Monday, April 28, 2008


I originally did this as an actual assemblage. The original sculpture is long lost, so after many years I remembered it and re-did it in photoshop. The draw is the multiple meanings.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

An Even Strain

I was trying to make a subtle point to my two employees. As too often happens, Hop was angry about a perceived slight, probably imaginary, from one of my customers. Hop is what I consider a high-maintenance employee. So I had to take a minute to talk him down. I assured him that he knew more about his job than the customer; that he, Hop, was my most relied upon man when it came to his specialty, and he calmed down. Charlie just looked out the window, his mind wandering. He was used to it.

"The bits fail in one of two ways. Either the teeth wear out, or the bearings wear so bad the wobble starts making the drill string jump. The driller oughta feel it, and pull it before he loses a cone." Now Hop's looking bored and impatient. "The thing is, most of these guys think you can sell 'em a better bit. If the teeth are gone, they want to go in with a bit with a cheaper bearing and teeth that last longer. If the bearings go and the teeth are still good, they want a bit with a bigger bearing and cheaper teeth. I've seen both you guys give in to this idea, and it's a misconception. You have got to talk to these people about cost-per-foot. Just keep pounding away: 'Cost per foot is the only criterion that counts.' It does not matter if the teeth wear out first, or the bearing wears out first, or if they both wear out at the exact same moment, what matters is how much did it cost me to drill x number of feet with this bit?" Now Charlie is getting sort of wild-eyed like he always does when I forget to use only one- and two-syllable words; and he's afraid I'm going to ask him to do the math again, which I am. "Sometimes the best bit for the customer just wears unevenly, and that's still the best cost-per-foot bit for drilling that particular rock, and for him. You ought to -you got to - show him the numbers."

Charlie is a joke-teller, a card player, and our customers love him. He is not a technical guy by nature, but he's helped me build my business and he's a good man. Hop is different; more than once he's actually thrown a punch at me, and once he cussed out a customer. Who was, granted, acting like a supercilious son-of-a-bitch. I had to warn him, then, and almost fired him. But I didn't. And he is sharp as a razor.

Neither of them is exactly well-rounded. You know what I think? Well-rounded doesn't count for squat.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Uncle Herb's Adventure

You walk through the automatic doors and walk around to the right, looking at the floor, but peripherally, too, hoping vaguely to locate and check out the vegetable section first because probably nice people frequent the vegetable section and their presence might help you to acclimate to the grocery store, but instead, as you walk in you are thrown into a twilight zone that's just awful. Each of the five cashiers is over two hundred pounds and every last one of them is wearing a hairdo that looks like it was fashioned after something on Hee Haw, and you are getting an awful trailer park vibe but just as you try to twist this ominous Boschean vision into something more forgiving, more flexible in aspect, the horrible realization audibly insinuates itself that there is actually a Muzak rendition of the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane coming over the store audio - it's incredible, no one would ever even believe it - and you wonder for a millisecond if the cashiers are familiar with this song oozing from the speakers, and you know it means nothing to them and everything to you, and you can see that this is not going to be easy.

Skulking alone, shopping through the shelf aisles, I do well. I have an apple, potato, a grapefruit, yogurt, eggs, three pounds of butter, and a bag of chips, some dry roasted peanuts, and bar soap. I start mentally composing audio tracks they should play to shoppers. "Officer Four, Control Violation on Aisle Six," I imagine a sexy-voiced audio girl saying. "Alien control systems," she whispers.

I lean back against a shelf, forgetting that I need to grab a bag of kitty litter right in front of me. "Jesus, did I hear that or just think it?" I ask myself. "Man, I am messed up." I see that the subtle corruscating plaid pattern designed into the ceiling exactly matches the design of all the products placed on the shelf; a brilliant shelf design that makes me think the store manager must be a committed artist, an acidhead genius to design all the shelf product placement to look just so like this, with the flickering randomly associated colors colliding... Oh, god, I realize I'm drifting, it's impossible, it's just me, I need to get the hell of of there; I must check out, pay and leave as soon as possible.

I head for the checkout line.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fee for Foo

I'll tell you about bad tea. First there's the "tea" you get in Chinese restaurants. It's so weak you can't, of course, taste tea. You can barely see a tint in the water! And it smells sort of like flowers. Jasmine. If I wanted jasmine water, I would ask for jasmine water. But I asked for tea.
And since I live in the South, I can barely find a good glass of iced tea. Well, that's not strictly true. There's good unsweetened tea available. Usually they want to push a sort of syrup at you, that might actually be good on pancakes. But, I was raised in Florida where tea is strong, and sugar is added later. If it won't dissolve, you are simply trying to put more sugar in it than God intended. It's just that more than half the time the server races by and refills my glass with the syrup variety.

And then there's the matter of lemon. Sweet googly moogly! The restaurant business is full of people who just don't get it. People put lemon in their tea because they want the tartness and taste of discernable lemon juice in it. I mean, it is an established custom. It's sort of well known. In theory but not in practice, apparently. Nowadays the practice is to achieve "cost control." This means try to get about 50 slices of lemon out of each one. The result of this insanity is twofold: all the lemon juice ends up on the cutting board and is discarded, and the resulting microtomed slice is impossible to grasp by the diner and extract the few milligrams of lemon juice remaining.

And lately I've been eating at the Indian restaurant. Now I thought surely these folks understand tea: British Empire and all. And in the first year, all was well. I would order "strong, plain tea" and a pot would arrive shortly! This I would drink with a bit of milk. With the strong Indian food, it was perfect. In gratitude, I would tip 30%. But then things changed. Now the tea is getting weaker, and weaker, and tasting less like tea and more like... cardamom. Which I can assure you, does not taste good with milk. And today I was told "plain tea is not available." So I switched back to iced tea, which also is approaching total transparency and also tastes like cardamom. And comes with a piece of lemon exactly one millimeter thick.