Monday, January 31, 2011

Yes, it's me

I've been away awhile.  Actually, I haven't been anywhere.  I just haven't been here blogging.  It started with rotten weather, went into a serious fight with an awful hijack program and continued on into "I just need some time".  Well the weather sucks again today and looks like it's gonna be awful pretty much all week, so I'm just gonna try to work my way through it as best I can.  I won the fight with the hijack program, but it was a tough one.  I truly hate people who create things like that and given the opportunity would put them all away in a cold, dark, lonely, place without computers, TVs, games, telephones or any means of contacting the rest of the world.  And, today's post is actually about time alone with yourself, which is easier for some than for others.

I was born into a large, friendly family.  When we lived at home, it was a bit like living in a dormitory.  When we didn't live at home, we lived in a children's home, and that really was living in a dormitory.  Plus, someone always had a friend or two over.  Sometimes we all had a friend or two over, and often it was loud and crowded -- especially if Mom was cooking southern fried chicken and any of our friends heard about it.  (My Mom was not the best cook in the world, but there were some things she made that were so good you would be hard pressed to find any better.  Southern fried chicken -- can you say cholesterol -- was without a doubt her most wonderful cooking achievement.  She made some pretty good new potatoes and dumplings too.  Talk about a few carbohydrates.)  Even as we started to grow up and leave home, it didn't seem to get much less crowded.  Someone was always coming back home and usually bringing spouses and children with them.

Yet, in all that chaos, several of us found ways to spend time alone with just ourselves.  Glenn spent hours upon hours reading.  Cindy and I both went through a lot of teenage angst and took to writing poetry.  Turns out the only good poetry I write is when I'm depressed or angry or hurt.  Cathy and Joe were much more about people than the rest of us.  I can't really say which category Harry fit into, because being 10 years older than I am, he was grown and gone by the time I started to actually figure out who I was.  He did come home and bring his family and our Uncle Mahlon with him once, but that was just pure bedlam and I can't say that any of us had much peace during that timespan.

When I joined the Navy, of course boot camp and the barracks on the Naval Station in Norfolk were not conducive to privacy, but eventually I got to rent my own apartment and I was actually alone probably for the first time in my life.  It was scary, especially since I'm afraid of the dark, but it was also my own private paradise.  I could do anything I wanted without getting permission or without disturbing anyone else.  I could read uninterrupted.  I could write without worrying that someone was reading over my shoulder.  I could play the records I wanted to hear whenever I wanted to hear them.  You get the picture -- I was allowed to be me without any interference from anyone.  I was in Heaven.

Then I married Steve and had to learn to live with someone again.  There are a number of reasons that didn't work out so well, and I can't blame him for all of them (well I can, but to be truthful, I may have not been the world's most perfect mate).  When that marriage mercifully died, I was once again on my own and I was, once again, thrilled.  Oh, I'll admit, occasionally I felt sorry for myself and wondered if I was going to die alone with no one to care about me or notice my passing.  Really.  I've always been a bit of a drama queen.  But to be truthful, most of the time I was a happy camper and rarely found myself bored with myself.  I am an avid reader and I can get so lost in a book I actually feel as if I am one of the characters in the story.  When I was younger, I thought the only part of my life I had gotten right was my career (since I was obviously a total screwup when it came to relationships), so I worked many long hours at improving my skills so as to advance in the world of business.  Some of my jobs involved travel, which I love, and I was never afraid to go any place alone.  I would think nothing of hopping a plane and flying off to New York or Chicago or Pittsburgh by myself.  I would eat in restaurants by myself and never give it another thought.  I rarely went into bars by myself, mostly because I'm just not a bar kinda person, but also because I figured that would just be asking for trouble.

Then one of my jobs moved me to Baltimore, I met Bud, we fell in love, he moved in, and basically I've never lived alone since.  One of the first things I explained to Bud when it appeared our relationship was actually going to go somewhere wonderful, was that I didn't just want to be able to have some time to myself, but I NEEDED (as in it is a nonnegotiable requirement) to have "me time".  We have disagreed (sometimes violently and sometimes like adults) about many things over the years, but we have never had to have another discussion about "me time".  In that regard, we have a perfect relationship.  We completely trust each other, so if I wanted to go off somewhere without him, he wouldn't get sulky and worry about what I might be doing.  I also have always given him a great deal of latitude in our relationship.  He goes for "boys night out" once a week to play pinochle without me because near as I can tell I'm not a "boy" though I do play pinochle fairly well.  He goes to watch the Super Bowl with a group of guys at the Temple (he's an honorary member of the Brotherhood) without me because, again, I'm not a guy and I just really don't care about the Super Bowl.  He goes to see Dark Star Orchestra (a Grateful Dead tribute band) without me because I just don't want to go.  Greensboro used to have a decent minor league hockey team and we went to hockey games together for awhile.  I lost interest, so he would take one of my closest girlfriends as his date -- no problem.  We have just never found a reason to crowd each other.  So I never had much reason to complain about being able to do my own thing in our relationship.

Then, along came SCDS.  Now, I am home alone all day every day without supervision.  Just think of the ways I could run amok, if only I were actually able to do anything.  My life is more than a little bit restricted now.  Doing a load of laundry is about as much exertion as I can take at any given time.  I have plenty of time to read, write, play games.  I can try to do things like dust, sweep, etc., but it usually turns out badly and just makes more of a mess when I barf.  There is no way I could vacuum.  The noise from the vacuum would cause so many problems with my head, I would need to go back to bed to attempt to recover.  Basically, sitting still and not moving around a bunch is the limit of my talents now.  I actually drove my van on Friday for the first time since before August 27, 2009.   I needed to move it out of our driveway and I only drove it about 20', but I did have to miss a telephone pole (which I have managed to hit in the past), a fencepost and a tree.  I successfully missed all of the obstacles and I am quite proud of myself.  I would not, however, under any circumstances attempt to operate a vehicle on a road.  The feeling sitting behind the wheel and watching everything around me move before I had even turned the key in the ignition was very bizarre.

So how do I feel about "me time" now that I have more than my fair share?  I still love it.  Since I am clinically depressed, and grey winter days magnify that depression, I have days when I am weepy and beaten down.  But no matter what, I like me and I enjoy being with me and I have no trouble entertaining me for days on end.  I may be alone much of the time, but I am rarely lonely.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Boo - Hiss - Oops

Sooooo embarrassing!

Well, even professionally trained computer technicians screw up (apparently).  Curiosity killed the cat, and in this case satisfaction did NOT bring it back.  Temptation got the best of me and I clicked on a no-no.  Yes, I know better.  I got complacent, I got cocky, I got over-confident, I got stupid.

I am currently fighting a really nasty Trojan, worm, virus, piece of shit program that has virtually hijacked my entire computer.  I am so pissed off I can barely see to repair it.  Oh, I'll get it.  It'll be history soon, but in the meantime, I don't have the time (or the temperament) to write blog posts.  I hope none of you got any strange emails from me.

See ya once I kill the beast.  Let this be a lesson to all.  DO NOT CLICK ON ANYTHING UNLESS YOU ARE SURE OF THE SOURCE!

Friday, January 21, 2011


A blogger friend recently posted about me time.  It started me thinking (I have a lot of time and not much I can do except think) and I know I have a blog in me about this very subject.  It will have to wait, however, because while I was "enjoying" one of the benefits of being home alone and unsupervised all day, I managed to get stuck in the eye by a rogue azalea bush.  I'm pretty sure there is no permanent damage, but it is still painful, watery and extremely blurry (though not as bad as yesterday).  Blurry vision and perpetual dizziness are a very bad combination, and can lead to more serious injuries.  So, I'm gonna rest my eyes today and try to not venture into dangerous places (who'da thought my front yard was so full of pratfalls).  Unfortunately, that also puts the skids to any reading, but I can't risk permanent damage to my eyesight.  Jeez, it's one of the few things I have left that normally work properly.

See ya soon, as long as the weather cooperates.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When is a lion a crab?

Of myself and my two sisters, I would say Cathy is the most traditionally Christian.  I think she abides by more of the "rules" than Cindy or I do.  I am a Christian, but I have serious misgivings about organized religion and the feeling appears to be mutual.  Most churches I have attended have been uncomfortable with my questions.  Though I am a firm believer in God, I have some thoughts and theories that could best be described as not mainstream.  Cindy is, I believe, also a Christian but she is also the most metaphysical of us.  All of us have a metaphysical streak, I just believe Cindy's is more pronounced.

