Monday, April 28, 2008

*Mangiare al fresco con carrozza a cavalli

I don’t blog about carriage driving to writer a primer for those of you thinking about taking the plunge. In fact, if you’re considering a career as a carriage drive, don’t. If you live here in Salt Lake that would mean most likely I would be your trainer, and I’d just tire of you quickly and run you off. Instead I suggest that you volunteer at your local animal shelter. The pay is about the same and you’ll go home smelling much better.

Today I’m going to discuss food. This makes sense to me because I’ve worked in the food service industry on and off for a while now, and eating has become one of those things that’s important. So is sleep, but I didn’t getting much of that this weekend. I warned The Husband; Go away and find something to do off site or be prepared to suffer.

Fine dining while holding a one-ton animal on a string is kind of an art. When there was a mall across the street from us at South Gate we would have another driver hold the horse while you ran in and got something from the food court. Occasionally the Taco Cart People would park by the mall doors and their little boy would cross the street and take orders. He would deliver and we all tipped him. At 12 he was doing a brisk business. For a while now there has been nothing across the street but a very large hole. Mall to come in 2011, but that doesn’t do much good for us right now, so our options have been limited to the following:

Don’t eat
: Not the best diet plan, and for me on a day like last Friday where I went out at 1pm for a wedding and didn’t return to the barn until midnight or so. Not an option, especially if it’s cold. I need calories to burn to stay warm, and as much as I’d like them to come directly from my lurve handles, it never seems to work out that way. Bah!

Carl’s Jr: It is not unusual for a driver to take their carriage through the drive thru. I just don’t like anything Carl’s Jr. has. Now, if there was an Arby’s or Sonic within three blocks I would be all over that. The next closest fast food restaurants with drive ups are Wendys and Micky D’s, but they’re both about 6 blocks south and going more than 4 blocks for crappy food is my limit.

The most amusing part of using the drive thru is watching 6 or 7 employees cram themselves out that little window trying to pet the horse. Of course the looks on the faces of people in cars is pretty precious too.

J.B.’s: Right at the corner of West Temple and South Temple, it’s like Denny’s, but without the drunks dancing on the tables. The service is s l o w and by the time you get your food and run the ½ block back to South Gate it’s cold. $7.00 for a (cold) Hot Ham and Swiss? No thanks, I’m no gourmet but I don’t dumpster dive for a meal, either.

Dumpster Diving
: I suppose that’s an option. Sometimes we see what another driver has brought and make little trades, like you did in the cafeteria in school. It’s kind of the same thing.

Applebee’s Curbside To Go; They have one down at the Gateway, and the carriage fits quite nicely in the spot. A fabulous idea, and one I use a lot, but not when I’m driving carriage. Mostly you should use 2 hands to steer, and trying to slice up a steak, with plastic utensils while driving is a little rough, not that I’ve ever tried it.

Home Lunch; That’s the option I use most of the time, since, clearly, I’m pretty much out of options. During the winter refrigeration is not a problem. However, keeping your food from freezing is. Thursday night it turned quite chilly, and the Rice Krispy Treat I had was a little tough to knaw. Although in the winter we use our foot heaters, which run on charcoal. We have often times discussed bringing hot dogs or marshmallows, but no one has done so. Yet.

Delivery; Okay, so I’ve already blogged about “How to order a pizza” and have it delivered to South Gate, but I haven’t told you about our “Special Deliveries.”

During the Christmas Carriage Season, which begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends around New Year, we sit on the box (drivers seat) from 6pm until around 10, many times we are so busy that we never get a chance to climb down and eat, or stretch, or use the john. Fortunately, we have friends. Sometimes a driver who’s not working will hunt you down and give you a hot meal. Cheeseburgers from the dollar menu, burritos, something easy to eat. Does it taste good? Let me tell you, at that point, when you are near frozen, bored out of your mind from making the same circle for hours, tired and hungry, it’s the most delicious meal you have ever eaten. On occasion Gary and Raine will make Cowboy Stew (I don’t know if they use real cowboys or not and I’m never going to ask) Or Scooter brings a huge pot of chili, and once Lori and Glenn made Shepherds Pie, which was the best thing I have ever had. They hand it to you as you roll by. It’s delivered in a cup, with a spoon, and sometimes crackers or bread, often so hot you have to let it cool for a few minutes. And all of it tastes like a little bit of heaven.

