Friday, October 18, 2002


You know those moments when one suddenly realizes that one has been walking around for days with egg dripping sloppily from one’s face without noticing?

Yeah, those.

I had one a little while before lunch today, when one of my board members, the Queen of Halloween, got me on the phone with her for a routine talk about our chamber’s upcoming haunted house (click HERE to see some of last year’s fun. If the host guy’s server happens to be up today, that is). Usually by this time in the planning/execution stages of this singularly labor- and material-intensive extravaganza she is beyond frantic, her voice nearly hypersonic, her eyes wide and glazed, her hair a wild and curly cloud that looks like it’s already teased into whatever odd style this year’s costume will require, and I have to tell her to slow down and form her streams of consciousness into recognizable sentences so I can keep up.

But she was eerily calm, though a bit confused by some of my remarks.

The conversation went something like this:

Me - So what time do you want to start decorating on Sunday?

QOH - Do we really need to start on Sunday? It doesn’t take us THAT long.

Me - Well, we started on Sunday last year, but I see what you mean, we’ve got all those walls and things already built

QOH - Yeah, and the high school kids are using ‘em for Homecoming

Me - Oh god that’s right, are we going to get them back in time?

QOH - Oh sure, sure, sure, they said they’d get them to us by next Friday

Me (panicking) - But Queenie, Halloween is Thursday!

QOH - Huh?

Me (exasperated now) - We need the wall stuff before next Friday. You know. For Halloween. Which is Thursday.

QOH - Oh, but it doesn’t take us a whole week to set up. We usually don’t start until Sunday.

Me - Aaaaauuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh! That’s what I said...

QOH - Yeah, so we have a whole week after they give us back the walls

It was at this point in our chat that I started to realize that one of us was using a much larger frame of reference, looking at a longer time span, from the other’s. She thought there were two weeks until Halloween, while I, savant that I am, she who is consulted on a daily basis about everything from the date upon which 2003’s Christmas parade will be held to which night of the week Alcoholics Anonymous meets, I knew that there was only one. And that we’d damned well better get cracking or this thing was going to suck and all of my friends and neighbors whom I’ve cajoled into being monsters will be standing around tapping their feet while I try at the last minute to fit them into costumes, paint up all their faces without any help because I never got anyone confirmed to help with make-up, and make sure all of the black light bulbs and things were working as the demon hordes of trick-or-treaters, already on the sugar rushes of their lives from all the candy and crap my businesspeople hand out on the downtown Halloween Walk, start all but tearing down the fragile, 103-year-old doors of the Fireman’s Hall to get in... oh god oh god we’re wasting time this very second...

Then two things happened.

One was that I lifted up a page or two of my nifty Lord of the Rings calendar (which is still on August because the photo for August is of Aragorn, a.k.a. Viggo Mortensen. Viggo Mortensen, el fuego of all that is el fuego, hey, if you were me you’d want to keep looking at him too!) so I could look at, well, October.

The other was I realized that the Queen of Halloween was not the one who was deluded about how much time we had left to get this railroad running.

I started laughing the ragged laugh of the nearly hysterical. And I couldn’t stop. I was still laughing through lunch, nearly choking on my “Top Secret” burger and snarfing my iced tea. I wasn’t just laughing at the relief, the reprieve, the sudden luxurious expanse of time that stretched between me and the mad dash to make the Sewer King look like a demonic tree, Tad the Grocer look like he was cutting himself up and serving up his body parts as hors d’oeuvres, the Minister of Fun look like his head had been severed and shoved back onto his neck upside down, several little middle schoolers look like space aliens, the General look like Elsa Lancaster, and my own dear personal mom look like, well, we haven’t decided who she’s going to be yet...

(Another hallmark of Halloween, for me: Halloween is the season when I incur debts of gratitude and the promise of unlimited future personal favors to several of my friends, relatives, coffee buddies and blognags. I have the weirdest job in the universe, with the possible exception of like Edward D. Wood Junior’s or something)

(The line from Tim Burton’s biopic of Wood, uttered by Bunny Breckenridge, “How do you get all your friends to get baptized so that you can make a monster movie?” being strangely apropos of my current effort)

No, I wasn’t just laughing at myself for getting the calendar all bunched up in my head. I was also laughing at my Enabling Assistant, who was brainstorming new and sicker ways to scare the children in twooooo weeeeks. Twooooo weeeeeks, Kate. Say it with me, twooooo weeeeeeks. Really, I wasn’t.

