Friday, May 30, 2008

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things:”

I’m about to open a jumbo size can of worms, here, my friends, so consider this a warning.

(Disclaimer: I work in Salt Lake City, Utah. I do not speak for or pretend to know the conditions for all of the carriage horses in the United States. I know about the company I work for. Your local carriage company may vary.)

Are you squeamish? Easily nauseated? Do you wear rose colored glasses to view the world? Go find a site that will tell you all about Brangelina’s new chateau in France. I hear it’s really nice.

Trust me on this one.

Okay, now that all of the pansies are out of the room, lets talk.

I’m a carriage driver. That means I drive a carriage pulled by a, (gasp) horse. We use the big ones, draft horses. Because of this I get a lot of crap while I’m working from people who believe that animals have rights.

First note: Animals do not have rights, any more then your car or your Lay-Z-Boy have rights. Animals are property with personalities. I do not condone animal abuse. Cruelty to animals is wrong. Giving an animal a job is not cruel or abusive. If you believe that it is then we should “free” all of the service dogs, animal actors, racehorses, and canines that sniff bomb material or search for people buried in an avalanche. In fact, if you believe that it is and you “own” an animal, then you should give it up. Set it free. Let it return to its natural feral state. Then move to India and walk around steaming piles of cow crap. You’ll feel really good about yourself.

Oh, and I hope you weren’t going to fly or back country ski any time soon. And for heavens sake, don’t you dare go blind.

If you want to get a look at real animal abuse, check out some of the shows on Animal Planet.

Second note: When dealing with horses here is the reality. The majority of people in my country, with the exception of the Amish, do not use horses for transportation or as a form of work engine anymore. Across the globe they are still used as such in many countries. Horses are used in my country to access areas too remote or rugged for a gas powered vehicle, as anyone who has taken a donkey ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon can attest to. They are also used as entertainment; Horse Racing, Rodeo, Circus, and performance shows like the Lipizzans. They are used in sports, like show jumping and Polo, or as hobby animals. Cattle and Sheepmen still use them, that’s why we have Cutting Events. And in my town we fuel the economy by taking folks on carriage rides and give tours.

During a work shift we are often verbally assaulted, usually by folks in cars (we call it a “drive by shouting”) who say nasty things to us and then speed off.

They are very brave souls. Yell something mean, or throw stuff at us, and run away.


I have been pelted with candy, change, and a container of Wendy’s Ranch dressing. I have been told to get a “real” job, accused of mistreating my co-worker, and advised to go to various places, and do precarious and obscene things with myself.

We call the individuals who accost us “Ant-Equestrienne-Eco-Terrorists.”

Now, lets talk reality.

Third Note: Essentially the only folks in this country who still use draft horses, for what they were bred for (work) are us, and the Amish. There’s just not a lot of work for draft horses. The market is very limited, so by giving these guys a job we have taken them out of the food chain.

Yes, that’s what I said. Taken them out of the food chain.

Have you ever wondered what the Lions, Tigers and Bears at the Zoo get fed? It isn’t a McDonalds Happy Meal, my friends. Horses unfit for work or pleasure are sent to rendering plants. The old, sick, fugly, lame or unwanted. They’ve closed all the plants in the United States that used to render for human consumption, so animal consumption is what’s left.

Check out that bag of dog food that Fido’s about to snack on. The ingredients are listed on the back, away from the picture of the bright eyed and bushy tailed pet.

Animal digest, meat meal, and fat, along with a bunch of fillers like corn. Non specific. You would probably be very surprised to know that besides lamb, chicken, horse and cow there’s probably some Fido and Kitty thrown in, along with a smidge of road kill.

What did you think happened to some of the animals euthanased at your local pound or vet? Did you think there was a beautiful pet cemetery on the outskirts of your town that they were carted off to after they were put to sleep? Yes, some places have crematoriums, but that’s expensive. And yes, there are pet cemeteries, but ditto. So when the dog you found in your yard that you called animal control about doesn’t get claimed, where do you think it ends up? A suite at the Happy Dale Puppy Farm?

Sorry. Wrong answer.

I am very fond of many of my equine co-workers. Yes, there’s one or two I don’t like so much, but that doesn’t mean I’m brutal to them. When I get to the barn I find out who I’m working with that evening and pull them out of their pen. If it’s the same pen that Jerry is in he will follow you around and try to stick his head into the halter you’re carrying. He wants to work. And if the guy I have to get didn’t want to work, trust me, all 150 pounds of me couldn’t force all 1800 pounds of him to do it. They have four legs and can run fast. As an added bonus they can kill you with one well placed kick.

Jerry’s really enthusiastic, and he likes his job. Tom, a black swayback Percheron, has been employed by the carriage barn for 13 years now. His previous job was as a bucking bronco. After being downsized from that position he almost ended up as kibble, but the barn owners bid higher then the killers did at the horse auction, and Tom has been pulling the carriage around Salt Lake ever since. 13 extra years added to his life. And Tom’s quite a character. He likes to blow raspberries with his lips, it’s really funny.

Final Note: I like my job, too. In fact, I love it. It is the most fun job I have ever had. I get to work with horses, an animal I have been a huge fan of all my life. I drive around a wonderful city talking to people from all over the world. It’s, for the most part, a blast.

Except for the Anti-Equestrienne-Eco-Terrorists, with their drive-by shoutings and their ranch dressing throwing.

