Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Eulogy For Borders

[Author’s Note: Yes, I know it’s been eons since I updated this blog. I’m going to have to try to do something about that, but this was too important to me not to write about]

When I graduated college in 1999, like so many before and after me, I had to look for a job. Having a degree in film/video and not knowing anyone in the industry in addition to being unable to take a no/low pay job for “experience,” this proved difficult. I temped for a short time that summer, but working in offices downtown while being dressed up and being folks’ gopher was simply not for me. One day that fall, I came across an ad in the Chicago Reader that a new Borders store was opening in the suburbs and was hiring. I patronized Borders occasionally as they had an excellent music section and the novelty of being able to get coffee and browse in a retail environment was still exciting. So I applied to work in their music department. One quick interview later, I was a Borders employee. I figured I’d work there for several months until I could get my foot in the door elsewhere.

I worked there for seven years.

The first few years there were the best. Most of my co-workers were fun and like-minded, and many years later, I am still friends with some of them. Even though we were a big-box chain, the corporate office gave the stores enough leeway that it still felt somewhat independent. We could cater both our displays and inventory to suit the interests and needs of our community. I worked in the music department at first, and somehow ended up being the classical music specialist – all those years in band helped I guess. We had quite the extensive music selection back then, and at the time DVDs were just becoming popular, slowing pushing out VHS tapes. Customers would ask for me by name to help them out with their music requests. That was not uncommon – many staff members had areas of expertise in the store, and employees and customers alike would depend on them for both recommendations and assistance in figuring out obscure titles. Most importantly, we had fun working there – I have countless stories of time spent there (most of them involve clueless and/or crazy customers) that still make me chuckle all these years later.

Over the years, I made my way through the ranks. I managed the music department & the cafĂ©, became the inventory manager and by default the second in command behind the store’s general manager and even opened and worked at a different store for a year before returning to my original store with a promotion. During this time, Borders went through a series of transformations, all for worse. There were countless “restructurings” seemingly on a yearly basis: they shuffled the managerial and supervisory positions so many times even I forgot who reported to whom. With an influx of people outside the book business hired to top positions at both corporate HQ and the district level, the company climate changed. Gone was that independent feel of the stores – an emphasis was placed on making all stores look the same and inventory was no longer catered to a store’s community – Borders became less bookstore-coffeehouse, and more Wal-Mart. I could go on and on about the piss poor decisions that Borders made throughout the years that led them to this untimely end, but I’m sure you can read up on that at any reputable business website. I will say this – the steadfast refusal of corporate Borders to listen to their employees in the field is the main reason the company is where it’s at today.

I saw the writing on the wall five years ago. Many good employees were driven out of the company, and I was following them. Seven years of retail takes a toll on even the best employees (I still don’t like Christmas as much as I once did), and seeing as both my pay and the enjoyment of working there was low, it was time for me to go.

I am sad that Borders seems to be on the fast track of closing its doors for good. Without Borders, I would be a different person today – working there taught me many life skills I doubt I’d have today. I also wouldn’t have met so many great people over the years. I would probably have not fallen into so much debt, as my book and music shelves can attest to even to this day. Perhaps with Borders fading away, the once booming business of small neighborhood bookstores can make its return. I hope for that, but considering the success of the Amazons and Kindles, sadly I think the brick and mortar book business may be on its way out for good.

Both stores I worked at are on the closing list. I am waiting to hear from folks that still work for Borders (albeit temporarily), when their last days are. I was there when those stores opened. I will be there when they close.

I wonder how Tom & Louis Borders feel right now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Public Service Announcement

When I started this blog nearly a year ago, my intent was to include a little bit of everything that interested me: art, politics, media, sports, current events and the like. Well that didn’t exactly happen. Caught up in the excitement of what was to become a truly magical experience, I started blogging about the Blackhawks. And blogging. And blogging some more.

Therefore, I’ve decided to become a split personality. Introducing....

Geek Misconduct

This blog will be the depot for all of my hockey rants and ramblings, so if that piques your interest, follow along. You can also keep tabs on my hockey brain farts on Twitter as @GeekMisconduct. I’m sure all three people who read this blog for other things are breathing a sigh of relief.

This is not to say a brick wall will be constructed between both blogs. I’m sure hockey will still bleed over on here from time to time, and likewise some nonsensical ramblings will go on at GM. But I thought it best to separate the two, not only for my sanity, but for yours.

For those of you who have been following along with me on here, I sincerely thank you. Now if you’d excuse me, I have to finish writing a post about baseball ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can You Take Out A Home Equity Loan For Hockey Tickets?

I guess it was to be expected - team wins a championship, tickets become scarce. But when single game tickets went on sale for the Blackhawks last month, I did not expect to be completely shut out. Of all 41 home games. Except for standing room (fuck that). Or the exorbitantly priced 100 level seats (fuck that even more).

