Monday, March 27, 2006

Sucat, his eyes uncovered!

You know, that puts the bow on the package.

Too right, I’m on it like a duck on a June bug.

Naw, that dog won’t hunt! We need to ripen that avocado.

That’s only because he’s all hat and no cattle.

He’s not playing with a full deck ‘cause he’s one can short of a six pack.

I agree, it’s like herding cats.

OK, let’s put that idea in the parking lot and check the expiration date in a few weeks.

Meeting adjourned!

What meeting? Did something go on here I missed? Ducks and cats and dogs and June bugs? What kind of meeting was that, Future Farmers of America? How come I didn’t get the memo? I didn’t even have my boots on.

I started listening to what people actually say recently and I’m amazed at how much we rely on metaphors. The Star Trek – Next Generation episode, “Darmok”, in which the Tamarians communicated entirely in metaphors, illustrated the most extreme example of that.

Why was that so difficult to figure out?

Temba, his arms wide.

Iron Cactus - Again!?

There's something about the Iron Cactus in Austin that brings out the flamingo in me, much to my contributor Amy's dismay.

The fish tacos were taco-y and the margaritas were a blur, er, blue. I couldn't resist a Dooce Redux photo shoot outside the restaurant after dinner.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Write Right

Ironically, I’m reading Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I should say “reading” because what I actually do is pick up the book, read a few pages and then let it sit on a shelf for a few weeks. At this rate I should be able to finish it during the winter of 2031.

Asked if he wrote every day Stephen observed that when he was writing he wrote every day, and when he wasn’t writing he didn’t write at all. It’s not work, he said, it’s where he goes to play. Not writing is work.

I puzzled over that for a while, realizing that I have been in the “off” position for a week or so, and concluded not to fret about it.

Tonight it’s back to Austin for a day or so and another dinner at the Iron Cactus. I envy myself.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Winding Down?

Carlos’ hands moved like lightning, a blur of scanning skill; consummate professional. He took a customer’s payment with his left hand while moving the next customer’s cart into position with his right.

Terminator of the Till.

I glanced nervously at my watch. 2:59:55. Five seconds, three, one. Now!

Looking up I could see that Carlos, precisely at the end of his shift, had finished checking out a customer. Perfect timing. Deftly, he removed the cash drawer, pivoted smartly and strode purposely towards the office to check out.

I moved my cart to Check Out Line Number 8 just as the Old Hand keyed in his code.

“I thought I’d see you here today.” The Old Hand greeted me warmly, and then glanced into my cart. “Going camping, I see,” he surmised taking in the contents.

“Yep, it’s been a big week for me and I’m taking a few days off.”

The Old Hand started scanning the items in my cart in no particular hurry. We both had time for some conversation.

“Backpacking, I’d say,” said the Old Hand as he rang up the third package of Raman Noodles. Then, he got to the oatmeal and squeeze cheese, looked up into the distance and became quiet for a moment.

“Judging from the weight, texture and selection, I’d guess you’re going into the Hill Country. Somewhere around Bandera.” He paused. “Near Tarpley Pass.”

“Not bad,” I observed, but not quite impressed. “Which side of Tarpley Pass?”

The Old Hand narrowed his eyes and placed his left hand gently on a package of Raman Noodles. After a moment he turned and said, “South side. Turkey Creek Canyon, near the Cyprus trees.”

I was thinking about that campsite by the spring, near the end of the canyon, which was more like a gulch but as canyoney as I was going to get.

“Spot on, Old Hand,” I smiled with admiration, “I knew you’d come through.”

“So,” the Old Hand observed as he handed me the credit card receipt to sign, “your meeting with the rock star went OK I take it?”

“Yes, it did.” I returned the receipt and pen. “An inspiring experience. You’d think at this point in my life I’d be winding down but I find I’m winding up. That’s why I’m going camping. To unwind.”

