Ethical Misconduct?

Tell me what you think. Here's the scenario:

A partner at a mid-sized architectural firm supports a particular candidate for mayor. Nothing wrong with that. Certainly people are entitled to hold political opinions. This same partner, we'll call him "Bob", has sent emails throughout the mayoral race encouraging his employees to vote and making his personal endorsement well-known. Okay, an email or two is no big deal, right? - easily deletable (although I have to wonder if Bob would appreciate receiving political endorsement emails from his employees in return…).

Early in the election, Bob went from cubicle to cubicle with voter registration forms to make it convenient for anyone who wasn't a registered voter. Perhaps he was simply being thoughtful; in fact, I'm willing to give him that benefit of the doubt. In a firm-wide Monday morning meeting, Bob announced AGAIN his choice for mayor and AGAIN encouraged his employees to vote. That same Monday morning, Bob called various (seemingly random) employees into his office to invite them to a $250-per-plate fund raiser event for the candidate of his choice. Now, despite the fact that Bob personally paid for the dozen or so employees to attend this political tete-a'-tete, does anyone else find his actions to be, not only highly unprofessional, but bordering on unethical? Or is it just me? Granted, I tend to become hyper-sensitive (okay, and little defensive) when people (especially people in authority positions) try to force-feed their opinions to me. And it's quite possible that I take these sorts of things far too seriously, but it seems as though some kind of commonly-held workplace understanding of privacy and respect has been breached.

Isn't it an unwritten rule that topics of politics, religion and sex remain untouched in the office environment, ESPECIALLY between bosses and employees? Sure, I've had discussions with co-workers that have fallen into these three categories, but rarely while in the office, and the keyword there is "co-worker"…not my boss. What would've happened if one of those employees had responded to Bob's invitation with something like, "while I appreciate the thought, I do not support that candidate's ideas, plans, or platforms and wouldn't feel right participating in a fund raising event."? Or, "I feel by attending this function and allowing you to pay for my ticket, this would compromise our employer/employee relationship."? Even if Bob were an easy-going, amiable sort of guy (which he is not), declining his offer would be an intimidating option by the very nature of the employer/employee dynamic, especially to those who are new to the firm.

Imagine if Bob went around the office inviting people to attend a particular sermon at his church on Sunday or encouraging everyone to celebrate a certain religious holiday. Or what if he decided to make a large donation to NOW and invited a group of employees to attend a pro-choice fund raising rally with the excuse that it would be a viable business contact and the possibility that we would have a better chance of being hired for future work?

Yes, I realize the whole schmoozy, contact-forming ritual is often vital to a business' success. And as a leader of a business, the smart thing to do is to cultivate relationships which would potentially have a positive impact on your business. I am not so naïve as to not understand that. Still, essentially coercing your employees to support a candidate that MAY throw a little work your way IF he gets elected mayor does not seem right to me. Unethical maybe - unprofessional at best.

To each his own. If Bob wants to support candidate A for mayor, that is absolutely his prerogative and I would not begrudge him that. If Bob feels it is in his best interest, and that of his business, to make a large donation to candidate A's campaign, again, he has that choice. And if Bob wants to show his support by attending a fund raising event for candidate A, by all means, go go go! But I cannot endorse political bullying or manipulation. And it's not even about where a person stands in her or his political/personal beliefs. Nor is it about curtailing discussions or debates with friends and colleagues about sensitive topics.

I'm not suggesting that politics, or any controversial subject, be tiptoed around - political correctness be damned. Freedom of expression is good in a workplace, especially in a work environment that promotes creativity and divergent ideas. But an employer (and a founding firm partner) bringing politics into the workplace and blatantly attempting to influence people whom he employs, is a whole other can of worms that I find questionable and distressing. Would Bob directly or indirectly discriminate against an employee who did not agree with his political views or methods? I don't know. It's sticky. But, regardless of Bob's real or perceived intentions, it was poor judgement from a person who is in a leadership position.


Zuchinni Heaven

So, my papa has always tended a garden. And even though over the past 15 years my nana has persuaded him to diminish its borders, somehow they still end up with bushels of extra produce that they are forever thrusting upon family members and neighbors and friends, and even the local food bank.

