Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Better Day Next Thursday II

The Manager has been let go. He was the only sane, sober person around here (us excluded of course) but since being on duty and coping with small problems 24/7 is not as visible as Don’s work on the cabins, Robert’s work on making the new RV sites or my cleaning, the Owner decided he wasn’t doing enough work and he couldn’t afford to pay him.

Part of this, I think, is a result of The Eye Lady having a really superb Drama Queen event. She has been trying, without success, to seduce the Manager including saying he was going to buy a house and move into it with her and the kid. When he denied this, the kid reported it and next we knew, she was going to sue him for slander for saying that she was crazy if she thought that, and told the Owner either she or the Manger would have to leave. She was seen staggering around, and fell "over a dog’s leash” hurting her ribs and called the ambulance. We don’t know what really happened, but she sometimes remembers to hold her side when she is walking. (One resident, at a Video Store heard there was a stabbing, and said that the police were always being called down here, nice PR) The Owner let her realize that she should leave, she was set to go the middle of the month. But Mr. Creased Pants pled her case, so she was allowed to stay.

Last week a guest was sitting out and Mr. Creased Pants, with drink in hand, rolled up to talk to her. The Eye Lady came boiling over shrieking invectives, the guest fled to her cabin. The Eye Lady was later spoken to by the Owner and he apparently told her no more dramatics or she was out. (Don’t hold your breath)

It’s not really clear how much the Owner’s shrinking bank account was the reason for letting the Manager go, or whether the Owner believed that he was the causes of The Eye Lady’s outburst. But our job is more difficult now.

The nice workamper couple who came Dec 1 are looking for another place. They need more money than he can make in a week building and she is not able to do the heavy work that I can do. She has made an effort to organize the reservations, books and etc, but the Owner can’t remember to even call us when he has rented something. People just turn up. We are waiting for a double booking. And as usual, his rosy descriptions of the place and its amenities often produce a pretty shocked reaction once the prospective guest gets here. One woman thought she was getting a cabin with a boat ramp on the river in the middle of 12 A. He does own a spit of land on the river, the boat ramp is a state run one that is ¼ mile away, and the 13 cabins and 15 RV sites are pretty close together. He told one set of prospective workampers that we were right on the lake and that there were jet skis for rent here.

Once they leave, it will be Don and I. Theoretically this means we shouldn’t leave ever, since there would be no one in charge, but as he is paying us by the hour, and not a fee for staying around, we will just go. I have been calling the Owner for every little thing that happens from barking dogs to bad light bulbs, and every person that turns up, I call him too. This is my way of protesting the loss of the Manager. I am also charging him liberally for everything I have to attend to.

Compared to teaching high school, running a campground this small on the off season is a piece of cake. Or it would be if the Owner weren’t lost in some delusional place in his head. He said to me on the phone that he heard we could get $250 a month for boarding horses, you just put them in a field right ? I listed some of the work horses require just to keep and recited my horse credentials. He then wondered if running trail rides would be a good draw. Not only is this a dumb idea almost every where, there are NO trails around here, no public land, nada.

Some of the nonsense he puts his carpenters through: Wanted to run a 16’ span with a cedar log that is 12” at the butt end tapering to 4”. He has insisted that these logs, from his land clearing be peeled, which I do with a pressure washer, very slowly and wetly. I did the installed ones on the porch, he wanted me to do one inside the new area, which would soak everything. He has changed the floor plan on both projects almost daily, refuses to buy the materials requested, getting something cheaper and unsuitable or less of it. He leaves for time in Houston frequently and then on his return finds much that was not done his idiosyncratic way, and therefore wrong. He demanded that the vents face the prevailing rain direction, bought a fancy new round vent of wood to replace the already installed metal one and all framing had to be redone. Wanted pull chains for the lights and ceiling fan instead of wall switches. Flooring right on joists with no sub floor. He is a great believer in caulk, wants me to make essentially a dam of it around a hot water heater in case it leaks.

My theory is that at the hardware store he goes to, there is a team of geezers who feed him bad information on construction techniques just for the hell of it, hoping he will do it.

He is devoted to bargains, the latest ones, electric fireplaces, $39.95 at Home Depot. There is really no where in the cabins that these will fit except where they will set the mattress on fire and block the path to the bathroom.

