The Blue Bus is Calling Us......
Sorry to be gone so long......
We have been dragged down into the minutia of owning two lead balloon businesses....when business drops, the principals get to work even harder.
That is the facile answer for the long silence. The real answer is much darker and not much fun.
Looking for some bright spots amid the black fug that has descended on our world......and finding few, beyond the pure joy of Grandpuppy charging through the woods in brilliant winter sunshine or grateful rain.
The miner's lettuce is up....and my dogs look more like cows on our little walks......munching away like Herefords.......
The good news, at least in Cachagua and the northern and eastern Santa Lucia's is that the rains have been perfectly spaced.....the river is still running reasonably clear. The really bad fire scars on Elephant Mountain and Uncle Sam are still covered with protective layers of snow....and hopefully, dirt-holding miner's lettuce beneath the crust.
Meanwhile, the black fug lays all about the social and economic landscape. Where once it was cool to track Obama's rise in the polls, the media is now obsessed with the collapse of our economy.
Catastrophe! Sales are down 5% over last year! Retailers are going broke all over the place!
Everyone knew that the wheels had come off 18 months ago.....My friend Dean's list of SEC planned retail bankruptcies dates back more than half a year.
Consumer spending dropped 5%.....but gas prices dropped almost in half, car sales tanked along with housing sales. One unsold Pontiac Vibe runs some $20 grand.....which is almost a thousand unsold Wii's......and two thousand Shin chef knives.
I don't know about you, but everywhere I went to try to shop was packed. When I bought my Shin knives at Williams-Sonoma on sale at 40% off.......they gave me an unadvertised further 20% "Friends and Family" discount based on my zipcode. I was happy with the first price! They just pissed away 20%! But, I did get back in line and buy some more stuff.....and I will be there first thing tomorrow morning for pizza stones.
In our business, we would not even notice a 5% drop. That is one big wedding, or two normal ones. Panic would not be part of our response. Time off might result in better bookkeeping.....and maybe actually collecting for work we have actually done and never had time to bill for.
Re: the Black Fug......our one really rich client who tried to cheap out for a party in November? Where Pops had to go to Orchard to buy a Weber, and Gilda had to bbq meat bought at Whole Foods to serve while the dumbass interior designer/bartender/house-sitter tried to remember whether to put ice in vodkas if the people did not mention ice?
They booked us for the ATT. Losing even half of a grillion dollars only pisses you off and depresses you....it does not really change your life in the long run.
Dollars and all that are not what really matters.....sorry, Citibank and IRS.
Our friend Johnny came down with a brain tumor last Christmas......and struggled all year with horrendous awfulness. This Christmas he is free and clear.....and in possession of one of the two or three sweetest personal relationships I have ever observed.
Two for us.
The Fuckhead Christians.....as opposed to the Real Christians.....shit-canned real marriage in our state, and now Johnny and Rogelio have to lapse back to........a peaceful, kind, caring, deep relationship whose obvious superficial affection inspires hope and goosebumps in everyone who observes it......except nigger-hating fuckheads who no longer matter in our lives, law or no law.
One for them. Kind of.
My friend Bennie's grandson....12 years old.....comes down with a brain tumor this Christmas. A blue something something that kills 80% of its victims. Same as Johnny's.
Bennie is the kind of patriarchal soul who should be standing in his house in a village somewhere in Poland or Israel or Australia or California and arguing arcane points of human philosophy with his rabbi, councilman, assemblyman......surrounded by his family out to four generations, and all the clients and suppliers who love him for his honesty and loyalty and fierce love of community.
Instead of choosing a village for his oyster, Bennie chose The World......and consequently his friends and family are scattered around the planet. We cannot gather in one room around a fire in his hearth and a sheep he has roasted who had fattened on the grasses of his land surrounding his village......
But, we still gather. No points for either side. Love matches tragedy. Stay tuned.
Then.....someone steals Zim. Ziminal the Criminal, Alex's happy, care-free, wandering Border Collie. Zim is the Neal Cassady of the dog world.....a happy sociopath who has never hurt a soul and just loves the road. And the mountains. And the beaches. Zim has no problem with running from Duncan's house on Spaghetti Ridge all the way to James' house by the river next to Prince's Camp.....just to share his love with James' pitbull. Puppies are now available.
