Thursday, December 31, 2009

The "Voice" That Is You

I responded to an email on a loop this morning, and a totally different person responded to my response, saying that she loved reading my email because, since I write exactly the way I talk, she could "hear" my "voice" in her head. Now, mind you she actually *knows* me in real life, so that's possible with her. Those of you that don't, well, you don't. But this is *me*, warts and all.

So, anyway, I hope to be able to spread my voice around this year with my writing but if not at least I've tried, and will continue to try. Reflecting on the past year I must say that I have learned a lot about writing, publishing, and myself. Well, I already knew a lot about myself; I am very comfortable in my own skin. I know the things I do well, and recognize the things I need to improve upon. But most of all I really like and appreciate the life I have and the people I have in it.

Yesterday I got a huge bonus; The Kid said to me, "I want you to know that I know how fortunate I am," and I waited for her to describe her room, or TV, or I don't know, something material, then she continued, "Because I have both of you. And you don't drink excessively, and Dad's alive." Apparently the friend she'd spent the night with the day before has a deceased father and an alcoholic mother. Having her voice that sentiment made all the yelling and snarling she and I do dissolve. Until, of course, next time. But she found her voice, and was able to verbalize a feeling that many other would have just internalized, because for whatever reason they didn't feel the need to say it.

I want to thank all of you that come by here and visit, whether intentionally or by happenstance, because I appreciate your involvement, passive or aggressive. And if you decide to voice your opinion and jot down a comment or just keep them to yourself and lurk (you know who you are…) I appreciate it each time you consciously hit that "favorite" button or type in the blogspot URL or google SLC Slave Driver.

Anyway you get here, it's all good. I wish for you a fabulous New Year filled with awsomesauce and cool beans.

And may all your dreams come true. As long as they're legal. And they don't interfere with any of my dreams.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The TV That Ate The Livingroom

There's been a bit of a kerfluffle going around in Casa Del Slave Driver the past couple of weeks. Mr. Slave Driver got a line on a big screen TV from a friend of a guy that he works with. For. Sale. Cheap. It only needed minor repair. Every man's dream, a high Def Jumbo-Tron in the basement/man cave for very small change.

I wasn't overly thrilled- although I admit that the television in the basement has been acting up over the last couple of years. We call it the "Mystery" TV. The mystery part being if once you hit the power button will it go on or not. Mostly you hit the power and it will turn on, eventually, many times scaring the bejesus out of you when, an hour after you hit the button and gave up on it and moved on to reading a book, it springs to life flaunting Oprah (shudder) or Regis (double shudder.)

Anyway, so I suppose we could use a television that responds the way an electronic device is designed to- on demand. I said, "Merry Christmas. That's your gift, I guess." And left it at that, getting occasional updates as to how the Jumbo-tron was doing at the TV infirmary. Yesterday it was ready. Fixed up, healthy, and ready to be transported home. Mr. SD got a buddy (the same buddy that incited the saga in the first place) to assist in the retrieval of the Jumbo-Tron and they delivered it while I was at work.

It won't fit in the basement. In fact, it won't make it around the first corner in the living room to the basement.



So I guess it'll be going in the living room. Where it will take up the space that used to be occupied by a TV and an entertainment center complete with shelves full of horses, photographs and nicknacks.

Sigh.

Folks, I have to tell you, I've owned automobiles smaller that this TVzilla. It comes up to my nose. (Okay, I admit that I'm not tall but holy crap!)



Well, at least I'll never worry about it getting stolen.

It makes the 32 inch TV look like a toy, doesn't it? Maybe in the summer we can park the car on the front lawn and watch it through the front window- pretend we're at the drive-in.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Collective Observations From Christmas Carriage Season '09

Dear Residents of the Salt Lake Valley and various parts of Idaho,

Section 1, paragraph A

There is one weekend a year where downtown is transformed from a relatively peaceful small market to a hellacious traffic cluster f*ck of epic proportions. Okay, two weekends. But only during one of them are carriage rides in high demand. The first weekend, which is inconsequential to the carriage trade, is spring Conference weekend. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is almost always at the Energy Solutions Arena the same weekend as conference. Please note this on your calendar, either as a warning or as practice, since traffic is always cocked up. If you use this as practice, then note that the absolute worst weekend to drive downtown is around the second weekend in December. This is when the highly intelligent powers that be schedule the Christmas program at the Conference Center (capacity 21,000 plus 900 in the adjoining theater) a Utah Jazz basketball game (capacity 20,000) Kurt Bestor Christmas show at Abravanel Hall (capacity 2811) and, of course the Nutcracker at the Capitol Theater (2260). We're not going to even count the number of people looking at the lights on Temple Square or attending a Christmas party at either the Joseph Smith Memorial building or any of the restaurants/hotels downtown. And God forbid they schedule anything at all at The Salt Palace Convention Center. So, if you plan on attending a function downtown on the Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings on the weekend I have just mentioned, may I suggest you either take public transportation or, if you plan on driving, want to be on time and find a parking spot, leave your home at noon. If you are coming from southern Idaho, make it noon the day before.

It's no secret folks, if you have internet access you can look it up for yourself. Plan a little better for 2010, m'kay?

Section 1 paragraph B

Next item on the agenda; Orange cones. Orange cones serve as a warning. They mean, "Slow down" or "Caution" or "Don't freaking park here you moron." The ones we use are approximately two feet tall and are bright ORANGE so how a person can step out of their vehicle, (stopped in the middle of the street, blocking traffic, mind you) and trip over one shows me that they are either blind, stupid, or extremely obtuse. If I were them I'd go with obtuse because I like the way the word rolls off the tongue. And some people don't know what it means, so they might even come off looking smart, which they're not. Because they're obtuse.

Section 1 paragraph C

When a pedestrian steps out into traffic and holds up their hand in the universal sign indicating "Stop," they are not taunting you into a game of "Chicken" but in fact want you to "stop." If you are unaware what the word "stop" means, see above section 1 paragraph B, because obviously you are obtuse.

(41-6a-1002. Pedestrians' right-of-way -- Duty of pedestrian.

(1) (a) Except as provided under Subsection (2), when traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the operator of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way by slowing down or stopping if necessary.)


The fact that said pedestrian then allows a horse drawn conveyance out in front of you is superfluous to the operation. It is a universal truth that at Christmas time, we do in fact own the roads.

Section 1 paragraph D

When you make a reservation and Ro tells you over the phone that, "Your reservation begins at _:00 o'clock and ends at _:30", she's not kidding. Seriously. It's not that we like being mean (ok, well, I do) it's just that you're cutting into our income. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't appreciate someone cutting into your income. So don't be late. And if you end up being late because the highway was backed up for m i l e s, see section 1, paragraph A. The inability to manage the space/time/traffic continuum on your part does not constitute an "emergency" on mine.

Section 2 paragraph A

There are four verses to Jingle Bells. Four. And the "Batman Smells" is not one of them. And quit starting Christmas carols so high on the scale that when you get to the chorus you sound like chipmunks caught in a bear trap. It's unbecoming and annoys the shit out of the horse.

Section 2 paragraph B

Don't tip me in candy. I'm not a trained seal, I work for money, not treats. I don't hand your kids a cold beer, so don't give me a .99¢ box of chocolate covered orange sticks you got on sale at Walgreens.

Section 2, Paragraph C

Unless you have a reasonably intelligent question or your hair in on fire, don't talk to the driver, talk to each other. Any other time of the year we are both pleasant and informative. During Christmas, counter to the usual festive merriment of the season, we are tired, cold, hungry and surly. Plus we are swathed in so many layers of clothing we are roughly the size of a Sumo wrestler, so it makes turning around to talk an exercise in futility. We are limberly challenged. So if your impetus for taking a ride is not to see the lights but in fact to have a conversation with a carriage driver, I suggest you come back in June. In June, we like to talk.

Section 3 paragraph A

Not every single horse we have is a Clydesdale, so quit telling your family that the horse I'm working with is a Clydesdale. We only have two Clydesdales; Bart and Libby, the rest are not Clydesdales. And be thankful Jumping-Percheron's Stacey no longer works for us or she'd rip you a new one for calling Wesson a Clydesdale.

Section 3 paragraph B

As much as we would like to be able to, we do not allow the horses to eat while they are working. This is for several reasons: A horse like Charlie, if given a treat while on the street, will bug the shit out of everyone he possibly can begging for more. Really. He's a pig, with a giant ass. I know because I look at it all night long. Also, if given treats while working the horses come to expect it, and when your child walks up with sticky candy cane residue on their fingers, the horse might decide that a candy cane flavored finger would be a good treat too. And then you're stuck with a child who will eventually be given the nickname "Lefty" in school and one day they will climb a clock tower with a 30-06 and take their fingerless rage out on the world.

So bring out treats and give them to the driver. The nice carriage driver will take the treats back to the barn and feed the horsie his treats later. Horses, by the way, love medium rare filet mignon with twice baked potatoes and asparagus. Honestly.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Little Christmas Cheer

Nothing earth shattering today kids, just a bonus post...




