Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just getting around to this

Seriously, it's Thursday morning and I am still tired from Memorial Day. What's odd about that is that I'm tired for no reason whatsoever that I can come up with. All I did for the three day weekend was relax. Okay, I swam in the San Marcos river but really that swimming involved lazily kicking my legs while my body was atop a float and my arms made little swirls in the water, and I also put my behind in the middle of an inner tube and bobbed along some mild rapids. I cooked a few meals and read a couple trashy pop-culture magazines. I napped Saturday and Sunday -- long, yummy, quiet naps bathed in oh-so-cold air-conditioning. I wore pajamas the majority of the time, or shorts and a tank top. Shoes were rare most of the weekend. I think perhaps I'm so tired not because of overdoing it but because of under doing it, and then having to return to the real world on Tuesday, a world that does not include floating down the river or naps.

052 Memorial Day 2008 076 Memorial Day 2008 071 Memorial Day 2008 082 008 040 003 032 Memorial Day 2008 061

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Service Excellence?

Last week, I met two friends for a drink at a local restaurant. On the grounds of the restaurant, self-parking is not available, so I drove up the drive, and the valet attendant opened my door, gave me a ticket and I was on my way. A short while later when I went to retrieve my car, the valet was backed up five cars deep. I pointed to my car, and said I'd be happy to retrieve it if he'd give me my keys. Which he did. I gave him $2.00 for that. He ran off to park the next car and I walked to my own.

Later, I glanced at my keys and noticed the valet tag still on the ring. And then I noticed something written on the tag. And then my chin hit the floor. Scribbled on the tag was "Pice O Shit Honda." (I hate to spell piece like that but that's the way it was written, and seriously that's the least of it, isn't it?)

Surprised and amused, I called my two friends still at the restaurant and texted them a photo of the tag. They spoke to the manager who initially suspended his belief, until he saw the photo. Later, he emailed me, beside himself with apologies and embarrassment, telling me that he addressed the issue with the valet company's manager and that I had a gift certificate waiting for me at the restaurant. He said he gave my email address to the valet company manager who wanted to personally apologize, an email I have yet to receive.

What strikes me in all this is not the questionable judgement of a valet attendant, but that I can't begin to tell you the name of the valet company. It strikes me that something completely out of the restaurant's control, still reflects upon the restaurant.

It's a story I wish I could share with my father. We would break it down into different scenarios, discuss how different customers would react differently, from my befuddled amusement to what might have been someone else's outright anger. We would discuss the hazards of hurrying through your work, and we would incorporate the lessons into our own business dealings, likely ending with how careful you must be when you put your customer in the hands of others, especially when those others (vendors, contractors, what have you) were hired by you.

Anyone can take something from this story. Ultimately, I'm going to take the self-park route.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Coin toss

I can't decide what I enjoyed most about last night. I could be the grass under my feet and the cool breeze at the top of the hill. Or maybe it was hearing Elvis Costello and Sting sing my name. It could also be the full moon, hung low and fat on the horizon as we drove home. This kind of indecisiveness? It's the best!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh won't you play a game with me?

Ghost tagged me and I'm going to tag you so that you will be it and no longer me. I always hated playing games with the neighborhood kids and getting tagged and being It. The game rules: Post six random things about yourself. Tag six people. Link to the person who tagged you.

With that, let this little game begin, with one little twist, because I like to change things up a bit whenever I can.

Six random things about me (and this list is of random things about me today, and I want you to do the same, okay? Okay.):

1. Hard as I try, and I do try and have even torn out the page of instructions from the Martha Stewart Living magazine that I do not subscribe to but receive anyway, I am completely unable to correctly (neatly) fold the fitted bed sheet.

2. I hate changing lanes. Every time I change lanes, my heart lurches a little bit.

3. It seems that the whole world is intent on spelling my name wrong. It's either Allison or Alyson or Allysin or even Allycin. There's always an A and an L and an N but the other letters seem to be user's choice. I think that A-l-i-s-o-n is very basic, easy and even phonetic. But what do I know?

4. I usually spill or splash my coffee at least once before getting to my office. Most times, the spilled coffee gets on my clothes. The Tide To Go pen has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to this particular occurrence.

5. When I hit 40, those cute freckles I've always had were suddenly not so cute anymore and they scream age spot, age spot, AGE SPOT at me when I look in the mirror.

6. When I was in college, I bought a black and white photo postcard of a Gardenia in a vase. I had it framed and it's been hanging in one room or another of every home I've had since then. I've always liked Gardenias and have two plants in giant pots on my back porch. I take cuttings weekly, and today was the day this week.


