What We Got Here
- Ketchup: Ed. explains it all.
- A Legend Never Dies: A follow-up.
- Meanwhile, Back At The Critter Ranch: They're everywhere.
- Convoy 2005: or, the Cannongum Ballrally Redux.
- Old Home Café: The Next Generation: Episode the XXIII.
- Song A’ Th’ Week: Poesy.
As I write this, the day is Monday, 1 September, the time is 12:59 PM Central Daylight Time, and I'm trying to remain upright long enough to push this issue out into the mailbox. I've had a cold since last Wednesday, and despite the fact that I didn't work on Thursday or Friday I still haven't recovered. I would describe last night's attempt at sleeping, but the scenes of disgusting bodily fluids are not appropriate for this publication.
As my Muse seems to have deserted me of late — no, not Olivia Newton-John; I think that her name is either Thalmia or Melpomene — I thought that I'd use this soapbox to inform you, dear Readers, of just what the heck I've been doing.
Workin' In A Coal Mine
Back in March, as you may recall, the job which I'd held for thirteen years was sacrificed to the god of profit. The managers who were tasked with this "downsizing" called the sudden change in my employment status an "elimination of position". Translation: "you make too damn much money; go be a burden on the state, wretch".
So, for the past five months I've been living off a nice (yes, I said that: nice) severance package and $300 per week from the State of Illinois. That's barely a living, but technically I'm still above the poverty level.
Anyway, about a month ago I began a new job or two. I'm holding two positions with MarketSource Sales Services of New Jersey, doing my best to service retail stores which carry Hewlett-Packard products. Two days each week I'm out in my truck, travelling about a hundred miles to check on office supply stores and discount outlets to see that they've got their HP products displayed and refilling the brochure holders that need attention.
Then, on the occasional Saturday or Sunday, I hang out in a store's printer aisle and explain to prospective customers why they should by a Hewlett-Packard product and not that Lexmark that's on sale for 40 bucks less.
But that's not all! After I return from the weekday excursions into the suburbs of northeastern Illinois, I must spend an hour or two filling out reports on my activities in a attempt to justify my exorbitant wages. (This is the point at which you chuckle knowingly, 'cause you're pretty damn certain these wages ain't nowhere near exorbitant.)
And the weekends? Five to eight hours on a hard floor, walking around the computer areas, searching for potential victims, uh, customers. My knees will ache, my feet will beg to die, and worst of all, I'm wearing a golf shirt and Dockers. I hate Dockers. Can't wear a clean, presentable pair of denim jeans; got to wear that "business casual". My self-esteem is suffering.
And did I mention the around-the-neck identification card that proclaims my status as "Territory Sales Representative"? I should wear a red shirt so that everyone knows where the target is standing.
Of course, my appearance makes me better-dressed than most of the customers, who seem to think that shorts and sandals are the perfect back-to-school shopping wear. A trend that I've noticed: young women who advertise their hobbies, collegiate affiliation, or favorite party town on the back of their shorts. "NIU" says one; "CHEER" says another; "LAS VEGAS" on a third. Of course, if you comment to them about their rear-mounted billboards you'll get a look like "what kind of perv are you, staring at my ass?".
Many of those young ladies are college-bound daughters being dragged into the store by their fathers, to buy that new computer and printer that will fit in a teeny-tiny dormitory room. Every one of them tells me that "dorm rooms don't have much space" and I'm starting to believe them. I wouldn't know, personally, as I lived only three miles from the university which I attended and had enough space at home.
The daughters obviously don't want to be in the store. They're losing valuable last-minute end-of-summer party time, or so I'm guessing by the bored looks on their faces. So the purchasing of the hardware is up to Dad, who most of the time isn't a geek and needs to ask such painful-to-answer questions as "how can she keep viruses away from her computer?" I'm tempted to say "buy a Macintosh", but Apple Computer isn't paying me to shill for them.