This young man plays Christmas Carols on his bagpipe at the corner of Main Street and South Temple.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nom Nom Nom

I don't have much for you today. Even though I had three days "off" I'm exhausted from "not working" because I've had to catch up on all the stuff that gets ignored when I am working. You know, laundry, groceries, putting up the tree, watching the Netflix video that's been sitting on top of the TV for two weeks…that kind of stuff.

So, since last year I wrote The Twelve Days Of Carriagemas for you, and also showed you The Object Of My Addiction when we decorated the tree, this year I will share with you a recipe my friend gave me years ago, like in the '70s years ago. (Ahem, 1970's not 1870's…) And a recipe given to me very recently.

My culinary career started rather late in life but I have managed a restaurant, waitressed, been a lunch lady at a high school, and finally I achieved the level of assistant to the Sous Chef. Now, as impressive as this may sound, really a Sous Chef is the assistant chef, so I was the assistant to the assistant. And there were only three of us in the kitchen, Executive Chef, Sous Chef, and former lunch lady, moi. (See? If I use the French word for "Me" it adds an air of distinction to the whole affair, non? Cest bon, oui?)

Okay, enough. Anyway, because I lack anything substantial to write about today like always I am giving you two recipes, one for cookies, and one for a delightful chicken thing, which, if you are a vegetarian you can turn into a delightful tofu thing, if that's your gig. Me, I'd rather substitute dryer lint than tofu, but I am carnivorous and that's how we roll.

So, recipe number one:

Potato Chip Cookies
1 C. butter
½ C. white granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ C. white flour
½ C. crushed potato chips
½ C. chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar together, add egg yolk and vanilla. Add flour— mix until moist, fold in potato chips and pecans.

Chill dough 20 minutes. While chilling, pre-heat oven to 350.

When dough is chilled, roll into balls approx. 1 inch in diameter. Place on greased cookie sheet (or use my favorite— parchment paper) and press 2 ways with fork.

Bake for 12—15 minutes. Cool on a paper towel, sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Okay, now we have dessert, so we need something to go with it, because much as I'd like to (and have been known to) eat nothing but cookies, sometimes it's necessary to balance that sugar rush out with a little protein.

Chicken Pesto Artichoke Phyllo Triangles

(Okay, it may not be very elegant, but it's accurate. And I don't know the "real" name, so there you have it.)

The next recipe is from my RWA compadre Imani. You can really hear her voice in her writing, so I've made no edits to keep that voice intact.

Ingredients:
1 box phyllo dough
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked
1 jar artichoke hearts
1 jar pesto

Notes:

I poach my chicken breast in broth, white wine and spices. I'd probably use a little garlic and onion powder, some basil, maybe rosemary or thyme, maybe sage if I'm in the mood. Kind of go with your favorite seasoning for chicken.

I use artichoke hearts in a small jar with olive oil and dump the whole thing in the food processor. I have also used canned artichoke hearts, but I drain these and add some of the chicken poaching liquid if needed.

When assembling the triangles, I use an olive oil cooking spray. Much easier than brushing the phyllo with oil.

Instructions:
Coarsely chop the chicken and artichoke hearts together. The mixture should have fingertip sized chunks and not be pasty. I use my food processor and pulse it, but you could chop by hand if you want. Remove the mixture from the food processor into a bowl and add the pesto. You want to add enough pesto to coat the entire mixture, but not make it too wet. You can also add the liquid from the chicken if the mixture is too dry. It should not be wet, but should hold together.

Arrange two or three sheets of phyllo on your workspace, spraying each sheet with the olive oil. (I just follow the directions on the package for working with the phyllo.) Place a golfball sized portion of the mixture at one end and fold it into the phyllo, making a neat triangle package that completely covers the chicken mixture. Bake according to the package directions on the phyllo.

Okay, so that's what I've got for you today. I hope you enjoy and have a great weekend. I'm sure I'll have a collection of things to bitch about next week so until then, take care.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mastering The Time/Space/Traffic/ Continuum

I had Saturday night off. Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t work Saturday night, it only means that 1) I wasn't scheduled to work and 2) I made no money doing it. But it's okay, I did what I did because I wanted to.

At least once a season, many times more, one of the employees comes downtown on their night off and assists the drivers. This assistance may take the form of driving their horse partway around the square during the ride so the driver can have a potty break, handing out food or helping Ro stage at South Gate. I planned on having this particular Saturday night off because I had an URWA (Utah Romance writers of America) Christmas luncheon during the day, immediately followed by a URWA board meeting. Typically we don’t finish up with the lunch that follows our meeting until late afternoon, and by the time I arrive home the day is shot to hell. Not being a fan of rushing (which is why I'm always at the barn early— if I'm rushed I will forget to put something important on my carriage and then suffer the remainder of the night without it) I never sign up to work nights preceding a function.

So, I chose not to work on the busiest night of the season. And I'm good with that, because dealing with horrendous amounts of traffic, tweaking, angry pedestrians, and surly shuttle bus drivers is just not my style anyway. I never enjoy working that hard because I'm basically lazy.

But I did go downtown. My first clue that Saturday would be the ultimate cluster f*ck was when I exited the state highway to merge onto I-15 which was backed up for miles. So, instead of joining the mass of vehicles at a standstill, I excited onto the surface streets and made my merry way to the center of downtown. And I had a distinct advantage over the *other* motorists— I knew I had a prime parking spot reserved for me in the heart of the cacophony.

For those of you unfamiliar with Salt Lake City, Temple Square is where the meridian marker is. That makes Temple Square the point of origin for all addressing on the city grid system. To find Temple Square, you look at the North/South and East/West addresses and go in the direction which makes the numbers gradually reduce to zero.

On the south side of Temple Square, there is a single lane reserved for the carriages. It spans both the east and west side of the South Gates. The area reserved for us on the east side is twice as large as the west side, and during normal operating seasons we utilize both of them. When we have a stager, the person who organizes or gathers your group, runs your credit card or tells you that you need two carriages because nine people, no matter how skinny they think they are, will not fit on one carriage together, we only use the east side to assist in the flow of carriages. That leaves the west side empty. Except if we leave the west side empty, people will park in our reserved spaces. This creates a huge mess, especially if we have so many carriages waiting at once that we end up parked in the middle of the intersection of South Temple and Main Street. So, since people seem to be unwilling or unable to respect signs posted by the city clearly stating that the area on either side of the gates is carriage parking/tow away zone, we strategically place large orange caution cones to defend our spot. And the west side is where Ro parks to stage, with a big "Carriage for Hire" sign in her front window to alert Parking Enforcement that although it's not a carriage it is in fact a company vehicle. You see, we own that little piece of real estate; it's part and parcel of what our yearly license fee pays for and by God we're gonna keep it!

Anyway, my usual thirty minute drive took me an hour. And I didn't have to be anywhere on time, so I wasn't stressed. When I arrived, South Gate was busy, and Hardrock was at the front of the carriage line so he ran over and moved the cones out of the way for me so I could park in our little piece of heaven, which of course royally pissed off everyone behind me on the hunt for a parking spot but I don't care. That space was mine, I'd already licked it.

I found Carriage Driver Kar already there, helping Ro with traffic. When a carriage is loaded the stager will step out into traffic, stop the vehicles, and allow the carriage to pull out. We don't really impede the flow anyway because no one is moving more than four feet at a time on nights like this (there are three in a row, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) but you take your life into your hands doing this because, while no one ever wants to hit/hurt the big pretty horses, a carriage driver on foot might as well have a big red bull's-eye positioned in the middle of our Carhartt bibs.

So, divvying up the responsibilities, Kar held the horse steady, I yanked off and threw the blankets on the exiting/entering patrons, Ro gave the sales pitch, then Kar stopped traffic. Occasionally we took turns shooing a motorist out of our lane. Folks unfamiliar with downtown mistakenly think they can park wherever they see an open spot, and poaching in our territory is frequent.

I also gave Coco, who also was not "working", money to run to Arbys and get twenty Hot Ham and Cheese sandwiches off of their dollar menu. Because, having driven on nights where you are cold, exhausted, bored by going around in the same circle over and over, frustrated with motorists who have no clue where they are going, there is nothing like a snack. And let me tell you, at that point in time, that lukewarm sandwich that someone walks up and hands you is the best damn sandwich you've ever had.

So now I have the next three days off. It snowed/sleeted/rained on and off last night and everything I own is damp. I've brought all of my stuff home to dry out in my garage and now my jeep smells like a swamp filled with horse crap. But it's all good. By Thursday the garage will smell like barn, and I'm actually okay with that aroma. And the only cars in my garage are mine. ;)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar?

You know the ice cream bar- it's supposed to leave you with a icy cold sensation, so big and thick no room for a stick? DO NOT NEED IT. Living the dream EVERY DAY. What I need is a ice cream bar that fills you with a lava like sensation, 'cuz baby, it's cold out there.