So what is the purpose of all this jabber?  Cathy seems to have found information putting forth the idea that the Zodiac has changed over the years and now there are 13 houses rather than 12.  You can see an article about this here New Zodiac Signs

My birthday is August 4th.  I'm not sure how much credence I give to astrology, but up until now I've been a Leo and I always thought the description of Leos pretty much covered my personality.  Below is a description of Leos.  I have highlighted the parts I think don't necessarily match up to my persona.
Leo is the fifth sign of the zodiac. These folks are impossible to miss, since they love being center stage. Making an impression is Job One for Leos, and when you consider their personal magnetism, you see the job is quite easy. Leos are an ambitious lot, and their strength of purpose allows them to accomplish a great deal. The fact that these folks are also creative makes their endeavors fun for them and everyone else. It's quite common to see a Leo on stage or in Hollywood, since these folks never shy away from the limelight. They are also supremely talented and have a flair for the dramatic. Warmth and enthusiasm seems to seep from every Leo pore, making these folks a pleasure to be around. They do love pleasure!
It's the Lion that symbolizes Leos, and the king (or queen) of the jungle is a most appropriate mascot, since they consider themselves the rulers of their universe (and the zodiac at that).  Like Lions, Leos tend to be dignified and strong, and it's this sense of their power that allows them to get things done. A Leo on your team is a good thing, since Lions are eager to see their projects through to completion. Putting these folks at the helm is a good thing, too, since the Leo-born are natural leaders. They may ruffle a few feathers along the way, however, since they can also be overbearing and somewhat autocratic.  This may be in keeping with the Fixed Quality assigned to this sign -- Lions are indeed opinionated and set in their ways.  That said, they are well organized, idealistic and have a knack for inspiring others.
Leo is ruled by the Sun -- the center of the universe and the fuel for our being. In much the same way, Leos consider themselves indispensable and the center of the universe, and those who would tell them otherwise had better look out! Lions are outgoing, self-assured (somehow I missed out on this unless I'm with people I know) and have a tremendous zest for life. So what if the world revolves around them? There are worse role models, for sure. The Lion's enthusiasm is boundless, and along with that comes generosity of spirit and the determination to succeed. That focus may be construed as vanity and even bossiness at times, but Lions would say 'No way!' and continue along their regal path. Regardless of appearance, those born under this sign can be counted on for their loyalty and sense of honor. They are also decisive, intensely proud and wonderfully romantic.
The element associated with Leo is Fire. (I respect fire, but I also have a well honed fear of it). Everything about the Lion's personality is hot, hot, hot. Those born under this sign are fearless and strong, which may be why Lions plunge in headfirst and let the chips fall where they may. Thankfully, Leos are dignified enough not to commit too many pratfalls. It's the Lion's unswerving courage that wins so many folks over. If you need someone to lead the charge, call a Leo -- and the bigger the project, the better, since these folks love an expansive stage (and the audience that comes with it) (not necessarily). While some would take to calling Lions status-conscious, these folks are truly warmhearted and want everyone to be happy. Hey, it's their kingdom, and happy campers make for a perfect peace. Further, it's the great gift of the Leo-born to be dynamic, forward-thinking and self-confident. These attributes certainly catch the attention of others, making Leos sought after by both friends and lovers. The Lion's charms extend to all, even to the children they dearly love. (There are some children that I dearly love, but none of them are mine.) Yes, the pleasure principle is paramount to the Lion, and along those lines, Leos are great at spending money.  Lions can't fathom an uncomfortable throne. Leos also enjoy trying their luck at the tables, so expect to find them living it up in Las Vegas. (I'm usually a bit of a tightward, and I'm not much of a gambler. Too cheap.  But I loved Vegas. I really like shiny, sparkly, colorful things.)
Come play time, Leos are at their best. Those born under this sign enjoy fun and games both outdoors and in (and with a group), so expect to find them playing softball, hockey or a game of cards. Lions are also a natural at the gym, where they can show their stuff to a crowd(Not so much.) When the lights are low, the essential Lion comes to the fore, since this beast is 90 percent fun and 100 percent romantic. The Leo lover is devoted, creative and almost too hot to handle! Since Leo rules the heart and back, however, overzealous Lions may have to take a deep breath and slow down a bit. You can bet that the Lion's home will be swaddled in royal purple and gold. (My favorite color is green, but purple and gold are very good too.)
The great strengths of the Leo-born are their creativity, idealism and leadership. Lions don't lack for ambition, either, so they're likely to accomplish a lot -- and have fun while they're at it. Their warmth and loyalty ensures that others will enjoy the ride as well.
Okay, so now I'm supposed to be Cancer.  Below is a description and my notes where I think I differ:

Cancer, the fourth sign of the zodiac, is all about home. Those born under this sign are 'roots' kinds of people, and take great pleasure in the comforts of home and family. Cancers are maternal, domestic and love to nurture others. More than likely, their family will be large, too -- the more, the merrier! (I'm not at all maternal, domestic or a nurturer. I have a large family, but not of my own creation -- I was born into it). Cancers will certainly be merry if their home life is serene and harmonious. Traditions are upheld with great zest in a Cancer's household, since these folks prize family history and love communal activities. They also tend to be patriotic, waving the flag whenever possible. A Cancer's good memory is the basis for stories told around the dinner table, and don't be surprised if these folks get emotional about things. Those born under this sign wear their heart on their sleeve, which is just fine by them.
The mascot of Cancer is the Crab, and much like this shelled little critter, Cancers are quick to retreat into their shells if it suits their mood. No wonder these folks are called crabby! For Cancer, it's not that big of a deal, though, since they consider this "shell" a second home (and they do love home). The flip side of this hiding is that shell-bound Crabs are often quite moody. Further, in keeping with their difficulty in sharing their innermost feelings, it can become a Herculean task to pry a Crab out of its secret hiding place. What to do? Give the Crab time -- eventually these folks will come out to play again. When they do, they'll be the first to say so, in keeping with the Cardinal Quality attached to this sign. It's said that Crabs are first to laugh and first to cry, so you can bet they'll fill you in. That shell, by the way, isn't the only tough thing about Crabs. These folks are tenacious and strong-willed and like to get their way.  If their well-documented kindness and gentleness doesn't do the trick, however, they're not above using emotional manipulation to make things happen. If that still doesn't work, they'll just go back into their shell and sulk, or find a way to get back at the source of their pain, since Crabs can be rather vindictive.  That said, any self-respecting Crab would tell you that they are ultimately motivated by protecting their home and loved ones, a most noble goal.
Cancers are ruled by the Moon (interestingly: Leos are Sun signs) -- the Great Mother of the heavens in ancient times. Here on Earth, this is manifested in the Crab's maternal instincts (again, not me) and desire to protect home and hearth. This may appear smothering at times, but that's the Crab for you. (I don't think I've ever been smothering; if fact, just the opposite is more true). The Moon is associated with fertility (the Knights are fertile, but my reproductive system was put together with Elmer's, duct tape and a staple gun) too, a quality that is most pleasing to Cancers. The Moon is also the ruler of moods, and Cancers have plenty of those. (AMEN!) These folks can cry you a river if they're so inclined, and they usually are. They can be overly sensitive, easily hurt (though you'll never know it) and prone to brooding. Even so, Crabs find it easy to be sympathetic to others and are quick to show their affection. Their intuition is also a great help to them, especially in times of stress.
The element associated with Cancer is Water. (I love water!) Like the rolling waves of the sea, the Crab's emotions can make quite a splash. These folks tend to pick up on things and bring them in, with the outward result ranging from sentimentality to possessiveness. Crabs need to resist the temptation to become selfish or to feel sorry for themselves, since this behavior won't help. On the bright side, Cancers are good with money (although some consider them too thrifty), probably because they value a sense of security. Crabs are also quick to help others and tend to avoid confrontation. In keeping with their nurturing bent, those born under this sign are a whiz with food (as long as I don't have to prepare it). A hearty picnic in the park is heaven-on-earth to most Crabs.
Cancers often find that a robust workout session is just the tonic for their touchy feelings (not so much). Team sports are always nice, since they offer a sense of community; water polo should be elemental to aquatic Crabs. What are their team colors? The Moon is silver and white (very low on my list of favorites). Since Cancers have a tendency to be lazy, however, they may need someone to push them out the door (I have always been self-motivated). When it comes to the game of love, eager Crabs are devoted, romantic and able to get things going on their own. Crabs are wise to listen to their gut, since this sign rules the stomach.
The great strength of the Cancer-born is the tenacity with which they protect their loved ones. These folks don't ask for much, either: a comfortable home and sense of peace about sums it up. It's that nurturing instinct (I just don't think that's me) which makes Cancers a pleasure to be with.

