Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me…

I'm finding menopause difficult to—

Right now I'm in the middle of a number of things, plus—

deal with. First of all it seems I now —

My mom is all settled in her basement lair. She has two rooms and the run of—

lack the ability to focus on anything longer—

Is your refrigerator supposed to get hot on the sides? Because—

than a micro second. I mean, wandering into—

mine has been for the last two days and —

the kitchen then standing there openmouthed wondering what—

The Utah Romance Writers of America conference is next week, (October 7 & 8, The Canyons, Park City Utah) so as you can imagine—

it's been making sounds like it's—

the hell you came in there for in the first place is one thing. Going from room—

Damn, there's another hot flash. I wonder if I have any batteries in my flashlight? Oh, man, I need to write myself a note to get batteries.

grinding up sausage so either there is something —

to room doing it gets tedious. And when I'm not doing that, I'm flittering between—

The Kid joined the Army reserves. She looks great in her—

wrong with the insides or a small butcher moved into my fridge and is grinding up hamburger.

three different things like a 12 year old with ADHD at Scout-O-Rama, and not finishing anything. I'm —

how I am so completely swamped with crap to do that I even took off—

thinking of somehow turning a t-shirt into a dry erase board to I can write down—

What a beautiful day out! Let's go—

what the hell I was doing to stay on task. It's that or get a Post-It note pad implanted on my left forearm. Which might hurt.

I want candy! I want candy!

Family room, plus her own bathroom. And having her here —

Now I want wine.

uniform, although they had to special order her one; apparently—

the entire month of September and half of October. Part of it was because I finaled in a writing contest and I—

is great. She totally pitches in and smells better than a foster cat, which makes Mr. SD very happy.

ride bikes!

had to finish editing the work in progress just in case the judge, an agent—

they don't get teeny-tiny recruits unless they—

from New York, asked for a full or partial of the MS. But, she did not (she made no requests) which is okay—


are made of green plastic.

because I will be pitching my second place win at our URWA conference.

So once again I apologize for my lack of posting. Blame it on menopause! I'm going to.

And now I will tell you a love story.

My most favorite co-worker is Cleatus. I've written a number of stories about him, and he is a main character in Splitting The Difference, the short I have on Amazon. Cleatus was working at the barn when I started, some seven years ago. And despite what the ARA's will tell you, Cleatus enjoyed working. How do I know? A while ago he was on the D/L because of an abscessed hoof. Ro would bring him into the barn to soak his foot and then let him roam around the property and eat the grass and weeds. Our horses occasionally double as the landscaping crew. Anyway, Cleatus has been off for about a month, and Ro had him in the barn. She walked outside to get the mail, leaving the two people size doors open. Now, Ro's office has a people door going into the barn on one side, and a people door doing to the outside on another . She went out through the people door to the mailbox, and Cleatus walked through the people door into the office from the barn, executed a ninty-degree swivel in a very small space, then continued to sashay out the front door. Ro, standing at the mail box, was astonished as Cleatus calmly walked by her, heading the direction of downtown. He even jerked his chin at her as if to say, "Hey, sista, what's up?" as he moseyed on past.

Apparently, fed up with not being allowed out on the street for so long, he was heading downtown on his own to see what was shaking.

And anyone who tells you horses are strict vegetarians never saw Cleatus steal a cheeseburger from the hand of a carriage driver who was trying to be polite and hide his food while attempting to sell a ride.

I often times explain that the job is 50/50 between the horse and driver, but with Cleatus, it's more like 70/30, with Cleatus being the 70. In other words, given thumbs and a command of the English language, he could do the job solo.

His favorite treat was Oreo cookies and he would come when I called him, and follow me around like a dog. A dog that's looking for more Oreos.

He passed away last week. I will never again be able to look at Oreos without thinking of my sweet boy Cleatus.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Often Boring, But Rarely Dull

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

"Is your job fun?"

"Do you need a special license to be a carriage driver?"

"Animal abuser! Why don't you get a real job?"

"Do you meet a lot of interesting people doing this?"