An unnamed source says that she went to bed the other night after carriage driving and it took forever for her back fat to defrost. We've been relying on our charcoal foot heaters, chemical handwarmers, and layer upon layer of clothing. I've even brought out a short robe I made of double thick Polar Fleece and have started wearing it over the top of everything. Wease says we need t-shirts with a false Tuxedo on the front and a sign on the back saying, "I am NOT Homeless, I am a Carriage Driver." The problem is, where do you find them in a 7XL? Because I have so much on the next thing I can wear over the top of it all is a two-man pup tent.

It's to the point that if you drop something on the ground you have to decide if it's worth bending over and picking it up, because just bending over is a chore that leaves you dizzy and breathless because you cut off your oxygen to do it. You dropped a glove? Yeah, I'd get that. A quarter? Not so much. Probably not a dollar either, especially if it's a Susan B. Anthony and not paper.

The temp on Tuesday dropped to 2 degree at 11 pm. Today our high is 21, the low, 7. And that's without a wind chill. So on Saturday when it's projected to be in the 30's it'll feel like a heat wave.

So I'm off now to the grocery store. I need to stock up on more charcoal and snacks to stoke the furnace of my soul for calories to burn so I can keep warm.

How are you keeping warm? Have you resorted to the pup tent yet?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Special Request:



"In one of your posts you asked what topics folks would like you to write about. I'd like to hear how you got into driving horses and what you did to gain skills and confidence."

A lost and confused tourist approaches a carriage driver and asks, "How do I get to Abravanel (Symphony) Hall?"

The smart ass carriage driver replies, "Practice, practice, practice."


My equine career began at the tender age of 12. I worked for a Grandpa-ish man who hauled Shetlands to picnics and birthday parties for children's pony rides. My job was to pick them up (the children, not the ponies) plant their butts in the saddle, and walk them in a circle. Occasionally I took a turn on turd patrol, with a five gallon bucket and a manure fork.

I made a dollar an hour and was in horse heaven.

When we moved to Missouri in 1995 I was temporarily employed as a mare handler on a stud farm, which was an interesting but dangerous job.

Pause for a Side Rant:

Slave Driver turns a feed bucket over and stands on it 1) to make her taller and more imposing and 2) because she doesn't own a soapbox.

Attention Broodmare Owners,

Just because you own a female horse that you have decided to turn exclusively into a broodmare for one of the following reasons—

1) She's lame but you spent a lot of money on her because she has a fabulous pedigree and now you feel compelled to do something with her.

2) She has a fabulous pedigree and you feel compelled to breed her.


3) She has the correct working reproductive organs and you feel compelled to breed her just because you can.

4) OR you want a home grown baby horse so you can raise it/train it yourself.

—Is NO excuse for never teaching your horse manners. A mare handler should never have to arm themselves with a riding crop because your bitch never learned personal space, how to walk nice in a halter, and doesn't want anything to do with the stud because although you think she's in season she's not, or your slutty mare wants to be serviced so bad she's gonna throw Mr. Stallion on the ground and have her way with him RIGHT NOW, ready or not, just to "Get 'Er Done."

Ground Manners. Every horse should have them. ESPECIALLY those about to experience a hormone induced frenzy.

End Rant.

Slave Driver kicks the feed bucket over in the corner, reinjuring the same foot that draft horse Hank stepped on last week. She then hops around, clutching the foot and swearing like a Long Shoreman for a while.

Fast forward to 2004: We moved to Utah. Putzing around reading the paper one morning I spy a job notice under the category of DRIVERS, right there with the OTR truckers and floral delivery folks. I am a little leary about applying because when I lived in a suburb of Kansas City they had two carriage companies tooling around the downtown Plaza. I checked into that job, and in Missouri you had to have a chauffeurs license, which is waaay too much work because I'm lazy like that. Plus at one point one Carriage company owner allegedly took a contract out on the other Carriage company owner. Having grown up in the Chicago area I am familiar with mob hits and had no desire to go anywhere near that shit, TYVM.

I call, go in and apply for the job, get interviewed by Ro, and begin my career as a horse drawn carriage driver on April 1, 2004. Yes, April Fool's Day. The Irony is not lost on me, believe it or not.

Anyway, I've never lacked for confidence and have always had an "I can do that" attitude (except for heights. And small spaces. I have a "No way in Hell" attitude about those.) Now whether or not do it well, that's another, purely subjective story. Glass blowing? Sure, I'd try that. Brain surgery? Possibly, but finding a willing test subject might get a little dicey.

Having ridden horses most of my life I figured driving them would be a piece of cake. And for me, it has been. But it also comes down to a set of skills:

I'm good with Spatial Concepts: ie I pilot a vehicle approximately 17 feet long, nose to boot, that "breaks" in the center and whose motor sometimes cannot grasp the reality that the caboose is wider than the engine. So you learn, as one does with riding horses, to anticipate certain reactions to stimuli. I'm also good at Tetris, so the question of "How am I going to negotiate this honkin' thing in that little space?" is easy for me to figure out and most importantly, experience. Boring, routine, driving around in the same circle, experience. (Practice, practice, practice.)

Recently I watched a show about the stuff that covers the connections we make in our brains. Now, because of years of liberal alcohol use, combined with several unexpected whacks upside the head, for the life of me I cannot remember all the technical names for the thing-a-ma-bobs but what it comes down to is this: People who excel at what they do excel because they practice.

The same stuff that the Natural Horsemanship Voodoo Priests sell (but they fancy names like "joining up", "carrot stick" or "Vulcan Mind Meld" and then slap a really high price tag on it): Repetition, repetition, repetition is what makes people proficient at what they do, because when you repeat the same double Salchow/jump shot/Chess game over and over there is a process going on in your brain that coats the connections and firms them up, making a reaction become a reflex. Automatic. Instantaneous.

This is why new employees start out with horses that essentially train the driver. Some of our horses, if they had thumbs, could practically do this job without a driver. Cletus makes sure the newbies stay on the correct route, often indicating where to turn right or left. Charlie had been known to, upon a trainee doing something stupid, turn and give the trainer an eyeroll and a look that says, "You're shitting me, right?" On at least one occasion a new driver neglected to attach the lines to the horses bit, instead having them buckled to an "O" ring on the hames, and drove Chief all the way to South Gate like that. (For you non-horsey people, imagine removing the handlebars from your bike and riding it like that, in traffic.) Now, had Chief not been the consummate professional he was, this might have ended very badly. But Chief, besides being a former circus horse, was one of those individuals that excelled at his job because of years of practice.

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

That’s the secret. No magic bullet, so New Pill that allows you to Lose Weight while you sleep and Build Skills as a Carriage Driver, (Oh, God, I only WISH!!!) just practice, practice, practice.

And, of course I have to add my regular caveat: You need to be a little bit smarter than the horse. And the carriage.


You must be smarter than Wesson to be a carriage driver.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Job In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush…

One thing I've noticed this Christmas Carriage Driving Season is the increase in the numbers of "Street Performers" out early this year. I guess it's a sign of the economic times. Usually the people who position themselves around Temple Square, playing holiday songs on an instrument and setting out a kettle for spare change appear much closer to Christmas. This past weekend, besides Patrick, who is out year round sitting on the sidewalk playing Mormon hymns on a harmonica (badly) I witnessed the following:

Jason, bagpipe player (an a good one, too) decked out in his Kilt, socks with Scottish garters, Santa coat and hat. Okay, he's a regular and occasionally comes out the rest of the year.

A girl playing Christmas carols on a violin.

A young man singing acapella.

Three middle school aged boys playing band instruments (Sax, trumpet, trombone).

A twenties-something boy and girl on guitar and vocals.

A woman and her two children displaying religious themed artwork (pencil sketches).

I see this as an indication that folks are struggling. And I know how tough it is out there because I've spent the past month helping The Kid carpet bomb local businesses with job applications. She applied, and applied, and applied and got zip.

Then a shoe store hired her— for part-time temporary seasonal help.

Part-Time Temporary Seasonal?

Yes, that means she was hired to work Black Friday.

She was hired to work one day.

So she took that job, worked that day, and returned to "Hunting" mode. Although they did inquire if she was interested in working more. She said yes. They never called.
She got a call from a restaurant the Sunday before Thanksgiving, went in for an interview, and figured she didn't get the job. Last Saturday I got a call, she was hired on as a hostess.

So, YAY!

She worked Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Before work on Wednesday we stopped by the shoe store to return a nametag and marker she mistakenly taken home with her.
The manager said, "Why are you bringing these back? Didn't we hire you on?"

She said, "No one called me."

So now she's working at the shoe store on Friday, again, and is going to have a talk with the manager about exactly what he means by "Hired on." Hired on temporarily, to be let go in January, or Hired On as in "you now have a job" hired on. Then she has to decide which job she wants to keep. Because she's not working them both. Because I won't let her. She still needs to be a teenager once in a while.

So I know how hard it is out there, and I hope that the folks who are circling the downtown area trying to scrape together some spare change by performing can get a little love. The time The Kid played seasonal music on her clarinet she did it for funzies— although she did rake in $11.00.