Zim ran off two weeks ago. Rose put an ad in all the available media: Reward for information.
Rose works as a student elder caregiver......swapping shite off old whack jobs in crappy homes. Her main income comes from the $100+ she takes home on Monday Nights at The Store. The $30 for the ad in The Herald really hurt.
She got a call: "I have your dog. What is the reward?"
"I don't know.....a hundred bucks?"
Long story short.....Rose and Alex tracked down the dognappers, and Zim was returned to us tonight at The Store. People actually cried.
Then.....there is the real story.
Yesterday was New Year's......no secret. We had worked every day for a month and were feeling crushed under the burden of every day crap. Amanda has this idea that hard work deserves some benefit.....I don't know where she got it, but I love her for her naivete.
Regardless......even on New Year's Day, I had to drive to town to meet Bob the Eggman. Bob sells fresh eggs at the Farmer's Market at MPC.....and people love his eggs. Bob responds by loving the people who love his eggs. I last met Bob at MPC on Christmas Eve at 4pm.....both of us all alone in the parking lot at MPC, conducting business as if the other fifty vendors who normally compose the Farmer's Market were also there around us.
On New Year's it was even weirder. The Monterey cops were keeping an eye on Bob: why was some old redneck veteran set up selling eggs in the MPC parking lot?
Bob drove all the way from Pajaro. I drove all the way from Cachagua.....on my first day off in a month.
This is what we do. Work knows no days off.
I took advantage of my trip to town to take Grandpuppy to Carmel Beach. We walked for two hours....the Beach was packed and I recognized no one. Two dog owners kicked Xabi for talking to their dogs. I had a nice conversation with Jeff Bridges about Bernese Mountain Dogs. The day was glorious.
I drove back to the Valley, and picked up my milk at the Chevron and on to Cachagua. Vicki had a busy day, and as we unloaded the phone rang.
My friend Alice. Hey, nice of her to call on New Year's. Alice is the step-sister I never had. Her mom is Mary Green.....my political and real-estate godmother.
"Michael, I have bad news......I have been intending to call you for five days, but I couldn't.......Mother had a stroke and is in Hospice care, and not responding."
Mary Green is one of five people who have actually punched me out......physically. She hit me on the chin with an overhead left and knocked me on my ass.
She is one of a very few who have also punched me out psychicly, morally, ethically, socially.........
Mary is way old school. Politically. Socially. Ethically.
Mary is from Pennsyvania, eastern PA and that flavor of Old School......and we have done a Twelfth Night party for her every year for exactly 30 years. We always joked that if there was ever a problem with Twelfth Night, we would show up anyway, with car parkers and the full bar and all our stuff......and just work in the driveway for the people that would show up regardless.....because it was Twelfth Night and all the cool people go to Mary Green's on Twelfth Night.
My Amanda is the opposite of Mary......ethereal and not connected to the every day.
Amanda's response to the news was: "The Christmas bus doesn't leave until Twelfth Night.....Now Mary will be with Ross. This isn't bad.....she was ready to go."
Yes, but us folk left behind.
This will not be my last words about Mary.....Mary deserves a book, not a post.
I am a famous asshole: abrupt, judgemental, intemperate, quixotic. Quixotic is probably the most accurate adjective. I still believe that the world can be a better place, and I don't suffer fools gladly. My friends, family and loved ones would be much happier if I were less so.......but I have always had my friend and mentor Mary Green running blocking for me, and I was always aware that I was not doing as good a job as I should.
I have another friend named Mary.....and coincidentally (if you believe in coincidents, you are stupid)....she sent me a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson today.
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one's self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — this is to have succeeded."
Add the adjective "fierce" or the adjective "fiercely" about every five words to Ralph Waldo' thoughts.....and you have a glimpse of my friend Mary.
We could all do worse.....and there are not many coming through that can do better.
I love you, Mary.......and words fail to describe how we will all miss you.