So, what do we have?  Seems to me I'm a little bit of both.  But it also seems to me if I were to select any one of the other 12 or 13 (depending upon which side of the discussion you favor), I would find things that fit my style and things that don't.  I am me.  I am an individual, and as such, I am like no other person on this planet. I like me the way I am, and if you don't, well too bad.  Some may say I'm a crabby old lion, and they'd be more than a little bit correct, but I've lived hard, I love hard, and it has been one helluva ride so far.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Will this never end?

We spent the weekend in Asheville, NC, which is in the Appalachian Mountains.  It is an incredibly beautiful area, but it is slightly over 2,000' above sea level.  The elevation above sea level for Greensboro, NC, where I live, is roughly 770'.  The higher the elevation, the greater the headache.  I spent two horrible nights in Asheville with relatively little sleep and even less relief from pain.  But it was worth it to spend time with family and learn more about them.
Headache 2/Carla 0.

We drove home on Sunday through sunny skies and my hope for pain relief increased with each foot we dropped in elevation.  However, as we got closer to home, we drove into a low pressure system hanging over Greensboro.  Low pressure systems cause exactly the same issues as higher elevations.  Oops, lost that round, but the sky appeared to be clearing and I had great hope for Monday morning.
Headache 3/Carla 0.

Monday dawned.  Yep, I'm sure the sun came up somewhere behind that layer upon layer of cold dark clouds.  The hoped for relief was not to be found on Monday.
Headache 4/Carla 0.

This morning, I awoke to sleet and freezing rain.  The low pressure system has apparently found a place it likes and so it's staying for awhile.
Headache 5/Carla 0.

The forecast is for clouds and rain/sleet mix all day today, but tomorrow is supposed to be mostly sunny.  Please! I will be back as soon as this conspiracy to blow my head off my shoulders is eliminated.

Friday, January 14, 2011

No fish today

Well, as it's Friday, maybe there should be fish today. When we were younger, we had a stepfather who was an extremely nonparticipating Catholic.  I do not believe he ever set foot in a church in the entire time he was a part of our lives, though I suspect a lot of people have been known to pray at the local bar.  So, coincidentally and appropriately, when we lived in Baltimore, one of our favorite hangouts was a pub named No Fish Today.   My mother's father was a Southern Baptist (and they are very different from regular Baptists) minister, and I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church.  Once we moved to New Jersey (which is the same time we acquired said stepfather), I don't think any of us did much in the way of going to church.  However, for reasons that totally escape me, my mother insisted we had to eat fish on Friday because our stepfather was Catholic.  I'm not complaining.  I loved fish then, and I love it now.  I'd eat fish or seafood every day of the week.  I just found it odd that we practiced this custom.  And, it is my understanding the no meat on Friday restriction has been rescinded by the Catholics.

This post is not about Friday or fish or meat.  It's really about no post today.  I don't have enough time to write today.  We are going to Asheville for the weekend and plan to meet up with my nephew Rob and his wife Bette and their daughters Abby and Katie.  Rob and his family and Rob's sister Shell and her husband have only recently come back into our lives.  We are thrilled.  The story of where they have been and why is not mine to tell, but I may devote a post to my peripheral side of it.  The fact is, they are back in our lives and I, for one, want to take every opportunity to make up for lost time.  As we'll be gone all weekend, it isn't likely I'll have time to write much.  Have a good weekend and be safe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy days are here again - well, maybe not so much

"Hail, hail, the gang's all here,
We're a bunch of live ones,
Not a single dead one;
Hail, hail, the gang's all here,
Sure I'm glad that I'm here, too!"

"There’ll be a hot time in the old town, tonight."

We were primed.  We were ready.  We worked our arses off to "get er done", but we played hard too.  What more could a person ask?  We were making a beautiful, handcrafted, well designed piece of art that just happened to also tell time.  And, we did it with our closest friends -- people we respected for their intelligence and ability to see a task through to the end.  This same group of people seemed to be together all day every day.  We all worked together; we all socialized with each other.  It just couldn't get any better than this!  But as they say, "no good deed goes unpunished" and "all good things must come to an end".

Unfortunately, we started Sovereign, Ltd. at the same time the U.S. economy decided to take a nosedive into a recession.  We struggled, but the harder we worked, the harder it became to keep it all together.  The first nail in the coffin was when the investors became unhappy with Frank.  Frank, being the president, made a judgment call we all saw as building morale, but the investors saw as poor fiscal management.  We had a Sovereign, Ltd. co-ed softball team.  Many of the management, office staff, supervisors and workers were members of our team.  I played catcher.  Bud told me to choose another position because I was gonna get hurt, but I persisted.  If Bud had been on an opposing team, I might have reconsidered, because he would have run me over without a second thought.  He's very competitive.  But most guys on the other teams were reluctant to run head-on into a woman, even if she was the catcher.  There weren't very many plays to homeplate, but I was prepared to take the hit if it came.  There was one guy who couldn't even pitch to me because he was trying so hard to not hit me in the chest with the ball (I'm fairly busty).  Anyway, Frank had some t-shirts with the Sovereign logo on them made for the team.  The cost of the shirts was minimal.  That wasn't really the issue.  The viewpoint of the investors was we were on a really tight budget, and Frank should have never spent the money on something so frivolous.  He was not immediately terminated, but after that the investors were nitpicking about every little thing.  One day it just all blew up and Frank was gone.  It was a cruel blow.  Frank and Sue stayed in Greensboro while Frank looked for another position, and we included them in all our recreational and social activities, but it wasn't the same.  When Frank found a position in Moultrie, Georgia they moved away.  Bud and I went to visit them on several occasions and they returned for our wedding (a blog unto itself), but it still felt as if we had all gone through an amputation.

The man they brought in to replace Frank was nice enough, but he just wasn't gonna be part of our gang.  We all liked him well enough.  But, well,  just but.   Yet, we trudged ahead, beating our heads against the economy every step of the way.  I had, of course, come to Sovereign as the office manager/adminstrative whatever.  No one in the company had much experience in purchasing.  Frank had done the purchasing at Daneker until a Vice President of Production was hired and Frank could pass the job off to him.  At Sovereign, LB as Plant Manager got stuck with the job, but he quickly passed it off to me.  I'd never done purchasing, other than office supplies, but I was willing to learn anything.  What a headache!  Suppliers are liars, quality control is sometimes nonexistent, freight companies are unreliable.  It was so much fun.  I loved almost every bit of it.  I eventually convinced our suppliers I really didn't want them to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear, I wanted them to tell me what was reality.  I could arrange my production schedule accordingly if I could be sure they would produce as promised.  That was the biggest issue.  I didn't want unrealistic blue sky estimated shipping dates.  I wanted something I could build a production schedule around.   I got to be known as a bit of hardass, but eventually they got a clue.  Thank God we had Rhonda "Bubbles" Biddix to answer the phone.  I woulda scared everyone off.  Once when we were getting ready to do a physical plantwide inventory, I took the box of inventory tags and put them on the shelf behind my desk with a huge note written in red marker attached:  "You toucha dis box, I breaka you arm."  The only time Bud and I butted heads was when the perpetual inventory and the physical inventory were so far off it was pathetic.  Even the people in the factory were a little afraid of that witchy (or does that word start with a "b") woman in the office.

One cute little story -- I had begun calling Bud "Spanky" as an affectionate nickname because he reminded me some of Spanky from Our Gang.  I guess I referred to him as Spanky when we were around Tim and Frank and LB, but I was fairly careful where I used the nickname.  However, Tim in particular picked up on it and started using the nickname also (and still does).  One afternoon at work, Tim could not reach Bud on his extension and wanted to talk with him immediately.  So Tim came over the paging microphone, picked it up, pressed the speaker button, and broadcast throughout the entire plant, "Spanky, please call Tim immediately."  He didn't even realize what he had said until a few seconds later we heard the entire factory start laughing.  It took them only a second to figure out who Spanky was.  At first Bud was embarrassed, but he took it goodheartedly, and he may have even gained a little respect from some of the people in the plant.

