Living the Dream of an Adolescent Nerd

Every adolescent math nerd had the intention of becoming an architect.  We end up as industrial engineers.  The planet only needs so many architects.

We dreamed of designing fabulous huge homes and believed there was a huge need for architects that design fabulous huge houses.  Three guys succeeded in that dream.

This is one of them.  He does several styles of homes but I think his best work is his French Country/Chateau designs.  Which is the style that attracts my eye.



These are not huge houses.  Here is an example of a house he was asked to redesign.



Here is another project he was called in on.  Construction was in progress and the client did not want to tear out what was done.  Which added constraints.

Front:



Back:



An alternate design of the front elevation:



Adding these period details will easily double the cost of building the house.  And they continue inside.



Front door:



Could you call this home? Do you really believe you could unclench your asshole and relax in this house?

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Cynicism from a Pro

About the most annoying news obsession of this week was the endless speculation about how Obama would “do” with his speech at the Tucson memorial.  All the pundits eagerly awaiting “the speech” so they could hold up their scores as if it was an Olympic diving event.  This is my scorecard.

First let me piss off all the Oprah psychobabble types that buy into this “everyone grieves in their own way” thing.  No they don’t.  People that are grieving do not hoot and holler.  Nor do they spray silly string on their child’s grave.  Grieving people are suffering loss.  That does not involve any aerosol products aside from the spray cheese-in-a-can that a friend might bring to the mourner’s home.  I would recommend a chicken casserole but cheese-in-a-can might be the best some non cooks can do.

No one has a stadium full of people grieving their loss.  Not even Mother Teresa.  That does not mean that thousands are not saddened by the loss but it is impossible for one person to have thousands of intimate friends.  If you only know “of” me, you don’t need to attend my funeral.  You don’t need a “healing process” when I pass.

People grieve privately.  Memorial services are not about grieving.  Or about “the healing process”.  Attendees are there to show respect and admiration for the deceased to those that were closest to the dead.  I have never left a funeral and said “step one of the grieving process done”.  My departing thoughts are that I hope I expressed sympathy, empathy and my respect for the deceased to the family.  I have never done that with applause.

I want grieving at my funeral.  No aerosol cans.  Weeping, moaning, sobbing, people thrashing about and throwing themselves on my casket.  That is what I want.  My funeral won’t be about me.  It will be about those that survive me.  My wishes might or might not be carried out by my survivors.  I hope they do what they want because at that point, I won’t be bitching about anything they decide.  I hope those attending my funeral take the time to reflect on me and when they think back on my funeral, I hope the word that comes to mind is dignity.

No funeral or memorial service needs an emcee.  If the words “Please welcome to the stage…” are uttered you have a drag queen contest or a celebrity roast.  Not a funeral or memorial service.

Grieving people don’t attend a service wearing their school colors and sneakers.  I don’t hate my alma mater but it does not define me.  There is life after school.  Find it and abandon the rabid obsession with the school.

The Tucson memorial service was the first I have seen with a theme.  Sloganeering is part of the psychobabble.  It takes a marketing company to throw a memorial service today complete with souvenirs.  “My Mom attended Tucson and all I got was this lousy tee shirt.”  I wonder who holds the copyright for “Together We Thrive:  Tucson and America”?  If I had moved faster, I could have set up a kiosk outside the stadium and sold vuvuzelas.

The start of the rally – I mean memorial was odd.  Well not so much odd as incredibly asinine.  Where does Native American come into this?  And if we are going to lick the asshole of the politically correct psychobabble wackjobs, can we at least find a real Native American?  Is that one of those jobs that “Americans won’t do”?  Memorial services don’t have feathers and buffalo worship unless at least one of the deceased has some connection to Native Americans.  And if you can’t find a real Native American to smoke the peace pipe, consider skipping that segment and move on into the Wicca priestess segment.

Brewer was not the Wicca priestess.  I thought her speech was appropriate and tasteful.  Personally, I would prefer that she decline the invitation to speak but I suppose that was impossible.  That Napolitano imbecile that was supposed to prevent these kind of things from happening played the Wicca priestess role.

I don’t recall much about the Hernandez speech but I will say he was right about one thing.  He is not a hero.  He did what anyone would do if placed in that situation.  Do you think he would elect to be in that situation if he knew what was about to transpire?  I doubt it.  I guess he could have done some nelly screaming panic act instead of what he did.  He does seem to be enjoying his 15 minutes of fame and is playing the false modesty role to its best.  He should have declined to speak.

As should Holder.  What the hell does he have to do with any of this?

I half way listened to Obama.  Twitter was much more interesting.  The text of his speech was posted and I read it.

How many of the words of his “healing” speech do you think he wrote?  How many people consulted and strategized over countless iterations of the speech?  I would not be shocked to hear that focus groups involved.  Everything Obama does is for his own political image and power.  This speech was nothing more than another political opportunity.  A well practiced act feigning sincerity with words he did not write.  A speech written by Obama would sound closer to his beloved Reverend Wright than what we heard.  The words rang hollow.  Words must match deeds to be credible.  No one can “heal” a nation of people he leads but does not respect.

Days too late to be calling off the venom spewed by his political allies.  When you lead a political party that will make excuses for an ally involved in incest but thrill at every example of hypocrisy in their political opposition, you need to avoid that hypocrisy thing in your own life.  Your rhetoric should avoid “we will bring a gun” if you want to blame your opposition for Tucson.

Memorial services should never have medical updates and news flashes.  It is unseemly because it looks as if this little tidbit was deliberately withheld from the public so you could have an applause line. I want to be the star at my funeral.  I don’t want medical updates given of people that are considered more important than me.  Give me one hour of me, me, me as I depart this world and don’t try to upstage me in this hour.  I will do the same for you if you exit before me.

People that live their entire lives focused on political aspiration should envision themselves at events like this when choosing a spouse.  Don’t pick anyone that can’t carry off sincerity.  Also don’t pick one that looks as if she could have been a man in her early life.  Find one that has a sense of propriety.  If she lacks it, at least be sure she will listen to an image consultant so she won’t try to choose youthful fashion fads instead of clothes appropriate to a public appearance.  Also be sure she won’t try to feign tears.  If people know she is a hard ass bitch that is incapable of feeling empathy, don’t let her try to fake sorrow at your public appearances.

Some of life’s rites are too important to be used by politicians with overinflated egos.  Some of life’s rites should be solemn.  Politicians that use such rites to polish their image are amoral bastards and we should all feel humiliated that such a man leads our nation.  He as much as admitted that his choice to attend church in Chicago was because it furthered his political aspirations.  Not because he agreed with the moral tenets of the church.  Anyone that does that is evil.  Keep them out of your life and don’t let them show up when you are mourning the loss of a loved one.

I don’t recall seeing the families of the dead at this memorial service.  Politicians were front and center.  It was a star studded gala attended by people that have bought into the psychobabble telling them they “need a healing process” and politicians are the ones to provide it.  Politicians and a fake Native American medicine man.

The nation does need healing.  From uneducated voters that think a politicians should usurp the role held by religion for centuries.  Personally, I would rather have one sincere friend attend my funeral than the entire Obama administration.

When I die, I won’t be judging the importance of my life by the number of people attending my funeral.  And don’t feel an obligation to attend if we were casual friends.  In the months following my death, check on those that were closest to me.  Be sure they have a healthy stock of spray cheese-in-a-can.  Don’t feel like you have to remember me as a saint because even the best actor could not pull that off with sincerity.  If given the choice of peeing on my grave or having a politician attend my funeral, I’d opt for the pee.  A politician at my funeral is not my preferred desecration.

Posted in Politics, Rambling | 1 Comment

Dear Honored Guests

You are my guest for a reason.  I wanted you as my guest.  The vast majority of my guests are gracious and I was delighted to serve as your host.  This post is not addressed to you.

However.

There are others that are malcontent assholes.  This is addressed to them.

And its mostly about my mountain cabins.  I assume you chose to stay in one of my cabins because either you don’t have one or if you do have one, its rented out.  I also assume that the rental fee for my cabins of free fits your budget.

Jason and Josh work for me.  Not you.  They are eager to make your visit pleasant and provide everything necessary to make you comfortable.  But they are not your bitches.  They belong to me.

These cabins were not cheap to build.  I wanted them to be as isolated as the land would allow which skyrocketed the cost, especially the cost of providing the utilities and roads for the cabins.  There are surveillance cameras in the cabins.  Not to watch your boring life while you are my guest.  For security when the cabins are empty.  I can’t prove to you that no one is watching you while in the cabin.  Take my word for it or stay somewhere else.

I am taking on a butt load of liability risk by having you as my guest.  If you don’t like signing the contract limiting my liability, stay somewhere else.

The Great Pyrenees roaming the property are working dogs.  They are there to chase off bears and other wildlife.  They are not pets and they don’t want to be pets.  Josh takes excellent care of them and they live a happy life guarding my property.  If you bring your pet with you (even though I asked that you not do that)  they might attack your pet.  The Pyrs are well fed and don’t need you to feed them or complain about their well being.  Respect my animals or stay elsewhere.

