Wampum

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

-Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything.

Seems like some people have an uncanny knack for moving stuff around on paper and making a killing at it. I’m all for that. Trouble is, lately it’s at the expense of the rest of us and that model of doing things is about as sustainable as investing in Beanie Babies was.

According to my capitalist bent, when the tide rises, all boats are supposed to be lifted. That’s part of the cornerstone of the mythos of America. Recent reforms to banking from Washington were supposed to ensure that mythos endures. I’m not entirely sure that this is the case.

All I can do is guess that the recent banking reforms, are, in fact, pretty toothless. I don’t have the gumption to sift through a 2,000-page document, thanks. So, I’ll go by what I’m hearing in the media. Always a good idea, right?

So, what I’m hearing is that the reforms got knocked down to the current state that supposedly allows the government to step in and mess with the banks if they get into trouble again. But, isn’t that what we already have? Didn’t we just do that? The rationale was that if we put in too much regulation, the unfettered trading would just head overseas.

We’ve been down this path before with the savings and loan crisis and subsequent regulations. I’m not sure even if there were teeth in the most recent legislation if it would even matter. There’s always a new and complicated way to make money on paper.

After reading The Big Short , my veeeery brief and over-simplified explanation of the most recent crisis is this: the game is rigged against everyone except the Wall Street guys.

The WSGs, as I call them, were able to take money that the average person invested through a variety of means including retirement funds and mutual funds and straight-up gamble it. The bulk of them didn’t even know quite what they were gambling on. When they lost the money, the general public had to come to the rescue and bail the WSGs out.

“If we win, it’s capitalism. If we lose, we’re all for public support,” they seemed to say.

So, what’s the average person to do to invest? I wish I had an answer. If you look to the more conservative opinions, inflation is headed our direction. A little left-leaning and you start getting theories of deflation.

And, just the other day, I read an article posted by a friend about how venture capital investments don’t really pay off.

I know I’m confused. I can’t be the only one out there paying attention and wondering what’s next.

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If I were a betting woman…

I am no gambler. I have a distaste for throwing money away. Pretty much that’s what gambling is. I don’t have moral issues with gambling per se. The problem I have with gambling coming to my town is that it’s money and community suckage. What I mean by this is that a casino doesn’t really offer much in the way of aiding a community’s progress. A housing development does. A business that serves widgets does. A casino: nope.

I am no politician. I have a distaste for telling other people what to do. But, I will tell you that politics and governing is about avoiding disaster. It’s not usually a choice of what’s good versus what’s bad. It’s a choice of which of these things is going to avert a complete and utter mistake of Hindenbergian proportions.

The upcoming Issue 2 on the May ballot will ask Ohio residents to allow Penn National to move their proposed casino site from the Arena District to a derelict auto parts plant on the West side of Columbus. I will be voting for it.

How, you may ask, is it that the whole state needs to vote on this? Well, back in November, Penn National successfully took an issue to the people that changed our state constitution. Neat trick, huh?

The issue passed statewide, but tanked BIG TIME in the Columbus area. Normally, Ohio has this thing called home rule which allows cities and townships and the like to make zoning decisions for themselves. This can be overturned by changing the constitution which Penn National did. So, Columbus got stuck with no home rule regarding a casino it didn’t want.

Enter Casino-Free Columbus following the constitution-mucking passage. Chuck Hootman and Jon Myers worked their tails off organizing and giving blood, sweat and tears to gather people to oppose the casino thrust upon Central Ohio. I helped out doing what I could in very minor ways. The group caught the interest of some of the heavy hitters.

Enter Stand Up Columbus. The same heavy hitters that signed on with Chuck and Jon splintered off into a group that wanted to give Columbus some of its home rule goodness back. It was organized by a seasoned local spin doctor and urged casino officials to look at some other sites within the city.

Among those sites was the former Delphi plant on the West side. The area commission there voted with a very narrow margin not to oppose placing a casino there. Some behind-the-scenes negotiating went on between city officials and the Penn National guys. The casino officials said, “Okay. We’ll move the casino. But, now you’ve got to change the constitution and that can only be done with another statewide issue.”

