It’s the weekend, always a prime time to decompress from the work week just past, and recharge for the work week ahead. For me, this past week was a significant one, in that I started a brand new work assignment through a staffing agency. The assignment is at… well, uh uh, I’m not gonna tell you all. I need to let Male Mode Me have his anonymity and professional dignity secure.
At the time I write this, it’s not just Saturday morning, but the last Saturday of April. On this day, traditionally, the Crazylegs Classic takes place. As loyal readers of this blog may recall, I’ve run the 8-kilometer-long Crazylegs each of the last three years (2016, 2017, and 2018). Each time, it was a great experience, though naturally the first of those three was the most amazing.
This year, however, I’m skipping Crazylegs. No it’s not necessarily because the event’s 8K course will go nowhere near Capitol Square (its traditional, and inspiring, staging area), thanks in part to the same ridiculous City of Madison permit changes that will prevent an LGBT pride parade on State Street this year. And it’s not because the finish line setup and post-race party wasn’t as fun as many of my fellow participants had hoped it’d be. (The east side of Camp Randall? *ugh* A DJ instead of a live band? *yawn*) And it’s not because that around the time this year’s race begins at 10AM, Madison will start to get whopped by a nasty spring snowstorm (miserable weather has never stopped Crazylegs before).
Does this photo ring a bell, faithful readers?
If you read this post from last year, or if you’ve ever perused through my Flickr album, you probably remember seeing the above outfit, and in particular the black jacket I’m sporting. The black-colored Gitano cotton jacket is probably the oldest item still in my female clothing closet. I found it way back in 1992 in the youth/young adults section of the Shopko department store down the road from where I lived.
If you’ve also read my previous post, you’ve learned that Shopko is in a bit of a financial bind. Shopko is a department store chain founded and based in Green Bay that has been in existence since 1962. Last month, facing a lot of debt and withering competition, Shopko filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced a series of store closures, including the last three Shopko stores here in Dane County.
While I admit I haven’t gone to Shopko very much in recent years, the news of their bankruptcy and departure from Madison and other large and small towns in its footprint left me a bit sad. I found myself in agreement with a retail industry observer interviewed by the Green Bay Press-Gazette about Shopko’s bankruptcy. “This one doesn’t surprise me,” he said, “but it’s a company I hate to see go.” Indeed, while the Walmarts and Targets of the world have run laps around Shopko and other department store chains, it has been a nice place with generally good customer service, and where you can get what you want (cute outfit, comfy boots) or need (toiletries, shoes, dining room set).
One month ago, I wrote in this post about Plan B, the LGBT-oriented nightclub on Williamson Street that you see in the above photo, and how wound up in a very unflattering light. To sum up: Back in December, some drag performers had a cow when club staff forbid them from changing in their usual dressing room. The queens called out the club on social media, with some of them severing ties with Plan B. Several other performers and patrons said “I can top that story” and called out club ownership for how they ran the club, one owner in particular for his treatment of staff and customers, and one security staffer for an incident with a black patron.
When the dust settled, Plan B was sold, with founding owner Rico Sabatini returning to take ownership of the club. It also led to some reflecting of what Plan B became under the previous ownership — that is, a club that was and still is widely popular but lost its original focus of being a safe and inviting haven for the LGBT+ community.
One of the nice things about living in Wisconsin is that the scenery is pretty awesome. Whether it’s the urban skyline of Milwaukee or Madison, the majestic natural formations of places like Kettle Moraine, or the peacefulness of Door County, this state produces scenes that can be all at once tranquil, exciting, awe inspiring, and breathtaking, no matter what the season may be, including here in winter. But the beauty of winter is served on a double-edged sword: The sight of a snow-covered field or wooded area brings serenity, but it’s best appreciated when you’re indoors looking through a window.
The past couple of weeks here in Madison have brought 3 different snowstorms of varying degrees of effect. The most recent of those storms occurred this past Sunday evening/Monday morning, when a storm dumped around 6 inches of snow.