In the beginning of 1982, Bud and I decided we wanted to buy a house.  We went to a realty agent and started working with her to find something both of us liked and we could afford.  Neither Bud nor I really knew much about house-hunting, or for that matter had given too much thought to what we wanted in a home.  I knew I wanted a fireplace.  Bud did too because for a long time he thought he was Paul Bunyon.  Bud wanted a basement, which is not something normal in this part of the country.  We knew we wanted three bedrooms and two baths -- our bedroom and master bath, a guest room and general household bath and a room for an office.  Beyond that we were clueless.  We looked at a number of properties.  The recession was in full swing by now and sellers were desperate.  Unfortunately, home mortgage rates were up around 18%, so buyers were few.  We finally found a brand new home that had been built a year before but had remained unoccupied and so far had not had many people interested.  It was on an acre of mostly wooded land, adjacent to a farmer's field.  Though it was pretty far out in the country, it was only a 15 to 20 minute drive to work.  And, the biggest plus of all was the seller would finance it himself at 12% interest.  We made an offer.

That night we were so anxious we couldn't sleep.  Finally, at 11:30 PM, the realtor called to say our offer had been accepted.  Holy moly!  We were gonna be homeowners!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is God trying to tell me something?

In December of 1980, the new clock company, Sovereign, Ltd., gave a ham to every employee for Christmas.  Bud rented a U-Haul (or some brand) truck in Greensboro and started the trip to Baltimore to move me.  For some reason the rental fee for the truck was less if he drove it round trip than a one-way rental.  Unfortunately, he had gotten only about as far as South Hill, VA when the truck broke down.  He hiked to the nearest service station (there were no cell phones then) and called the rental company.  He told them they would find their truck parked on the shoulder of I-85 near one of the South Hill exits, and oh, by the way, he expected a complete refund.  He was fortunate to find a man gassing up at the service station who offered to drive him as far as the Maryland side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in DC.  He called me and asked me to pick him up.  He offered the ham to his Good Samaritan as compensation, but he refused to take it.  So I picked up an extremely disgruntled traveler and his ham off the roadside near DC and took him back to Baltimore.  Not a great start to my move, but certainly not an insurmountable problem.

Bud rented another truck in Baltimore for the one-way move and on Saturday, December 27, 1980 we got up, had coffee, and started loading the truck with all of my earthly belongings.  Being a good little doobee, I had already packed and boxed everything except the clothes I was wearing, some personal hygiene items, the coffee maker and some mugs.  After cleaning the pot and the mugs, they were closed up in one final box and ready to go.  I don't remember what caused us to be delayed.  Maybe it was someone coming to help load the heavy stuff (I had a complete one-bedroom apartment full of furniture, some of which was inexcusably heavy).  Anyway, we didn't get completely loaded, with my little Datsun B210 hooked up behind the truck, until about 12:30 PM.  We had hoped to start sooner because the drive normally took 6-7 hours in a car, and we were adding at least an extra hour or so for being in the truck and towing my car.  Still, when we left Baltimore it was a cold, sunny, clear winter day and we were loaded for bear.

Once we got to the first Richmond tollbooth we started to notice a few flakes of snow falling.  Back in 1980, there were four tollbooths in the Richmond/Petersburg area.  They aren't there any longer.  Virginia is the only state I have ever known to remove tollbooths once the cost of the road was paid.  They didn't do it willingly; the citizens forced it.  But the tollbooths came down.  I'm sure the Harbor Tunnel and/or the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore were completely paid years ago, yet those tolls are still in effect.  But, back to our merry travelers.  I don't know if we didn't check the weather forecast, or if we just didn't really give it much thought since snow is a given in Baltimore, but at first we didn't worry much about a few little snowflakes.  Except, the further south we went, the harder it snowed.  The roads in Virginia were not salted or prepared in any way for snow, and we saw only a few snowplows throughout the rest of the trip.  The snow from the road was being picked up by the truck tires and deposited on my car behind us.  That made my car increasingly heavier and heavier.  Soon the truck started to overheat.  We stopped under an overpass and dug in the truck until we found some brooms and swept all the wet snow off my car.  That helped, but we had to stop repeatedly to clean the car to keep the truck from overheating.  Then Bud says to me "Keep an eye out and let me know if you see your car pass us on either side."  What??? It seems the bumper on a Datsun B210 was not bolted on and as the car was being towed by the bumper, Bud was afraid the extra weight from the snow would cause the bumper to detach and set the car free.  What a mess!  So, now we're sweeping and we're checking bumper connections and we're freezing, and it's snowing more and more and more.  The windshield wipers started to freeze and the defrosters were not working properly.  Bud had a hard time seeing where he was going.  So, now were sweeping and checking bumper connections and breaking ice off the wipers and freezing, and it's snowing more and more and more.  Fortunately, we were almost the only fools on the road.  We went as fast as possible, which by any accounting was still very slow.  We did some slippin' 'n slidin' and I did a whole lot of praying.  Eleven hours after we left Baltimore, we pulled into the parking lot at Bud's apartment.  Fortunately, my car was still attached.  He parked the truck smack in the middle of the lot and left it there.  We grabbed our personal stuff and headed inside to his apartment.  I thought about kissing the ground once we arrived safely, but it was covered with snow and I just wanted to get warm and dry.

It was late, we were tired, but it was gonna be awhile before my frayed nerves and twisted stomach calmed down enough to sleep.  We were just happy to have arrived safely, though I was seriously wondering if this inauspicious beginning to my life in North Carolina was a sign I should have stayed in Maryland.  We'd been in the apartment less than a half-hour when the doorbell rang.  Huh?  It's almost midnight and it's snowing to beat the band out there, but we have company?  Sure enough.  We opened the door and there stood LB.  Now, LB takes a little explaining.  Someday I may write individual blogs about LB, Frank, Gabe and the others of our friends we have lost too soon, but here I'll just give a brief background.  LB and Tim had been friends, roommates, coworkers and co-conspirators when Tim lived in North Carolina before moving to Maryland.  Once Tim moved to Maryland, LB was a frequent visitor.  Before I became involved with Bud, LB and I dated quite a bit.  After Bud and I became a pair, LB still visited Maryland often, especially when the three stooges shared a townhouse, and we all were on great terms.  When Tim and I moved to separate apartments, LB moved up from North Carolina and took over as Plant Manager at the clock company.  So, of course, when the company in Maryland failed and the new company was started in North Carolina, LB came home.  He was now the Plant Manager of Sovereign, Ltd. and Bud's boss.  LB just also happened to be Rita Henderson's (of Harold and Rita) brother.

Well, of course, we asked LB to come in.  Looking in the parking lot at the way he had "parked" his car next to the rental truck smack in the middle of the lot, there sure wasn't gonna be any way he was getting out of there.  His apartment wasn't really that far way, but there was not gonna be anyone leaving our lot until sometime the next day after we got that truck moved.  He said he'd been waiting for us to get in because Frank and Tim had asked him to offer me a job.  Originally, I had planned to move to NC and stay with Bud while I looked for an apartment and a job.  I'd barely been in town a half-hour and I already had a job offer, and it was one I couldn't pass up.  No, the money was not gonna be great -- the company was just starting up.  But I would be back with Frank, Tim and Bud plus some of the other old Daneker gang.  And LB worked there too.  What more could I ask than the opportunity to bust my butt working 14 to 16 hours a day AGAIN with my best buddies.  I said "yes", without hesitation.  There was just one small problem.  The pay cut was gonna make it almost impossible for me to afford my own apartment.  For some reason this put a great big giant smile on Bud's face.  After a congratulatory toast with beer (all we had in the apartment at the moment), LB bunked out on the sofa and Bud and I fell into bed exhausted but content.

So there would be no discussions about who paid who for what, we worked out a deal where we would get a larger apartment in the same complex (his was only one bedroom and I had a bunch of furniture), split the cost 50/50, split utilities and phone and such 50/50, carpool and split gas 50/50, etc.  I had a Sears charge card so I bought a new washer and dryer and we split the payments 50/50.  I was not gonna have any more misunderstandings, misconceptions or any other miswhatevers about finances.

