Thursday, October 23, 2014

You Really Should Get an Alfa

I have had my Alfa Romeo Spider for about 5 or 6 months now. It was an impulse buy. I had only seen the car for about 30 minutes before I slapped down the cash. It literally only took that long, and one short test drive, to fall in love with this quirky little Italian. It is a perfect car. The all aluminum engine is so elegant and smooth that you would think it was running on melted velvet rather than gasoline and it has a million miles of headroom. There is an exhaust leak somewhere that makes it pop and burble on the over-run (which I love) and the wooden steering wheel is so delicate, perfectly proportioned, and deeply dished that I’m positive that if you boiled it down and drank it you would turn into a beautiful dark haired woman on a Vespa. Not to mention it is the last car that Battista "Pinin" Farina designed, so of course it is gorgeous, if not a little oddly shaped. My car is not, by any means, a show car. It has tears in the seats and the paint has seen better days, but who cares right? It is such a joy to drive. I don’t think it should even be called it a “car”; it should be called a “Converts gasoline into Italian charm” machine. And no, you philistine, it is not as fast as your wife’s Mazda 3, but that is really not the point of this car is it? Of course being Italian it has a few quirks, which those of you with a more rational mindset might find maddening. The turn signal stalk and the stalk that turns on the lights somehow, physics be dammed, manages to occupy the same space at the same time, so every time you turn a corner you end up flashing your lights. The trunk release leaver is in the doorsill and the doors, trunk, ignition, and glove box all have a different key (from the factory). There are four lights on the dash surrounding some gauges. 2 red, 1 green and 1 blue. They indicate low fuel pressure, low oil pressure, lights on, and parking brake on/low brake fluid respectively. Simple enough right? Thing is though, these lights are completely un-labeled. It is sort of like they had the intern just grab a handful of switches and gauges and throw them at the clay model and wherever they landed, that’s where they were going. It doesn’t get much more Italian that that. All this just adds up to more charm though. It gives you the feeling that getting an espresso is more important that getting your taxes done. The engine is not only smooth running but it is so good-looking, with the Alfa Romeo script stamped into the black matte cam covers, and the Italian labels (OLIO on the oil cap for example) that it is literally calming to look at. It’s no wonder they used the same engine from 1966-1994 (which as a bonus makes parts easy to find). Should you get one? Of course you should, unless you don’t like having fun. My experience with this car has been nothing but joy. I think I might be a secret Italian. And really, aren’t we all? Anyway, I need to go mop up the oil it is leaking, but hey if its not leaking its not full right? Ciao! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We Got Some Chickens

