Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye My Darling

Most parents go through the empty nest syndrome when their children go off to college. Carol and I get to suffer through this twice.

As many of you know our daughter Amanda has been working for us at Arizona Weed King, Inc. for a number of years now. She has been an indispensable part of our team. She handles most all the homeowners that call in for service and I am here to tell you nobody has ever done it better. We have always remarked with amazement that a family as close as the three of us can work together. Much of this is due to her and her Mother's temperament. In other words - putting up with me.

Today is her last day. After the first of the year she enters a full time apprenticeship to complete her Masters in Counseling. Her Mother and I could not be prouder. We have watched her grab this dream with the tenacity of a bulldog. She has studied long and hard, and I mean hard. She has friends that academics come easily to. Not Amanda. She earns every piece of knowledge, fighting and kicking and biting it off one morsel at a time. She is smarter than most of us. One of those natural smarts that simply understands the way of things. This makes her smarter than most academics and 95% of the world.

So, you can see this is a bittersweet day. Weed King will go on a little less than it was because of her absence, but she will go on to storm the world and grab her future in a headlock and she will grow and grow and grow.

Good luck my darling, and may God speed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Last Christmas Tree

After the sun was down and the crowds were gone

After the lights in the parking lot were down to a faint glow

and the string of lights around the fenced in area in the parking lot,

the fenced in area where all the sweet smelling trees had stood

the fenced in area that had been brimming with life and excitement with

children hiding among the trees

and fathers shaking the trees out for mothers to see

so she could choose

the string of lights were now just an after thought and the trees were gone

with pine needles littering the asphalt

as tiny reminders that the trees had given everything

and were now in homes decorated with lights and tinsel

with gaily wrapped presents supporting the lower branches and

the needles just days away from being brown and dry and discarded

in the fenced in area in the parking lot with the lights softly glowing

there is one small, sparse tree in the corner

leaned there by a forgetful attendant

one last tree




softly sad into the night waiting for the dump truck of the morning

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas you've just won the lottery!

I know everyone has speculated on what they would do if they won the lottery. A new house, or new car. A trip around the world. I was listening to a story of our time on NPR today and it made me start thinking again about the have and the have nots. And, not just the have and have nots but also about so many Americans that have but just not enough.

I listened to a story about a couple in another state who are suffering what many people are suffering this Christmas. He lost his job in the construction business and had to take another job in another state thus distancing himself from his wife and two children. One about to enter college - if he can - and the girl a sophomore in high school. The problem is that the house they bought as an investment toward their retirement is now worth $150,000 less than what they bought it for. Because of the cut in pay and the extra expense of living apart this couple - while making two incomes - simply can't afford the mortgage. They stand up to their initial commitment and won't just walk away from their debt. The house has been on the market for a long time with not one person interested. The girl is so distraught over Dad being gone that she burst into tears whenever the reporter tried to talk to her. The boy isn't sure about whether he can afford college. The savings are gone, there are no Christmas presents this year and they have disconnected the phone and TV. The mother says she just prays for this time to pass and for the time they can be a family again. She says that time is precious now that next year the son will be leaving the nest.

You hear this story and wonder what you would do for these folks if you could. I'm sure ultra rich people give lots to charity. But what about these kind of Americans that are not seeking charity or a free ride. They just need a little help.

I wish I'd won the lottery today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh Christmas tree Oh Christmas tree, wherefore art thou?

All I can say is WOW! Me and millions of Americans, and for that matter, billions across the world have been suffering the worst economic times since my Mother was fifteen years old. Small businesses have especially been hit. Mortgage companies and real estate companies have disappeared. The car manufacturers have had to be on the public dole to survive, and the gap between the rich and the poor has become evermore wide.

And I have watched all this up close and personal but I have never seen what I saw today. Carol and I went out to buy our Christmas tree (I'm old fashioned and refuse to buy a fake tree, I don't care the economics - fake smells like fake) and since the Home Depot is just a half mile from our office off we go on our lunch hour full of the Christmas spirit.

