Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Death of Santa Claus

Well, there's strange things done
'Neath the Iraqi sun
But the time that locked my jaws
Was the night "neath the moon when the third platoon
Gunned down Santa Claus.

Well it started off right,
just an ordinary night
We had to spend in the dirt.
Security was out, three sixty about,
With fifty-percent alert.

We had eighty-ones
and the Apache guns,
The tanks were track to track.
A .50 cal or so and an arty FO
With barrages back to back.

A sound gave me chills, '
cause out of the hills,
Eight horses came running on sand.
This may sound silly, but them mustangs looked frilly,
"My God!" I thought, "Mounted Taliban!"

He was coming our way
in what looked like a sleigh,
But then you never know what they'll use.
The flares were tripped, and the PEWs had flipped,
And the Thermals blew a fuse.

We let him get close,
and then yelled, "Who goes?"
Like they do in the movie show.
And the answer we got, believe it or not,
Was a hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho."

Now those troops of mine,
they'd seen some time,
And we'd done some things back-asswards.
They may be thick, but I'll tell you a trick,
They knew THAT wasn't the password!

The eighty-ones soared,
and the .50 cals roared,
The Apaches raised some hell.
A bright red flare flew through the air,
And we fired our FPL.

I'll give him guts,
but that guy was nuts,
Or I'm a no good liar.
He dropped like a stone in the killing zone,
And I passed the word, "Cease Fire!"

I went out and took
a real good look,
My memory started to race.
My mind plays games when it comes to names,
But I never forget a face.

He was dressed all in red
and he looked well fed,
He was older than most I'd seen.
He looked right weird with that long white beard,
And them stumps where his legs had been.

He hadn't quite died
when I reached his side,
But the end was clearly in sight.
I knelt down low and he said real slow,
"Merry Christmas, and to all a good night!"

We should have known
our "cool" was blown,
When the light in the east we seen.
But it looked like flares, and it couldn't be theirs,
Or the damned things would have been green!

So I picked up the hook
with a voice that shook,
And said "Gimme the Six and be quick."
"Colonel," I said "Hang onto your head,
We just greased old Saint Nick."

Now the ol' Man's cool,
he's nobody's fool,
Right off he knew the word.
If this got out, there'd be no doubt,
He wouldn't be making his "bird."

"Just get him up here
and we'll play it by ear,
Make sure of the Med-Evac tag,
Dismantle that sleigh, drive them reindeer away,
And bury that stupid bag."

Now by and by
the kids may cry,
'Cause there's nothing on Christmas mornin',
But the word just came in, from headquarters men
That Santa had gone over to Bin Laden.

Well, there's strange things done
'Neath the Iraqi sun,
But the time that locked my jaws,
Was that night 'neath the Moon when the third platoon,
Gunned down Santa Claus.

- Author Unknown - (adapted from a Vietnam War version)

Friday, December 17, 2004

It’s going to be a merry Christmas after all!

It was cold and brisk Saturday as I drove up and down the aisles looking for a parking place at the mall. Quite a hike it turned out to be and I nudged my jacket collar up and braced against the wind. The southern sun twinkled off the plastic holly and glass balls affixed to cars as holiday ornaments.

As I walked, I could only think about how cruel this season is. The pressure that comes from having to fight crowds to buy that “perfect gift” and the endless string of parties with people you don’t like. I felt my spine stiffen with resentment, more with each step.

As I neared the mall entrance, between Luby’s and Dillards, I couldn’t help but notice a small, dark-haired boy sitting dejected on the curb. He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old, and as I drew nearer, I could see he was crying.

The feelings of resentment and anger began melting as I started to open the door. It would have been easy to pass him without another thought. It’s not my problem, right?

I hesitated, then turned and walked back to where the lad sat weeping. “What’s wrong,” was all I could manage to get out. He looked up at me with large watery brown eyes. Slowly he stood to face me.

“Our Christmas money,” he whispered almost choking. “My mother works two jobs to take care of us since dad left last year. She doesn’t have time to shop for us for Christmas.”

“She saved all year, and dropped me off here with two hundred dollars and told me to pick out nice presents for my two sisters, my brother and me.”

