Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Something About Kay

(A work of fiction: dedicated to all superior beings, past, present and future.)

Her name was Kay. I got an instant crush on her so I'd say she was sexy. More than that, she had kind of an, okay, I'll say it, an aura. She literally glowed. I'm not going to say like the full moon in June though, even if I want to. She was talented, anyone could see that. It made me want to do a crazy, desperate thing like I had not done in years. Like write to her, when I didn't even know her. I got that agonizing urge to write bad love poems, hundreds of them.

I met her at a "reading". Poetry mostly, but some prose too. Not the kind of thing that I'd normally go to. I went as a favor to my friend, Tracy. Tracy was one of the readers. I missed her last reading so I knew I'd never live it down if I missed this one. Of course she couldn't remind a guy, hell no! Whatever goes on in Tracy's life is supposed to occupy every last bit of space in your prefrontal lobes. Jeez.

So being that this was Santa Cruz, one of the last Hippie Havens left in California, I protested. But I went. I walked into that room full of Veggies and Vegans, and Ovo-Lactos and whatever they call fruit-people wearing my best deerskin jacket (the one that still has the fur on it) a handful of animal byproduct hair gel slicked onto my head, snakeskin boots, a pager on my belt, gold and diamond pinky ring (to symbolize earth-rape) and glancing at my watch constantly. I had finished the double cheeseburger in my '68 Camaro but I was sure you could still smell it on my breath. I tried to breathe on everyone before the reading got started.

Looked like it was starting late. People, mostly women, were milling about in their Birkenstock sandals trying to dip that cream cheese salsa out of a wooden bowl but the chips kept breaking. We were standing inside of a tent that had been turned into a bookstore after an earthquake knocked down half the fucking town a year ago. There were a lot of people there I recognized, writer people. I nodded at them and if I was close enough, breathed.

Tracy wasn't there yet. Always late, everywhere she went. Arthur was there though, her boyfriend. Nice guy, I like him a lot. There's always a smile underneath his red beard and his eyes are always laughing. I could see why she liked him so much. "Noisy huh?" I said, sidling up to the grub table.

"Yeah, lots of traffic." he answered. You could hear trucks, buses and Harleys rumbling by outside on the busy street. I picked up a paper cup and took a sip of some stuff that looked like beer but tasted like carbonated apple juice with a little aspirin mixed in. Then I nodded. A few more people showed up. People I knew better and wouldn't breathe on on purpose. I busted a few chips in the cream cheese and started to feel more at home.

I couldn't think of a damn thing to say to Arthur and I don't think he could think of anything either because we just kept looking at each other and making stupid grins like it was Christmas. That could only last so long so next I started glancing around at the books on the shelves. I saw about six or seven that I would have liked to pick up and read but I couldn't because I had an empty apple-aspirin cup in my hand and nowhere to put it. I held this thing in my hand about chest high, periodically bringing it in close and then relaxing to let people squeeze up to the grub table so they could break their chips in the cream cheese too. All the while I was staring blankly at the covers of books by people I had never heard of but was apparently fascinated with. This helped me to make eye contact with nobody, afraid of more sick little Christmas smiles. They must have wondered how the hand with the cup knew to bob up and down, just at the right time to let them walk by.

Tracy still wasn't there. It was about twenty minutes past the time they were supposed to start. I had put my jacket on the back of a chair earlier to save myself a place. I took it off. When the time came I wanted to leave inconspicuosely. I really wasn't supposed to be there anyway. I was supposed to be at work, but it had been really slow so I cut out early. The pager on my belt was for just-in-case, so I guess you could say my bad attitude was too.

I figured I'd be here another hour at best, preferably half an hour. Arthur introduced me to a woman who was walking around handing out a list of the readers. She had like a real strong British Cajun German Alabama accent. Her name was Alice. I'd tell you what she said but I don't know what she said, I just smiled and nodded when she spoke to me. Tracy was way down near the bottom of the list. Arthur and I were leaning up against a bookshelf.

Next thing, the woman with the accent walked up front and addressed the crowd. She was the Emcee. There were about fifty people in the room. She asked if everyone could understand her. At least I think that's what she said. Several people answered "No". I was one of them. So she raised her voice and spoke louder. After a while I could understand about every third word. I got the gist of it. The reading was a benefit to raise money for a good cause. "Oh shit." I thought, "Here's where they ask for money". See, I'm Scottish, that makes me a real skinflint. I can't help it, it's my nature. I'm fine as long as no one asks me for money. She didn't though, she just held up a calendar that they had put together, full of poetry and illustrations. It was for sale. "That's cool." I thought. She went on to read a few of her own poems. They were probably good poems. Every third word was good anyway.

