The Year of Living Detailed-ly

28 03 2009

Since early January I have spent a great number of hours unpacking everything we dragged back from Texas and trying to make room for it. In tossing out the old to make room for the new, I came across my green faux leather date book for 1983. At the time I had been out of college for about a year and was working as a graphic designer, illustrator and occasional copywriter for Jones & Jones, an ultra upscale department store.

By “ultra upscale,” I mean there was a really grand marble staircase dead center in the store and the store offered Judith Leiber handbags, Lalique crystal, (I recall a round coffee table priced at $20,000 in the jewelry department), incredibly expensive jewelry and Mont Blanc pens. Not one dress sold for under $200, and of course there was an ample (and avoided by me at any cost) fur department. One of the highlights of my career was being able to bring home $200-300 shoes (they all had to be size 7-1/2, of course) to finish pencil drawings for b&w newspaper ads. That’s the closest I will ever get to shoes that expensive. And yes, I did waltz around in them (on the carpet, of course) on sketching breaks. I have some sample ads from that time—when I locate them in my office, I’ll scan them and share.

Another highlight—when I showed an aptitude for photographing products, they allowed me to transport thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry to a warehouse to photograph in a makeshift studio I had set up (me, who wore stuff from Claire’s in the mall). A guard was there behind me when I left the store (and I was actually wearing a few of the pieces), but no one followed me over to the warehouse. At the time I remembered thinking they sure did trust me—but I also feared someone would jump me. I probably had nothing to worry about in the first place—if you saw someone driving a baby blue Chevy Impala (or was it the gold & brown Ford LTD?), with bling on their ears, bling around their neck, and bling dangling from their wrists, would you even give it a second thought that the jewels could possibly be real?


Later in the year I took a job with my photography mentor, Brian, in Brownsville, Texas. I served as Art Director on Jones & Jones ad and catalog photo shoots that Brian was hired to do. He was a joy to work with and I learned so much from him that when he offered me a job to be his right-hand gal, I didn’t hesitate—even though the commute was 60 miles each way (in that area a 60-mile commute took a hour—in the D.C. area you might get 15 miles under your belt in that time frame, if you’re blessed). We have maintained our friendship ever since. I learned so much the year I worked for him and assisted him on some interesting shoots—photographing an aloe vera farm/processing plant; photographing the world’s largest offshore drilling rig inside and out; photographing land development from a small airplane; and countless other neat experiences. I remember one time I was organizing his 35mm slides and came across a slide of my beloved John Denver standing next to a small plane with his father. Brian had met and photographed him years before! Sorry, I digress…

After just a few weeks of crying about having to fill up practically every other day, Dad gave me his “Panama Brown” VW diesel rabbit (it was pumpkin orange—trust me). He and Mom had relocated to the D.C. area at that time and he didn’t need the car for that job. It was perfect timing. When Dad commuted from our home in Donna to Brownsville to work at the port (in his career as a U.S. Customs Inspector), he would go to Matamoros and buy cheap diesel for the VW (at 12 cents a gallon; he told me he once tested it and determined he got 60 miles to a gallon—in comparison, one would have to spend $30,000 today on a hybrid and get less than 60!). Cheap diesel isn’t very clean and clogs easily, so he told me that if the car started slowing down while en route to work, I would have to pull over and stop, take out part of the back seat out of the car to access the fuel tank with a screwdriver, pick the filter screen out and shake out the gunk. I must have been quite a sight—disassembling my Cindy-rella pumpkin orange coach (um…sorry, Dad….Panama Brown) on the outskirts of a mall parking lot. More than once a stranger stopped to ask me if I needed help. I loved that car, though—I could drive for up to two weeks on just one tank! Disassembling it was quite an accomplishment and made me feel very mechanic-like.

Flipping through the datebook completely distracted me from the task at hand and made me laugh out loud many times. Apparently I was (intermittently and inconsistently) obsessed with recording any or all of the following: who I called or who called me, who came to visit or who I visited, what I wore or ate that day, what errands I ran and whether they were personal or for my job, who I gave money to and got money from, how much gas I put in the car, how many hours I worked on a given day, what movies I watched, and if I exercised or not (I apparently jogged an awful lot during those days—my datebook says so, even if I vaguely remember the pain of doing so). I was also a freelance photographer doing portraits and weddings so often the daily entries were filled with notes about upcoming portrait sessions, putting film into various labs, getting prints out, ordering enlargements, swapping prints for money, who paid and who owed, and delivering prints to people. I also felt it necessary to record whether the pets were fed, what they were fed, and how often. And apparently I had the cravings of a 10 year old because the combination of things I ate on any given day were strange.

One day some random guest at a dinner party might say, “Hey, lemme test your memory—do you remember what you were doing on Wednesday, May 25, 1983?” Armed with this newfound and useless information from my 1983 diary, I could confidently say, “Why, yes. As a matter of fact, I know exactly what I was doing that day!” You don’t know—it could happen.