“As she drove away, two boys from my school saw me. They are the same boys that shove me on the play ground. Sometimes I’m scared to ride the bus home because they have said they would follow me and hurt me. Mom’s never home when I get there after school. She works so much…”

“One of the boys grabbed one of the hundred dollar bills from me and they both ran away laughing. How can I ever explain to my mother that I could only buy half as much for my sisters and brothers?

I could tell that he had already decided to spend what was left only on them, with no thought for himself. “Did nobody try to help you?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, “They all kept walking by.”

“Did you cry for help?” I asked, really having trouble believing that nobody, I mean NOBODY, would stop to help this poor waif.

“Yes,” he said quietly, “like this – help!”

It was barely more than the whisper that he spoke in. “Is that as loud as you can yell?” I asked, beginning to understand why no one came to his aid.

He nodded, and looked down, ashamed.

I cast a furtive glance around the parking lot to see if anyone was watching. They weren’t. I snatched the other hundred dollar bill from his hands and ran as fast as I could to my car. I never looked back to see if he went for help.

A hundred dollars! It’s going to be a merry Christmas after all!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Nobody Cares

Ever been mistreated by a fast-food establishment? I hesitate to use the word restaurant because that somehow implies that the food might be good. While it's pretty much a given that the food isn't going to be world-class (when's the last time you said, "wow, that McDonalds burger was gooood!"?) sometimes for expediency sake you suck it up and do it.

The latest Subway commercials where the guy suggests, "how about going for a it looks so much better in the picture?" hit me a few weeks ago and I decided to try Domino's double stack pizza. Yes, I realize that if you take Ragu sauce and top the cardboard box that Domino's comes in it's actually more tasty than the pizza they make, but this actually looked good on the TV ad.

I called up the local Dominos and after a discussion on the prices and variables was told I could get the first one with two toppings for $9.00 and the second one with any toppings I wanted for just $5.00 more. I specifically asked if that could mean a supreme or whatever they happen to call it and the dude said yes.

When I arrived at the store to try my new gastronomic fantasy, they looked at me like I was an alien from space. One dude came up from the back to try and help and I instantly recognized his voice as the one who answered the phone. When he heard me describe my order he whipped around and skeedaddled back to the kitchen. Then counter dude proceeds to tell me that not only will it take 25 minutes for them to prepare my order (that I called ahead on) but that I was wrong about the toppings on the second pizza and it would cost me twice what I was quoted.

I disrespectfully declined and left with a somewhat sour expression on my face. When I got home I sent a complaint email to Domino's and was told they would definitely look into the incident and get back with me. Three weeks later I responded to the email they sent me that I had heard nothing. I got a second email apologizing for being so inept and promising to get back to me. It's been two weeks since the second email from Domino's and I'm convinced that not only is their food lousey, but they don't care.

Actually I don't know if the new double pizza is bad or not, I never got to try it. But I will assume that it's twice as bad as a single.

The whole incident reminds me of the time Taco Bell served my family tacos with lettuce that had been washed in dishwater. I think the manager called it "product." When I asked him what product was, he said the stuff we wash dishes with. He demanded a receipt before he would replace the bad tacos.

Oh yeah, Taco Bell never responded either.

If you want bad food, poor service, and cleaning chemicals in your diet, be sure to patronize Taco Bell and Domino's Pizza.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Son2 and I went to First Assembly's Christmas show tonight. It was the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

No, really it was. An inventive tale about a couple who inherits the church's Christmas pageant from the overbearing grande dame of Christmas pageants. Determined to make it the best one ever, just to show her, they hold tryouts for principal parts.

What they didn't count on was the Herdmans turning out. The Herdmans are a very large family of the meanest, nastiest, rudest children in the town world. They have no idea who any of the parts in the Christmas story are or how they fit in, only that they want to play the lead roles -- en masse.

To make a not-so-long story not so long, something seems to rub off on the Herdmans during the process and the pageant turns out surprisingly well to everyone's, um, surprise. Even the crabby lady making baked goods in the kitchen says, "I think it's the best Christmas pageant ever..."

