Prowling the Domain/Guinea Pig in Waiting (Blog posts from 2007.)

–Tuesday–3/27/07–I decided to check out the employment prospects at The Domain, the new hoity-toity shopping development a few miles from my apartment. James had taken me through it once at night. It had looked like a downtown area full of ritzy shops, restaurants, and apartments, bisected by narrow streets. James, with a straight face, said he couldn’t see a difference between this and the shopping areas of European cities, such as the Champs-Elysees.

So Tuesday I got off at what I thought to be the closest bus stop and walked through several office parks along the Mopac frontage roads. And walked. And walked. And walked. And walked. And finally said, “This is ridiculous.”

The frontage road ended, and turned and looped around back under Mopac and headed the other way. How the hell do you get into this place? (Apparently a lot of potential shoppers are having trouble finding the entrance as well.) I wound up crossing a vacant lot that was choked with cacti, walking over two railroad tracks, wading through some mud, and slipping through a gap in a chain-link fence, and getting in that way.

I’d also brought my camera with me to take pictures of everything—it occurred to me later that might not be such a good idea—would a guy with a really expensive camera around his neck look like he was desperate for a job?

I’d only been in one Neiman’s before—in 1984—the flagship store in Dallas, where I almost bought a genuine straw boater hat for myself. The new Austin Neiman’s is all right, I guess, but the main thing that impressed me were the hundreds of white cellophane butterflies hanging from wires attached to the skylight over the escalators—that and the Lalique glass display.

Naturally, they had the Human Resources office hidden out of sight. I asked an employee where it was and she told me, said she was going that way anyhow and would walk me there, then upon seeing my camera, added, “Are you a journalist?”

It was like a Buck knife in my belly. I explained that I was in fact a journalist, but an unpaid one, that I was coming to Neiman’s to look for a job, and that the camera was for my own personal pictures.

After I got onto the main avenue of The Domain, I was struck by how many people were around, shopping, eating, loitering around the fountains or under umbrella-shaded tables. Did none of these people have to work for a living? I had an excuse—I was essentially unemployed.

In one central plaza I saw a huge, attractive outdoor fireplace. Highly impractical in the hellishly hot climate, unless it’s been designed for roasting children on spits.

A few shops were hiring part-time clerks. A restaurant had me fill out an application, then told me to come back for a mass meeting Tuesday. But I don’t know how well I’d work there, since as the years have passed my hearing has become worse and worse and I’ve gotten to where I can’t hear a goddamn thing in most restaurants, due to the noise and the loud background music.

I applied at Macy’s too for some reason, and they wanted to interview me on the spot for a full-time job in the housewares section. But I don’t think I told them the things they wanted to hear, and anyway, I wouldn’t be comfortable in an environment with a monthly sales quota. I’ve done a lot of retail work, but it’s all been very soft-sell.

Now in the paper there had been an ad for a Border’s Books job fair being held way the hell down at an airport hotel southwest of town. I couldn’t get down there. But I saw the new Domain Border’s had a “Help Wanted” sign up. Inside the clerks were only barely aware of the job fair. When I asked about applying they tried to hand me a card with the company website address on it. I told them I’d applied that way before and never heard back. I asked what was the best way to get my application noticed, and didn’t get much of an answer. Then I asked if they liked the new store better than the old one, and they said they didn’t, especially since the new one is under-staffed. So I wound up just sending my resume to the e-mail of the dude running the job fair.

It took 15 minutes to walk from the south-east edge of the mall to another bus stop. The bus arrived quickly, and the driver was so busy asking me questions about The Domain she missed my stop. (I had planned to go to Office Depot for some income tax software—I spent $20 on the 2006 version and it sped things up immeasurably and saved me tons of money….

But since I’d missed the Office Depot stop I headed over to Firebowl Cafe for a stir fry dinner instead. Afterwards I walked by my neighborhood art house cinema and saw a line that stretched around three corners of the building. I’d seen lines like this at regular cineplexes for “Star Wars” and “Batman” movies and even certain chick flicks, but never at the art house. I asked what the line was for and was told “The Namesake.” Then everybody looked up with beatific smiles, as if they were about to meet Jesus.

Only then did I notice that just about every Hindu in the Hill Country was in that line. I said, “Wow, then I better hurry up and finish the book.” I saw a trailer for the film, about two generations of Indians living in America, months ago. Then later I proofed some pages of the book at work. Finally I got so interested I bought the book and am almost finished with it. It officially opens here on Friday.

As for the rest of Tuesday night, let us pass over that with little mention.