FRs (Frequent Replies)

"Is your job fun?"

Sometimes. The day Ro and I did this gig was fun.

But not always. For example, Tuesday night when it suddenly poured on us for twenty minutes straight, I would not describe it as fun. I would call it painful, awkward and moist. My customers, who were safely ensconced in a carriage with the top up during the downpour, called it fun. Of course they got to go home and change; I remained stuck working outside with a raging case of what we fondly call swamp ass.

"Do you need a special license to be a carriage driver?"

No. The requirements in Utah are as follows: you must be twenty-one and hold a valid Utah drivers license. We teach you everything else you need to know. However, I do believe you need a special license to drive this:

"Animal abuser! Why don't you get a real job?"

Here is a video of some horses who were running "free" in a pasture (out of the public eye, and under the control of only a few people)

One of our horses… no starvation or neglect here, plus hundreds of people see our horses Every. Single. Day.

"Do you meet a lot of interesting people doing this?"

I guess it all depends on your definition of interesting… This guy was hitch hiking around the country asking people what their American Dream was. He used to have a website, but it was shut down because he couldn't afford the hosting fees. I don't know why he hasn't gone with Blogger or another free blog site, but if you're on facebook, here is a link to his page.

This guy was not as interesting:

In fact we had to get Temple Square security to chase him away. But it does make for some lively conversation. And no one has a collection of photos from their work quite like I do.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Middle Of The Road

I got a call last week from the barn asking me to drive carriage in the Days of '47 Parade.

And now, a short break for some exposition, with a side of rant:

For those of you new to the Confessions of a Slave Driver blog, it would behoove you to understand that I hate, hate, HATE driving in parades. Why? Because they don't pay squat. Most of the time the best you can hope for is a mild case of heat stroke and all the candy that ends up by your feet after being pelted with it by miniature hooligans, AKA children. In the mean time I've gotten up at the crack of ass, driven eighteen miles at dawn to play hurry up and wait while the vehicles are readied/decorated. Then you rush over to the parade staging area where you stand around and wait until it's your turn to join the mêlée. After plodding for what seems like 200 miles at four miles an hour, if you're lucky, and two mph if you're not, you arrive at a massive cluster of disarray and pandemonium reminiscent of the Gladiatorial games in Rome only to have your occupants, who usually have no idea what they are supposed to do next, jump ship with little more than a "Have a happy day."

Yes, thank you and may your day be absolutely fantastic! As it is, I'm roasting, have to pee real bad, and I'm so hungry that the plump haunch of my horse's rear end is starting to make me salivate. So the 'happy' part so far is not materializing… right now I am just having a day.

In fact I dislike parades so much that the opening of my first novel, The Carriage Trade, begins with a frantic dash to a parade where the stress level goes from bad to DEFCON 5.

End Rant. Exposition continues:

Anyway, the Days of '47 Parade celebrates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. I am not Mormon, so none of the festivities really applies to me. I have a personal prohibition about working on drinking and/or firework holidays such as New Year Eve, Independence Day, and, in our family at least, Easter. This prohibition also applies to Pioneer Day. Why do I avoid working on those days? Because I'm usually drinking, and blowing off fireworks. But not this time; this time I was bullied into participating by co-workers MBA and Ro. Both of them had agreed to drive. So after MBA pulled the friend card, I was force to capitulate.

MBA driving Tony

I requested to drive Rex because I've driven him in parades before and he's solid as a rock. Plus co-worker Bobbie asked to join me on the box as she had never driven carriage in a parade before. So while Ro, driving Tom in front of us, and MBA, driving Tony behind us, had to serpentine the entire route, thus effectively walking twice as far as Rex did, we went straight down the middle of the road. Which probably looked boring, but at least we didn't come off as intoxicated with the swerving back and forth the whole way. Both Ro and MBA claimed to be a little queasy upon completion.

Ro driving Tom (you just cant see him)

At least the parade was uneventful for us.
For the Royalty Float, which was enveloped in smoke spewing from the motor compartment, not so much. But we went out to lunch at the Red Iguana* after, so it turned out to be a good day after all.