So naturally, when I was in Erie for a visit a couple of weeks ago, I was sent home with baskets of corn and tomatoes and green beans...and zuchini. For some reason, the most prolific vegetable that comes out of my papa's garden year after year, decade after decade, is zuchini. I like zuchinni - no really, I do. But, as I may have mentioned before, I'm not a terribly accomplished cook and there's only so much I can do with zuchinni. Mostly I grill it. But really, there comes a time when you've had enough zuchinni-grilling.

Today, I was down to my last prickly green squash and ambitiously decided to make my nana's zuchinni bread (it's 102 degrees and I decide to bake - yeah, so!?) My nana's zuchinni bread is by far the best zuchinni bread (or any vegetable bread really) that I have ever tasted. I imagine this is due partly to the fact that even though the name sounds deceptively healthy, it is really-bad-for-you stuff. But, hey, a little zuchinni bread once a year isn't gonna kill you. Once a week, yes. Once a month, probably. Once a year....naaaaahh!

I set about grating the last zuchinni with my ancient, but oh-so-handy-dandy cheese grater, greased and floured two loaf pans (yes, I actually own two loaf pans) and preheated my oven to 350 degrees.When I would "assist" (and I use the term "assist" loosely) my nana with the zuchinni-bread- making process as a child, we/she would blend the ingredients together in an enormous bowl, by hand, with a wooden spoon. Seeing as how this is the year 2007, I instead opted for my gleaming white Kitchaid stand mixer and chucked all the ingredients into that contraption instead.

The ingredients consisting of: 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 of baking soda, 3 cups of flour, 1 small can of crushed pineapple (drained) - no seriously, it may sound weird, but it is SO good, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, and 2 cups of freshly grated zuchini (and squeeze as much of the liquid out of it as possible). In her old age, my nana has been known to sometimes toss in raisins as well. Nobody likes raisins in their zuchini bread, but somehow this always comes as a surprise to her. So, if you're a raisin fan, like my nana, go ahead and put the little dried things in there, but I do not recommend it.

So, ya know, you just mix all that up real good - but not too much - and then pour it into the two pans as equally as possible, and bake for about 50-60 minutes. And voila!, zuchini heaven!


Ode to Jersey

I never realized what a negative reputation the state of New Jersey has until my sister moved there recently. When I mention this fact in conversation, I get responses ranging from, "Why?" to "What'd she DO?!" to "Willingly?".

Despite it's nickname as the "Garden State", I have been informed by various people that it is an ugly, unpleasant and foul smelling state. Hmm. New Jersey. Oil stain on the highway of life? Armpit of the east coast?

Recently, I read that the state of New Jersey has selected it's new advertising slogan: "New Jersey. Come see for yourself" This new moniker beat out such gems as: "New Jersey. What smells like feet?" and "New Jersey. Oooh. Livin' on a prayer" and "New Jersey. Now D'ya See?".

Poor New Jersey. Being known largely for your smokestacks and traffic jams, and being regarded by your fellow states as a dump, your self-esteem surely suffers. When you are famous (or infamous, rather) for the overwhelming graft and corruption that permeates every aspect of your government, it must be hard to hold your head high. Being tormented by overcrowdedness and high crime rates must weigh heavily on your shoulders.
Ridiculed as Manhattan's lower-class industrial cousin, New Jersey must have some redeeming qualities, right? Afterall, why would so many people live there if it was really that bad?

* New Jersey is the birthplace of bubble-wrap
* New Jersey has the most diners on earth and is known as the Diner Capital of the World
* The Sopranos…need I say more?
* The Jersey shore is the only place in the world where horseshoe crabs lay their eggs.
* The first dinosaur skeleton in North America was found in New Jersey.
* 15 minute train rides to Manhattan.
* New Jersey provides two-thirds of the world with it's eggplant crop!

Tough, gritty, diverse Jersey.
Rough around the edges Jersey.
Fast and sarcastic Jersey.
Sly eyes and gold smile Jersey.
Ghetto-fabulous Jersey.


