Archive for December, 2006

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What I Have Learned This Past Year

December 31, 2006

In late October of 2005, I went to a Halloween Party on Vashon Island. A friend from grad school lived on a farm out there. A friend and I took a ferry over, drove five miles in and spent the day carving pumpkins, chasing away spiders and eating farm grown vegetable soup. This random October day would lead me to six straight months of complete stress and anxiety.

When it became time to decide on a degree project and I looked randomly at the list of 70 different projects, I immediately became drawn to a small nonprofit called Vashon Youth and Family Services. They needed a student to examine the early learning and childcare needs on the Island and suggest solutions to improve the lives of the children. The idea of helping an Island community was fascinating and since I had a great time on the farm, I signed myself up.

Being 23, single and having grown up as an only child, I was a perfect candidate to discover the Island’s childcare needs. I spent six months interviewing parents, nannies, school officials and childcare owners to discover how I could help the poor children of Vashon Island. And in a brief 55-page document, I have all the answers. I quickly learned that the allure of a twenty-five minute ferry ride across the Puget Sound gets old really quick at $18 per trip. I think after the 175th revision of my degree project, I no longer cared about the children and only wanted to turn my project in.

In January and February, I spent most days driving to Olympia to lobby the legislature to give the graduate and professional students of UW more money in the supplemental budget. During session, Olympia is this weirdly lonely city. It is filled with suits walking around and people talking on their blackberries. I would spend time between meetings and hearings drinking coffee in the cafeteria and talking to the usual suspects of higher education. My “friends” became lobbyists and legislators. I testified on a few bills and if you search public records, you can hear the painful audio transcripts of my public testimony. The undergraduate UW lobbyist and I became good friends. And sometimes during hearings I would call him ennis and I whisper in his ear that I wish I knew how to quit him. It is always fun to be wildly inappropriate in our State’s capitol.

On September 4, 2006, I had my heart broken – it was Tully’s Girl’s last day. Zoe left me for the Black Angus. She was my barista for the entire time I went lived in Seattle. She knew my name, my drink, my schedule, my life and she even drew little hearts on my cup from time to time. She sent me more mixed signals than everyone else did and I never did quite figure her out. She frequently dyed her hair and I would always complement her. She was always flattered. After Zoe left, her entire staff quit. I still find that amazing. And what is even more weird about Zoe leaving is that when the new manager took over, Crystal, they completely changed the entire inside. They removed the side tables I always sat at, removed the bar where you could doctor your coffee, removed the bench seating and replaced it with leather chairs and changed most of the seating and layout around. So in addition to losing Zoe, my Tully’s was completely different. The only thing I still recognize about this Tully’s is the same customers that come in when I do. I guess we are all creatures of habit. I also thought it was quite poetic about the timing of Zoe quitting. I thought somehow it reflected the changes in my own life. Five days before Tully’s Girl left, I started my job at Washington Business Week. My life changed drastically and in turn, Tully’s changed drastically. I know it is coincidence but on some level, I think it is cosmically related.

During the summer of nick (the blissful time after grad school and before employment), I was planning a national conference for an organization I was involved with called NAGPS (aptly pronounced “nags”). While I was in florida at the previous national conference – I don’t know if it was because of the 80-degree temps in February or the humid Miami air but I stupidly signed the UW (me) up to host the next national conference in November. And as November approached, I became a wreck. Emails piled up in my gmail account, the ulcer pain increased in my stomach. Which I believe, was perfectly correlated.

This was a year of transitions for most of you. My high school prom date got married this past year. Congrats Lindsey. My best friend Brian is having a son. My good friends Mirah and Ben bought a new house and are having a child. And Katie and Ryan built their own house. Maybe someday I will leave the familiar university district to seek out a new neighborhood and new adventures.