Except maybe for this horse who either cannot read or else is just a scofflaw when it comes to legal parking.

*The Red Iguana is a fabulous Mexican restaurant. Actually, there are two, RI1 and RI2. Red Iguana 1 was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives so it's always packed. Red Iguana 2 is a "known only to the locals" annex around the corner from RI1. The food is outstanding.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Walking The Course

I have always loved horses, and history. Combining the two, I became a carriage driver. As a carriage driver, I give historical tours. Even when I'm not driving carriage, I give historical tours. Ask my family; I'm sure it annoys them.

So when I was informed by a co-worker that the Utah Heritage Foundation would be giving tours of the buildings at Exchange Place I jumped at the opportunity to go, even if it meant operating the rest of the day on only four hours of sleep.

I met my friend and fellow carriage driver, MBA, downtown and we proceeded to pester the guides with obscure questions throughout the tour. The buildings are beautiful, and while the architecture is mirrored in the twin buildings, they are fraternal rather than identical. I know this because the first question I asked, before the tour even began, was "Why is there a buffalo head on the Newhouse building but not on the Boston building?"

The answer was, "I have no idea."

Obviously we were off to a successful start. But after that the tour was wonderful, except for the part where MBA tried to get me to look down the stairwell from the 11th floor.

Side note: I do not like heights. I'm quite content to stay no higher than the 3rd floor at a hotel. Taking those glass elevators makes me clench my fists and stop breathing. The idea of going on that glass bottom walk way that goes out over the Grand Canyon…well, we're not even going to talk about the puckering that ignites. But MBA took a Zipline through a rainforest, because people convinced her it would be cool. I would have to be drunk to the point of unconsciousness to do that, and still I'd prefer hacking my way across land with a machete, fending off poop slinging monkeys and millipedes the size of my arm, to zooming across the sky wearing an epic-wedgie inducing thong on a cable engineered and installed by people with remedial education.

In other words, it squicks me out.

Anyway, back on topic; the tour was informative and now if I take people down Main Street as far as the 400 South block, I can talk about the Newhouse, Boston, and Exchange Club buildings with some degree of accuracy.

And while I cannot tell you why there is a buffalo head on the Newhouse building I can tell you why there are lion heads on both: it was a symbol of industry.

The Newhouse Building:

The beautiful marble stairs in the Newhouse building. Utah has no native marble, so this was imported from Georgia. The marble is only on the first level because Samuel Newhouse ran out of money. But at least the lobby looks nice!

The stairs in the Boston building were tile and terrazzo.

I'm okay with looking UP a stairwell, but declined when invited to take the same photo looking down.

The lion was a symbol for industry. Both buildings have this detail around the top.

The style of the buildings are the same but some of the decorative details differ.

The building has a mail chute that runs the height of the building. All the mail ends up in this post box at the bottom. I forgot to inquire if it is still in use.

The Exchange Club was like a men's club/gym for the employees of the stock and banking businesses.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Birds, Without Bees

I love educating people. I'd be a teacher if it wasn't for the fact that I intensely dislike other people's children. But I've been known to spend long units of time blathering on about horses, food, the weather, Southern Utah's Red Rock country…well, you get the picture.

So it was no surprise that while taking some teenagers around Temple Square I stopped to show them a well known resident. Salt Lake City is home to a nesting pair of
Peregrine Falcons.
In my family we do some casual bird watching so I'm familiar with numerous breeds. Plus being that I work outside pretty much next to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, where the birds have a nesting box, I've seen them and their offspring swooping around downtown. On this particular evening I came around the corner from North Temple onto State Street and happened to notice one of the falcons perched on the top of the front corner of the apartment building across the street. Stopping the carriage opposite the building I pointed the bird out to the occupants and said,

"It's sitting up there, possibly waiting for an unsuspecting bird to fly by, then it will dive down and make a meal out of it."

Because in theory that's the type of behavior they should be doing.

As we're watching the Peregrine, another bird flies into the vicinity.

