Monday, October 23, 2017

Tried To Act Like Normal People Doing Normal Things

Yesterday was a really nice October Sunday here in southern NJ - unseasonably warm but not oppressive hot; sunny, but with that lovely autumn filter that makes sunshine less obnoxious.

I have been sick for a week with a stomach bug and I was feeling a bit better so we decided it would be good to get out for a little bit.  We did the "what do you want to do?" thing a little bit ("I don't know, what do you want to do?") and then decided to head toward a cranberry festival that was happening in a town about an hour away from us.

I used to really like street fairs and festivals.  I used to go to them often.
But then something happened.  It's like the population exploded or they suddenly became ridiculously popular and everyone and their mother started going to them.

And then - POOF! - just like that I hated them.

There is nothing remotely fun about shuffling along while stuck in the middle of 14,000 people, some of whom think it's a great idea to bring their double-wide strollers.  In fact I'm pretty sure that street fairs are the reason God gave someone the idea to invent back and front carriers to carry your kids with.
There is nothing remotely fun about standing in line to try and get some food or get near a vendor.
Plus I passionately hate people crowds.

Why I came up with "let's go to the cranberry festival!" is beyond me.  The only explanation I can come up with is that I sometimes go through a thing where I try to pretend I'm like other people.  It never works but about once a year I forget that and attempt to join the masses doing activities that I basically loathe.  JP is the same as me but he'll go along with doing something he hates if it's something that I want to do, bless his heart.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a picture of us at the cranberry festival:

No, not that lady over on the right.  What you are really looking at here is our view from inside the truck of the massive traffic jam we were stuck in consisting of people attempting to go to the cranberry festival.  This picture does not show the real deal which was that people were parking miles - miles! - away and schlepping to the festival.  It does not show the shyster man who came up to our window and said "I can get you parked in 5 minutes for 10 bucks."  It does not show the non-moving, miles-long traffic in front and in back of us.

It does not show us eventually finding a place where we could actually turn around so we could high tail it out of there.

There is a restaurant near this area that is well known for its wings and it serves alcohol which is what we were in need of after driving for more than an hour to sit in traffic for an hour and then not go to the cranberry festival.  We made a beeline for it.

When we arrived we discovered that it, too, was a mob scene.  People lined up outside waiting to get a table. We managed to get inside to see how bad it was and entered a loud and chaotic scene and no staff in sight to help manage the chaos.  The outdoor area was filled with our kind of people (bikers) so we thought that would our (fun) option but all the tables were taken, people were standing around everywhere, and they only seemed to serve alcohol out there and we wanted food.
In essence, it was (again) our biggest nightmare.
JP and I are not the types who stand in line to get into a place.  We leave and find somewhere else to go which is, of course, what we did.
About 5 miles down the road there is a place that has the best pizza so we grabbed a slice and ate it in the car.

Defeated?  Were we? Well, yes...at trying to act like we fit in with the majority who somehow don't seem to mind chaos and crowds.

Somehow, though, I think we're the ones who were not defeated at all, but instead...victorious.

I'll take our quiet, harmonious life any day.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Regaining Sanity, Vol. 1: Extricating Myself From Facebook

For quite a long time now I have danced around the knowledge that social media does bad things to me (and you)**.

I’ve ignored that fact for a long time now even though I am very well aware that my attention span has dwindled down to noth…oh look, it’s a cute puppy video that I must watch right now.

Yeah, like that.

My morning routine consists of drinking my first cup of coffee while scrolling through Facebook which never left me with a warm/fuzzy feeling afterwards.  Au contraire.  The happy mood I almost always wake up in would be replaced by feelings of annoyance or disgust or exasperation.  Those are the things I have been feeding myself for breakfast almost every day since about mid-2009 when I joined Facebook. Wrap yourself around the fact that every single day I (you, they) voluntarily do something that does not fulfill or add to the the quality of life and instead diminishes it.

I have decided once and for all to do something about it.  To fight the addiction.  And I am not using that word in jest; social media addiction is real addiction.  And if you knew my family’s history with addictions (drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, drama, victimhood) you would understand why that terrifies me.

