My grandfather and a colleague

My grandfather and a colleague were on a business trip in western Pennsylvania, driving across the state in a Studebaker with the windows rolled down. When they stopped for gas, my grandfather glanced at the map on the gas station wall, and noticed a 1,000-acre buffalo ranch about a hundred miles ahead. He got back in the car.

About twenty minutes later, he stuck his head out the window and sniffed. “Huh!” he said, puzzled. He sniffed again. “Huh!”

“What?” his friend asked him.

“I thought I smelled… no, it couldn’t be.”

What? What is it?”

“Well, it’s funny. I thought I smelled… buffalo!”

His friend laughed at him, and again several times during the next three hours as my grandfather continued to stick his head out the window, sniff the air, and knit his brows. “It’s buffalo, I’m almost sure of it.”

Finally, they crested a hill, and my grandfather earned a legendary and unearned reputation as the keenest tracker and sharpest nose in Mar-Tile’s stable of floor covering salesman. Spread out below them across the coal-mining hills was a colossal herd of prarie buffalo, imported to Pennsylvania by a livestock speculator.

Cleverness is a virtue on my mom’s side of the family. Christmas presents are disguised using elaborately-devised countermeasures. So I always prized this story as an example of inspired Baldwin bullshit-ery, until I just realized: who puts brand new 1,000-acre buffalo ranches on the gas station map?

My grandfather and a colleague

In re: the post below,

In re: the post below, Kate and I discovered the BEST STORE IN NEW YORK yesterday, called Holland and Holland. Seven floors of khakhi safari clothes, all of them screaming wordlessly in a a nasal Brit accent: “Towel wallah! Come here and sponge my jodphurs!” Someday, when I discover that I have a brain cloud and I only have 30 days left to live and a rich tycoon offers me a million dollars to jump into a volcano, Holland and Holland is where I will go to purchase the entire traveling outfit, including the shooting jacket, bush hat, and magnificent steamer trunks.

The main sales representative looked like a Thuggee assasin in a tight turtleneck and camel-hair blazer, and followed us from floor to floor, fingering something in his breast pocket (probably an ivory blowgun) There were Welsh knee socks that you wear with your calf-height gumboots, and green plaid walking suits that end at the knee.

And, I’m sure, lots of combs for your handlebar mustache.

As Kate and I were walking out, all five of the sales staff clustered around the first-floor desk. We were the only people in the multi-storey showroom, and one of the staff made the Ferris Bueller sound: “chick-a-chick-ahhhh“. Obviously, I have to keep going back to this store, so I can have some kind of giant Eighties-movie mistaken-identity spy adventure. With safari suits and volcanoes.

In re: the post below,

I’m much better now. Finals

I’m much better now. Finals are over, and life is calmer than it was. Kate and I went to Jonathan Stern and Francine Stern (nee: Millman)’s wedding on Saturday at the Americas Society on Park Avenue, and it was wonderful. I got to be an usher and wear a tux — Francine had decreed that the ushers should wear vests, not cummerbunds, and I discovered that the vest is God’s gift to those who don’t have 32-inch waistlines. Hurrah! Kate and I danced a lot, walked up and down marble carpeted staircases arm in arm, et cetera. Then we came home to West Chester, and I mowed the lawn, so all in all I’m feeling like I’ve got the best of both worlds, like some sort of groovy philosopher king. Or like the 13-year-old who isn’t used to shaving yet; Mike the neighbor tells me that the joy of mowing the lawn gets old fast. I dunno about that, though; I can always experiment with making MLB-style outfield stripes.

Really good news! Kate has her own Blog! She told me she got tired of chastising me gently when I take a normal, everyday event, add pirates, and turn it into Giant Caricature Story, especially when she’s one of the Giant Caricatures, so now she has a forum to say that no, in fact the guy behind the counter of Holland and Holland did not look like a Thuggeee assassin in a James Bond movie, and no, he did not finger a carved bone-white poison dart blowgun in his vest pocket while we looked at the chukka boots. Actually, she wouldn’t say that, because those were, in fact, her comments upon our discovery of the seven-storey handlebar-mustache, gum-boot, and safari-suit emporium on 57th street.

Deep breath. So, without further ado, here’s Kate’s Blog.