If you are riding my horses, expect a Pyr escort.  They protect my horses as well as you.

If you decide on a whim to ride a horse or take out a snowmobile, don’t expect Josh to drop everything to satisfy your whim.  You are welcome to ride a horse or play on a snowmobile and Josh is eager to ready a horse or snowmobile  for you.  Give them enough notice so they can adapt their schedule.  Respect my people’s time or stay somewhere else.

The main house is not a lobby.  Unless you were invited to stay in the house, please don’t invite yourself in.

You will have maid service, fresh sheets and linens daily.  There is no maid on call.

Security does not allow food delivery on the property.  Haul you ass to the gatehouse to fetch your pizza delivery or starve.

These cabins were not built to accommodate more than two people in each of the two bedrooms.  They are only about 1700 to 1800 square feet.  Please do not expect to stack eight people in a cabin.  Reserve two cabins if you need them.

We have a gas pump and car wash on the property.  Please do not refuel the cars unless necessary.  They require premium fuel.  Vehicle documentation is in the glove box.  The navi system has tons of destinations loaded.

Jason stocks every cabin before your visit with food and booze.  If you want Hunts ketchup instead of Del Monte, you should have told Jason when you reserved the cabin.  Do not call Jason and expect him to provide it from his pantry.  Grocery stores are programmed into the vehicle navi.  Feel free to use it to fetch your preferred ketchup.

You are welcome to the food, booze and toiletry supplies provided.  Jason will throw out anything opened when you leave.

Yes the robes are nice and each guest is welcome to take one.

Please do not haul firewood in my vehicles.  Josh will see to it that the firewood is restocked daily.  Do not overload the elevator with firewood.

Use caution with fire.  Fireplace as well as candles.  Every cabin has a sprinkler system but the fire department is a long distance away.  Fire extinguishers are provided.

Jason has provided an extensive amount of information about the cabin on the intranet for you.  It will probably answer your questions.

The WPA and WAP keys for WiFi are located on the office desk.  If you choose to use my servers, please don’t leave me with a virus.

If you use our cell phones, please leave them after your visit.  Every phone is reprovisioned after my guests leave and missing phones are bricked.

Please leave the lift passes when you leave.

I don’t supply ski gear.

I have a contract with a shuttle service to provide rides to and from the airport and slopes.  Use them if you are uncomfortable with the driving conditions.

Bring drugs on my property and I will call the police.  If you need them to survive your visit, stay somewhere else.

Security will only allow my guests on property.  If you go out, get drunk and fall in love, don’t expect security to let your trick in.

Josh and Jason are in charge.  They make the reservations for the cabins.  I can’t help you if they are all booked so please don’t ask.  Their word is final.  If something arises and you can’t use your reservation, please let Jason know as soon as possible so someone else can use the cabin.  The house is not open for guest reservations.

Jason or Josh can ask you to leave the property for any or no reason.  Security understands that and is ready and capable to help you leave if necessary.

Please read and follow the information about the native wildlife.  Especially about attracting bears.  Bring the grill into the garage after you use it.  Leave trash in the garage for the maid to collect.  The Pyrs do a good job of keeping bears away and if a Pyr is nearby you are safe.  If a Pyr does attack a bear, more Prys will be on the way to help.  Do not try to help the dogs.  Get inside.  Neither the bear nor the dogs will be harmed.

No guns on property.  If you need something shot, call security.  Security probably will not shoot your spouse so if that is what needs shooting you are SOL.

If you have a medical emergency and call an ambulance, try to let security know.  They need to direct the ambulance to the cabin.  Some of our security people are off duty EMTs and cops.

I built these cabins for my guests to enjoy.  We tried to make them as comfortable and private as possible.  And by far most of my guests are are considerate and grateful.  This is not addressed to them.  It is addressed to the few jerks.

Do not contact me to bump someone else from their reservation.  They have planned better than you and arranged their vacation time and air fare.  I will extend you the same courtesy of not bumping you from your reserved time.

Do not contact me to complain about Jason or Josh.  They have my absolute trust and confidence.  I can promise you that I will side with them on any decision they make.  If you have any comments about their staff, address them to Jason or Josh.

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And you think sloop has a potty mouth

Maybe so.  But not at home.  I am not allowed to cuss.

Now these are some potty mouth mofos.  From an internet radio show that features a hawt potty mouth chick with bodacious jugz.  She has three “male” cohosts that fondle themselves as she berates them.

Language Advisory

Posted in Rambling | 2 Comments

Reflections on Life while Sitting in Soiled Diapers

I saw a posting tonight from an online friend.  She was boasting of an accomplishment of one of her children.

Now this is not one of those helicopter parents that thinks we should all stop our world because their kid made baby poo in a diaper.  News flash for those parents:  I crapped my diapers for decades before you even thought about throwing into the gene pool.  Well, maybe I have not been crapping my diapers for decades.  Been a few years since I have had that pleasure.  Wait.  Let’s move along from the pleasures of diaper crapping before I start in on the classic Depends .v. Tena debate.

Anyway, I have decided to call her “this lady”.

It seems her 10 year old cooked dinner for the family.  Not a PB and J sammie.  A hot meal.  Something that I don’t cook so it must be that she is married to a yankee or something.  Maybe a Brit with their Yorkshire greasy baked pancakes.

Most of my favorite memories and traditions involve food.  A product of a southern rearing.  Paula Dean and Natalie Dupree are saints in southern Catholic churches.  We enjoy talking about food almost as much as eating it.  Recipe books are our porn addiction.

Southern food fights are nothing like the food fights in movies.  We fight over whose mama makes the best dressing.  Not “stuffing”.  Dressing.  Stuffing is something that comes out of a box.  Yankees think you put it inside poultry.  You will find an occasional southern cook that will fill the cavity of a bird, but even they admit its to season the bird.  The fox hounds get that dressing.  Everyone knows people never eat dressing cooked inside a bird.

That is not to say all southerners know how to make dressing.  The first screwup they make is getting too much white bread.  That makes paste.  And PLEASE use stale white bread.  Not day old bread.  We are talking zwieback/melba toast stale bread.  And watch the sugar content in the cornbread, wouldya.  We are going for savory.  Not some Brit crap.

The stock is important.  But stock is a whole nuther discussion.  So let’s diss on mamas that use boiled eggs in their dressing.  That’s just gross.  Boiled eggs in dressing cause children to be bed wetters and other childhood traumas.

Don’t go crazy on the sage and poultry seasonings.  That is important.  But the biggest mistake is baking the dressing.  I know your mama did that.  The harsh reality is that baked dressing is just wrong.  Cook it on top of the range in a heavy dutch oven like civilized people.

If you really like the flavor of oysters, add some of the liquor.  Just be sure to filter out the sand.  No one likes gritty dressing and no one likes rubbery oysters.  Its all good to chop them up so the kids won’t know what they are.  But by all that’s Holy, do not add them until just before serving the dressing.

I’m not sure how “this lady” does her dressing.  Probably the wrong way.  But I know this.  Her children will fight to their last breath to defend their mother’s dressing.  A mother that teaches her children to cook always has the love of her children and they will not tolerate anyone talking smack about her dressing.  Since they are only 10 years old as of this writing, I feel sure I can hold my own should they attack.

As psychoses go, I think food obsessions are on the low end of the scale.  I prefer to be food obsessed over say gambling or meth addicted.  Only problem is that the human animal can live without ever visiting a craps table or even a crack pipe.  With the food obsessed, we have the challenge of controlling our addiction.  Not walking away from it.  We can live without a bottle of vodka.  We gotta eat.

Food is not just sustenance, its a source of pleasure.  Except if its baked dressing or some wacko Brit food.  Cooks like providing the fuel for our bodies as well as the pleasure we get from eating it.  That is all well and good.  But anyone can buy a Marie Callendar’s pot pie.  The chicken parmesan is awfully good.  Buying a pot pie is one thing but making a pot pie is a gift of your time.  That means a lot to me.  Unless its baked dressing.  Baked dressing might be time consuming but its an automatic 10 demerits.

“This lady” could have cooked the food herself.  Instead, she has taken the time with her children to teach them how to cook.  A skill they could survive without but a skill that will serve them well in life.  They will be able to take a casserole to a sick friend, a friend grieving loss and a friend celebrating.  They will also know that when a friend brings them a casserole, they have a true friend.

I don’t know a lot about “this lady”.  I admire her, not stalk her.  From my few interactions online with her I think I know her well.  She is a medical professional that has chosen to quit working and home school her children.  That tells us about her husband as well.  A two income family might have more toys but toys are not what is valued with them.

And zo muh Gawd.  Who would dare home school their children.  I did well in school.  Math was my forte.  I did well in composition but anyone that follows a methodical formula for writing a paper can do well in that.  As you can tell, I abandoned that years ago.  I don’t do better but I do know better.  I know she cringes when she reads something I write.

And you?  Like you don’t comma, splice, the heck outta your sentences?  Can you imagine having to retain and actually use all that stuff from school?  And teach it to someone else?  Naw.  I’d have to farm that job out.

