The Lone Ranger: Part Two

This is a story from more than a quarter century ago. It happened in 1991.

It was the last time I put on a costume at Halloween, and one of the very few times that I have done so since I became too old to go door-to-door in the quest for chocolate. (Note: I still accept chocolate, and most sweet things, when offered.)

My costume that day: white levis, white shirt, black half mask, a pair of white handled cap pistols…and the dreaded cowboy hat.
Why, you might ask, was that my costume…especially when you consider where I wore it: to the weekly management meeting at the tax software development office of the largest accounting firm in the world. {Part I detailed (with probably too much detail) how I got to the table that day.}
It was in Sarasota, FL. The meeting would be chaired by a fellow we’ll call Frick. The bully in the room was an alcoholic hillbilly and his right-hand man, that we’ll call Frack. Three years down the road Frick would be fired and I’d get his job. Frack headed back to the hills of West Virginia and wasn’t seen again after getting axed.

I was one of two managers on tax software we’ll call “TD” that Andersen developed for corporate tax departments. Frick and Frack hated everything about TD….and did anything they could to treat our teams like redheaded stepchildren (a phrase I detest…many of my favorite people happen to be gingers!).
I had been fighting battles with Frack for a couple of years before that day 26 years ago. Neither of us woulda pissed on the other if they were on fire…
So why was I dressed like the Lone Ranger? It was Ollie’s idea.

Ollie was the other TD manager. Great guy. His product was dirt simple and small. Federal tax return. Cake.
I had the states. It was huge. Complex. An air craft carrier of a software project….

But Ollie had to endure a lot of the same grief that I did, because of being outcasts in the eyes of F&F. {He had gotten ballsier recently now that we reported to “A.M.” a partner in Chicago WHQ. Frick and Frack wouldn’t write our annual reviews…but they still held most of the office admin cards. They still could, and did, fuck with us.}

One day Ollie walks into my office and shuts the door. “There is something that we really need to do at next week’s Tuesday management meeting.”
“Yeah Ollie…what you got?”
“I’ll dress as a blind man and you come as the Lone Ranger and we’ll make a grand entrance by being a minute late and….”

“Whoa? I’m coming to work in a costume? Ollie, have you lost your fucking mind!?”
“Next week Frick&Frack say that employees can dress like it’s Halloween. No wool, silk and cotton required…anything we want. Let’s have some fun!!”

Ollie went on: “They brought in Zeus Breakerson from MICD months ago promising us project management tools and data. Not a damned deliverable yet from that windbag!! I’m still managing blind. You have even a bigger need for those tools.
Plus you are always fighting a bunch of battles and raising hell. The items you put in your weekly status report…holy shit Steve! Balls…you got ’em! You hit them with a 2 by 4 right between the eyes. You ARE the lone ranger.”
I guess I was.
Too many people are afraid for all kinds of “reasons.” Fearful to speak up. Living in fear of bullies.
The conference room at the Tuesday status meeting had a lot of scaredy cats at the table.
The weekly status for all 30 projects in the office of several hundred employees were submitted on Monday and assembled into a package that went to all the attendees of the weekly management meeting, plus to at least a dozen Andersen partners in Chicago, NY, Seattle, LA and Milwaukee.

One of the 5 sections of the weekly report was titled “Management Issues.” Most weeks, 29 of the reports said “None” no matter how many actual issues there might be. Mine was always the odd ball, with several well documented and indisputable mgmt issues.
The other 29 project managers were shocked that anybody would speak up.
I never met so many pussies in my life, scared of incurring the wrath of a drunken West Virginia hillbilly. Sad.
Ollie & I took a 3 hour lunch that next Monday and went on the quest for our costumes. At the first stop we got him a cane and some dark sunglasses. He was set.

Finding me a pair of white handled cap pistols was a snap. Surprisingly the black half-mask was challenging.
The hat was the real challenge. I hate wearing a cap of any sort, other than a “sock cap.” I always hated cowboy hats even 40-plus years before I met the franchisor in 2001 who I dubbed “the faux cowboy.” (NOTE: I was a rabble rouser franchisee too, getting my name on Gordo’s “hit list” for most of my 8 years in the hair-cutting business. Stories there too….)

Before our lunchtime shopping trip I told Ollie that “maybe I should dress as Don Quixote instead?” Unlike the Lone Ranger I didn’t win every battle…not even close.
Here’s how that Tuesday went down:
At noon I closed my office door and got into character: all white, except for my black half mask and black shoes. Then the two of us sat in my office “prepping.” More accurately you’d call it plotting…and laughing our asses off.

At 1:01 pm…a minute after the door to the conference room had closed…Ollie entered, tapping the cane. “I can’t see where I am or where I’m going…I’m trying to manage, but I’m blind!! Without some help, how am I gonna get to where I need to be? Can the god of the sky come to my rescue? Zeus I call on you. Oh great god…help me!”

I entered midway thru his spiel and helped him to a seat.
I let the room know that the Masked Man had arrived. I said something about bad men running rough shod over others, and that it was going to stop. As I laid my two “guns” on the table I said: “These are loaded. I don’t want to hear any lies or bullshit, or I’ll be using these babies.”