"Maybe it'll attack that bird," I tell them.

The second bird flaps over, and lands next to the Peregrine. Then we all watch as it hops on the first bird's back, has its way with it, then flies off.

Wham. Bam. Thank you ma'am.

Silence ensues.

Crap, did that really just happen? Did I just expose these kids to Bird Porn? There's gonna be a phone call, I'm sure.

As they say, timing is everything.

You can watch the nesting pair of falcons from the comfort of your computer. That works well for me, because I'm not a big fan of heights.

Friday, April 15, 2011

One More For The Road

Don't you just hate it when you run past a blog you follow and it's same old crap as was there the last time you visited?

Yeah, me too.

<-- Insert eyeroll here

The problem as I see it is this: I haven't really been driving carriage much lately, and with the exception of having my horse, Dreamer's, teeth floated a few weeks back, not much equine related has been going on.

And, contrary to public opinion, that is what the whole "Slave Driver" name is about.

We did get one more "Rental Cat" (also known as a Foster). His name is Opi and he's older, a male and foreign (Siamese). He's not as dog friendly as Zita was, but that whole Dog/Cat relationship bordered on very weird anyway.

Opi will be the last foster for either a while, or ever. My mother is coming to live with us, so the whole cat operation is coming to an end. Which is okay with Mr. Slave Driver, because although he is not totally opposed to cats, he is not exactly enamored with the smell of their litter box.

I've been writing my newest work-in-progress; It's a romantic comedy called Another You. Here's the first part of the synopsis/elevator pitch:

Gun shy after two failed marriages, Sammie Fallon finally meets a man who's intelligent, handsome, loyal, energetic, hard working and attentive to her moods. She thinks he's great; her friends all like him, and if it wasn't for one tiny thing, he'd be perfect for her:

She suspects he might be the reincarnation of her dead dog.

Jack McCune was a player, always making time with the girls but never getting emotionally invested. When a tragic accident almost kills Jack, and takes the life of a girl he was dating, he realizes he didn’t even bother to learn her last name. Wracked with survivors guilt, and able to being a new lease on life, Jack vows to find the girl of his dreams and become a devoted, loving companion.

I've also been dinking around with my website. I bought my domain last year but haven't had a chance to find a host and put it online. So if you have a minute go over to and let me know what you think. It's still rough around the edges, but that's what DIY gets. And don't bother clicking on the "My Alter Ego" link. It'll just bring you right back here.

And if one more person buys a copy of my short, Splitting The Difference, I'll actually get paid. Not enough to buy that RV I covet, but I get a footlong from Subway.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blasphemy And Other Avocations

Living in an area with a high concentration of Christians whose religion is only slightly less restrictive than the Amish faith, it was refreshing to be surrounded by people celebrating the Hindu holiday of, well, Holi Day.

Lathmar Holi, also known as the "Festival of Color," has been going on in other parts of the world for around 5000 years. But according to the coverage presented by our local Fox affiliate, the Lotus Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah is the only place where the Festival of Colors is celebrated in the United States.

Too bad for the rest of you non-Utah people because it was awesome.

This was our first excursion, the Kid and I. I'd passed the Hari Krishna Temple last fall on our way to Moab, and it's a beautiful building.

Situated on a hill surrounded by farmland, cars were parked on the side of the main road for miles. With my penchant for being early, we got a great spot across the street and only paid $5 to park. Being from Chicago, I can tell you that $5 to park in the middle of some dude's cow pasture is a hella deal.

So that was a win, and we didn't have to wait in line very long to buy the colored chalk-like powder you throw in the air, and at people, and on stuff… And sometimes you just rub it in someone's hair. And the powder is also scented, which is good, because if most of the other people were like us, they also eschewed their daily shower until they got home, knowing they'd be covered. What we didn't know was how hard it would be to breathe while the throwing is going on and next year we will make sure we do the following:

Wear a bandanna and sunglasses.

White and black clothes bring out the brightness of the colors.

Cover your camera in plastic wrap.