Which means “this lady” and her husband are better people than me.  I like that.  I mean, its not like it takes a saint to be a better person than me.  That is not a huge feat.  I just know that the country would be better off if it was full of “this lady” people.

I wonder what the meal tasted like.  I wonder if she can be an objective judge of the food.  I know what she told her child.  So do you.

“This lady” is one that touches lives and never knows it.  One comment boasting on an achievement of her child speaks volumes.  It can cause those that read it to reflect on their own lives and reevaluate their own values.

Let’s just hope she teaches them the right way to make dressing.

Posted in Rambling | 1 Comment

Is it spring yet?

Saw the snow.  Over it.

Slid down the mountain on one ski, two skis and a board.  Over it.

Played on the snowmobiles.  Over it.

Why the hell is Sarah Palin so happy all the time in all that snow?

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Give us BBML on the G250

Don’t make me fly to Israel and join that customer advisory team.

Who the hell is on those teams?  No, I am not volunteering.  Just criticizing.  That whole interior reveal for the 250 and 650 should tell you the wrong people are on those teams.

We need a statement of direction telling us when BBML will be available for the 250.  Our preference is to have the statement before certification is completed.

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Who the hell eats this stuff?

If you can’t do food right, I’m wondering if your carbon footprint exceeds the value of your contributions to the planet.  I mean hell, even the Mexicans can make some kickass food.  What have the Brits contributed?

Yorkshire pudding.  I guess.  How bad could a dish be if it is carbs that suck up beef fat?

Terry’s Mom swears people will love it.  Looking at the recipe I have my doubts.  It looks like pancake batter that you bake in fat.  I mean “drippings”.  Pancakes baked in “drippings”.

Now I ain’t dissing good ole grease.  People love grease and salt.  They won’t admit it.  But they eat oversalted, greasy fraud chicken in their closets.  If you are wondering why your fraud chicken is not as good as most fraud chicken, add salt.  Brine it before you fry it and don’t spare the salt in the crust.  People will think you are Paula Dean.

We go the sweet route with pancakes.  Syrup.  Fruity toppings loaded with sugar.  Whipped cream.  I can see that.  It is what God intended when he created pancakes.

Leave it to the Brits to screw up a good thing.  I think they export all their regular, good food and have to find creative ways to use up the leftover crap they eat.  So long ago, someone said “I have an idea.  Let’s bake pancakes in grease.  Pancakes are cheap and we gotta do something with all this grease.”

Maybe the Brits are onto something.  My Mom made the observation that you rarely see a fat Brit or a thin Brit dog.  Not sure how eating greasy pancakes contributes to their trim stature though.  I mean, if you are really going to go the savory route with a pancake, add some Tony Chachere’s for God’s sake.  Or at least a cream soup.

I’m not trusting this stuff.  Yeah, we are going to make Yorkshire pudding to serve, but I am serving it with the prime rib.  Not as its own course.  And will have potatoes with a cream soup and Tony Chachere’s.  Just in case.

On the upside, I don’t think many of us rubes have had Yorkshire pudding.  I am sure Mz Mac has.  So if its a big flop, no one will know if it is a good Yorkshire pudding or a bad one.  They will just think all Yorkshire pudding sucks.  Which is probably true.

Posted in Rambling | 1 Comment

Shoveling Reindeer Poop

Nothing will bring on the Christmas spirit like a Christmas parade.  Or maybe shoveling reindeer poop.  I forget which.

Everyone in the country lives within three miles of a Super Walmart.  Except me.  Its not like I have to drive 200 miles to experience the joy of hunting and gathering at Super Walmart.  But I am about 15 miles from civilization.  When civilization is defined by proximity to the nearest Super Walmart.

My hometown is one of the few that still has a Christmas Parade.  I don’t know how it draws the crowd because it seems like everyone in the town is in the parade.  The size and enthusiasm has changed over the years.  Right now its on the rise.  Fueled by moms that want their children to have Christmas parades in their childhood memory arsenal.

Our participation in the past has been limited to buying decorations for the city streets and putting a sound system atop the downtown buildings.  Which conflicts with the marching band.  Somehow, it always works out.

This year we went all in.  Not by choice so much as by coercion.  By one of those moms.  I defy you to say no to a mom that wants to give her children the Christmas memories given to her by her mom.

You have to know that no good deed goes unpunished.  I knew this would be the same.  I told our little mom that.  But she assured me that she would run interference for us and take any flack scattered by the town curmudgeons.

OK.  Ready.  How much?

Not that simple.

The Chevy dealer did not have a convertible for Santa to ride in.  That is, if they had a Santa.

Now I’m thinking “Sure.  Use one of mine.  Good luck finding a Santa.”  Still not that simple.  She heard I have a carriage and team of draft horses.

With a car, I’d have it washed and delivered.  Not quite that easy for a carriage.  That takes the decision out of my hands and into the hands of the people that work for me.  The best I could do is to invite her to dinner and let her plead her case to my team of ragtag misfits.

There was some doubt at first.  It all hinged on Nick.  Moving a team and carriage is not simple.  Hitching a team is not simple.  Driving a team in the noise and activity of a parade is not simple.  One spooked horse and I’m in court for a decade.

Nick kept on with the list of tasks necessary.  Which sounded to me like a list of “why we shouldn’t do this”.  Nick can be a hardass with me.  The chicks have better luck with him.  It seemed like he was leaning yes.  All I could think was liability.

I never heard a yes from Nick.  Tammy, Michelle and Noelanne teamed up and started making lists.  For everyone.  Most of the guys were in their own conversations until they started to hear their names in the same sentence with “cute elf costume”.

The protests from the guys were weak.  They were all in.  Yes, they know tights are involved in “cute elf costume”.  It worries me that they were swayed so easily.  I’m thinking tights might be turning them metrosexual.

Projects like this have a way of feeding on themselves.  My people involved themselves.  That is on them.  But it would not be enough people that can handle moving, staging, grooming, harnessing and driving.  The parade route does not end where it started, so that has to be dealt with also.  We needed bodies but more importantly we needed bodies that could handle the animals.

Fortunately, Nick is from a large family that breeds horses.  I have met them and they are wonderful people.  But a family breeding farm needs family to operate it.  “Operate” is a daily job.  There are no off days.  The animals need their routine and are happiest when that routine is not disrupted.

This was a huge favor we were asking.  I am sure there were discussions among the family before the decision was made.  I was not there to hear those discussions.  What I heard was a casual yes.

Given time and a list of equipment needed, I could write the check.  Time was the problem.  I did find three round pens but that was clearly not enough.  My solution was to panic.  Nick never chooses that for a solution.  He assured me everything was under control.

A neighbor once asked to borrow a can opener from me.  I had an extra can opener so I gave it to her.  Not a kidney.  A can opener.  She was grateful.  Overly grateful.  For years she would remind me and express her appreciation.  That made me wonder if she ever got gifts.  A simple can opener that I should have thrown away.  Hoarded in my garage.  Let me think.  Landfill or give it to Nancy.

This was no can opener Nick’s family was giving us.  They were hiring people to help on their ranch while away.  They were driving three trucks pulling three trailers across the country.  Not to save a life.  A Christmas parade.

As far as I know, the idea to team eight jackasses to pull the caratella with Santa in it was Nick’s.  Well not really jackasses.  They are Mediterranean Miniature Donkeys.  God’s sweetest little creations.  Their only reason to exist is to be cute.  They excel at being cute but they can drive a cart.  Nick sometimes teams them but the caratella is a heavy carriage and has to be adjusted to accommodate a team of little jackasses.  The disc brakes take the task of braking from the wheel horses so Nick was not concerned.

I once read that some breast harnesses can press against the animal’s windpipe.  Collar harnesses use the horses shoulders to pull a carriage so we use them.  The only thing cuter than a jackass is a jackass in his collar pulling a cart.

Except when you add a Santa hat.  Then you leave the cute scale behind and move into adorable turf.  I’m not really big on putting people clothes on dogs or animals.  When you do, the expression on their face seems to be a mixture of resignation and humiliation.  But I guess if you can wear a halter or a harness, a Santa hat rates low on the scale of annoying.  Pull those bigo jackass ears through the hat and it stays put.  Unless another jackass pulls it off.  Thanks for making those hats, Bev.

Grooming this many animals for a parade is one thing.  Keeping them clean for the parade is another.  You can groom for hours on a jackass and for the most part, its all good with them.  Its all good because they are looking forward to the dust bath they are going to take when you are finished.  Which kinda undoes you hours of grooming.

When you look at a groomed horse you might think “That’s pretty.”  A trained eye might shake their head and think “Totally inappropriate for that breed.”  Or “Totally inappropriate for that event.”  I’m in the first camp.  Never knew the braid for an Arab’s mane was different from a Clyde.  Never knew that horse shampoo comes in colors.  Never knew the difference between hoof conditioner and hoof polish.

