A Rumination on Labor Day

I have written in another place about Labor Day, about the commemorations of working folks and the organizations that allowed them to gain some traction against the rapaciousness of ownership and management that plagued days past, as well as the consumerism that has risen to take the place thereof. We are united more in buying the products of labor devalued than in promoting the dignity and worth of that labor–and, maugre the heads of those who want to talk about “respect” for the worker, the only measure of regard that seems to matter remains money, and most folks chafe at the cost of even “skilled” trade-work, let alone the “low-skill” work that makes most of their days proceed smoothly and well.

The "Burger Flipping" Rule — Free to Pursue
Because, of course, this kind of work doesn’t deserve any dignity…</sarcasm>
Image taken from Free to Pursue, used for commentary

As I might have noted elsewhere, I’m in a pretty good professional position at the moment. I head a nonprofit agency, small though it be, and it’s one that does good work. If there’s some difficulty in the offering, that’s true in most places. I am treated well by my employers (I answer to a board of trustees), and I work to treat my employees well (it’s a small nonprofit, so I can’t pay as much as might be hoped, and there are limited benefits, but I do what I can for them). I, at least directly, am relatively insulated from the conditions organized labor sought to address and still, in the limited ways available to it, works to amend.

It has not always been so, of course. I have been a union man (UAW Local 2110), and I have worked the kind of “low-skill” service jobs that attract so much attention through their employees’ calls for parity and higher wages. I have noted in those jobs the demands for perfection in every action; every footstep taken must be perfect, every gesture done just so, or “Let me talk to your manager” rings out in a quiscaline chorus that is all too familiar a refrain. “Low-skill” work isn’t, not when any perceived–not actual, just looking like it might be–misstep means the money stops.

As you ply the sales today, those who will, remember that the day is not supposed to be for you. It is supposed to be for those who have to face the croaking, rasping calls of “I know the owner” again and again. It is supposed to be for those whom I am told are moving towards striking tomorrow and the next day–and at whom you should not vent your anger. Because you are more like them than the ones against whom they strike, and their success will do more for you than the others’.

Support my continued labors?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 129: Ship of Magic, Chapter 28

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Vicissitudes,” opens with Wintrow being taken to be tattooed as one of the Satrap’s slaves. Thus marked, he is returned to the pens where the slavers keep people imprisoned, smarting from the pain of the tattooing and from not being redeemed by his father. He rebukes himself for having had hope of rescue.

“Wintrow Vestrit”
Not really sure if the Vivacia tat’s supposed to be the whole ship or just the figure head. Decided on the figure head.
It’s a good image of the young man.
Image from emmitys on Tumblr, here, and used for commentary

At anchor in Jamaillia Bay, the Vivacia mulls over her separation from the Vestrits. Gantry, the first mate, tries to console the ship, to no avail. She presages doom to him, but he does not take the warning.

Elsewhere, Althea–posing again as Athel–attempts to sign onto the crew of the Tenira liveship, the Ophelia. She manages to talk her way into a berth among the crew, and is told to report to the mate, Grag Tenira. Happy at her success, she makes to retrieve her kit, noting to herself that she will not see Brashen again.

Brashen, meanwhile, seeks a berth on the coastal trader Springeve. He suspects it of trafficking with pirates and is reluctant to engage, but financial straits and a dearth of his preferred stimulant, cindin, motivate him. Through bravado, he manages to secure a solid berth at the ship’s mate, and he makes to report to his new ship, thinking a bit of Althea and wondering if he will still be known in the Pirate Isles.

Wintrow wakes, still a captive, and learns more of his situation from another held with him. He is soon herded off and assessed, as if so much livestock, and soon is put up for auction. Kyle sees him and offers an insultingly low initial bid; it does not pass. At length, he is sold, Torg taking him in hand and hustling him off to be tattooed again, marked as slave to the Vivacia, herself.

In the Farseer novels, Hobb positions her protagonist as distinctly other than the typical fantasy hero. I’ve argued the point, so I’ll not rehash it–but I will note that Wintrow seems to be in much the same mold, made even more so in the present chapter than he had been by the earlier parts of the novel. By being made a slave, and one not even claimed by his father, he is placed into a particularly abject position, one even more tenuous and precarious than his predecessor, Fitz. It marks him as perhaps the focal character of the Liveship Traders novels, as well as reinforcing just how execrable Kyle Haven and the institutions in which he participates are.

Given continuing events surrounding the composition of this little piece, I have to think that more people need to be reminded more forcefully of that execration and its lingering effects.

I’ll be holding off for next week’s commemorations, Monday and Friday. I could use a little help in the meantime…

Not Quite Another Office Piece

It has been a while since I last wrote about where I do my writing. Most recently, I opined about culling quite a bit of material from my home office; previously, I wrote about my then-new work office and my home office, with no few others before and amid them. I’m still in both of those offices at present; I am still working at the substance use facility, and I am still living in the trailer. But another place has emerged as a site where I write, and, since I’ve got something of a history discussing such places, I figured I ought to give it a spin.

It looks like this, if less clean and less urban.
Image is Patrick M. Hoey’s on
Car and Driver, used for commentary

I’ve noted that my daughter, Ms. 8, is enrolled in dance and cheer classes and is thriving in them; both remain the case. Of course, with concerns occasioned by COVID-19 and the recommended measures for balancing safety with access to activity, there have been some adjustments to how the classes are conducted. One of them has been that parents of most students in the classes are asked not to sit in the classroom and watch, as had been previous practice. (The dance school where my daughter studies teaches a class for toddlers; that class is the exception). Over the summer, Ms. 8 was in two back-to-back classes, and, as she is no longer a toddler, I have been waiting for her in my car: a red 2012 Ford Focus SEL Hatchback.

Now, as I’ve remarked once or twice, I live in the Texas Hill Country. In that part of the world, summer evenings are hot affairs; the sun is still in the often-cloudless sky, streaming heat, and the warmth it has given to the ground comes back out from it in force, making for a feeling not unlike a toaster oven, if less injurious. (Not “non-injurious,” however; people die from the heat here every year.) I haven’t minded sitting in it, though; I’ve been able to get a parking spot in the shade, and, with the windows down, it’s tolerable enough. (I need to be able to handle the local heat, anyway; I’d not be much good around here, otherwise.) But that’s still left me with an hour and a half or so to fill productively, which is an awkward amount of time for a nap, so that was right out (despite my wanting to take a nap more days than not, anymore).

No, what I’ve tended to do is write while I sit in my driver’s seat with the windows down and the summer air baking. It’s a bit cramped and badly angled for me to write with pen on paper, even if I ought to be better about writing in my journal, and I don’t typically carry a tablet with me; I don’t have a laptop anymore and have not for years, now. But I do have a phone and a reliable connection to the internet through it, so I am able to email poems to myself. They’re usually the short ones I post on my less-formal personal blog, put together several at a time and strangely cathartic; I tend to be in a decent head-space to head home after writing them.

Admittedly, typing into a phone and sending emails to myself are not the kind of things I had envisioned when I started writing about the places where I write. But even in that medium and in that milieu, writing is writing, and it should be clear that I think it a thing worth doing.

I’m in a new fiscal year at work. Care to help me get it started off right?