I already had issues with the Hawks’ ticket sales because not only did they raise ticket prices again (I can’t say I blame them - supply & demand) but they also divided parts of the 300 level into *3* price levels. For serious? There’s only 17 rows in most of them for Chrissakes! They also have dicked around with my brother’s season tickets - they wanted to move down a couple rows because they sit in the second to last row of their section and folks in standing room basically invade your personal space the entire game. I can attest to that - I used my brother’s tickets to see the preseason game vs. the Wings on Saturday and Amy had to put her arm out to prevent some guy from basically resting his junk on the top of my head. Eww. In any case, the Hawks ticket folks refused to move my brother and his seatmate (even though most of the seats in the rows in front of them are not used by STHs) unless they wanted to move down far enough to be in a more expensive price level. Way to take care of your loyal fans. But why would the Hawks make any concessions to them? The waiting list (which I am a part of) is miles long and they could find someone to take my brother’s seats, probably at the non-grandfathered price range to boot. Hey, the Hawks organ-I-zation is still miles above when Dollar Bill held the reins, but boy can you tell John McDonough is in charge - he pulled the same shit when he was with the Cubs.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

They're Ready For Their Closeups Mr. DeMille

Btw...Sunset Boulevard - EPIC film. I love mes some Gloria Swanson.

In honor of the first night of the preseason (Blackhawks' first game is tomorrow night - w00t!), I've decided to have a little fun with various players' official team photos. I stumbled upon them over the weekend when I printed out the Hawks roster for training camp, and some of them are too funny. Now there are plenty of pictures of myself floating around that look much worse, but I don't make millions of dollars either, so I won't feel too bad about the mockery.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training Days

June 9th seems so far away at times - especially since I had to endure a horrendous summer of Cubs baseball which made me miss hockey even more. But finally, the party's over, the hangover cure has been ingested and we're on the cusp of the 2010-11 NHL season. With the Chicago Blackhawks as your defending Stanley Cup champions, of course.

Training Camps used to be several weeks long, but with the playoffs running into June, preseason games and now these "Premiere" games in Europe (WTF NHL - do we really need games in Sweden, Finland *and* Prague?), camps are now merely days. That doesn't leave time for players on the bubble to make the big time a lot of opportunities to make an impression, so these camps are much more intense that they probably were a few years ago.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Roadtrip Recap: Fin.

OK, at this point it's been a month since the roadtrip (and I honestly have more interesting topics to blog about, like the 2010-11 NHL season OMGOMGOMG) and I know I've lost what little audience I had to begin with. But goddammit, I'm going to finish this, if only so when I'm 79 and back in diapers, I can read this and remember. And we better have flying cars by then too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pass the Pigskin

When I don't have to turn the a/c on for several days in a row, when I see surly teenagers walking to the local high school, when I begrudgingly have to remember where the hell I put my hoodies, this can only mean one thing: IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON.

The Chicago Bears have a rare gift in this city - they're truly the only team in Chicago that the whole city is united for. Sure, the Blackhawks were hot shit this year, but half the folks in their Byfuglien jerseys (haaaaaaaa...suckers!) probably thought icing was what you put on a cupcake two years ago. Notwithstanding, hockey still has nowhere near the number of fans of the other "Big Three" sports in this country. The Bulls? The 90's were great in the Jordan/Pippen/Jackson era (hell, even *I* watched the NBA playoffs then), but when MJ left, so did the Bulls hold on the city. Cubs/Sox? I'm surprised they don't ask on birth certificates in Chicagoland which team has your alligence. Nothing divides this city like bickering between fans of the two teams. The Bears have always been *the* team in Chicago. The waiting list for season tickets is decades long, people fight over who inherits them in wills (seriously) and no matter how bad the team sucks, Solider Field will be full come December when the windchill is 20 below zero and a handful of men will paint their chest orange and navy and go shirtless. And then they will have frostbitten boobies. I was in 5th grade during the illustrious 1985 Super Bowl season, and this city went bat shit crazy. Nothing could ever top the feeling and excitement - unless of course if the Cubs ever win it all, and I think Chicago will just burn to the ground if that ever happens. I think part of the reason the city was so caught up in it was it was Chicago's first championship since the Bears won it all in 1963 - and there wasn't even a Super Bowl then. Decades of pent up frustration came out that year - it was one big party from September to January. People from that team are revered as saints in Chicago - I mean if Mike Ditka decided to run for Mayor, he'd win in a landslide. Actually my pipe dream would be a Ditka-Oprah mayoral race. Now that would be fun!

My class did a rendition of the Super Bowl Shuffle. I was Mike Richardson. That should tell you how popular I was :P