Bring someone you love.

In other news, Zita, the most recent foster cat, found her forever home this weekend with a friend of mine. We met while volunteering for Sundance, share the same initials, and worked on a movie together a few years back. She saw the kitty on Facebook, decided to visit her at an adoption event, and fell in love. She is both pleased and astonished at Zita's tenacious personality and is happy to be able to give her a forever home. However, our big fluffy white dog Luna, who thought the cat was her pet, has been searching for Zita for two days now.

But she'll get over it.

My short, Splitting The Difference is available from and everyone who purchases a copy between now and December 2012 gets a free Mayan Calendar!*

*Not really. Have you any idea how much shipping would be? Those puppies are made of stone. Plus if you liked it you wouldn't be able to get another one for 2013 because the World's supposed to end.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monkeys Need Not Apply

I love gadgets. I get that from my dad. He loved gadgets with a passion that was only surpassed by his affection for watching TV. And if you combined Television with gadgets, he was in Heaven. While other families had to make do with watching a show and then using their brains to remember things about it, we had a VCR. Less fortunate families were stuck cooking with something as archaic as fire. We had a microwave. And I cannot even recall the amount of remote controllers we cycled through in a decade.

So you can imagine my bitter disappointment as an adult that all the things my generation was promised back in the 60's (cities springing up on the moon where we live in big oxygen filled domes; self cleaning houses, flying cars and personal robots to do all the drudge work; a cure for the common cold, etc) have not yet come to fruition. The closest thing we have to a self cleaning house and robots, besides hoards of illegal immigrants doing menial work for low pay and no benefits, is the Roomba robotic vacuum. And the only reason why I have not run right out and bought one is I'm sure the dog hair in my house would kill it pretty damn quick. If I did get a Roomba I'd also have to get a little monkey to pluck the gobs of hair out of it every ten minutes, and monkeys, according to Mr. Slave Driver, make nasty pets. The pet monkey he knew sat on top of his friend's television, masturbated, and flung crap at house guests.

If I want to see that, I'll watch MTV.

Okay, back to the topic of gadgets: Besides having a Kindle, which is a high tech reading device, I recently purchased a low tech reading device called a Book Hugger. My friend and fellow writer Clancy Metzger and I saw this demonstrated by the inventor, Paul,

at the
Tucson Festival of Books and decided it was a "Must Have."

Clancy and I both purchased Book Huggers, because we liked the idea of having something else hold our books for us. In my case it's because, as everyone should have figured out by now, I'm really lazy. And I like to read while I eat. Sometimes propping a book up across the TV remote or using the remote to keep the book open to the pages I'm reading (both low tech uses for a high tech object, essentially using a remote as a rock) doesn’t work out so well. Plus then Mr. Slave Driver, who likes to watch TV while he eats, cannot randomly change channels every 2.3 seconds. Because I'm using the remote for a purpose it was not designed for.

Enter the Book Hugger.

What this device does is hold your book, making reading almost hands free.

When I initially showed my people the Book Hugger they mocked me and said soon I'd develop tiny, useless Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, good for not much more than wobbling around, scaring off crows in a cornfield.

But then I showed them how you can prop it on its side and read in bed and they were impressed. Plus it has a light, and extends. Eventually they became sullen and wished I'd bought one for them, since I was on an out of town trip and am expected to bring gifts upon my return.

I really like this product, and not in a Facebook "Like" way, which only gives you the one option. It's a useful tool. You still have to turn the pages, unless you own a monkey, in which case you can train your monkey to turn the pages for you. That is, when he's not pleasuring himself with the zeal of Charlie Sheen or flinging crap at people from atop your television set.

Book Hugger. Get one. And the light. Buy one of those too.

*Do not get a monkey.