Kay was up next. She walked up front on the tail of the last poet's applause. She stood her tiny body on a low table so she could be heard. Short cropped blond hair, sandals and baggy clothes that hid her figure were not unusual in this town, but she was different. Her presence lit up the room. Her smile was so kind it melted all my defenses. She spoke slowly, softly and deliberately, but her voice cooed, wooed and seduced the room without shame.

I couldn't believe what I was feeling. Her poetry was amazing, full of calm, quiet power that drew me in and made me never want to leave. She took me to the sea, the mountains, and to some kind of magic place that existed only inside of her. The last poem she called an "incantation". If anyone had been left out that brought them in. I was flattened, floored, splattered. It felt great.

When she walked by me I said "amazing". It was all I could think of to say. She smiled and said "thank you," took two more steps and stood next to me, against the bookshelf. To move my eyes from facing front to facing Kay required a one hundred and eighty degree head turn. I managed it twice during the subsequent readings. One hundred eighty degrees is a long way to turn your head. The first time was to see if she was really there because I couldn't believe it. The second time I made it about one sixty five and managed a smile out of the corner of my mouth and a glance out of the corner of my eye. My neck was getting stiff.

In between I listened to a poem about a guy dumping a girl; lots of images of blood and bleeding and tears and memories and more blood. That sweet young girl got a lot of applause for that one. Not because it was a great poem but because she cried when she read it. Everyone knew about blood and memories.

When she was done, an ecstatic looking guy stood up next and claimed to be the first published Homo-erotic Latino poet in the county. He read love poems about wanting to follow this guy down the beach like a dog and sniff his footprints or something like that. And about wishing he could be reincarnated as this guy's personal grooming implements and so on. He seemed really fucking happy. I knew what it felt like to feel that way about a woman. At first I was jealous. Then I was disgusted. Then I was disgusted because I was jealous. Then I was disgusted with myself for being disgusted: not because he was gay, but because I was afraid I felt that way about Kay already. I knew that was wrong, but there was just something about Kay. In any case his poems were nice in English and beautiful in Spanish.

Tracy arrived just in time to read a prose piece about a man being attacked by an article of women's clothing. I'm not kidding, really, that's what it was about. It was called "Shoulder Pads" but I was in such a daze by this point that I hardly noticed her arrival and had to concentrate hard to hear what she read.

When it was all over I spoke to Tracy. I didn't particularly like what Tracy had read but I lied and told her I did. She's a friend, I had to. "Do you know Kay?" I asked.
"Yes! Isn't she wonderful? She was in my poetry class"
"Yeah, she got a boyfriend? I want to ask her out."
"Oh, uh... not that I know of. What is it that you like about her? Her poetry?"
"I think so. I guess I should go talk to her huh?"
"Go do your stuff Michael." she said. I loved it. Made me feel like I really had "stuff", that is until I walked across the room to talk to Kay and my snakeskin boots turned into big clowny shoes. My 501's turned into plaid highwater slacks. My Deerskin jacket turned into one of those short sleeve bell bottom polyester green shirts with the pocket protector crammed full of colored pencils. To my surprise even my contacts mutated into black horn rim glasses repaired with scotch tape and my sculpted hair sprouted into one huge dandruff-freckled, greasy, cowlick. By the time I got to Kay it was only iron will that held me up.

I had to stand there for a while. She was having a loosely jointed conversation with two other people and I had to wait for an opening. While I waited I listened. My heart sank, "Did I hear you say you're moving to Alaska?"
"Yes, in two days." she said, smiling sweetly at me.
"Oh. Are you coming back?"
"I don't know, maybe in a few months."
"I'm sorry, I guess we haven't been introduced. I'm Michael. I'm a friend of Tracy's." I said, trying to smooth my imaginary cowlick. She continued to smile and nod, looking very kind. It only made me feel worse.
"When did you start writing poetry?" I asked, she smiled and blushed as she remembered something, then answered, "When I was in Junior High and no boys would go out with me."

People continued to buzz up like bees. One woman asked Kay to autograph the calendar. That looked like a good idea to me for two reasons; one, so I'd have a copy of some of her poetry, and two, so she could write down her address in Alaska so I could write to her. I quickly excused myself and bought a copy.

