T.R. Wonderful and the Sinking of the SS Milvia

th-1Yesterday my buddy Cinda and I took the train over to the Bay Area Book Festival.  It was a nice day. A little smoggy but nice. I hadn’t been to downtown Berkeley in several years but some things never change; college kids still fly up and out of BART like locusts, hopping over those of us with squeaky knees. The homeless still camp where they want. Restaurants still have signs in their windows reading “Bathrooms for customers only.” There’s still a whiff of pot in the air.

Hotel

Shattuck Hotel and BART Station from Bing images

We were there to attend (among other things) a session at the iconic Shattuck Hotel on writing memoirs. Having worked in that neighborhood for many years, the hotel itself brought back many memories. The lobby had been remodeled since my last visit but the upstairs meeting rooms were the same.

As the memoirists discussed their process, I flashed back to one particular day in 1995. I believe it was in the fall, not long after the lean, fast-paced company I worked for had been swallowed by its parent, a whale full of corporate babble and blubber called TRW.

th-3If you’ve ever worked for a monster company you know the first thing that happens in these instances is reprogramming. Shortly after the “we have taken over but don’t worry” announcement we were signed up for a session in “corporate expectations” at the Shattuck and ordered to attend, regardless of our work loads or even what we did. Facility manager, receptionist, janitor – it didn’t matter. Of course, we all knew the end was coming. Reprogramming is usually either proceeded or followed by “corporate restructuring.”  And sure enough, as we sat in Shattuck, our new lords and masters laid off friends who’d been excused from the reprogramming so they could be fired, a brain-dead effort to appear kind that back-fired. I don’t know what they were thinking because at lunch the news flashed through the Shattuck, causing several members of my “class” to storm out of the session, middle-fingers raised in salute to our instructor who was just some poor rah-rah from Cleveland where TRW was called T.R. Wonderful.

The temp

Me, on the first floor of the SS Milvia.

We were all friends then, just a happy tribe of musicians, artist and writers who supported each other while working our day jobs.  Email was in its infancy and required keystrokes, thus it was the medium through which we could bare our souls without upsetting the purveyors of corporate values.

IMG_1900

The SS Milvia, once the home of pirates and outlaws, now modernized.

The SS Milvia where we all worked and played is still moored about a block away from the Shattuck. After the class in memoirs I wandered past it which was a mistake.  Someone’s modernized the facade; they’ve probably also replaced those sabotaged toilets that flooded the lab the day we were uprooted to Oakland. And fixed the elevator that froze between floors every time the big guys got rowdy. I’m sure the foosball table is gone. I’m sure it’s no longer a shoes-optional building.  And I’m sure no one working there uses email to start a flaming debate about abortion or the death penalty. Those times have passed.

I stood and looked at the SS Milvia until the memories whispered good-bye, its time to move on.

Have you ever wandered past a place once held dear and wished you hadn’t?

The Serendipity of Blogging

Today I’m honored to be interviewed on Jeri Walker’s multi-faceted blog Word Bank, Make Every Word Count.  

Isn’t that a great title for a blog – “Make Every Word Count?”  Every word should count, as every word has the potential to provide hope or reinforce despair. Writers should take a stand with their words which is why we all need an editor – to save our sorry hides from the “really pretty,” the “kind of sad,” and all the weak-kneed phrases we hear day in and out that filter in and grind our work to pablum.JeriWB Square Logo Small

Jeri is one of this blog’s earliest and most supportive followers and thus is worth her weight in gold and silver and diamonds and/or chocolate. On her blog she features tips on writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and more. One of my favorite posts is Writers Workout Memoir prompts which I urge you to check out if you’re interested in writing a memoir.  IMG_0584

In the serendipitous world of bloggers, old souls attract each other. Jeri and I were both raised in dusty western towns whose prominent citizens were the owners of bordellos and saloons, where cowboys came in once a week for a bath and a lay and to spend a week’s paycheck and a night in jail.  I’m happy to say that in February she’s agreed to post one of her essays on my blog. Can’t wait!

Has the serendipity of blogging drawn you across space and time to a kindred spirit?  

This post was inspired by Linda G. Hill’s Just Jot January series!  Please check out other #JusJoJan Serendipity posts.