The only problem I see is this: If she keeps the Hostess job she needs a pair of black flip flops (which they wear with white socks to give impression they are sporting traditional Zōri sandals along with their "Kimono" which is NOT really a Kimono but a robe) and finding black flip flops, or ANY kind of flip flop in December in Utah?

Not much chance of that.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tis The Season







I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, and for you non-United States visitors, I hope you had an exceptionally happy Thursday.

It was opening weekend here and I've been a little bit busy. My younger brother came to visit for the holiday, and I'm forever in his debt for finally coercing my
wireless printer to print wirelessly. I don't know if he used threats, black magic or his excellent Ninja skills, but whatever he did to it, I can now print very important things like e mail, jokes, and rambling, subversive manifestos from the comfort of my couch. I used to be required to slap the battery into my laptop, walk into to my office (a distance of about 30 feet) and plug it in to print stuff. No longer am I tethered to a USB cable.

(Long Sigh) Ahhh, I can almost hear my muscles atrophying now.

Friday night I drove Liberty. She is our only mare, and she tends to be a bit tweeky. Also, being a mare, she pees differently than the geldings do. This means when she has to go, she goes backwards as opposed to downwards. So, when she urinates her stream ends up filling the poop bag. As the poop bag fills up with both #1 and #2, this makes a creation we call a "Shit Slurpee." Then, the combination of tweeky, jiggy mare and shit slurpee bloom into a sloppy mess on the front of my white carriage that can best be compared to a two color (green on a white background) Jackson Pollock-ish work of avant garde delight.

The wreath that adorns the front of my carriage will never be the same again.

I would have taken a picture of it but it was late and I was tired. Plus I forgot. And since then I've hosed down the front of my carriage so it's lost to the world now. But don’t fret; it's early in the season and I'm sure another chance will come around.

Saturday I drove Cletus, one of my favorite co-workers. We were a little slower on Saturday than we were on Friday. After we returned to the barn and were gathered in the office waiting for the rest of the employees to return, Coco, who had forgotten to bring his drivers sheet out, showed us all how he kept track of both his rides and his credit card sale reference number.



Yes, it's a bit provincial, but it works. And at least he used a marker, as opposed to, say, a razor blade.

Belle's Personal Assistant and her spouse, better known as Carriage Clause, both former employees of our company, stopped by to visit and join us for breakfast. BPA returned to the barn with the drivers, pushing my friend ~A~ into the passenger compartment of her carriage and driving Liberty from South Gate back to the barn. Bart, Belle's brother/former team mate, And BPA's most favored draft horse (after Belle, of course) wasn't available for her to drive but when he got into the barn she gave him big hugs. Like
Stacey with Wesson, BPA wants Bart to come live with her when it's his turn to retire.







Sunday night I worked with Jerry.


I haven't driven Jerry for a while and man oh man has he put on weight! I almost couldn’t get him between the carriage shafts. Talk about a
w i d e
l o a d.

It was painfully slow Sunday, but it typically is the first Sunday of the season. And at least the weather held— no rain or snow all weekend.

On one of my trips around Temple Square a man parking his SUV next to a "No Parking" sign asked, "Is it alright if I park here?" I said, "Sure, that "No Parking" sign is purely for esthetics."



Wease is coming down from Northern Utah to stay with me and drive for a few days. She's going to be doing this every week until New Years so it should be fun. She brings with her three dogs, making a total of five at our house while she's here. Plus she, along with all of her dogs, is female, which totally tips the estrogen factor in our house into the black. Mr. Slave Driver and Border Collie extraordinaire, Cowboy, might opt for a hotel room. Or at least move out into the travel trailer for the duration. It should make for an interesting time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weather Report

It snowed last night, about an inch or so out here in the 'burbs, and I'm hoping that it's "done" for a while. Although the ski resorts could use some weather love. Being the selfish person I am it would please me immensely if it stayed in the 50's from now until Christmas Day, then it could snow like hell. But, since I have yet to learn how to master the weather (and if I ever do I sure as shit won’t be a carriage driver, I'll move on to practicing World Domination) I guess I'll just have to be pleased with what we have instead of what I want, and what we have this week is good stuff. You know, considering that it's the Rocky Mountains and all.

At least that's what *they* predict.

Mr. Slave Driver's business is construction, and mine is an outdoorsy type job also, so we both watch the forecast. Although I must admit that many times I fall asleep during the local news so I ask Mr. SD to give me a recap. Which he does, unless he too has succumbed and misses it. It doesn’t really matter in the long run because all four local stations give four different predictions so it's all a crap shoot anyway. Which is why I bring all my gear with me every night, just in case. There are few things worse than being cold and wet and knowing that you will remain cold and wet for three more hours and it’s nobody's fault but your own because you were not prepared.

Anyway, I'm back to working on novel number two, which is a continuation of novel number one, and it's probably stupid to be working on it because if novel number one doesn’t get sold then, one might ask, why bother? But I've made sure that it is a stand alone, and anyone who has not read #1 would be right up to speed on #2. Kind of like The Da Vinci Code was the second book and Angels and Demons was the first, but without all the symbols and religious stuff. And no albinos, although there is mention of a "lethal white" in the first chapter.

So all you all have a great Thanksgiving and I'll be back later this week. I really have nothing to say right now, so let me know if there's a subject you want to hear about and maybe I'll write about that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Xmas, Schmexmas...



Yesterday after we took MBA out for lunch I mentioned in passing to Ro that I would be in on Monday to strip my carriage of the rose theme and pimp it for Christmas. Later she called and coerced me into coming in on Thursday to do my changeover because the company owner wanted to ship it off Friday for a specialty. That way, since the owner likes the way I decorate, she gets a decorated carriage and doesn’t have to do the work herself. She told Ro to bribe me with a free lunch.

Ok, no problem, I'm a company gal. And I'm easily had; dangle food in front of me and I'm not too proud to admit I will follow you. Besides, they don't let any old idiot do specialties, so I know at least my carriage would be in good hands.

So, looking over my blogs from last year I showed you my
before carriage and my after carriage, then I gave explicit directions on how to add a sound system to my ride, so I guess today I will show you all the stuff I strip off and replace with Christmas decorations to make my carriage one of the most requested ones on the block.
So, step 1: remove the usual stuff; rose swag that goes around the bottom and along the sides, plus the two bouquets that sit up by the back rest.




Step 2: add the fake evergreen garland imbedded with lights.




Step 3: add evergreen swag on top and around driver's seat, dash and sides.

Step 4: Add other chotchkies like the big blue light bulb ornament I got at ShopCo last year after Christmas (I buy all my decorations after Christmas when they’re 75-90% off. Because I'm smart. And cheap.) Top it off with a festive wreath.




So even thought it is now decorated, I won't actually be driving it until next weekend.



Sorry this is dry and dull, but I'm still under the influence of drugs and the haze doesn't allow a lot of creativity.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ouchie Wha-Wha…

My friend Stacey over at Jumping-Percheron got whapped in the leg by her horse and I'm sure that will leave a mark. Over here, I haven't been hurt by a horse since Annie jerked me and pulled a muscle in my shoulder which hurt like hell for a week or two.

Right now I'm suffering, and mind you I have a very high tolerance for pain, so when I say suffering it means a lot. Right now, for example, I am sitting in a chair that I never sit in to type because I cannot get up off of the couch I usually work at.

What the heck did I do? I don't know, but I've had it before. It's called Costochondritis. There is a spot on the left side of my chest that feels like I've gotten hit by a National League Fastball. Imagine, if you will, that every time you move, lean, twist, sneeze, cough, or breathe, someone sticks two or three forks in the spaces between your ribs. Rusty forks. With metal spurs.

Anyway, I went to the doctor and got lots of drugs so I can kick this things ass before Black Friday, when I'll be working all day long and on and on for 5 days straight.

I.must.get.well.now.

So sorry this is a short blog (in fact for many of you it's probably a relief) but the meds have kicked in and I must rest.

Have a great week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ignite Your Passion

Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
on his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done and he did it.


—Edgar A. Guest

It Couldn't Be Done


The above quote is particularly poignant for me because at 5:30 mountain time on November 12, 2009, I submitted my first novel, The Carriage Trade, to a literary agent.

Now, I know that this comes to no surprise to those of you who follow Confessions of a Slave Driver, as I occasionally blog about the trials and tribulations of being Pre-Published (yes, that is the term those of us who have not yet hit the shelves of Barnes and Nobel prefer. It sounds so much nicer than "Unpublished, and I have to tell you, I hate the term "Aspiring Writer." I feel it denotes "wanting" as opposed to "doing". I don't want to write, I write. Period.)

Anyway, the best way to get me to do something is to tell me that I can't. When I started writing my novel I did it because I had a story in my head and I needed to get it out of there before I went insane. Now, some may argue that by then I was well past the point of no return on the whole insanity thing, but nevertheless, I put the story on paper first, then I went about learning how to write a novel. I am infamous for doing things bass ackward.

So after years of writing and rewriting to fix all the things I did wrong, I finally submitted the finished piece and can move on the next work in process I have sitting on my laptop.