Braiding is a nightmare.  Manes or tails.  It takes forever.  It takes experience too.  And knowledge.  You can’t braid mane that has conditioner on it.  You must pull a mane before you braid it, but you can’t pull a mane the day you braid it.  Some groomers use bands when braiding and other groomers sew the braids.  Yes.  Sew.  They even have hair extensions for mane and tails.

They decided the jackasses would not be braided.  Nick’s Mom decided the braid for the Clydes and Shires would be a combination of a Hunter braid and a Continuous braid.  Something like a French braid with top knots that will hold sprigs of holly.

I like a Continental braid on an Arab.  The problem with a Continental braid is that they don’t last.  Nick’s Mom said she could do a Continental hybrid that would hold up.  It looks great but takes a lot of time and work.  Our groomers looked forward to learning it.

The “Decorate the Carriages” task had a ton of bullet points below it.  The ladies were aiming past adorable to precious.  It had to be scaled back to tasteful.  Partially out of a concern for time.  Mostly out of concern for safety.  Then there was my concern for the carriages.  Anyone that scratches or mars a carriage gets 40 lashes with a riding crop.  A hot glue gun would get you 60.

I have learned that the best way to divert the ladies attention is to throw another project at them.  And a project to make elf costumes to humiliate the guys was perfect.  Walking the parade route and dealing with animals meant no elf shoes with bells and curly pointed toes.  Elf boots are what we needed.  Elf boots that don’t clash with elf tights.  Elf tights are the ultimate humiliation for the guys so the tights were indispensable.

The diversion worked.  But now the ladies were coming at me with arms stretched out like zombies going for the last brain on earth.  Maybe another diversion would work.

Dobbs!  Brilliant!  I threw our little Dobbs to the zobmies.

Our little Dobbs is well worth having around.  Not just to throw to the wolves.  He carries more than his weight.  But no one would dare tell him that.  He takes the fall for all screwups.  Which is why we call him Dammit Dobbs.  Or Dobbs Dammit.  Either works.  He is solid as a rock but its an awfully small rock.  I tell him that he is like one of our jackasses.  Born to be cute.  All the ladies love Dobbs.

Now Dobbs will make the perfect elf but he’s no Santa.  We really don’t have a rotund jolly guy in our band of misfits but if I am going to get sued, I want it to be someone in the family.  Someone with the stature had to be stuffed into a fat suit and ho ho ho through the parade.  We targeted Dok Mike.  He was not there to object.  Michelle would be Mrs. Clause.

When there is a project afoot among our misfits, you better stick close or you wind up being Santa.  Your protests must be put forth at the time of the election.  Be there or pay the price.

Dok really is a dok.  While the draft Dok movement was in progress, I was torn.  Do I open my mouth and draw the ugly attention of the crowd?  Do I point out that it might be unseemly to screw over our Dok while he is out saving lives?  Sorry Dok.  The risk of them drafting me is too great.  You got drafted, dude.

Michelle is a hawt chick.  Hawt never hurts in a chick.  But looking hawt is not her only talent.  She has been in every nook and cranny of planet earth.  Five bucks says you can’t name a language she can’t speak.  The job she was needed for is unimportant.  Except to say she excels at it and always makes me look good.  I am always proud when she interacts with people as part of her job.  We are lucky to have her.

With Dok playing Santa, Michelle was the obvious choice for Mrs. Clause.  I won’t say why but I will say coughBUYTHEDAMNRINGALREADYDOKcough.  Here we are inserting a really long awkward pause.

We took five Arabs for riders that could ride beside the carriages to handle anything that might arise unexpected.  Arabs strive for dignity.  Santa hats are for jackasses.  Beneath the dignity thing of Arabs.  The drafts will go for a prissy braided mane because they are so huge and intimidating that no one would dare laugh at them.  Jackasses are willing to do anything to achieve cute.

Everyone else gets an elf suit and huge bag of candy to pass out.  Keep the horses calm.  Keep people away from the horses.  Then pass out candy.  Anyone hitting a kid up mongst the head by throwing candy can face the lawsuit.

The starring roles seem to be filled.  Santa will be the last entry in the parade.  But I don’t have eight jackass diapers.  I mean “reindeer” diapers.  Which means someone will have to shovel any little bundles of joy they might drop.  Sigh.  Well at least I won’t have to wear one of those humiliating elf costumes.  I contend the guy shoveling reindeer poop has all the humiliation heaped on him that one man should have to endure.  No need to make him wear elf tights.

I was out voted.

If I am being forced to wear tights those damn kids better have the best damn Christmas memories ever.

Mayhem has a way of making everyone want to join in.  And this had mayhem written all over it.  Every time the phone rang it was more people making the trek to the Christmas parade.  Everyone was helpful in their own way.  Warehousing everyone meant Terry’s workload exploded.  Beds and food.  Don’t know where he found them.  Every time I looked up Terry was there with food.  He could always answer “Anyone know where Dobbs is?”  Or “Anyone know where my tights are?”

Everything was not perfect.  No big disasters though.  I was measuring success as no litigation.  And as far as I know, we achieved that.  The animals did not get spooked and bolt with the mayor or Mr. and Mrs. Clause screaming as the carriages hurled headlong into a crowd of traumatized kids.

We did have one victim of cute.  Bry was my designated poop spotter.  He and I were the reindeer poop cleanup brigade.  The last of the parade following Santa with a cop car behind us.

Nothing will convince me that the ladies did not over cute his chair and caused it to crap out.  At the time, the reason did not matter.  I had reindeer poop to scoop and was not pushing him in that heavy chair, lugging a poop can and shovel.  I was thinking I could get James to push him.  If I could find James.

The cops jumped out and offered to let Bry ride with them in their cruiser.  That would make the perfect Christmas card picture.  Bry dressed in his elf costume cuffed in the back of a police cruiser.  Something tells me it will happen sometime in his life.  Just not that day.  He wanted to be in the excitement.

We got the chair half way in the trunk of the cruiser.  The cops used their belts and jackets to strap Bry to the back of a cop.  They put belts through the sleeves of the jackets.  Their belts and belts donated from the crowd.  I guess he was secure but if he did fall, there was enough tuffy jacket to take the impact.

Thinking back, the groom’s seat of the caratella would have worked.  If we had thought of a backup plan in advance, that would have been the plan.  I like the plan we went with.  Of course, the cop lugging Bry would probably disagree.

The work does not stop when the parade ended.  We are usually more organized when we have guests, especially with the food.  We are all about the food.  Terry suggested that we have our Josh grill steaks that evening.

I relinquished control.  Dinner was delegated to my crew.  Figure it out.  I am going to be an Indian in this.  Let me know if they need any poop scooped.

My crew huddled, passed out lists and everyone dispersed.  Tammy said we are cooking on the beach.  When I asked about that little cold thing, she explained that the bonfire would keep us warm.  When I asked about that little permit thing, or lack of a little permit thing, she explained that she invited the cops, firemen, mayor and city council to her little pow wow.  I guess in her mind, if you are going to break the law its best to invite the people that write and enforce those laws.

I stopped asking questions.

Nothing excites our crew more than planning and preparing for an event.  Especially if it involves food.  Not sure who got the Sprinter van stuck on the beach.  It was loaded with a cold buffet, tables and lights.  To be sure it got stuck, it was towing the grill.  Since Dammit Dobbs was involved he takes the fall.  Bryan was right up in the middle, shouting his solution along with all the other guys.

When the guys go rock climbing, its only declared a success when someone rolls a vehicle.  Same thing with taking a van loaded with crap onto sand.  Its only a success if you get stuck.  The really successful forays into the sand involve a stuck “rescue” vehicle too.  This was going to be a blast for them.

While the guys were having a blast with a stuck van I stood back and watched to be sure they did not stuff Bry under a wheel for traction.  I also tried to fend off the bevy of women folks when they headed toward the van.  Which was a mistake.  The good news is that it did not take long for them to beat me down so they could continue on their mission to spoil the guys’ fun.

I think Dobbs and James found the ugliest 20 foot Christmas tree in the state.  Maybe it was the only 20 foot Christmas tree in the state.  I kept my mouth shut but I was thinking “How the hell are you going to get a tree that big to stand erect in sand?”  I soon found out.  Dig a hole and bury a few feet of it.  Glad James thought about keeping it away from the fire.

The tree was crowned with an elf hat.  The rest of the tree was adorned with elf hats, tights, belts and one jackass poop shovel.  Maybe I am prejudiced about this, but you’d be surprised how pretty an elf tight themed Christmas tree can be.

Josh started slinging meat on the grill.  Burgers, brats, hot dogs and steaks.  Josh is our designated griller.  And smoker.  He can smoke a ton of meat when he has time.  Jason can’t microwave popcorn.  But no one around him has to fetch their own “seconds”.  Or refill their own glass of tea.

Eight people can fly on the plane. Add one more and the FAA says we have to have a flight attendant.  With eight, the flyboys up front can provide that function.  I’m thinking that flying the plane is enough job for a flyboy.  But the FAA has its rules.

