The To-Do List, Item One

The To-Do List, Item One

My good friend (and now comedian) Jamie Bono has a neat podcast with his good friend Keith Brown called the To Do List. You should listen to it.

He is/was also asking people to submit their own to-do lists and do their best to get them done. In fact, the whole point of getting guests on the podcast is to catch up with them in the future and see how they’re progressing on their to-dos, while Jamie and Keith accomplish their own to-dos.

Blah, blah, blah, I got inspired and decided to share mine in segments with you. Here’s my annotated to-do list for you, item one.

1- Work for Dad
I’m currently “working” for my father’s wholesale replacement diesel engine part business. Okay, not really. So far I’ve reorganized my inbox and worked on a logo for someone else while sitting at a desk in his offices. But years ago, I promised my father that at some point in my life, I would come work for him (just for a little bit). Well, I needed to get out of town due to some stress at home in Pittsburgh (I fled so fast, I didn’t even pack socks for a month-long vacation), so I figured why not combine the two and make that happen.

I’m here. At the office. And that counts for something, right? The thing is, Dad wants me to make cold calls to prospective clients. Which, you’d think, I’d be good at. As I’m all chatty-chatty and extroverted. But I’m so nervous at calling strangers on the phone. It’s not what I do. Sure, I talk, but mostly face-to-face. I hate the phone. So much. People can’t see me smile on the phone. And talking to strangers, even if I’m selling them something they want and need, might be too daunting for me. I have no problem calling people that I’m going to buy things from. Or calling people to arrange their services. But calling people so that they’ll give me money? Yikes. I’m working on overcoming that. And I’m here till June 3, so I guess I have to do something. I can only read dlisted and file my email so much before even that gets boring.

It’s good to be back in the Valley. I have such a love-hate relationship with the place. I love the Mexican food, the four-lane roads, the cheap margaritas, Roosevelt’s, Alhambra, my good friends Luis and Angel, the proximity to the beach, and the bright-bright sun. I love the golf, and how men open doors and no one ever expects me to drive. I even like dressing up more than I ever do in Pittsburgh, just to go to a bar.

But this city, in so many ways, is a city of my past. Which is ironic, given how McAllen and Pittsburgh compare in terms of history and a brutal sense of nostalgia for what might have been. McAllen is a city on the rise. Economic development, new shopping centers, more night-life than a city this size deserves to have. But it remains the city of my past, no matter how shiny and new it really is.

Last night, at Alhambra, I smoked a hookah with Luis, and ran into some girls I knew in high school. It was really nice to see them, all grown up and business-minded. This morning, as I walked the puppy (who, by the way, loves it here as she has my parents’ dog to play with constantly), I thought about what disconnected me so much from this place, why I felt out-of-place at the lounge, why I’ll never full fit-in here, why people pause when I tell them I teach creative writing (“I always thought you’d end up doing something artsy,” they usually say) and that pause makes me more uncomfortable than proud, like I’m admitting that I think I’m superior or that I have chlamydia (neither of which are true, obviously). Perhaps it’s that I associate this place with business, with fast-deals and fat women, with old and true friends, with the border, with high school, with my parents, with Mexico, with guns, with violence, with Border Patrol, with citrus. But never with me. Or at least not now-me. Maybe just high-school-me.

I don’t think of myself as being from here anymore. Although, I really couldn’t be from anywhere else. And maybe, just maybe, nothing represents this more than working for my dad. Because here I am, sitting at this white desk, spreadsheets printed out before me, thinking about how I worked so hard and ran so far to never end up just here. And the truth of it, is that I don’t really know why I’ve spent so much energy leaving. Well, no. That’s a lie. I know why I left: I was miserable. I just don’t understand why I was so miserable.

One of my McAllen friends is thinking about buying a Porsche today. And another is going to finally learn to drive stick so he can use the Mustang Rouge (he currently drives a new beemer because it’s automatic) parked in his garage. No one says anything about my falling apart Jeepo (almost sixteen years old), but they don’t have to: I know what I don’t have. I don’t talk about how much I stress about money, it’s rude, and yet I find myself having elaborate conversations about how I have chosen to be poor, how I’m succeeding, how I’m not a failure because I’m not rich. I forget how much money people have here. How much they’ve always had. How much money I could have here. How much money I could make, on commission, at this desk. If only I applied myself. If only to please the old man. If only to get him to stop complaining about how I’m poor and an artist and not a rich business woman at all.

But I’m just staring at this screen, trying to figure out what it is I can do to pass the time. Without working, that is.