Memory Quilt: Part 3 of ?

In 1989 we moved to Sarasota…and became parents.
I was now managing tax software projects for AA&Co.
Same company. Different job. Different culture (or lack therof…).

It’s a doody (1989) 

I have no idea who gave me this tee shirt, or when I got it. But it was before Joseph arrived on 12/30/89.
We had been married 14 years when out-of-the-blue Paula announced that she wanted to have a child. I was surprised. Shocked is more accurate. I was 40; she was 37.
We decided to keep it a secret in case there were complications.
And boy-oh-boy, did we keep it a secret!!

There were a couple of going away parties in Portland that May. It was her first trimester. She didn’t have a drink, and a few people noticed and commented. But that was easy to explain: she was my designated driver. Only a handful of people knew what was on the horizon.

We didn’t tell our parents until after Thanksgiving.
Keeping it a secret from them had a reason at first: we wanted to ride all the roller coasters at Six Flags that May of 89, and we knew that it would freak out both of our mothers if they knew she was pregnant. (The doctor had given her the go ahead.)
Then it became a joke. We would laugh about what we’d say to them when they “forgot” his birthday.

When I finally broke the news, my Mom didn’t think it was all that funny.
“Mom, I’ve got some news…we’re gonna have a baby!”
“Oh, oh, oh…that is wonderful. When?”
“In just over a month…” was greeted with stony silence.
She got over time.

The delivery didn’t go as planned. Her water broke before sun up. She insisted that I go to work anyway.
Early afternoon she called and said it was time to head to the hospital. I had a boom box and a few mix tapes for the birthing room.
Paula spent the next few hours on a gurney in the hall, attached to some monitors. All the birthing rooms were taken. In fact all the rooms in the maternity ward were occupied. It was awful.
She was moved to a traditional room for awhile, and finally to a birthing room. She dilated to 4 cm and no more…for hours!! At some point she decided she had had enough of this “natural child birth” and gave permission for an epidural.
It never happened.
Before the anesthesiologist arrived, one of the monitors went berserk: the fetal heart rate was crashing.

They spirited her off for an emergency C section, leaving me standing in the hall. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours. My mind was racing….I was scared shitless.
An hour later I saw them both. She was asleep. He had 10 fingers, 10 toes and a gleam in his eye.
It was all good.

She had to stay a couple of nights. I snuck a bottle of champagne into the hospital for new year’s eve, On the drive home, after I struggled to get him into the car seat for the very first time, was when it really hit us: our lives had changed. And we had no idea what we were doing!!

Seventeen months later Caroline showed up. Straight to the birthing room. Vaginal delivery. 10/10/gleam.
Two kids in diapers is great fun, eh?

AATTG Beach Party (1993)
This was the first office-wide beach party in Sarasota for AATT-whatever.
My Tax Director team had been having “release parties” since I first transferred from Portland in ‘89. We had some fun times at a tiki hut bar at Azure Tides Resort.
The party at Nokomis Beach was OK…but couldn’t compete with those flings at Azure Tides.
I got this tank top because I was on the beach party committee.  

Stressed out in South Carolina (1995) 

We took a family road-trip to Myrtle Beach.
I kept getting sucked back into what was happening…or not happening…at the office.
E-mails. Phone calls. Conference calls.
We stopped somewhere in S.C. for potty breaks and snacks.
This was before cell phones. (Thank you baby Jesus!!!)
I called into the office on the incoming Watts line. (Remember pay phones and Watts lines??)
The three of them came out of the 7-11 with this tee for me.
I loved it.
I still do.
This tee had been threadbare for awhile, tucked away in a box like most of the shirts in my memory quilt.
Now it is where it belongs.

1041 Summer Project (1995)
Things were always changing in SRQ.
AATT-whatever had a new name. Again.
I had a new job: Director of Development for the Individual market.
My years of reporting to Chicago were over.
My direct boss was in the same building as me, but there was still this crazy “matrix management” nonsense.
My involvement with this project was minimal: get them the staff and the tools they needed, and get out of the way.
The team rewarded me with a tee shirt and a project that delivered quality and delivered it on time.

Tee shirt gap
I left AATT-whatever in 1996 and moved back to Portland.
No tees from my time at Stockamp & Associates. But there are some denim shirts that might make Quilt #2, if/when there is one.
No tees from my time at Jackson Hewitt.
I burned any article of clothing that would ever make me think of Sport Clips.
The shirts from years beginning with a two are up next time….

Memory Quilt: Part 2 of ?

Up next: the Andersen years in PDX.

AA &Co. doors (1982)

In May, 1982 I started in the tax division of the Portland, Orygun office of Arthur Anderson & Co. It was the biggest of the then “Big 8.” AA&Co. was born in 1913 and expired on August 31, 2002 after being convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron.