So that brings us to where we are today. Remember what I said about averting Pepsi-Blue-like disasters? My vote in favor of the issue is something I’m going to have to hold my nose to do. I really, truly do not think the casino is going to help the West side redevelop. But, the zoning in the area is far more appropriate for that particular use than the Arena District.

Not only is the Arena District an area where there is a lot of ebb and flow entertainment going on, it’s the area where a good amount of the tech/creative businesses are located. Those kinds of companies thrive on an area’s excitement and energy. It’s Columbus’ own Silicon Alley. Resource Interactive, SBC, Dynamit, Experience Columbus and a lot more creative ventures including this little firm called huber +co. are in the Arena District. This is the city’s creative business incubator in a way. A casino that would suck people in and not encourage them to visit other establishments isn’t the right type of thing to put there.

Mind you, I don’t think a casino is that great of a thing to put at a former auto parts plant either. But, the zoning in that area is industrial. That means people go to their jobs, make their product and go home. There really aren’t that many industrial entities left in this world. The land sits empty with not much on the immediate horizon except a possible casino. Cities do not care for fallow land because they can’t get any tax revenue unless there are incomes from jobs to tax.

Another reason I don’t care for the casino is the jobs are kinda dead-end. A casino job is not really an open-ended career choice. But, you know what? People are hurting right now. Badly. I’d take a casino job in a heartbeat if I knew it would mean keeping a roof over my kid’s head.

A casino would replace the opportunity to develop some housing to feed into the Arena District Silicon Alley. Or, it would replace an office building creating more commercial space to lure businesses to the area. Or, it would even replace some sort of entertainment that worked in tandem with the other offerings currently available.

Penn National sold the jobs thing pretty hard. And, they will create some jobs. But, they are not really the types of jobs that are long-term contributions to the area. They are jobs that will put food on the table for some but the bulk of the profits are going straight outta town.

I want to see more emphasis on helping the community as a whole go into this young century taking advantage of the new creative  economy that’s forming. Groups like Wonderland and Wild Goose Creative are not-for-profit entities that showcase and encourage artists in the Central Ohio area. These groups are helping forge the new attitudes of the city that will take us into the future.

Maybe Penn National can take up the cause with these two entities and help foster Columbus’ creative energies. Like I said, I’m not crazy about bringing a casino to the city at all. But, maybe, just maybe, Penn National could help in being less of a community suckage and more of a community asset if it chipped in a little with the progress part of the equation.

So, to sum it up:

1. Not happy about casino in general for its community and money suckage.

2. Will be voting to move it to the West Side because having it in the Arena District would be a completely inappropriate land use.

3. Thinking Penn National could maybe ease the suckage by supporting not-for-profits (like Wonderland and Wild Goose) that aim to help bring the community up.

4. These choices are not any good choices, frankly. But, politics and good governing are about making choices to avert disasters.

What are your thoughts?

How old do you feel in your head?

One of my many roommates from over the years, Nat, recently asked me, “How old do you feel in your head?”

It didn’t take long for me to answer, “Seventeen.” Pretty easy really.

I was still skateboarding. I was listening to hardcore and I was angry at all the things wrong in the world. A lot. I don’t know if that was the dawning of my real awareness of politics, or the onset of those fun teenaged hormones. I always had a bee in my bonnet when I felt people weren’t treated right. Just drove me mad. So, add the teen stuff and I imagine I may have been a little hard to stomach at times. Okay, maybe most of the time.But they aren't falling like I used to.

At 17, I was roommates with Timika. Let me tell you a little about Timika. She is smarter than all get out. Handily winning a four-year ride to UNC and a year at Oxford University scholarship, she was often annoyingly brilliant. Oh, and she was a great athlete as well. And, naturally, a beauty to really round things out.

Barf.