So before you go all postal and yell stuff, then decide to join PETA, think about this: The lives of the domesticated working horse is not nearly as bad as some people think it is. 25% of the BLM horses (“Wild Mustangs”) do not reach maturity. Why? Because their job is to survive. Cletus pulls a little cart around, and in reality spends most of his time standing at South Gate, sleeping. That’s his job. Try worrying about the lives of humans who are out there, unemployed, starving, cold, sick, abused or systematically killed. Throw money and food at them, they could really use it.

Leave the carriage horses out of it, because if I ever did have to give Cletus or Jerry a pink slip, guess where he’s going. Yup, see “Third Note.” Or maybe I could turn him loose in your back yard. He eats the equivalent of 2% of his body weight in hay, per day, and he weighs about 1900 pounds.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Taking a walk around the blog

My Blogspot page has a little thingy in the upper left hand corner. By pushing in the “Next Blog” button I can visit the next blog in line. Since Bob Mayer hadn’t written anything yet I decided to take a walk around the blog spot. Wanna come with? (I know that’s bad grammar, but that’s how they speak here and you get used to it, okay?)

So we have about 45,000 blogs about people’s families. Pictures from taking the kids to the zoo. Pictures of pets and children. Pet pictures are okay, but I really don’t want to see pictures of someone’s kids. Kids are boring. They make noise, messes and smell like fruit loops and over rip bananas. I usually find them annoying. And sticky. Pet pictures? I’m all over that. So I skip around until I find pictures of pets. Those I like. Dogs, mostly. Cats are kind of bleh. Cats, to me, are a lot like kids but they smell better and are less annoying. And if they get on my nerves I can put them outside, lock the door and no one will call the cops on me, ya’ know?

I did, by the way, have two cats in my life, both at the same time. One was our barn cat that The Husband named “Tiggrrr”, due to his orange striping. Tiggrrr came to us in the usual manner that cats do when you live on a farm, he was a “gift,” since all farms with horse stables need barn cats. Apparently to piss all over your hay and tack and make it smell nasty. But then we had Tiggrrr neutered and he was a most excellent cat after that. When we’d ride the horses out in the pasture he kept up with us better then the dogs did.

We got “Sparkles the Wonder Cat” when I was working for a farmer feeding his cattle because he had a hole in his foot. It’s a long story. But I retrieved Sparkles when he was just an itty bitty thing because the farmer and his son decided that 28 cats on his farm were a little much. Not being the type of guy to gift his kitties he and his son took a .357 magnum to the lot and when I returned to work the day after the shooting spree (for they waited until my day off) I found Sparkles hiding under the wood burning stove in the tool shed and took him home.

We also had a dog named Bandit. Bandit was a cross between a German Shepherd (one of the smartest breeds) and an Afghan Hound (dead last on the dog IQ scale, barely above hamster.) He was a very sweet boy, beautiful and loving but it was a lot like having a 75 pound cat. He made the mistake of browsing in our mare’s stall one evening when she returned for dinner. She picked him up by the back of his neck and tossed him into the barn aisle, with the same casualness as one would toss out a used Kleenex. Sparkles the wonder cat usually beat him up. And our crippled rooster, Foghorn, would jump the line at meal time and eat his fill of dog food before he would allow Bandit to have his share. But, Bandit was good natured about it all. He didn’t seem to know he was as dumb as a box of rocks.

Ah, good times.

Anyway, blogs…So a couple about quilts; Some about knitting; A whole bunch in languages I don’t speak or understand; Here are some about politics and religion, both of which I care to discuss even less then I want to talk about other peoples kids, if you can believe that. Okay, then. Pictures of a nice couple of newlyweds. He’s cute, any naked or near naked ones of him? Nope? Well, we’ll just keep rolling right along.

Here’s a weird one, kind of cute in a strange way, all about Marshmallow Peeps. They’re really good roasted cause you can get the sugar to caramelize if you roast them slowly (“Hello Clairice. I ate my peep with some Fava beans and a nice Chianti.”) And another interesting one from a guy in India but this one is written in English so I can understand it (YAY!) Some idiot Carriage driver from ..oh, wait, thats me. And one that’s about a dog written as if it is by the dog…Here’s photos of a metal box a guy built, more pictures of kids at the zoo…People, for Godfrey’s sake take your kids someplace other than the ZOO! Mountain climbing is an option. And really, when was the last time the entire family enjoyed a good old fashioned Rattlesnake Roundup? Huh? Be a little more imaginative! Jeesh.

Oh, hey, I have to go, Bob finally wrote his blog. You could go read it too.

When you’re done I’ll meet you at the zoo. Bring your kids and a camera. We’ll try something I saw in a cartoon once. We just need a Coyote and a Roadrunner. And a 2000 pound weight from the Acme One Ton Weight Company.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I have a lot of people to thank today and since I don’t have a rocket car and the powers that be are too busy making smaller mp3 players and not working on those Star Trek molecule transporters I’ll have to do it by phone or blog.

The trouble is, I don’t have your phone number, so blog it is!

It’s Memorial Day and, as a carriage driver, I spend a lot of time driving up through Memory Park, which is now called Memory Grove. It’s a war memorial park established by Salt Lake City around 1924 to honor those fallen from Utah in WWI, except their memorials don’t say WWI, they say “The Great War” and “The World War”, because they were installed before WWII came around. Some people just don’t plan for the future.

Anyway, it’s a quiet and beautiful place, and I have the honor to bring people from all over the world up there, most of whom would never get to the place and see it if it wasn’t for us selling the ride. It’s a little out of the way, hidden in City Creek Canyon.