Bill will come out once in a while and give me and ~A~ a pee break, but that’s another story.

So, as you can see, * Dining outside with a carriage and horse is quite a challenge. These days we just eat before we go out and then have “Breakfast” at 1am at the Dee’s at 2100 south and Redwood Road. It’s warm, dry, the food is hot, brown and there’s lots of it.

And if we want we can dance on the tables.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some days it takes a slap in the face with a wet diaper to connect the dots…Or listening to The Shins with a glass of wine…

“Gold teeth and a curse for this town are all in my mouth, Only I don’t know how they got out, dear…”

The Shins, for those of you who know nuthin, are an indie band who have some catchy tunes with the weirdest freakin lyrics this side of “I am the Walrus.” Even The Kid says they’re weird, and she listens to scream-o which sound like a band fronted by The Tazmanian Devil; “Blar Bleh Rawr Re Hawrrr” are some of the lyrics I’ve heard. I think. Anyway, it sounds like a lot of growling and stomach noises, amplified, of course.

“Turn me back into the pet I was when we met, I was happier then with no mindset…”

Yes, once again I’m going back to “The Job.”

And if you a took to me like a gull takes to the wind, well I’d jump from my tree and I’d dance like the king of the eyesores, and the rest of our lives would ‘a fared well”

You know, that one. The one with the horsie. The one with the people who do drive by shoutings and yell stuff at us about animal cruelty and, throw stuff at us and tell us to and get “real” jobs, slave drivers…

Yes, that’s where I got the name. It’s not some kinky sex thing, although it does involve leather. ;)

“New Slang when you notice the stripes, dirt in your fries, hope it’s right when you die, old and bony
Dawn breaks like a bull through the hall, never should have called, but my heads to the wall and I’m lonely.”

The job is my tune. The day to day crappola that goes along with it are the lyrics. Some days they go yada yada hahaha and some days they go blah blah blah kerplunk, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the tune that makes my heart dance.

And if you a took to me like a gull takes to the wind, well I’d jump from my tree and I’d dance like the king of the eyesores, and the rest of our lives would ‘a fared well

I love the tune. I love to dance to it like the king of the eyesores.

I know it probably sounds really asinine to love a job that other people sneer at. Matter of fact, we call ourselves “Carney Whores,” except Wease says “At least Carney Whores have something to sell that someone is willing to pay for…”

“God speed all the bakers at dawn, may they all cut their thumbs, and bleed into their buns until they melt away…”

On the other hand, you should see the absolute joy on the face of a person who has never seen a real horse! I know, I can’t believe it either, but we get them. Me, I’ve seen all the parts of a horse up close and personal. I used to work as a mare handler at a stud farm, and I’ve got stories, let me tell ya. But that doesn’t matter.

I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find.
Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?
And if you’d ‘a took to me like
well I’d danced like the queen of the eyesores
and the rest of our lives would ‘a fared well.

We take people on ride for birthdays or anniversaries or because they are kids who are sick and fragile and you just know they’re not long for this world, but you smile and make them think that they are the most important person in the world for their half hour.

And you know what?

They are.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It’s not the question you ask, it’s how you ask the question.

There is some stuff going on at another blog, and it looks like a revolt is planned because someone hasn’t posted in a while, so I figured I’d better get on the stick and write something or else it would get all “Lord of the Flies” over here, and that could get messy. All three of my readers might start sending me spam, and I just don’t have enough room in my recycle bin for that.

Since *B* decided he was going to blog about tipping (Still waiting,*B*) I’ve decided to chat about The Proposal

We get a lot of those in the Carriage trade. It’s a romantic gesture, for sure, doing it on a carriage. Of course we also have people do it on a carriage, but that’s a letter for Penthouse Forum, so we won’t be discussing that it here.