That Monday snowstorm was actually the good news of the week, and not just because the original Madison forecast called for more snow than that. It ushered in what meteorologists call a polar vortex. Basically, it’s Mother Nature leaving her freezer door open and letting a lot of chilly air escape. This week, that vortex of cold, cold air dropped right smack dab onto the Upper Midwestern United States.
Time to get back on my high horse blogging-wise and share some news about a prominent LGBT-oriented venue here in Madison. Well, at least it was originally established to be a positive part of our community.
The building you see above is at 924 Williamson Street. Until over a decade ago, it was the longtime home to Star Photo Service; look closely at the upper front façade and you can make out a faded star that once was Star Photo’s marquis sign.
Then in August 2009, during Madison’s pride weekend, the ownership team of Rico Sabatini and Corey Gresen opened the nightclub Plan B on this site. The club’s opening came after 2½ years of not just finding a location for the club but also remodeling it for suitability. (The name “Plan B” is a nod to the false starts and changes in plans that preceded its opening.)
Virtually from the get-go, Plan B became a very popular spot, one where Madison’s LGBT community could meet, converse, drink, dance, perform, and be themselves. Speaking of performing, Plan B has been home to regular drag performances over the years, not only from national performers but those from here in Madison and Wisconsin. Trixie Mattel (yes, that Trixie Mattel) was a part of Plan B’s drag cast before hitting it big not once but twice on RuPaul’s Drag Race. And Plan B has not limited itself to the inside of the club either, as it’s used its parking lot and the street in front of it to stage its Fruit Fest block party every June. Continue reading
A couple of things that struck my mind this week: First, a fellow blogger of mine (no, I won’t reveal their identity) took to their blog to make a little bit of an announcement… er, well, a declaration, actually: They wouldn’t be blogging as much. This person has been a workhorse when it came to blogging, putting out nearly one post per day for their readers, or so it seemed. They would post regular features. They would share stories about their career. They would comment on life in their corner of the world. They would share their opinions, not being afraid to do so as frank as they may be.
But they also started that blogging was a burden, a near-daily assignment they had to do for the sake of doing so. They have changed as a person since they started blogging, not having nearly enough time or drive as they used to. Still, at least they took the time to announce to the world that, well, the world won’t see as many posts from them as usual. And when they do see something new, the subject matter won’t always be the same old stuff they had blogged about before.
It’s been a few days since the 2018 general elections here in the United States. As with every election season, the 2018 conclusion had some good, bad, and very best news:
- The good news about that is that we no longer have to put up with awful campaign attack ads dirtying up the airwaves (at least until 2020 or *sigh* late 2019).
- The bad news is that not every candidate with a forward-thinking viewpoint won their election (as the saying goes, you can’t win ’em all *sigh*).
- But the very best news? Well, let me get off this bullet point and tell you…
Okay, the very best news is the advancements of bright, shining, forward-minded political stars on Tuesday night, the biggest highlight being the biggest takeaway of the night, at least among many political pundits: The Democratic Party gained the majority of seats the House of Representatives! That means that America now has a little bit of a check and balance against You Know Who and his myopic, misogynistic, anti-everything administration.
Tuesday, the 6th day of November, will be the 2018 “mid-term” general election here in the United States. Just as it was two years ago, it’s preceded by a lot of anger and vitriol. Well, let me correct myself there: There’s a lot more anger and vitriol now than there was two years ago.
There’s a lot more worry, too: Worry that this will be the only way to once and for all put checks and balances on the administration of You Know Who. Worry that if progressive-minded people don’t come out to vote this election season, virtually all the progress we’ve gained during the previous administration’s tenure will be lost forever. Worry that the proclivity of You Know Who to demean whole groups of citizens, and the uncivil mainstreaming of those vile words by his supporters springing from the darkest corners of the internet, will turn into legal discrimination.