Well, OK, I pretty much was. That and the sick-o ideas the EA kept coming up with, usually while I had food in my mouth. Really, it was like being back at the cafeteria at Beaudacious Bard College, sitting at The Famous Table and being constantly serenaded by the half-wits who had discovered on the very first day of our acquaintance that my name fitted perfectly into a famous Doris Day song and never did get tired of singing “Kate Sherrod, Sherrod...” when I was trying to eat...

So anyway, after several hours’ reflection, I can now see how I managed to lead myself astray. First of all, we never, as a rule, ever specifically mention the date in the course of ordinary conversation, do we? No. We never say “Hi, Suzanne, it’s October 25 today” or “Since it is October 25, I believe I will have toast, Becky” or “Michael, dear, it’s October 25 so don’t go trying to rig the numbers game against me.”

Second of all, I missed nearly two weeks of work while I was down with the Mother of All Sinus Infections and have been somewhat disoriented ever since, and have yet to shake that chronic sense of being behind on absolutely everything that has dogged me lo these eight or nine days that I’ve been back among the living.

Third of all, my reporter friend in town, facing deadline pressure and a big fat empty newshole on page 6, asked me kindly to help him out by cranking out a press release about the chamber’s upcoming Halloween activities – a step in the overall planning process that usually happens, yes, the week before Halloween.

And fourth of all, well, this has been a really rotten week and yesterday in particular was a really rotten day because we buried a little girl I liked a lot and whose little friends are all my particular charges as they are my speech kids and with whom I had to stand with and hug and wipe eyes and noses and generally play mother hen to while we all sat and stood and sang and stuff in the balcony of the Catholic church all afternoon. That’ll mess anybody up, right?

And fifth of all, well, I still don’t keep a date book or anything for reasons I have outlined elsewhere on this website. Maybe someday I’ll learn, but not yet.

I mean, do I ever learn, dear readers? And would this page be at all entertaining if I did?

Wednesday, October 16, 2002


It is with a weird mixture of satisfaction, disbelief, revulsion and awe at my own hilarious chutzpah that I contemplate the object I am holding right now in my hands.

It’s the “sophomore” issue of Wyoming NEXT magazine, and I've got three articles in it and a churning, roiling pit in my stomach over them.

This is by no means the first time I've been published, mind you; my first ever bylines were in our local newspaper when I was maybe seven years old and I wrote the Saratoga Elementary School News column every week, and I've been pretty steadily featured in there ever since, sometimes as a paid staffer, sometimes as a freelance contributor. Even today, my stuff makes this paper with stunning frequency, though the powers that be there keep misspelling my name as "Staff Reports."

I wrote for my college newspaper, the Bard Observer for four years, was its production manager for three, at various times also its arts editor, its news editor, etc.

I was the political editor, a.k.a. "Watchman" (as in "who watches the") of the (in?)famous Pit Report, an underground music and politics magazine that covered the Boston music scene as only a do-it-yourself punk 'zine can – snotty, confrontational, biased as all hell... God that was fun...

And nowadays my byline shows up in lots of would-be respectable papers like the Wyoming Business Report and hobby rags like Fishing Wyoming over articles that have won me some awards and lots of nice attention over the last two years or so.

Those, though, are to a one printed on cheap newsprint in ink someone bought by the barrel; meant to be perused over morning coffee or an afternoon smoke on the day of publication and then pitched or used as fish wrap or fire lighters or allowed by cranky old bachelors to pile up precariously into towers that eventually topple and crush the collector, who is then found several days later by the paperboy who came calling to demand his "Two dollars! I want my two dollars!"

Yeah, there's some pride associated with those, and over the years I've built up a gritty, messy folder full of clippings of stories that I'm for one reason or another proud of because they're exceptionally funny or were judged by some people I'll never meet but are honest-to-kibble experts as exceptionally meritorious or because I'm just sentimentally attached to them... but along with publication at this level goes a sense of sic transit gloria mundi, fleeting accomplishment and usually, too, the sinking, Sisyphean feeling that the rock has rolled back down to the bottom again and I have another week of pushing to look forward to.

