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The Streets

When I was growing my, my parents lived (and still live) on a busy country road.  I was never allowed to play in the streets.  But my cousins lived in cul-de-sac neighborhoods where they could ride their bikes freely and set off fireworks and play tag…in the street.  I loved going over there and feeling the summer asphalt through the back of my shirt as we stared up into the sky, deciphering clouds.

I came back to that on Friday night.  Mike and I went out to Panini’s in Strongsville for dinner and drinks with some friends.  After rainbow shots and a grad party, we walked back through our friend Matt’s neighborhood, full of cul-de-sacs and slow drivers and soft green lawns.

We got back to his house, but opted to stay in the street–mostly because Stef decided to pull a Notebook moment and lie down there.  Warm asphalt, laughing, throwing flip-flops, acting like kids in junior high–only drinking beers and smoking cigars. 🙂  It made me feel young.  We sat there until 2am talking about God knows what.  It was great.

It made me think of all the great times that I did have in the streets.  Lying in the middle of Claremont with my friend Bob Bob after walking back from Buffalo Wild Wings while I was in Ashland.  Walking with Mike through the neighborhood we shared in North Carolina, dancing in the pine needles.

It’s the simple things.  We all need to get back to that every once in awhile.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Daily Happenings

 

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Working On the Line – The College Kids

There are hundreds, thousands, of folks that worked at the Whirlpool factory with me.  They were true Whirlpool employees–ones with benefits, and families, and an intent to stay on the line.

And then there was me, and the rest of the temporary help–the college kids.

We were only there for the summer, and I could never quite tell if the true Whirlpool employees  like the idea of summer help coming in, or if they dreaded it.  I can think of reasons for both.

I’m sure they liked when we came in because it gave them the opportunity to take vacations.  They got to train us which meant that they got to work half as hard for a few weeks.  And I’m sure that it was nice talking to someone new, someone they hadn’t worked with for 20 years, and someone whose story they hadn’t heard.  And on top of that, we were entertaining.

I worked on the Line 2 Horseshoe for five out of the six summers I worked there.  It was the feature panel line (feature panels are the back of the washing machine) and it was literally shaped like a horseshoe.  The people I worked with were (mostly) great.  There were the regulars–an eccentric group of people who had known each other for years–and the college kids:  me, my cousin Heather, Joni, and occasionally Sarah, Nick, Rob, and some others.

Look familiar, Joni?

Heather, Joni and I were really the ones who were there the most, in the same spots, in the same rotation.  I like to think we brought life to the line.  From Heather talking about all of the crazy stuff that went on at college to Joni putting Kevlar sleeves over her calves as leg warmers and dancing around wildly to the Michael Sembello song “Maniac”, we had fun.

We picked on Manny and laughed with Terry.  I picked Drew’s brain for hippy memories and to build my summer concert list, and we took time to talk to Artie the jeep driver.  We played Big Frank’s “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” game, and we spent hours telling Little Frank that he wasn’t as badass as he thought.

I think that many of the regulars liked talking to us because we were something new.  I think our generation–a generation without much censorship–shocked them a little and made them laugh.

Working 8 hours a day next to these people made it damn near impossible not to develop friendships with them, and to not care about them.  And I kept up with many of them, too.

I emailed Drew for awhile, called Terry a lot and went to visit her when her husband was hit by a car.  I go to see Toni (from my sixth summer on Line 3) once in awhile, and my dad fixed Artie’s lawn mower.

As far as the college kids go–Heather’s due date for her first son is tomorrow.  Joni has a darling little girl now and Sarah is in cosmetology school.  My cousins Meghan and Heidi worked on a separate part of the line, and they’re both teachers and doing well.  Heidi has a little boy, too.  Sarah is in cosmetology school, and Rob kind of disappeared from what I understand.  And Nick…Nick died in a motorcycle accident about two years ago.  And it was horrible to hear about.

When you all experience a job like working at a factory, and when you spend that many hours a day next to people in close quarters, you do end up talking, and probably sharing more than you would in another environment.  You do it out of boredom at first, and then it becomes pure interest and friendship.