That is how we drafted Michelle into our crew of misfits.  I have known her for years and loved hearing her stories about her traveling adventures.  Especially when she worked for the Saudi royal family.  (They told her to stop tanning because people might think she was a Saudi woman doing a menial job.)

I hired Michelle to meet the FAA rules.  Not to fix gallons of baked beans.  Not to wash and wrap potatoes to bake.  Not to work in a Christmas parade.

I hired Dobbs to fly a plane.  Not to haul wood to build a bonfire.  Not to keep boat electronics updated.  Not to work in a Christmas parade (in tights).

I hired Nick to be sure our animals were cared for.  Not to haul grills and chairs.  Not to impose on his family.  Not to work in a Christmas parade.

I hired Josh and Jason to take care of the house in the mountains.  Not to cook.  Not to fetch holly.  Not to work in a Christmas parade.

No one in our crew has “work in Christmas parade” in their job description.  When a mom asked us to help her give a treasured Christmas memory to her children, my entire crew came running.  While trying to give that mom her wish, we created blisters on our hands and memories of our own to treasure.

Usually when you are in the middle of one of life’s profound moments, you don’t stop and savor the moment.  This time I realized it.  My memory is the scent and roar of big diesel powered trucks hauling heavy equipment and animals.  Leather gloved hands assembling pens.  Ladies barking orders to men that pretend to ignore them but do what was asked.  Aching hands and legs willing to braid one more mane.  Feathers dancing around clopping hooves as proud animals pulled carriages filled with people.  The guys that didn’t seem to think twice when giving their belts to fashion a makeshift harness for Bryan.

Not many people can drive a team of horses pulling a carriage.  Fewer still can do it in the din of a parade.  Nick has trained those animals to be at home in a harness and not to be shy around people and noise.  His family made it possible for us to groom 21 animals, move them, stage them, drive them to be staged yet again.  I would trust no one else but Nick and his family to handle them in a crowd.  My sincere, heartfelt gratitude to them for hauling their trucks, equipment and expertise across the country to help us.

Our Sunday morning pajama breakfast was a little sad.  Nick’s family were headed back home after we ate.  The flyboys were making flight plans to deliver people back to their homes.  The border collies were torn between watching their beloved Nick and begging for a bite of the cold steak Dobbs held in his fist as he gnawed on it.  Dok and Aaron were assigned the job of keeping Tammy out of the kitchen so we wouldn’t have powdered sugar sprinkled on a Denver omelet or steak sauce on the cinnamon rolls.

Would more time and planning have made it better?  Maybe.  Probably run smoother.  Not sure it would have been better.  More time would have given me a chance to maneuver out of shoveling “reindeer” poop.  There has got to be a way I could have “dumped” that job on our Dobbs.  But looking back, I had the best job of the event.  Everyone says I am the best at shoveling poop.  And I proved it in tights.

Posted in Rambling | 3 Comments

Dallas Gots Class

I lived in Dallas for many years.  Its geography makes it a good place for data centers.  Aside from making money, I am not seeing that Dallas has much going for it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate Dallas.  Dallas is OK for most things but it excels at nothing.

I say nothing.  But it does seem to excel at pretentious.

Dallas does not give a flying duck’s fart for “the arts”.  But we want you to think we do.  And we want you to think we are Euro cool.  So we were a little embarrassed when visitors asked for directions to our “arts” district.  The Mesquite Rodeo is what everyone thought was our arts district.

Except for the pretentious.  We had to have an arts district so we can throw around words like “world class” when talking about Dallas.  The pretentious convinced us rubes that it was in our interest to have an arts district so we could be Euro cool.  Hey.  Everyone knows its worth any price to look Euro cool.

The district was set aside on the edge of downtown Dallas.   Downtown Dallas is perpetually on the edge of death.  Not uncommon I guess.  But move a business to downtown Dallas, and you will have huge tax breaks and get to sleep with your choice of any three city council members.  You also get a parade.  When your business inevitably fails, people wonder how you lasted so long.

I have worked in downtown Dallas.  Not really a hustle and bustle during the day but there are people.  By sunset its deserted.  Deserted and dangerous.  Like a scifi movie, the homeless zombies emerge at night to sleep and pee is the darkened nooks and crannies of its glass buildings.

A computer hardware failure caused many on our support team to stay on site one night.  IBM said we had a four hour wait at best before they returned the equipment to us.  Then we could begin our work.  So we did what anyone in that situation does.  Ordered food and put it on the boss’s tab.  As the time dragged by, our boss opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of tequila.

I’m not big on tequila shots.  Especially when I might get drunk, open my mouth and out would spill obvious truths about management.  Truths the must not be uttered.

Tequila or Tab.  Any other options?  Who would I have to sleep with to get a cold beer?

Tom had an answer.  Tom worked in another support group.  His work would start when ours was done.  Tom was tall, yuppie and (not to get all homoerotic here) handsome.  He was also mute.  Or so everyone thought.  You never heard him say 3 words.  You had the impression that he was a Dallas Euro cool wannabe.  But you were never sure.  Tom was also pinky white.

I was more than a little surprised when he suggested that we go to the Oyster Bar.  Now rumor was that the picture of the hot chick on his desk was his girlfriend.  So I was reasonably sure this was not a date.  But what the hell is the Oyster Bar?

Evidently, there is one business open in downtown Dallas after sunset.  The Oyster Bar has been there since like the 1950s.  That passes for historic landmark in Dallas.  So I agree to go swill a few beers with Tom at the Oyster Bar.

Back to the homoerotic.  For just one second.  If we were a couple, Tom would be the woman.  And it would obviously be up to me to fend off the homeless zombie muggers.  Which I guess as homoerotic goes, it is the role I would prefer.  About 3 blocks later we enter the Dallas landmark Oyster Bar.

I know I am in the minority on this.  Given a choice of any five bars in Dallas, I would choose the Oyster Bar.  Would I take my life in my hands and drive into downtown Dallas to visit the Oyster Bar?  Oh hell naw.  But given my options at the time on a surprise gay date with Tom, this is the bar I would choose.

Dark.  Darker than dark.  Smoke so thick you had to cut your way through it.  And really, really dark.  Which is perfect on your first surprise gay date.  (I’m beginning to wonder if the hot chick in the photo is Tom’s sister at this point.)  Having skipped gay dating etiquette class, I let Tom pull out his own barstool.  And ordered myself a beer.

This was one bar where looking like a hippie freak was the norm.  O People My People.  The yuppie was the freak.  At last, I am the cute one.

I guess I should remember what I talked about on my first surprise gay date.  But I don’t.  I think we broke up after this date because he never called.  I’ll say one thing surprise gay dating has going for it.  Your date can match you beer for beer.  And the yuppie did.

If it was a contest to see whose bladder can hold the most, I would lose.  Beer and Tab.  I was ready to scope out the pisser.  The barkeep tells me to go up the stairs, turn right and go up the steep stairs.

This is where I remember the carpet.  Dark red I think with a black pattern.  Hip in its day.  Sticky as flypaper today.  Despite the carpet and thick smoke holding me back, I make it up the first stairs.  At the top, I find light.  And a pool table.  And 30 black faces staring at the white boy.

My first thought was that I am glad that men don’t go to the pisser together on surprise gay dates like the women do.  Before I could have a second thought, a black woman with cleavage a mile deep falls up against me.  Telling me it was her birthday.  For the price of one dollar, I could have a kiss.  Cash only.  Payment is to be pinned to her dress.  The little bit if dress she was wearing.  Business looked good because she had about 30 bucks pinned to her.

A night of firsts.  My first surprise gay date.  My first black hooker.  Also kinda surprised that I get to first base with the black hooker before I get there with my date. Even if i had to pay a buck to get there.

Speaking of firsts, the bladder is threatening to cut loose and I can no longer be diverted from my mission to find a pisser.  I look around but see no stairs.  So I ask.  As it turns out, the ladder leaning against the wall is the second flight of “stairs”.  No exaggeration.  It was a ladder.  At the top was the door.  No landing.  A door literally at the top of a ladder.

The first thing you think is liability.  The second is “if these drunk bitches can do this I can too”.  And I did.  Before buttoning up I pull out two dollars.  One in the shirt pocket.  One for the hooker.

Black women love long hair on white guys.  They love to touch it.  Sall good by me.  I got me a kiss and a dance with the birthday hooker before returning to my surprise gay date.

Speaking of which, Tom had to pee too.  I told him the directions were accurate.  Up the stairs, turn right and up the steep stairs.  He asked what all the noise was.  I said there was a pool table up there but he would find the pisser.

Evil.  Just evil.  Sending my yuppie date up there with no heads up.  But I did give him the dollar in my shirt pocket.

I remember talking with an old white hooker while my date was powdering his nose.  She looked hard.  As in hard life.  Too many years of booze and cigarettes.  Too many hours spent wearing chandelier ear rings and crossing her legs in short skirts on a bar stool.

Just as I was making time with the white hooker, Tom comes flying down the stairs saying “We’ve got to go.  We’ve got to go.”  and out the door he went.  I thought it would be impossible for Tom to look even whiter.  I was wrong.  Guess the mystery of who pays for the beer on a surprise gay date is solved.  I pay.  Wonder if gays put out on their first surprise gay dates.