Maybe my life in NC was off to a pretty good start after all.  I'd been a resident less than a day and I had a place to live and a job with some of the best friends on the face of the planet. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do ...

... and, in the case of Bud and me, impossible.  Bud had moved back in with his grandparents when we split up, but discovered that living on his own was preferable, so he and Eddie (you remember Eddie from the clock company) got an apartment together in Perry Hall, MD near Bud's grandparents.  When Tim and I went our separate ways, he got an apartment in Cockeysville, MD,which was not near anything except three million other apartments.  I'd never seen such a conglomeration of apartment complexes jammed together in one spot.  Cockeysville was truly Yuppie Town, USA.  I moved to a complex in the Fullerton area with easy access to the interstates.  The job I had taken at the brick factory was on the south side of the city in an industrial section call Brooklyn Park.  The entire area went from lower middle class blue collar to indigent and ghetto or worse.  Every day I drove through the Harbor Tunnel (the only one that existed in 1980) to get to work and to get home.  It was a nightmare even on the rare days when there were no accidents in the tunnel.  However, I still preferred living on the north side of town.  I had worked too long and too hard to get away from the poverty and squalor I had known as a child, and I was not gonna take any steps backward just for the convenience of being close to my job.

I dated some after Bud and I split, but my heart wasn't really in it.  I just didn't "click" with anyone.  It hardly seemed worth the effort, and I hate that part of dating when you have to get to know each other.  It's so phony and uncomfortable.  Based on the packages of condoms I found in the glove compartment of Bud's precious Malibu, I'd say he did a little dating too.  I guess it didn't work out so well for him either, because though we no longer lived together, we never actually quit seeing each other.  Shortly after we split, we attended the World Series together.  Hey, we already had the tickets and I was excited to be going to my first (and as it turns out only so far) World Series.  Just because we had split up, I didn't see any reason why we couldn't act like civilized people and go to the games together.  At least up until I got walking pneumonia, and Bud had to go to the final game without me.  We also had some friends who were getting married and had asked us to stand up for them.  Well, just because we weren't together any more didn't mean we could bailout on our friends.  So we attended the wedding together.  Then, of course, there was the time the doctor said I had mono.  Then he said I didn't have mono.  Then he said I did.  I don't know whether I ever had mono or not, but I do know I was horribly ill.  So who do ya call?  The Budster!  He came to my apartment and picked up my prescriptions and took them to the pharmacy and went to the grocery store and got me milk and beer and bread and soup and stuff that I might eat if I got desperate (I still wasn't much for feeding myself).  Then we sorta started dating again.  I'd spend the weekend at his place, or he'd spend the weekend at mine.  I guess we were together again, just in separate places.

Then a really odd thing happened.  Somehow, that charming man Wayne Carr lost control of the clock company.  I didn't work there any longer and Tim wasn't my roommate any longer and Frank had fallen in love with a terrific young woman and was getting married, so I was way out of the loop as far as happenings at the clock company went.  But, Wayne was out and Frank and Tim were still in.  One of the first things they did was call Bud and ask if he wanted to come back to work for the clock company.  This made Bud one of the happiest men on the planet, and he immediately quit his job at the insulated glass company and went back to Daneker Clock Company as a supervisor.  As I said, I was out of the loop, so I'm not really sure about the timeline of these events.  I know Bud went back to the clock company, but I don't know when.  I know Frank got married in early May, but I was unable to go to the wedding as that was the same time the doctor couldn't figure out whether I had mono or not and I was too sick to go anywhere.  Tim was Best Man at Frank's wedding.  We all loved his new wife, Susan.  He picked a winner his second time around, though I honestly believe she picked him.

Bud and I were pretty much seeing each other exclusively again, though we kept separate apartments.  The brick factory was hit by some hard times and was experiencing major layoffs.  It was obvious with the union work force getting smaller, the need for supervisors would decrease as well.  I was low man on the totem pole.  But, as it turned out, I had an ace up my sleeve I didn't even know about.  The General Manager had somehow discovered I had administrative experience and they needed someone to manage the union SUB (supplemental unemployment benefits) pay for the laid-off workers.  It seemed none of the women in the office could make head nor tails of the system.  He asked if I thought I could figure it out.  Ta da!  I transferred from the factory to the office in less time than it took to blink. The SUB pay system was incredibly involved and completely convoluted because it was based on regular unemployment benefits as well as time employed and position and myriad other minor technicalities.  However, I tamed the beast in relatively short order and created a niche for myself.  If you think working with blue collar union people is difficult, try dealing with them when it's about money!  Sometimes I was not the most popular person on the company campus, but I was the most fair.  Even if it took me hours to explain why a certain person only got a certain amount, I never gave up until I saw the little light bulb come on inside his or her head.

Bud and I joined a bowling league together with some of the people from the office at the brick factory.  One night when we were driving home after bowling, I looked up and saw a sign for the Harbor Tunnel.  I'd seen that sign hundreds of times since I drove that route almost every day.  But this time it sent a funny little chill down my spine.  I shivered and Bud asked what was wrong.  I told him I didn't know, but I'd just got the strangest feeling soon we would be looking at these road signs differently.  He asked what I meant and I said I wasn't sure, but I thought it meant we weren't gonna be living there much longer.

The Daneker Clock Company had run its course.  All our hard work had only delayed the inevitable and it was dying a slow and painful death.  No one wanted to give it up, but there was nothing left to be done to save it.  Now when Bud went to work, it was to help put the poor old dog to rest.  But Frank and Tim had another idea.  They still wanted to make high end, superior quality grandfather clocks.  They went in search of someone with money, willing to invest in a new venture.  The old clock company couldn't be saved, but starting a new one from scratch just might work.  They found some interested investors and presented the plan.  Lo and behold, they bought into the idea and Sovereign, Ltd. was born.  Frank and Tim went to North Carolina in search of a place to make clocks.  High Point, NC was the center of the furniture industry and as the company would need skilled furniture craftsmen, the Triad is where they searched.  They found an abandoned factory in Greensboro, NC that had recently been used by the Ridgeway Clock Company and made arrangements to take possession.   Several of the production supervisors and most of the administrative staff decided to make the move to North Carolina.  Only a few important people stayed behind, so the company was off to a good start from the beginning.  In October of 1980, Bud moved to North Carolina.  I remained in Maryland and did not, at first, have any plans to move, though I resented his going further south (though not closer to the beach)  and leaving me behind.

Almost every weekend when he could get away, Bud made the six to seven hour drive back to Baltimore.  He wanted to see me, of course, but he also wanted to keep in very close touch with his grandparents.  It was a good thing the state of Virginia did not have a reciprocal agreement with North Carolina at that time, because Bud got so many speeding tickets in Virginia.  He would never have been able to move there because they would have either thrown him in jail or refused to issue him a drivers' license.  However, those tickets were never reported to North Carolina so he never got any points on his license.  Things sure are different now.  Each time he came back to Maryland he told me how great North Carolina was and how much he missed me.  He wanted to talk me into moving without it appearing as if he was talking me into moving.  Men!  But, the job I had carved out for myself in the office at Harbison-Walker was slowly disappearing as the layoffs lasted longer and longer and the SUB pay started to run out.  It was obvious I wasn't going to find another magical safety net under me when the bottom fell out this time.  So, I told the folks at Harbison-Walker I was leaving at the end of the year, and I let Bud think I had decided on my own that I wanted to see what was going on in North Carolina.

We planned my move for December 27, 1980 -- Bud's 24th birthday.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Three bean salad

The end of 1978 saw Tim's apartment lease and my apartment lease come up for renewal.  Bud and I were now both working closer to Baltimore City and were looking at apartments in that area.  Tim said it didn't matter where he lived since he was on the road constantly and wondered if the three of us might share a place.  His thought was it didn't make a lot of sense for him to pay full rent for an apartment to store his furniture and clothing if he wasn't going to be in it very much.  And, he would enjoy living closer to the city on the occasions when he was at home.  So in January, Tim and Bud and I moved into a brand new two-story townhouse in a suburb of Baltimore called Parkville, Maryland.

