Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Varmit Returns

I forgot I was in the rabbit hole . . . for awhile. But there was an awakening when I realized, yes, I could just barely see I glimmer of light in front of me. And it was getting farther away. 

Saturday I had my photography for sale at an event down at the gardens. There were several other artists there, including a display by the local Art's Council. It was a lovely sunny cool October day. There was live music and BBQ. Life was good.

As folks came through, stopped by my booth, and asked questions about my work and some particular pieces, it gave me some confidence that my photography is pleasing and brings joy to others. People would comment about different places I had photographed. "Oh, I remember going there as a child." "See, Mary, that is close to your Grandmother's house." "Now is that Edisto or Pawleys?"

A gentleman came over and introduced himself. He was from the Arts Council and the one I had been emailing with concerning the change at the county fair. His first question was, "I guess you saw how disorganized it was at the fair?"

"Well, actually it did not seem unorganized at all. Now, I have to say I have never been on the registration side of things so I cannot speak from that end. However from the side of an exhibitor, I thought it went smoothly."

"Oh, well they just did not treat us right. We have always been willing to help them with the Arts Exhibit. We have the experience. But the reason I came over was to invite you to join the council. You would enjoy it." He went on with a few details about when and where they met. I thanked him and made no commitment.

We spoke for a few more minutes and he moved on to another booth.

It wasn't long before another member of the Arts Council came by, introduced herself, and also invited me to join them. Of course this was not before she mentioned the "unfortunate" situation at the fair. She said she would send me an invitation. She moved on.

Seriously? I had not been courted this much since sorority rush. Heck my DH only asked me once if I wanted to marry him - and perhaps, I was too hasty. Of course by the time he asked, we had pretty much cleared the calendar for the following August, selected a new apartment, and were already sparring over a china pattern - but I digress.

Then came the trifecta. A woman walked up whom I did not recognize. She was not particularly friendly. When she introduced herself, I realized who she was - the Varmit! Right here - what the Hell? "I just wanted to make sure you finally got your photography from last year?" she asked.

"Oh, I did, finally."

"Did you ever get your prize money?"

"No, but that does not matter. I do not enter for the money."

"Well, let me tell you one thing. It wasn't my idea to put those pieces in the fair office. They just took them there."

I decided it was time to make her explain herself. "Well, to be honest, the web site clearly said that any work not picked up would be taken to the Arts Center. And in years past that always been the case. Last year, not only did that not happen, no one knew where the works were left."

"Well", she stammered, "the Arts Center wasn't open on Sunday."

"It wasn't in the years past either."

"Well I guess I should have taken the pieces down there on that Monday. But, that is not the point." She could tell I was not buying this. "The people in that fair office should have taken better care of your work. They are not friendly. And all that money disappeared." 

"Really. I found them to be very accommodating. They apologized for not being able to contact me since they had no way of knowing whose work they had. The tags with the names and phone numbers had all been removed."

"And, the money."

"I don't really care about the money. That wasn't the point."

"Well this year was a disaster. They didn't know what they were doing. They decided to throw us out."

"Like I was telling your friends at the Arts Council, I thought it went very smoothly and I had no complaints. My photos were where they supposed to be and everything that was supposed to be with them was there."

"Well, someone stole your money last year and I'm worried about that."

"I'm not."

"The reason I came by was to invite you to join the Arts Council. We need good members who can work with us."

I thanked her and she left.

Not in this lifetime. God, I hope that is light at the end of this rabbit hole and not a freight train. 

(As a note, the term "Varmit" comes from a memorable quote out of GWTW when Scarlet said,  "Ooh, if I wasn't a lady, what I wouldn't tell that Varmit!".)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Art and the Rabbit Hole

Before the county fair this year I received an email from another local photographer concerning another matter. I took the opportunity to ask him if he knew any details about the Art Competition at this year's county fair. This is when I fell down the rabbit hole.