But there is a very important way to start countering all of that fear. It’s what canvassers and volunteers have been reminding you to do. It’s what the celebrities you follow on social media are reminding you to do. It’s what the millions of women and men who’ve marched in the streets 22 months ago know what needs to be done when all is said and done. It’s called voting in the general election on Tuesday.
Here in Madison, or at least in the polling station where I vote, the ballots we fill out are the type where you take a black Sharpie marker and complete the arrow next to the candidate you’re voting for. It seems like a perfect metaphor for taking a stand against the demagogue who has made our lives a living nightmare the past 24 months. May this poem, even as it sounds more playful than it should be, serve as a provocation for you to exercise your right to vote… that is, unless you’ve voted already in this election. If you have voted, then good for you… but encourage everyone else you know to vote. If they don’t think their vote will make any difference, tell them it’s something that needs to be done, come rain or shine. It’s the way to make a formal delineation between the good and evil in our country.
“Drawing a Line“
A flag says “Vote Here!”
Signs say “register here”
And the registrar says, “write your name on the line”
With ballot in hand
I wait and stand
For a spot where I can draw my lines
Hey! Look up!
A spot has opened up
I can step apart from this very long line
With marker in hand
I take my stand
And draw some very important lines
I must stare and frown
At names that are frightening and unkind
But I do know
That there are those I can show
My support by drawing some lines
To the one who says
That only one race, religion, or gender is best
You don’t deserve anyone’s time
Especially from me
Whose mind can clearly see
Hatred and his name, connected by a line
But there’s one who says
“Have faith, don’t fret…
“No matter who you are, I don’t mind.
“If you’re man or woman,
“gay, straight, or bi,
“You should have pride.”
Thanks. You deserve, next to your name, my line
To those who are bitchin’
That a woman’s place is in the kitchen
Begone! You are out of your pitiful minds
Put up or shut up!
Great women are standing up
For the chance to have next to their names a line
I panic at the sight
Of one name who makes frights
Out of those disadvantaged or without a dime
But there are those who say
“You deserve a step up today”
By their names, I will happily draw a line
My trans siblings
Have heard dark things
Making them think their wonderful lights shouldn’t shine
But hatred is opposed
By many others at the polls
And by those whose names we will be drawing lines
We stand as one nation
Against hatred’s provocations
We say to those currently in charge, it’s time…
Time to end the hate
That you clearly seek to stimulate…
Between your wickedness and civility,
We stand as one to draw a big, thick line!
To the forward-thinking people
Who will stand up to hatred and evil
We support you and back you. Now it’s time…
To give you the chance
To lead our nation with class
Yes, for you, we’re happily drawing our lines
I’m just one person
That is for certain
But it’s well spent, these few minutes of my time
To have my say
On this very important day
For the best candidates, I’m drawing a line
There! My civic duty is done!
Through the machine, my ballot runs
But many others like me are taking their own time
To make their selections
In this important election
Together, we will contently say,
“For the best candidates, we’re drawing a line”
I’ll start this post with a term from the world of television: Time was (and in some cases still is) that when a network ordered a prospective show to series and added it to their new fall broadcast schedule, they would put in an order of 13 weeks worth of episodes to be produced. Depending on how well that show performs in quality of episodes produced and ratings of said episodes (usually the latter reason), it will receive an additional order of episodes for a “full season.” If it isn’t up to snuff, the network will drop it after those 13 episodes, if not sooner.
I bring up this analogy because this past Friday saw the finish of my 13th week at my current place of temp-to-hire employment. As you may have read on here before, I am indeed currently in a “work assignment” (my term), working at a certain charitable assistance organization that, for the purposes of anonymity, shall remain nameless. And just as with a TV show whose cast and writers are trying to gel over those initial 13 weeks of episodes, I had a lot of growing to do in learning all the ins and outs of the position I was assigned to after I somehow impressed the powers-that-be with my skill set (call my job search the “pilot season” if you will).