Well, I got some chickens. I do not live in the country, I don’t have a lot of land, and I never thought in my entire life that I would ever, EVER, own chickens. But here I am, with chickens. I guess you should never say never right? I’m still not really sure how it happened. One minute I’m a happy city dweller, the next I’m an urban farmer. It was my wife Rachel, I believe, that had said something about keeping backyard chickens after reading an article in Sunset or some other pseudo trendy magazine, and then I think I found an article about the manliness and heritage of keeping them. (I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff) Either way, I now have three.
            We both decided to build a chicken coop instead of getting each other some cheesy gift for our fourth wedding anniversary and shortly after that construction on our coop started in early July. Off I went to the Home Depot to get some wood, screws and other materials and off Rachel went to a feed store off of 4th street to get us three little baby chicks. We were doing this. As I came home with a collection of 2x4s, 4x4s, and plywood strapped to the roof rack of my old Volvo, my wife arrived home with a small, brown paper bag. “What’s in the bag?” I said as she was getting out of her car. “Baby chicks!” she replied with equal parts triumphant enthusiasm and wavering confidence. “Really?” I said, “they just give them to you in a brown paper bag?” “Apparently.” she replied, as perplexed as I was. I pondered the irony that newly hatched baby chicks come in the same plain brown paper bag that they leave the butcher shop in. But you know what? Now that I think about it, how else would they come? After much thought, and with many names thrown out such as ‘Laura Egg-ls Wilder’, ‘Goldie Hen’, and further painful amalgamations, we decided on Coco, Zelda, and Isadora; Chanel, Fitzgerald, and Duncan respectively. (Famous flappers, get it?!?!) I am currently in the process of making Isadora a long flowing scarf…    
            So now we had our chicks. They were happily growing in our guest bathroom’s bathtub under a 125-watt heat lamp. Which meant I had to get started on the coop. Being a modern American, or perhaps just being a modern man, I have this sickness where I take a simple problem, (build a small and functional backyard chicken coop) and design an overly complex solution to said problem, (Design New Mexico’s own chicken Taj Mahaal.) And damned if I don’t have the nicest chicken coop in the greater Mesa Antigua neighborhood, albeit the only chicken coop in our neighborhood.
            Now that the chicks were happily growing into teenage chickendome in our bathtub, and the coop-mahaal ready to go, the only thing left to worry about was our dogs, Annie and Enzo. Like most of you, our dogs are an extension of our family. We love them to death. Annie is part Border terrier, part whatever else. And Enzo is, well, we have no Idea what he is.  “A fourth generation Mutt,” is what I call him. He’s a 60lb sack of cuddles. Even our vet is stumped, every time we see her she says, “I just have no idea.” These two have been baffled since they day the chicks arrived. Normally sweet and good-natured, the arrival of the chicks flipped some sort of primeval switch in their brains. They spent hours pining at the bathroom door, pleading for “just one taste”. Infatuated with the noises coming from beyond the void. They would be at the bathroom door when I left for work and be at the bathroom door when I returned. Never ceasing to monitor the unwanted, and probably tasty, interlopers in their home.
One night we were having a fire in our backyard fire pit, about one to two weeks into our chicken adventure. (At this point the chicks were still in the towel-and-newspaper lined bathtub) We heard a high-pitched shriek coming from the other side of the yard. A shriek that was reminiscent of how a baby chick might sound if an Enzo had one in his mouth. We both bolted up from our chairs and ran to investigate. Our fears had been confirmed. Here was Enzo, ears back with a look of shame and guilt on his face, a foot or two in front of him lying on the grass was our beloved Coco. Understandably my wife and I were very upset, we had not closed the bathroom door quite enough and Enzo, being the opportunist that he is, saw his chance and took it. Now we had a lifeless little chick. I scooped her mangled body up in my hands and smoothed her feathers. “Chirp” we heard the little chick say. We were stunned, couldn’t believe it, this chirp soon found its way to a full-blown wail. The poor little chick was dazed but totally fine. Coco is the luckiest bird alive.
About a week later I got a knock on the door and answered to find my neighbor, Cindy with something wrapped up in a towel, held tightly to her chest. I immediately feared the worst. The look on Cindy’s face was one of gravity. “I found her in our backyard,” she said “the cat had her.” Coco had gotten out of the coup somehow and over the wall into our neighbors yard. How she did this at 4 weeks old I have not a clue. Our neighbors have 3 LARGE dogs and two very mischievous cats. I don’t think I would have survived jumping the wall. I took the towel and unwrapped it expecting a tragedy. As I peeled back the top layer of towel Coco’s head popped out and she was looking around. After a thorough examination we realized that Coco was unharmed. Luckiest. Bird. Ever.

I love my little lady lumps. (That’s what I call the chickens) If you were ever thinking about getting a coup and some chickens here is my advice, DO IT. They are sort of hilarious and they are a ton of fun. They are low maintenance, and they actually earn their keep with eggs. They produce garden compost and are prolific bug hunters.  Albuquerque is really very progressive in the area of backyard livestock; most cities don’t allow it at all. Take advantage of it and have a chicken adventure!        

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Short But Accurate Day in the Life of a 4th Grader in Ohio, Circa 1972

About me, By Carroll Owen.