I really appreciate the time that I spent at Whirlpool, and all the people I got to know through it.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Fremont

 

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Working On the Line

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what it was like to work in the factory.  I’ve been doing this for my own reasons, which I may eventually address.  But I thought, “What a great way to blog this week, talking about all the things that happened at the factory.”  I mean, this is a pretty significant part of my life, so much so that I wrote my 288 page graduate thesis about it.  You can read a portion of it here.

But here’s the quick background.  For six summers and some school breaks, I worked on the line making washing machines at the Whirlpool factory in Clyde, Ohio.  I rotated anywhere between 5 and 12 jobs a day for 1/2 hour increments.  There was a lot to learn.

My first couple of weeks there were the hardest.  I had to learn each job with a trainer, and then learn to do it alone.  During this time, my friend “Ta” would let me watch her perform each task-routing a wire this way, and snapping this ring into that hole, using your knuckles to push a harness out of the way to get to the place you needed to be.  Then she would step in front of me on the line so that I could do the job, and she could catch what I missed.

I thought I’d never learn the jobs, but I did.

My hands were merely parts of the line that I was working on, tools full of veins and muscle instead of iron and gears.  Factory workers train their bodies to do work the way that gymnasts train their bodies to perform.  Muscle memory, strength training, sheer will to get it done and to get it done right.

I went through the motions during the day, and sometimes I went through them in my sleep.  I knew the jobs well.  I knew them so well that sometimes I did my job and my cousin Heather’s at the same time so that she could go grab a coffee, pick up our paychecks, or just take a break.  And she did the same for me.

Those first few weeks flew by, because learning the jobs took 100% focus.  But something happens.  Once you learn the jobs, once the motions become second nature, you have to start thinking about other things, whether you want to or not.  You find other ways to make the 8 hours pass, from the starting whistle to the stopping whistle.  And it is during those 8 hours that you learn more about yourself and the people around you than you could have ever imagined…

Cliff-hangery?  🙂  Check back tomorrow to see what it is that we actually did.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2011 in Fremont

 

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Running Barefoot in the Stone Circle

I spent the majority of every summer barefoot, running through my grandparents’ yard in Clyde, Ohio, though the ditch and past the row of pine trees, underneath the front porch and back behind the barn that left white marks on our fingertips as we ran our ringers along its wind-battered sides.  I loved the way the grass felt underfoot, soft and green after a quick morning rain or crisp and sharp as our parents’ voices when a drought threatened.

There’s something to be said about walking over the earth barefoot, through grass and dirt, mud and gravel, but nothing felt so wonderful as the warm stone circle in the back corner of the yard I roamed over.  I knew every inch of my grandparents’ property, around the house where the pricker bushes pushed us at least three feet away from the farthest outreaching branch to avoid the ever-frightening situation of our feet up in Grandma’s lap and needles and tweezers poking through the skin that withstood so much.  I knew where the sharpest rocks were in the stone driveway, towards the edges where hardly any cars were driven, and where the gravel was crushed so much that it felt like powdered sugar between my toes.  After the white blossoms fell from the cigar tree, my cousins and I would pile them up and imagine that we were running through sweet-smelling clouds as petals got caught between our toes in a euphoric and angelic sight and finally we would collapse in them for the sheer enjoyment of sinking into the whole cycle of things.  But of all of the places I felt on the bottoms of my feet, the stone circle was still my favorite.

It was only about four feet across in any and every direction, although I never bothered to measure it.  I assume it was made of concrete, but nothing like the concrete that paved our sidewalks at home or covered the bottom parts of the walls in our classrooms.  It was dark and mottled, littered with colonies of insects and each crack was the home to some new and interesting plant that sprouted a multitude of colors.  It wasn’t a perfect circle, straight on some edges and cracked and crumbling on others, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.  The sweet summer sweat on dirty skin, the smell of cut grass and thunderstorm, the gold foil sun high in the sky never felt better than it did from the stone circle that sat tilted in the back corner of my grandparents’ yard.