This magazine I'm holding in my hands is different, though. It's weirdly intimidating.

First of all, it's this immaculate, glossy, incredibly hip thing (maybe not as hip as the Pit Report was. I'll probably never be associated with anything that cool ever again). The production values are absolutely top-hole: I've been paging through it for a few days now and have yet to see a typo or bobbled "jump to" (those little tag lines at the bottom of columns telling the reader to jump to page such-and-such for the rest of the story) or a misplaced or ineffective graphic or visual aid or a photograph that was shoved in to fill space even though it obviously sucked – hallmarks, all, of the daily, weekly or monthly products which which I have heretofore been associated. Deadlines are tyrants that inevitably dictate that errors will happen, will escape the harried proofreaders and typesetters, and will embarrass us all in print... but this thing, published just once a year in its own sweet time, is damned near perfect-looking.

And then there's the ambition of it, its messianic purpose. This magazine wants to save Wyoming by persuading its young people to think about staying here after they graduate instead of forsaking us for the cities and suburbs and prospective prosperity of Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, Montana. And this year it also seeks to prepare them for real life, real finances, real expectations, real problems, to make them better citizens of whichever world they finally choose to inhabit.


Now, I'm not at all new to this effort; because of my relatively long association with the Wyoming Business Report, which publishes Wyoming NEXT, and my weird fame as one of those truly rare specimens, a young, educated woman living in Wyoming, I was on the short list to crank out articles to the very first issue. My contributions included a short piece on the financial and social consequences of dropping out of high school, and a longer piece taking a look at how "today's Wyoming teens" cope with all of the demands on their time and energy that part-time jobs, school work, sports, clubs, church groups, etc. make. I was in a particularly good position to write the latter, as I'm an assistant speech coach and full-time dork, making me both accessible and non-threatening to my young interviewees. Good stuff.

I also wound up doing a sidebar on one kid I know here in Saratoga who had been expelled by a principal who was no longer here and who had worked and fought hard to get back into school again a year later. That was probably the best, most original, most provocative of the three, I still think, though there's a nice, ironic coda to it, in that my subject had dropped out of school all over again before the magazine saw print.


I never saw that issue, though. No review copy ever reached me, and I've yet to find one anywhere. Who knows how it looked, what else was in it, how I stacked up? Not I.

Now, a year or so later, here's the new one. It's gorgeous. It's well-balanced, loaded with decent advice and teen-appeal in more or less equal measure. And it's got three pieces I wrote right smack in the middle of it: one on "The Price of Privacy" (comparing the costs of living alone to those of having a roommate or two), one on (and this has caused some snickers from people who know me and my disorganized ways personally) how easy and worthwhile it is to create and use a household budget, and the time management rant "Who's In Charge, Here?" that I published on this very website in July.

Ooh, they look so authoritative! So hip! They have rhythm and verve as they're presented, they deliver the style that is really what these people are paying me for.

But also, as I read them... they are flawed, flawed, flawed.

You non-writers out there have no idea how painful it is to see one's own words in print like this, especially months after they were originally spewed out. I remember these articles as being so much better, not so glib, not so dorky, not so pedestrian.

But I still have the originals I sent off back in July, and my editor fixed a typographical error or two, but left them otherwise untouched.


All I can see is things I could have done better, phrased more economically. I could have spilled fewer personal details, not ended one article with the trite, trite, trite "What you do is up to you!", not started a sentence with "Man" (do any real teenagers say "Man" that way? As in "Man, that painting looks great on my wall!)...

There's no end to that kind of self-flagellating if at some point one doesn't just tell him- or herself to knock it the hell off (or find a good, reliable friend to do it for him). And I have done this, I have done this...

But then there is also that possibly Calvinist-inspired shameful awe at the fact that I, hilariously flawed product of a seriously bumbling creator that I am, have put myself forward as an authority (guffaw, guffaw) on budgeting and time management, I who this very day had to do some very quick and sloppy thinking to accommodate my two lunch dates (my own dear personal mom and the poor slob who took my place at the newspaper)! Isn't there some kind of special kind of hell for people who do that? I'll have to fish out my Dante when I get home.