My name is Carroll, with two R’s and two L’s. Not like the girls’ name, which only has one R and one L. I don’t really like my name because my uncles wife is also name Carol, (on my dads side) and she smells like Pall-Malls. There is also this girl in my class (also named carol) who, I’m almost positive, has the worst breath in the whole world. My dad says “If you’re going to make a name for yourself you’d better have a good name to begin with!” I don’t think it’s a good name because it’s a girls name even with the extra R’s and L’s, and I’m not a girl. My dad says there are plenty of famous men named Carroll, but I can only think of three. Carroll O’Conner who played Archie in the old re-runs we watch on Friday nights, Carroll Spinney, the guy who plays big bird on TV, (I see his name in the credits). and Carroll Shelby, who does something with cars. That’s who I was named after. My dad calls him a great American hero. He was a race car driver I think. There is also Carol King who I thought was a boy from her picture on the cover of my mom’s old albums but she’s not. My mom doesn’t know I look at them when she’s out to the store, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell her. My dad likes cars. In fact he likes them so much he sells them. Sometimes my dad will pick me up from school and let me sit in his chair as he waits for customers out front. I like to pretend I’m in charge and everyone has to answer to me and no one can make fun of my name because if they do they are going to get shit-canned. (my uncle frank says that a lot, I don’t know what it means) If my parents wanted to name me after a great American hero why couldn’t they have picked someone with a cooler name like Columbus or Clark Kent? I think I will name my kid Columbus. We live in a house with three rooms and a kitchen and two bathrooms. I like it. Some of my friends have bigger houses, and I wish we could too, that way I could get a dog. My mom says we don’t have room for one. My mom also says I should be a doctor or a lawyer but I don’t really like my doctor very much, he smells like beef stew, so I don’t think I will be one. I would rather be a garbage man because I think it would be fun to ride on the back of a truck. My mom gets mad when I say that though so I just tell her I want to be a lawyer.

The End

            “Carroll,” The teacher said in front of the class, “can I talk to you at my desk for a second.”
“Um, sure.”  Said Carroll. It’s only the second day of fourth grade and I’m already in trouble, he thought to himself
“Carroll,” said Ms. Clark as he neared her desk, ”its about your essay. You can’t use language like shit-canned in my class.”
Ms. Clark lived alone in her 3-bedroom farmhouse out on Idalia road. It was her fathers and her grandfathers before that. She was never married and inherited the house and the 22 acre parcel where it sat, bordering the McKinney soybean Farm. They had offered to buy the land and the house many times to which she always replied, “not interested.” Even as year after year the price went up. She could not bear the thought of the house being torn down and an equipment shed being put up in its place. She felt home there. She felt, somehow, not alone. The three generations of her family that had lived there showed their presence in the well-worn kitchen counter, for which countless cabbages and potatoes had been cut and family meals prepared for hungry stomachs. In the marks at which every year on Easter Sunday, her father lined her and her 4 sisters up and marked their height against the banister. In the squeaky gate which her father had meant to fix but just never got around to it and then forgot about all together. All her sisters had grown and married except Ms. Clark. And but for the grace of god she would never get married herself and never have children of her own. That’s why she became a schoolteacher. And she loved each and every child as though they were her own. She did not own any cats.

    The students in Ms. Clark’s 4th grade class were to write a short essay on themselves and their families for their first nights homework. Something she always did, though the kids hated it saying things like, “homework on the first day! How dreadful.” And “this Ms. Clark is really a chops buster!” She just liked to get to know a little about her kids so she could tailor her lessons to help them a little better. It was also, however subconsciously, a way for her to feel better about her own situation. Kids will always tell you what the parents don’t want you to know. And after 23 years of teaching at Lincoln Elementary she had convinced herself that it might be, after all, easier and more pleasant to be alone.

“I’m sorry Ms. Clark.” Said Carroll. “My uncle says he has to shit-can people all the time. Every day even.”