Now, you may ask, why the heck did Slave Driver invest the last three years in something for which she did not get paid and may never get published? Neglecting her family (Yeah, it toughened them up and taught them to be self-sufficient…) Living in a dirty house (nobody cares anyway, and I've never been much of a clean freak) not to mention all the drinking I've missed out on…Okay, to be honest, writing never inhibited me from partaking in the occasional adult beverage. In fact, I'd say that drinking while writing is my forte. I find a glass or three of wine helps to lubricate my creative gears, so to speak. So I guess that doesn't count. But writing is a solitary endeavor, so it's not like I could do it in a bar surrounded by my partners in crime friends. Which brings us back to the original question of why?

Because, it's something that I'm passionate about. That's why even when few of you come and visit, and even fewer of you comment, I still blog. I'm still going to churn out words, twice a week, because it's writing. For years I've had jobs, but never a career. When I began writing I discovered that all the weird and varied jobs I'd had were my preparation for a career as a writer. I mean, come on, working as a mare handler at a stud farm, and being the personal assistant to the director on a movie? Not to mention the year I was a lunch lady at a high school. My resume bounces from one obscure job category to another, like a pinball. But that's okay— it's all been fodder for the word mill. It's all been experience.

Which bring me to this:

The eBook I contributed a chapter to is now available for your purchasing pleasure. It's geared towards those of you who are dissatisfied with the current status of your employment or life and want to move forward into a position that you might actually enjoy. It's chocked full of stories and anecdotes about how successful people took a look at their lives and decided that a change was in order.

Inside the virtual pages you will find inspiration from such notable individuals as cookie giant Wally "Famous" Amos , marketing strategist Michelle Kabele , motivational speaker Dave "The Shef" Sheffield along with career coach and networking goddess April Williams . I highly recommend it for those of you who seek a change and don't know where to begin.

Here's the secret; it begins with you.




And, I can get you a discount. Because we know I'm all about not paying retail.

Go to

Cyberlifetutors.com.IgniteYourPassion

Use coupon code Le5Ord3r04 for a 5% discount

My name is *Lisa Williams, and I am a published writer.


*Truth in advertising; I am not the Lisa Williams who speaks to dead people. At least, none that I know of.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

(Please note: Because we live in a litigious society, names have been changed so I don't get sued.)

As the saying goes, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"; meaning, the person raising a child has the most influence on them. It works like that with carriage drivers, sort of. Of course, not with children; in our case it has to do with Restaurants.

When I work downtown, I come into contact with literally hundreds of people per shift. Some ask directions, some ask about horses, or events/tourist attractions in the Salt Lake Valley, and a large number ask for a recommendation for a restaurant downtown. The same goes for Ro, who answers the phones for the carriage company and makes ride reservations. She, like us, will be asked by a customer where they should go and eat before a ride.

And here is the thing about the employees at Carriage For Hire: we love food. This is obvious just by looking at us. From the time we hit South Gate to the time we un-tack the horses for the evening, we talk about food, reminisce about particular favorites, and in fact discuss recipes and entire meals we've had. Being that we work in a service based industry, we pay particular attention not only to the price point and quality of the food we order, but the level and speed of service we receive at the various places we frequent. And just ask Jenn from Dee's, we tip extraordinarily well.

So, when a new restaurant opens, we look forward to trying it out, hoping that we've found a new favorite. Not only for our own personal use, but for another place to recommend to folks looking for a decent meal. When I worked in the executive dining room for a local oil company, the Executive Chef confided to me that if he ever opened a restaurant downtown, he would "take care of" the carriage drivers. Being from Chicago, I assumed at first he meant we would all be sleeping with the fishes, but he explained that since he is aware we send business to restaurants he'd make sure we were either fed for free or tipped out accordingly. That eased my mind a bit…

For example, I will not send people to any of the following places:

Bxxxxxxxa (dry, overcooked food tepanyaki style with a listless staff who are more concerned with turning over the tables than they are about you having a pleasant and enjoyable dining experience.)

The Downtown Oxxxe Gxxxxn (just the opposite; a lackadaisical staff and management who are more concerned with entertaining out of town conventioneers than locals. And don't ever go in there if you have to be someplace, like say, The Capitol Theater to see "Spamalot", and only have an hour and a halfbetween the time you sit down and order and curtain time, You. Won't. Make. It.)

Having worked in the food service industry myself, I will never again set foot in Sxxxxn, because if the front of the house is filthy, what does the kitchen look like?
I pass this info along to the people I work with; we have about 25 driver on staff. And in turn they tell me about their culinary nightmares; Bxxxxxa ruined a filet mignon; Gxxxxx's lunch was nasty but it could be a fun place to go for cocktails; and Txe Rxxf is overpriced for unimaginative fare, and the cheesecake was clearly on its last day, dry with a yucky film between the layers. And as Ro said, it's hard to ruin Cheesecake; you order it in from your supplier, and store it in your fridge. At $35.00 a person for their buffet, one expects a certain level of quality, which lately we have found not to be there.

So, food. ~A~, Ro and I had lunch at a new place that just opened on Main street. We've been looking forward to it with great anticipation because on the weekend they are scheduled to be open 24 hours. In downtown SLC the only place open 24 hours is Denny's. Sad and pathetic, I know.

We went to Txe Bxy Lxxf and ordered three menu items, all different, and planned on eating family style. We ask for extra plates, and scoop portions so everyone gets a chance to try each item. The best thing ordered was the lemonade ~A~ had. The meatloaf was crusty, the fried chicken was moist but bland, and the Bulgogi (yeah, I know, their menu is eclectic, but we like eclectic, when it's done right, which The Tin Angel is a prime example of) was dry, and charred, thus ruining the sweet Korean marinade I normally associate with it. And the ear of roasted corn? In the Slave Driver household, if I had shucked the puny, mealy ear that was served, it would have gone straight into the trash, and our family motto is "Nothing but the most mediocre for us." So, yeah.

All in all it was an "Eww" meal. And too bad, because we send people to places we like all the time. J. Wongs Biestro, (they have a fabulous desert made of deep friend cream cheese wrapped in wonton skins. It sounds weird but it's really freakin' good) Lambs Café, Tuchana in The Gateway Mall, and The Red Iguana are all restaurants we recommend. (The Red Iguana, on North Temple, not The Bxxe Ixxxxa, next to Bxxxxxxxa) And for a small example of the culinary power we wield, here is a little story about a place we found in the 'burbs:

I met Ro at a mall last week frequented by crack heads and gang bangers. I refused to eat in the food court, and as we left for another venue on our Sunday shopping extravaganza, we stopped at Smash Burger. We loved it. It is now our newest favorite place (while we anxiously await the opening of the "In-and-Out Burger" they're building by my house). Ro told her man, and I told mine. The next day Mr. Slave Driver dragged his fellow workers there, and they too enjoyed it. And these guys not only go out to eat every day, but often take clients to lunch. (Mr. Slave Driver works in the construction trade, so informal dining is just fine with them.) Ro's significant other ate there, too, and while he did not like it as much as we did, he said it was good. Then, Ro told MBA of our newfound love, and she said her son told her he'd tried it and found it to be kind of bleh. But because Ro and I liked it, and knowing 1) how much Ro and I like food, and 2) how incredibly picky we are, she's going to give it a try based on our review..

How's that for influence?

So, if you're ever in Salt Lake, looking for a good place to eat, ask your local carriage driver. Because when it comes to food, clearly, we know what we're talking about. After all, we don't look the way we look because we eat sensibly. Or, you know, a lot of salads.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Excerpt, Chapter 9, Page 90

I'm still deep in revision over here, and haven't worked at the barn in over a month. Ro tells me there's been some physical changes; the window in the drivers room, broken two years ago when one of the drafts roaming the property wedged himself between one of the stock trailers and the window, found out that glass doesn't bend very well, has finally been replaced. The fluorescent lighting in the small barn has been improved. (Fluorescents take a while to achieve full brightness during cold weather. There were times I thought I was going blind…) and the gas heater in the drivers room is finally being fixed, which is great, because that's also where the bathroom is and it gets freakin' cold in there, if you know what I mean.

Add into the mix the two new horses purchased at the auction in Denver last month, and you can see that there is a lot of stuff I've missed. So clearly I need to take a ride downtown. I also have to switch my summer stuff to my winter stuff and do my semi-annual locker cleaning to get it all to fit. But not today. Today I'm still editing. So, since I really have nothing to moan, mock, discuss, or bitch about, I'm posting an excerpt from the novel I'm doing the slash and burn on.

This is one of my favorite scenes. Here is the set-up: the main characters, Bill Fantazma and Carlin "Carlos" Farley operate, you guessed it, a carriage business. Her nickname for him is "Baby Huey." Currently their relationship is platonic, but they do have a romantic history. Carlos has recovered from an accident that killed her husband and young son, amputated her left foot, and gave her brain damage, along with mild aphasia and significant memory loss. One of the side effects of the brain damage is occasional seizures. In this scene Carlos had a seizure the night before, and while she usually sleeps in an RV located on the property, in this case Bill put her in his bed to keep an eye on her.