First, a word of warning—names have not been changed to protect the innocent. And it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, so it will not win any writing awards, of that I’m certain. I’m just listing a few of the more colorful entries lest I put my visitors to sleep. That is, if that hasn’t already happened….Hey you! Wake up! This is good stuff! Errr…if you have nothing better to do, that is.

= older sister, Kelley = younger sister, Thelma = Kelley’s best friend and practically my 3rd sister; Rey = Kelley’s boyfriend; Bill = Debbie’s husband; Matt = my boyfriend; Daniel/Eddie/Jimmy/Ray = best guy friends; Margie = best girl friend; Brian = photographer and then my boss; all other names are friends, co-workers, or random people I photographed

Sunday, March 6:
Went with Mom to Brownsville to shoot pics of Las Resacas Condominiums for Dad (who was a part-time real estate agent); ran 1.5 miles with Ed and Jim; my solo photo exhibit “Padre in Color” show starts at McAllen International Museum

Friday, March 6:
Shot transparencies of Lalique bowls and Champagne perfume; worked on jewelry ad; ran one mile with Margie watching; Mrs. White paid $80 for pics; called Faith

Friday, March 18:
Work—a lot of drawing today; dropped off film at Rush labs; hamburgers at Sonic at 1:20; J&J jewelry clerk let me wear an $18,000 necklace, $5,000 bracelet, $21,000 watch, $1200 necklace—WOW! I drove over to photo studio to shoot everything; Jimmy called at work to borrow senior wrap for photos; drop off rolls at Rush for Brian at 6:00; dance at Southern Nights with me, Matt, and Greg to South Texas Wailers

Monday, April 4:
Work, put in trans. roll & 2 rolls C-41 120 color (portraits of family); got paycheck $231; Penny’s at 6:00 run through on lingerie show—I hate this project—it’s driving me nuts; Deb called me at Penny’s and said Fluff had 2 kittens; met Eddie and Jim at track but didn’t run then they came home with me for awhile; called Matt

Friday, April 8:
Fed Phu, Pepper, and Tuffy; finished cosmetic ad drawings; got halftones at Copy Graphics for Ritz proof; Deb called—Penny’s show was good, over $1000 lingerie sold; filled car with $10 gas; called Jimmy & Eddie; ate lunch at Whataburger; print engagement pics with Jimmy at Donna Events office and 8x10s of Andrea; Matt sent red roses, white mums & eucalyptus for our one year anniversary; Jimmy came by 10:30-11:30; Matt called late

Saturday, May 14:
Bought shoes and purse for Thelma for prom and did her makeover; bought almost $40 groceries with Thelma; did nothing else and no one came over (oh wahhhh, poor poor me)

Thursday, May 14:
Mom called in morning; worked on sale ads; called Cyndi’s father to change appt. to Monday at 6:30; lunch with Andy; cut hair with Joe at Barber shop after work (funny thing….this barber only knew how to cut women’s hair like Dorothy Hamill; he couldn’t do any other style—honestly, every girl in Donna, Texas looked a little like Dorothy—that is, excluding me—I looked like Dorothy on a really, really flat hair day. He displayed a wig on a styrofoam head that had half of the wig with normal shoulder-length hair and the other half cut—by him, of course—to show prospective clients what their hair might look like with “The Dorothy Effect” applied); ran 3 miles at track with Jim, Ed, and Pete and one mile from Jim’s and had lemonade (wow—there I am, running again!)

Sunday, May 22:
nothing; clean up; had supper & left at 9:30 pm-ish to Deb’s to chat with Gloria (Sharon’s mum) & Sharon (click on Sharon’s name and you can read about her brush with fame during her singing career–I really do remember the lyrics and the tune to one of the songs she recorded in Nashville—ask me to sing it to you some time); home at 1:30; Rey had house SPOTLESS

Here’s an excerpt (from memory!) from “Leaving You Will Never Mean Goodbye.”

I’m a thousand miles from Dallas
in a small California town
Trying to forget you
and the love I thought I’d found

I sold all of my possessions
for money just to buy some time
Cause I know my leaving you
will never mean goodbye

Wednesday, May 25:
Finished luggage ad; Andrea off; work full time on new father’s day ad; lunch with Jo; home sleep sleep; Ed called Jim there? No; Jim came by about 45 minutes later; Pete & Ed ran in and stayed till 10:00 and I fixed them tea (such a hostess, wasn’t I?); called Matt; Jaime delivered $25; I owe 189.40 not 199.40 as she wrote it

Sunday, May 29:
Sylvia” concert with Debbie, Matt & Bill (Sylvia was the Academy of Country Music’s 1982 female vocalist of the year)

Friday, June 3:
Go to Dallas for book buyer convention with Andrea; Andy took too long, plane pulled away and we almost fell over; she called the stewardess Sugar and the lady gave her the evil eye; Gary royally screwed up our tickets so I’m scheduled for Tahiti—nah; went to Neiman Marcus to look then McDonald’s for dinner (now there’s a contrast—Neiman Marcus and McDonalds); Daniel called about 8:00, saw his apartment, got cokes from filling station then back to hotel