This is a picture of my carriage, number 2.

I’ve been driving carriage for 4 years now, and in that time I have had at least 50 proposals on my shift. None of them were for me, of course; that dog quit hunting years ago. Most of the time it’s cute when it happens. I’ve included some of my more memorable ones.

My first time was a quickie. They remained in the carriage and he popped the question in the passenger compartment. I got all teary eyed because I was a newbie, and she said, “Yes.” A “Yes” is good. At least with a “Yes” there is a chance you’ll get a tip. I’ve never had a “No” but I understand from those that have had one that everyone gets stiffed. You, him, her. Much unhappiness abounds.

Once a young man got down on his knee in front of us (me, the intended, and the horse) at south gate where we stage (line up to give rides). Dropped down right there on the curb. He jumped the gun a little; In my humble opinion should really wait until you are actually on the carriage, but since she appeared to be about eight months pregnant I guess he figured he’d waited long enough. I was happy she didn’t go into labor on the ride. Messes up the upholstery.

This is a picture of Charlie and my carriage. He is one of my favorite co-workers.

Ro called me in to do a day ride once. I picked up the intended in front of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. She had just dined with her soon-to-be Mother in law. The MiL whipped a laptop out of her bag, punched up a Power Point program, and sent the intended down the road with me to a 25 minute Infomercial. I must give the groom-to-be snaps for that; The Infomercial had music, video, voice over and stills all wrapped into a “This is why you should marry me” sales pitch that would have made Ron Popeil giddy.

By the time we arrived in Memory Grove she was balling. I was verchempht. I think the horse swiped his eyes but I wasn’t sure and knowing Tony he wouldn’t admit it anyway.

Another time Ro gave me a map. The pop-er had planned a proposal as elaborate as “Spamalot”, but without any musical numbers. I picked up six women at The Lion House, and at specific spots (each was marked with a red x on the map) I was to stop. One by one the women in the carriage would say, “Oh look, there’s my Prince.” A man would step up to the carriage, help his damsel out, and hand the pop-ee two red roses.

This went on all the way around Temple Square until we reached State Street, where we would be in front of the Temple. That’s where her Prince was waiting with the balance of the roses. I thought he was going to get in the carriage and do it, but he helped her out and they walked away.

Gotta say, I felt cheated. Lots of foreplay, no climax. Bah!

I picked up an older couple at The Little America Hotel. He had a guitar, sang her a couple of love songs, then proposed after we hit Memory Grove. I liked that one. It was like dinner and a show!

The industry standard here in Salt Lake is to do it in Memory Grove at Proposal Bridge. A very traditional type of proposal, and we have developed a patter for it. If we know what’s going to happen (many times we are clued in advance) we will stop by the bridge, turn to the passengers and say “You know, Sir, it’s such a beautiful evening, would you and your date like to walk around in the park for a minute? I have to go up here (to the turn around) and there’s really not much to see. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” That’s his cue to get out. Yes, sometimes you have to nudge them. Many times we have to remind them to breath! I gave this speech one afternoon during a monsoon. Luckily I had an umbrella for them. I think she knew anyway. She did a double sukahara getting out. Stuck the landing, too. I gave her an 8.6. The horse gave her a 7. He can be a little stingy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting there is half the fun

Bingo extravaganza weekend happens about every six months for us. By us I mean me and ~A~. We drive up to Wease’s place, drink a lot of wine and go to the Elks Lodge for Bingo on Friday night. As usual the traffic in Davis County on I-15 sucked, but that’s a daily thing for the folks who live north of Salt Lake and I pity them. That’s why I live south of downtown.

We arrived around eight pm and woke Wease up. She had been sleeping with her pack of dogs and I scared the hell out of her even though she was expecting us. I guess “Wakey wakey have some cakey” isn’t the most pleasant thing to arise to, but since I didn’t have Gerard Butler in my pocket to pull out and softly caress her face as he sings love songs to her it was the best I could do on short notice. You have to work with what you’ve got. If I had softly caressed her face whilst singing love songs to her she would grab my hand, bend it back until my wrist snapped and then sic her dogs on me. Not by idea of a noble death, but that’s how we roll.