I'll get over all of this, of course. At the end of the day, I'm still a monster of vanity, drooling with ambition to be a Real Writer (whatever the hell that is) and so dazzle the hoi polloi that I somehow manage to set myself free forever from this office, this budget, this goddam phone that keeps ringing and interrupting my train of thought and spoiling my deathless prose!

(Was that a flying pig I just saw going by?)

Until then, well, here's this web page of mine, and here you are reading me (but thank god I can't watch you reading me. Even the thought of that gives me the heebie jeebies). Thank you for that.

I'm going to go home and play with my dog now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002


WHEREAS the current location of the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce has been for several years located in the old Black Lantern building that currently also houses the world famous Donut Ranch*; and

WHEREAS said building is on the ass end of that downtown portion of Bridge Street where all of the depressingly empty commercial buildings are; and

WHEREAS said building is also, in the immortal words of my father "darker than the inside of a cat" even in days of summer sunshine, at which time it is also hotter than the Lord Macklebrains' temper, and in wintertime it is even darker yet and cold enough to make an indoor ice arena seem tropical and toasty; and

WHEREAS the chamber staff didn't really have all that much to do this month anyway,

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the chamber board and assorted other advice givers, relatives, former employees (a bit of overlap there), kibbitzers and the occasional visitor who informs us that our current digs are "uglier than a sackful of assholes" that we will move our offices to a section of the Blackhawk Gallery building sometime soon. Preferably by the end of the month, but we'll wait until the new carpeting is installed because moving all those file cases and stuff is going to be enough of a bitch the first time, thank you very much.

Or words to that effect. We at the chamber don't do much with that degree of formality, or sarcasm, but if we did, that might be one way to convey our decision. Which is also based on the fact that our new digs will have "frontage" (dig that cool commercial term) on the main drag in town and will thus be very easy for even the most unversed believer in the capacity of mule deer to turn into elk to find our offices to ask us at what elevation such startling transformations take place. Which is, after all, a big part of our raison det're, right?

What does this all have to do with "Vila-fication," the curious might ask?

Well, the prior tenant of our new digs made some unusual decorating choices during his occupancy. Choices like painting the window trim an odd salmon-orange, generating a bizzare striping pattern on the front room's walls in perfectly clashing hues of aqua, teal, ocean blue and I don't know what else -- different mixes of blue and green. Stripes. Hideous. Hideous.

The middle room looked like he had not been able to choose between three or four different shades of "off white" and sort of slapped them all on willy-nilly as high up the walls as he could reach (alas, not a tall man).

The back room features wallpaper striped thinly in browns, rusts and yellows in a pattern that even a golfer would be ashamed to sport on his pants. Even if said golfer was Rodney Dangerfield, cavorting in Caddyshack.

So, my enabling assistant and I rounded up a small but loyal cadre of chamber volunteers, one of whom is a professional painter with lots of professional painter equipment, loaded up on gallons and gallons (and gallons and gallons) of Navajo White paint at the Empire of Hardware, and went at it on Sunday. And last night.

Thus, Vila-fication, a neologism of mine defined as "the gradual but thorough and inescable process of being transformed into Bob Vila" or some unreasonable facsimilie thereof.

For I now know how to wield a "spray shield" and why it's so very important to tape new sheets of masking paper on it with great frequency. I know why blue masking tape is allegedly superior to the stuff I've been using if its masking rather than its taping qualities are what are desired (I had assumed, perhaps naively, that blue masking tape was just another 3M marketing gimmick) (I'm still not 100% convinced that this is not the case, though). I now know how to "tape off" electrical outlets and how to run a big industrial paint sprayer and why it would have been wiser to choose a satin rather than an eggshell finish to cover all the stripes and splotches and paint-sucking wallpaper – now that it's too late.

But it's all worth it, right? Because it's going tobe a very bright and pretty place to work when we get all moved in and stuff. Right?

Because I'll still have an assistant at the end of all of this, Right? Since it was her idea? Right?


*World famous due to the popular Gyrating Bhtch tune of the same name which celebrates the restaurant.

