's the first scene, and a link to the second. To those with time to watch it, I'd be interested in knowing what you think. Would you have signed?

Here's the second scene.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Changing pictures

Ssssh. I'm supposed to be working, but instead I'm busy creating my own distractions. After months of neglecting both my blog and my Myspace page, out of the blue today I decided they both need new avatars. Now. I pulled a few recent photos of myself from my hard drive - some self-portraits and some taken by others. Some are flattering, some are not-so, some are just odd. If you get bored and don't have anything else to do, let me know which one you think would make the best profile picture.

The first one is one my daughter took of me playing with the corgis.

I have this really cool thrift store mirror and sometimes I take pictures of myself in front of it. Yes. I know it's weird. I took this full body shot the other day. My husband likes this one, but then again he likes curvy girls.

I got the idea for shooting myself in the mirror after someone took this black and white one of me reflected in it. At the time Iwas in a rather animated conversation about something although now I don't remember what. I was probably defending one of my superior notions over someone's idiotic ones. ;-) Either way I really love this picture, even though I look a bit distressed in it.

The last one is one my daughter also took of me outside in front of the Mexican petunias.

OK, that's it. If any of you want to weigh in, I'd appreciate it. Once I make a decision that will be one less pointless distraction.

Oh, and if any of you are on MySpace and want to become friends, let me know.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Morgan's musical mix

I've been busy lately with writing and various and sundry other projects. I listen to a lot of music when I work. Here are some of my favorites. I know the Nine Inch Nails song, Closer, isn't for everyone, but it is my absolutely favorite iPod tune. It just gives me chills. One of my other favorite songs - Black, Black Heart by David Usher - isn't available for download, but you can find the video on YouTube.

So until I return, here's some music. Depending on your browser, you may need to hit the "Launch Standalone Player" button to access the list if it doesn't immediately show up in your browser. If it does, you can just hit the little play button to start the tunes. So do it and enjoy. Or not.