I was slated to room with another girl at the beginning of my junior year. She pooped out on me, bigtime. I am not quite sure what transpired over the summer, but come that first day back at Culver, my counselor wanted a word with me.

“Leigh, the girl you were going to room with is not going to live in this dorm,” said my counselor. “I need to talk to you about your new roommate who will arrive tomorrow with the other new students.”

Gah! Oh man. I was sweating. When you roll the dice with roommates it can get pretty scary. Was she some spoiled brat who came equipped with bodygaurds? Did she have some horrible disfigurement that I was supposed to not mention? Was it a genetic problem with flatulence and I would just have to bear with it?

With that attitude in mind, I tenderly knocked on the counselor’s door and entered. She shuffled things around on her desk. She asked me about my summer. The small talk was killing me.

“So, just what’s wrong with my new roommate, anyway?” I asked.

“Well nothing, really. I just need you to know she’s black.”

Bwahahaha I burst out laughing. Oh for the love of PETE. Did she really just hem and haw around that? Relief flooded her face and she started laughing, too.

Poor Timika didn’t get a discussion about HER new roommate. “She’s awkward and angry and listens to music you never would,” I can imagine my counselor explaining to her. “Please try to be kind to her as she struggles through this phase in her life.”

We never did end up never seeing eye to eye on the music thing. In a time before ipods, this was kind of a big deal. So, I got an education on urban contemporary music of the ’80s. And, Timika almost developed an appreciation for Minor Threat. Almost.

She would just roll her eyes at some of my music and many of my outfits. In my 40s now, I find myself rolling my eyes at the teen Leigh as well.

Anyway, I was 17, it was the middle of the year. Our room was right near the smoking area, or butt room. There was plenty of smoking at Culver at that point in history. Spend a winter in an isolated part of Indiana on a lake and the things to do get narrowed pretty quickly. Smoking was a way for a loooooot of my classmates to pass the time. There were always a lot of people out there chatting to stave off boredom and get a nic fix.

Timika and I were in our room studying. We did that a lot. Both she and I were “academia macademias” as my friend Madeline once said.

Wafts of conversation and eau de Marlboro rolled into our room. Study, study, study. I was on the bottom bunk, Timika on the top one.

Study, study, study. You couldn’t really make out the words of the conversations very well. Then.

“Nigger.”

The bed shook. Timika bolted into a sitting position shaking the bed. Then thump. She jumped down. Our door flew open and slammed into the wall.

Oh lord. I can’t remember the exact tirade that ensued. I could not stop laughing. The dressing down that girl got! I think Timika made her cry. Boohoo.

Luckily, for Timika’s sake, she only had two years of rooming with the perpetually 17-year-old me. Two years with the real teen Leigh was martyrdom enough.

It continues to surprise my 17-year-old self inside the 40-something body that other people make issues of stupid things like race or sexual orientation.

What happened to that Minor Threat t-shirt anyway?

Gracious and grateful

Bounce, bump, slam catch.

I ran to the stairs and caught an in-the-cups girl about ready to contuse herself as she clumsily tumbled down. She knocked me down with the force of her weight – brushed herself off and gave me a look as if I had invaded her space. No thanks. Just a look of disdain for my troubles. It was as if I was merely completing my task as assigned by the princess. And, I did it badly, to boot.

In college my buddy, Jen, and I were so taken aback by this girl’s reaction that we burst out laughing at her as she walked away. (Back to the keg, natch.)

Pretty is as pretty does.

Pretty is as pretty does.

Mean girls suck. You will often hear me say that if my child ever gets older and behaves like this she will not make it past her teenage years. This girl’s sense of her importance above everyone else’s was appalling beyond words to me. Her parents should be ashamed of themselves. I wonder what she’s like as a full-fledged adult.

I was in a looooong line at a deli. In walks one of my former co-workers. “Oh. I’m in a hurry,” she said as she cut in front of everyone including me. Again, I just laughed. Obviously she deserved food more than the rest of us peons. She was special. I’m so grateful I don’t have to be around her further. Ick.