The cast was wonderful, the production flawless and we laughed pretty hard through most of it. Problem is, now son2 wants to be a Herdman when he grows up...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Bridge To Something...

This morning was not much different than most. Got up at the regular time, got the kids ready for school, dropped son2 off at the day care and then we departed from routine.

Son1 and I headed into town for the dedication of the Clinton Library.

We parked at Alltel Arena and caught a shuttle bus across the river. The bus dropped us off right next to the entrance to the Clinton Center. Unfortunately, we had to enter about 5 blocks away on the other side. It was just a bit moist so we took rain jackets (I had a pair of rain pants in the pocket of mine) and headed over to Clinton Avenue (It'll always be Markham Street to me...). The line was already back nearly to Commerce Street (about 4 or 5 blocks from the gate) and we got in the back of it. Busses were steadily emptying people out across the compound and they were showing up in droves. It wasn't long until the line was circling back up Clinton Avenue about 3 blocks. Being able to step forward a foot or two felt like an accomplishment. The festivities don't start until 10:00, right?

By the time we reached the Terminal Building (about 2 blocks from the gate) it was 9:45. The line was quite orderly and moving pretty steadily by this time. When we got to the gate just under the freeway it turned mostly into a mob. Imagine trying to get through the metal detectors and searches at the airport with no roped off corridors.

It had started to rain steadily by then and I put on my rain pants. We finally get through the gate and are directed to seats on the "floor" just behind the congressional delegation section (Clinton thanked President Bush for sending 4 jets down with them.)

We found two seats and sat down. I overheard the two women to my left talking about standing up for Clinton and one of them said, "but I'm not going to stand up when Bush speaks." I turned to her and said, "Yes, we certainly wouldn't want to stand up for the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, would we?" She said, "not this one!" To which I replied, "at least he stands for something." She didn't speak to me the rest of the time, though she was quite rude to the woman sitting in front of me ssshhhhing her when she dared speak to her daughter next to her.

The rain is falling quite heavily at this point. We watched the Lyon College bagpipe band, the Art Porter Singers, Hot Springs H.S. Marching Band, River City Men's Chorus, African Drum Ballet, Phil Driscoll, Rita Dove and the Philander Smith Collegiate Choir.

Afterwards we saw the announcement of Al and Tipper Gore, all of the presidential families, state government bigwigs, and the diplomatic corps - seems like Bill has lots of friends from Columbia...(sniff)

Then we saw Chelsea Clinton (I remember thinking on election night '92, "Amy carter is watching this at home and going, YESSSSS! Finally a girl uglier than me in the White House!") And out came Laura Bush, Billary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter.

Hail to the Chief plays and out comes Dubya Bush, Billy C., GHW, and Jimmah. Skip Rutherford made welcoming comments and the color guard advanced the flags and we pledged allegiance and sang the national anthem.

After what seemed an endless parade of folks I never heard of (do you know Deborah Bredbenner?) all of whom son1 pointed out "talked real slow," we finally got to see a real live president, Jimmy Carter, speak. It was a very nice speach from an otherwise lackluster president.

George H. W. Bush spoke next and gave glowing praise to Mr. Clinton followed by his son,the President of the United States. Clinton seemed almost angry during all of Dubya's speach. I couldn't tell if he was tired, if the constant pouring rain was getting to him or if he was genuinely pissed-off. Hillary kept trying to get him to laugh or respond to certain lines, but he just didn't.

Bono was his usual self-absorbed self and the three songs he did with The Edge seemed to go on forever. I'm getting really cold and the rain is starting to soak through my rain pants in places where I'm sitting on them. Son1 is soaked through and shivering.

Almost to the end of Bill's "Bridge to the Future" speach, the boy and I slipped out. He was having trouble keeping up with me because he said his blue jeans weighed about 30 pounds. We grabbed a trolley across the river and bee-lined to the car.

Cranked the heater up and rushed home to warm, dry clothes and shoes. Damn, I sure hated to miss seeing Chelsea give the keys to the house trailer library to the Archivist of the United States. But a good meal of Phat Mee and Coconut and Lemon Grass Chicken at a local Thai restaurant made us both get over it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Southern by the Grace of God

What’s it like to be Southern?