It reminds me to thank those of you who have or are serving in the military. My husband, my father, and my buddy Bill were all in the Navy. Two of my cousins along with my dear friend and drinking buddy Stace are Air Force. (Hiya Stace!) My brother-in-law is in the Illinois National Guard, recently back from the desert. I am fortunate to never have lost someone close to me because of their military service, and I hope I never do. If you have, I feel for your loss, and thank them for their sacrifice.

So on this day when most people are cracking open a couple of beers and singeing their eyebrows while burning up their brats, I’ll remember that the monuments I pass up in the grove are not just names carved into stone but represent people who were loved.

Thanks for your service. I do appreciate it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Brass bands, Circus elephants, street savvy horses and the whole enchilada

(This Bud’s for you, Dusty.)

I was reminded yesterday of some of the eventful occurrences we occasionally have in the carriage trade. These things happen when you drive a vehicle who’s engine has it’s own agenda. Those of you who only drive an inanimate object (car/truck/motorcycle) can never know the joy of piloting your vehicle around town and having it suddenly decide, for reasons you simply cannot comprehend, that “It. Is. Done.” It lends a whole new meaning to “Having a breakdown.”

Our horses are not farm animals. They do not gaze upon a cow and shrug, thinking “Eh, it’s just a cow.” At this point in their career, if one of our equines saw a cow they would probably attempt to run away, screaming “I don’t know what the hell that is but I know IT’S GONNA EAT ME!”

This is a common theme with horses, and believe me, I understand. If my ancestors were used as food (and as far as I know none of my folk were in the Donner Party) I’d look at the world with a slightly skewed perspective also.

So while Busses, Harleys, the Trax train and bums trundling down the sidewalk pushing a shopping cart filled with all their worldly belongings that has a funny wheel which wobbles back and forth and makes that horrible squeaking noise are common place for them, some stuff puts them over the edge.

For example, Kid, who appears dead from the neck up, is a horse I would take to any weird or unusual event. I drove him onto the Football Field during West High’s Homecoming, in the rain, with a carriage full of The Royal Court, past a cheering crowd as we sank two inches into the water sodden grass. The condition of the field made it impossible for him to pull the carriage at a walk so he trotted, thus having us do the round at double speed. No problem, he’s a pro.

Yet Marky-Mark drove him a while back when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus was in town. They were down at the Gateway Mall, and Kid got his first look at a baby Elephant. Freaked the crap out of him. Why? Because IT WAS GONNA EAT HIM!

I drove our current mayor, Ralph Becker, in the Gay Pride Parade last summer in a borrowed wagonette pulled by the intrepid Max. The parade was rather boisterous. For the most part, nothing fazes Max. Yet several years ago on a windy evening a white plastic grocery sack was inflated like a balloon and kept hovering in front of him as we walked down West Temple. Not only did he stop dead, but he hit turbo reverse because he couldn’t recognize what it was and IT WAS GONNA EAT HIM!

Here’s a simple trick for you to use to experience how horses see. Our eyes are in the front of our face. Horses eyes are on the side of their face. Place the heel of your hand on your nose and your fingertips on your forehead. That blind spot? That’s their nose. Fun, huh? Now, walk around like that for the rest of your life. Double fun.

(A horse walks into a bar, the bartender says “Why the long face?” Ba-doop-boomp.)

I call Tony, one of my favorite horses (Shhhh, don’t tell Cletus) “Tony the Kittenhearted.” We already know he’s not a big fan of sparklers, but Brass Bands? Who knew.

Utah was one of the destinations for folks removed from the Katrina Disaster area. Two of the refugees fell in love and married. The reception started at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and ended up at Shaggy’s, a local bar. To get from point A to point B some brainiac decided that a horse drawn carriage, which they have in the French Quarter, would be appropriate. They also decided to incorporate a Dixieland Band and a Police Motorcycle escort. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in snake charmers, a 21 gun salute, and having the Salt Lake Symphony play the cannon part from “Wellington’s Victory.”

This cluster f*ck cacophony was more then poor Tony could handle, and his driver Mac, was watching her life flash before her eyes, ending in a smoldering heap of horse, carriage, driver, newlyweds and assorted brass instruments topped off by the slowly spinning wheel of an Electra Glide. I can’t remember who I was driving but they were not as tweaked by the mess, so I jerked my carriage in front of Mac, asked the cops to turn off their lights and give the parade more space. Mac was able to get far enough away from the marching band to get Tony to relax. A little. I think when she dropped them off they had to jump, tuck and roll.

I had a wedding once where the pickup was at Memorial House, in a quiet and beautiful park. It was July 24th, which here in Utah is “Pioneer Day”, a holiday bigger then Independence Day. While waiting for the bride and groom (late, as usual) two little girls in long white dresses accompanied by two yapping Schnauzers ran down the steps to see Charlie Horse. Apparently, Charlie thought that, yes, you guessed it, THEY WERE GONNA EAT HIM! So he started running in place, sparks flying off of his shoes, which was a thing I’d only seen in a cartoon. He jackknifed the carriage so bad that I stepped off of the left side onto the right shaft (for all you “straights", imagine the vehicle in a “V” formation, normally it would be in an “I”) I scampered up the shaft to his head and got him under control in time for someone to set off bottle rockets from the street above us. The Newlyweds had wanted a white carriage, which is what I drive. I was aware that just about the time we would be on Main street enroute to their hotel destination there was going to be a fireworks display at the Gallavan center, which we would be passing.