So I'm pushing Windows-infected computers and peripherals and getting paid for it. As a Macintosh / Apple II user for twenty years, the only comment that I can make about this situation is "so, this is how the Dark Side feels."
Working on this past weekend was, in hindsight, a mistake. If I had any sense, I would have tried to get a substitute to work my Saturday and Sunday, and made myself stay home and rest. But, noooo! I had to tough it out, as if failure was not an option. So that cold, which seemed to be clearing up on Saturday morning, has now persisted into today, Monday. My throat is sore from coughing, my nose is red from sneezing.
On the other hand, I am still managing to successfully con over one hundred and fifty people into reading a newsletter with an erratic publication schedule, and into looking at a web site that's horribly outdated and in desperate need of repair.
Hey, maybe I do have future in sales!
P.S. A short follow-up on the recent e-mail viruses/worms/ohmygodwhydidiusewindowsthissucks.
Both the Other Wild Places mailing list and Legend-News addresses got hit by that damned worm. As a result, the OWP list isn't automatically propagating messages, but they're being accepted. If you have mail for OWP, send it to the usual address and I'll manually re-send it to the list members after checking that the message is valid. Subscribe and unsubscribe requests will also be processed manually; I have only about 200 subscribers, so an automatic list isn't really necessary. Unless we get discovered.
Back in the 11 August issue of The Legend-News, we carried a story that some DJs at WMBI radio in Chicago had made a statement that C.W. McCall was deceased. Well, we did our journalistic duty and promptly sent an inquiry to WMBI, asking if the report that we'd been given was true. As of now, we have not received a reply from WMBI. Either they don't answer their e-mail, or they're too embarassed to admit the truth. If any news ever comes from this story, we'll tell you.
New Critters On The Block.
None this issue. They must be at the beach, getting a tan.
Critters In The Wild
Chris Guenther is a Fiberfab aficionado. Fiberfab is a maker of those "kit cars" that began to appear in the late 1960s. You can see his Aztec 7; a page of general information about Fiberfab cars; and learn about his Fitzjohn bus — which isn't a Fiberfab kit, but it's interesting by itself.
About the bus, Chris says
The Fitzjohn bus is where I first got my introduction to McCall. A friend of my dad's gave him an 8-track copy (illegal) of one of his McCall albums, and us kids played that over and over on our trips accross the country. Later, I bought our first real album Black Bear Road and my sister and I fought over whose turn it was to use the record player to be able to listen to this album.
Bill Flynn sent to us some photos which he took on a recent visit to Pisgah. He says that the Old Home Café has been renovated and is probably open for business again. (Click on the thumbnails for the big pictures.)
If any Critters visit the Café, drop us a line and tell us how business is doing. And tell the new owners about this web site; if they want free publicity, we're here!
Once again, the currently proposed route for Convoy 2005, courtesy of Alan "Skywalker" Chafin, chief navigator:
Want to join Convoy 2005, for a few miles at least? You don't need to make the entire journey. Questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd like to have as many C.W. McCall fans as possible join us for a stretch.
Harry Pastor unfolded the biggest brochure that Jon had ever seen. This wasn't your fold-it-in-half-and-stick-it-in-your-pocket brochure; this thing began at a folded size of 8.5 inches by 11 and finished as a monster at 34 inches by 22. Heck, it wasn't a brochure, it was a poster.
And a well-used poster, at that. Circles and arrows and short paragraphs pointed to and described the features of the Auto-Dog, from the five-gallon water tank to the four sausage modules and the twelve condiment dispensers and the three bun compartments. Refrigerated storage bins at the bottom, propane-fired steamers in the middle, and a giant umbrella on the top.
But unlike the typical hotdog pushcart, the Auto-Dog wasn't designed with the idea of one-man, one-dog in mind. Prominent on the side of the unit was an LCD touch-screen controller, listing all of the available sandwich options on the unit. Want an all-beef Vienna? Press the red-and-yellow "Vienna" button. Regular or foot-long? Press a button for one. Mustard, onions, cucumber, mayonnaise? Press a button.