“Well, have fun and don’t unwind too much.” The Old Hand waved. “Oh, one other thing. The Red Trail just past the water tower is choked with branches that blew down during the storm a few weeks ago. You might want to consider taking the White Trail around that spot. Unless, of course, you’re interested in a service project.”

“Service is good,” I replied and made a mental note to check out the Red Trail.

Yep, this weekend was starting to look just ripe enough. Let’s go!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My Dinner with Andre Dooce

Writer and photographer Heather Armstrong of Dooce was in Austin as a keynote speaker at the South by Southwest Conference and agreed to have dinner with me and Helen. Heather and her web designer/photographer husband, Jon, joined us at the hip Austin restaurant, the Iron Cactus, for an evening of great food and blogversation.

Yes, we had fish tacos. And for you, m'am? Fish tacos? A fine choice, my favorite. And you, sir? The same? Yes, they're our specialty. Sorry, kidguins are not allowed.

Actually, the evening went quite a bit better than that! Jon is a great conversationalist and regaled us with stories of their adventures traveling and in the trials and tribulations of professional blogging, which, I gather, is a lot like professional skateboarding but without all the contusions and broken bones.

I'm sure the Number One question you're thinking right at this very moment is "What's Dooce like? Really."

My abbreviated answer would be to pick a superlative and it would apply. I'll try a few just to get things going: charming, witty, engaging, direct, knowledgable, fun and delightful. I guess that makes me a member of her fan club, don't it?

Was there something about Heather that I found surprising? Yes. She's tall. In the blogosphere we are all dimensionless. We have no height or mass (which is playing into my new diet strategy, by the way). It's always a surprise to meet people you've only talked or corresponded with.

"I'm wearing heels," she explained.

"So am I," I replied, "and you're still tall!"

Heather and Jon are pioneers in the Blog World having both quit their day jobs to blog professionally. It's a bold move and not for the faint of heart, but the Armstrong's are anything but faint. They have a vision and a business plan, they have talent and if anyone can succeed blogging in the Brave New Internet World, they will.

Dooce has been an inspiration to me to continue writing and, you know, there's something about my day job that's starting to bug me.

Thanks, Heather and Jon, for spending some time with us in Austin, and for blazing the trail for those who are bound to follow.

Friday, March 10, 2006


“The way you’re squeezing that avocado, maybe I should go down to aisle 4 and get some chips.”

I looked up to see the Old Hand smiling at me. The Old hand was decked out in his black Kroger’s apron, khaki hat and white shirt festooned with a tasteful number of spirit buttons and pins. In his hand he held a customized Kroger’s coffee cup steaming with bubbling black java perfection.

“Yo, Old Hand, you’re looking pretty relaxed, there. Are you on break?”

“I’ve never been on break my whole life, but I try to look relaxed,” he replied.

I pondered that for a few moments, massaging the avocado into a slimy, green pulp.

“Better get some chips,” I scoffed and gave the Old Hand a wry look.

“So, Sackmeister, my intuition tells me that you are somewhat disturbed, that is, more than usual. Flummoxed. Perplexed. Distracted. And, in other words, at a loss. What’s up?”

I looked up at the Old Hand. Where does this guy come from, I wondered? Always there when you need him; least expected.

The Old Hand took a pull on his coffee and let out a satisfied sigh.

Father, forgive me for I have sinned…

“I may be over my head,” I confessed. “You see, I arranged this meeting mostly on bravado and show and now, well, it’s really happening. It’s special, well, to me. And…”

I trailed off. And what? And maybe I oversold the situation? Maybe I’m not good enough? Maybe I’ll fall short and be a disappointment? I didn’t know. Yes, no, yes, no! Such anticipation!

I picked up another avocado and subjected it to the Grip of Death.

The Old Hand looked relaxed and sipped his coffee.

I asked, “Have you ever had doubts? You know, a customer shows up at the check out with some strange fruit and the charge code has fallen off and you can’t tell if it’s a Star Fruit or an Office 12 Fruit, but you have to make the call. What do you do?”