Holy crap.

I mentioned this to the couple, and the bride said “Oh, that’s so nice! It’s like they’re doing it just for us!”

Uh, yeah…

So, being that Charlie was now on the bubble, and not wanting their wedding day to turn into their date of death, when I got back downtown I swapped them out of my carriage into ~A~’s, which was white, and she finished off their ride. She had a brain dead horse who didn’t mind fireworks.

Potential disaster averted.

As a final note I will say that our horses do not all act like tweaking crack junkies from hell. During the Christmas Season traffic is usually awful. Being that we have a business to run, we have to look for holes in the mess and wind our way around Temple Square. Soon, you notice that the horses look for holes. On their own. They will cut someone off and squeeze into a spot, decide to take the sidewalk, or, in Tony’s case, get road rage and start slamming their bit into the trunk deck of the car in front of them to get them to move. It’s the horse equivalent of a horn. Car owners are usually not amused. But it’s okay with me. They know their job, and do it very well.

As long as you’re not in front of them, surrounded by a band, waving sparklers and grocery sacks, riding a baby elephant. With Schnauzers.

And now, I will turn the floor over to * B *.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting to the bottom of it all

(Sorry, nothing about carriage driving today. Just more stupid stuff.)

I have a disease. A disorder. Maybe you could call it a medical condition, I don’t know. It’s called Packrat-it is. Some would refer to it as just being lazy; that’s okay, I can take it. But whatever name you want to nail it down with it comes to this: Instead of putting shit away where it’s supposed to go, I pile it up on other stuff.

This creates a bit of a problem, like arsenic building up in your body. Eventually it starts killing you.

For me, it crescendos into such a chaotic environment that I am unable to function. Instead of going to my office and doing what I should be doing, I look in as I cruise down the hall, feel the bile rising in my throat, and keep on going.

Ah, the perils of a short attention span.

This was the last known address for my desk. It's probably under there, somewhere. The computer monitor lets me know the approximate location.

So, since it’s cold and dreary today, with the chances of it staying the same for the next three days, I will clean out and reorganize my office. I have no excuse to go outside and play, and there is only so much shopping I can do at the Wal-Mart. Everyone else is at work or school, so my companion list is down to the dogs, literally, and neither of them seems eager to play, which is weird. Maybe it’s the barometric pressure. Or maybe they too are sick of the way the office looks and are forcing me into a time out.

This the OTHER desk. It's not my real estate, so I don't have to clear it off.

So, dressed in my fatigues, bandolier across my chest, Bowie knife strapped to my calf, trash bag in hand and paper shredder revved up, I’m going in, ready to accept death before dishonor in the war with Officestan.

And do me a favor, if I don’t come back, avenge my death.

This is a futon. I've turned it into a file cabinet. Sort of.

Blog update, later that same day...


Okay, I got in, got out and nobody got hurt, mission accomplished! Yay! Clean office. And I’ve the pictures to prove it!

I found the desk!

And the other desk is clean too except for the Tick-like teenager stuck to the front of the computer. I tell ya, you spray and spray and you just can't get rid of them!

And last but certainly not least, the Futon is clean, which is good, because now I'm gonna take a nap!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

If “If” and “Buts” were candy and…oh, never mind, we’re all stocked up on nuts.

Working directly with the general public in my capacity as Slave Driver and Greeter to the People Walking Down the Sidewalk in Front of Temple Square, I deal with a huge volume of humanity.

Many of the people I am exposed to are families, or foreign tourists visiting Temple Square. It’s the biggest tourist attraction in Utah (believe it or not, even with all of our beautiful State, National Parks, ski resorts and recreation areas) but a lot of them are locals. Or, as I like to say, “Loco Locals.”

We have a number of individuals in the downtown area familiar to us because of their status. They are the homeless, the addicted, the unstable, and the disenfranchised. Most of them steer clear of us because we have a certain reputation. The panhandlers know not to even bother asking us for money. For many of us, carriage driving is our second job. For some it’s even a third. Ask us for a handout only if you wish to be mocked, or jeered at.

Last week I had run-ins with two of the unstables. One was a woman I was not familiar with who was changing her clothes in front of the wall that surrounds Temple Square, talking to herself, loudly, about how she was a black woman who was a member of the church, was sealed in the Temple, and did not have a tail. She was also cutting her clothes up with a pair of scissors. MBA was so concerned about the woman’s welfare that she asked the woman not to cut her clothes up. The woman proceeded to “Go Off” on MBA, yelling at her, getting louder and more random in her rant. When I returned from my ride I asked Church Security (We call them M&M’s, Mormon Mafia) to contact the Salt Lake Police Department. MBA wanted then to get the woman some help, I just wanted her to go away. They talked to her for a few minutes, gave her a business card, and she went away. Mission accomplished.

MBA was unhappy with the outcome, she wanted them to take her away and get her some counseling. I was happy that she didn’t take the scissors to us.

A year ago last February a young man decided to take a walk through a shopping mall called “Trolley Square.” He took his walk with a handgun and a shotgun and killed five people before being taken out by the SLPD. Unfortunate for the people at Trolley, but lucky for us, because two days before he was reported to be wandering Temple Square.

This past Saturday evening I had an altercation with a gentleman we refer to as the “Drunken Horse Whisperer.” I am all too familiar with him because several years ago he followed my carriage down the street, stumbling with intoxication, until I got Cletus into a trot and outran him.