***

Bill awakened suddenly, something cold touching the bottom of his foot. He lay on his side, his legs drawn up close to his body, and glanced at glowing red numbers on the clock; 3:10. He stretched out and rolled to his left. The soft blue moonlight streaming through the French doors revealed the lump in the bed next to him. Carlin he thought and smiled as his eyes adjusted to the dim interior of his bedroom. She faced away from him, and he realized that it had been her foot touching his. Cautiously extending his leg, Bill connected with her foot again, and tentatively rubbed it with his toes.

It’s like ice. He rolled over, propped himself up on one elbow, and watched her sleep. She lay under the covers, the sheet pulled up around her waist, the blankets bunched up at the end of the bed. He reached out and put his hand on her bare back, feeling the chill of her skin through his fingertips. She responded to his touch, arching against the warmth of his hand. He felt her roll and drew back his arm.

She turned towards him, pillowing her hands under her cheek, her dark brown eyes gazed at him from under her lashes. His heart lurched. She slept shirtless, and in the moonlight he had a very nice view of her breasts. He couldn't stop himself from watching them shift around when she rolled over. He felt his pulse quicken as he looked at her. He licked his lips and swallowed hard, barely noticing the scarcity of saliva and the thick woolen feel of his tongue.

“Bill, I’m cold,” she whispered, her sleepy voice holding a hint of a whine.

“Okay darlin’, hang on one second,” Bill’s reply husky as he dragged his eyes away from her. With great regret he sat up, reached down to the end of the bed and pulled the blankets up over her, tucking her in as she burrowed deep into them looking for warmth. Her hair unbound, he reached out and moved a strand of it out of her face with his fingers, lightly stroking her cheek. She sighed.

“Thanks Baby Hu…” her soft voice drifted away.

Bill watched her for a moment longer before he rolled away, positioning his body as close to the edge as possible. He knew her proximity and her nakedness would make returning to sleep very difficult. He took a deep breath, drawing in her scent, almond cookies with a hint of horse, knowing even while he did it that it was a mistake.

I should never have put her under the covers, he reminded himself. She gets too warm and then we have this…this…situation.

He thought about her breasts again, watching an instant replay in his head, over and over. He punched his pillow and muttered, “Have some mercy, woman.” Closing his eyes he breathed deeply through his mouth, tried to ignore the alluring smell of almonds, attempted to stop his pulse from pounding in his chest, and crunched numbers in his brain to cool his ardor.

***

Bill’s alarm screeched at seven am. He reached a long arm out and slapped it off. “Oh, shut up!” he grumbled, never opening his eyes.

“Bill,” Carlin’s tone was sharp.

Bill opened his eyes and stared at the wall.

“Bill,” she repeated, insistent.

“What?” He was grumpy. He was tired. Going back to sleep was very tempting.

“Why am I in your bed?” she demanded.

Bill rolled his eyes and said nothing. Great, it’s going to be like that, is it?

“Did I have a see-saw?” she asked.

He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Yes, you had a seizure,” he replied.

She was quiet for a moment. “Was what’s-his-name there?”

Bill sighed. “Richard. Yes.”

He felt her rustling next to him. “What did we do last night?”

“We ate pizza and watched your favorite movie. Then you fell asleep.”

“We watched ‘The Godfather’? I don’t remember that.”

Bill swiveled his head towards her. “No, we watched ‘The Princess Bride.’”

Carlos looked into his eyes, “That’s your favorite movie, Bill.”

Bill grinned at her, eyeing her tousled bed-head, the way she cocooned herself into the covers, so close he could smell her lotion. This morning she smelled like warm cookies. Adorable warm cookies.

She narrowed her eyes and glared at him. “Why am I naked?” she asked with a fair amount of suspicion in her voice.

Bill raised his eyebrows, all innocent, “You’re not naked. You still have your underpants on, don't you?”

She pulled the covers away and took a quick look, giving him another flash of her breasts. “Did we do sex last night?” she asked accusingly, pulling the covers snug around her again.

Bill closed his eyes and sighed heavily. Maybe she wasn't so adorable this morning after all. “No. We did not have sex last night.”

“Because I don’t like being taken advantage of, Bill.”

“I know you don’t. I would never do that to you.” He tried to keep his voice even, but he was too tired for this. He rolled back onto his side, away from her, praying for patience.

“Then why am I naked?” The accusatory tone was still in her voice. “Give me your shirt,” she demanded, clutching the covers closer to her.

Bill gritted his teeth and slapped the mattress between them with his palm, making her jump. “You took your tank and your bra and your jeans off because you were too hot. In the middle of the night you woke me up because you were too cold and I covered you with the blanket. Now you're suddenly shy, and you want my clothes? I kept my clothes on all night, missy!”

“Well, you should have stopped me,” she said, uncertainty creeping into her voice.

"Like I could ever stop you," Bill muttered.

“And how do I know that you didn’t take my clothes off after the see-saw when you know I can’t remember stuff like that!” she harrumphed. “And then I wake up naked,” she added, jerking away from him onto her side.

Bill mentally counted to ten, then rolled back towards her, inching over until he was pressed up against her back. He put his free arm around her and jerked her up against the length of his long, hard body. He heard her breath escape in an “Oof!” as he placed his lips next to her ear.

“If I had stripped off your clothes and made love to you last night, Carlin, I guarantee you would remember it this morning,” he hissed.

Pushing himself away from her, he flung off the covers and rolled out of bed, ripping his t-shirt off over his head with both hands as he walked across the room. From the doorway he turned, wadded it into a ball and threw it at her.

“Now what did I do?” she asked, flinching as it hit her.

“Nothing!” Bill growled, and he went downstairs to find refuge in lifting weights.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No Nano 4 Me-O

November, for those of you who don't swim in the literary pool, is National Novel Writing Month The idea is you can turn off your internal editor, sit in front of your keyboard, and pound out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. And yes, I do know people who have accomplished this, but I am not now nor will I ever be one of them.


No NaNo Candy in this house

Why? You ask.

One reason is, I'm not much of a "joiner." The few organizations I belong to require me to do the least amount of participation possible, with the exception of the RWA chapter I'm a member of and they just elected me treasurer, silly fools.

For example, I am a member of the DAR; Daughters of the American Revolution, and only because my mother did all the genealogy work, and, as a member, (and in return for my $51.00 a year membership fee,) my daughter is eligible for scholarships. Otherwise every email I get, which tend to be nothing more than prayer requests for members living in Arizona (I'm a member of my mother's chapter. Don't ask, it's a long story…) go directly into the recycle bin unread. Because I. Don't. Give. A. Crap.

I'm also a member of the League of Utah Writers. It was the first writing group I joined and the two best things I got out of it were my friend Doree, and the critique group I belong to. Otherwise, I don't attend any of the meetings anymore because, well, it's a long story. Again. Mostly it has to do with good stuff on television on Thursday nights and a lack of learning anything new. Plus they don't have a bar, even a cash one. And when I did attend there was a lot of eye rolling involved on my part, and I didn't want to pull an eyes muscle. So I still pay my dues, but mostly to pad my writing resume with the "Member of The League of Utah Writers" credential.

Impressive. Yeah, I know.

I'm also not much of a people person. Well, "normal" people, anyway. People who have feelings. If you're snarky, crude, have a warped sense of humor, and write "Mock People" at the top of your daily "To Do" List, we'd get along just fine. Otherwise, if you're looking for a BFF who helps boost your moral and self esteem, will hold your hand while you cry about your last poorly ended relationship, and wants to spend hours chatting about your hopes and dreams…not so much. I'm more of a "kick you in the ass to motivate you" kinda gal. Always have been. That makes me rather unpopular in certain circles, which is why I avoid joining circles whenever possible. I also, by the way, detest baby showers.

November will never be a good month for me to do anything as long as I'm still working for the Carriage barn. December, either. I go from being a slug, working maybe three days a week tops, (and only when I feel like it,) to being a full time employee. (shudder)

I know, I can hear all of you people out there who actually have real, full time jobs wringing your hands and crying for me.

Wait, no I can't, because you're not. You're mocking me in a funny sarcastic voice, "Oh, poor baby, has to work full time for six weeks, let's throw her a pity party…" Which is fine, I can take your ridicule, because trust me, I know how stupid it sounds. And I ridicule myself, often, because I deserve it.

But to get back to my Nano thing, November is a busy month for me so adding writing a novel into the mix is just never going to happen, because it would start out all funny, energetic and sweet and end up all bitter, foul and nasty. Sort of like how I start out November. Without the sweet part, of course. Plus you do it as a group, reporting your daily word count and touting your accomplishments, and I as said in the beginning, I'm not much of a group person. I'm more of a hunched over, admiring my precious, leave me the f*ck alone person.

So, in the interest of public safety, world peace and not contributing to the local homicide statistics, I'll stay out of NaNoWriMo, again, and stick to carriage driving.