And those are my six. I tag my friend Velvet. And Adam (do it about the girls, Adam). And Creekhiker. And Carmon. And Jessica. And Reading. And that is that.

Saying never

Here's a statement of fact: I will never watch a horse race again. I did not see this year's Kentucky Derby and am glad that I didn't. The last race I watched was the Preakness in 2006, the race that was the unnecessary start to the finish of Barbaro's life.

Eight Belles should be alive today. In a move surely inspired by her last win, the first filly to win the Martha Washington Stakes, her owner pulled her from her next race, a filly's race, just two days before the derby and put her in the big race, up against the big boys. For want of what to prove?

Through the bodies of the 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby this year, runs the same blood. Virtually every horse in that race is a decedent of the great Native Dance, a horse defeated only one time, by a nose and two faults made against him. Forever the debatable stuff of races. Native Dancer won 21 of his 22 starts, putting him in the same racing echelon as Man o' War and Whirlaway, which translates to fast. Sadly, most thoroughbreds racing today can trace their lineage to Native Dancer. In fact, the past 14 Kentucky Derby winners are descendants of Native Dancer. It's called over-breeding and the goal is more speed. That goal is fueled by greed. In opposition to his amazing speed, Native Dancer had weak ankles and that weakness has been passed on to the multitude of his offspring. What we're looking at now is faster horses running on weaker legs. Eight Belles was not the only descendent of Native Dancer euthanized at Churchill Downs on May 3rd.

Eight Belles was euthanized for the same injury that befell Barbaro, only doubled. I've read countless articles about that race since that day. I've read sickening quotes along the lines of her Eight Belles being put down out of mercy for her life. And I've thrown the newspaper across the room because I wondered where the mercy was when her life was her own. I've also read that she died doing what she loved. Not true. She did not die doing what she loved, she had to be euthanized because she was pushed so hard that it literally broke her. Eight Belles trainer, J. Larry Jones, said that the filly put her life on the line. Did she? I don't think so. Her life was put on the line, but the action was not her own. The willingness, yes, but the decision? No. Her owner and her trainer did that to her. Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkens wrote that thoroughbred horses have become too strong with bones too lightweight: She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles. Jenkins went on to say that Thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis. Yes, yes it is.

In nautical terms, Eight Bells signals the end of a four-hour watch. It's also a nautical euphemism for the death of a sailor: his watch is over, eternally. Spot-on foreshadowing with the name, and profoundly fitting.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Every ending is a new beginning

When I posted the photos and asked for help for the blind puppy, Speck, a couple weeks ago, I had hoped someone somewhere would know someone somewhere and maybe just maybe Speck could be saved. Wow, the you did not disappoint. Some folks linked to the post and some copied the post to their sites. A friend of mine who lives in Calgary copied the post into an email and sent the word out to her friends and company contacts back here in Houston. In turn, they told their friends, and they told their friends. If you remember that old Breck commercial -- and she told two friends, and she told two friends -- then you know how it worked and you know how many emails I was suddenly getting from people who wanted to help. I never thought I'd be in a position to choose who would be best for Speck, but one woman in particular really knew her stuff about handicapped dogs -- as opposed to being generous enough to take him, which is great but more than a home, he needed to be taught how to live with his handicap -- and after speaking with her on the phone, I knew she was the one who was going to turn Speck's life around.

On Sunday, I met with this woman, a devoted handicapped dog rescuer named Carrie. It was awesome to watch Carrie interact with Speck, to watch her apply her knowledge of working with blind dogs, and to listen to her explain how Speck would be treated, trained, and live. I learned how she says the word, touch, before she touches a blind dog so that he'll grow to associate the word with the feeling of being touched and not be surprised by sudden hands upon him. I learned that he will be provided a scent that is for him, for his bed, for his toys, etc. And I learned that there will come a day when even though blind, Speck will chase after and return a ball because that ball will be recognizable to him as his own, due to the scent. Speck will get to be a dog, in other words, and not only will he be able to learn and gain confidence, he'll be able to play. All dogs should have play time and as I watched him in her arms, his nose stiffing the new scents and paws feeling through the air, I was happy just thinking about him being able to chase a ball.

Carrie wrote me last night and gave me a Speck update. When she got him home and introduced him to her Aussies, one of them immediately took to him as her own and Speck was responsive and comforted by that dog's attention. Speck had devoured his dinner and was thrilled with a Kong toy with peanut butter inside. He'd had a big day and, as she was writing, she said that the he was curled up with the Aussie female on the older dog's bed, sound asleep.