Not to just live in the South, but to actually be Southern. There’s been many stories and songs written about it but I truly think it’s an exclusive club. No matter how long you live here, no matter how much you learn, there’s no substitute for being “born and raised.”

And maybe the current crop won’t get the real experience. It’s hard for me to imagine moms today letting their children run the neighborhood clad only in a pair of shorts. Brown as a nut, the sun was never too bright or too hot. The feel of soft tar on the road between your toes had a burn that immediately brought you dancing back to the lawn, but laughing at the pleasure of the experience.

Going to the neighborhood store for your mother, and carrying a gallon of milk back in a glass jug. Bacon and eggs and biscuits for breakfast, or corn fritters. Grits - not wimpy with sugar, but slathered in butter with ground black pepper and lots of salt. Fried okra and squash and green tomatoes sliced thin and fried with a cornmeal coating. Hot tamale pie.

There were always woods. Some deep, rutted with old car trails and trash piles and others just a few acres left standing. All were inviting, cool, fresh smelling places where you could find box turtles and lizards. And every neighborhood had its own fort. Ticks and chiggers were mild nuisances that were dealt with by tweezers, fingernail polish remover and calamine lotion. And the mosquito was the state bird.

The girls are so much prettier in the south. We all grew up crazy about them and why not? If you haven’t had the experience, don’t even try to imagine.

I learned to drive on a Ford tractor, and I had friends who got their first car at fifteen. We grew up with guns and fishing tackle and preferred sleeping under the stars to a tent any day of the week. Of course that doesn’t count the tents that you built between chairs in your living room to camp in.

I grew up in a neighborhood that was integrated before the 1960’s and we didn’t know any different. I never found out that I was supposed to be prejudiced until I read about it in northern magazines. Even then, I didn’t let those Yankees tell me who I could be friends with. And I still don’t.

There’s no end to the delightful memories of growing up and living in the south. I guess that’s why there’s so many songs and books about it. I can’t remember hearing any songs about being northern…

Friday, November 12, 2004

An Email From Bill Clinton

Chappaqua, New York
November 12, 2004

Dear Friend,

Next Thursday, November 18, the Clinton Presidential Center will open in Little Rock, Arkansas. Newsweek calls it “stunning,” and for people living today and generations to come, my hope is that it will be a vibrant place of history and learning.
The Center includes my library, the archives of the Clinton-Gore Administration and the Clinton School of Public Service. It will also be a home for the Clinton Foundation and its mission of good works here in America and around the world.

I created the Clinton Foundation not only to build the Clinton Presidential Center but also to help build a more integrated global community, one in which we recognize that, while our differences make life interesting, our common humanity matters more.

And so the Clinton Foundation is at work in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx helping small businesses survive and grow. It is promoting racial, religious and ethnic reconciliation in places like Northern Ireland and the Middle East. The Foundation supports citizen service programs in America and South Africa, and perhaps most significantly, the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative is helping countries in the developing world obtain and distribute life-saving medicine to people suffering from AIDS.

This coming week will be an exciting one not only for me and my family, but for the people of Little Rock and Arkansas, as well as thousands of people I was lucky enough to have by my side during my campaigns and my time in office. I look forward to the opening of the Center, with its thousands of artifacts and millions of documents, and I hope its high-tech exhibits will prove to be both engaging and enlightening to people who stop and visit through the years.

I am especially proud that, by locating the Clinton Presidential Center where we did, we have helped encourage more than $700 million in economic investment and development in Little Rock. It’s the least I can do for a community and a state that meant so much to me throughout my life. And for the country that put its faith in me for eight years, I am proud to be able to turn over the keys to the Clinton Presidential Center on the day it opens. I am grateful, too, to the many thousands of people whose charitable donations made it happen.

If you aren’t able to be with us next week for the grand opening events, I hope you will visit the Clinton Presidential Center sometime soon. And in the meantime, please check out our website at It contains a wealth of information about my Administration, the Center and the work of the Clinton Foundation around the world.

Thank you for your support. God bless you and may God bless America.