Immediately Frack started to run his mouth. Ollie and I had predicted that would happen. Frack hadn’t said 5 words before I was letting him have it with both barrels. “I said no bullshit….”
Pop, pop, pop, pop.

Ollie: “Ok Frick…lets get thru this weekly mgmt reporting package quickly and spend the meeting resolving management issues. Maybe Zeus here finally has an actual deliverable for us. Steve, put those sidearms down. But remain at the ready.”

I’m not sure how many times I popped a cap during the next hour. It was several. Frack was “shot” numerous times. The bully never did have a sense of humor. And if possible, disliked me even more than he had an hour earlier.
That was the most fun I had had in a long time. That first few years in Floriduh was some tough duty. But there were lots of good times. Lots of good people. I’m lucky to still call many of them friends, a quarter of a century later.

Ollie had a great idea. I had an absolute blast, “shooting” at a bully.
The partner in Chicago WHQ who I reported to thought it was funny too….he called within an hour after the meeting and we had some laughs. He wanted to make sure that Ollie and I had charged our costumes to our expense accounts.
A.M. was an Awesome boss.

Prelude to a 5 Year Meet-aversary

On October 8, 2012 I laid eyes on Shelly Drymon for the first time. Yesterday was our Five Year Meet-aversary. Life is Good.

It was not love at first sight 1,827 days ago. Maybe there is such a thing, but I have never experienced it. [I have however experienced “lust at first sight”….and I still do. Shelly is OK with that. Me too. 🙂 ]

It didn’t take me long to become smitten with Shelly. I’m pretty sure that it took her longer to fall for me.
She was exactly what I was looking for:
1. A Playmate. Someone to do things with.
2. What Jackson Browne sang about in “The Pretender”:
“…I’m gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint by number dreams
And then we’ll put our dark glasses on
And we’ll make love until our strength is gone…”

Shelly and I met at a site called OkCupid. I have archived the profiles that we had there 5 years ago. (I might even share mine here someday. Maybe not.)
She says she can’t remember what she wrote, but that she has changed a lot. Shelly’s right; she has. In reading my profile again from five years ago, I don’t think I have changed all that much. But I’m probably the wrong person to judge that.
Our personal situations were quite a bit different then than now.

Shelly had just returned from a sabbatical in Colorado, learning a lot about herself and appreciating herself and her independence. There was the fellow down the street who had been her lover before she headed to Golden. She didn’t have plans to jettison him or have him or anyone else as a one-and-only.
Shelly had a job, but she wasn’t sure what would be paying the rent and buying the coffee in the future.

I had been seeing a lot of a woman who lived 40 miles away. She had been a good listener and had given me some good advice since the time we met a year earlier. When T. and I met there was lots of drama in my life. She helped me deal with that. T. & I had a lot of fun together…especially when we were naked. But she wanted a commitment, and not only wasn’t I looking for one, there were just too many differences in our interests.
I had gone on the “playmate” quest again, without telling T. When I came out of the MudLounge that night 5 years ago I had a couple of texts and a voicemail from her. I lied to her about what I had been doing. I didn’t like doing that. But I knew that I needed to move on with someone new…and so did she. (T. was married a few months later…)

I am 14 years older than Shelly. I hadn’t yet filed for divorce from my wife of 38 years when we met. When Shelly & I met, I hadn’t spoken with my ex since two days before I drove away from Tampa 16 months earlier. We still haven’t spoken. (It’s complicated.)
My age and my marital situation were problems for some of the people I “met” online. Fortunately Shelly gave me a chance. I’m lucky.

I’m pretty much an open book, and my OkCupid profile described my perspective on life and living, although it did not mention my continual quest for revelry and the high life. My profile did include my favorite line from my favorite movie (“get busy living, or get busy dying” from Shawshank Redemption) and my favorite line from a genius who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (“enjoy every sandwich”…the wisdom of Warren Zevon).

I’ve got lots of “favorite Shelly stories.” I’ll share two of them.

1. I think it was the third time that we saw each other. We were going on a picnic at Fellows Lake. I wasn’t half a mile from the apartment, headed to pick her up, and a text from Shelly came in. The text was NOT meant for me.
“I’m going on a picnic at Fellows lk with this Steve fellow. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a jerk!”
I was only a few blocks farther on when the “Ooops…LOL” text hit my inbox.
I laughed as I drove north on Fremont. We laughed when I got to her place. We laughed about it again yesterday, 5 years on.

2. Yesterday she gave me this card. I melted. I laughed. We hugged. It pretty much sums up where we’ve been and where we are.

I am one lucky guy. I’ve partnered up with someone who loves me in spite of all my quirks, someone who will let me be me, and someone who knows that when I sing along with Band of Horses on “No ones gonna love you” that I mean it….and vice verse.

I’m a very simple guy.
Sometimes things are pretty simple:
Tell the ones you love how you feel.
Don’t be stingy with your hugs.
Henry James said it best: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Be. Just Be.