You can thank me later.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Octobers End

Tonight is our last night at Gardner. Will I miss it? Meh~ it’s a nice change, being able to get to work in 10 minutes as opposed to 30. And lets not forget the pre-work preparations, because there is a huge difference:

Tractor

Gas up
Put blankets on straw bales
Start

Horse

Pull out of paddock
Give treats
Pick hooves
Groom
Give treats
Braid tail
Give kisses
Tack up
Give treats
Give treats
Hook to carriage

So it’s been alright, but driving a tractor for three hours straight in a large circle is somewhat boring. Of course, standing at South Gate in the rain trying to sell rides on a night when Salt Lake looks like a ghost town is boring too. Plus, while I have a great time working with Ro, I miss the rest of my carriage tribe. But soon the Christmas season will start, and we’ll have so much “together” time, I’ll be sick of them quick enough.

So I guess it all evens out in the end.

Except the tractor isn't any fun to kiss.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Work It Like A Rock Star

Here are a few final notes on Gardner Village, driving a tractor, a photo-tour of the ride, and the carriage trade in general:



Pumpkins do not make good step stools. Wet pumpkins especially, and it you've ever seen a little boy, climbing on a wet pumpkin slip down and catch the stem in the 'nads, you'd understand.

On a hay ride, you get on the wagon and sit your ass down. You do not get back up after you're seated and wander around. It's a hay ride not a frickin dance floor. And you never allow you kids to jump off and run behind the ride, and then talk about the kid that was killed on a hay ride two months ago. Unless, of course, you're stupid.

I had my share of pictures taken the first weekend when I was dressed like a witch. It comes with the territory. I was also frequently asked for an autograph. The Gardner Witches hand out a glossy 8x10 photo of the coven. Neither Ro nor I are included, since we work for the Carriage Company and not Gardner, which is fine with me. So, when asked, I would sign my name in the corner. I know that unlike an autographed photo of, say, Johnny Depp, that puppy will last about two days then go straight to the recycle bin.

This weekend I had my first request to have my photo taken with a rider as the tractor driver. Upon reflection I think he really wanted a picture of him & the tractor alone, but I wouldn't get down for it. Someone has to keep their foot on the brake so we don't roll down the hill.

Request for autographs as a carriage driver are few and far between, however I'm in family vacation photo albums from Saskatchewan to Singapore, just like carriage drivers from all over the world. And the way a tourist approaches you for a photo can be varied. Some will ask, others offer to pay, many just snap away and some try to be sneaky. And I don't mean to profile, but in my experience Asian tourists are fascinated with the poop bag (or "Diaper" as some call it) and take close-up photos of it. And that leads me to wonder if 1) Asiatic horses don't poop, or 2) they are allowed to poop willy-nilly and Asia is covered in random piles of horse crap. So is the fascination with the poop or the bag? Inquiring minds want to know.

By the way, random people need to quit trying to tell us our jobs. We put about 20 bodies on the wagon, because that's about the Max Occupancy for the witch's house. Yesterday a lady informed me that we could get at least four more on the back of the flatbed. I said, "That's great, but we can't cram any more into the train car." It's called "Ride to a Witch", not "The Sardine Can Experience."

Here is a text between Ro & I from Friday when the passengers waiting for the ride were lines up 6 deep and 30 long:

Ro: A taco stand right here would make a killing

Me: Hahaha (I know, I'm full of sparking witt and clever riposte, but mind you I'm texting while driving a tractor hauling a flatbed wagon filled with people.)

Ro: Hell, I would buy 10

Me: Me 2

Me: Like either of us needs 10 tacos. Or 1 even.

Ro: Lol!

Once when I was stopped to load I got down and asked Ro to tell all the children not to talk to the tractor driver unless their hair was on fire. Two children had been calling out to me the entire ride back and not only is it distracting but if they keep screaming at me I can't tell if there is something really wrong or they just want me to wave "Hi" to them. And, of course, all y'all know I'm all about interacting with children. (Ach-tooey!)

Another time when I was stopped and got down (understand that I'm driving a tractor, not a Caddy, and the machine tends to be very rough and loud plus there is no power steering and the front end shakes with every rock I hit. And I drive on a road covered in gravel. So, I get down a LOT ) an older man who had been conversing with Ro followed me to ask what gear I was driving in.

"I have the same tractor," he said, "I just wondered how you were driving her."

So I advised him that I started "Her" in second and remained in it, topping "her" out at ¾ throttle. He seemed satisfied with my answer, so I guess I pass the "What the hell is a woman doin' drivin' a tractor?" test.

Ro says I need to tell you that I sent her the following text, which she found immensely amusing:

Me: Ok, U got any more tractor groupies that wanna hang with me?

A group getting on at the Witch's house handed me a purse that was left on the wagon. So I drove a full rotation with a purse on my shoulder, which not only shows that women can drive a tractor, but we can do it fashionably and with panache. Although I am the first to point out that the green paisley bag did not match my grey Coleman work boots.

I drive a 1999 Jeep Wrangler, not the smoothest or most luxurious vehicle known to man. In fact it's a lot like driving a brick with the suspension of a go-cart. But recently, after piloting the tractor for three hours straight, when I get in the Jeep to drive home, it feels unusually smooth and responsive…

Ro hands out the cockroach "tickets" at one end of the gravel drive and tells the passengers to give them to the witch. Then the passengers walk to the other end of the gravel drive and get on the flatbed. Last week a boy tried to hand me a cockroach. I said, "Sorry, kid, I'm not a witch. I'm just a tractor driver with a bad attitude."


One week before the last day of the ride, which began the first weekend in October, we finally get a sign people can see




This is my favorite corner




Fiona's Frogs




Sheep Camp




Almost there




The witchs are home




And this is where they live




Back to base





And finally, for you skiers, if you've ever read about the meteorological "magic" of Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to both Alta and Snowbird, here is what they're talking about:

That flurry of white stuff is rain, confined to the Canyon. Higher up, it's snow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rules? Nobody Told Me About Any Stinking RULES!

New rules for bloggers: If you review or endorse something, you must disclose if you received any compensation for doing so.

Okay, that's fair. But here's the deal…I had no idea that there were any rules to begin with. Now, I'm familiar with the term libel, and rarely go far enough in my rants to open myself to a lawsuit. I'm also smart enough to follow the old adage, "You never shit in your own backyard." But that's more of a guideline than a law, anyway. So hearing that they were rules regarding bloggers which fall under advertising

News to me.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to advise all of you about the following items which I use and endorse and if someone wants to PAY me to endorse them, well, bring it on…

Cash: I use cash. I like it a lot. Cash is my favorite kind of currency. If you currently manufacture cash and are looking for an enthusiastic cash endorser, I'm your girl. I'll even be happy to do an info-mercial and demonstrate how cash is used and the way it works. By the way, any samples of cash you give me for demonstration purposes, I get to keep.

My tag line: Cash, it's what the world wants.

Food: I like food, and am willing to endorse food. Except for tofu, you can keep that shit all to yourself. I'm talking real food, the kind of food that things must die in order for you to get it. Beef, popcorn, cheap wine and chocolate top my personal food pyramid, so if you have any of those things and want me to endorse them, bring it, I'm game.

My tag line: Food, it's what's for eatin'.

Sleep: I love sleep and get as much sleep as I possibly can, although there are times when it seems that sleep is in very short supply around here. So, if you want to pay me to sleep for you? I can do that. I'll even give you a "sleep endorsement" discount.

My tag line: Sleep, so easy you can do it in your sleep.

(It should be clear to you now why I never dabbled in advertising)

I also endorse such random things as personal hygiene, television and movies, music, and clothing. Especially clothing, except anything made from Lycra. There are very few people in the world who can pull off Lycra. I know I can't, and my eyeballs are tired of being traumatized by those who think they can, but can't. Seriously. Which is why I also endorse mirrors, and I mean real mirrors, not the fun house kind that make short fat people look all tall and thin. And if you are not sure if your mirror is operating properly, you might need to have it calibrated. To do this you weigh yourself (top number), and measure for height (bottom number). If the top number greatly exceeds the bottom, you cannot wear Lycra, which your mirror should plainly prove. For example, my numbers are 154/65. That translates to "No Lycra for me."

My tag line: Mirrors, they should not be ignored.

I also endorse books, and to demonstrate my endorsement, I'm going to end this and get back to editing mine.

Paid endorsement proposals can be directed to:

SLCSlaveDriver@gmail.com

Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cockroach Accounting. Not Available From Peachtree Software Any Time Soon…

As you may or may not know, depending on if you read this blog with any amount of regularity, I have been working off site during October. And when I say "Off Site" what I really mean is Gardner Village. Plus I did some other stuff, (ski fans, Warren Miller's "Dynasty" is still good old fashioned ski-porn, but it won't get you nearly as stoked for the season to begin as, say "Children of Winter Never Grow Old," and it won't induce a skigasm. In other words, on a scale from "Someone please kill me I can't stand anymore" to "Awesomesauce!" it's a "Meh~" which is somewhere in the middle, before "Yay!" but after "Bleh." Plus some sick bastard kept coughing in our direction while we were taking the Trax to Abravanel Hall and now I have a cold. Just. What. I . Needed.)