By the time I got back I could see that conversation would be difficult. The crowd was breaking up and everyone was headed in a different direction. I managed to compliment her poetry again. I told her that I was a writer too and as she was signing I put my cards on the table. It was simple and blatant. "I'd like to see you when you get back." I said, watching her expression change ever so slightly as she signed. She got that almost imperceptible "Fat chance Bozo" look in her eyes while she kept smiling and didn't answer. I thanked her for the autograph and walked away, tripping over my twenty-six-inch clowny shoes.

While limping over to bask in Tracy's friendship I paged to Kay's autograph as quickly as I could. I don't know what I was hoping to find. Maybe "Gosh, you're cute! I really like the way your bulbous red nose honks when you squeeze it and the way your bowtie spins around so fast." Something like that. This is what she did write: "Thanks for the encouragement, Write! Write! Write! Kay." She didn't mean write to her. She meant write. You know, write-write.

I hooked up with Tracy and some friends in pretty short order and we headed for a restaurant shaped like a giant Juke box. Arthur had to work and couldn't make it. The waitresses wore skirts with musical notes all over them, earrings shaped like tiny records and if you asked them a question about something on the menu they had to sing it's ingredients. I ordered a grilled Hotwax sandwich and didn't ask. Nobody else at my table did either.

While we waited for our food Tracy's friend asked if anybody had a mental image of what shape time takes. Tracy said "a line." The other guy with us said "boxes, stacked up". The one who asked said, "Something like a bar-graph I think. I've always thought of it that way" Just to be an asshole I said, "spheres within spheres," let them try to figure that one out. Tracy asked the waitress "What shape does time take?"and she said, "I don't know, but if you hum a few bars, I can fake it."

After about six cups of Java I polished off my Hotwax sandwich and hotfooted back to work so I could shut everything down. Time was beginning to take the shape of a pink-slip and a final paycheck. Despite the obvious hints I had been dropping, none of my dinner pals had invited me along to the radio program where Kay would be reading later that night. I had admitted to having a crush on Kay and it seemed to be coming out that everyone else did too. I finished up at work and went home, wondering if I could stay awake until three a.m. when the program started.

Wired, yet tired as I was I figured I couldn't, so I hooked my radio up to the audio input of my VCR and set the timer to record from three to six a.m. It was about midnight.

I lay back on my bed and thought of how horrible it would be to turn on the t.v. Then I turned it on. It was worse than ever. After about an hour I turned it back off again and listened to the radio. It was alright, but the whole wall of my room is solid electronics and right about then it appeared more ghastly than I had ever known. A scary thought passed through my mind that it may have learned to turn itself on when I leave.

Another hour passed and I turned off the radio too. It stayed off. I shut off the lights and lay awake in bed. After a while I decided to get up and look through some publications I had for some of Kay's poetry. I found some and it was good, but I'd read better. It wasn't just her poetry then, it was the way that she read it. Something in her voice.

I turned the radio on again at about two minutes to three. Some guy was on saying how they wouldn't let him go home until somebody called and he was tired and nobody was calling. So I called. It didn't occur to me that it was a pledge drive until they answered the phone. I just wanted that poor tired guy to go home. Then I did a strange thing. I pledged.

Now I knew something was wrong with me. I went to the kitchen and poured myself a shot of twelve year old single-malt scotch. It's expensive stuff but worth it. I took it to bed. The liquid that my ancestors took centuries to perfect did it's job perfectly. It warmed my heart and made me feel like love.

To my surprise the British Cajun German Alabama lady, Alice, came on the radio and announced my name. I was really embarrassed. It would appear to be an obvious bid for attention. Maybe it was. But Kay wasn't there, Tracy was. "Good." I said to myself, "at least she'll know I"m listening." I listened to some great Jazz in between the poetry and figured Kay had gone home to sleep instead of to the radio station. I tried to get some sleep too, turned down the stereo and just let the tape run. Kay's poetry kept running through my mind. It reminded me of the time when I had to leave my wife. She'd pretty much tried to kill me, slowly, methodically, but with a very rational sounding explanation. So I stayed for a while in a room with just a sleeping bag, a lamp, some books and the dawn sun blushing through the open windows. I had to confront every moment as it arrived. At that time I had felt more alive than I had in ages. I was feeling like that again tonight.