With best regards,

Bill Clinton

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Every Living President's Wife

Got my tickets to the Clinton Library Dedication next week and a stunning job of printing they are. I hope that we're able to keep them as mementos when we go. Pray for nice weather as it will be outside.

This, of course, is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and for the city of Little Rock. Every living president, every living president's wife and their children will converge on our city for this event. Dignitaries and luminaries from around the world along with the great unwashed such as me. All will be here to witness the dedication of this facility.

As I go home each afternoon, I see the sign on the top of the library -- 9 more days until opening. The bleachers have been erected in the parking lot out front.

And yes, it does look like a house trailer on stilts. Rumor has it that this was a dig at the people of Arkansas by the architect. I don't know about that, but I'll tell you this: I know of one person for sure who will be at the dedication who never voted for Bill Clinton. Not even once. Not even for Attorney General.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Rainy Days and Automatic Weapons Always Get Me Down


You can get rid of a dust pan if you do it while it's raining. Apparently the trash collectors aren't as enthusiastic about doing you favors in a downpour.

Banking on this success, I left son1 at the bus stop in the rain yesterday morning, but they brought him back that afternoon. May need to study on that one a bit more.

Long Strange Trip

What a strange week. It poured rain all weekend, but that didn't stop us from making a nice Tex-Mex dinner Saturday night, having a friend, my daughter and son1 all eat together and forgetting briefly the fact that my little bride was out of town.

Monday, son2 beat me out the door and by the time I got outside he had connected a sprinkler to the hose, put it in the middle of the yard and turned it on. I don't know what he was thinking since it was in the middle of a downpour.

This morning there's a message from son2's school that he is having behavior problems and they want to discuss them. Hell, I had behavior problems when I was his age too. Probably runs in the family.

Received an email photo of my new grand-dog today...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


I've known for quite some time that it is impossible to throw away a garbage can. There are possibly two ways to get rid of one. Leave it when you move, and I haven't tried this one but, take a reciprocating saw and cut it into small pieces and put it in another trash can.

But it wasn't until just recently that I learned that you can't throw a dust pan away.

My lovely bride had cleaned up a particularly ugly mess a few weeks ago and decided that she didn't want the plastic dust pan she used for the clean up anymore. She tossed the dust pan in the trash.

Monday is trash day and when I brought the empty trash cans up from the curb, there it was, the dust pan, sitting pretty in the bottom of the trash can. I left it there and over the next week put bags of trash on top of it.

The next monday afternoon was a repeat...a plastic dust pan in the bottom of the trash can.

This time I tossed trash in the bottom of the can, wedged the dust pan between a couple of bags and crossed my fingers.

When I arrived home Monday, there it was, as neat as you please in the bottom of the trash can. The little bride says we should try putting it in a black trash bag.

The last people that lived in our house left the most awful garbage can here. It's tall and thin and tips over really easy. I bought a reciprocating saw at the home center...

Sunday, September 19, 2004


I became familiar with the concept of tithing nearly thirty years ago. I was about 20 years old, in my salad years and always broke. I went with my parents to church and thought, "oh lucky me, one time I come to church and the preacher says it's the one day a year he talks about money."

I can't for the life of me remember his name, but I remember his message. He said that you didn't have to believe that it would work, that God promises it will and it does. He basically guaranteed a minimum return on investment of 10 times over...I had two dollars to my name and was hoping they would mate in my pocket and multiply. I ruined that plan by dropping them in the offering plate thinking smugly to myself, "we'll see."

At the time I was working for a state agency and one of my duties was to drive the courier van and make bank deposits. I was sitting in line at the drive up window and noticed in the side mirror of the van a dollar bill laying in a water puddle behind me. A man had just gotten out of his car and was walking that way. He would see it any minute. I didn't have money for lunch, and even if I did I would have done the same thing. I leapt from the van and snatched the bill up. It was a twenty. I started to think there might be something to what the preacher said.

Fast forward through the next 25 years - years of "giving charitably" and forgetting about God. I became successful. I worked my way up from laborer to supervisor to manager and at last I was vice president of a small company. I put fifteen years of my life into building and making that company successful. I made a lot of money in the process. Got the executive house in Overbrook, filled it with antique furniture and drove new cars.