Anyway, back to Gardner Village, which is what I think today's blog was supposed to be about. I'm a little fuzzy right now.

The parameters of Gardner changed this year. Instead of us using their property and taking care of all the Witch expenses, and keeping 100% of the proceeds, they wanted a cut, so they raised the price, spent a ton of money improving the back acreage we drive the tractor in, and changed the ride so instead of driving around with a witch on the hay trailer we drive the people out to the witch's house and then go back and pick them up. In other words, we are a weird rural Taxi service. But we still have to collect the cash from the people, and account for it. So, instead of selling "tickets," at first we just had them pay for the ride, then go through a gate and get on the hay wagon. Simplicity at its finest.

But, apparently the bean counters at Gardner were unhappy with this provincial method, so they came up with the idea of giving out rubber cockroaches as "tickets". The stager hands, preferably an adult in the group, the correct number of cockroaches matching the number of paying riders in each family, and then that person, upon arrival at the Witch's house, gives the cockroach "tickets" to the witch and the roaches are counted up at the end of the night.

Except it has yet to work out that way. Because sometimes the witches don't take the roaches, and people return with them, handing the yucky thing back to the stager saying, "She never asked for this so you can have it back." And frequently the passengers will lose their roach within seconds of it being handed to them and told, "Keep this and give it to the witch it's your ticket don't lose it," which means we have an unauthorized rubber roach hiding in the gravel. So, as a form of accounting, I do not recommend rubber cockroaches.

Being that one of us is on the tractor and the other of us is staging, we communicate via text messaging, which is often how Ro and I communicate daily anyway. So, here for your enjoyment are some of the messages we have sent in reference to Gardner:

Ro: You want to stage or drive tomorrow? I am good with either one I just want to know witch attire or farmer attire.

Ro: I am good either way.

Me: I drive U stage.

Ro: I think I was dumb and gave a roach to a babies Mom when the baby did not pay. (children 12 months and under ride for free)

Ro: Someone lost a roach, imagine that. I told them I could not replace it. So now what?

Me: It makes up for the roach you gave the baby. Roach accounting. It all evens out in the wash.

Me: (yesterday) Did U bring the gas can back with U Sat nite or do U want me to stop and fill mine on the way?

Me: I'm at grocery store you want anything 4 tonight?

Ro: No on gas. Yes for tonight, snacks and a water please.

(Later on)

Ro: I counted $*50 in 20's

Me: Really? $*50 in 20's? U R so special.

Me: U might wanna recount. F*KIN RAIN (with an hour to go until we finished, it started to rain )

Ro: Why?

Me: $*50 is not divisible by 20

Ro: Ya true ok I got 1 $50 bill but I meant big bills. Not counting change I have used.

Me: Ah ha.

Me: Y is it again = U take $ & I drive? Oh yeah, children (shudder)

Me: (watching Ro huddle under the canopy and snuggle up by the propane heated provided for the customers) Put on my cape if ur cold.

Ro: I'm not bad thanks we just got a few more minutes (in actuality we had 40 more minutes)

Ro: The skyline looks like snow!

Me: Snow! Bleh!

And of course, I dead-headed out to the house twice retrieving passengers, just before 8 pm which is when we quit for the evening, and upon my return there was a family who could not make up their *%^$&# minds if they wanted a ride or not and by then the rain was steady and cold. Finally, they decided to go, so by the time I was done dragging their asses out and back I was drenched even though I had earlier put on my Carhartt bibs and Sherpa windbreaker.

And no one even counted the cockroaches.

And now I'm going back to bed. After I run to Wal-Mart and buy "Transformers," I have a crush on Bumble Bee.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why You Never Play Strip Poker With A Carriage Driver In Winter~

Editors Note: (That, BTW, would be ME. I'm the editor.) And speaking of editing, I'm deep in editing doo-doo right now so I've dragged up this blog that I wrote way back in December of 2007 before I ever got onto blogger so the only people who might have read it did so on my "MySpace" blog. And they were probably drunk at the time and don't remember it anyway. So, see, it's new for everyone then. Yeah...that's it...

The most asked question we get at South Gate is "How much is a ride?" Okay, that's a valid one, people want to know the cost before they get on the carriage.

The next most frequently asked question is this; "Is that a real horse?" for which we have a number of replies, mostly conceived out of boredom, but the amusing part is that adults ask that question as often as children. And no, I am not kidding you.

In winter the third most frequently asked question is; "How do you stay warm?"

Well, let me tell you. First of all, I am from the Midwest, which makes me corn fed, so I have a nice subcutaneous layer of fat to help with the insulation. So as far as I'm concerned a "cold" day in Utah is barbeque weather. But here is what we wear, and why you should never play strip poker with a carriage driver in winter, because even if you win, believe me you are gonna lose in the long run.

Underwear- you know the regular stuff. I don't go commando.

First base layer- mine is a very thin and light layer called "Cool Duds" made of Polyester and Spandex that wicks away moisture. It's also very soft and comfy, but it fits like a cat suit and of course the spandex shows all the cellulite and extraneous rolls of relaxed muscle. Not very flattering but effective. I put a pair of wool socks on over the first base layer so the wool doesn't itch.

Second base layer: Remington polyester long johns also black and thin. These are silky and thicker then the first base layer, but they are Men's, because no one in the marketing department of Remington thinks 1) Women get cold 2) Women go outside in the winter 3) Women hunt. Apparently they have never lived in Missouri. Anyway, those go on and then I put a fluffy pair of cotton socks on over that because my boots are too big.

Third base layer; "Outlast" Polyester and acrylic long johns on the bottom and thicker yet then the first two. A regular Polypropylene shirt on the top, which is thinner then a regular long john type shirt or a Polypropylene/polyester/wool shirt, depending on the weather.

I top all of that off with Jeans and a fleece jacket: This is the stuff I put on at home so I can get in my car and drive to work. If I put the rest of my gear on at home I would be unable to bend enough to actually get in my Jeep.

When I get to the barn I pull my carriage and load it, pull my horse and get him ready, then I finish getting dressed.

Off come the Jeans and the fleece jacket.

Fourth Layer: jogging pants with a flannel lining and a nylon exterior. This cuts the wind & the flannel is warmer then the jeans. Jeans are not very warm. On the top I don a cotton turtleneck sweater. Add one pair of Sorrel boots good to –20 degrees, although that's only if you are moving. By the time I have finished I cannot really "move", if fact it's all I can do to get on and off the carriage. Walking has become more like a shuffle. Forget falling down, I'd never be able to get back up again. I know how Ralphie's brother Randy feels in "A Christmas Story". I too am ready for deep sea diving.

Fifth layer; on the top I add a fleece pullover, which keeps all the warm stuff in. On the bottom I add my insulated Carhartt bib overalls.

Sixth layer; on top we add a Jerzees zip hoodie, on the bottom we add coated nylon rain pants if it is going to rain or snow or if it is windy. The rain gear keeps me dry, for the most part. It also cuts the wind and keeps all the yummy warmth inside.

Seventh layer; the rest of the stuff goes on the top only, although I can always add a blanket on my legs, I have 2 to choose from; a regular fleece blanket and a fleece blanket that I sewed a piece of thin vinyl over the top of to keep me dry if it rains or snows. On top I add a fleece zip vest, this has zip pockets and is where I keep my wallet and my cel phone, safely ensconced in the pockets. Top this ensemble off with a neck gaiter & fleece ear band and I'm ready for the catwalk in Milan!

Eight layer; I have several choices here, depending on the weather. I have a coat that can go over the jacket (when you volunteer for Sundance Film Festival and are a full time worker you get a new coat/vest every year. So I have "disposable" coats. Perfect for Carriage driving) or I can put on yet ANOTHER fleece jacket. Then we add glove liners, Obermeyer gloves (my favorite ski gloves) and chemical hand warmers inside.

Ninth layer; if we get the aforementioned rain or snow I add a raincoat with a hood that then goes over the whole thing to keep me snuggle warm. Sometimes I feel like a Thanksgiving Turkey cooking in one of those bags, and patiently wait for my bellybutton to pop like a plastic timer.

So, to reiterate: 4 socks, 5 pants, 1 pair bibs, 9 tops, 1 ear band, 1 wubbie (neck gaiter) 2 boots. 4 gloves. I don't count the hand warmer, it's wouldn't be fair because they are not technically clothing. All the stuff starts out as mediums and graduates up as XXL as you hit the final phase.

29 things I can take off and throw into the pile before I'm down to my underwear. Even if I sucked at Poker, which I do, statistically I will win one or two hands and not lose one or two hands depending on the number of players in the game.

And even if I do manage to lose every hand, 29 hands later I will be too drunk to care (You cannot play Strip Poker without involving alcohol) and you have to look at my well-padded, saggy cellulite riddled fugly middle-aged body naked.

Any way you look at it, you still lose.