Anyway, we went out to eat and then Wease had to go and work the night shift at the cheese factory. Apparently America’s appetite for cheese is so great that they run 24/7.

~A~ & I scrounged through Wease’s DVD collection and came up with two movies that neither of us had seen yet. We watched “Hairspray.” Wease returned home about 8 am and we walked to LD’s café for steak and eggs. Then we went on a Dollar Store shopping spree to prepare for our Bingo extravaganza.

You have to know how to dress for Bingo. There also are essential accoutrements one needs to bring. On our last visit ~A~ & I had stopped at the Wal-Mart in Brigham City for Bingo Daubers. I, in my 20/20 foresight, put mine “In a safe place” so I would be able to bring them the next time I ventured north. One day I will discover my “Safe Place” and all the treasures I have squirreled away will be found. Needless to say I purchased two more. We also needed bags to carry them in. Only a rube would wander into a Bingo hall with their daubers sticking out of their back pockets, that is so bourgeois. None of the three of us carry purses. It’s a Carriage Driver thing. You carry your essentials in a wallet and/or pockets. So we bought little bags for our Bingo Equipment.

Then we needed jewelry, so I purchased some of those necklaces and bracelets made of Glow-Stick stuff. And to top our outfits off, literally, we got hairpieces in an assortment of colors. Mine was blue and pink, Wease’s was red, and ~A~ was purple, because she loves the color purple. Let me tell you, we looked marvelous! We looked soooo good that one of the newbies at the Bingo game asked us where we got our hair. I told ‘em. “ Le Franc Boutique.”

And last but not least…good luck charms. ~A~ and Wease found some lovely stress-ball squishy things. ~A~’s was in the shape of a Dachshund with 4 plastic bones floating in its internal goo, and Wease found a frog that looked like a mutant puffer fish when you squeeze it. I don’t go for stuff like that so I took a weird shaped peanut I found in the bag from the dollar store and called it my “lucky peanut”. I figured if nothing else I’d have a snack in case I got hungry.

So we went and had a great time and of course ~A~ was the only one of us that won (TWICE!) and first Wease said that ~A~ should pay for lunch but then we figured out after her bingo card purchases and the dollar store treasures she really only came out $1.78 ahead so we bought our own lunch the next day.

But we sure had fun!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And Bingo was his name-O

My good friend and fellow slave driver ~A~ and I are taking another Carriage Tribe Field Trip. Once again we are heading north to the Potato Curtain because it’s time to visit Wease. The last visit was the “Canoe Trip from Hell” on the Bear River. That’s where I messed up my finger.

Crap. I forgot that I’m supposed to say it happened in a bar fight. Oh well, cats out of the bag.

(For those of you trying to pinpoint the Potato Curtain on a map here’s a hint: It’s the Idaho/Utah border.)

Wease moved north to the Cache Valley to fulfill her life’s ambition of taking large chunks of cheese and cutting them into small chunks of cheese then wrapping them in various brand name packages. Wease is livin’ the dream.

Actually, the Cache Valley, and specifically the view from Wease’s front porch, is breath taking. I have done some of my best writer-thinkin’ on her porch. Some of my best drinkin’, too. The most magical moment of the day begins on that porch, wrapped in a sleeping bag, drinking coffee, and watching the sun come up. Something in your soul warms and blooms.

