Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's The People

I've mentioned that I run a small (teeny) business from my luxurious basement office (hole under my house) and I've often spoken (whined) about deadly deadlines. Before becoming an entrepreneur I worked for several large companies. Never one to give up (unless it's a diet) I struggled for a long time to fit in to the corporate world, especially at the executive level. Lucky for me I was laid off in a huge sweeping restructuring before I had a heart attack.

For a long time after leaving the corporate world I was angry and bitter, I felt used and discarded. It was hard to admit failure but then I realized I hadn't failed. I had just not succeeded at a place I didn't belong. Was I angry and bitter that I had never been accepted into the NFL? Of course not! Clearly I don't belong in the NFL - although I do think I could do wonders for morale in the locker room.

My stint as Little Miss Executive taught me how to run a business, how to read financials, most of my computer knowledge was gained there. I got to travel on an expense account and best of all, I met the most wonderful people.

Even after all this time has passed many of these folks are still friends today, some are also clients - the ultimate compliment, when you like and respect a peer enough to put your livelihood in their hands.

I miss the travel a lot, it's hard to be free to travel when the travel isn't free!

Mostly I miss the daily interaction with people I love.

I've also been missing Brooklyn more than usual this week - I think I just miss my brother and my nieces or maybe "It's the Pizza".

Missing Brooklyn and missing the people I worked with came crashing together this morning into missing one of my best work buddies - I'll call her Brooke since she'd probably hate being praised, loved and missed. That's one of her best attributes - she has self-deprecating down to an art form.

I met Brooke while on line at the bank. We were both cashing our paychecks - yep - direct deposit didn't exist! How did we ever survive. We got to talking and quickly realized we had both heard terrible things about each other - politics and gossip are two things I don't miss. Being the intelligent, open minded, wonderful women that we are we decided for ourselves.

We are both single Moms, both workaholics, and we both have ties to the "hood" - in particular the Broadway of the old neighborhood - commonly referred to as "the avenue". I lived near the avenue, her Mom lived near the avenue. Brooke will grudgingly admit that, as our friendship grew, it became apparent that her Mom liked me better.

In all the years of working together no one could cheer me, calm me, inspire me quite the way Brooke could. We have a similar sense of irony, we both delight in the absurd, and we're both quick and sarcastic although Brooke is far more subtle which makes most people think she's nicer than me. She most likely is.

As the atmosphere at our workplace became more toxic our need to escape became more necessary - and sometimes more crazed. We absolutely drank too much and stayed out too late. I don't do that much anymore but I don't regret a moment.

Our little group of workplace survivors was priceless. We were regulars at all the best dives and me and Brooke were the Den Mothers of the table. We sheltered the youngins, we dispensed advice, we picked up checks, we arranged taxis and we had a grand old time.

And oh how we entertained! No subject was off limits. Nothing was sacred. The most favored victims of our sharp tongues was us - our families, our appearance, our bosses, our clients, and most of all - our shared Brooklyn background.

Our best routine was the fantasy business we dreamed up - "Mourning Becomes You" was to be a small store on "the avenue". It would cater to the love the natives have for funerals and grieving. All 100 of the Roman Catholic churches within a mile of the store would recommend us. We'd be rich and infamous.

"Mourning Becomes You" would carry a full line of black dresses, black veils, black gloves, black stockings and black shoes. We never got around to the men's line - not sure why. We would also carry ready-to-heat casserole dishes for all your sympathy visits. If the meatballs aren't perfect you insult the dead!

As the workdays became more impossible, our fantasy business plan expanded. We decided to include a novelty section to bring in the tourists. T-shirts - "Mom and Dad went to Uncle Vito's funeral and all I got was this black T-shirt" was going to be a big seller - of course we would personalize it for the two people who didn't have an Uncle Vito. Purple and black candles - when you're feeling romantic while mourning. Postcards of all the best funeral homes. The possibilities were endless.

We would entertain the table, and mostly ourselves, with our business plan. We used all the stereotypes of the old neighborhood to our advantage. We embraced the craziness of some rituals - much in the same way as was later used in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". With love and respect and humor. If only we had not been working so hard, such long hours - we definitely would have come up with a screenplay, a companion piece to "Fat Wedding". "Ladies of the Pews" perhaps, or "My Delightfully Dark Day" or ...

I can't continue without my partner in crime and sarcasm.

I thought I'd give a little glimpse into the luxurious basement office (hole)

The desk where all the magic happens

The boxes and boxes of work - a lot of it is done or I couldn't be talking to you right now

The long cluttered path that would take me to the closet where all this crap belongs if I had the time and strength to go there

And the first thing I see each morning as I make my long exhausting commute into the hole under my house. No wonder I need a doughnut!


Michael Manning said...

Dianne: That isn't a messy office. That's a "work in progress". I too don't miss Mr. Executive. I missed the Talent side of my work too much.

Dianne said...

A "work in progress" - I like that, thanks Michael.

kenju said...

An interesting post, Diane. I think your Mourning Becomes You business would have been successful, especially in a large metropolitan area.....LOL

I am at the stage of life in which I need to stop working (or slooooow down), but I would miss the poeple so badly that I cannot bring myself to do it.

Dianne said...

kenju - your arrangements are art, I couldn't imagine stopping if I produced something that lovely. slowing down might not be a bad idea though, we probably all could do with a bit of slowing down.

I always imagined "Mourning Becomes You" being featured on some AM show - it really would play in Brooklyn LOL