Summer is sacred to children, sacred in a way that adolescents dismiss and adults have lost complete sight of.  In the early mornings, when the grass is still wet and cool and the air was thick with moisture and mischief, before the rest of my cousins arrived, I wander outside to watch the sun reflect off of the roads.  I love the way it gathers in shimmery pools where the road dips and disappears and fills with water, but always drains before I  can reach it, before I can baptize myself in the sun water.  The roads and their images are fleeting, but my stone circle always remains.

I felt most content there by myself, when I could enjoy everything that encompassed me, in me and outside of me, through me and beneath and above me.  The warmth from the sun was somehow captured in the small circle I lay in, climbing up through my clothes and onto the small of my back, my hip, each shoulder and arm.  It was almost intimate, trying to push as much of my body against the stone at one time-starting with the souls of my feet.  Most of the time I imagined the circle conforming to my body, curving to fit the curves I barely had as a child, trying to sink into the stone, to disappear and to be seen.  But most of all, to feel.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in When I Was Young

 

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Snow Ball-A High School Dance

I have to tell you the truth.  I’ve always had a thing for DJs.  When I was 5 years old, my neighbor’s granddaughter Jennifer graduated from high school and because the party was down the road at the Ballville Township House, I got to go.  So did the other neighbors, including Abby, Mindy, Mallory, Ally, and Annie–all little girls I used to hang out with.  Luckily for me, Jennifer had a little brother named Matt, and oh did we all have the hots for him.  We spent hours standing at the edge of my driveway watching him flip his hair out of his eyes (way before Bieber) and shooting his PopCap gun.

Matt happened to be DJing Jennifer’s graduation party, which meant that Abby, Mindy, Mallory and I were lurking around the card table off of which he was operating.  We’d dance around, get him to smile at us and then race outside into the summer sun to lie in the grass on our backs and talk about what we would name our children.  Against the white siding of the Township House, there were purple and yellow flowers–well, weeds–growing, and I picked tiny bouquet of them and ran back into the shade of the building one more time.  Once I was in Matt’s line of sight, I crawled across the cool concrete floor until I was at the edge of the table.  The white cloth draped underneath his DJ equipment swayed with summer breeze and love.  I placed the mashed up flowers that I had been clutching on the corner of his table, jumped to my feet, and ran.

___________

I was asked to be a date to a high school dance this coming Saturday.

Upon the invitation, all the old butterflies awoke, the butterflies that used to tickle my stomach when I actually was in high school.  The butterflies with glitter by their eyes and Rainbow Brite on their shirts and emo-love pouring out of their little hearts.

And now, at 25 years old, I get to do it all over again.  Immediately I thought of my prom dresses.  My junior year, I wore a light turquoise gown with rectangular sequins scattered heavily on the neck and around the bottom of the skirt.  My senior year was a black one-shoulder dress with turquoise (what was with me and turquoise?) sequin ZEBRA STRIPES.  Oh yes.  And since prom, I have been dying to wear either one of them again.  I am happy to say that they’re both too big, but I don’t care.  I want to wear my prom dress!

Sometimes when I go to my parents’ house in Fremont, I’ll go to the back corner of my mother’s closet and pull out the long plastic clothing bags, listen to the crinkle the way they did when I pulled them from the closet on the day of prom.  I’ll open them up, run my fingers over the sequins that have gotten muffled in storage, and then step into the dresses.  I wear them around the house.  Eat lunch in them.  I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’ve even gone out to get the mail in them because I just don’t want to take them off.

I have the chance again!  But this is not prom.  The Snow Ball is less formal. And this is not high school.  I have to act like an adult. And my date is not a fellow student, but rather the DJ.
Yes, friends.  My Mike–my boyfriend and my reason for being a housegirlfriend–is DJing the Snow Ball  with his good friend Andy and his girlfriend.  And while I tried dramatically to find a way to get Kattie to wear her prom dress with me, I think I’ve failed.  I suppose we’re too old for it.  And it’s not prom after all.  And even though I’ll probably end up rocking my saucy red pants and a skanky dress shirt under a tasteful sweater, I’m still really excited to be going to a high school dance.

But the DJ?! I finally get my chance with Matt–well, kind of.  With Mike!  I get to be the DJ’s date!  And I don’t even have to crawl on the floor with flower weeds in my hands to impress him.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2011 in Daily Happenings, When I Was Young

 

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