Pizza, Pianos & Pandemonium

We all went out for Jen's birthday Saturday night - me, Jen, Jen's new boyfriend Chad (who I LUV), Kimberly and Ted, Angela, Dynasty, and Alan. The plan was to meet at Chad's and then go over to Mafiaoza's for dinner. Good plan. Except, due to the newness of Chad, I had no idea where he lives. Jen helpfully informed me that his condo is about 4 blocks from Mafiaoza's, but since I had never been to Mafiaoza's, this bit of information was of relatively little use to me.

As we all know by now, I have this uncanny ability for getting lost no matter where I'm going. Which is why I have come to rely heavily on the directional wisdom of Google. But, when I talked to her on the phone, Jen wasn't sure of Chad's exact address, so she gave me directions that went something like this:

Ummm…let me think…coming from your place…uh, you'll want to take 40 to 440 and get off of that exit…Wood-something-or-other…you know the exit…the one right after 65 and then you take a right on 8th and then another right on Bradford and then you'll see a bunch of condos eventually…some of it is still under construction so you'll see it…and then you turn onto Knowles…and you'll see my car and then just call me…I can't remember which number is his. We have reservations at 8 and I'll probably get to Chad's around 7:15-ish…you're wearing a dress, right?

Oh dear. As I frantically scribbled down her directions, (which might've been adequate for anyone except me), I optimistically convinced myself that it didn't seem too difficult and was sure I could find it. Ha!

Note to self: Accept your limitations and do not delude yourself into thinking they do not exist.

Needless to say, I never did make it to the new boyfriend's condo and instead ended up finally stumbling upon Mafiaoza's (with the kind assistance of Chad via phone, which is just one of the reasons I LUV him) at 8:40 where I was greeted with relief and snark...mostly relief...but a little bit of snark. Pizza was eaten. Wine was drunk. We eventually decided we would take two vehicles downtown and go to the new piano bar next to Paradise Park.

I was whole-heartedly in favor of this plan for two reasons: 1.) I wouldn't have to drive and 2.) I had been eager to check out this piano bar thing since first hearing about it. Now, I don't know about you, but when I think "piano bar" I envision a dark, smoky, lounge-like environment with low, comfortable tables and chairs and an atmosphere of casual sophistication. Sorta jazzy, ya know? My first clue that this was not going to be the experience I was anticipating was the sign outside of the bar announcing its name as the "Big Bang Piano Bar".

As we were waiting in the mile-long line stretching down the sidewalk, Dynasty realized her ID and her ATM card were missing from her bag. This realization, of course, induced a state of general panic, and after calling the restaurant to see if any IDs or ATM cards had been found and being told that no, no such items had been discovered, Dynasty, Alan and Angela went in search of the plastic leaving Jen, Chad, Kimberly, Ted and I waiting in the Big Bang line.

We were finally ushered in among throngs of drunk, sweaty writhing bodies. It was SO crowded (nuts to butts, as Casey would say) and very hot, and not at all what I expected. Yes, there were a couple of pianos being played by a couple of guys, but it was raucous and campy and disappointingly sorta Tin Roof-ish (for the Nashvillians who are familiar with the Tin Roof). It was also reminiscent of the dueling pianos at Juniors (for the Erieites who are familiar with Juniors).

So, we're all standing there with our overpriced drinks and because all of the other singletons went in search of Dynasty's ID and ATM cards, I was the dreaded fifth wheel.
Apparently Chad knows EVERYONE in Nashville...(yes, even you - you may think you don't know him, but you do) and he and Jen went off somewhere so that Jen could be introduced to some of the vast numbers of people Chad knows. Kimberly, Ted and I were standing there sweating and being jostled by the crowd when suddenly Doug was standing in front of us. (FYI - Doug is Jen's ex-long-term-boyfriend-more-recently-sometimes-fuck-buddy-who-doesn't-yet-know-about-Chad). Can I get a "DRAH-MA!"?

Meanwhile, Dynasty & Co. have located the missing plastic cards in the trunk of her car and are now standing outside in the line to get into the Big Bang with the rest of us.