I have written most of this year’s letter somewhat tongue in cheek. But in all seriousness, 2006 has been a great year for me. I had the opportunity to watch the sunrise from the Atlantic Ocean and watch it set over the Pacific. I saw first hand the Rockies and saw fireflies for the first time on the shores of the mighty Ohio. I had a couple first dates and a few disappointments. A few missed opportunities and a lot of laughs along the way. As I finish this annual letter, I am beginning to think about to whom I am going to send it to. And I realize that some of you, I have not seen you in person since your wedding or high school or college graduation or some other random event. But I guess that is life in its truest sense. Friendships weave back and forth along a timeline and you never know when they will cross again but you remain hopeful that they do. I hope this letter finds you all well. Remember to give to your favorite nonprofits – there are plenty of people in our communities who need help. And for more inane random ramblings, check out my blog at: http://www.geocities.com/nickoroni.

Remember to live life to the fullest, dream, wonder and explore because, you never know. To everyone, Happy New Year!

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Twenty Minutes Before Destruction

December 29, 2006

A couple weeks ago, we had the storm of the century – a comment made from our portly mayor. Flash flooding turned streets into rivers, made tunnels impassable and made my already long commute (jammed up from a random home seahawk game on a Thursday), even longer. After the rain completely soaked the ground and the wind blew for hours. Half of Seattle lost power sometime during the storm – I was very lucky, my lights only flickered once or twice.

That night I was heading over to Paul and Kelli’s for dinner. And because of the storm, we had a late dinner. When I go over to P & K’s house, I always park underneath the streetlamp. Their street is dark and is lined with trees that border the popular Burke Gilman Trail. So the streetlight provides much needed light. And that stormy night, the streetlight shined brightly for me when I arrived.

I had been over at their place for a couple of hours when the wind started to howl. The trees along the trail began to crash against a power line, which was connected to the streetlight. And in jest, Kelli suggested that I should move my car. Just in case, something happened. I walk outside to move my car and I began f around in the wind. Pretending it was blowing me away. I get in, start my car and park it across the street. I head back inside and we continue to watch the best show on television, HBO’s the Wire.

Twenty minutes later, we hear “CRRRAAAASSSSHHHHHH” and the sound of glass breaking. The tree pushing the against the power line and finally brought down the entire streetlight. The pole, the live wire and the tree lay in the middle of the street. And had I not moved my car twenty minutes earlier, my 2000 Toyota Camry would have been completely totaled. I took a picture the following day with my cellphone. I apologize for the lack of clarity. But you can clearly see the tree and the pole. I am glad I moved my car with twenty minutes to spare.

 You can see the broken streetlight in the middle and the fallen tree is on the right of the photo. This cell phone picture doesnt quite capture the destruction well enough but it should give you an idea. Photo taken on December 15, 2006.

You can see the broken streetlight in the middle and the fallen tree is on the right of the photo. This cell phone picture doesn't quite capture the destruction well enough but it should give you an idea. Photo taken on December 15, 2006.

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Finding Papyrus…

December 9, 2006

For the past few years on menus, on signs and other random printed materials, I have noticed something completely random… the font Papyrus. This random microsoft font is on most computers today and it soon began to show up to me everywhere. First, it was the font used in a logo for a club I was involved with in college. Next, I saw the font on the side of a restaurant in Seattle. Now I see it everywhere. So I have decided that I will catalogue with my cellphone camera every time I see the Papyrus. In an ongoing series I titled Finding Papyrus.

Finding Papyrus: a photo of a book recommendation at Aunties Bookstore in Spokane, Washington. Aunties is one of my favorite bookstores. Papyrus sighting on November 26, 2006.

Finding Papyrus: a photo of a book recommendation at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, Washington. Auntie's is one of my favorite bookstores. Papyrus sighting on November 26, 2006.

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A Random Sign

December 8, 2006

Paul, Kelli and I went out to dinner to other night at a place up on 12th and 65th. After parking the car, we walked by a streetlight with a sign that had, “I love you.” on it. After dinner we walked by that same streetlight and the sign had been ripped down. I took a photo of the discarded sign.

A photo of a sign that was posted on a streetlight on 12th and 65th on December 5, 2006 in Seattle, WA.