He, apparently, at one time was a horse trainer. Being a trainer myself I know it can drive you to drink, but for me it was the people, not the horses, who were at the wheel on that trip. Horses are cool, many of their owners are idiots. Anyway, he has recently resurfaced. He likes to rub all over the horse, fondling their ears, talking to them, and generally be annoying. Not to mention the alcohol fumes which emanate off of him like “stink lines” in a cartoon. Saturday he tried to take a Newbie’s lead line out of her hands at which time I stepped up and told him it was time to go bye-bye. We allow people to pet the horses, but making out with them crosses the line. Fiddling with their tack, bumping them with their shoulder, or coercing them into an out and out revolt is not tolerated. At all.

He never swears at us (unlike some of the other crazies folks I deal with) and hasn’t brandished a weapon, yet. If he tries to take a swing at me one day, weaponless, I know I can take him, because, well, I’m kind of nasty, have big muscles and an not under the influence of any artificial additives other then the sheer euphoria generated by the endorphins I get from being a carriage driver.

Pause for maniacal laughter. Slave Driver wipes away a joy induced tear, and now her stomach hurts from the guffaws.

Ah, that was good.

Okay, where the Hell was I?

I don’t believe in “Horse Whisperers.” I hated the book and the movie. Natural Horsemanship is a load of bullshit brought to you by people trying to soak the uneducated horse owner out of their money, using terms that are a lot of Voodoo Mumbo Jumbo Crappola. A horse learns by discipline. Now, before you get all uppity, grab a Dictionary and look up the word. Discipline means “To Teach, by rote or repetition” not “To Beat the Hell out of.” And if any of you see Curt Pate, I want my $8.00 back.

So, since Drunken Horse Whisperer is back in town, I will continue to have him move along, away from the carriage horses, who do not need or deserve his “attention.” As much fun as we have at South Gate, we are, in fact, trying to do business. We have a job to do, the horses and the drivers. And I guess I will have to become a “People Whisperer.” I will whisper “Salt Lake Police Department” and “Drunk and Disorderly” until he learns by rote and repetition. And if he takes a swing at me, I will beat the hell out of him.

That’ll learn him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Wedding Crashers

I was looking over the writing assignments I have for the writers group I belong to and nothing in the themes for this month catch my fancy. Nothing next month either. Oh, look, July: Independence, Languages, Pioneers, Marathons, (Marathons? Everyone in this group is like, 60-100. I’m one of the youngest people there and I’m 47. It’s very scary.) Parades, Fireworks…

Fireworks. I can do that. I can even tie it to Carriage Driving. How? That’s easy, ready? Set? Away we go…

We do a lot of weddings in the carriage trade. It is the ultimate end to the fairy tale…As the sun slowly sets on the horizon, the bride and groom are whisked away to their happily ever after in a golden carriage with a team of delicate white horses and coachmen dressed in their regal finery…

Okay, you’re really more likely to get Tony, who is a Belgian Draft and therefore more Palomino than white but he is certainly the same size as four delicate horses, just lumped into one honkin’ big palooza. The carriage color choice is limited to black or white, however there are a few different interior color schemes, but odds are most of them will be covered in dog hair from Harley, resident barn dog, who naps in them.

“Naughty, naughty dog! Oooh, come here big goofy fella, I can’t stay mad at the Harley dog too long…”


You could get a Cinderella pumpkin carriage, but… not in Salt Lake. You need to go to Kansas City for that, they have them around the Plaza. I almost got a job there but you needed a Chauffeurs license to do it and, well, I’m just to freakin lazy. Then I read in the paper how one carriage barn owner put out a “contract” on the other carriage barn owner and decided that it just wasn’t worth my time. I have a teenage girl, I already get my recommended daily allowance of drama, thank you very much.

Of course you could ask for the hearse, if you’re going the Anna Nichole Smith route, marrying a man with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. It could be a two-fer!

And then there’s your delightful footmen…okay you get one, unless the driver has a trainee, and if it’s winter don’t expect any finery at all. Your driver will arrive bundled up to the eyeballs, looking the size of a Yeti due to the layers of clothing. Now, during nice weather we do clean up a bit (at lease some of us do) so your driver should have on a white shirt, maybe a jacket or vest, cowboy hat or if you get Jason he’ll arrive wearing a Dickens era cape and top hat. He always reminds me of the Bud Lite Here’s to you, Mr. Horse Drawn Carriage Driver commercial. Anyway someone will show up, on time, wearing clothes, we hope, with a horse and carriage.

Dream. Come. True.

Now, upon the arrival of the here-to-fore mentioned horse/carriage/driver, you are expected to get your ass out of your reception and get in the ^!*%#@ carriage. NO WAITING! We are busy, busy people, carriage drivers are. We have lots to do in a day, which may include but is not limited to: slowing traffic down to a mind numbing crawl (and if you honk at me, I’ll make Tony go even s l o w e r, and I bet you’ll think that it wasn’t possible, so nya!) We have gossip to gather and disperse, stories to tell, rides to sell, people to watch and then make hilarious and/or catty comments about, panhandlers to turn down, pedestrians to try and run over, and to top it all off we double as the fashion police. So, hurry up! And if we cool our heels (all six of them) more then ten minutes or so I get to charge you wait time, like a cab driver, but mine is about $1.30 a minute. So might I suggest that you peel Great Aunt Agnes off of you and ship her to your Mom. You gotta go.