“Well, in our class we only use language we would use in front of our mothers.”

“Ok, but, my uncle says that in front of my mother all the time. I wont use it anymore anyway”

Frank Morgan was Carroll’s uncle, married to his mother’s sister. He owns a shipping corporation that uses the lakes and canals in and around Lake Erie and Lake Michigan to ship any number of goods and supplies from lumber to grain anywhere in the great lakes region. He was a wealthy man; a fact that he doesn’t necessarily bring up and at the same time doesn’t let any one forget. He lives in Ottawa Hills just outside of Toledo, which was about 51 miles away as the crow flies, in a grand old Eastlake Victorian, which he had redone to the most modern specifications he could without ruining the grandeur of the old estate.  He was frequently in town due to the port being in north Sandusky and often took Carroll out for ice cream in one of the big Cadillac’s he was so fond of. “Nothing like American steel.” He would tell Carroll as they drove down the road to Millie’s Ice cream parlor. Carroll’s grandmother used to tell him that you can judge a man by his watch and his shoes.  Frank had a much nicer watch than his father.         
“Thank you. Back to your desk please.” Said Ms. Clark.

However hard she tried not to, Ms. Clark had her favorites. And Carroll, she thought to herself, might just be one of them for this year.

Carroll had gone to the Our Lady of Peace Catholic School for the last two years upon his mothers urging. Private schools were all the rage and not wanting her son to be left out, but more precisely wanting something to brag about to Jenny down the street who’s kids have gone to private schools since kindergarten, she sent Carroll off. He spent second and third grade under the strict monarchy of catholic nuns, often with bruised knuckles from rulers and sore fingers from the punishment of having to copy word for word entire pages out of the bible. Punishments which were administered for some great sins as absolutely innocent as dropping pebbles in a puddle to watch the ripples. It was just enough time for young Carroll’s self esteem and view of God and religion to be so horribly skewed that at the young age of eight he was thinking of being an atheist, or in his words possibly…  “Jewish so I can work in Hollywood.” 
Catholic School was a terrible place, a place like hell, except they preach that to you every day. The irony is they are trying to prevent hell by promising it. Carroll was transferred back to Lincoln Elementary at the beginning of his fourth grade year, so he didn’t have many, if any, friends that he remembered.
            As recesses and lunches came and went, Carroll sat by himself eating the Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich his mom packed him. It was always hard for him to make friends, which was odd because he was so easy to talk to. One Tuesday about two weeks into the school year, after he had eaten his soggy bottomed PB&J sandwich and was moving on to the animal crackers in a fold-top plastic sack, another boy came over from his class and sat down in front of him at the stationary picnic tables in the west of the schoolyard.

“Hi.” He said tentatively.
“Hi.” Said Carroll almost with too much enthusiasm.
“A bunch of the other boys are going to go play kick ball behind the library, you want come?”
“Sure.” Said Carroll, and he promptly offered him a hippo from his sack of animal crackers, the choicest of all the animals.

“I’m Ryan, I’m in your class.”

“I’m Carroll, with two R’s and two L’s.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This really is terrible. Am I a bad person?