I gave up trying to sleep. I turned on the lamp and turned up the radio, figuring I wouldn't close my eyes until after sunrise now. They were still playing some fantastic Jazz, the kind you never hear during the daytime. Also they continued to read some great poetry from books. I turned on the T.V. too, just to see what kind of random images would be accompanying my three hour audio tape. It was the news. I couldn't change the channel without interrupting my tape.

Somewhere in the world people were killing each other to get what they wanted. I was recording it. To stop I would have to let go of some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I did the easy thing and turned off the television instead. I could always dub what I wanted later.

The next thing I knew they were introducing Kay and a guy who'd been at the restaurant with us. Apparently the two of them had showed up late. Much as I wanted to hear her read, I was happy to hear the long passages of music in between, especially with the t.v. off. I could close my eyes and see anything I wanted to. I'm not sure how much time went by, my thoughts were swimming in a haze of fatigue, Scotch and strong coffee. Inspired, I called the radio station again and requested "Don't Explain" by Billy Holiday. They played it almost immediately. My favorite line is, "Don't explain, you're my joy and my pain." Billy had recorded it late in a career cut short by heroin.

They had forgotten to ask my name when I called so the DJ cut short the song, got back on and asked if the person who called had been a subscriber. "Don't explain." I thought. For the next ten minutes Alice got all obsessed, thinking she had played a song for somebody that hadn't paid for it. I laughed.

Finally somebody else called and took the credit, even better. I was in hysterics. By now it was after four-thirty in the morning and time was taking the shape of something viscous, oblong and wormlike. Everything seemed funny. Even the doorknob was hilarious to me for no particular reason. The radio guests must have been getting tired too. The conversation had degenerated into a; "Guess what kind of footwear Tracy is wearing" contest. Jesus. Of course I knew; Big, pink, bunny slippers. The doorknob was funnier than that. I found myself feeling grateful that I was not on a radio talk show at four-thirty in the morning.

Eventually Kay read. Stark poetry with strong female imagery, some of it was overtly sexual. It worked for me. Most poems she read had definite feminist leanings. Some were what she called "ecstatic poetry" by a woman immersed in an ascetic spiritual life. She didn't so much read the poems as sing them. Her voice was easily as beautiful as the jazz they had been playing. It painted pictures of a world that I was not a part of at all. When she was finished, the hostess read a strange violent poem and dedicated it to Kay, something about men and torture.

Something about that bothered me. I tried to make a mental note to listen to it again on tape.
At the close of the program I called one more time to say hello to Tracy but she had already gone. Instead I spoke with Alice, who asked why I hadn't dropped by. I had to tell her that I didn't know I was invited. By now I had mastered her accent and understood her perfectly. Her voice was remarkably kind, I thanked her and hung up the phone falling into fitful sleep as the sun was rising.

Two weeks later Tracy walked through her livingroom at noon, carrying two cups of tea. Kay was now in Alaska and I had calmed down slightly. Tracy sat down on the couch opposite me and set the tea on her clear glass coffee table."That is really strange, Michael. Have you thought about it ? Tried to figure out why? I mean you don't really know her or anything about her. Not really anyway."

" I have been thinking about it some, but one of the biggest revelations I woke up with this morning. I must have dreamed about it. I think she's a lesbian or bisexual or something like that. I mean I don't know or anything but that kind of adds another twist to it."

"Does that bother you?"

"No. But in my experience I've found it difficult to get dates with out of state Lesbians."

Tracy laughed and said, " That's not funny Michael, but maybe that's just it. It's a totally safe attachment. You can go completely crazy over her because you think you can never have her."

" Yeah, but there's more to it than that. I feel like I met someone from another planet or something. She really blew me away. And the funny thing about it, everyone I've talked to that knows her feels the same way. I think she approaches life in a completely different way than I do. "

I took a sip of my tea and burned my tongue. Tracy blew on hers and spoke softly to me, "Careful. Do you mean as in "opposites attract?"

"Maybe. I don't know. But then what is it that is so opposite about her? What is it that I'm so attracted to? It's driving me nuts!"

" Maybe what it is, Michael, is that you want to know her secret. That you don't really want to be with her... what you want is to be her."

"What, you mean because she's a lesbian? Of course if I was a woman I'd be a lesbian! What do you think I am? A fag?"

