Block 801: October 3, 2015


I’m again sitting on my balcony. It’s 8:17pm, the light is dimmed low, there’s a glass of red wine next to me, and I’m wearing an oversized chunky cardigan I pulled from costume stock this morning at work.

The only way I could be any more #basic right now is if I had a Vanilla Spice candle burning nearby.

Date: October 3, 2015

Crane: 801

Days Spent on Project: 956

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: TBD

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve been obsessively listening to “Don’t Think” by The Chemical Brothers all day. It’s super aggressive and ecstatic, and it has been helping me to walk to work as if the Portland sidewalks were my own personal catwalk.

I first heard it when I went to see the movie “Black Swan.” It’s used in the hallucinogenic club scene.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I don’t really know where to begin tonight. I’m feeling a little uninspired today, but I’ve had moments when I couldn’t manage to get my mind thinking straight about a few projects I want to do.

I spent all day combing through about 5 weeks of receipts for work. Thinking about the quantity of the, I suppose it didn’t take me that long to do– about four hours for four company credit cards and over 100 transactions among them. I feel confident that I’ve got all the budgets for 11 shows updated now. I feel like I went through my labor reports for all the employees that I’ve hired, too; we’re on track right now, but I now I need to find at least two or three people to help out immediately… or this show isn’t going to get done on time.

I’ve come to the realization that advocating for yourself (and speaking specifically about me… myself as a human, as a designer, as a gay man, as a shop manager with a staff of a minimum of 6 people reporting to me) and also trying to please everyone around you is nearly impossible.

If I want to advocate for improvements for my shop’s space, for more labor money, for more realistic budgets for the projects we take on, for more time, for cooperation and for accountability between other departments, for more responsibility, for more (better?) challenges, for more of a say in the planning…

I have to figure out a way to do that without being The Bitch In The Costume Shop.

I replaced someone who avoided confrontation or direct communication. I’ve been told- by the people who worked under him- that he developed a large victim complex, taking on the burden and the stress and the jobs other people threw at him, even though he was drowning and suffering. Maybe he thought victimhood suited him. Maybe that made him feel special or important.

I am not that.

I work hard. I do. But I do so because I enjoy working and being busy (and I thought that explained why I thrived and enjoyed working on the east coast as much as I did). I don’t do it because I want people to feel sorry for me or pity me or bad. I do it because I like to work.

(If you haven’t guessed this, in the 956 days that I’ve been writing this blog, I don’t socialize much because I don’t think I do it well. I like to. I do. But I’m shy and can be quiet at first, even though in the right situations I can also be an overwhelmingly big people person.)

I’m working hard here because I know my job isn’t just managing the costume shop at a regional theater; it’s about redirecting the Titanic as it silently faced down an iceberg that would eventually sink it. I’ve been employed here for less than 15 months. A lot of stuff has changed. A lot of stuff still needs to change. I have a lot of goals to accomplish and problems to fix and conversations to start. But, I’ve started them. Progress has been made. It has. That is evident.

And more is coming.

But I really have to be the advocate for “my” shop and “my” employees. And it’s hard work. This isn’t easy.

And I know I’m seen as a little irritating sometimes. I’m aware of that. Most of the time, I’m doing it intentionally. Because I know that after 15 years of having someone who never advocated or raised his voice or stood up for his department, the best way to fix it here is to start applying the brakes and making people aware of the problems that ALWAYS existed. Problems that ALWAYS existed but no one was made aware of.

I know I may not make people happy all the time, but I think I’m making people happier with the product and the workload and the output and the process.

I believe that.

I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I feel like I’m making progress.

And progress is slow and earned and hard. There’s no way around it. If I want to keep making the progress that I feel is needed Here, I have to stay Here. I have to commit.

I want this job to invest in me. I want to be paid more. (I’m very aware that I’m on the low end of salaried employees here and in the regional theater market in general.) I want to design here. (They did, after all, tell me I would be designing here.) I want, ideally, one additional full-time employee in the shop and I want that person NOT to be from Portland. I want them to come from another theater so I can continue to show how other theaters run and how this theater should run. Portland is great, sure it is, but it does have a chip on its shoulder in a big way.

One day at a time.

One step at a time.

One goal at a time.

it’s Saturday night. I just poured a second glass of wine. It’s 8:49pm. There’s a lot to do here and, maybe, in the years ahead this job and this experience and this city and this work WILL get better.

But I have to keep steering away from that damn iceberg that my predecessor starting sailing towards so many years ago.

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