The Old Hand pursed his lips and stared at the avocado I was torturing in my hand. Finally, he spoke.

“Yes,” he said in a low voice, “I’ve had doubts. I’ve been in that situation where I can’t recall if it’s a South American Dog Chili or a South African Dog Chili. All I know is that it’s a chili and it’s from the South, so I split the difference. But, I do it fast and I do it with confidence.”

“But, what if you don’t get it right,” I pressed, “doesn’t that matter?”

The Old Hand smiled and I perceived a golden halo forming around his brow.

“Not really. What matters is the connection with the customer. If the customer is delighted, and when you’re a checker fast is good, then you’ve succeeded. Connection. You got close, and you got the customer on his way and everybody is happy.”

“What about expectations? Disappointment is such a harsh mistress.”

The Old Hand drained his cup, stared at the dripping green mass of squashed avocado in my hand and lost himself in thought.

He looked up after a moment or two and said “You know, the great philosopher Popeye said it best:

I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.

“It’s trite but the best course of action is to be yourself because that’s who you are. You’re not Robin Williams. You’re not Flip Wilson. You’re not Bill Cosby. You’re the Sackmeister.”

The Old Hand walked to the back of the store stopping short of the swinging doors labeled “Employees Only.”

He turned around, looked me in the eye and said “Be all that you can be, but be yourself.” The doors swung shut behind him.

“Be yourself,” I thought. I was hoping for something easier.

I looked at the remains of the avocado in my hand. Not ripe enough, I thought, not nearly ripe enough. It was all I had.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Addiction - Part Deux

Amy: So, what can I put you down for?

Me: Four?


Four. Monty Python. Never mind. How about four?

Four boxes? You are so cheap!

I meant cases, Dale Carnegie, but if you insist, four boxes.

You're going to break a little girl's heart because you chose today to go cold-ass turkey, or toll-house cookie, as the case may be.

There you go with the case, again. OK, put me down for a case.


Uh, I think my pen's going to run out of ink in three seconds, two, one...

OK, OK! One double case. You're locked in.

What's a "double case?"

What you just bought. You won the auction! Such a lucky person.

How many cases are in a double case? No, no, wait...let me guess.

I'm confident you'll guess first time.


See? All your Monty Python watching finally paid off.

This is going to be hard to explain.

Don't worry. Everybody loves Thin Mints.

Friday, March 03, 2006


I can stop any time I like.

No, you can’t.

Yes, I can.

No, you can’t. You stopped for a while last year but here you are at it again. Stopping is stopping, like, forever.

I can control it.

That’s what they all say.

No, really, I can. This time I can. I just have to taper off.

“Taper off.” Ha, refuge of a scoundrel. You won’t “taper off.” You’ll hide your addiction and sneak a little here, a little there. You think I don’t notice, but I do. You leave a trail of evidence.

Evidence? No way! What evidence? I’m clean. Well, mostly. I mean, it’s not a Big Addiction. It’s more like a hobby.

Hobby, ha! A hobby is something you do because you want to. An addiction is something you do because you have to.

I don’t have to, you know.

Oh, yeah?


How about this evening? How about today just a few hours ago? How about that?

After a pause, uh, you know, the temptation is all around. Especially at this time of year. It’s hard to stay clean.

I’m not asking you to stay clean. I’m asking you to exercise some restraint. Rule it, don’t let it rule you. That’s all I ask.


So, how many boxes did you buy this time?

Six. Two Thin Mint and four of the new Café.

Six boxes of Girl Scout cookies! I already took to work the 10 boxes you bought last week. Please, promise me, no more Thin Mints. OK? Promise?

I dunno. I like Thin Mints.

Everybody likes Thin Mints.

The Argument

If I picked on you half as much as you picked on me you wouldn’t like it very much.

How could you pick on me? I’m perfect.