A photo of a sign that was posted on a streetlight on 12th and 65th on December 5, 2006 in Seattle, WA.

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Three Stories from the Conference

December 4, 2006

As you know, I planned a national conference. It consumed my life. More logistics than a wedding. And just as much drama. Some people missed their flights. Instead of boring you with a day-by-day recap as I had originally planned, I will leave you with three vignettes from my time.

Vignette One – Eric Sent the Wrong Invoice… three times.

It was a day before the conference actually began. My fellow board members were flying into Seattle in a few hours. I had been to kinkos to pick up the packets, gotten a haircut, and went shopping for the event the next day. I had to drop off payment for the Burke Museum at 11:00 a.m. – I was already twenty minutes late.

Now this was supposed to be taken care of weeks ago. I had been working with this woman named Amy. She was nice and organized and we would talk about every two weeks about our event. Well she went on vacation. I had faxed Amy the contract over in plenty of time and left a note asking about payment. Because she was on vacation, a cute girl named Anna became my new contact. And because Amy is the only event planner for the museum, Anna had no idea about anything. To make matters more complicated, a person named Eric from accounting calls me, without Anna knowing, inquiring about my payment to the Museum. I said it would not be a problem, just send me an invoice and I would pay them. Eric says he is going to send me the invoice.

I check my email a few minutes later and the invoice from Eric is there. I look at it. It is for the wrong group and for the wrong amount. I email Eric back. He apologizes and sends me another invoice.

Wrong again. It is the same one he just sent. I email Eric again. We laugh about it and he sends me another invoice. Again, it is the same wrong one. Eric sent me the wrong invoice three times. This time, I do not even bother emailing Eric; I call the cute Anna again. She apologizes profusely for Eric and tells me he has been working there one week. Well at least we know that the Burke is in good hands with Eric in accounting.

Vignette Two – The Dairy Bitch aka My Conference Nemesis

Conferences are great. You meet people who share your same passions and beliefs. These people can reaffirm the reasons why you spend countless unpaid putting on a national conference. Well this blonde haired girl from Minnesota only reaffirmed to me that some people are just plain crazy, awful and weird. She was so awful that I cannot remember her name – it was either Bree or Suzanne. So for this entry she will be known as “Breanne.” Here is a transcription of an actual conversation we had right before lunch.

Breanne – Nick. Do you know if this bread has dairy in it? (we had mini sandwiches, the bread she was referring to was the size of a half dollar, and she only had two pieces)

Nick – You know, I don’t know but I can call the caterer (I made this offer knowing that most sane people, yes sane people, would decline my offer)

Well she was insane.

Breanne – You do that. I am allergic to dairy and I want to know.

Of course, my cell phone does not work in the room and I have to find the number of the caterer. I have a million things going on at once, and this bitch wants to know if there is dairy in these tiny pieces of bread.

Phone message of the caterer – Thank you for calling the Bay Laurel Catering. If you have reached this message during the hours of 8 – 5 Monday through Friday, that means all circuits are busy. (Of course, why would the caterer be there when I need them). If you are ready to place an order, you can do this online at [in the slowest and most deliberate voice, the man reading the message proceeded to recite the web address] http://www.baylaurel.com. (It literally took forever. It then went through the list of sales people and mine was list last of course).

Kristi (my sales person) – Hello?

Nick – Hi Kristi, I have a strange question about my order. We have an order of the mini sandwiches and a girl (conference bitch) wants to know if there is dairy in the bread.

Kristi – Well… we actually don’t bake the bread. But let me caucus the staff together and see what they think. I am going to put you on hold. [minutes pass]. Hi Nick, well we are 95 percent sure that if the bread is white or wheat that there is no dairy but if it is buttermilk there would be. Also, wouldn’t this person know about their food allergies if they have had it all their lives (Great question Kristi).

[I walk back inside and see Breanne]

Nick – Hi, well I called the caterers and they couldn’t tell me for sure. [I provide detail on our conversation].