I do my best to be very careful with myself. But this one’s got me in its clutches like it does a significant portion of the entire population.  For example, 72.4% of the entire US population has interacted at some level with Facebook*. That number makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat as if someone just said “…and I have this really delicious Kool Aid that all of us are going to drink right now”.
Because I work from home + have health conditions to keep me home, I have more time to peruse the Internet and more times than not that means a whole lot of Facebook and sometimes Twitter and Instagram.  What I find over and over is a bunch of mostly silly but sometimes fun nonsense (memes, etc), and an appalling amount of snark/sarcasm/cynicism/ad hoc attacks/vitriol (that, oddly, often gets directed at the silly but sometimes fun nonsense).  An entire populace subsisting on a steady diet of snark, snide, and pseudo-hip cynicism (thanks for the term, Camille Paglia).  Don’t get me started on politics & the e n d l e s s amount of posts that do nothing for anyone except to cause even more derision. Religion and faith?  Replaced by mockery and the worship of technology. Politics has reduced everyone to one label or another and the resultant hatred has caused a genuine loss of civility that I wonder if we’ll ever get back.  I can't help but wonder if people are really laying in bed at night feeling content that they posted that meme about Trump or Hillary...is that really what you want the gift of your life to be reduced to? Worse are the people who post about kindness and caring about those around them...unless, of course, that person voted for the wrong candidate in their slacktivist estimation.  Being an uplifter has been replaced by being a cowardly disparaging bully who hides behind a computer screen reveling in the delusion that they are somehow clever and cunning.  Everyone is offended by the most trivial of things and no one is really free to express their real opinions anymore because they will almost certainly get attacked for them.
With some puppy videos and delicious recipes thrown in for good measure.

addicted likes
I have seen too many people I know personally with good and interesting minds waste their intelligence and wit (the real kind, not the sarcastic kind) on being Facebook Fabulous; posting inane and/or derisive and sometimes disturbing stuff in some kind of Orwellian or Kafkaesque or Rod Serling-ish (or Zuckerbergian?) popularity contest in which the person who can get the most people to spend a nanosecond clicking a button (Like!)…wins.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what the actual prize is.

Yet we all keep coming back again and again and again.  I see posts on Facebook by people accusing others of being sheeple and the irony of that is not lost on me. 


I can’t keep drinking the Kool Aid, folks.  I can’t keep feeding my own good and interesting mind this constant stream of tripe and drivel. 

I was reading something this morning on the topic of reducing social media usage and someone in a comment said that their goal was to not waste their summer on social media.  This hit home for me because it made me think about how much time I wasted this past summer perusing Facebook, etc.

Time I cannot get back.

Time I could have been doing a myriad of worthwhile things that fed and nurtured my mind, not starved or otherwise harmed it.

**Please don't repeat the worn statement that Facebook, et al. helps keep the connection with friends and family.  There were deep and meaningful relationships before the inception of social media.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I Didn't Come Here For This

This morning I sat down at my laptop with my first cup of coffee of the day and starting scrolling through Facebook - this is my morning routine.
I've gotten really good at weeding out the crap I don't want to see or her about which is the stuff that stresses me out and interrupts my goal of having a pleasant life.
I also have an app installed that allows me to enter words or phrases to filter out that I don't wish to appear in my news feed.

I am so thankful for whoever designs those kinds of apps and lets me use them...for free, no less.
I hope they know the service they are providing to my well-being.

Unfortunately, because there are now myriads of potential land mines in the let's-be-offended-about-every-single-thing climate that we now live in, I would have to quit my day job (if I had one) to spend each day thinking about and adding all of the words and phrases I don't want to her about. So occasionally some things I don't want to see will slip through and that happened this morning.

I follow a very famous artist who makes really happy artwork.
I follow her because I like to be happy and I like artwork.
I do not follow her because I want to know about her political beliefs.
I do not follow her because I want to know what offends her.
I do not follow her because I want to know anything other than her pretty artwork.

Sadly, she doesn't care what I follow her for.

and, by God, is she ever going to let you know about it because she has a gazillion followers and - wow! - isn't it so great that she can use all of them to foist her opinion(s) on them even though that is not why they follow her at all.

Talk about being an opportunist.

Talk about bait and switch.

Talk about getting hoodwinked.

One more thing to add to the list and unfollow.
I'm pretty sure that pretty soon there won't be much left to follow.

I wish this kind of thing would stop but in a world of I MUST BE INDIGNANT ABOUT EVERY SINGLE THING...it doesn't seem likely.

I just wish they knew
Please feel free to save this image and share it accordingly.



"You see, I decided five years ago that I was done with fitting in, and that I'd rather be lonely and alone, than to continue immersing myself in a world I found caustic.