Monday, October 14, 2002

CIVILIZATION HAS ARRIVED, or Another Reason to Shop at Home

After years of suffering on the part of Saratoga’s womenfolk, who had to make pilgrimages of 42 or 76 or even some 120 miles in order to obtain certain (ahem) unmentionable necessities, at long last our cries de couer have been heard, our aching need satisfied.

It is once again possible to buy panties in downtown Saratoga!

How is this possible? What chain of events has led to this, our deliverance?

We now possess that acme of civilization, that hallmark of high life, that badge of the bon ton, a dollar store.

A dollar store! Here in Saratoga! Why, we’re, like, a real town now.

And panties aren’t even the most exciting thing on offer there (though some of my less high-minded readers might beg to differ with me). All sorts of odd, off-brand items... dental floss, rain ponchos, flashlight batteries, wrapping paper, school supplies (in teenager-preferred neon hues), trouser socks, ground ginger, mylar balloons (how does any household, even here in the hinterlands, get by without a ready supply of mylar balloons?), scented candles, toy pistols, stinky lipsticks, outrĂ© kitchen gadgets... all sorts of odd items indeed are on offer here, for just a dollar each.

This place has got to be fixin'’ to piss off pretty much every other retail outlet in the valley, with the possible exception of the lumber yard, in other words. But never fear: I may now walk over to the dollar store to stock up on, e.g. curry powder, but if I want meat to go with it I still have to go to Tad’s Grocery. I can get, e.g. very cheap panty hose at the dollar store, but I still have to go to -- oops! bad example -- Laramie to get dress shoes to wear with them. I am likely to turn to the dollar store for e.g., cheap and ugly giftwrap and accessories, but I’m still probably going to mosey over to Laura M (for mom) or Empire Of Hardware (for dad) for the birthday/anniversary/whatever presents which said giftwrap will adorn. Maybe. I’m still a shitty gift-wrapper and tend to rely on the lovely ladies at EOH to festoon the latest skilsaw or whatever with risible, rippable paper.

In other words, I think there’s still plenty of custom to go around, as my friends in retail probably already know (most of my friends in retail have been here long enough to know better than to gnash their teeth at a little cut-rate competition. Far better to focus that free-floating ill will with much greater ultimate purpose and impact on Wal Mart and its ilk. Far better.

(Oh, and by the way – yes, this store has in fact joined the chamber of commerce, putting up no fight at all when my Enabling Assistant and I crashed the gates there on Friday to extort the protection money/finder’s fee commonly known as chamber dues)

I, for one, am happy to see the thing here, if for no other reason than there’s one fewer commercial building standing empty downtown. The fact that the joint is become quite a magnet for teenagers with time on their hands, and that the proprietor thereof (wife of a former high school principal) knows how to deal with such creatures, is an added plus.

As is the fact that the place does, indeed, stock panties, panties, panties in all shapes, sizes and colors, right here in Saratoga.

Now if only someone will start selling bras...

(Nota bene: There has, in fact, been another establishment in Saratoga who for several years has in fact offered a small selection of women’s underwear for sale, that being the feed store up on the hill. However, they’re a) somewhat off the beaten path, being located in what amounts to a spot zone of commercial land right in the middle of a big residential district at the end of a dead-end street and b) not someplace that tourists and newcomers readily think of when the thought is of women’s underthings. Plus, c) even when such a thought occurs, it occasionally proves difficult to convince tourists and newcomers that the underthings on offer consist of neither full-body red Union suits nor something hacked out of burlap and tied on with a leather thong [tourists do entertain quaint notions about our little town, o yes]. But of course d) this web page is occasionally given, despite its author’s best efforts to the contrary, to flights of fancy that, occasionally, amount to outright exaggeration, if not lies for recreational effect, and this may well have been the case here. The author does not often combat her very natural storyteller’s impulse towards recreational stretching of the truth when a magnificent rhetorical effect is the desired aim, and if a slavish adherence to the facts and just the facts is what you’re seeking, well, what are you wasting your time on this website for? Go find something productive to do, like washing your windows? Or washing my windows? Or fixing my leaky faucet, the drip, drip, dripping of which causes subtle but warping effects on my personality, thus driving me to escape into my vivid and weird imagination and thus into exaggeration and fabrication of a caliber not seen anywhere except, well, here at LIANT? What was my point again? There probably wasn’t one anyway).