They had four trees. Four. At least they looked suspiciously like trees. The kid on the lot said he hoped they'd get another shipment. Off we went to the other Home Depot (they've had really good prices the last couple of years). We didn't even have to get out of the car. Their tree corral had two raggedy trees leaning against the fence. Home Depot, no trees.
We had seen a tree lot on Seventh Street and Thunderbird Road. Off we go, The Christmas spirit diminishing. Before we reached the lot two under insured beaters pulled in front of me causing me to have to brake suddenly. The Christmas spirit took another hit. At the lot they had a few trees. Not a lot but some. And boy were they proud of them. $10 a foot. $80 for a decent tree. Thanks but I'd spent all my Christmas spirit driving over.

No trees. Usually I'm the guy like Charlie Brown that on Christmas eve feels sorry for all the trees that didn't get a home. This year I won't have to worry. No trees. Thank you God for letting me make it through this year.

Oh, we finally took a poor ragged Douglas fir that was left over at Fry's. It has a home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are Men Just Crazy or What?

If you are a man and you stand back and be objective - hard to do - sometimes you just have to marvel at how our internal emotional machinery works. I have no doubt in my mind that not one, not one single wife out there really understands why ten of us guys are giddy with the prospect of driving fifty miles out into the cold harsh desert, miles from no where, set up a camp where we are almost guaranteed of freezing and chase little quail through the desert. Up and down through hill and dale.

My friend Charlie wondered if the recent rain would scatter the birds away from their natural water sources. I looked at him in wonder. "Charlie," I said, "do you really think we're going out there to hunt?"

Witness the last few days. e-mails flying back and forth. Phone calls, then another and another. Who is bringing what? Do we deep fry the turkey on Thursday night or Friday night. Is one turkey big enough for ten guys. How much Velveeta is needed to feed ten guys Carol's special goulash? Who's got lunch. Charlie wonders how much bacon is needed. Brent says he's got all the paper plates etc. Jim's bringing lunch up Thursday. And on it goes.

We're like kids in a candy store. Ain't men nuts?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Over the weekend Carol and I joined Charlie Bennett - his wife Cynthia stayed behind to care for her ailing mother - at his cabin in the mountains above Prescott. Ostensibly we went to help him get the cabin ready for the winter - but is was really a get outa Dodge moment. Saturday night we traveled down into town to the town square to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree they do there annually. It's been a long time since I lived in a small town and I'd forgotten the small town magic there is at Christmas. There were hundreds and hundreds of people gathered on the courthouse grounds. Whole families with their lawn chairs and blankets and Thermos's of hot toddy's. Grandma sitting with her stocking cap and legs tucked in by hand made quilts sipping a steaming cup of something while the grand kids ran around absolutely pumped with the holiday electricity in the air.

The choirs of the local high school and middle school gathered on the steps and sang traditional Christmas carols as a narrator told the Christmas story. No political correctness here, just good solid small town values. It was obvious that this was a yearly tradition for many of the people gathered there and I overheard many more than one person on their cellphones trying to connect with friends and family at the base of the giant statue of the Rough Rider. "I'm on the left side of the statue!" not realizing that left is a relative term and the frustrated friend was probably on the other side.

At the proper moment in the Christmas story the switch was thrown and the entire square was lit with Christmas lights. The crowd cheered and everyone with cell phones and cameras were clicking as fast as they could.

The atmosphere was a joyful one and one that I haven't experienced for years. One of the problems of living in the big city. Not that you can't gather with a crowd but this was different. This was several hundred friends and family gathering in the chilled darkness and connected together to celebrate the birth of Christ. There was a palpable sense of goodwill and peace in that moment. Maybe for some of us that feeling would wear off later, but in that moment and in that place hundreds of us were drawn together as one with that full feeling you get around your heart when you experience the story that would change the world.

After the festivities we went a couple blocks down Cortez street to a delightful place called the American Jazz Cafe. I had, what was billed as "the bad boy" which was a stuffed pork chop the likes I have never seen before. To say it was wonderful is a gross understatement. To top it off there was a very good jazz quartet playing with a very good girl singer.