Tracy laughed convulsively, spilling her tea all over the couch, "That isn't what I'm talking about and you know it! Stop trying to change the subject!"

I grinned and jumped up to grab a rag from the kitchen while Tracy went to work with a napkin. "Maybe you're right!" I yelled from the kitchen a moment later, "Maybe her strengths are my weaknesses. Maybe I think she's a better person than me! " I found a rag and returned to the livingroom. I got down on my knees and tried to sponge the warm liquid from the folds in the couch.

"Oh come on now Michael, you don't even know her and you've got this whole fantasy cooked up that she's better than you. " Tracy said over her shoulder as she walked to the kitchen to find something more suitable to clean with.

"But Tracy maybe she is!" I shouted. And then more softly to myself, "Maybe she just plain is."

Tracy stepped out of the kitchen and threw a wet rag at my head, narrowly missing, "It's a good thing she's not around. You two might actually get to know each other. I mean she really is a very nice person but I don't think she would be what you want her to be. She is just different, you're different, everyone is different. From what I know of Kay..."

I interrupted Tracy, "I didn't think you knew her that well. What do you know about her?"

"We went out together for awhile..."

"You mean you dated her?"

"Michael, I told you before that sometimes I prefer..."

"OK that's it. I'm moving to Arizona Tracy. Did I mention that before? Because I really am moving to Arizona. Soon."

"You're what?"

"Yeah, me and Arthur, your boyfriend, we're running away together, to the last state in the union ." I said, grinning again, "We're going to drive pickup trucks, wear Bowie knives and eat rabbit stew for dinner. And beer, we're going to drink a lot of beer. And Jack Daniel's on the weekends..."

"Michael..." Tracy walked over and grabbed the back of my neck with two fingers. I scrunched my shoulders up and grinned some more. It hurt.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pipa did not survive

Sheryl took this photo of Pipa several months back, in the sunshine, reaching up and playing with the camera strap. You can click on the photo for a much larger view. Sheryl covered Pipa's illness and death in her blog here. I have nothing to add to it and several people contributed wonderful comments. Thanks to all of you. We're quite sad that she's gone but we're also celebrating how much she contributed to our lives and to our happiness. Having foreknowledge of this may or may not have helped us to cope with it, I'm really not sure. We fought her passing with everything we had, but we know that sometimes you have to let go and allow things to happen beyond your control.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cafepress fires 6.5 million people

I don't know how to do a blogroll yet, but there are plenty of other people writing some pretty plainspoken news about Cafepress shafting their artists and designers for no good reason.
Here's one

And here's a guy who does know what a blogroll is and how to do it

It would indeed be mainstream news if any US corporation employing 6.5 million people cut payroll by 70% just because they felt like it. Technically the front line workers aren't fired, but will they be able to keep working for 30% of their prior income?

It's actually worse than that, because we're not talking about employees who had an actual salary plus benefits. Nope, it's 6.5 million hardworking entrepeneurs who started with nothing but wits and talent, partnering (for years in many cases) with a corporation who just decided to take it all away.

Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks

This is not news. I have no special news about The Dixie Chicks. Well, one of them is coming out with a solo album, I read that but it's all I know. Natalie got a haircut. I don't consider that news.
We recently watched the DVD documentary "Shut Up and Sing" which is all about what happened to the Dixie Chicks when Natalie made an offhand political remark between songs at a concert. The repercussions of which went on to more or less ruin an otherwise stellar career. As remarks go, in my book it was really benign, pretty mild really. It happened to be in favor of peace, and it was a critique of a president who went on to become the least popular president in US history. You probably won't have to look up who that is. Natalie apologized within a few days of the remark but it was apparently too late, or not enough, or something. Country radio stations abandoned them, refused to play their music . . . they still won several Grammies with the next album, still had good concert attendance, but we looked around to see what they are up to since 2006 and can't easily find anything, though I'm sure they have kept busy, have full and happy lives and all that. They were at the top of their game though.

From the official Dixie Chicks website: "Dixie Chicks are the highest selling female group in any genre. They hold the distinction of being the only country group in history and the only female group of any genre to earn back-to-back Diamond Awards signifying 10 million in record sales. . . The “Top Of The World Tour” kicked off in the U.S. May 2003. The tour set a record for the highest one-day sales in Ticketmaster history. Taking in more than $62 million, the tour ended not only as the top country tour of the year but also as the best country one-year gross ever."

As far as country music success in sales however, it was all downhill from there, just because of a single remark.