Kimberly, Ted and I (after talking uncomfortably with Doug for a few minutes and surreptitiously scanning the crowd for signs of Jen and Chad) maneuver our way over and down to the bar where we find Jen and Chad and a bunch of the people Chad knows (including Paolo who, despite calling me "babydoll" and giving me a big hug upon being introduced, I couldn't help but like).

Finally, Dy, Angela, and Alan were admitted inside, quickly found us, and more introductions were made. And after a mere ten minutes or so, Alan turned to me and shouted, "are we at a frat party?! please shoot me now". Hee. Alan cracks me up and I could totally sympathize.
And then, the greatest thing happened…wait for it…a brawl! Yes, friends, an honest-to-goodness bar brawl. Right in front of us. Things were a blur as Alan and Angela and I got shoved into one another and were drenched with someone's spilled drink amidst the yelling. Beer bottles were being broken, shirts were being ripped off. And there we all were - a huddled group of well-dressed thirty-somethings shielding our heads with our arms and trying to stay out of the way.

When the bouncers finally got things settled and the broken glass was cleaned up, Alan (who, by the way, is a very stylish gay man) says, "I so would've joined in except that my hands are so swollen from the damn heat I can't even make a fist!" Maybe next time Alan...maybe next time.



"I'm just not the person I should be sometimes"


But, just so I'm clear about this . . . that disclaimer gives you license to behave however you want? - to be as narcissistic as suits you? It excludes you from having to take any responsibility for your personal relationships, right? It's a statement that offers vague apologies, but requires no real explanation, yes? Just so I'm clear about this.

Those words that I can count on my fingers. Those are the only words you owe me. Those little words are the words you will be remembered by. Those words that leave a bitter taste in my mouth and an ache in my chest. Those words will stubbornly nudge out the happy memories. Those are the words that will, in the end, define three years.



Warning: Irrational Bitch Session Below

Last night I had a tennis match. My opponent and I played in 106 degree weather for nearly two hours. It was brutal. And, naturally, on the day I'm playing in HELL, my opponent and I are actually well-matched, taking nearly every game to deuce (and beyond). The heat was giving her severe stomach cramps and giving me goosebumps, but by god, we finished the match! (yes, I even ended up winning)

Afterwards - exhausted, over-heated, dripping with sweat - all I wanted to do was get to my apartment to pick up work clothes and then get to my temporary home and jump in the pool. And for some reason, everyone on the road with me was driving excruiatingly slow. Putting along at 40 in a 55 zone (Goooooo!)...coming to a complete stop before making a turn...and just generally being uncommonly pokey and annoying! I was hot and cranky, so maybe some of it was merely my imagination, but for the love of god, Get. Out. Of. My. Way!

Finally made it (after many exasperated sighs, curses, and gestures), only to find the pool water a disappointingly lukewarm temperature that wasn't cooling in the least. Blah.


Day Three

of housesitting -

I'm here in a strange house that is slowly becoming familiar. The multitude of various light switches are beginning to make sense. I've figured out how to work the television and the toaster (though not the DVD player). The bedside alarm goes off when expected and the temperature control is predictable (though I'm not brave enough to mess with the alarm system yet and I made Melissa work the oven).

To those not familiar with the novelty of housesitting, it's kind of like staying at a hotel...no, actually, it's more like a vacation home you visit infrequently. It's fun. Being in a new environment. An environment with a pool and a hot tub and cable. Enjoying the atmosphere of exposed brick and wood floors and cathedral ceilings. The photos lining the hall, and the books on the shelves.

Call me crazy, but I get a little thrill living in an unfamiliar domain. There's a degree of satisfaction in picking up the mail, and taking out the trash, watering the plants, caring for the pets. It's a little detour out of ordinary.It's almost like I'm pretending to be an adult. The grown-ups are away and I've been left in charge. A giddiness. Hee. Not that I'm hosting wild parties or having illicit encounters...unless you call a few thirty year olds enjoying the pool and drinking mimosas wild (hey, what can I say, we're a crazy bunch).

I'm sure there are people who are professional housesitters (dontcha think?) and although I wouldn't give up architecture to pursue a career in housesitting full time, I am looking forward to spending six more days in my temporary home. Fleeting. Fun.