Were they feral as children? Raised by chimps? I’m not entirely sure.

Recently, someone I hung out with in college died after a long, hard struggle with breast cancer. She WAS special. Stepfanie Spielman very publicly shared with the world her illness and her brave fight. She didn’t just sit there and let cancer beat her up, she worked tirelessly to do what she could to help others.

But, it wasn’t just that she did all this fundraising work for research that made her particularly beloved. She was bar none the most gracious person I have ever met. Wasn’t just me who felt that way. I went to her calling hours and there were thousands there to say goodbye.

You know the person with the cart full of groceries who lets you in front of them when you’ve got a few items? Yep. That was Stefanie. The person who lets you take that last parking spot near the door just ’cause? Yep again. Offers you a buck or two if you realize you don’t have enough money at the register at Target. Ummmmnhmmmn.

This is what she was like day to day. As the wife of a Buckeye great Chris Spielman, she could’ve behaved so badly and been such a mean girl. She never was. Stefanie had a kind word and action for just about everyone who met her. She was like that in college and from the numbers at the calling, I don’t think that much changed.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of ungracious people in this world. Is it really that hard just to muster a little civility? Think of someone other than yourself?

Around the same time Stefanie died, I was dealing with someone who was the epitome of unwarranted and unbridled entitlement. It just served to make me appreciate her life all the more.

When I was at Culver Summer School, they made us learn all those crazy, old-fashioned complicated manners that I’ve used, maybe, 12 times my whole life. I’m not so concerned with my daughter knowing that you are allowed to eat asparagus with your fingers or that you are not supposed to wear a watch with formal dress. Or the insane way a woman was supposed to shake hands – palm down with a little squeeze of the fingers to the man. Oh, that one works really well in a business setting. Har!

I’ll know I did OK with my daughter when she comes home crying because of another girl’s treatment of a person who isn’t even her friend.

That’s pretty much how I figure Stefanie lived. So, goodbye Stefanie – thanks for giving my daughter something to shoot for.

-thanks to Haley for the Culver book scan

Eye-eye captain

Out of the helicopter leaned the coastguard guy. “Everybody on deck. NOW!”

My eyes are apparently very much a window to my soul. Even more than I had imagined and very much against my wishes.

Recently for the second time in my life, I busted a blood vessel in my eye. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and really not

rescue me

rescue me

getting nearly enough sleep. It doesn’t hurt, but it looks like it’s gawd-awfully painful and makes people turn away. You know, like an ocular Quasimodo.

 

I didn’t bust a vessel when the bee stung my eyelid and I cruised through sorority rush. Nope. It was something much more dramatic than that.

The summer between my high school graduation and the start of college, I went down to Miami to hang with one of my besties, Areca. Along for the trip were Mark, Jenny, Stephanie, Karen, Leann and Gavin.

We set sail on a beautiful day in a sweet wooden sailboat. I had some sailing experience from good old Lake Maxinkuckee, but nothing compared to sailing the ocean from Miami to Cat Key, Bahamas. Things were going fine until a giant squall came out of nowhere. Then two more wham, wham. The radio went out. The engine went out. The navigation went out. We were jostled around like mad on that 100-foot boat.

And, maaaan was it wet. I felt like I was never going to get dry again, even though I spent most of the time under the deck. The real sailors were above desperately trying to hang on. They were tied to the boat to make sure they didn’t go overboard.

Then, no more storm. And, no more wind. We couldn’t get going again. In general, we knew where we were. But, location wasn’t so much the problem. The problem was we were stuck and those ginormous ships don’t exactly turn on a dime. Additionally, washing up on the shores of Cuba – mmmn not so appealing.

Day two of not really moving. Jammed in pretty small quarters with nothing to do there was a LOT of discussion. We talked of what we were going to do when we got older. Made plans for how each of us was going to make our marks in the world. We talked about how THIRSTY we were. You don’t bring water for three days when the trip’s only supposed to be one.