"Mayo?" asked Jon. "On a hot dog?" He shuddered, as if someone has dumped Heinz 57 on a steak.
Harry shrugged. "Beats me. Some people have been known to order it. Worse than ketchup, in my opinion. Now, horseradish sauce…"
"Stop right there," said Jon. He examined the brochure more closely. "So, this thing is an automated hot-dog assembly line?"
"Pretty much," said Harry. "You, the operator, need to refill the compartments as necessary, from the supplies stored in the base. The customers, on the other hand, make their selections from this front panel" — he pointed to the LCD screen — "and then confirm their choices. The sandwich assembly begins automatically at the bun end of the cart, and proceeds along the center conveyor to the operator station at the other end, where you stand, ready to take their money." And like a prize presenter on a television game show, Harry waved in the direction of the operator station on the brochure and smile broadly.
"Fascinating," said Jon. "What's the speed, though? Regular dog, poppy seed bun, mustard, relish, onion, sport peppers, start to finish?"
"Ignoring the time required for customer input," said Harry, "that would take approximately fourteen seconds."
Larry, who had been looking over the Auto-Dog's features while Harry spoke with Jon, piped up. "I can make that dog in twelve seconds."
"Probably you could," said Jon. "But our current equipment isn't this portable. And for the Firemen's Ball, we were planning to grill the meat, not steam. Can the Auto-Dog do open-flame cooking, too?"
From his dispatch case, Harry pulled another brochure, similar to the first. He spread it open on the counter. "Of course! Using the standard propane module, the steamer unit can be replaced by a grill. And, if you're using the grill, the addition of these hamburger modules can turn the Auto-Dog into a hot dog and hamburger barbecue machine."
"One more question," said Jon. "How much?"
Harry grabbed a napkin from the nearest dispenser on the counter and scrawled a number on it and gave it to Jon. "That much," he said. "I know, you need time to think. Keep these brochures, and here's a CD-ROM with a QuickTime movie showing the Auto-Dog in action. And if you want, I can arrange for a demonstration unit to be here in a few days."
As he packed up his case, Harry thanked Jon for the opportunity. "And if you've got questions, just call me. Here's my card. I'll be in the this area for a few days before heading east. Call me," he reminded Jon, as he walked out the door.
Jon looked at the price that Harry quoted. Was it possible? Time to crunch some numbers.
To be continued…
This week's selection isn't song; it's poetry. Okay, it's sorta like a song without music.
Back in '75, during the peak of McCallmania, Chip Davis formed the core of Mannheim Steamroller from the players in the C.W. McCall Band, who were also known as "The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Boys". On the first Mannheim Steamroller album, Fresh Aire, Bill Fries wrote a short poem for each of the tracks which appear on the album. These words are not heard in the selections, but are printed on the back cover of the album.
Here are the poems from the first two cuts, "Prelude" and "Chocolate Fudge".
I am a Raindrop… and I fell, crystallized. One gray
winter morning in the yesterday of your life… it was cold… so
very cold… but the year was new and you had plans… and dreams
of warm places… you drew their pictures in the frost… and I
froze them into your memor… it was January… such a long time ago.
…And I glistened at the tip of an icicle as you climbed
the hill with your sled… and when you raced down the long
icy path, I stung your nose with tiny needles of snow… and dripped
from your overshoes when you stood in the door that evening…
it was February, and you were old and tired… and hungry.
Next Issue. 15 September. It'll be on time, I swear.
The Legend-News is published fortnightly — unless the fortnight is the fifth Monday, in which case it's published fortnightly-and-a-half — by TechRen Enterprises, rummaging in your trash. Contents Copyright 2003 TechRen Enterprises, except for anything that we borrowed from someone else. Thanks to Bill Fries and Chip Davis for the words and music. "The killer is..."