So, speaking for myself, I've never really gotten any flack from any outrageous thing I've said except for "peace on earth." I wrote about that in a prior post. By the way, Merle Haggard is in favor of peace too. And even though he has written and published anti-war tunes he has never been boycotted by country radio, or the CMA awards, or anything like that. He even came out in support of the Dixie Chicks at that time. Double standard?

Anyway by the time I got to the end of the documentary I was really impressed with both Natalie Maines, and the Dixie Chicks. Even though they are a pretty extreme example, I kind of relate to them. I don't always do or say what people expect me to. I sometimes voice unpopular opinions. Once in a while I worry or self-censor because of what people might think-- and I don't have millions of people watching what I say. I'm working on that. Odd thing though, some people have made themselves hugely rich by shooting their mouths off in the most controversial way, over and over again. Go figure.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pipa the Cat is still sick

For those of you wondering, Pipa the cat is still sick. We've been doing healing work on her since the 15th or 16th when she took ill immediately after obtaining a cooked chicken carcass from the trash. Not enough time for it to rot, so we had to assume a chicken bone was swallowed, even though we are told that this is a fairly rare thing for cats to do (dogs do that a lot more often).
She's a long haired cat, so a hairball would also be a possibility, but it's just a little too coincidental with the chicken and all.

So, as many of you know, while we do believe in energy healing work, faith healing, miracles and other forms of divine intervention-- we also believe in talented Veterinarians who work hard to save our animal friends from suffering and death. Pipa may be learning to stay out of the trash
( I doubt it ) but we're getting our lessons too. Some lessons are: cats do stuff and you can't always stop them. No use whining about it. Vets know that a gentle approach is sometimes best. It may have been hard for us to deal with our poor sick kitty for so long, but I'm betting that most cats get well with minimal intervention within a few days and then everybody is happy again. We also learn that a perfect compromise between giving the cat love, affection and attention and also good treatment for her health is not always an achievable compromise. In other words, we can coddle her and watch her die because she won't even drink water by herself, or we can piss her off royally by dosing her with antibiotics, water, food, or anything else we know her body needs. We've currently voted for pissing her off. She'll be alive to get over it, and as she allows it, we give her love too.

Regarding our healing abilities and chicken bones: if there was a bone, it has absolutely disappeared without a trace. X-rays confirmed this, and we have not found one. That's what we wanted. But you know what? It didn't happen fast enough, and it seems to have done damage before departing this earthly plane. I mean, Sheryl and I have both removed tumors and cysts on both cats purely through energy work but it took quite a while. A good surgeon is at times invaluable: but one does not elect for surgery lightly either. So sometimes life is just unpleasant for a week or so and then it gets better. Healing is a process: this is something we have always tried to impart to our clients.

For those of you who know that Sheryl and I typically consider counseling to be an invaluable tool for healing work ( and any solid psychic information we receive) it counts with animals too. We got psychic hits regarding Pipa's condition-- we disagreed with them. We went our own way on this and we're good with that. We don't think it's Pipa's time to die. We could be wrong, we don't care, we're fighting that. Interestingly enough we just spoke with an individual who related her near death experiences to us. Sheryl wrote about it I think. I also recently wrote about a very dear person who struggled with cancer for 4 years before succumbing. It's what we do: "do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light." --Dylan Thomas

We rage lately.

Cafepress ruins lives

Ok so, Sheryl is on the warpath now. We happened to read one too many stories while on the cafepress forums about handicapped veterans, stay at home single moms, and even some less personally engaging but still heartbreaking accounts of highly successful shopkeepers facing financial ruination by the end of May.

The most interesting part of this greedy money grab by the Cafepress corporation is that I don't see how it can possibly work for them. I asked myself, what would I do if I ran that business and really wanted to tank it. Hmmm, I know ! I'd slap the faces and steal the profits from my top producing sales-people. Yeah, you know, the ones who make 50-100 grand a year and earn my company triple that-- the very same ones who can afford LAWYERS. And a lot of them, being so good at reaching a massive audience also are very good at writing PRESS RELEASES. Yup, that's what I'd do. Oh, wait, I could go one better and do the same to ALL of my salespeople/artists and designers, just in case any of the 6.5 million of them might want to look into a class action law suit, or perhaps just one of them is very well connected to a mass media outlet.