Several years ago, after Stace left our tribe to fulfill her dream of joining the circus Air Force, Wease moved 110 miles north, found a cute old house, and a job. Five months or so after she left we decided it was time for a visit. She is, after all, still a member of our tribe. Wease, like Stace, is just on walkabout right now. Just like in the Godfather: Every time they get out we pull them back in again…

Anyway we went for a social call, five of us girls. ~A~, Oli, Shel, Me, and Bill. Bill is an honorary one of the girls. After we had a few cocktails we moved on to the Elks Lodge in Preston, Idaho. Including Wease, we were a party of six. We effectively doubled the population in the Bingo hall upon arrival.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about the bingo players at the Elks Lodge in Preston, Idaho. Our first clue should have been the “Rascals” lined up like Harleys in front of the entrance. These folks are as serious as a heart attack when it comes to Bingo. Jumping into that hot spring bingo pond is like jumping into a tank of ravenous, gray haired sharks armed with ink daubers. Watch the board and your card like a hawk, because if you call a false “Bingo!” in this crowd you can expect to be dragged ‘round back, beaten and slashed within an inch of your life by thugs using canes and AARP cards.

They do, however, love us because we have no idea what we’re doing and are usually too lit up to care. We buy full packets of cards ($15.00, thank you) rounds of drinks, order Pizza’s to be delivered, and tip very well. We spend a lot of money to support their organization and the most we’ve won was $8.00 and a coffee cup with a dauber inside. ~A~, of course, won that. She wins everywhere.

The last time we went, when it was just Wease, ~A~ & myself, it was a player’s birthday. She got to sit in a chair that looked like a throne and eat cake; I wish I could say I was kidding. Another woman sat between ~A~ and me. She offered to help us, and she was a tremendous help even as she spent the night passing loud and noxious gas continously.

Wease was the winner that night. She sat on the opposite end of the table.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Doghair is a protective covering for furniture

We went on a quest yesterday to find a vacuum that would be able to keep up with the amount of hair the individuals that live in this house manage to produce.

Here are the contributors:

Pomeranian; Sammie Two Chews known as “Sammie” (sometimes called “Little Rat” by The Husband)

Boarder Collie; Brown Dirt Cowboy known as “Cowboy”

Slave Driver; also known as “Mom”.

The Kid: sometimes known as “#*@*#!

Appaloosa L. P. Prairie Dreamer; known as “Dreamer” (ok, well he doesn’t live here in the house but when I come back from the barn I’m usually covered in his hair so I think that counts, don’t you? I mean I consistently look like I’m wearing Angora Levis!)

Our carpet used to be a synthetic blend. It has since transitioned into a synthetic/organic blend. Try to find that at Big Bob’s Carpet Barn or Shag-Ra-La!

We bought a really expensive vacuum a few years back when we had a Kuvasok. They are big white dogs that look a lot like Great Pyrenees, and when they blow their coat it comes out in chunks. I used to sit on the porch with this dog and “pluck” her hair out, like de-feathering a chicken. I could easily fill numerous leaf bags. If I was a spinner (and I did try it once) I could have made enough yarn to knit another dog. Or a Shetland pony. Actually, I could have knitted the Budweiser Clydesdale Team, the beer wagon and Dalmatian, but that’s too much like work. When I was finished the porch would look like there had been a blizzard.

After attempting to clean up the living room from this winters hibernation I realized that my current, once effective and expensive vacuum, was just not up to the job. It looked old, rode hard and put away wet. At one point someone had sucked up a Bic pen which had tried to escape through the hose, leaving a pen-size hole in the plastic line. We patched it with electrical tape. The cord had been run over so many times that it was more exposed wire then not, and it was now longer sucking up the dog hair, just rolling it into snake like clumps that I would have to bend down and pick up.

A vacuum is an appliance you want to suck.

Although I am one of the cheapest people in the world, I know when I have been beaten. Short of importing a monkey, teaching it to ride on the vacuum and snatch up the clumps at I push it along, then having to live with it perching on the TV and flinging crap on us when it’s bored (Or worse; The Husband knew someone with a pet monkey, and he could tell you stories…) I made the executive decision to put the old one out to pasture and get a shiny new one.

We went to six different stores. Dysons look really nice, but unless it pulls itself out of the closet, vacuums the house, does the laundry, fluffs my pillows, and gives me a lap dance I refuse to spend as much on something to pick up dirt and hair as I have been known to spend on a car.