A broad heartfelt thank you to each of you for spreading the word about this puppy in need. We did it!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Self-portrait, mirrored ceiling in elevator, Manhattan

New York 014

Friday, May 09, 2008

A piece of my heart will forever be here

The hill overlooking the carousel in Central Park.

New York 067

The view of the carousel from the hill.

New York 050

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Today is her birthday

We are here, celebrating her life and sharing some memories.

New York 011

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bringing home

NJ & NY May 2008 014 New York May 2008 001 NJ & NY May 2008 013

I had written on a napkin and where that napkin is now is anybody’s guess. Scribbled in blue ink was the description of the waitress, in a black dress with a plunging neckline and a pearl necklace knotted and pooled on her cleavage. I had written about the trains roaring beneath my feet and about the diffused light through the leaded glass windows soaring a hundred feet above me.

Monday afternoon, I rode the train from Summit, New Jersey, to New York City. Although my work has taken me to many cities in this country and in Europe, and I’m quite comfortable traveling on my own, this is the first time I’ve been in this city by myself and I had wondered if I could handle this city on my own. When I walked out of Penn Station and into the sunlight and hustle and noise and buildings and pace and scent of New York, the feeling was liberating and I knew I'd be just fine. I hailed a cab, threw my bags in, told the cab driver my destination and sat back for the ride.

We’re here, Mom. You’re home.

So I’m not really alone afterall. I have brought my mother with me. Just as I brought her to the city for her birthday two years ago, I have brought her for her birthday this year. And my gift to her is just that, to bring her home. To the city. To the city she was born, the city she loved, the city that never left the very definition of her. And tomorrow, on her birthday, I will release her, at last, in Central Park, near where she played as a child, where she told me stories upon stories of skating, walking and playing, near where she grew up and went to school. I will do this because I know her, because I love her, and because I believe this is where she belongs. Returning her here is my final gift to her.

New York May 2008 007 New York May 2008 005 New York May 2008 004

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday morning, something different

On Saturday I got on a plane that took me to the doorstep of something important that I will do next week on behalf of someone I love. The doorstep is New Jersey where my good friend Shannon picked me up from the airport and where I spent last night in the company of her family and the energy of her three- and seven-year old boys. This means that not only are they of the ages where it's critical that they show me everything they have or that I watch them do everything they can do, but they try to outdo each other and ultimately either erupt in giggles or disintegrate into tears (the three-year old, bless him). The oldest one has pegged a southern accent I did not know I had, comparing me to the truck in the movie Cars, and even imitating me by saying, Dad gum. Something I never say, by the way, but to his sensitively tuned ears, I apparently talk like an animated wrecker truck.

This morning I set out at dawn for my standard morning walk, though there was nothing standard about my views. Let me tell you, this state is glorious in the springtime. My entire walk was saturated with the whites, creamy pinks and bright pinks of the flowering Dogwood trees, and the bright purple of the Redbud trees. I was surprised to also discover Canadian Geese and a foursome of deer, though they were not as delighted as I. It was an awesome way to start my day.

New Jersey 014 New Jersey 018 New Jersey 023 New Jersey 008 New Jersey 032 New Jersey 031

Thursday, May 01, 2008

This is where I ask for your help


Update, 1:00 p.m.: A friend of a friend of a friend... you know how it goes and it's exactly what I was hoping for. It looks as if Speck is going to be adopted by one of only two people in Texas who adopts and places handicapped puppies. As Speck is an Aussie, she has a weak spot for him. She has four Aussies, two are blind and the other two are deaf. She's going to meet Speck a week from Saturday. I think we're in the clear. I'll let you know the story as it develops. Thank you.

His name is Speck. He's a 16-week old Australian Shepherd. Speck was born blind, but doesn't seem to know it. He's playful and happy, and follows the sound of your footsteps and your voice. He loves to be picked up and have his belly rubbed. Speck has a home right now but his owner, my neighbor, does not want him. Speck lives outside in a pen and is not getting the attention that he needs. The neighbor wants to have Speck put to sleep. Where I come in is I've asked the neighbor not to do that, told him that I would find a home for Speck. If you've ever read Charlotte's Web, then you understand that this little Speck could be Wilbur, that you just can't put an animal to sleep because it's different. I would keep Speck but Cheyenne does not tolerate him and my townhouse is three stories.

Where do you come in? I'm asking you to reach out as far as you can, link to this post or copy these photos and ask your readers and your friends to also spread the word. What we're doing is looking for a loving, caring home for Speck. I will deliver him. Please, won't you help me find Speck a home?