What followed was a rant about the powers that be at the County Fair deciding that they did not need the local Arts Council to assist them in registration. This gentleman I was corresponding with happened to be an officer in said Arts Council. I had to hear (read) about how the fair people did not know what they were doing, and had hired someone who was totally ignorant of the process. He predicted the whole thing to be a debacle. 

Personally (and I held my thoughts to myself - thank God) I could not imagine the Art's Exhibit and Competition being any more confusing and more unorganized than it had been in the past. But who was I to question this? I was only an exhibitor - you know the citizen they were serving. Thoughts of the bad experience I had had in the past came to mind.  That varmit (yes that unbecoming description I gave the lady) who ran the Arts Exhibit for years came to mind. The one who never returned my phone calls, even though her number was given as the contact. The one who showed up for the registration with one pencil and a notebook for all the artists to record their work in.

Several days later I received another unsolicited email from this photographer telling me the Arts Council had met and they had voted unanimously not to participate in the county fair at all. He just wanted me to know the state of affairs. As an aside he commented that they planned to exhibit at the State Fair this year. He said this as if I was not even aware there was a State Fair. (I had delivered my two entries to the State Fair just that afternoon.) Then, as always, he signed off with "In sweet Jesus' name".

With the "varmit" gone, unlike the Art's Council, I was encouraged. And I was not disappointed. The registration process was well organized. When I asked about picking up my photographs after the fair ended, the young lady now tasked with running the Arts Exhibit and Competition, offered to keep them at her home if I could not be there that final day. (This was much different than the threatening phone call I had received from one of the varmit's minons last year.) 

I complimented her on the ease of the process and thanked her for her service. She just smiled very shyly. "Well it has not been smooth sailing. The first thing I ran into was the Arts Council who got upset that they would not be running the exhibit this year. Well, let me correct myself. I say running. They did register all the work and provide a judge - usually one of their members, but never had someone stay with the exhibit like the fair requests."

"So in other words," I said, "this year they took their marbles and went home."

"Pretty much." 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art and Nonfiction

I often get asked what my next book will be about. My answer is generally, "What next book?" However after the happenings of the past week or two, I may have the next topic. The working title is "Art and the Third Reich in a Small Southern Town." Of course I will either have to move or wait until the characters die before I can publish it. Oh, the down side of southern nonfiction - so much to say about so many people who are still alive.

One would not think our fair town of 13,891 (as of 2013) could have a thriving art community. Well we have plenty of talented people. However there are more people concerned about running the show than being in it. My Daddy always said, "Blessed are the the big wheels for they shall always run in small circles." Folks, we are not talking about MOMA,  Antibes, or Montmartre. And, to be honest, I am not sure some of these people even know what I am referring to. 

It all started with the county fair. What can I say? How relevant can something be if the issue started with the county fair? Seriously?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kitty Litter Issue

Every once in awhile I find something I must share with you - simply for entertainment purposes. This is an Amazon customer review (1 Star) for the Scoop Free Self Cleaning Litter Box. And, no, we do not have cats, are not in the market for cats, and to explain how I came about this is way too complicated to bore you with.

These are poor Matt's thoughts on this product. 

Maybe I'm just doing something wrong, but honestly, I can't understand all the rave reviews. I have a 4-month-old kitten and I am well aware that kittens will use up litter much faster than adult cats, but we're still talking ONE CAT and I am only on day 5 of a fresh cartridge and the smell is already so intolerable that I can't be within 5 feet of the box without retching. It literally smells like someone peed in a leather boot filled with oatmeal and then microwaved it for 15 minutes. Anyone that says they manage with one cartridge for 30 days is either a liar, criminally insane or lost their sense of smell in some freak, manure-huffing accident. To contrast, I had no odor problems with the scooping litter I was originally using (I'm talking a post-poopfest, pre-scoop, completely-thrashed litter box too). Also, even with the hood and the carpet (yes - I'm the sucker that bought all the accessories), the crystals get EVERYWHERE. Then there's the price of the refills. $51.99 for three, or $99.99 for six. The audacity to charge over 15 dollars for a piece of cardboard and a pound of litter is breathtakingly criminal, and that's even if they lasted as long as the company advertises. I bought a 3-pack of litter cartridges. With these, along with the one that comes with the box, I thought I would be set for 4 months of scoop-free bliss... how sorely mistaken I was. I am already on the third cartridge and I'm already about to toss it and pop in the last one.

