Did you or did you not once study to become a stenographer? (I could be hallucinating but I’m trying to recall if that was you or someone else.) – Siyabonga Sithole, Chicago, IL
It’s true. I did study to be a stenographer. I have an unnatural love of typing. Honestly, I think part of the reason why I have a blog isn’t because I want you to read my rambling about Sea Monkeys and hatred of blister packs, but because I’m looking for an excuse to type. I can’t explain why, but I really, really love to type. It makes me happy. I could possibly do it all day long.
With a love of typing in mind, I thought of careers where I could make a decent income doing that and the best prospect was being a stenographer. I originally took classes at a community college near my hometown in Mississippi but the teacher had never worked as a stenographer and had learned about it as recently as about 2 months before she started teaching it to us. So after a semester there I moved to Texas and studied at Kilgore College. The teachers were quite competent at Kilgore – much more so than my teacher at Hinds.
My first semester went swimmingly well. I found learning the theory of shorthand stenography to my liking – it was like learning a secret language. The problems for me started in my second semester when we started working on speed. I was dreadfully slow. Imagine, if you will, being able to play a piano concerto and never miss a single note but you were only able to play it at about 1/4 of the speed that it was supposed to be played. That’s what it was like for me. Evidently, finger dexterity is not one of my strong points (which was proven when I was tested for my aptitudes at Johnson O’Connor in Dallas). I had suspected that this was the problem, but Johnson O’Connor verified it. It was possible that I could get up to speed at some point in time but there was no guarantee that I would ever reach the required 240 words per minute at 98% accuracy that is required to pass the NCRA certification test. After two more fruitless semesters attempting to improve my speed I decided that maybe I just wasn’t meant to run the proverbial “four minute mile.” It was at that point in time that I accepted a job on the made-for-television movie “The Initiation of Sarah” and subsequently moved to Shreveport.
And while we’re on the topic of Shreveport…
How have you survived so long in Shreveport as a person who knows what it is like to live in another place? – Jessica Chrestman, Shreveport, LA
I think the first thing I’d have to say is that I came to Shreveport with several things working in my favor. The first was that I already had friends living in Shreveport when I came so I wasn’t starting off in a new place alone. One of my best friends, Caroline, is from here and I had been coming to visit her for close to ten years before I actually moved here. So I already knew Caroline and many of her friends. I knew my way around town. Also, when I moved here I had a boyfriend who lived here and a job. I won’t say I moved here because of one or the other, I think either on its own probably would not have been enough, but the decision was definitely based a combination of those last two things.
Possibly most importantly, and what I think anyone should keep in mind when moving to Shreveport, is that I kept my expectations realistic.
I’m from a small town. Vicksburg’s population is under 30,000 and its county-wide population is right at 50,000 so I grew up accustomed to having to go to other places to enjoy things that many people who grew up in larger towns took for granted. My closest Chick-Fil-A was in Clinton (40 miles away) as were the closest decent movie theater, the closest Target, Best Buy, Gap, Old Navy, etc. I’m not saying Vicksburg is a bad place to live. To the contrary, I would dare say that Vicksburg is home to the finest and friendliest people in the world. People who move to Vicksburg are often surprised to find that within the first week of moving into their new home they will be greeted by all of their neighbors – almost all of whom will come bearing cakes, pies, or casseroles because, as everyone in Vicksburg knows, “Nobody wants to cook while you’re unpacking.”
So, coming from a small town, I appreciate the fact that I’m able to enjoy some of the creature comforts of larger towns. There are things to do, and more importantly, there are plenty of things to enjoy if you spend the time looking for them. For example, Shreveport has a ballet. I don’t go into their productions thinking I’m going to see the American Ballet Theatre because, quite frankly, we don’t have the money or resources to support it. Most of the principle dancers here are going to be high school kids with an occasional Centenary or LSUS student. However, I believe that they put on quality performances that are worthy of being seen. They do bring in guest dancers from other ballets (for the Nutcracker in December they had two dancers from the Tulsa Ballet and for Aladdin in March the feature performer will be Mary Jane Hobgood – a Shreveport native and friend of mine who is an excellent dancer studying at the Joffrey Ballet in New York). The Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet goes to great lengths to make performances enjoyable and as professional as possible. The important thing is to remember that you’re not in New York and you’re not going to see a performance worthy of Lincoln Center but you’re definitely going to see something better than your typical dance recital.