–Wednesday–3/28/07–I woke, still tired, and prepared for the day’s project, which was about half medical and half job-related: I was going to a pharmaceutical testing company for an evaluation to see if I’d make a good paid guinea pig for manic-depression meds.

All the way down there in the bus I kept seeing signs of madness—mine and other’s. For instance there was one homeless man who every 30 to 60 seconds gave the “thumbs up” gesture into the air to no one in particular.

I watched another young homeless man unpack his clown car-like bag, evaluate his meager possessions, then pack them all back in again. Only about 16 hours before, ___ had threatened me with homelessness and the loss of all my possessions and I had stated quite clearly that I would that I would never allow that to happen to me, no matter what I had to do to avoid it.

And though the temperature was in the upper 70s or higher, I saw a tiny woman—maybe 5’2”–waiting for the bus while wearing a thick winter coat, muffler, wool hat, ear muffs, mittens, foul weather boots, and the whole bit. Just as the bus opened its doors, she worked her mouth around, and caused her lower dentures to protrude all the way out of her mouth, before sucking them back in again and boarding.

And then at the offices of the medical testing company, after I filled out my patient questionnaire, I found two well-worn magazines staring at me from a coffee table—the top one being a “People” that chronicled Britney Spears’s recent nervous breakdown. The TV on the wall was set to a local news channel. One of the newscasters mispronounced a local place name and I winced—had I been at home I would’ve yelled out a correction at the TV—but I couldn’t do that in the medical testing office –don’t want to seem too crazy now, do I?

I have no idea if the guy who evaluated me was a doctor or just a young man with a beard, a questionnaire, and some xeroxed diagnostic sheets from the DSM-IV.

I talked for at least an hour; he asked a bunch of questions, but it felt like a B___ monologue. Every now and then he’d ask me if I had another certain ailment or malady, and more often than not I did. He wasn’t that interested in my suicidal thoughts and excessive crying, but concentrated on my childhood seizures, whether or not I hear voices inside my head, any manic episodes, my OCD and germophobia, and the fact that meds often have the exact opposite effect on me than is intended.

Ultimately he said he was leaning against a diagnoses of manic depression, and concluded I was probably just deeply depressed with high anxiety. Maybe I’m Manic-Depressive Stage II, which is a milder form of manic-depression. I might qualify for one of their regular depression trials, but my seizure history might exclude me. He offered no advice, nor did he direct me anywhere for treatment. He did, however, have the really annoying habit of staring out the window from time to time while I was talking—I wanted to ask, “Am I boring you here, Doc? Is there some other place you need to be?”

Not too surprisingly, I walked out of there whistling Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” convinced I had a hell of a lot more wrong with me than I’d first thought, but not being especially upset about any of it. I was utterly without hope of help or a better future, and realized total disaster could be weeks or even days away, but I was accepting of it. I had really enjoyed talking about all the nutty stuff that’s been going on in my head the last few years without that talk involving yelling, scolding, or nasty recriminations.

[4/5/07—I just heard back from the pharmaceutical testing place. They turned me down for their current studies on account of my history of seizures, though I might get called in for other tests in the future.]

I took another bus to the UT area. I passed where I’d lived from 1992 to 1994, only to find the building had been demolished to make way for another high-rise. I went to St. Austin’s Church, and prayed and took some pictures, but felt rushed for some reason, though no one else was in there. The Drag was looking worse than ever—dull, lifeless, sparsely populated, with just a few generic chain businesses here and there. No life. No excitement.

I applied for a job at a cool new academic bookstore located in the former home of Tower Records. While I was prowling I found a remaindered book on a subject I’d considered writing about—the Grosvenor family that ran “National Geographic” for several generations. I also saw an amazing coffee table architecture book I really wanted. It was quite expensive, though, so I added it to my mental list of things to get when I start making some money again. The funny thing is that two nights later I was at my computer at home and reached two feet to my right to grab a sheet of paper and I noticed I already had this architecture book, thirteen books down on a tall stack.

After the bookstore I went for a late lunch at a Thai restaurant. I had to piss badly, so I went through a door and down a long, twisting corridor, only to find the men’s room locked. I thought, “Screw it,” and went into the ladies’s room, forgetting to lock the door. Predictably enough, a young female kitchen employee walked in while I was mid-stream. Embarrassed, she quickly made her exit. So what is the Thai custom? Do I have to marry her now? Are her daddy and brothers and male cousins gonna come after me? I was tempted to call out the line from that old song, “One Night in Bangkok:” “I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine,” but concluded that’d be way too gay-sounding.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s