On to the rake system: I will admit that it's a rather ingenious design and I'm sure it's a vast improvement over other automatic liter boxes (I really wouldn't know), but I still think those boys from MIT need to go back to the drawing board. Maybe my threshold for noise is different than others, but I find this box intolerably loud and annoying. The raking itself is loud, but then at the mid point of its direction change, the rake pivots and falls to the other side making a very loud clunking noise. This, of course, is endlessly fascinating for a kitten and he will promptly investigate the noise and end up going inside the box again, setting off the infrared mechanism, ensuring that the cleaning cycle will happen 20 minutes later. I can't really fault the manufacturer for a kitten's curiosity, but I do believe it's something kitten owners should be aware of. In addition to the noise, the rake spacing is still rather wide which will invariably lead to cat poop getting behind, and thusly out of the reach of, the rake system. Sorry, but I never had to scrape crap out of my old litter box with a butter knife. Just let that imagery float around in your head for a couple minutes. I haven't had any problems with urine leaking through the bottom of the trays, but then again, I haven't had a tray in the box for more than a week. However, I did notice that the corners to the tops of every box were broken at the seams; though I don't know if this is from how they were shipped, or a manufacturing defect. Anyway, long story short: I'm switching back to the old box once I use the last refill cartridge... so that should be in about 6 days.

Edit (1/27/08): After browsing around for a solution to the smell, I tried one of the suggestions which is to mix the litter around manually and that definitely seemed to help, though ScoopFree recommends you just leave the box alone and let it do its thing (that's what I had been doing). Someone else recommended using a small amount of baking soda on the bottom of the tray before pouring in the crystals. I'll give that a shot on the next cartridge. Anyway, taking 15 seconds out of your day to mix around the crystals isn't a big deal and if I can squeeze at least 2 weeks of use out of the cartridge, I'll definitely bump up the rating.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Closing From Hell

And I thought last week's saga was a debacle. Well, as Yogi Berra infamously said, "It ain't over 'til it's over". Over? Honey we aren't even close to this damn thing closing.

Last I time I opined on this subject Wells Fargo had replaced a Loan Officer, were working on a federal holiday and expected to get the loan package to the attorney so he could overnight the papers to the buyer for his signatures Tuesday. Well miracles do happen. Wells Fargo came through and the papers were sent. However, somehow UPS Overnight managed to send the papers from Tryon, NC to  Asheville, NC instead of from Tryon, NC to California. (I would not believe it had I not seen the tracking sheet.) So UPS returned the closing documents to Tryon.

So on Tuesday the papers that were supposed to be in California being signed by the buyer (who has yet to see the house) and overnighted back east were still in Tryon. So, Plan B (or rather Plan E by now): email pdf copies, use electronic signatures while the hard copies are (supposedly) being sent across country. Whereby, the attorney will have an electronic copy of the signature of the buyer, my excuted documents (that I have already signed and delivered in advance), and then my brother can sign his part (and any other part I may need to sign with the power of attorney I gave him for that purpose.) Life is good.

Or is it? That was Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon, my brother emails everyone: "I will be out of town Thursday, returning next Tuesday so if the closing cannot take place today, we will have to postpone it until next Wednesday."

Needless to say, this produced a flurry of emails. One from the attorney saying that my brother could sign the papers Wednesday and everything could continue. After all, the buyer and one seller were already signing in absence, why not make the entire closing virtual? Sounded like a plan to me.