The same thing goes with Mardi Gras. I suppose I was spoiled by attending more Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans before the age of 21 than most people will attend in their lives (save those who are from the New Orleans area). Every year my mom’s friend Naomi would load up twenty or thirty people and we’d pile into every nook and cranny of her 3 bedroom apartment which overlooked St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. We’d wake up (or stay up) and see the sun rise over the Mississippi River. We’d walk across the street and get beignets from Cafe du Monde for breakfast. Naomi knew all of the best places to see parades and the best places to eat. We wanted for nothing. I experienced Mardi Gras that way every year from the time I was in grade school until I was well into college. But here’s the thing: once you do Mardi Gras in New Orleans I don’t think it’s possible to do it anywhere that compares unless you go to Venice or Rio de Janeiro. In Shreveport, Mardi Gras is more of a pasttime than a passion. Once you’re aware of those things, you can either enjoy it for what it is or you can pass on it altogether.
So, to make a very long explanation short: I think the way I live here without much of a problem is that I enjoy Shreveport for what it is. I don’t put excessive expectations on it. If I feel I can’t enjoy something at face value then I usually don’t participate in it. I like the fact that I’m able to see more avant garde films at the Robinson Film Center. I like that I’m able to get sushi and Greek and Lebanese food (my favorites). I like that I’m an easy 3 hour interstate ride from home in one direction and Dallas in the other. I think there are plenty of opportunities to make Shreveport an enjoyable place but it’s just like everything else in life – if you compare it to somewhere else, you’ll always be disappointed.
How much do you love me. Discuss amongst yourself. – Erin Olsen Peters, Auburn, AL
I think it’s hard to quantify how much I love Erin Olsen Peters. The short answer is “a lot” but there’s more to it than that. I have to say (and this goes for several people) that Facebook, for all of its distractions from daily life, has been a blessing for me in many ways. I’m notoriously bad about keeping up with people unless they’re in my face on a regular basis. Before social networking came along I’d sit around and think to myself, “Boy, I sure do miss ___. I wonder what they’re up to?” and then about 10 minutes later I’d forget about them again. People’s phone numbers and addresses change. For those of you who searching for me who had an address or telephone number for me from this time last year, you’d be out of luck because neither of them is the same. After you left Ole Miss I knew you had gone to Auburn but that was something like ten years ago. Without Facebook it’s quite possible that you’d be one more person who was lost in the shuffle of multiple moves to multiple cities (yes, I realize you’re still in Auburn but I’ve moved close to a dozen times since then).
Believe it or not, this isn’t about social networking. It’s about Erin. But it’s true, without Facebook you’d be lost in the shuffle. I am quite thankful that through Facebook I’ve been able to keep in constant contact with you and to rediscover what a good friend you are. You’re always there when I need a shoulder to cry on or when I have a funny story to share. Our epic poke war (which I’m yet to be able to explain to my mom… she doesn’t understand the purpose of a Facebook poke) means that several times a day you’re on my mind – because sometimes you don’t need to say anything, you just need to be reminded that someone’s out there thinking about you.
What do you want to be when you grow up? And favorite non-SEC team and favorite mascot? – Evelyn Hundt-Malone, Las Vegas, NV
Ahh, a two-parter. Well, we’ll start with the second one because it’s actually the easier of the two to answer.
My favorite non-SEC team is Oklahoma State. I would have never given even thought about cheering for them had Ole Miss not played them in the Cotton Bowl in 2004. When I heard of our matchup I was dismayed. Ole Miss had played the University of Oklahoma in the 1999 Independence Bowl and I found their fans (or at least the ones I encountered) to be atrocious. The people sitting next to us were rude and obnoxious – constantly shouting for OU’s defense to “Break Deuce’s (McAllister) fucking legs so he can’t walk again.” I feared that my Cotton Bowl experience would be similar and was very pleasantly proven wrong. The Oklahoma State fans proved to be friendly and seemed to understand sportsmanship once the game was over. We were greeted by dozens of complete strangers before the game who said, “Good luck” and even more after the game who told us “Congratulations. We hope to play you again sometime because this was a lot of fun and you guys are great.” The people tailgating next to us invited us to have food and drinks with them while we were waiting on traffic to clear out after the game and in the hotel lobby we were continuously congratulated by OSU fans and told how much they enjoyed being around Ole Miss people. I was absolutely shocked by how nice they were and I vowed that from there on they would be my second favorite team in college sports.
My favorite mascot would have to be Big Red
from the University of Western Kentucky. I’m not sure what he is, but he’s so cute I can’t help but love him. (edited to add: Puddles
from the University of Oregon is a close second because ducks are awesome)
Now… on to the tough one. What do I want to be when I grow up. There are several things that I enjoy doing but I’ve never figured out how to make any money doing them. I know that other people make money doing them, but I’m not sure how I would go about doing the same. So here they are, in no particular order:
Make up Artist
Architectural Model Maker
I actually do all of these things to some extent fairly regularly (other than making architectural models, but that’s on my list of things to do) and enjoy all of them immensely. Like I said, I just haven’t figured out how to make money off of these things.