I spent two days painting the railing on the “Lodge”, It had been badly primed, never cleaned, and the paint is a $7.50 a gal special from Big Lots. Even white wash would have done a better job.

For the new RV sites down the hill, all effluent will go through a macerator (read garbage disposal for sewage) and be pumped into a honey wagon. He figures he will just empty the honey wagon when it gets full. We don’t know where, since the system he has for the rest of the place is at max. Since each RV probably generates at least 10 gal a day, he will need to get rid of at least 100 gal a day .

One of my favorites is his idea that dog shit is a marvelous fertilizer for plants. Since everything he has planted was on sale at Home Depot and not hardy here, and never get watered, it is hard to tell what actually did kill them. And it’s true that we have plenty of dog shit.

Everything has been covered with 3/4" of ice here for the last 4 days, the area is at a standstill, Interstates closed, TV reporters in sweaters. We did not lose power, mostly because the trees here are too stunted to be tall enough to fall on the wires. Ain't seen the sunshine, baby, since I don't know when. If we are very lucky it will get to 40 today. Wasn't this far enough south ???

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Dogs of Here

In most campgrounds, dogs must be leashed at all times and you must pick up after them. I’ve even heard of one campground where if you dog pees in the wrong place, the manager calls the sheriff. At Hart Ranch, dog owners are in the Pet Ghetto. Well, really it is nearly half of the place and just as nice, but there are signs everywhere stopping you from even carrying your pet into the non-pet area. Kind of reminds me of segregated drinking fountains. And of course, if you don’t pick up the poop, there will be dire consequences.

Many campgrounds will not allow you to bring any dogs or other pets, others discriminate against Dobermans, Rottweillers and Pit Bulls since those breeds have been deemed too dangerous by the insurance companies.

Here in Spring Branch TX by the banks of the Guadeloupe River, all dogs are welcome, and none of them are tied up or leashed. Dog heaven. This means you have to be very careful where you step. It also means that the dogs lead their own parallel lives.

The Owner has three dogs, well two and a part timer. The avuncular chocolate lab is Ajax, he is pleasant to all. For some reason our dog, Pepe, dislikes him, but I don’t know why, he is a nice dog. Max is an older golden retriever and smiles all the time. He has bad hips, and is a bit overweight, but is also a nice dog. The younger dogs sometimes gang up on him since he can’t move fast enough. The part timer dog is a nice young blond lab, Pam, that just turned up and has been adopted, partly by the Eye Lady and partly by the Owner. She is bumptious and friendly, but is a notorious thief of shoes, cleaning rags and any thing else soft and portable. The Eye Lady also has a very pleasant boxer named Precious. Precious likes to sit on top of picnic tables and takes seriously her job of keeping an eye on the place. She doesn’t keep enough of an eye on her owner however. (update, she can see pretty well out of her damaged eye but is still doing a complicated and emotionally fraught dance with the medical profession. She has recovered enough to do her one job, picking up dog poop. At least she did it once).

In cabin two lives Niles, black and Irish setterish. His full name is Denial, as in what dog? Where? His owners are a new version of the Downontheirlucks. She has a blue- collar New England accent and laser lungs, so we hear every word she says to Niles. “Now you listen to me, I’m talkin’ to you, you need to get over here right now. How many times do I have to tell you to stay here and listen to me and not wander over there Niles I’m talkin’ to you, don’t make me come over there, you get over here right now or you are going inside”. Niles, who carries his feathery tail at a jaunty angle over his back pays no attention whatsoever to all this. Niles is not fixed, so he is less liked by the other dogs, and he isn’t very good at whose territory is whose. Two days ago, according to The Eye Lady, some kids stole Niles, she called the Sheriff immediately ( probably #1 on her speed dial) and the dog was recovered. I can’t tell if the dog really was stolen, but his mother is keeping him on a pretty short string after that.