We finally settled on a Bissell. It has a picture of a Boarder Collie on the box, and tools specially designed to pick up dog hair. I like it, it works really well, and my only gripe is you have to empty the bag less canister a lot more often then my old one. Of course that could be because this one is actually working.

Now, if I could just import a monkey and train it to run the vacuum…

Thursday, April 3, 2008

When in Rome

I started another job last week, waitressing at a new restaurant that has just opened here in the valley. I've been a server before; I worked at a place in Kansas City for a couple of years. I did it because we lived on the farm and The Kid was a toddler with no contact whatsoever with other young'uns. You know how city kids look at cows and point and say, "Look, look a COW!" Yeah…my kid did that too, but she pointed at children, and she called them by her first name, which made for a very embarrassing morning at an Old Country Buffet but that story is not printable so you'll have to ask me about it some day if we ever meet face to face.

So I waitresses at a Sports Bar which was located across the street from a pre-school/daycare center. I dropped The Kid off in the morning so she could be around other kids and be a little less socially retarded when she entered Kindergarten. It worked okay, I guess. I was a little worried people would think she was raised by wolves. At least she started acting less like a dog, which she did a lot before I stuck her in the class.

Where the hell was I?

New job. So last week I started and it was our "soft opening." That means we were open for a little over a week and no one knew we were there. But it's okay, it gave the owners a chance to work out the glitches in the computer system and other things because it's all brand new, and this is their first restaurant.

Today was our official "Grand Opening". Ribbon cutting, free food, raffle prizes, chamber of commerce, the whole enchilada. Knowing what the banquet room looked like when I left yesterday I arrived about 15 minutes early because I figured there was some stuff to do to make the place look extra super-de-dooper spiffy.

I entered in the middle of the blessing. How did I know this? Because the entire family was gathered around a little tent thingy and they were repeating after the priest and there was incense burning…and the owner's fiancé told me (quietly) to take off my shoes.

I look around and everyone has their head covered. The devout men are wearing turbans, the owners, who do not follow their religion as strictly, had a kind of a do-rag thing going on, and the women all had either a dupetta or the Palau of their Sari's covering their heads.

Oh, did I forget to mention I work at an Indian restaurant?

The owners are Sikh. I'm about as WASP as you can get, without the "P" part. I'm not a member of any organized religion. In fact, I'm not even a Christian, but that's superfluous. I do, however, respect the beliefs held by others, so when I saw that everyone had their head covered I whipped the top of my Jerzees Hoodie over mine and tried to scrunch my shoulders down into it. The Priest invited me to sit next to the owner's fiancé (I guess that what he did, I was just going by his motions and body language. I don't speak Punjabi.) So I got to sit in while the rest of the blessing took place. The owner's fiance got me a beautiful red head scarf to wear instead of my hoodie hood. They put some stuff in my hand that looked like cookie dough I think it was like a rue made with chicken fat. It tasted yucky, but that's okay, the whole thing was very cool.

I don't think, when blessing are involved, that you have to understand the language to get the gist of what's going on. A blessing is a blessing. All people around the world seek the same things: success, prosperity, everyone to have a good time, eat good food, and be healthy. They want joy and laughter, safety and security, love, and happiness. It doesn't matter what religion it is, it's all the same and it's all good. The Carriage Barn has meetings twice a year, and each one is opened with a Mormon blessing. They all boil down to "Thanks for the job, be safe, make money, play nice." and as Bill and Ted said "Be excellent to each other".

They opened a Hindu Temple dedicated to the Elephant-like God Sri Ganesha in South Jordan a few years ago. The Kid and I have been there twice. Once we got blessed by the Priest, got the yellow spice on our forehead and was handed some stuff we call "Indian Trail Mix" for lack of knowing the proper term. It was nice. We felt peaceful. Plus people gave us goofy looks for the rest of the afternoon, and in our family that ranks as a bonus, confusing people. It's kind of like a hobby. Random acts of confusion.

We didn't care, we were blessed.

And you know what? We are.