Breanne – [in the snottiest of voices] Well, is there a hospital nearby?

Nick – [I am shocked at this point] Well Breanne, I would prefer if you forgo the bread, instead of risking a food allergy.

Breanne – Well I also have religious reasons why I don’t eat dairy. Thanks for nothing.

Nick – (OMG, thanks for nothing!?) [I say the following statement in the nicest way possible] Well Breanne, on your registration form, we had an entire section for food preferences, did you fill that out?

Breanne – No. I didn’t know that was there.

And with that last comment, she walked away. Breanne would call me before each meal and want to know the ingredients for dinner and lunch. You would think that someone who has been to graduate school, has a dietary restriction all their life and also have religious concerns around dairy, would be able to lead a life without handholding to eat their daily meals. But I guess I was wrong. What killed me the most was the amount of bread she wanted to eat. It was two tiny pieces. And there were plenty of other options available. If I were allergic to something, I would pass on the tiny pieces of bread. Plus, I think this girl was crazy enough to eat the bread and accept going to the hospital.

Vignette Three – Flying Glass Cuts Her Hand

I am over at the Burke Museum – the site of our last event. Our event starts at 6:00 p.m. and there is a flurry of action. I take a carload of people over to the museum to help me setup. Our keynote speaker, Jorge Cham, needs a projector for his talk. So I run an extension cord from the left side of the museum to the middle of the room. Now the problem with selecting the Burke for the venue of our gala dinner was that the Burke is a museum, not a restaurant. So the caterers I had been in communication with since the Summer of Nick (like the perspective), had to bring everything to the museum. Plates, glasses, tables, silverware and napkins – all the shit you take for granted when you have an event. And this is billed by the dish. Additionally, this was the only event where we had an open bar. So this girl (see below):

Is the bartender. She is pushing eight racks of glasses on a wheeled cart. We planned for 115 people. So there are 200 beer glasses, 200 wine glasses, 115 water glasses, and 200 soda glasses. Remember that extension cord? Well the bartender girl didn’t remember. She comes flying out of the back room with her rack of glasses and hits the cord at full speed. The cart tips over and glasses going flying on the hardwood floors. I see the whole thing happen. It was like slow motion. CRASH. Almost every glass breaks on the floor and the ones that didn’t were unusable because they had glass shards in them. There is broken glass everywhere. Flying glass cuts our Treasurer on the hand. And much to my surprise, everyone remained calm. The Burke staff ran to get brooms. The caterers ran back to home base to get more glasses. And I began to sweep the broken glass. It was the most awesome thing I saw. There is beauty in destruction.

The conference was a great success. I think I am ready to plan weddings. Here are some photos.

A photo Katie Vahey. I met Katie and her man in Boulder, Co., when I was there in April. Katie won the NAGPS Presidents Award. She was quite shocked and I loved that she won. I think this is a great pic of her.

A photo Katie Vahey. I met Katie and her man in Boulder, Co., when I was there in April. Katie won the NAGPS President's Award. She was quite shocked and I loved that she won. I think this is a great pic of her.

 A photo of my table during our Awards Dinner. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of my table during our Awards Dinner. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the all of the conference attendees during our awards gala. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the all of the conference attendees during our awards gala. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the new NAGPS President, Liz Olson and me - why am I getting a neck rub? Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the new NAGPS President, Liz Olson and me - why am I getting a neck rub? Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me at the bar. Despite popular belief, not all those drinks are for me. God bless the open bar. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me at the bar. Despite popular belief, not all those drinks are for me. God bless the open bar. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me and fellow conference attendee Sarah. Sarah is originally from Seattle and now attends college in Philly. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me and fellow conference attendee Sarah. Sarah is originally from Seattle and now attends college in Philly. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

 A photo of our keynote speaker Jorge Cham. Jorge writes a comic strip called Piled Higher and Deeper. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of our keynote speaker Jorge Cham. Jorge writes a comic strip called Piled Higher and Deeper. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.