In the Lodge, the exotic dancer has a very noisy and aggressive Doberman named Louis. He usually is inside, but had a round of diarrhea and was chained outside and parked non stop for 36 hours. He now wears a bark collar, and never runs loose. Hard to tell if he is vicious or just dying of boredom. The dancer also has a little blond lab named Buddy who is shy, but coming out of his shell under the watchful eye of the rest of the crew, especially Pam, who could easily be his older sister. The dancer also had a young enthusiastic shorthaired pointer puppy named Cletus. He is ridiculously friendly and goes everywhere at a gallop. I use the past tense because I don’t think he is still here, don’t know why.

The Construction guy in #11 has Boudreau aka Bonehead, an uncut male blond lab, which makes three all told. Boudreau plays a little rough, and the only one who likes him is Pepe, oddly enough. The two of them wrestle and growl at each other for hours.

The other workampers have a small white elderly one-eyed mop dog named Neesia Marie. That’s what her mother calls her when she won’t come. Neesia only comes out for short walks.

Rounding out the cast of beasts is Toby the cat, who is bigger than Neesia and a force to be reckoned with. He is technically a tabby, with white points, but his dark markings are very big and bold. He generally hides from the dogs, since the younger ones like to tumble him if they can, but he scores pretty well when he has to.

The only down side of all these critters is the poop, which is everywhere. You have to walk as if in an occupied cow pasture and pay attention. There is little barking, since most of them run free, and they all come inside for the night. I kind of like having them around, but sometimes my job entails a bit of dog wrangling.

Niles started hanging around the bosses’ trailer and whining, so it was decided that Pam needed to be spayed, and Niles is now on his string anyway to prevent another abduction.

Yesterday new people came to #6, with a dog, uncut male, chocolate lab and who knows what else. He wears a yellow bandana. He went over to Niles and started a hullabaloo, but other than that, he made remarkably little difference, besides one more poop source.

I am beginning to wonder if this place is listed somewhere as Camp Born Free for dogs. People seem to know that they can let them run free as soon as they get here. Or maybe the owner tells them. I think sooner or later it will lead to tears and vet bills.

Where I used to live in MA, there are a number of parks that let you turn your dog loose to run free. They even have “play-dates” where the owners get together to let their dogs socialize. Feeding the inner wolf perhaps. We used to ride our horses there, but it’s not safe anymore. When I went there with an elderly cranky Jack Russell ( oops Parson Russell according to the AKC) terrier, these furry children came running up and he attacked them, while on the leash. There were choruses of “He won’t hurt you, She is friendly” my reply of “Mine’s not” was drowned out by the Jack Russell doing his dragon imitation. I usually got chastised for having a vicious dog, as if I had brought an unruly wolf to a birthday party. I can’t even imagine what would happen if I let loose both the JRT’s my family owns.

Last minute update: the exotic dancer found a pit bull loose on a busy street in San Antonio, and brought her home. Judging by Louis the Doberman’s reaction, she is on one side or the other of being in heat. Pit Bulls are apparently not allowed here per the Owner, but he doesn’t yet know about Scrappy. She is light brown with white points, friendly, non-aggressive but solid muscle, with a wide jaw and a wide stance. In many ways she is scarier just to look at than the Doberman, although he moves like lightening and is edgy. Interesting that our notion of dog runs such a gamut, from virtual stuffed toy through puppy that never matures to lethal weapon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas Passed

This was a great Christmas, I got a whole matching set of great pots and pans in RED and matching utensils and a waffle maker. And gift certificates to a giant craft supply store, and lots of nice cards. There was much feasting, too much.

There is still a little post holiday tristesse. From my earliest memories, Christmas was fraught with ghosts. Not the Christmassy Dickens ghosts, more like Santa Ghosts: Rosy, tinsel draped visions of sugarplums, fabulous toys, cozy meals and family moments of love and joy. Must have been at someone else’s house. Why, as a child did it never seem enough? Why does it still make me vaguely nervous?

I am just old enough to have grown up largely without television, and grew up in a household that still does not have a TV, except one hidden away in the basement as a sop to the children or in the housekeeper’s room. It is tempting to blame the advertising world, and especially the TV, for the gnawing sense that something is missing in Christmas, but I suspect the problem goes deeper than that.