When we returned to Phoenix is was raining. This was the culmination of a (except for missing Cindy) very wonderful weekend. If I wasn't in the holiday spirit before I certainly am now.

Prescott for the tree lighting. I recommend it for anyone. Prescott has lots of motel space. Make the weekend of it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger Woods affair with Sarah Palin

Okay, now with that heading I know I have more readers to my blog than ever before. I don't know if those two have ever met but dang that makes a good tabloid headline.

I don't know what it is about us humans but there is something in the genetic makeup that makes us acutely interested in other peoples business. Long before cable TV and the Internet house wives were talking over the back fence and men were gathering around the water cooler to discuss the latest gossip.

Here's my opinion; it's none of my business! But, I can't help but read about it anyway. I guess I'm a looky loo. If there's a wreck beside the highway I have to look. I do feel sorry for Tiger's family but I really feel sorry for that poor couple - the Salahi's - that crashed the White House party. Now there's a couple that really wants some tabloid attention. They would die to get the world wide publicity that Tiger is getting now. Reality TV stars. Boy, would they also like this attention. But, nobody gives a damn if they are having an affair. They could probably fornicate in Times Square and no one would stop. New Yorkers are notorious for stepping over such goings on and continuing on with their lives. I think reality TV stars are expected to provide salacious events. Tiger on the other hand has never sought salacious attention. I don't think he has sought anything except to be the best golfer in the world, maybe in history. His achievements have brought all this attention, but again, I don't think he's ever sought it.

Well, maybe Sarah can take some notes on how to sell a few more books. Poor Tiger, I think he's suffered enough, don't you? Hey, don't forget to check out Blabbingaboutblogs for some of the most interesting blogs out there!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Big Rip Off

Here's one of life's lessons for you young folks. I'm living proof that we are all ripe fodder for rip off artists.

Last week I got a call from John King to say that the bearings on one of the wheels on our big Weed King trailer had burned out and he was disabled by the side of the road. John is very resourceful and with that and luck he got it back to our yard where we keep the trucks. He talked to a clerk at Arizona Safety House and was reccommended a place in Glendale on Montebello called Arizona Axle Products. He called and they said that if he could get it to them they'd look at it. John got it there and told them what we needed repaired. They said it would be around $300. They called back later and told us all the dire other things that were wrong with the trailer, intimating that if we didn't repair that stuff also the trailer would surely crash and burn. John told them to give us a price on the other stuff before doing anything.

When John didn't hear from them he called back and they informed him they were finishing up and the total price would be $900. The justification was that it "needed to be done". I went with John to pick the trailer up and the owner of the shop did not care that he had done unauthorized work. I offered to pay for the initial $300 worth of work and for all the parts from the other work but felt I wasn't responsible for the labor on work that wasn't authorized. The man wouldn't budge. Now at this point the trailer was hooked to our truck and we could have easily turned and drove away. But, it was the wrong thing to do so I didn't do it. Instead, I paid the jerk with a credit card. I did this because I knew you can call the credit card company and dispute a charge and that is exactly what I did. It is in process and I'll let you know the outcome.

Now here is the kicker. We drove the trailer back and within two miles of leaving Arizona Axle Products the trailer starting squealing. By the time we got the five miles to the yard the new hub that cost the $300 was so hot you couldn't touch it. We had another trailer repair place send out a guy and he spent an hour and a half adjusting everything the other guys had done. They had slapped the hardware on but didn't calibrate any of it. He said the reason the one hub was so hot was because out of the four electric brakes on the trailer it was the only one stopping it. So we not only got ripped off but with shoddy work to boot.

So, what's the lesson learned. First don't pay cash. You won't get it back. Second, I suppose you cannot emphasize enough that you will only pay for authorized work. The attitude of the vendor that the work "needed to be done" doesn't justify doing unauthorized work. Just because I need a haircut doesn't mean the Steve the Barber can start cutting without my permission. Sometimes recommendations don't do the trick. Better to get recommendations from people you know.

So even old dogs get tricked sometimes.