Evidently not.  Or if I did score with Tom, it was not earthshaking.  Because I know we went back to work but nothing else stands out about the evening.

Wonder if I was supposed to send flowers.

The Oyster Bar was the perfect dive.  Not that I had much choice.  I would vote for it if there was a “best place to take your first surprise gay date” category.  Its my idea of an arts district.

The first building in the new Dallas arts district was the Museum of Fine Art.  You would see the humor in that if you had been to the museum.  Their famous permanent collection is “African Art”.  Which means some sticks and broken pots that are said to be really old and really important.

Now broken pots and sticks are fine as far as broken pots and sticks go.  But its not enough to fill an entire museum and damn sure not enough to draw a huge crowd.  I mean, I have seen the sticks and broken pots but would never walk across the street to see them a second time.  Sloop’z got culture that way.

I forget who paid for the building.  Seems to me that it was funded with bonds.  Typical Dallas building.  Faux stone facade hung on steel.  Nothing offensive.  Nothing to tell friends about.  Nothing too big.  Its what you’d expect in Dallas.

The big problem was that it was empty.  Especially the central atrium.  We needed a trip to the art store and get us some art.

Now in Dallas we want to say we support the arts without actually having to look at it or pay for it.  It turns out real art is expensive.  And we have a whole new building that is supposed to be filled with it.  Especially that bigo atrium.  We can close off the other doors and pretend they hold exhibits that are temporarily closed.  But there is no getting around that empty atrium.  And sticks and broken pots ain’t gonna work.

My idea of spreading a bunch of baby poo on canvases was rejected.  The bigger the canvas, the better the art was.  Though my idea was not embraced, the concept was.

Modern Art!  Brilliant.  You can buy shitloads of that crap for very little money.  Get some art critic drunk and have him bless it as art.  Throw in some Christian bashing and gay porn.  Viola!  We gots ourselves a fine arts museum!

Have you ever had a space in a room that needed something tall in it to balance out the room?  So you obviously buy a fake ficus tree and it does the trick.  When you walk in the room, the ficus is not what you see.  You see a fully furnished room that does not feel like something is missing.

That atrium needed one big ass fake ficus.  But no art critic could ever be bribed enough to bless that as art.  The solution is to find some nobody “artist” and commission him to make you some art that is in your skimpy budget.  Nobody artists want to be independent and temperamental but when they get really hungry and hardup for meth money, you can pretty much put whatever conditions you want on their commissioned “art”.

The condition here was big.  Really big.  Big enough to fill that huge atrium.  And if it does not fill the atrium, we need a story about how the emptiness of the atrium is actually part of the art.  If someone thinks the atrium looks empty, we can shake out heads and declare that they don’t “get it”.

The plan worked.  Kinda.  The “piece” turned out to be a big red stake and a rope.  Not the entire stake.  It looks like it is hammered into the floor.  And the huge rope wraps around the stake and drapes to the ceiling of the atrium.  Not sure how many drunk art critics we had to bribe to get the stake and rope officially declared as “art”.  The important thing is that we did find one.

But I think in order to get the blessing, the critic said to put a few obscenely expensive “Italian” furniture groupings around the floor.  So we could sit and look at the stake and rope.  I mean the art.  We could sit and admire the art.

Now obscenely expensive Italian furniture is ugly.  People only like it because they paid a shitload of money for ugly.  The thing is, you can buy ugly furniture that looks exactly like the expensive shit at Ikea.  Tell people you paid a shitload of money for it and you have the same reaction as the real stuff.  And Ikea is pack flat furniture.  Ships UPS.  Get a man in to assemble it, throw in some fake ficus plants and we gots art!

At this pace it will take decades to fill our building.  Another idea.  Find some rich old fool that has lots of art and is at death’s door.  Send the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders over to give him a lap dance and maybe we can get his art for free.  As plans go, I’ve heard worse.

But what old rich guy at death’s door can we target?

Emery Reeves!  He has tons of art that looks like real art.  If anyone dare look at our stake and rope, then claim the emperor has no clothes, we can point to the real art to prove we are Euro cool.

The fly in the ointment is that we were not the first to think of this plan.  Real museums want Emery’s art too.  And the old coot kicked the bucket and left it to his wife Wendy.  Dammit.  Rumor is that Wendy would not be swayed to give away Emery’s art by scantily clad cheerleaders with bigo knockers.

What to do.  What to do.

As luck would have it, Wendy is going to go ahead and give away Emery’s art.  The art would be awarded to the city that feeds her enormous ego the best.

Now its perfectly legit for a museum to outbid another museum with money for art.  But its bad form to accept free art with tons of conditions attached.  The winner is the museum that accepts the most conditions.

Nobody said Dallas was ethical.  We need a shitload of free art to fill that empty building.  Let’s promise ole Wendy the moon and nab that prize.  And we did.  Wendy said she would give the art to Dallas IF they build a copy of her villa onto the museum.  The art rooms are to reproduce her villa EXACTLY.  No changes.  Wendy would allow one piece of her art to be moved to the front of the room on special occasions.  But even that had a time limit.

No other museum would accept such conditions even for free art.  Further, every museum expected other museums to abide by this rule.  Dallas balked.  Dallas got Wendy’s art.  Pissed off every other museum.  But we were now in the art business.

Uh oh.  The money thing again.  Here we are with this huge mortgage on our building.  We need art to fill it.  But the free art we got has to be put in new rooms built onto the building we can’t afford.

What if we charge a second admission fee to see Wendy’s art.  One fee to see the red stake and rope.  A second to see Wendy’s fake villa.  That’ll work.

Broken pots and sticks.  Check.  Bigo stake and rope accentuated by Ikea furniture and faux ficus trees.  Check.  Hijacked art.  Check.  So far so good.  But its a stretch to call that an arts district.  We need another building.  Empty or full.  A district needs at least two buildings.

We tried the museum thing but can’t seem to find art we can afford to fill it.  Maybe a symphony center.  Maybe a bigo symphony center.  Maybe a bigo symphony center that screams Ikea.  Make it all modern.  Yeah.  Modern crap is cheap to build.  Glass and concrete screams art.  If we get a famous architect to bless it with his name, we’d be really Euro cool.

Every architect must laugh their butts off at clients like Dallas.  Design them a concrete box with some glass here and there.  Call it art and defy them not to agree.  Up the price enough and everyone will think its art.

We chose i. m. pei to design our concrete box.  And he did not disappoint.  The cost proves its art.  Hang the canopy on a wench and we can claim it matters in the acoustics of a concrete box.  We are going to out cool the Euro cools.  We have the invoice to prove it.

Good plan.  Problem is we are broke.  At one time we could build ten concrete boxes but then that whole oil thing went bust.  Now we can’t get our cheap ass Euro cool wannabes fund a junior high science fair.

Let’s see.  We can convince the commoners in Dallas to fund part of it.  Sell bonds.  Charge fees.  Auction off naming rights for the building and we just might make it.  If we still fall short, we can name the canopy after a donor.  The driveway could be named after those that can’t afford the canopy.  Dallas is full of pretentious people that will give up the money if they think they are buying immortality with the bronze plaque over the urinal that bears their name.  That has to prove I am Euro cool.  The urinal proves it.

OK.  The urinal part is a joke.  But not the rest of it.  And the urinal part would be true if not for me opening my mouth.

Opening my mouth at the wrong time.

A dear friend asked me to be her date to a symphony center fund raising gala.  She was between husbands.  I owned a tux that fit.  Free booze.  A chance for her to prove that she could wear her new money like a pretentious second generation Dallasite.  Winners all around.

I think the flaw in the evening was the free booze.  Which forced me to ask what it would cost for me to get a urinal with my name on it in that concrete box.

The cream of the Dallas society is very sensitive to anything that reminds them that they are only a few years into money.  Not generations into it.  Daddy is at home playing poker with the roughnecks and swilling Pabst beer.  They are appalled that Daddy prefers a slice of hot pound cake over cream brulee.  Cream brulee has a little grave over vowels.  Its clearly Euro cool.

Since the veneer is so thin, jokes about their desperation to build a monument to their vanity are not welcomed.  It quickly made the rounds.  Probably got my date’s name removed from most of the Dallas guest lists.

Not that she complained about it.  Like me, she would be more at ease in the Oyster Bar.

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Animal Shelters, Volunteerism and Philanthrophy

I have a bus.  A bigo bus with an identity crisis.

It was created from a Freightliner Cascadia truck with a Benz engine and transmission.  The bus has an automatic tranny that causes the other trucks to call him a sissy.  I thought about this when ordering the truck, but an automatic is required with a dual drive position configuration.

As with most projects that catch my ugly attention, the bus monstrosity started as a passenger van.  The details of the bus are unimportant.  As is the why of the bus.  But it is a pretty bus.  Muscle and comfort.  The necessities of transportation.