Day three we got some wind and headed in the right direction. This was not before the Coast Guard was alerted that we didn’t quite make it to our destination. A couple of days without sleep and working to get the boat going took a toll on my eye. Bloop! Busted vessel.

Sooooo loud! Whoop, whoop, whoop whoop. Near Bimini, the Coast Guard helicopter hovered over us. The guy leaned out with a bullhorn. “Everybody on deck. NOW.” They were doing a head count to make sure everybody was still there. Areca said they also wanted to make sure the boat hadn’t been taken over by ambitious drug dealers. Oh. Nice. I hadn’t thought about that particular scenario.

We finally made it to the island. A gorgeous house, right on the beach. Thanks Areca! I think that may have been the best vacation I’ve ever had. We had so much fun. We were celebrities on the island once word spread about our adventure. Bebe Rebozo bought us a round of drinks at the bar.

The kicker here? Hurricane Andrew completely destroyed the house. There’s nothing left. Just the memories remain of  a really good vacation.

Oddly enough, the boat, “Isle Treat,” survived.

So, the boat remains. So does the knowledge that if things get hairy my eyes are going to make darn sure everybody knows what’s going on.

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” said the voice on the other end of the phone. I recognized it right away as one of my college roommates, Jen. Click. Hang up. Rrrrrring! “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” Click. Hang up. All within five minutes of each other way back when in college.

You hear about the kegger?

You hear about the kegger?

So, yeah, Jen had an interesting sense of humor. Most of it at my expense. But, she had a point. I am a magnet for strange events. That phrase, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” came from an incident in which then-news anchor Dan Rather was accosted by two men who demanded an answer to this question. Apparently, they thought they were being mind-controlled by the media. It was a real memorable trip into Bizarro world. So much so, that, while you may not have known the story behind it, that’s the title of a famous R.E. M. song.

My trips through Bizarro fantastic are legendary amongst my friends.

1. Skin tags.

If you don’t know what they are, they are kinda like moles on a power trip. They grow out and make brown 3-D dots. I’ve got a few. Jen used to chase me around with a razor, saying, “Lemme get that for you!”

Anyway, my other roommate, Nat, was one of the first of us to walk down the aisle. Jen and I were reluctant bridesmaids. We waited outside of the chapel to throw birdseed at the bride and groom after the ceremony. Bride and groom walked out. Birdseed throwing ensued. Nat’s aunt began brushing the birdseed off of us. “Oh lemme get that one. It’s stuck.” She got purchase on one of my skin tags and pulled me around the sidewalk a bit before she realized that was no birdseed.

Jen and I laughed so hard there was snorting involved. Nat’s aunt was so mortified she hid from me during the reception.

2. Pregnancy.

The husband and I finally are able to make it to wine country for a real honeymoon. We didn’t have the time to escape until about a year after getting married.

It’s beautiful. The wine is spectacular and, huh? I feel really sick. On a whim, on our second day there I do a pregnancy test. It comes back positive. Seriously. You bet I went out and bought four more. You know, just to be sure. Those cursed plus signs came up on all of ’em.

Yes, I wanted to have a kid. All my friends had been trying for months on end, so I figured I had some time. Uh, nope.

Well, the next day I still tasted all the wines, but got to spit them all out. The husband and his visiting friend continued to drink into the wee hours of the morning after some tours.

The day after that, wasn’t me who was a fine shade of chartreuse.

Ugh. Who finds out they are pregnant in wine country on their honeymoon?

Me.

3. Sorority rush.

Okay, so you Greek system haters out there can just stop reading now. I know all the arguments you are going to make. I hold my fingers in my ears and say, “lalalalala.”

Anyway, I knew no one going to Ohio State as an entering freshman. Not a soul. I was alone in going to the world’s largest university. What’s the best way to meet people? Get involved in organizations. I was already on board with the fencing team and wanted to broaden my horizons.

I gathered all my recommendations from my mother’s friends. I carefully picked out what my wardrobe would be for each of the progressively more formal rounds. I filled out all the forms and went to all the pre-rush meetings.