Then, for some reason, things began to go wrong. My father called me and said he'd been diagnosed with brain cancer. He was scared. Even though I'd never met him until I was 28 years old and never had a "relationship" with him, I jumped on a plane and flew to Houston to spend a week with him. After the surgery, the doctor told us he had basically two years to live and they would be comfortable. I came back to Little Rock happy with my new relationship with a sister I had never known (she got the call too.)

About two weeks after I got back, my boss told me that he no longer needed me. The rug was pulled out from beneath me. I slipped into a funk that was the greatest depression I've ever experienced in my life. The only thing that got me out of bed in the morning was the fact that my wife insisted that I take the kids to school. Oh yeah, that's another thing. My 14 year old son had been expelled from school the year before, expelled from summer school, and now had been arrested twice in the first month of school repeating the 8th grade.

I pretty much laid in bed for two weeks. My little bride is an amazing woman. She told me to get my sorry butt out of bed and go find a job. I half-heartedly did so. "Did you go look for work," she'd ask when she came home. "Uh, yeah, sure," I'd answer.

I've never had any interest in watching church or preachers on television. I have always thought of the guys on TV as "swindle preachers" who are only out to get your money. Don't ask me why, but I found myself watching a local preacher on TV. Can't really say how I even found the channel. He was somewhere near the beginning of the David series and I remember being so impressed with his wisdom. I've always said I can't go to a church where the preacher isn't smarter than me. I know, that's pretty snotty. But it was me.

I went on the internet (ever wonder if any of this stuff is worthwhile?) and found when and where they are. I showed up for church that Sunday. I didn't have a job but was receiving my severance pay at the time, so I tithed 10% based on that. Yeah, it was on the net, not the gross.

We had already decided to down-size the house. My wife told me that we couldn't find a house she would be willing to live in for my target price of 100K. I wasn't so sure myself. We started looking.

I talked with an ex-customer at Alltel and he told me as much as he'd love to hire me, it just wasn't in his budget. He did give me a 30 day assignment filling in for folks on vacation. This had the wonderful side effect of putting me on display to his other vendors. I started getting job offers. I put all of my eggs in one proverbial basket accepting a job that fell through three days before my assignment ran out. Within an hour I had an offer from a competing company. I interview with them the next day and mentioned how things had fallen through with the other company. She said that it sounded like God's hands were all over it. Turns out my new boss was a born again Christian.

I began working for the new company doing something I'd never done before - selling. I started to worry when a few weeks went by and I still hadn't sold anything. My boss said don't worry, that's normal. In my second month I sold a job for $8,000. My new employer was quite impressed. I started getting orders. I even sold $7500 worth of printing to a guy whose wife sells printing for a competitor. God smiled on my life.

We found a house nearly as big as our old house within 2 blocks of my mother in law. The owner said he'd tried to sell it six years ago for $135K and couldn't. Said he'd take $100K to be shut of it. My son spent a week in jail and "saw the light." He divested himself of all his worthless old friends and spends his time with a Christian boy who shares his interests in cars and motorcycles. We sold our old house for enough to allow me to buy a new car that I really needed and to fix up the new house the way we want it. My wife says she likes living here better than at the old house.

My son has been going to school and trying to make grades. My youngest son has been going to church with me every Sunday and is learning to tithe too.

I've since changed jobs (so did my Christian boss) and am working for a local company. God has blessed me with the gift of selling. I have sold nearly $30K in mailing services since I started with my new company. Short version of the story (yeah, I know it's too late for that...) is that I will probably make as much or more than I did at my last job as vice president.

We're going to Louisiana next month to spend some time with my "new" sister.

Moral of the story? I've not had to worry about finances since my life turned upside down. I've tithed 10% (yes, net - not gross) for nearly a year and a half now and God has blessed us richly. I was baptized with water in the Assembly of God in January, get son2 to come every Sunday, son1 comes sometimes. Now, if I could just get my little bride to come. Would you pray for me on that one?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Black Wires

I stared at the wires and drew a blank.