Sometimes your family will feel the need to accompany you to the carriage and show their love, devotion and happiness for your marriage in various ways. Traditionally, rice was showered upon the bride and groom but someone said that it killed the little birdies so people stopped. Then they started throwing bird seed at the bride and groom but someone said it made the little birdies obese and lazy because they weren’t out gathering their own food and then the birdies started hanging around weddings with little birdie panhandler signs that said “Will peck for seed.” Oh, no, wait, that was a cartoon I saw.

I think I’m becoming hypoglycemic…That or I ordered a double mocha peyote latte at Starbucks and I don’t remember.

Anyway, bird seed, rice, flower petals, bubbles, all that crap is fine. I don’t have to clean it up, and the only birds I ever root for are the family of Peregrine Falcons that live on the side of Joseph Smith Memorial Building and eat the pigeons and sea gulls. But don’t, and I’m not kidding here, don’t get the brilliant idea to use SPARKLERS as a going away salute!

Sparklers, you say? Why, that would be lovely. How romantic to send off the bride and groom using HOT METAL STICKS COATED IN GUN POWDER THAT ARE ON FIRE!

Can you tell I feel strongly about this issue? You wanna know something? It’s not me, I love fireworks. We go out of state and buy the good ones. Oh no I don’t do that that would be illegal. We buy the crappy weak ones and put on a little display in the driveway every year…But half of the carriage driving equation is the horse, and you know what?

Horses, it turns out, are not big fans. They don’t like fireworks; the smell of sulfur, twinkley things that shoot out sparks, the sound of sparklers (sounds a bit like a rattle snake), bright shiny things or stuff that is on fire.

Make a note of that last item.

Horses don’t like things that are on fire.

Okay, is that clear? Because if not, then let me explain: Horses do not like things that are on fire! End of story. Horses are not people, you cannot reason with them. It’s like having a 2400 pound toddler pulling your Radio Flyer Wagon around.

They don’t like Mimes, either, but neither does anyone else and few people throw Mimes at the bride and groom these days anyway.

So, when choosing your method of sending the loved ones away to their final destination, ask yourself; Do you feel lucky, kid? Because a calming, romantic carriage ride after the stress of a wedding and reception is a wonderful way to decompress and end their day. Sparkler-less.

Of course they’re really going to end their day boinking each other into oblivion, but you don’t want that mental picture. So just keep thinking about the golden carriage and the four delicate white horses high stepping it off into the sunset.

Leave the fireworks for their hotel room.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I know you’re somebody, I just can’t remember who…

Monday night I drove carriage with MBA, my Monday night driving buddy, and the evening started out as uneventful as Monday nights usually do. I had a 4:30 appointment, an hour ride up to Memory Grove and then through downtown. The couple was nice, from Utah, and had never been on a carriage ride before. Same old same old. Then MBA and I stood around for a while, having valuable face time shooting the bull when a man and a boy escaped the south gates and approached us.

Since I was at the front of the line and MBA had two appointments that night to my one, MBA tipped her head to let me know they were mine, she wasn’t even going to attempt to steal them from my grasp. MBA is like that, kind and generous, wanting to make sure things are fair and equal. Last week I hooked an hour ride right about the time we were supposed to quit for the night and she got stuck hanging around until I was done. Sucked to be her but she managed to catch a short ride around the square while I was gone so it wasn’t a total waste.

Anyway, the man was tall (okay, compared to me everyone is tall) and as I looked waaay up and gave him my sales pitch I kept thinking I know you from somewhere.

A good carriage driver is able to judge the mood of their customers. Some want a historic tour so you talk almost the entire time (this job is perfect for me because I can talk for hours about almost anything) some want a romantic ride so you shut the hell up and drive, and sometimes if there is a group of people they like to chat amongst themselves and occasionally ask a question about you, the horse, the city, the church, whatever. So I plopped them into my carriage and asked;

“So, are you from Utah?” (He looked familiar, so he could be a local)

“No, L.A.” He replied.

“Here on a vacation?” Asked me.

“No, I’m working on a production in American Fork.”

American Fork is south, out by Mount Timpanogos. It’s a beautiful area. I mention that “Footloose” was filmed at the Lehi Roller Mills, which is close to there. I also mention how funny it is to watch because it’s supposed to be Nebraska and, wow, I didn’t know the Rocky Mountains extended out all the way to Nebraska. Then we chatted about the Sundance Film festival, The Assembly Hall, Conference Center and the Temple. I took them to memory grove and he remarked how beautiful it was, and how he’d never guessed that a park that nice was so close to downtown. I told him that they had filmed the miniseries “The Stand” in that area before the tornado had wiped out 432 trees. I asked where he was staying and he told me which hotel, so, knowing the location I advised him not to go to the park south of his location (Pioneer Park) very bad place, unless you’re looking for drugs, prostitutes or a souvenir knife wound.

But the entire time I’m thinking “I know you’re an actor, I’ve seen you acting, I just don’t know who the hell you are…” And yet this small voice in the back of my brain kept repeating “My Bodyguard.”

Of course I dismissed it. That movie was made ages ago. I was still a teenager, almost. And I knew I’d seen him in something more recent, but I hate asking because clearly he was on a ride with his kid, wanting to have some quality Father/Son time, and as the Lynyrd Skynyrd song says “Don’t ask me ‘bout my business and I won’t tell you goodbye.”

So we went along my route, him asking questions, me answering. At one point he said “So I take it you’ve lived here all your life?” to which I replied “Heck, no. I’m from Chicago, baby. I’ve only been here five years but I love history.”