When Tim had originally been hired by the clock company, he was brought in as Plant Manager.  He had been working as Assistant Plant Manager for U. S. Furniture Industries in High Point, NC and his employment history was all in production.  At the clock company, Tim was in charge of production but reported to the Vice President of Production.  We had a clock show coming up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and one of the sales reps (that guy named Million I dated for awhile) and I were going up to handle the show.  I was the Barbie Doll in this case, even though I did know enough about the clocks to actually sell them.  My purpose was to be there and look pretty to attract male buyers.  Yes, I know how chauvinistic that is, but hey, it works.  We took Tim along to help load and unload and setup and dismantle the clocks.  Tim and I were the only ones who sold clocks that weekend.  Million tried valiantly but struck out, whereas Tim struck paydirt.  Turns out Tim is a natural bullshitter and could sell ice to Eskimos.  He had so much fun messing with the buyers' minds, and jerking them around in circles until they were so dizzy they would agree to anything.  I, on the other hand, merely smiled (yes, I know I'm not normally a smiler -- it wasn't a normal situation) at the cretins and told them how many women would be drawn into their stores by our beautiful handcrafted clocks.  I don't mean to insinuate all male buyers are jerks, but many of them are.  You use whatever works best. Tim, of course, immediately realized he had missed his calling and upon returning to Maryland convinced the "powers that be" to let him try working in sales for awhile.  He was an immediate success and eventually ended up as Vice President of Sales.  He has been in furniture sales from that time forward.

We crammed all my junk from my apartment and all Tim's junk from his apartment and whatever junk Bud had (he had not yet had his own place) into a three bedroom unit.  Space was at a premium, but we made it work.  We selected an interior unit, thinking the end units would be more costly to heat and cool.  That was a good thought.  Unfortunately, when we moved in, the building was new and no one lived on either side of us.  It was January in Maryland.  It was cold!  The first heating bill almost had us ready to move out.  Fortunately, once we got the place heated, it didn't cost as much to keep it that way, and we soon had neighbors on both sides to provide radiant heat from their units.

We quickly settled into a routine.  Monday through Thursday, Bud and I were there alone.  Bud was working four-day weeks, 10 hours per day.  I was working five days a week, 8 hours per day (sometimes more).  When I left the clock company I worked as a temp for awhile.  One of the places I worked was at the Exxon Corporate office in Towson, MD.  This was during the first gas crisis, when gas prices changed daily (unlike hourly as they did in the latest crisis) and lines and rationing were the norm.  What a mess!  Then I took a full-time job as a corporate headhunter.  Surprisingly, I did reasonably well at this job, but I had a hard time living with myself.  What I did wasn't exactly illegal or immoral, but it made me feel a little slimy and kinda like I needed to take another shower.  Tim, being in sales, was able to set his own hours, and decided since he was on the road from early every Monday morning, he would come back into town on Thursday night whenever possible and use Friday to catch up on his paperwork.  That meant Bud and Tim were almost always home alone on Friday while I was at work.  On weekends we usually had house guests; friends from out of town and whoever the femme du jour was for Tim.  Tim went through women the way I go through books.  He never had any problems with "breaking up" because there was never enough of a relationship to break.  Somehow, he managed to remain friendly with almost all of them.  Bud and I often needed a program to keep up with players.

To say our life was a bit unusual would be an understatement.  Tim's mother was horrified we were "living together".  I tried to explain to her we weren't living together, we were roommates; Bud and I were living together.  I'm not sure she ever understood the difference, but she finally conceded it was good there was someone there to look after her son.  Oh, if only she had known, she would have died.   Tim was doing quite well financially, and Bud had a steady, good paying job (more about Bud and his money later).  We often went to Carney Crab House, which was a short distance from our townhouse, and ate bushels of steamed crabs and drank gallons of beer.  Sometimes we went sailing with Frank who owned at 27' sailboat and loved to sail the Chesapeake Bay.  We regularly went downtown to the inner harbor simply to be near the water.  I did not capitalized inner harbor because at that time it was not a proper noun.  In 1979, the inner harbor consisted of mainly deserted and decrepit warehouses and hundreds of wharf rats the size of dogs.  There was an old man with a pushcart who sold hot dogs and beer, and there was the wonderful aroma of spices in the air from the McCormick Spice factory still operating nearby.  One day Tim's current girlfriend and I walked out to the edge of the landing in the harbor.  There was a boat with four guys cruising by and when we stuck out our thumbs they came over and offered us a ride.  We laughed and explained we actually were there with two guys, but the four in the boat said to get them and we'd all go.  So the four of us hopped on the boat and these guys took us for a cruise around the harbor.  They offered us beer, and then took us to a dive on a nearby island where we all played pool and ate and drank some more beer.  Then they dropped us off where they had picked us up and went on their way.  What a hoot!!!  The Inner Harbor is a proper noun now, and a great place in and of itself.  It is still a destination every time we return to Baltimore, but as the saying goes, "those were the days".

Because Tim and Bud were so flush (and I was holding my own), they started accumulating bottles of sparkling wine (which at the time was still allowed to be called champagne).  We drank a lot of it, but we had bottles stuffed in closets, under love seats and sofas, in the pantry, in dresser drawers.  It was truly comical, but never let it be said we weren't prepared for visitors.  When we moved out a year later, we found some of the bottles we had somehow missed during the fun.  Unfortunately, we also found shriveled up fruit and vegetables left over from one of our food fights (all in fun).  Apparently, we didn't have any vermin to eat the stuff (thank goodness), but that's a surefire was to attract some.  In February of 1979, Baltimore had a blizzard with over 20" of snow.  We were all housebound for three days.  Well, let me clarify that a bit.  None of us could get our cars out for three days.  After the first day, it appeared we might be running out of wine for dinner so Tim and I bundled up and walked a mile or so to the wine store.  We didn't like the selection at that store, so we trekked another mile or so to another store.  We found a good selection there and made our purchases (enough to last several days), then hoofed it back to the townhouse.  After all, if we weren't going to be able to get out to go to work, we had to have something to keep us occupied.  I'm not sure if it was the same snowstorm, or another one, but one of Tim's friends from NC named Greg came to visit.  Greg drove a 10-wheel drive military truck he named Butch.  Butch was able to drive through anything, and he did.  There was not a snowdrift in the liquor store parking lot capable of stopping Butch, so our trips for wine were a little easier while Greg and Butch were visiting.

Since I worked on Fridays and neither Bud nor Tim did, they would often do household chores to help out.  They always did all the cooking and usually helped with the cleaning, but on this particular Friday they decided to help with the laundry.  As I mentioned earlier, we crammed 2½ apartments worth of stuff into our townhouse.  That meant mucho many linens and towels and such.  Having been in the military, I knew how to fold things very small in order to fit into tight places.  Even at that, our linen closet was overflowing.  When I got home from work on this particular Friday, Tim was headed up the stairs with a stack of freshly laundered towels, sheets and underwear.  I glanced at him and offhandedly said "You can't put those away like that", meaning, of course, it would never fit.  He stopped, looked at me, said "oh, okay" and came back down the stairs, opened the front door, and threw the entire pile of clean laundry out into the snow.  After I got over the shock, I asked him exactly what the Hell he thought he was doing.  He answered something to the effect of since I told him he couldn't put them away like that, he didn't.  I was furious, but the boys thought it was hysterical.  They said they had been "slaving" all day to get the place cleaned, get the laundry done, and get the dinner cooked, so I would be able to relax when I got home.  But, what did I do when I got home?  I criticized.  This is not at all true, but they didn't want to see it my way.  I picked the laundry up out of the snow (which was still clean), refolded it, and put it away.  To this day, neither Bud nor Tim will fold laundry, using this absurd scenario as their excuse.  Lame!  Really lame!

When I realized I could not be an Executive Recruiter any longer, things started to go downhill in my relationship with first Bud and then Tim.  When Bud had originally moved in with me, I told him he didn't have to worry about rent or utilities since I had already been paying them myself.  I did ask him to contribute toward food (as I never was much for feeding myself) and to pay for his long distance calls if he made any.  Bud actually resented the fact that I made more money than he did.  Hello?  I had been in the working world significantly longer than he, I was not a factory worker (though he was skilled), and I had paid my dues coming up through the ranks -- something he had yet to do.  When I left my job at the Personnel Agency, I was without income for the first time in my adult life.  I mistakenly thought since I had "carried" him for awhile and since we were in a relationship, he would pick up the slack until I could get another job.  WRONG!  He was of the opinion that his money was HIS and he hadn't agreed to be paying all this other crap.  Talk about a rough way to discover you're in love with a piker.  We had numerous disagreements about this subject and it finally culminated in my asking him to leave.  According to his grandmother (who almost never forgave me), she had never seen anyone with such a broken heart before.  Well, I'm truly sorry I hurt him, but he had hurt me too.