That night I got a call from my brother. He had considered what the attorney suggested and the more he thought about it, the more he thought, perhaps, it was not a good idea. He wanted to delay the closing until next Wednesday when he returned from his trip. 

Seriously? I thought. You have got to be kidding. I did not know where to start. I am sure my silence was deafening, or at least I hope it was. My first thought was to to follow Clemmie's (my DH's late family's housekeeper) advice: "Choke 'em and dare 'em to die!" My second thought was, "Have you lost your ever living mind?" But, trying to keep my composure I simple asked, "Why?"

He offered some concerns, each of which I quickly dismissed. Then I frankly said, "With all the crap we have gone through trying to close this deal, you want to delay it another week? Do you know how many other "issues" can pop up in seven days, given the major ones we have dealt with in the past three?"

"So, you think I should sign the papers tomorrow?"

Politely I said, "Yes. I fear what may happen if you don't."

He agreed to sign the papers. 

I went to bed that night thinking over what other obstacles could hinder this closing: something could happen to the attorney (he is a sole practitioner); God forbid there be some major weather event in mid-west that caused a delay to all FedEx and UPS air shipments; the buyer could just show up, see the house and realize the error of his ways; the realtor could be deemed incompetent and all her contracts therefore null and void - oh my imagination ran wild with ideas. Finally I went to sleep.

Wednesday morning I awoke with a sickening feeling, what if the worse had occurred - it was all a dream. There was no buyer, no offer, no contract, no closing. My brother called later to say that he had signed the documents. So the deal will go through, finally. Unless . . . 

I am still waiting for the fat lady to sing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Moves On

Holidays around here have evolved like I am sure they do with most families. When the girls were young we would go to each of our parents' home for big celebrations. My DH's family Christmas was something akin to a Norman Rockwell event, my family not so much. By the time I came on the scene there were already four grandchildren on his side, so Christmas was very special and the crowd was fairly large. Coming from a family of four, with only a younger brother, our holidays looked very sedate. Well, not counting our Thanksgiving celebrations at High Acres when I was younger - but that was in another life time and anything but Norman Rockwell.

As the years moved on, Thanksgiving started being rotated among my DH's siblings' homes. I always enjoyed hosting the event. For one thing it meant that I could get all the little repairs I needed accomplished and major cleaning around the house that went undone because it was his family that was coming. In fact it must have made quite the impression on the girls because a month or so ago I had mopped the sunroom (which it badly needed) and my daughter walked in, looked at it, and remarked, "Wait, are we hosting Thanksgiving this year?" That is sad - but I digress.

Then the room formerly known as my dining room became my DH's office / closet and our kitchen table became the landing area for anything he brought into the house, staging area for any project he started, and depository of the remnants of all those unfinished projects. We could not host Thanksgiving if we wanted to unless we served everyone on TV trays in the den.

So last year my daughter hosted Thanksgiving at her home inluding us as well as her in-laws. In a way it was sad not to be the hostess, but life moves on (and the state of our house does not.) This year she announced she was hosting it and would once again include both families.Since there is a grandchild now involved the game has changed. 

My DH commented that he missed the way we used to do Thanksgiving. I just looked at him, "Seriously? When we had everyone here?" He did not say anything. I continued, "I loved it and wish we could do it again. I thought you hated it. Of course that would involve your doing something with your 'office', the kitchen table, and the yard."

"Oh, I didn't mean that part. That was a pain in the ass. I just liked it the way it was."

"Honey, that was the way it was."

Or perhaps there is some revisionist history he would like to share. Personally I would to have a reason to get those long put off home and yard projects done and the house go through a major clean-up, not to mention host an event. This is the real world. The way I look at it, there are trade offs, when you take the dining room, you give up any chance of hosting holidays. However, a grandchild may make one rethink many things. Alas, I do not think hosting the family Thanksgiving is one of them.