I was ready.

My rush group and I went to our first two houses. People sang at us. Hmmn. Interesting. Then there was small talk. It was speed friending, basically. You didn’t really have time to talk all that much. You just got good or bad vibes from the house and moved on.

We walked out into the porch of the Pi Beta Phi house after visiting. “Hey. There’s something caught in my eye. OW!”

Holy cow! A bee had just stung my eyelid.

Massive swelling started. I soldiered on to the next house and requested ice. They gave it to me but they wouldn’t let me leave with it. Apparently there was a rule you couldn’t give the rushees anything to walk out of the house with because there had been accusations of bribery. But first aid, really? As the day wore on my eye got larger and larger. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, but this was a heartbreaking problem at the time.

Day two. My eye had swollen to epic and hugely disfiguring proportions. No other choice than to go with an eye patch.

Remember, I said I was a varsity fencer. And, now, I had an eyepatch. If I’d been on my toes more, I would’ve gotten myself a parrot to really round it out.

Oh, the conversations I had. “How did you lose your eye?” The houses I knew weren’t right for me got some pretty tall tales. “Well, I was in the Congo on a snipe hunt and one of the guides shot an arrow that missed and hit right there.” “Did I mention I skateboard? Tony Hawk and I were tooling around and he lost control of his board. It hit me right there.” “Well, have you heard of the ebola virus? No? Really?”

That sorority where I stepped out and got stung? That’s where I ended up pledging. And, that’s where I met Jen and Nat.

Maybe someday the child will join Pi Phi as a legacy.

Maybe I will make HER wear an eyepatch through rush.

Why Mulan?

IMG_0261

Mulan and me.

Let me introduce myself. I am someone who has met Mulan. That’s right. I stood in line for two hours in the hot Californian sun to meet Mulan. The child was along as a mere accessory. Something she mentioned about wanting to meet that scofflaw Cinderella. Maybe she mentioned something about Ariel, too.

Just got one of those giant toy catalogs. In it, a package with Disney princesses including the new ethnic Tiana. No Mulan. Harumph! I thought. What? They can’t handle more than a smattering of ethnic princesses?

I am rethinking my ethnic quota theory.

A synopsis of the Mulan tale: a girl finds that her country is in peril and dresses like a man to take up arms against the invaders. She ends up being the hero of the day, despite the sexism of the time. Oh, and she meets a dragon played by Eddie Murphy who provides comic relief. I suspect the original tale didn’t have a wise-cracking dragon in there.

It’s a movie I didn’t want the child to see until she was at least six. There’s some violence that I didn’t think was totally appropriate for her. It’s not gratuitous, but there are battle scenes.

Guess what? Now that she’s old enough, she’s not at all interested in seeing Mulan. I think I know why. Mulan doesn’t have any of the typical trappings the rest of the princesses do. She spends a good portion of the movie dirty and fighting and running away from having to dress in formal attire.  The child is just not interested in someone who is not the cookie-cutter girly-girl princess. And, truth be told, Mulan isn’t technically a princess.

Disney is a whopper of a corporation. And, wow, they’ve got a huge hit with their princess stuff. From what I understand they always had trouble with Mulan because, of all things, she didn’t have a big, formal gown to wear. I know firsthand this is the death knell for a princess doll.  I got the child a Mulan doll. She loved the doll… and, immediately took off the kimono and put her in Belle’s dress. I don’t even know where the dress went. I think the obi is in the back seat of my car, but I’m not sure. Didn’t matter that Mulan was Asian. Mulan could have been plaid for all my daughter cared. It was all about the dress.

I see Tiana’s got herself a super-frilly dress. Good for her. She gets to be the center of attention for a while. I’m biding my time until my daughter sees the wisdom of Mulan. I’m pretty darn sure after a while the child will realize most of those princesses are kinda wimpy. Until then, I have my memories of humiliating myself at Disneyland to meet my favorite non-ballgown wearing hero, Mulan.