He did ask about the Bonneville Salt Flats, and after I answered his question, he said that it was where they had filmed “Independence Day.” I mentioned that Bill, one of our drivers, had been an extra in the RV/Rabble scene where they flee to the safety of the mountain.

We ended up back at South Gate, he paid and tipped me well, asked directions to PF Changs, and sauntered off while MBA was tweaking because a crazy woman was standing on the sidewalk, talking to herself about being a member of the church and not having a tail, changing her clothes and cutting some of them to shreds with a pair of scissors. Not a typical show for us on a Monday night. That’s more of a Friday night event. So I was never able to ask who the hell he was because I had to go in and have security call the cops (so it didn’t look like we did and aggravate her into taking the scissors to us) But there was a guy taking pictures of the horses and he kind of recognized him.

Mr. Photographer: “That’s the guy from that show.”

Me: “Yeah, thanks, that helps a lot.”

Mr. Photographer: “That show about that guy who works for a store like Best Buy.”

Me: “Chuck?” I love that show.

Mr. Photographer: “Yeah, that’s it.”

Me: “That’s not Chuck.”

Mr. Photographer: “No, he’s the other guy.”

I realized he was right, but I had to narrow it down. Things like that bug the living crap out of me. So, using my trusty Moto Q Smart Phone (Which, if it truly was a smart phone would have rung me at the beginning of the ride and flat out told me who he was.) I Googled him.

Adam Baldwin.

And guess what? He was in “My Bodyguard.” Go figure.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Year of Giving Dangerously

The time has come, yet again, for my kin to stage our annual Beg-A-Thon. Yes, that’s right, we slither around town, groveling for money, all in the name of Dogs and Cats.

Well, if you want truth in advertising, Dogs. I don’t really care about cats. Cats are kind of self sustaining, anyway. I’ve seen cats hunt. I just can’t imagine my Pomeranian, Sammie Two Chews, bringing down a rabbit. Or a mouse, for that matter, even one in a cage, tied to a stake with a little rope around its neck, drugged with a Rufie. Although she has been known to kill snails. Of course we all know how stealthy and cunning snails are, right? Dangerous predators, snails…

Anyway, I digress…

So I don’t like to talk about The Kid much because, well, if you’ve read my blogs then you know I feel the same way about other peoples children as I do about other peoples cats. So I try not to bore you with what my kid does, mostly so I don’t have to listen to you while you go on and on and on about your kid while my eyes glaze over and I try to figure out the most convincing way I could fake a heart attack. Or a stroke. Strokes are good, I can fake half my face getting all slack and slur my speech. Hell I slur my speech most of the time anyway. Getting old, bah!

Anyway, it’s time for our annual Beg-A-Thon. We get this name from Public Television and their “Membership Drives” Except we don’t have Eric Idle of Monty Python standing in a goofy outfit looking at the camera with clenched fists shouting “SUB-SCRIBE”. We use cute pictures of our dog and The Kid to milk the cash out of you. It has worked quite well for us in the past. This is the 5th year for The Kid to collect donations for No More Homeless Pets in Utah at their annual Strut Your Mutt. She has always brought in enough cash to allow her entrance to a spot in the middle of the event called “Busters Back Yard” where they show their appreciation for your fundraising efforts by serving you Yogurt Fusion drinks, dry bagels with those little packets of cream cheese, and over ripe fruit. But they have chairs and tables with umbrellas and that’s the part I appreciate. The “Strut” is 1.25 miles around a place called Sugarhouse Park, and I spend most of it carrying my fat little ball of fluff around because she’s too lazy to walk. I’m talking about the Pomeranian now, not the Teenager.

Anyway, this year we took advantage of a program The Husband’s employers began and glommed onto a major donation for No More Homeless Pets, so that was good. But, not happy with riding the coat tails of a corporate giant, The Kid insisted on doing her own fundraising again this year.

So that brings us to this…

Dun Dun Dun Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

If you are interested in donating to a worthy cause, please follow the link to The Kid’s Fundraising page. We take credit cards. And if not, that’s cool. Enjoy the pictures of the cute little dog and The Kid, and understand that if she doesn’t meet her goal she will make my life miserable for several weeks.

Note: Last year's page has been deleted

And remember, I have an DSL internet connection, keyboard, and lots & lots of free time.

And, yes, despite all the eye rolling I do the money goes to help out cats, too.

Cats, bleh!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Tipping Blog

(WARNING: There is a lot of math in this blog so if you have a short attention span or are easily distracted by shiny stuff, you might want to pass on this one.)

Today’s subject has been rolling around us at South Gate for several weeks now, and since * B * hasn’t piped up on the subject, although I have given him a WEEK, (They don’t call me Slave Driver for nuthin’, ya’ know…) I figured I would jump into the pool. Actually, I have Pools on my mind because it’s getting to be about time that I set mine up, but the weather here has been so bad I’m afraid I’d be ice skating on it, not swimming.

Anyway, I digress.

Tipping is a very touchy and emotional subject with Carriage Drivers and anyone else who has ever worked in any kind of service industry. The custom differs throughout United States as well as the world. And here is the thing, I invite you to join in the conversation, make this a dialogue. PLEASE leave a comment concerning this blog. You know, as long as it’s about The Tipping Blog, not a comment about how I’m short and fugly looking. Crap, I already know that.