Ever done something many times in the past, go to do it again and can't remember EXACTLY how to do it? That's the way I felt. I had 3 black wires, 3 white wires, one switch and a light fixture.

Then it hit me. The switch has only black connections. I painted one of the white wires coming from the switch black with a sharpie pen and everything made sense.

Today I spent taking down all of the old shelves in the barn loft and then wiring the loft for outlets and lights. Amazingly enough, the lights came on and the outlets work. That's step one towards being able to use the barn loft for storage and...

I have that sweet exhaustion that comes from honest labor, and I have a roast on the grill, veggies on the stove and suppers going to be ready in 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Mailing For Dollars

One could imagine Ali G asking the Postmaster General, “Does you think that some paper finds direct mail a way out of the ghetto?”

Forget those ads that tout a way to get rich mailing envelopes from your kitchen table. I don’t think that has happened to anyone. But there are folks who have gotten rich in the mailing business, and I have helped some of them get there.

How does one unintentionally get into a specific industry like mailing? Someone died, that’s how.

Back in 1977 I was working for a state agency in their print shop. The mailing operation had a supervisor and a clerk. The clerk quit on Friday and the supervisor had a heart attack and died on Sunday. Monday, I told the manager of the department of my deep yet secret desire to be a supervisor at the tender age of 21.

I’ve now worked for every major mailing company in this city. My experience running the machines, supervising crews, estimating and quoting and selling and dealing with customers has helped me to be successful over the past 25 years or so. Oddly, two of the three mailing companies that I’ve left have gone out of business.

Hard work, but it’s what I know. And, I’ll likely do this until I die or retire. I don’t wish it on my sons. My daughter seems to have good sense and will likely steer clear. Why couldn’t I have been working in a bordello and the madam died?

Every mailing project is a train wreck looking for a place to happen. It’s my job to make sure the train stays on the tracks. Sometimes I’m in the way and it runs over me. I have been known to talk ugly on occasion. I’m working on that.
Anybody got something I can mail? Let’s help poor families of 60 pound offset paper out of the ghetto. A stamp is a terrible thing to waste.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

You get two for one...

It's Sunday and Friday is a blur. What the hell did we do Friday? The only thing I remember particularly was son2 asking me to make bananas foster.

Saturday we had guests for dinner. Son2 went to stay the night with his grandmother and son1 hung with his buds. And, we had guests for dinner. We've just lately gotten the house to the point that my little bride will agree to entertain. So, we've entertained twice this past week.

It helps that she's feeling much better. Apparently a sinus infection. This is pretty typical for Arkansas.

Son1's friend surprised me last night and called to ask if he could go to church with me this morning. I told son1 and he agreed to go too. Turns out friend had a friend spend the night and I wound up with three teenage boys to accompany me to church. I think that to be an accomplishment.

Afterwards, son1 convinced me that the most important thing in the world would be to take him to the drag races at the state fairgrounds. We went, in the heat of the day, and spent a couple of hours watching 60's and 70's muscle cars strut their stuff and thump their chests. It brought back memories - look, there's the 72 Malibu like I got thrown out of at your age. What a night, spun out of control on Romine Road (a two lane country curve fest back then) and I remember clutching the dashboard for dear life just before I found myself in a ditch in a cloud of dust. Wow, there's a Dodge Dart just like the one I used to ride to school in with my friend Mike. That '65 Chevelle reminds me of the '65 Goat that Wyatt had.

Son1 was only interested in raw horsepower and torque at the wheel...

I did have more fun than I thought I would. Not like the monster truck rally that he begged me to take him to... halfway through that ordeal, I whispered in his ear that he should treasure this moment as it would be the LAST monster truck rally I ever went to...actually, it wasn't a whisper. You had to yell to be heard. And the smell...

I know, I'm using too many elipses. Maybe I should go all the way and stop capitalizing and punctuating...

I'm home, I've taken the trash to the curb for tomorrow, I've set the sprinkler to do half of the front yard, I've drank a few beers and now I have to think about supper. My little bride says, "You wouldn't go and get us some burgers, would you?"

I'll see you tomorrow...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Zen Parenting

Siddhartha found enlightenment at age 35. Why then, at the age of 48 am I not even close?