One day I decided that my Mom needed one of these buses.  Perfect for when she and her blue haired friends decide to play Thelma and Louise on a road trip.  Not sure Thelma and Louise toured Branson, but they probably did a New England tour to see the leaves in the fall.  Personally, I suspect the road trip is more about the seafood than the leaves.  But I have no proof.

I also have a wonderfully talented cousin in Dallas.  Which is where the new bus was delivered.  Bev lives in perfection that Martha Stewart envies.  She has wonderful taste and helped me when I purchased furniture for houses in Dallas.

I don’t recall if prayer and fasting was involved before we decided to all pile up in the bus and road trip it to my Mom.  Prayer and fasting should always be involved before caging family in a bus on a road trip.  Even if it is a really big bus.

For the most part, the trip was uneventful.  Keep a Tab in my hand and provide me with a pisser, sloop can survive most anything.  But I do recall her commenting on the shabby houses we saw as we drove through the rural South.  She expressed pity for the poverty.

This was a conversation I did not want to have.  It was heading for politics if I opened my mouth.  I sat quietly and swilled my Tab.

Several minutes later she looked up from her needlepoint and said “How much could a bucket of mismatched paint cost at Home Depot?”

It was a “from the mouths children” moment for me.

About a year ago a friend of our family asked to see me.  Mz B lived next door to me my entire life.  Our families’ homes backed up to each other and when it was time to move on up, we built homes that are adjacent.  Her children were my best friends.  We set a lunch date for my next visit home.

Mz B is an animal lover.  Not one of those that leaves her estate to her dogs to piss off her children.  But not too many steps away from it.  At one time, she had four dogs and they all were allowed inside her house.

I knew that Mz B collected cans for the local animal shelter.  And nobody can create a mountain of Tab cans like the ones I leave in my wake.  When I visit my Mom, I am under orders to save the Tab cans for Mz B.  Tab cans for the animal shelter is the perfect cause.  Driving 60 miles in her Volkswagen Beetle to retrieve two cans makes sense to her.

Sometimes the best way to deal with large slow moving companies is to take matters in your own hands.  Especially if its the phone company.  Phone companies think they can bluff their way with customers because most customers do not understand the technology.  But I understand it.  Quite well.

During a visit to my Mom, I decided to fix a problem with a circuit to my Mom’s house.  It was getting errors.  The phone company denied it.  I had the circuit tested by a friend that worked for a different company, printed out the results and set out to find the central office.  (The central office is where the phone equipment is located.  Customers are not allowed in the central office.)

While on my mission to find the central office to bitch slap a lazy technician, I got lost.  The kind of lost where I had to stop and ask for directions.  Which for men, is pretty damn lost.  I decided to stop at the animal shelter and ask for help.

You had to know it was the animal shelter because there was no sign.  It is just off a busy road and is a house that was converted into the shelter.  As I drove up, three dogs greeted me.  And I saw several dogs fenced in what was a garage.  All barking.  The smell was awful.

I opened the front door into a small room with a counter.  Four people were sitting, three of which were smoking.  The smell was even worse.  Dogs barking.  The place was filth.  Not messy or dirty.  Filth.

This was a “How much could a bucket of mismatched paint cost at Home Depot?” moment.  Or a broom and mop.

This was the shelter Mz B was collecting cans for.

I thought the shelter was a no kill shelter.  I also thought that the busy road handled the killing for them.  As it turns out, an average month has 25 adoptions and 200 kills.

It was not a surprise to find that Mz B wanted to ask me for a donation to the shelter’s building fund.  My Mom had mentioned to me that a friend of our family had donated the land for a new shelter.  And the new building they planned to build was estimated to cost $1.5 million.

Really?  From the sewer to a 1.5 million dollar facility?  In a town whose population has dropped from well over 30,000 to under 20,000.

The shelter has an operating fund and a building fund.  The building fund has a Christmas party each year to raise funds for the shelter.  Not donations.  $25 tickets.  To raise $1.5 million.  I wonder what the facility and catering costs are for the party.  Maybe I should not question that.

The operating fund gets my beloved Mz B’s cans.  They have a wish list for donations.  But it is always a problem to have enough food for the animals.  They only want Purina and regular scent Clorox.

I had a few other questions.  The average intake of animals is 225 per month.  25 leave each month through the front door and 200 are taken out the back.  How is a 1.5 million dollar building going to change those numbers?  How is a 1.5 million dollar building going to up the operating fund and feed the animals?  If you can’t get a floor swept in the existing facility, how will the floors be swept in a 1.5 million dollar facility?  How will the additional utility and insurance costs be met?  “How much could a bucket of mismatched paint cost at Home Depot?”

Questioning philanthropy is taboo.   All philanthropy is assumed to be good.  All motivation is assumed to be good.

On some level I agree.  A hungry mouth needs food.  If the mouth is hungry enough, that 12 year old can of mustard greens you donated to get in Six Flags will suffice.  It is a mystery how that can got in your pantry.  I mean, who buys canned mustard greens?  So donating it to Six Flags in exchange for admission is a win/win situation.  Except for the poor bastard that gets fed a 12 year old can of mustard greens. Is it better to leave the can on your shelf or give it to someone that needs food?  Is it better to give two cans of mustard greens or one can of Green Giant low sodium cream style corn?  Is low sodium really the priority for a hungry mouth?  Can beggars be choosers or is choosing for them  your prerogative since you are paying?

Can I demand that a volunteer sweep the floor of an animal shelter?  (Actually, I don’t know that the people in that shelter were volunteers.)  Can I ask a volunteer to sweep the floor while another volunteer sits chatting and smoking with visitors?

Usually, the money is the easy part.  Not that the execution is that hard.  Its the critics that will trip you up.

Try  donating an animal shelter or fire station to your community.  Not what you want in an animal shelter or fire station.  What the community needs and what the people working in them want and need.

You are going to have malcontents working against you.  Accept that and you might succeed.

Talk to your lawyer and CPA.  They know lots of pitfalls and benefits of projects like this.  Do this first.

Find a need.  A city of 20,000 does not need ten animal shelters.  A city of 20,000 cannot pay 3,000 firefighters.  A gift of flowers to floral shop owner is not the best gift. Donate what the community needs.  Not what you want to give.

Talk to your mayor and city council members off the record.  Feel out them out and make it clear that you are only considering it.

In the exploration and planning phases, its better to under promise and over deliver.  No one is happy to hear about something cut from a project because of funding.  People will remember what you cut and not what you delivered.

Talk to the people that will work in the building.  Ask for must haves and a wish list.  Your gift will earn you the gratitude of the community.  Your goal should be the gratitude of those that work in the building.

Zoning laws.  Ugh.

Talk to the utility providers.  They love promoting their charitable contributions and free or discounted services is a cheap way to get the publicity.

A free car is not the gift for someone that can’t afford gasoline.  You can’t give a city a gift that has high ongoing expenses.  A free manicured park can become an eyesore if the city can’t afford to maintain it.  You don’t get to saddle the taxpayers with a gift that forces them to pay high ongoing maintenance.

Keep your name off the project.  You are not building a monument to yourself so name it after a noted community member.

Accept the fact that you can’t control everything.  You will lose some battles that are important to you.

Form a committee to take the fall.  Try to get like minded members for the committee if possible.  Don’t lie to them and warn them that their job is to take the criticism.  It is easy to find people to be on a committee.  It is difficult to find the right people.  Make it clear that their membership on the committee is not to get a contract awarded to their brother-in-law.

Have all the answers for the committee but be ready to have some of them rejected.  Fight the urge to take your ball and go home when you lose battles. Be prepared to give the reason for your solutions.  Not a powerpoint presentation nor neat handouts with bullet points.  Listen to alternative ideas and do not come across as attacking them.  Try to make your solution the obvious solution and have them choose it.

Free is not always a bargain.  Don’t accept free materials if they are the wrong materials.  Don’t accept free help that is argumentative.  These people will walk off when they get pissed because their advice is rejected.  No project needs 12 chiefs and no indians.    If you are volunteering as an indian, do twice the work of any other indian and set the example by doing what the chief directs.

Function is primary but form is important. A steel warehouse can function as a fire station but nobody wants to look it it.  Within reason, pretty counts.

Adopt the community style for the building.  Southwestern adobe style would stand out like a sore thumb in the northeast.

Build for low maintenance and permanence.  Wood shingles have their romance on shingle style architecture.  But are high maintenance.  Find a synthetic material that will last.  Don’t skimp on the roof.  Scale back the project if necessary but don’t make your gift an ongoing headache.

Build to completion.  That includes landscaping.  Have a landscape architect draw up the plan and don’t leave it to donations of plants from people.  You will end up with a hodgepodge that is incomplete, an eyesore and pleases no one.

Consider a second budget to make the project turnkey.  There will be tons of things necessary for the building to be functional that are not in the building budget.  A fire station needs a kitchen outfitted.  The industrial sheets and towels supplied by the city will be polyester.  Furnish rooms to completion.  Six Lazyboy recliners facing a TV in a stark room is not furnished.