I’m much better now. Finals

Friday was the last day

Friday was the last day of my assignment to Bridgespan, and my last multi-day trip to Boston. On Friday morning, the team gave our final presentation, which went well, and they presented me with the consultant’s equivalent of the black roadie jacket: the clear lucite block with a “Bridgespan Group” 5×7 card embedded inside. It’s actually my first lucite thank-you block; my friend Kieran Downes at [My employer] worked with the Consumer Cards Services Group at [A client], which seemed to crank them out right and left. And the Blue team? Some of them are able to build Lego castles with their stacks of glossy product-launch cubes. Me, I was working for Interactive Enterprise Development, the Jesuit branch of [A client]. The upside? Unlimited power to make and enforce rules*. The downside? No lucite blocks.

So, plastic trophy in hand, I climbed onto the Acela Express at Back Bay for the last time and headed for Philly for the weekend. Where I joined the ranks of an organization as old as human habitation, as venerable as the mighty sweep of civilization itself: I joined the hoary ranks of the Back Yard Lawn Fighters. I borrowed Kate’s dad’s 4HP Lawn Boy walk-behind mower and, nodding hello to the other suburban men returning from the hedge-trimmer sharpening shop with their weapons rolled in brown butcher paper, I yanked the starter cord and rejoined a battle I haven’t fought in fifteen years.

The lawn kicked my ass, of course, and my little 4hp steed was whinnying for mercy before I had trimmed a tithe of the bushy quarter-acre. But I stained my running shoes an honorable shade of green, and I learned some tricks, too (if you pull the lawnmower backwards, instead of pushing it, the clippings escape more easily, and the mower runs faster.) And I formed comradeships with other soldiers in the unit, including Jerry, the grizzled veteran next door who told me all about the “Weed-n-seed” fertilizer that the previous owners had primed the lawn with the previous year: “Yep, in twenty years here, I’ve never seen the grass grow that fast!” He was a wellspring of encouragement: “As long as it keeps raining, that lawn’s gonna keep growing! You’ll have to mow it every day!” That’s right, old man, the Hun is just on the other side of that hill, and every one of them is seven feet tall and shaves with a blowtorch. Maybe so, but wait’ll the Hun sees the size of the lawnmower I’m gonna get.

So I enjoyed myself immensely. Kate was in New York at my friend Francine Millman’s bachelorette party, downing drinks at the Tribeca Grand named after the seven deadly sins** and dancing at Sugar with Moby, and I had a ball reverting to my pre- New York “Country Bear Jamboree” mode. I even re-strung my banjo, now that I have a house and yard to play it in without risking gunfire through the apartment wall.

The challenge, of course, is the commute. If I make the round-trip to New York every weekday, I’ll leave the house at 6:15 AM and get home at either 8 PM or 10 PM, depending on which afternoon train I catch at Penn station. It’s possible to do; there are three people in Exton that I’ve seen do it for the past two years. And if you buy a monthly pass, it’s about 30 bucks per round trip, which is about a third of what I was spending on rent. Aaand, with my wireless card, I can work on the train; (I’m on the train now.) In fact, I seem to be more productive on the train than I am in the office. So I know it’s possible, but I’ll just have to see if it’s do-able. I might get a room in the city to stay for a couple of nights during the week. And I probably need to get a cheap used car for trips to and from the station; I rode my motorcycle this morning, and the weather was cold and rainy. Though I think it’s hip to wear a Thomas Pink shirt under a Belstaff jacket on a tiny Japanese starter bike. Plus, I get to see the dogwoods in bloom every day. Which is wonderful.

* Over the website style guide. Let me rephrase the statement above: unlimited power to make and enforce rules concerning the way the horizontal rules extended to the right side of the screen, or not.

**“Sloth” was a martini with blue-cheese stuffed olives. I don’t know about the others.

Friday was the last day

What with so much itinerant

What with so much itinerant wandering between Boston, Philly, and (occasionally New York), I’ve been bothered by the fact that my webcam has been showing a mostly empty chair at [My employer]. It’s the principle of the thing, really — if your website purports to show a porthole into the poster’s world, it should jolly well show a porthole, not an old picture of where the poster isn’t.

So I went wireless! I attached my Logitech webcam to my laptop, and am uploading real-time pictures of a bleary self on Acela Express 2190 from NYC to Boston. My rig now includes a laptop with a stubby wireless antenna and an eyeball-cam on a little tripod. I haven’t been this nerdy since sixth grade, when I attached a pedometer to my “Doctor Who” baseball hat and made it on to Channel 10 as the poster boy for the Hill School Computer Camp.

Hopefully, this time around, no wedgies will ensue. Though some of the ex-jock bond broker guys are giving me the hairy eyeball. Oh well, if I do get wedgie-d, at least it’ll make for good webcam.

What with so much itinerant