Son 1 has been a challenge since birth. Have you ever known a child to begin hating school in kindergarten? He did. By seventh grade he had all but given up on school, barely squeaking into the eighth grade. Constantly in trouble, he was expelled from school within the first month of 8th grade, wound up at an alternative school and failed. We tried summer school. He was expelled from summer school within 2 weeks. Repeated the 8th grade, arrested twice in the first month and a court appearance set for February.

At the court appearance he told the judge that it was just too much trouble to go to school. I was momentarily distracted and never saw them whisk him from the room. Next I saw him he was wearing an orange jump suit.

A week in detention seems to have gotten his attention. He went to school every single day from February 26 until the end of school in June. He is now going to school every day and even showing an interest in making passing grades. Part of this is so he can get his learners permit to drive.

But lately it seems to be getting more and more difficult to get him out of bed.

Is the spell wearing off? Are we headed for disaster? How can I know when to apply the pressure and when to back off?

Each morning I drop him off at the bus stop about 15 minutes early. The day before yesterday he missed the bus. He had walked away and when he came back the bus had already passed him and wouldn't stop again. Of course it was a) the bus driver's fault for not stopping and b) the stupid other kids at the bus stop that didn't ask the driver to wait. It was not a) Son 1's fault or b) anywhere within a city block of Son 1's fault.

How do you get children to take responsibility for their actions? I'm accountable if I don't get the right cereal or the right jeans. But there's no accountability for making failing grades or having some idiot cop arrest you just because he doesn't like the way you break the law...

Does it help sometimes to just vent your frustrations in this venue? Is there hope for me as a parent?

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Waiting for my daughter to get here for lunch. One of the pleasures that come with grown children is to get to see them occasionally. And, it's always a pleasure to see Hannah. She calls and says she's leaving, but the drive from Conway always seems to take too long. I find myself getting nervous and wondering where she is. Has it been thirty minutes yet?

She hasn't been to see me at work since I changed jobs, so I get to tour her around and introduce her to my new co-workers. Then we'll get lunch. Did I mention she made the Dean's list last semester?

Well she finally made it. We went to a new Caribbean restaurant down town called Studio 69. It's owned by Vic Allotey who used to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. Turns out Hannah is a big KC fan and so is her boyfriend. I asked Vic if he would autograph a menu for her and he one-upped me and signed a large photo of himself playing for the Chiefs. Made her day and possibly made dad just a little taller in her eyes. She says that her boyfriend will be quite jealous when he sees it. And, the food was great.

I'm just back from a couple of cold-calls and feeling pretty good. Think I'll finish up the day at the Business Expo going on at Alltel Arena this afternoon.

Life can be good and a daughter's smile can do the trick.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


What kind of person sets themselves up for rejection over and over again? A salesman, that's who. A writer friend of mine is starting a new magazine (Ozarks Monthly Magazine - ) and is having to get out and sell advertising. She told me today how hard that is. As a writer, she said, she got rejected long-distance. She could fall apart or not without having to face the antagonist. But direct selling? That's different.

This is what I do day in, day out. Luckily the Good Lord has kept his eye on this sparrow and we're not going hungry. But I'm out there in the wind every day.

One may suppose that the victories offset the losses, and I have to admit there's a bit of freedom that doesn't come with a time-clock, but it's a bitter pill when it's not coming together.

So, do me a favor, if a salesman comes calling on you, be nice to him. It might be me...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

losing my cherry...

...a totally new and random experience for me. Much like my entire life. I can't think of one thing I ever did deliberately and this is no exception.

I stumbled across blogging in a google websearch. The object of my desire was embedded in a "blog". While the link to my interest didn't seem to function correctly, the voyeuristic pleasure that I found in lifting up the covers of someone's life was intriguing.

I've followed the blogs of this gentleman for some weeks now, all the while trying to decide should I join in the fun or just lurk?

This is an experiment. Keep that in mind. I may or may not continue to add to this. It all depends on how much fun it turns out to be. So now it's your turn to look under the covers...

Once you've seen the elephant, there's not room for the mundane...