Everywhere I looked people seemed to be shouting, trying to make their voices heard.
The most recent clever story on facebook.
The most wittily stated opinion.
I didn't see kindness, I saw intolerance and rudeness.
I saw people ripping each other down through the medium of social media because they didn't have to look that person in the face, and see how their comments hurt them.
Then I watched as that attitude seemed to make people less tolerant in the real world as well.
I wanted no part of it anymore.
From that point on I was standing alone, and that was that." -Gingerbread


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Art Show Fiasco

I was supposed to an ART show yesterday.
All week we prepared for it.
Weeks ago we purchased our first pop-up tent.
JP built me a podium; not so that I could pontificate from but for writing out invoices, running charge payments, etc.

We loaded up the truck very early yesterday morning and set out for the site. And then I proceeded to have a massive literal anxiety attack.
The whole way there.
Full on, doesn't-get-much-worse-than-this panic.
It didn't make sense. I've been doing this art thing for years now. I do solo shows and artist receptions where the spotlight is 100% on me and I have to be "on" and sociable. I might get the jitters a little bit at these kinds of events but honest to goodness panic? No way.

I could not figure out what the heck was going on with me.
But leading up to yesterday I kept getting that awful foreboding feeling. You know, that dread kind of feeling that pops up. Really, really weird.
And then we got there.

Here's what happened next:

  • We arrived at the entrance gate of the park the event was being held in. Park also has a marina. We arrived just in time to witness the organizers telling a man that he could not enter the park to get to his boat at the marina because there was an event happening. Understandably the man was less than happy and was expressing that while using various words that looked like this: &*$#*&!@#. The man proceeded to blast his horn at cars that were blocking his access while shouting out of his car window at the organizers who were shouting back at him. Man then drove maniacally past the organizers who were trying to stop him from entering and getting to his boat. Similar to a Seinfeld episode. Ooooookay. 
  • At the entrance gate, I gave my name to the woman in charge who had a checklist in her hand with vendor names and their assigned space numbers. She scanned the list then THRUST it at me and said "here, you read it. See if you find your name. I can't see today." Ooooookay. 
  • I found my name and got my spot number. I asked her where #25 was and she said she "had no idea"...and with a jerk of a her head said that we should "go ask the lady at the white tent". Ooooookay. 
  • The lady in the only white tent there at that time had nothing whatsoever to do with the event; she was a vendor. We found spot # 25 on our own. It was approximately 4x6. This is a problem. Woman on organizer team told us there was plenty of room for a table. We have a 10x10 tent, no tables. Framed artwork that hangs on panels. Big problem.
  • Some other woman was running around trying to solve the problems that were popping up all around us. We told her that our site wouldn't work for us. She told us to set up our tent OVER the sidewalk that was next to the tiny site we were assigned. 
  •  Then she told us that we couldn't park where we were parked. 
  • Then she told us that we couldn't set up our tent until everyone around us set up theirs because our tent would block them from getting out. 
  • Some other woman came along who told us to take another spot across from the tiny one. No matter that that spot was assigned to another vendor. The other spot had a giant divot in the ground. So if we set up our tent over it we ran the risk of having potential customers who entered our tent break/sprain/twist their ankles or fall. 
  • Vendor behind us arrived only to find out that her assigned spot had a tree directly in the middle of it. 
  • I sat back in the truck to calm down and quell the panic. JP stayed outside having even more ludicrous conversations and encounters. I was praying he didn't explode on anyone. 
  • Vendors around us were setting up to sell their flea market-type items. This was billed as an Art & Music Festival. 
Finally we looked at each other and said let's just go home.

There was more. Oh so much more.
The stuff above were just the highlights. Or lowlights.

We're still reeling.

I want to write a post about red flags to look for with these types of shows but right now I don't know where to begin.
Two days before this show I realized that I never actually received any type of communication from them after I sent in my application and payment. This was a big fail on my part...but an even bigger one on their part.
So right away I emailed. No response.
I left messages on their Facebook pages. No response.
I called and finally got a response. The organizer told me verbatim - and I wish so hard that I was kidding - "I don't have time to contact everyone and let them know I received their payment and give them their site assignment."
Then, lady, you have no business attempting to run this kind of event because you're really, really bad at it.
But all of this explains perfectly my anxiety attack.
And cements my commitment to pay attention to and trust implicitly my gut feelings. I knew some thing was off. What an understatement that turned out to be.

The only words of advice I have right now are:
  1. Make sure the organizers are communicating often and in detail. 
  2. Make sure your spot is the right size! This seems like a given but maybe not. 
 I just hope I can get past the very strong trepidation I'm feeling right now about doing these kinds of shows in the future.

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