Teenagers. They are just terrible aren’t they? If you are, right now, currently plagued by being a teenager, I have some news for you. Nobody likes you. Not even your parents. (maybe a little bit your parents) Who among you has ever met a teenager and thought, “wow, his insight and intellect just blew me away?” I see maybe one hand. Teenager=prick, its just the truth, I don’t care if you’re the nicest teenager ever, you’re a pick. Hell, teenagers don’t even like teenagers. Its ok, I was a prick too, we all were. I think you might need to be a prick during those years. Maybe it allows you to emerge, like a butterfly if you will, into the land of the useful. The teenage years are sort of an “adulthood trial run”. You’re given a little room to make some decisions. If you get them right, good job! If not, well, you’re an idiot teenager. Sometimes the decisions are much larger than any teenager should ever be expected to make, most of the time they are trivial. You think you’re an adult and can make rational, mindful life decisions but its not until you actually are an adult that you realize, “I was a colossal narrow minded cock for the better part of 9 years.” (I’m counting 21 and under as teenager) the problem happens when you emerge from of the cauldron of teenagedom physically but not mentally. Sadly this happens more often than not. Why does this happen you ask? I don’t know, I’m blaming Obama, but really something needs to happen. I think I have a solution. We need to keep a constant reminder in front of our teenagers that they actually are terrible human beings and they have a lot of work ahead of them before they will be accepted members of society. Right this very moment, as I am typing these words, a youth is walking past our backyard singing as loud as she can. “She’s just being young!” you say, “Let her enjoy herself!”. Here is the thing, she is a terrible singer. Horrible. It sounds like what I imagine a wood chipper would sound like if you were feeding a steady stream of feral cats through it’s business end. Now see, nobody will ever put there foot down and say, “sweetheart, I love you but your singing sounds like pigs humping.” She is going to be one of those awful people on Americas Got Idols or whatever who are just atrociously bad singers but they don’t know it, just completely delusional. When she’s singing at the auditions she thinks “dayumn. Whitney better watch out” when everyone else just thinks, “how did her parents let this happen?” Humiliation is the key to the success of your children and this country. Humiliate your kids daily! All this “you can be anything you want to be” junk is ridiculous. Your son is not going to be a doctor, his thumbs barely oppose. I think it should be “you can be anything you want to be, within reason.”

Monday, March 4, 2013

Do or Do Not

I have recently come to the conclusion that life should be lived with dignity. This sounds like a no brainer. You might say, “of course it should be. Everyone knows that.” But why then do we constantly accept the status quo and settle for the lives we don’t want? Are we not stripping ourselves of the dignity we deserve by not doing the best we can at all times? The answer is risk. It’s risky to put yourself out there. Here is how Paul Arden puts it. “Risks are a measure of people. People who don’t take them are trying to preserve what they have.” If you are unhappy with the way your life is going why would you want to preserve what you have? Here is the thing though; people who do take risks often end up having more. The other thing is that people are afraid to make mistakes. But I give you these words, without being too cliché, from Benjamin Franklin; “ I haven’t failed, I have had 10,000 ideas that didn’t work.” What successful people realize is that failures preconditions to success. False starts are rungs of the ladder. One important thing to note is that success does not equal money. Success equals Living a life with dignity and respect for your self and earning respect from your community. Wealth is often a side effect of this. Another thing to note is that When Ben Franklin said this; he didn’t just have the ideas. He went after them and found out first hand for himself that they would not work. You could have all the ideas in the world but if you don’t set out after them it doesn’t do you one bit of good.

I started MC[Squared] Graphic Design back in February of last year. It didn’t work out as planned. I have plenty of excuses as to why not but the reality is that I half-assed it. I was working part time for the paint store and part time for myself. I was lazy, and as much as it pains me to say it, I was not diligent in my efforts. It is no other fault but mine why it didn’t work. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson (or at least the words of whoever writes his lines) “Why half-ass two things when you can whole-ass one thing?” One thing I have noticed about successful people is that they chose a path and they stick with it. They do one thing and they do it well and diligently. They make it work. They are not constantly looking for something bigger and better to come along. They are the architects of their own lives. This is the type of man I want to be and the first step to that end is realizing my own faults, way to many too many to list, and go about changing those faults one at a time.

The vision of where you want to be is one of the greatest assets you have. So here is where I want to be. I want to own a multifaceted creative "commons". I want it to be boundless. I want to do everything from furniture design to commercials, logo design and branding to social media management and creative integration. I want it to be a space where my employees can feel free to be as creative as they possibly can and where failure is encouraged as a means to success. I want to create something bold. A place where clients know they can come and get spectacular results for whatever their needs are. The only way to get there is to start at the bottom and make it work. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” And he’s right. There is no try.