Pay the money for the architect.  It is worth it.  Best to find an architect that specializes in what you are building.  Even better to pay him to see the project through to completion.

Let the city contribute to one time costs if it makes sense.  The city might be able to extend water and sewage service to the site.

Buy locally where possible and see if you can secure a price break.  When you do get a discount, let the community know.

Fund the entire project. If possible.  No fund raising drives.  No push for funds during construction.  No last minute changes because the funds did not appear as expected.

Build the best you can afford but keep it reasonable.  An animal shelter might have examination rooms for volunteer vets.  Equipment will be necessary for this room but a MRI machine would be unreasonable.

Build with an eye to the future.  A two bay firestation might be perfect today.  Tomorrow, you might need another bay.

When the project is complete, fund a celebration that focuses on the community spirit.  Keep your name out of it.  When complete, walk away from it.  Your gift is then out of your control and input.

As you end the project, throw in a little extra unexpected gift.

Never visit the project looking like a manager.  The architect is the guy with soft palms that is the hardass on the contractors.  If you visit the project, don’t look like a princess.

Accept gratitude graciously but play up the contributions of others.  False modestly is distasteful and easily detected.  Find the balance between false modesty and benevolent benefactor.  Both are hated.

Before you begin the journey, make sure it is one you will see through to the end.  If word gets out that you are funding a project, backing out with your reputation in tact is impossible.

Also decide what involvement level will be.  Are you going to write a check and walk away or will you be working with the architect.  Will you visit the site during construction?  How much of your time are you committing to invest?

Giving away money is not as simple as it sounds.  Nor is offloading that 12 year old can of mustard greens.

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Hating on Enviro Wackjobs

I have decided that enviro wackjobs are people in a pissy mood because they can’t afford to buy a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.  Mine is dubbed “The Glurgolator”.  500 cubic inches of fossil fuel guzzling engine built to do nothing more than haul my ass down the road at whatever speed I choose in style and comfort.

Built when exhausts had resonators.  When people treasured the sound of a carburetor opening.   When six miles per gallon was a status symbol.  This is when she was born.  This is where she got her name.

Now I have cars with bigger engines that have statistics that top hers.  Some have doors that close with the push of a button and seats that embrace you when cornering.  Cars that collectors swoon over that are garage princesses.  Not my Glurgolator.  She is built to be driven.

When she was new, she was the pinnacle of technology and opulence.  Her owners fell in love with her lines and bought her despite the impractically of her two massive doors.  They delighted when asked what her “8.2 Litre” badge meant.

Today the only heads she turns are over 50.  They smile and recall begging dad to buy one for mom.  When she is parked, they peek in the window to see if she was ordered with the automatic climate control.  As the walk away their heads turn to catch one more glimpse.  A brief escape into a pleasant childhood memory.

She was born wearing metallic silver with a black vinyl roof.  And when she was taken for her restoration, I thought long and hard about changing that.  But ultimately decided to have her put back to the original color.  Her new leather is not worn and her seats have the spring that her original seats could no longer provide.  Her carpet is a little more plush and a new moon roof was added.  But she looks like the day she was born.

I never met her original owner until after her restoration.  The owner of the restoration shop (Jeff) found her for me and picked her up on a flatbed.  He told me about Mz Lilly, the original owner.  Not sold under financial duress but caring for her aging machine and driving too many tons of steel became impractical for an elderly widow.  Jeff suggested that I contact Mz Lilly.

And I am glad he did.  It seems Mz Lilly wanted to sell the car but wanted her to go to a new home that would care for her.  She contacted Jeff and asked him to find that owner.

The first call to Mz Lilly was not exactly what I thought it would be.  Thinking I would call to ask a few questions about the car’s history, I was not expecting a Spanish Inquisition.  After her questions about me she began to talk about the car.  It became clear that this was not a machine but a car she loved because it was a gift from her husband.  A gift bought at a time in their life when a Cadillac was not an inconsequential part of their budget.  Not the car she wanted to drive.  It was the car he wanted her to drive.  And she loved the car for that reason.

Months later I get another e/mail from Jeff.  This one was not about money or choices for the car.  This one was to tell me that my Eldo was ready.

Jeff is anal.  Anal retentive.  All the best restoration shops are owned by anal retentive men.  Jeff is a craftsman and hires craftsmen to work for him.  Glurgolator was completely disassembled, cleaned, repaired or replaced and painted to perfection.  Every door, hood and trunk gap is exactly 3/8 inch.  Something Cadillac could not do in 1970.  Even the gaps around her bumpers were tightened.  Jeff deserves to be rich.  I am reluctantly contributing toward that goal.

I have made my last drive from San Antonio to Dallas.  But Jeff agreed to deliver the car to Dallas so we could show Mz Lilly the car.  The plan was to take her to dinner so she could ride in the car again.

When in Dallas, our friend Mz Mac takes control.  This trip was no exception.  She made the plans for dinner and told us what to wear.  I agreed (as if i had a choice) with the caveat that we do not discuss her funeral.  Mz Mac has a new project that excites her like no other.  Planning her funeral.  The fact that she will be dead does not seem to curb her enthusiasm for the gala event.  Something tells me that she will attend my funeral before I can attend hers.  But I try not to dampen her joy of planning her funeral.

The deal was struck.  She plans the dinner in exchange for one night of ixnay on the funeral plans.  Nothing excites Mz Mac like a house full of “young people”.  Her home is in an established, affluent area of Dallas and when she has a dinner to plan, both the house and Mz Mac return to their heyday.

Jeff and I were assigned the task of fetching Mz Lilly in the Glurgolator.  I know the area of Dallas where Mz Lilly lives.  An older area with modest homes.  The small lots are worth a small fortune because of the location.  The houses, not so much.

Meeting some people for the first time is awkward.  That seems to be true for lots of people you meet but not Mz Lilly.  She walked outside to meet us smiling from ear to ear.  Her embrace was one of those that you get from lonely people who want to hold on just a little longer than your comfort zone allows.  But I squeezed back as she thanked me for bringing the car for her to see.

I don’t know how long Jeff has known Mz Lilly.  My impression was that they could be mother and son, with Mz Lilly listening attentively as Jeff explained what he did to restore the Glurgolator.  When she sat inside and reached for the steering wheel with gnarled, arthritic hands, I had to walk away.  Jeff’s pride in his work.  Mz Lilly reliving memories.  My eyes turning red.

Mz Lilly cruised the Eldo to Mz Mac’s home better than I could.  Bench seats and a flat floor are something that is disconcerting to most of us.  Our driver was right at home in the driver’s seat.

I’m not sure if Mz Mac is as stealthy as I think.  Maybe things just work out for Mz Mac and it is complete coincidence.  Every now and then her scheming shows.  I saw it when she called out her seating order at dinner.  I was given the place of honor at the opposite end of the table from where she held court with Tammy and Mz Lilly.   When I’d see their heads turn to look at me I knew the plans were made and my role was to write the check.

Mz Mac does not allow me to drink Tab with a meal.  Something about Tab leeching the lead from her crystal.  Which might be true.  It could only improve the taste if it did.

Tonight was not a Tab night.  The tittering and glances from the far end of the table screamed “WINE”.  And I embraced it.

Mz Mac reveals her plans when she wraps her arm around yours, lowers her voice and gently pulls you away from everyone.  This was no exception.  But I had a scheme of my own and planned to preempt her.  Never works.  Tonight was going to be different.

I told her that I decided to give the Glurgolator back to Mz Lilly.  AHA!  Beat her at her own game!

Or so I thought.

Mz Mac explained that the Glurgolator was impractical for Mz Lilly but “that cute little C-Class would be just perfect”.  It was wonderful that I was offering to buy her one.

Sigh.

OK.  Fifty grand plan was relatively inexpensive price for one of Mz Mac’s schemes.

If only it were that simple.  She explained that “a few things” needed to be done around Mz Lilly’s house.  To make it easy for me she would handle the plans with Mz Lilly and the ARCHITECT.

Wait.  What are we talking here?

On the upside, Mz Lilly “has some really nice pieces” so Mz Mac will buy any new furniture needed.  My part was to get her a PC, laptop, internet service, cell phone and a “cute little C-Class” with the color being my option.  And write the check for the remodel of her house.  Obviously there would be incidentals so I should expect some charges on the credit card.

Then comes the flattery about what a wonderful person I am.  Which works.  And pisses me off.  Sigh.

Mz Mac, Mz Lilly and Tammy are now sharing the responsibility of “keeping us in line”.  Mz Lilly taught math in her earlier years so Bry now has his own tutor via web cam.

What can we learn here?

This is what I walk away with.  My heartfelt desire to piss off the enviro wackjobs cost me a shitload of money.  But it also brought me a dear friend.

Thinking back on that dinner party, I bet that old woman was talking about her funeral plans at the distant end of the table.  She was having far too much fun.

The Glurgolator is getting a sister.  But this one will be black with a red interior.  Can’t wait to hear her wheels scream as she slowly turns the corner into her new home.  I wonder what adventures she will bring into my life.

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