On another note, I only need to sell 1,096,632 more copies of my short story, Splitting The Difference, in order to buy that $329,000.00 RV I covet. And only another seven copies to get paid! So tell your friends, it's available through

*Monkey option not available through

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cats And Dogs, Living In Sin

Our foster cat, Zita, has been here a little over a week now, and, well, things are not quite right…

When we disclosed to the director of the foster cat program that having a more dog friendly cat might be better for the cat, we were thinking about how miserable poor Wednesday was. Because of her dog induced anxiety, she limited herself to the basement, and although she craved human/cat interaction, she only got it when someone went downstairs to spend quality time with her. But even around people she could be skittish and shy.

Enter Zita.

At twice the poundage of Wednesday, she began her reign of feline dictatorship subtlety, and with panache. At first, she feigned submission, crouching down and flattening her ears while Luna motorboated her repeatedly.

Luna is a sweet dog, but she's about as gentle as elephant strip-searching a peanut vendor.

After pointedly ignoring Luna's shoving her around, looking for who knows what, Zita finally had enough and began to school Luna in the fine art of diplomacy. A small bite, here, a grabbing of the muzzle there, until finally Luna got a scratch on her nose, and quit her harassment.

And that's about as close as we’ve gotten here to détente.

Here is a photographic play-by-play of the events:

Zita is just hanging around on the coffee table minding her own business...

First come the sneak...

Then comes the nose poke.

Then we have the wrestling.

And the in your face antaginism.


And finally, a truce in the hallway.

Shamefull, I know.

And at least when the foster cat stands up for herself, I don’t have to get in the middle of it.

Warning: Flagrant self promotion ahead:
My short, Splitting the Difference, is available for download at in Kindle format. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app for iPhone/iPad/iTouch or PC here. I'm working in getting the short up on Smashwords. I am kind of lazy, but you should know that by now.

Friday, February 25, 2011

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Our last foster cat, Wednesday, was of slight build and timid but loving disposition. And while she craved the attention of the humans in the household, she shriveled, hid and snarled at the canine members. Her demeanor at adoption events was similar to a convict awaiting execution, and at one event she did so poorly the volunteers covered her cage with a towel because she hissed at anyone who looked in her direction.

Not exactly the type of behavior one hopes their foster cat displays in public. It kind of puts a damper on the whole "Looking for a cute, cuddly kitty to adopt" thing.

Eventually Wednesday found a new home with a person who was dogless, and we went about our busy schedules in December and January. During dinner at Fudruckers the other night I received a text from the director of the No More Homeless Pets in Utah foster cat program. She advised me that there was a cat available to foster that loved dogs. Was I interested?

We discussed it during our meal and decided that yes, indeed we could manage another foster now that things had settled down and I arranged to collect the cat the next morning.

I picked up a female tabby named Zita who was very friendly and only cried once on the way home in the crate. After our arrival I put her in the "panic room."

We have a special room in the house where we store an old waterbed and keep the foster cats. This is for their own protection. It's a room with a baby gate in the doorway that allows the cat easy access to its food and water but limits the presence of dogs who only want to maraud and pillage, gobbling down the cat food, then raping and disemboweling the cat toys. I'm not going into detail about what atrocities they manage with the litter box, but bobbing for apples comes to mind.

So the gate is up to allow the cat to dive into the room when taking cover is the best course of action. And with the waterbed, and a few other things we have stored in the room, it's easy to lose track of a kitty because there are fabulous little nooks and crannies for a cat to hide in, on, and under. When we foster a cat we're required make the cat wear a break-away cat collar with an I.D. tag on it. Last time I had Wednesday's name engraved on it and the person who adopted her kept the collar. This time I got a generic tag that says, "Foster Cat; Scan my tag" engraved on a purple heart and attached to a pink collar. A pink collar with a bell. Those little tiny bells that they put on cat collars to warn birds that a cat is about to turn them into a McNugget.

And therein lies the amusement. Because while I was attaching the I.D. tag to the collar, and Zita was tucked safely away in the cat room, the two dogs, hearing the bell tinkle, went apeshit looking for a cat in the kitchen. Because of the bell.

Anyway, for your consideration, Zita, a spayed female tabby approximately two years old, is available. Look for her at an adoption event soon!

(I'll put up a link as soon as NMHPU adds her to Petfinder.)