Saint Nicholas (c.280-343) himself was a bishop in Smyrna, Turkey. He is credited with bringing back to life some children who were put in a pot to be made into the Turkish equivalent of corned beef. The practice of present giving came from a story about a poor man’s three daughters. Since lacking a dowry made girls unmarriageable and therefore doomed to prostitution, the good bishop tossed three sacks of gold coins in the window to provide dowries. These three sacks are now the three gold balls of pawnbrokers, St Nicholas is their patron saint. (Ironic, since much of the US is now deep in hock to pay for Christmas) His feast day, Dec 6, often involved candy for children, and perhaps a piece of coal or a switch if they were naughty. His Dutch name, Sinter Klaas, was brought to New York and became Santa Claus. Washington Irving, in his History of New York, published in 1809 under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, described the arrival of the saint on horseback, including laying his finger aside of his nose. As a child, I used to wonder why he was picking his nose.

Things really took off after 1823 with the publication of the poem A Visit From Saint Nicholas more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas by writer Clement Clarke Moore. Now we have the reindeer, and snow, and, worst of all, the sleigh full of toys. Toys? Candy isn’t enough? In addition, the new festival of greed has been moved to Christmas Day. Irresistible to capitalism., here is a bottomless pit of demand, which devours everything in sight and cries for more.

" The metamorphosis of Saint Nicolas into the commercially more interesting Santa Claus, which took several ages in Europe and America, has recently been reenacted in the Saint's home town, the city of Demre. This modern Turkish city is built on the ruins of ancient Myra. As St. Nicholas is the most important Orthodox saint, the city attracts many Russian tourists. A solemn bronze statue of the Saint by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, donated by the Russian government in 2000, had been given a prominent place on the square in front of the medieval church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Suleyman Topcu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted the central statue to be more familiar to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against the disgrace were only successful to the extent that the Russian statue returned, without its original high pedestal, in a corner near the church."
Wikipedia, Saint Nicholas

"The American image of Santa Claus was further elaborated by illustrator Thomas Nast, who depicted a rotund Santa for Christmas issues of Harper's magazine from the 1860s to the 1880s. Nast added such details as Santa's workshop at the North Pole and Santa's list of the good and bad children of the world. A human-sized version of Santa Claus, rather than the elf of Moore's poem, was depicted in a series of illustrations for Coca-Cola advertisements introduced in 1931. In modern versions of the Santa Claus legend, only his toy-shop workers are elves. Rudolph, the ninth reindeer, with a red and shiny nose, was invented in 1939 by an advertising writer for the Montgomery Ward Company."

And of course, we don’t really know when Jesus was born anyway, we sort of hitched him to an ancient existing party, the winter solstice on Dec 21. This nice pagan event was a big noisy party on the shortest day of the year, with fire in various forms, evergreens, and feasting. All to get through the shortest day. Will the sun come back to the full height of a summer noon? Will spring come? Will we have enough food for ourselves and our beasts?

I really like the idea of a feast, I like to eat and I like to cook. A big tasty meal is a universal sacrament, enough to scare away all kinds of bad dark things. The presents I like to give are people’s favorite foods. Of course you have to ask and then remember, but that seems easier than store bought presents, especially since you can give the same thing over and over.

I remember in one of the Little House on the Prairie stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, that Pa went to town for something, not shopping, maybe collecting money owed him, and a blizzard came in. He barely made it home with his life, without the money, and in the pockets of his buffalo fur coat he brought the girls’ only presents, which I remember as two oranges. Actually, Ma had made dolls I think (while running a frontier household with no running water on a wood burning stove). At any rate the oranges, or maybe it was two peppermint sticks, were the BEST presents, and of course having Pa home safe. Hard to believe today.

What are we to do with the small, ungrateful wretch (me) that never has enough presents or the right presents? Shots fired over a video game in short supply? I don’t like diamonds, never did. I don’t want them for Christmas, or my birthday either. So how come the “Every kiss begins with Kay” song on the TV makes me so wistful?

What was I looking for in those packages so lovely and festive? Why did I feel, after everything was opened a disappointment? Not that what I got was no good, maybe the possibilities were better than the reality.

I wish I could magic myself into a Silent Night….all is calm, all is bright, kind of HO HO HO about the whole thing. Actually, I feel much better now that it is over.

Happy New Year, calm and bright.