For all of you out there with unfinished projects!

An excerpt from Goat Lips: Tales of a Lapsed Englishman, taken from tale 8, For the Love of Art.

The main difference between me and people who do construction for a living is the amount of time I spend looking at a project. For some reason, I can’t just start. There is a whole process I go through to examine every possible scenario, both good and bad, while psyching myself up.

The measuring process alone can take me two days. The measurement is clearly eight feet, two-and-a-quarter inches, but how could it be? I measure again. Eight feet, two-and-a-quarter inches. Wow, what are the chances of that? I’d better check it again. So, I re-measure and only after recording a measurement of eight feet, two-and-a-quarter inches will I reluctantly accept the fact that it might actually be a little over eight feet. But how much over? I’ll mark off eight feet and spend more time work­ing to establish the exact amount. Eventually, I will arrive at a figure of two-and-a-quarter inches. By now it’s time for a break, at the end of which I will have most likely for­gotten the original measurement and need to start again.

The Deafening Sounds of Success

I live in a trendy, hip, and fashionable area, purely by accident. (See my book Goat Lips – Tales of a Lapsed Englishman)

Twenty years ago my wife Susan and I bought our first house in the only part of Denver we could afford. Over the years, as luck would have it, The Highlands neighborhood along with Downtown Denver has transformed into a thriving cosmopolitan community full of restaurants, bars, restaurants and breweries. The many restaurants, including the new ones that appear to pop up daily, seem to have one common tread that confuses me: volume.

Not volume in the sense of the number of people they can seat, or the speed with which they can serve them, but volume as in decibels.

Many of my recent dinning experiences have been similar to what I imagine it’s like sitting on the fifty-yard line in Seahawk Stadium. It sounds to me as if each restaurant is desperately trying to out do the others by registering a higher reading on the decibel meter, while simultaneously creating enough of their own seismic activity to bring a smile to the face of Charles Richter.

I have even started to consider that perhaps the popularity of a restaurant now hinges less on the quality of the food and more on the number of decibels the restaurant is capable of pumping out. Thus to be a successful restaurateur it is essential to find new and creative ways to increase volume within your establishment.

My theory gained considerable support during a recent dining experience. Well into the delicious meal we were interrupted by a new sound that I hadn’t been deafened by before. I glanced around and spotted a young sous chef preparing a sauce. But his choice of preparation utensil was not that of the traditional whisk. No, with my theory in mind he had wisely chosen instead to use what looked like an industrial sized vacuum cleaner. The tool appeared to be extremely efficient  at mixing 5-gallons of the sauce at once, but far more importantly it was bloody loud!

As “popularity by volume” continues to grow in the restaurant business it is only a matter of time before soufflés are folded by jack hammers and baguettes are cut table side with a chain saw.

Who would ever have thought that the most popular reading material found in the kitchens of the trendiest restaurants would be the Grainger Catalogue?

What’s in a Name?

The deafening crush of metal and shattering of glass indicated that my morning was off to a poor start.

My Honda Odyssey surrendered to the forceful advances of a giant Ford transit van gliding over the ice behind me, but much like Dan Jansen in the 1988 Winter Olympics, it’s graceful display of power ended wildly out of control and with bitter disappointment.

The fierce impact left me with no doubt that my Odyssey would not live to tell the tale. I coaxed my van out of the intersection and onto the nearby fore court of a car wash, my wife and I both knowing she would need more that a wash and a quick wax to be able to continue on. The white Transit van followed, tail between his wheels.

Two things surprised me that morning.

First, it’s not everyday that I am rear-ended by Billy Joe Baxter Jr. What a fantastic name, Billy Joe Baxter Jr. I found myself wanting to repeat it again and again.

Billy Joe Baxter Jr.

Billy Joe Baxter Jr.

It has such a great ring to it that I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Billy Joe Baxter Jr.

It sounds like the name of a character in a Coen brother’s movie. (In England we have names like John Smith, David Brown or Matthew Taylor – names that required little to no imagination to conjure up.) The severity of my current situation paled in comparison to the image now in my head of two proud but tired parents oohing and ahhing over a Birth Certificate, pen poised, only to lower it and inscribe, in my humble opinion, one of the world’s greatest names.  Billy Joe Baxter Jr. I guess it’s the little things that make me happy.

Second, I have consistently found that when a dispute occurs involving motor vehicles, regardless of whether they actually touch or not, there always follows a considerable amount of aggressive posturing and finger pointing. The finger pointing takes two forms. Pointing directly at the other party, and then a single middle digit pointing skyward. I have yet to hear someone yell out of their car window, “Sorry, my fault, I’m a horrible driver, and that was me at my worst!”

I climbed out and walked around to the rear of my van to inspect the damage, the whole while bracing myself for the altercation that was about to take place. Billy Joe Baxter Jr. followed me. I could sense him closing in. He stood and surveyed the damage to my van. His face softened into a look of concern. Then with his voice filled with genuine compassion and tinged with a touch of sadness he said, “Oh, I’ve destroyed your car. I’m so sorry.”

And everything was immediately okay.

Thank you Billy Joe Baxter Jr.

Rental Cat

My Honda Odyssey recently met with a violent demise on an icy road in Colorado.

As I relayed the events to my friend Shawna via email, my overly fat fingers miss-struck a key and inadvertently created a service that I think will revolutionize the insurance industry.

I am aware that I am just one of millions of clients, so I was astounded to find Progressive to be so nurturing, and caring and to understand what I needed from them emotionally to survive this crushing fragment of time, this vehicular crisis, this sad farewell to wheels. Instinctively they knew what I needed: A Rental Cat.

The moment I picked up my Rental Cat from Enterprise life looked up. A few strokes of her soft black fur and off we purred into the distance. For the next few days we were inseparable, but she was never needy, in fact more often than not she exhibited a strange detachment or independence, as if she could take love, or leave it. I assumed this was a defense mechanism adopted by all rental cats knowing that every relationship is destined to end prematurely.  But for me, she meant freedom, and time to adjust and move pass that cold, icy Colorado day. I was thankful for our time together, although we never spoke about it.

As quickly as our relationship has started, it was over.

I considered washing my rental cat before returning her, but didn’t. I dropped her off, and left without looking back.

I hope I meant as much to her as she did to me.

Thank you, Rental Cat.

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