Saturday, April 25, 2009

The sweet part of bake sales

Less than a week away until my Bake for Hope sale. Aaaggh! OK, now that I've got the nerves out of the way. For those of you who don't know, last month, I signed up to be a baker for the Phoenix area chapter of Bake for Hope, a nationwide effort to host multiple bake sales May 3-9. Well, it's been kind of a bumpy road from the start for me.

I originally pictured just baking some cupcakes and dropping them off somewhere. I decided out of courtesy to attend a planning meeting in another part of town. There were only four of us. Not a great sign. I could tell the group organizer wanted me to take on a bigger role than just bake--reach out to businesses, make fliers--all stuff a journalist does not like to do. But as the week went on, I was little peeved that they had only scheduled sales outside of Phoenix proper, one in some far off chi-chi pocket of north Scottsdale and one in a bedroom community of Anthem. That was the result I guess of most people living in other parts of metropolitan Phoenix. So, I made my own inquiries and calls and found a store in downtown Phoenix called It's actually a perfect fit. The store sells funky, vintage clothes and wigs. The owner gives discounts on wigs to cancer patients. They are right along the route of First Friday, which is the monthly art walk. Since I found the place and nobody else had stepped up, I was now the organizer too. Oh and then I figured out later by happenstance that I got the date wrong. I thought May 8 was the first Friday of the month. But wait, if you subtract 7 from 8, that still puts us in May. Good thing I figured it out last week. Of course, that means having a week less to do everything.

I've gotten practice in PR and outreach over the last couple weeks. I used Yelp, word of mouth--anything I could think of--to find people to bake, businesses that would donate supplies, post fliers. I have done a lot of this during my lunch hour because that's the only time possible. But one thing I've really enjoyed is seeing how generous people have been. Besides ShopDevious' owner, who gave me a big hug when we finally met, the cake decorating supply store almost without hesitation gave me about 200 cellophane treat bags to wrap stuff, a big tray, and breast cancer ribbon themed cupcake liners. My local Hallmark gave me about 30 Cards for the Cure to hand out. Sometimes I bring extra cupcakes to the staff at Massage Envy, where I always get a massage from the same woman, Demi, when I need it. I went in for a massage on Wednesday and asked a manager if they would post a flier. Later on, Demi told me all the receptionists were listening because they were getting ready to say something if the manager said no. I brought some fliers, which list all the sales, the next day and one girl said she was going to go through all of them and highlight mine. I said "I really appreciate this" and another girl said, "No, we appreciate you." She also said she was gonna try to come but only wanted to buy something I baked. Talk about flattering.

Last, but definitely not least, I've been touched by how much some of my friends want to help me. One friend, a fellow volunteer from the shelter, is going to make stuff for me even though she arrives back from a business trip May 1 at 2:30 p.m. And I've got two very special friends -- you know who you are -- who will help me the night before with organizing, packaging and labeling anything that needs it. It really feels like this sale just might come together. Still, hopefully I won't be too much of a nervous wreck until then. Can't wait for May 2 to get here, hehe.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Maybe I was once a gay man in his 50s...

OK, this cupcake thing is starting to border on obsession. Oh, who am I kidding? I crossed that border a looong time ago. Am thinking of seeking professional help.

Alrighty, onto other matters. So, one of the love/hate aspects of being a reporter is when you get one of those "person on the street" assignments. From time to time, I am asked to go out to whatever location with foot traffic and interview people about a subject. The last six months, it's been the economy of course. A couple days ago, I had to go out and literally play 20 questions with willing participants for a story gauging "America's mood" and whether they felt the economy was turning.
The American mood: Is the angst bottoming out?

A lot of times, I have to drag my feet to do these things because it's almost as bad as being a door-to-door salesman. You may get declined by five people before you finally get someone to cooperate. And then that person gives you crappy, terse answers. Lucky for me, this time that didn't happen. Instead of my usual Starbucks, I went to this Phoenix coffeehouse called Hob Nobs. The first guy I approached was amiable and articulate, a retired teacher with a part-time job at an art supply store. After that, I didn't think I'd come upon someone just as willing. Then this man and woman, co-workers, moved around me to get to a table. The gentleman said "well, maybe she wants to sit there." And I said "No, I'm just a reporter looking for people to talk to. The guy, Scott, said "Can you get us some stimulus money?" I said "No, but I can give you an opportunity to bitch about it."

Turns out Scott and his colleague, Kathleen, just heard some funding they thought was secure for a homeless shelter they help as strategic consultants wasn't going to happen. So, they were feeling a bit down. You know, sometimes when I meet people, I just never know where the conversation will go. It could be weird or nothing more than exchanging pleasantries. Somehow, even after the interview was over, Scott and I seemed to hit it off. Before you go oohing and wondering if I should go after him, let me describe him: gay 57-year-old Democrat. He studied British literature in college just like I did. We talked about that. I said I studied William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge; I even took a two-week seminar in Wordsworth's old haunt. He immediately said "Oh, the Lake District?! Isn't it beautiful? Couldn't you see old Willy and his sister walking to Samuel's?" He studied at University of Texas and at Cambridge. Scott told a funny story about how he studied Virginia Woolf and his father, who had never finished high school, thought for years he was studying the wolf. As a "Superman" geek, I think I was won over by his business card. His firm is called Strategic Change Management. And the logo is a little phone booth with only Superman's legs and part of his cape above it, as though Supes just took flight.

He is a foodie too. He asked me what are the last books I read. I said "Audacity of Hope" and "Julie & Julia." When I explained how "J&J" was about a woman blogging her experiences cooking like Julia Child, his eyes lit up. Then we had a really hilarious exchange. It started when I said:
"Did you know it's being made into a movie? Meryl Streep will play Julia Child in flashbacks and Amy Adams is playing the author."
"Bea Arthur?"
"No, THE author!"
"Oh...good. I thought why are they bringing back Maude?"
"But I did see Bea Arthur once on Broadway in her one-woman show," I said. "The audience was mainly fans of 'Golden Girls' and gay men."
"Sounds about right. My friend said Bea Arthur was the tallest drag queen he ever saw. I'm sorry Bea! Wherever you are," said Scott, looking up at the ceiling and around him.
"She's not dead you know."
"I know, but I just wanted to put that out into the universe."
I got his business card with promise to keep in touch. It all makes me wonder...does some part of me house a gay 50-something man?
Overall, one of the more interesting experiences I've had "out on the street." Guess that's what keeps me going along with these assignments.