Around the time Bud left, I found another job, this time as a supervisor in a factory that made refractory bricks.  I was totally out of my element.  These guys were members of the United Steelworkers Union and I was the only female supervisor.  I loved it.  It was so unlike anything I had ever done.  I wasn't afraid.  I guess I should have been; some of them were more than just mean.  There were gunfights in the streets where they lived.  One guy cut off the ends of three fingers so he could receive the workers' compensation money.  These were not men to be trifled with.  But, once we got to know each other, they were just like any other burly group of guys.  I was the supervisor, but they knew what they were doing.  Unless someone screwed up, I didn't give them any gruff.  Unlike most of the male supervisors, I treated them with respect for their knowledge and abilities.  One day one of the meanest of the bunch walked up to me and handed me a 45 RPM record.  The name of the song was Carla My Love.  I had never heard of the song or the artist.  I was a little worried about why he gave it to me until he explained he had overheard a conversation in which I said I wondered why no one ever wrote a song about someone named Carla.  He gave me the record to show that someone had.

With Bud gone, Tim and I found we had a difficult time being roommates.  We didn't bicker much, but there were plenty of periods of long silences.  We both decided about the same time that it just wasn't working out and started looking for separate places to live.  In January, he went his way and I went mine.  Our three ring circus was now divided into individual acts and it appeared we had come undone.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Special Olympics -- wheelchair racing

One of the more skilled workers at the clock company in Maryland was a young man named Doug. Doug was born with a congenital deformity similar to Achondroplasia Genetic Disorder.  His torso and head were normal, however both arms and both legs were seriously misshapen and much shorter than average.  Doug had leg braces and crutches, but most of the time he used a wheelchair to get around.  Doug was in charge of our repair department and though crippled was able to perform amazing feats when working with delicate clock mechanisms.

When Bud returned to work just a few hours after the accident in which he almost lost his toe, he was for the most part also wheelchair bound.  It was only a matter of minutes before Bud and Doug were side-by-side at the starting line.  Bud was bigger and stronger, but Doug had years of experience in wheelchair operation.  Of course, none of the management team was aware of the little sideshow about to take place down the middle of the factory.  Once we found out, we thought we put a stop to the foolishness, but Bud and Doug still raced against each other at every opportunity.  Sometimes they were caught and reprimanded, but most times they got away with their shenanigans.  Fortunately, no one was injured (participants or spectators) and no clocks mysteriously needed to be resanded and/or refinished.  Thankfully, Bud was only in a wheelchair for a few weeks so the Olympics were soon over.

On Valentine's Day in 1978, Bud showed up at my front door on crutches and carrying what had to have been a three pound bag of pistachio nuts.  In 1978 the majority of pistachios came from Iran and for some reason were dyed red.  That meant your fingers always turned red when eating them, sorta like eating Cheetos (something else I could eat by the wheelbarrow full) and having your fingers turn orange.  Though I had never discussed my love of all things nutty with Bud, he thought the red color covered the holiday and HE loves pistachios.  I was surprised and thrilled by his romanticism.  To this day he never forgets Valentine's Day. 

A few days later (it couldn't have been very long, I still had some of the nuts left to take with me) I took a trip on Amtrak to visit my sister Cindy, who was at that time living near Tampa, Florida.  Cindy got the same Gypsy gene most of the rest of us got.  Cathy and Glenn seem to be the exceptions, yet Cindy and Cathy are genetically identical.  Really makes one wonder.  Cindy has lived in Florida, Texas and Colorado as an adult.  When she moves, she really moves.  Anyway, I was off on Amtrak to Florida.  I had never ridden on a train before.  I did not get a sleeper, though the trip would take some 18 hours, because I am cheap thrifty.   I also only learn lessons the hard way.  To my horror, and I certainly hope this is one thing that has changed in train travel, I discovered the toilets emptied directly onto the track.  After that little piece of information (I used to walk along the tracks when I was a kid --- eww), I refused to eliminate anything from my body.  That meant I couldn't consume anything either.  Then, to make my abhorrence of trains complete, on the return trip the train hit a car that was stalled on the tracks.  There was no one in the car when the train hit it at about 80 miles an hour, but I saw pieces of sheet metal flying past my window as the brakes were screeching in an attempt to avoid the inevitable.  The accident, of course, delayed the return trip by several hours while the local police conducted an inquiry and reports were filed.  The visit with Cindy was spectacular, but me riding on trains is a mishap to be avoided at all costs. Anyway, while riding the rails I had plenty of time to think about my relationship with Bud.  It did not seem possible to me, but I had a sneaky suspicion I was actually falling for the guy.  I explained to myself all the reasons there was no future in a relationship with him -- he was much younger, we worked together, he had long hair, I was terrified, he was inexperienced, and anything else I could think of or make up to discourage taking the next step.  Yet, when I got off the train in Baltimore and he was standing there waiting (without crutches), my heart nearly exploded and I knew I was a goner.

Bud soon moved in with me .  Now this was beyond bending the no fraternization rule, so I made it perfectly clear we would have no demonstrations of affection anywhere near the workplace.  Bud took me to a Sha-Na-Na concert, and unfortunately the secretary / receptionist (we had replaced dear old Donna) was at that same concert -- oops.  In April, I was hospitalized for what was supposed to be minor surgery but turned into a major mess (my reproductive system was constructed of spare parts and put together with a staple gun and glue).  Bud brought me a handpicked bouquet of spring flowers and a stuffed animal.  Again I was amazed at how romantic this guy is.  Though I was supposed to take it easy to allow the surgery to heal properly, a week later Bud and I were trekking around fields and over fences, following the Maryland Hunt Club race.  Not only did this little excursion cause serious problems with healing (and later adhesions requiring additional surgery), but we were captured on film and broadcast on the evening news for all the world to see.  And too much of the world did see us, including the men who owned the management company that employed me.  Not just oops, but holy shit we screwed up bad!

The following Monday, the president of the management firm called me in to tell me he was aware of my extracurricular activities.  He said it was company policy to immediately terminate both parties, but he felt my skills were too valuable to lose and, therefore, only Bud would be terminated.  I, however, was strictly prohibited from discussing the impending doom with Bud, and the nitwit actually went so far as to demand Bud move from my apartment posthaste and insisted I have the locks changed on my doors.  Who did he think he was?  However, after a moment's reflection, I could see no purpose in both of us being unemployed at the same time, so I decided on a ruse to make this jerk think he was getting his way.  While in his presence, I called my apartment complex manager and asked that the locks be changed.  Then I meekly went back to my job and hoped the subject would be dropped.  It was.  He thought I had caved.  That night when we got home from work, I told Bud he was going to be fired the next day.  This is the only time in my entire working history I divulged information I had specifically been forbidden to communicate.  I didn't feel good about it, but I felt it had to be done.  At first Bud was livid.  He wanted to go in and protest that he was being singled out when there were others (specifically Tim and his current honey) who were also breaking the prohibition.  After some time I finally convinced him it would do no one any good to have both of us without income, and it would put a serious crimp in his friendship with Tim if he were to insist on spreading the blame.  The president of the management firm was too cowardly to fire Bud himself, so he sent poor Frank in to do the job.  He did not even have the decency to explain to Frank why he was firing Bud, but I filled in the details for him later that day.  Bud did NOT move out, but as he was no longer employed at the clock company it was no longer forbidden to fraternize.  We both got new keys to the new lock on the apartment door.  Frank and Tim took Bud out for drinks and told him how sorry they were about the way things turned out and offered to help in any way they could.  Bud, to this day, has not gotten over his hatred of the man who had him fired.  Interestingly, not too many years later that same man was arrested, tried and found guilty of the premeditated murder of his wife.  As you can imagine, he was an extremely controlling tyrant and apparently she had decided to leave him.  It seems he couldn't let her do that, so he beat her to within an inch of her life and then set the house on fire and left her to burn, or so the story goes.   He went to jail for several years, but managed to get out on a technicality.  You can read about him here and make your own conclusion:  Wayne Carr.  I know what my vote would be.

