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:


Gas up
Put blankets on straw bales


Pull out of paddock
Give treats
Pick hooves
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:

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.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's A Wrap…

The Heart of the West chapter of the Romance Writers of America conference in Park City, Utah is over. The weekend was exhausting, exciting, enlightening…it was a bunch of "e" words, okay? The food was even good, and those of you who actually "know" me are aware what kind of a food snob I can be especially when it comes to catered meals. So, everything was good with one exception:

When the heater in our room would kick on it sounded like a jet engine. This means you were able to sleep in 25 minute intervals. Not very conducive to a refreshing bout of slumber.

Oh well, shit happens.

Anyway, the conference was good. And not only did the literary agent I pitched to ask for a full (for those of you not in the know, that means she requested my entire manuscript) but she also asked for the synopsis to my third manuscript which is currently a virtual work in process.

So I guess I'd better go start writing…

"An editor, literary agent, and four writers walk into a bar..."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Just enough Time For A Quickie…

I'm in the thick of my RWA conference in beautiful (but pricy) Park City, Utah. My pitch appointment with an agent is tomorrow morning. As an added bonus, my friend and fellow writer, Doree, and I will be holding hostage transporting another unsuspecting victim a different agent to the airport and will be able to bombard her with our literary genius show her around Salt Lake on the way.

This is Victoria Dahl and I. She is a fabulous author of sizzling contemporary and historical romance. You. Must. Read. Her.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Worst Nightmare, Three Days Of Witching, And Scoring A Bonus…

My little world for the next month

Imagine, if you will, my worst nightmare. Remember, now, we're talking me, not you. Zombies, snakes, ninjas, drunken horse whisperers, the IRS…not a problem. I usually have some type of weapon handy for any occasion, plus I think snakes are cool.
Loading the hay ride

My worst nightmare is to be surrounded by free-range children. "Free-Rangers", as those close to me know them as, roam around unfettered by the attention and direction of their parental units. You've seen these children; they are the ones climbing on the back of your restaurant booth and rubbing tartar sauce or ketchup in your hair when you've sat down for a quiet meal at the end of the day. They run, usually screaming AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, through the airport/supermarket/doctors office while their tired and apathetic parent lollygags behind, hoping to distance themselves both literally and figuratively from the little urchins. They are the small and less than charming individuals that make me withdraw into my mind where I quietly watch the cartoons in my head so I do not react in a manner that will feature me on the evening news.

So, for the last three days I've been working as a witch (you may hold your comments. I am not oblivious to the allegory.) We're situated out in a field away from the center of the shopping area. This is good because, while the ride is geared towards children, I am not surrounded by them like a chunk of chicken in a pond of piranhas. They have to come all the way out to the back forty, accompanied by their parent/guardian, in order to ride out to the witch's house. Occasionally there is a short wait for the next tractor pulling the hay wagon, so they mill around, bored because their attention span is shortened due, I feel, to an MTV based society where everything happens fast.

Coco and Slave Driver during a break in the insanity

The milling around includes but is not limited to the following activities:

Jumping the ditch filled with water

Throwing gravel in the water

Throwing handful's of gravel in the air

Throwing gravel at me

Climbing the beautifully restored Gardner Village farm truck

Having their photo taken on the farm truck

Standing on pumpkins

Throwing pumpkins into the ditch.

When the last action occurred, and a young miscreant picked up a pumpkin to toss it into the ditch (which, by the way, is filled with fetid, scummy water that smells like ass) I took the opportunity to say, "No!" I was rewarded with a pouting glare from the child and a nasty look from the mother. I don't care, I have no intention of spending the rest of my afternoon wearing a costume that looks and smells like I store it, wadded in a ball, inside the chest cavity of a rotting Yak. So, while the parent was busy conversing with her friend, I was on child watch. Just so you know, I don't get paid extra for babysitting.

Hardrock driving the tractor

I do not drink and drive. Needless to say by the time I get home I am salivating for a big ass glass of wine to temper the urge to snarl and lash out at the next person I see. Just as I've trained my family to not speak to me in the morning until I have had at least one cup of coffee, silence reigns in Slave Driverland until I've enjoyed an adult beverage upon my return from Gardner. Then they may converse.

So I did three days in a row as a witch which lent me a new appreciation for Ro because it's usually her job. But I think I did okay, because I scored us a bonus. The people running the parking concession this weekend at Gardner are the same folks who also operate almost all of the pay-to-park lots downtown. The manager introduced himself to me, we chatted for a while and when he found out that not only am I a carriage driver but I also help manage The Rose Wagner theater during the Sundance Film Festival where I pay to park in one of their lots, he gave me some of his business cards. Normally the exchange of business cards is not unusual between entrepreneurs, and while the card I gave him will get him a 10% discount should he care to indulge his family in a carriage ride, the card he gave me, he explained, will allow me (and Ro, and the carriage barn owners, because he gave me a bunch of cards) to park in any of the lots operated by his company for free.

Score one for the win! Yay! Because if you've never seen Ro and I, out to lunch, circling the block like turkey vultures over a carcass looking for free parking, you have no idea what kind of a perk this is. It so makes up for the dead Yak smell.

Coco practicing his roping during a little down time

Curious about the names "Hardrock" and "Coco?" I grew up in the Midwest watching WGN television