When I lived in Kansas City I went to work as a waitress at a sports bar that was 25 miles away from my house. I could have worked at a local diner that was 3 miles away. Why did I choose to go the extra distance? Because, having eaten at the diner, which was in a very rural area, I notice that the farmers tipped the girls a dollar. Didn’t matter what their bill was, $5.00 or $25.00, they got a dollar. That was the local custom.

A DOLLAR is NOT a good tip.

Now, a dollar on a $5 tab is good. Rule of thumb, the 15% rule that is, would make that a .75-cent tip. However tip on $25 is $3.75, not a dollar. So, bad tip. When I waitressed in KC we were paid $2.17 and hour. We were charged 10% income tax on the total amount of product (food) we sold. So whether you made 19% in tips that day or 7%, you paid 10%. Plus the income tax you were changed on the whopping $2.17 and hour.

Friday night I went to Dees with my fellow Breakfasteers. My bill was $9.20. I gave Leah 12.00 and said, “Keep the change.” That gave her a $2.80 tip. (Even though you probably knew that, I’m doing all the computations for you because this is a blog about tipping and many, many people in the world are mathematically-challenged.) The tip she would have gotten from a person who pulls out their phone and uses the calculator would have been $1.38. So my tip was about 30%.

Here’s the deal with me. Being that I have worked in the service industry for a while, I tend to tip a person based on the quality of the service I receive, not the price of the service. Leah always makes sure my coffee is fresh and hasn’t been sitting on the warmer for 3 hours. She refills my cup at just the right time. She remembers that I like the half and half creamers, not that foofy flavored crap. She makes sure I don’t get mushrooms on my Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, or guacamole on my Quesidilla, and she bring us extra napkins, because, well, we’re slobs.

In other words, she takes good care of me, and, her care of me is not based on the fact that I ordered the $6.00 meal tonight so my service will be so-so but when I order a $10.00 meal I’m treated like a Goddess.

So, that brings us to tipping your local carriage driver. My job, such as it is, involves me driving customers around town in a horse-drawn vehicle. Most of the time I sell the ride. I get paid a commission on the ride. So my base pay fluctuates dependant on how many ride I sell. Sell no ride, make no money.

Not really...

Now, as previously stated, my job, the thing I am hired to do, is to drive the customer around in the carriage. What happens during the ride is up to the customer. Do you want a romantic ride? I can shut up. I have blankets on my carriage, so you can keep warm. I have my iPod hooked up to speakers, so I can play romantic music for you.

Tasty,yes, but a good tip? No.

In the winter I keep a foot warmer ready, just for you, dear customer, so your feet stay toasty warm for the 30-45 minutes you go round the town with me. And I have pretty flowers, and red Christmas light aglow on my carriage, so you look like Royalty while we gad about town. Except for the blankets, everything else is at my expense. I bought the speakers, foot warmers, charcoal for the food warmers, lights, flowers, batteries to run the lights, speakers and charge the iPod (I keep a 12-volt lawnmower battery under my seat. I can charge my iPod and my Phone while I roll around town. I charged Ro’s phone for her one time at Christmas. Yes, I am a techno-Geek.) And I cannot forget the Inverter I bought to run the lights. I cannot forget it because I have bought 4 of them now because I’m such an idiot I keep frying them out. Grrrrrrrrrrr! I also can give you 4 different historic tours; depending on which one you want. And, unlike some of the drivers, I have actually researched my information (and can site my source, so it’s all authentic, not stuff I make up on the spot.

You're getting warmer.

(Note: The following is a Private Rant which will probably make no sense what so ever to most of you straights: Ottinger Hall is NOT A FIRE STATION! It was a built as a Social Hall. Isn’t the name hint enough? And if you still don’t believe me get off your fat a** and read the freakin historic marker! Like I did. Jeeze, crack a book once in a while, why don’t cha?)

Okay, every body has the blankets. I’m the only one with all the rest of that stuff. So if that’s the kind of stuff you’re looking for, ask for me, Carlos. (Plug, plug, shameless plug)

So, you could tip me the RoT 15%. That means on the $40.00 ride you tip me $6.00, and if all I did for you was $6.00 worth of service, then yes, I deserve that.

But, did you ask for a historic tour? Did I answer all of your questions without a grunt and a shrug? Did I stop at the perfect spot for you to take a picture, sing happy birthday or propose to the woman you want to (currently) spend the rest of your life with? Did you enjoy the ride? Or was it just eh? If you, as Ro likes to tell people, just loved your driver (and oh God, please not literally) the tip them like you did.

In other words, did I refill your coffee at just the right time?

Yeah, Okay, I'd take THAT.

And I am leaving those folks who don’t tip at all to *B*, because I know he’s just foaming at the mouth to discuss them.

Note to bridegrooms: Just because it’s your wedding day is no excuse not to carry any cash, and I’m sure the Doorman, Valet and Bellhop would all agree. Get a clue.
Now, just so you don’t think that I sympathize with all waitresses because I have been one (just recently, as a matter of fact, but it didn’t take this time.) We have been known to complain about and or ban one from waiting on us due to poor service. There was a little Troll of a girl at Dees who got into a shouting match with her sister in front of our table one night, and we complained.

I am the Mother of a 14-year old girl. I can see that shit at home all I want, for free.

She is banned from the Carriage Driver’s table for life, kind of like Pete Rose. Too bad for her too, because we tip quite well. And if you get involved in one of the Poker games some of the drivers have been know to have in the corner booth you might walk away with a nice chunk of change.

So what are your thoughts on tipping? Do we need a primer? A Tipping Manifesto, so to speak? Drop me a line and we can discuss.