Also as with most TV shows just starting out and developing their characters and the world they’re in, I began rather modestly in this assignment. I started out small, just composing and formatting small reports and siting alongside the person I thought I would be working with as he showed me all the ropes. (I’ll get to the significance of the word with in a moment.)
Unless they’re real lucky and right away get a “full season” of episodes to stretch out and develop, a TV show really needs to make a good impression in their first 13 weeks. That’s what I wanted to do at my assignment, and there were times when I did. But overall, I felt unsure whether I did or not. There really isn’t any significant metrics (or “Nielsen ratings” in TV speak) that would serve as a gauge of how I was doing, such as “how many invoices did I submit?” or “did I send this report to the CFO when she needed it?” Those in the TV industry (executives, producers, talent, etc.) may have lingering doubts about a series they committed to, but more often they go with their gut, take a leap of faith, do their very best, and hope things turn out in a positive way. That’s what I did for the most part in my assignment, taking a keen interest (or listening to as much as possible) to what I was being taught, taking a lot of notes, and performing as best as possible when I was lent the reins. In other words, in lieu of ratings, I took leaps of faith, just as the CFO certainly did when she offered me the assignment.
At times during its first 13 weeks and even during its pre-air development, a TV series must go through a lot of changes. Sometimes those changes are intentional, such as changing a set design, choosing which characters to emphasize, or even recasting one or more of those characters. Other times a change becomes unexpected, such as when an actor must leave the series for whatever reason. And here’s where I get to the part about learning from the person I thought I would be working with: Like me, he was at this organization on a temporary basis, putting about 6 hours a day since July. But he did desire another position at another place of employment where he felt more qualified for.
Learning that he was leaving and I would be the go-to guy — i.e. the person who the CFO(!) expects to know everything about my role — has left me rather nervous. Just as TV networks have high expectations about the new series they treat as the “next big thing,” so it is with me at this organization. And while I may likely do a good job when all is proverbially said and done, I worry that I will perform less than what they expect of me. In other words, I hope I don’t have to hear the words “we’re going in a different direction and will replace you.” Yeah, getting “cancelled” would be the pits.
But if “cancellation” is the end result… well, so be it. Look up the IMDb list of any top-line actor, writer, and producer and you’ll see their name associated with likely-long-forgotten TV credits that occurred before and/or after they did more memorable work. (Steven Bochco wrote for a sitcom called Turnabout. Yeah, I don’t remember that one either.) But for sure they made their best efforts to put out great work, no matter how it turned out in the end. That’s the case for me in my career as a whole and my current assignment in particular. I will try to keep positive and try my very best. And with a part-time temp worker who may be able to help out when possible, I know I won’t be a one-man band (I do work better as part of some sort of team).
But what if it doesn’t work out? What if the CFO desires to cast someone with better talent than I? Or what if I desire to leave this “series” for another role in another operation where I can utilize my skills and make the role my own? Well, there’s no certainty that the “next big thing” will be out there. But with connections with “casting agents” (temp agencies, job boards, friends in high places), I hope that an awesome “starring role” will be waiting for me somewhere.
For now, though, I will bide my time in this current work assignment… which, I must say, is one that really challenges my skills. I won’t get into too much particulars, though let’s just say that, for one, there’s a whole lot more to Microsoft Excel than just typing numbers into a cell… and, two, I’m better speaking to people on the phones than I ever thought I was. Well, slightly better. That’s the thing about being a role you’re not sure about: As much as you think you’re uncomfortable playing the part, it brings out talents you never thought you had.
Please keep wishing me luck as I conclude my first 13 episodes… er, weeks in this part and begin my 14th week in an indefinite run. Fate only knows if it will be an all-too-short run, a week-by-week renewal, or a long-lasting role, but it’s for sure that I will give this role everything I’ve got.