You betcha, I'd make this announcement right away from management: "Good morning everyone, just to let you know that from now on we're reducing your commissions by about 70 percent. In good conscience I feel that I owe you an explanation-- after all many of you have been with us for several years, working tirelessly with no guarantee of any earnings whatsoever, no benefits, no salary, and I really must admit that the success of the entire company rests squarely upon your backs. So here it is: we're not cutting your commissions because we need to. No, we're just fine. In fact, profits are up this year. We're not lowering prices to the consumer, scaling back our overhead-- nothing of the kind. We're taking that money just because we want it. So that's the announcement, you can all go right back to work now."

So, that's what I would do if I ran Cafepress and wanted to flush the whole multi-million dollar corporation down the toilet. Oh, wait, that's what they just did.

Conversely I know exactly what refinements to make in order to bring Cafepress to a higher level of profitability, and as a side effect (when you're talking corporate, apparently morals are accidental side effects) everyone would find it fair and equitable. But I ain't tellin'. I will say this though, it's not rocket science, far from it, but if CP wants my rocket science they can damn well pay me for it. I'm available.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quick updates on Sheryl and Paul

Pipa, as seen in previous posts, is still sick. We think she's getting better, but it is a bit hard to tell.
We almost took her to the vet again today, but then she appeared to be better. Now I'm not sure. We're doing a lot of energy healing work, hand feeding her an essentially liquid diet and giving her a lot of love. She's taking the liquids without gagging now and we don't have to force her to eat.

I got notice from a friend that a mutual aquaintence has died. Her name is Kathleen Flowers, a poet and a kindergarden teacher. I did not know her well but she had an influence on me, as it is clear she was one of those highly influential people through her quiet presence, her kind smile and her talent. It was a shock to me to hear of her death, as Sheryl and I had just seen her at a poetry reading in Santa Cruz before we left. She seemed fine, looked beautiful and happy, and we had no idea that she'd been struggling with a rare form of cancer for 4 years. She was only 44. I'm 45-- make's ya think: cherish your life, every day.

On a much more trivial note, we just heard that Cafepress, our print-on-demand company which does our order fullfillment for our art/photography is instituting an extreme change in policy. The long and short of it-- most shopkeepers estimate that they will lose about 70% of their usual income, while the profits for Cafepress (per item sold) will go way up. The announcement was just made today and already a huge number of artists/designers are stating that they will pull their designs, close those shops and go with other print providers such as Zazzle. We're currently making our own plans-- we don't make much money per printed item as it is, and we definetly do not sell a lot of volume through cafepress so it's kind of a no brainer for us to switch to a better provider like Zazzle. For others, the news is pretty dire: people who have built up their entire income over years of concerted effort are absolutely devastated. One of the more successful ones stated earnings of $50,000 per year expects it to drop to about $7000. This strikes me as a plausible estimate.

Others who make much less money are the handicapped, stay at home mothers and fathers, retired veterans etc. and where they might have made a dollar on an item they'll now get perhaps thirty cents. Where they might have made fifteen bucks or more on a framed print, they'll now get maybe three or four bucks-- we're not talking huge profits for the vast majority of cafepress designers ( I think they number in the millions) but in some cases it means a monthly grocery bill, a car payment or a mortgage payment. It's just greed on the part of Cafepress, but I don't think they'll be so happy about the decision if all their best designers/artists pull out at once-- and the funny part is that they have now motivated the best-selling designers (who have a lot more dollars to lose) to jump ship immediately and go with their competitors first.

Who wants to support a printing company with no respect for artists and designers? Sheryl and I recently voluntarily lowered prices on a bunch of our art in response to the sluggish economy-- figuring if we make it more affordable we might sell more. So far the results are kind of inconclusive, our stuff wasn't all that expensive anyway. Near as we can tell though, the plan from Cafepress is to both raise prices, AND give less to the artist. Wow, screw the customer and the artists at the same time. I'm oversimplifying slightly-- but the trend over the past few years has been obvious: it's all about a printing company trying to put the squeeze on: more volume, higher prices, lower commisions for the designer; as if the t-shirts, greeting cards, posters and framed prints will sell no matter what material is printed on them. I don't think so.

Anyway we still retain our own retail pricing for the time being and it's as reasonable as we can make it, but come May 31st, I think other print on demand companies are going to experiencing a huge increase in new business, and of course there are other alternatives to P.O.D. I'm betting that the exodus has already begun.