Bud found another job, then another.  At the first job he worked in a hot, sweltering rubber plant and lost weight at an unbelievable pace.  He looked good, but felt exhausted constantly.  The second job put him back in a supervisory position in an insulated glass factory.  Plus, he worked only a four day week.  My mother had been in the hospital in Atlanta at the same time I was in the hospital in Maryland.  She never came out.  Her heart bypass surgery went horribly wrong.  Though she remained in a coma for months, she finally passed in July.  Another interesting little tidbit, I was born 18 days before my mother turned 30; she died 18 days before I turned 30.  I will forever be grateful I had Bud to help me through that horrendous time.  I stuck around at the clock company for several months, but never got over my resentment of the things that had happened.   I was also suffering extreme periods of depression over the loss of my mother.  Finally, one day I just walked in to Frank and said "I can't do this anymore.  I'm bustin' my ass 14 or 16 hours a day for something I no longer believe in.  I quit."

Next time, our version of Three's Company -- Carla and Bud and Tim share a townhouse. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Optical Illusions

I have just made a very interesting discovery.  I have a block on my iGoogle homepage that randomly posts optical illusions.  I've always been a fan of this type of art and am particularly fond of M. C. Escher.  What I have discovered is though my entire world constantly spins at varying rates of speed but never stops, when I look at optical illusions which to the rest of the world appear to be moving, they are perfectly still to my eyes.  I've always thought it was odd I could read without difficulty, but cannot perform the simplest of household chores without barfing.  Now I find that what the rest of the world views as moving, I perceive as static.  SCDS gets curiouser and curiouser.

Second date

After New Year's turned into such a nice surprise, for a few weeks Bud and I only saw each other at work, where we were obviously more friendly.  The owners of the management group to whom I reported (and who were conveniently located in Atlanta, GA) had a strict no fraternization policy.  I also have never been in favor of mixing work and play, so it has always been incredibly important to me to maintain a distinct separation between my professional life and my personal life.  However, the guys who owned the management group took their policy beyond anything even approaching reason.  They had taken Tim and Frank and me from our home environments (Frank and I were from Atlanta, GA and Tim was from High Point, NC) and moved us to this God forsaken little burg (Fallston) just north of Baltimore where we had no friends and, in Tim's case and mine, no family.  Frank was married and had brought his wife, but their marriage was disintegrating so he was probably even more lonely than Tim and I.  The three of us were 29 or 30 years old, and we spent 14 to 16 hours each workday and often on weekends toiling closely together under extremely stressful conditions.  Our managers prohibited us from developing friendships among ourselves.  They even went so far as to make certain none of us lived in the same apartment complex.  This, of course, was not only absurd, but it was impossible to control.  Take three isolated,  lonely, smart, young adults and throw them together in Hell and see if they don't band together.  What a joke.  Frank, Tim and I became fast friends and remained so until Frank's untimely death several years ago.  Tim and I added Bud to our little circle of misfits and picked up a few more questionable lunatics along the way.  I actually tried dating both Tim and Frank (after his marriage ended), but it was so obvious romance was not on the menu.  We were intense friends and would remain so, but amore was reserved for others.

After a few weeks, I conjured up an excuse to see Bud socially again.  It was starting to become obvious he was not gonna make that important first move, so I threw caution to the wind and asked his help in moving a typewriter from my office to my home.  I suppose I could have managed the move myself, or ask Frank or Tim to help, but that wasn't quite what I had in mind.  It was one of those old IBM Selectric typewriters that was the size of a large microwave (which were, incidentally, barely beginning to come into common everyday use at the time) and weighed around 50 pounds.  I just figured a nice, strong, young man like Bud Masek would be extremely helpful in toting that thing home for me.  After the typewriter was moved, I offered to take Bud out to the Pizza Inn (or Hut, who can remember this crap) as payment for his assistance.  We had pizza and beaucoup pitchers of beer while we talked and laughed and learned more about each other.  I invited him back to my apartment and things became a great deal more personal between us.

Somehow, we just slid into a relationship from there.  The next time he showed up at my front door, which I believe may have been the very next day, he was carrying a brand new Mr. Coffee machine.  He said if he was going to be spending any time at my place, he was going to have decent coffee.  Up to that point, I only had instant.  I hate instant coffee, but I was not about to buy a coffee pot and make a whole pot of coffee for myself in the morning when I would be leaving for work almost immediately.  So I would get up each morning, make a cup of disgusting instant coffee to get me through the routine of showering and dressing, then dash out the door to work.  Immediately upon arriving, I would start a gigantic pot of brewed coffee, which I and the office staff would empty and refill constantly throughout the day.  Since it was usually quite late when I finally got home each night, coffee was the last thing on my mind.  Remember this was 1978.  Only the extraordinary coffee makers had timers and presets and automatic shutoffs.   I don't think anyone offered single cup capability.  Most people were still using percolators as the Mr. Coffee had only been available for six years.   But, Bud had his decent coffee, and he started spending time at my apartment -- a lot of time.  I would like to point out that just one of the thousands of ways Bud changed my life is that I have NEVER had another cup of instant coffee.

I usually was the first of the office personnel to arrive each morning, but the factory had almost always started the production day before my arrival.  It was common, after the factory shut down for the day, to find Frank and Tim and me out on the production floor cutting wood, sanding, building, or installing movements for the clocks.  I was painfully aware of every aspect of clock building and knew what was normal procedure for each of the departments along the production line.  By this time, Bud had been unofficially promoted to supervisor of the upfit and movement installation departments where the grandfather clocks were readied for final inspection prior to packaging.

One morning I arrived about 7:15 AM.  The factory had been operating since 6:30 AM.  When I pulled into my normal parking spot I took note of the fact that Bud's precious Malibu was in his normal spot.  However, before I had even gotten the first pot of coffee started, the phone rang.  It was the Fallston hospital, which fortunately was within walking distance of our factory.  The emergency room nurse explained they had a patient named Charles Masek there and wanted to verify his employment and that this was a work related injury.  I am not the hysterical type, but I have to admit the bottom dropped out of my stomach.  I confirmed that Charles worked for us and asked for additional information regarding the injury before I could confirm that it was work related.  She explained he had been brought in around 6:45 AM with an injury to his (I believe) left foot in which it appeared they were going to have to amputate his big toe.  By the way, this was a long time before HIPAA and you could find out almost anything you wanted about anyone from hospitals.  And in another one of my famous asides, I had once upon a time been engaged to a young man who had amputated the big toe on his right foot while operating a manure spreader (don't ask me, I only know that's what he told me).  The major components in your balance system are your big toes and your inner ear (about which, unfortunately, I now know entirely too much).  He had to learn to walk from the beginning again.  Back to Bud -- I told the nurse I would go into the plant and find out what happened and give her a call back.  I found Eddie almost immediately.  Aside from being one of Bud's closest friends, he was also a busybody and nothing went on that he didn't know about.  He told me they had been unloading  a shipment of lead clock weights and had stacked the weights on a shop cart to be moved to the stock area.  The cart was holding about a ton and a half of weight and as it was being pushed from behind, Bud was guiding it from the front.  The cart hit a bump in the floor and the front wheel rolled across Bud's toes.  He was wearing sneakers.  It was a bloody mess.  The production manager had rushed Bud to the hospital and that's all Eddie knew.  I went back to my office and returned the call to the emergency room nurse to verify it was a work related accident and whatever treatment was required was covered by our Worker's Compensation insurance.  I asked her to call me once they had determined the extent of damage and what steps were to be taken in repairing the damage.  Then I finished making the coffee and sat in my office and worried.  Damn him!  He wasn't supposed to intrude on my work persona, and he damn sure wasn't supposed to get himself injured so I'd worry about him.   Frank and Tim both knew I was seeing Bud socially.  They both knew it was a no-no but couldn't have cared less.  As a matter of fact, Tim was dating one of the young women who worked in the factory so he was just as blatantly ignoring the fraternization rule as I was.  So when they came in and I told them what had happened they gave me a whole lot of breathing room.  The nurse never called back, but about two hours later Bud showed up back at work.  His toe was still attached, but sporting a huge bandage.  He had crutches and a wheelchair and was told to stay off his feet for the next four weeks.  Ha!  They should have known better when he refused the pain medication they offered.

Tomorrow (or whenever, since it is clouding up and supposed to snow tonight) I will continue with Olympic wheelchair races in a busy production facility.