Sunday, June 5:
Andy came in with tickets for Monday author breakfast and pass for me; met Lana Turner (autograph book) and Richard Simmons (autograph, hug, poster & kiss)—with his arms open wide, he yelled out my name when he saw me coming. I was shocked he knew my name! How did you? Whaaaa? Then I remembered I was wearing a name tag. Duh. Met Rosemary Rogers (despite the fact that I am not a consumer of romance novels, I did know who she was) and got book and her autograph; Andy went out with Bob and all; I called Mom and Kell

Monday, June 6:
Breakfast at 8:00 with authors, got autographs from Dick Cavett, Erma Bombeck, Shirley McLaine; picked up big load of books at convention, Leo Buscaglia hugged me and gave me autograph (if you know who Leo was, you know he was well known for encouraging hugs—my friend Andrea told him who I was and he ran up to hug me and I didn’t see it coming. I was shocked that a total stranger would do that; clearly he had me confused with someone else—then he moved away, laughing, and when I saw who he was, it all made sense. My friend Eddie, also a big hugger, was a huge fan of Buscaglia and his books—I remember being so excited to tell him about the hug!); meeting at Adolphus, lunch then met and talked with Art Buchwald in the lobby and got autograph; taxi to airport catch plane—big storm on the way home

Monday, August 1:
Fed Tuffy & Yuki; finished lady teen ad; Matt called; I called university to check if schedule is out; went to Alamo, red light came on, called Rey—had 2 qts of oil put in, $2.50; took car to Rey’s shop and waited for Matt to pick me up; he put 9 rolls of b&w and 1 slide in at Rush Photo for me; bought paper towels, kleenex from TG&Y; Thelma over for a bit; soup yams tea half breast jello; called Becky—designer shoe ad due today; called Shirley at Sun Valley news—ad due Weds.; cleaned up sewing room, dining, kitchen, fed pets again; designed another ad; Matt to picked me up and dropped me off at Rey’s—$87 for car—paid $20 down; cleaned up a bit; Alyce by to look at slides; Tab + cheese crackers + gum



2 responses

30 03 2009

you did a lot of running back in the day 🙂
you’ve lived (judging by this entry) a fulfilling life
it sounds exciting & something is always happening
i can’t believe you got to wear a $21,000 watch(!) 😀 that’s too cool

you’ve done quite a bit with photography throughout your life cindy
it was nice getting a background on who you are & how you’ve lived
i can tell you have a lot of respect for brian
thank you for sharing & no it wasn’t boring xo

9 04 2009
Bill Sapp

Good Morning, Cindy…..

This is your cousin, Mr. Bill Sapp, again and I’m responding to your 03/28/09 blog about “The Year of Living Detailed-ly.” To clarify on a point, I’m sure, but not 100% positive, ready to stake my life on it, that by the early to mid 80’s, you were driving the metallic blue 1978 Chevrolet Impala instead of the brown 1972 Ford LTD. By that time, I think your dad had gotten rid of the Ford.

You mentioned the orange VW Rabbit Diesel. I remember it well. In the summer of 1979, mother, Aunt Evelyn, Deana, Linda and myself drove out to your home in Donna, TX for a visit. Your dad took Linda and me out for a tour of Donna, and offered us the opportunity to drive the Rabbit, which at the time was new or at least, not very old. Linda took the wheel first and started off, revving the engine (I mean, like, really winding the poor, little thing up) between shifting gears. Uncle Mike, in his solemn tone (you know the tone I’m talking about here) in no uncertain terms, told her the shift out of first gear was to be done at a low speed, just to get some forward motion going, and then each subsequent gear was to be precisely shifted by the rpms on the tach. I think he had her pull over right away, end of driving the Rabbit and there was no discussing it. He then looked over at me in the back seat and said, “Billy, you want to drive it?” I responded without blinking an eye, no hesitation, 100% sureness in my voice, “no sir.” He laughed at me about that because he knew what was going through my mind. I’ve never forgotten that.

While on the subject of cars and of riding with your dad, I’m sure you remember the brown 1975 Oldsmobile 98 Regency? That was one nice car for its day, and even, for today. I remember him showing it to dad the summer of 75 when we were at grandmother’s in Georgia. I think he said it cost over seven thousand dollars. WOW! A steering wheel that tilts AND telescopes and a host of other goodies, NEAT! He drove all of us somewhere to go skating and Cousin JJ was chewing gum and he hated that. He told her to spit it out. He then went around the car asking “Cindy, you got gum?” “Lamar, you got gum… “Deana, you got gum… “Billy, you got gum?… GULP (swallows gum) no sir, I don’t.”

Just a little reminiscing on a Thursday morning……

Your cousin
Mr. Bill Sapp
Hamlet, NC

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