Here is a more detailed analysis; click here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Painted desert again, and adventures with Pipa.

Poor Pipa is not feeling well. She adopted this doll and refused to move. We've been doing healing work on her but we also took her to the vet, who suspects a stubborn hair-ball. She clung to this doll for 2 days, heartbreaking. Now she's hanging out closer to Sheryl who is nursing her along. Say a prayer for her if you get a chance, for a speedy recovery.

Another photograph of the painted desert, with one of few Arizona highways running through it. I took this shot with Sheryl's camera, no filters. The landscapes section of our giftshop is right here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another photo of the painted desert

I'm pretty pleased with the way that this photograph of the painted desert came out also. I actually turned down several opportunities that day-- there was some hazy air, or I just didn't like the view, or we were just plain in a hurry to get moving before the park closed down. FYI, the park closed down at about 6pm and it's got to take 30 minutes to drive across it. Landscape photographers generally swarm around sunset (and sunrise, but not me man !) so there goes the photo opps at this time of year because the sun is currently setting at about 6:47pm. Oh yeah, you can buy the photo here.

The Painted Desert

We left a bit late in the day to make it to the painted desert, but the timing turned out to be pretty good. It's an easy national park to navigate, but not very flexible (stay on the path at all times). I felt good about the photo set that we shot. Buy one here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big impressive tree

Click on the photo to see it larger. Couldn't resist photographing this impressive tree in Taylor today. Sheryl is quite taken with the place and the people who live there. Look really close and that's Sheryl standing at the foot of the tree. Took a long time and withstood a lot of history to grow that large (the tree, that is-- Sheryl is normal sized for a human.)

Dropped in to Crossroads bookstore and talked with Jeremy Owen about things related to creative projects and getting them out on the market so that people can enjoy them: bought his brother's book "Here There Be Dragons" and Sheryl has already read at least a third of it tonight. Looking forward to seeing it on the silver screen.

Ate at Trapper's again too, and visited a little with Cindy. Made a couple more stops on the way home, and Sheryl is trying to rest and take things a little easier than she has been-- always works too hard promoting our various business interests. Also we got 2 phone calls about deaths today; one friend of the family and one distant relative. Some days are for enjoying the good weather, taking a walk and contemplating a few things.

Oh yeah, and I helped feed and water some goats today-- no pictures this time. I like goats. Baby goats in particular are so precious. Enjoying our cats this evening too, and Pipa has been nurturing Sheryl in particular. Happy full moon everyone.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shades of Orange and Black

Same day, took the coffee shot first, then saw this bird up by woodland lake in Show Low. Anybody know what kind of bird this is?

Hebrews Cafe in Snowflake

Stopped in at Hebrews Cafe in Snowflake, Arizona. Sheryl was feeling pinched for money, and they had a sign out front: hamburger and fries for three bucks. We couldn't resist. That's about half the normal price. It was good, I had a coffee too and we had a nice conversation with the guys behind the counter also. The owner was out sick and his son and another guy (two sons?) were doing a fine job of running the place. One is a designer who also has a selection of t-shirts for sale there, all silk-screened by him. Can't get over how open and friendly the people of Snowflake and Taylor are, it's really wonderful.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Springtime in the High Desert

Spring, yes indeed. This little green shoot was transplanted from the grave of a dear, departed pet (passed away several years ago). We've seen signs already of little green things appearing and the grasses getting a little greener. Click on the photo to see it larger.

This is Pipa, in unusual lighting conditions. She's our most thoughtful and sometimes devious cat. She and her pal, Chloe, have been bounding around the house some, and they even played a game of hide and go seek-- until Chloe forgot they were playing and just sort of looked around the room aimlessly. Anyway the cats have proven more adaptable than we are to the whole change of scene; Winter, Spring, whatever-- they love it all.

This is what a combination dust-storm/snow storm looks like as it's blowing on by.

One minute it was sunny, and the next it looked like this. Look close and you can see the snow blowing in.

A few hours later and it looked about like this again-- the air temp was too warm to support the snow lying around. That was about a week ago. Today it's blowing like hell again, but no snow, just a fair amount of dust. We see these wild cottontails pretty frequently around the house, and also giant jack-rabbits: twice the size or more and crazy fast.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Darby's Cafe in Show Low

That would be a tin rooster.

Yum! Just like momma used to make.

Chickens giving me the eye when I'm trying to eat.

Second life for an old boot as a birdhouse.