I was 33 years old in May of ’82 with a “post-bacc” in accounting from Oregon State University.
The “typical” AA&Co. hire was fresh out of college, 22 years old and starting in the audit division, or just out of law school or a Masters of Tax program and assigned to the tax division.
I was older. My course of study was non-traditional.
And my overall GPA, including my 3 years at a junior college where I amassed a 2.3, was not up to snuff by AA&Co. standards. Not to mention that before campus interviews in the fall of 1981 I didn’t own a suit or tie, had shoulder length hair, a scraggly beard, wore mostly denim and tie died tees. And even though I had “slowed down” I still drank lots of homemade wine, and smoked lots of dope.

I wasn’t an officer in Beta Alpha Psi or Alpha Kappa Psi. I wasn’t even a member.
People at the school of business and in the career center were shocked when they saw my name on the sign up sheet for interviews with the public accounting firms.
The shock increased when the word got out that I was one of few to get an house interview with Andersen.
You coulda knocked a lot of people over with a feather when they heard that I had an offer to go straight into tax at AA&Co.
I was one of those shocked and surprised people.
On my TriMet bus rides that May of ’82, after my first few days in the office and after meeting most of the other 50+ people in the tax division and comparing “pedigrees,” the voice in my head was very active:
“What the fuck have you done this time? What the fuck were you thinking?!?”
“Good fucking luck lasting the 2 years you need to be certified!!”
“What exactly does “Marine corps of the Big 8” fucking mean?”

One of the selling points of AA&Co. was the training facility in St. Charles, Illinois. First year tax staff spent a week there attending “Basic Tax.”
“Code and Regs” for each of the 20 of us sitting around a horseshoe formation. Before my first day in the Portland office I had never touched either of them.
It was intense in St. Charles. A room full of lawyers and M.T.’s trying to impress each other….and me wishing I was invisible.
The voice in my head was very active with lots of F-bombs that first week in St. Charles.

A pair of mahogany doors that represented “confidentiality, privacy, security and orderliness” were the entry to every floor of every AA&Co. office worldwide.
I expected that I might be hawking doors sometime soon, after a quick washout, so I bought this tee.

My career at AA&Co. was non-traditional too. I had an affinity for spreadsheets and microcomputers at just the right time.
Somehow I lasted over 14 years at Andersen….seven years in Portland and seven in Sarasota.
Go figure.

Oregon Symphony (1987)

I was promoted to manager on June 1, 2016.
A manager’s primary responsibility: Bill & Collect.
A manager was also responsible for quality control, client relationships, staff development, tax technical expertise…and NETWORKING (ugh?!?).

Networking meant civic involvement in some shape or form.
In many cases that involvement meant JOINING.
I have never been a joiner. Not then…now now…never. And networking ain’t ever been my thing either.
However none of the above responsibilities were optional.

The office had a list of “opportunities” for new managers.
Often these were targeted, e.g. “we’d like to develop a relationship with the leadership at Wilson Widget, and they are active in ‘fill-in-the-blank’ ”
Or they might be volunteer opportunities for worthy causes.

I picked two worthy causes that sounded good to me, didn’t involve “joining”…and that met my responsibility requirement for the rest of time in PDX: Junior Achievement and the Oregon Symphony.

1. JA got me out of the office for 4 hours a week during office hours. There were 20+ other corporate volunteers. We were assigned to a school, where we would work with a teacher and their class to develop a business plan for a product chosen by the students. It included selling the product and producing financial statements.
There was a competition between the 20+ volunteers, based on net profit generated.
My JA experience is mostly a blur.

2. I was a “fund raiser” for the Oregon Symphony.
Each year I was given a list of previous donors and targets. My task was to call everyone on the list and ask for money.
I was also expected to come up with some $$ from people who weren’t on the list.
I exceeded my goal both years.
I got tickets to the symphony.
I saw Yo-yo Ma and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

And I got this nifty tee.


Next time: Andersen days in Sarasota. And kids.

Stressed at the boarding area at TPA

Flying cross country for a job interview can be a bit stressful, even when you know that it’s a long shot.
Add in that I had to “play hooky” for a couple of days from AATT-whatever. (The interview was before I surprised my boss with my resignation…)
That was my situation.

The interview was in Portland. I was living and working in Sarasota. I was flying out of Tampa. Not only were the connections better out of TPA, but on a day when I had “called in sick” I also thought there would less chance of bumping into someone I knew.

You know what they say about best laid plans….
It was an early Thursday morning flight.
The waiting area at the gate was packed.
And there sat my boss…on the same flight to O’Hare as me!!
What? The. Fuck!?!?

I didn’t panic….not too much, anyway.
I thought about changing my flights, but for several reasons that wouldn’t work….primarily because the interview spanned two days, starting with a dinner a couple of hours after scheduled touchdown in PDX.

For the next 20 minutes, until boarding, I concocted my story in case I ended up needing one. I don’t think it woulda been believable, trying to explain calling in sick and then catching a 6am flight.
Fortunately I never needed to stammer and stutter while spewing obvious bullshit.
The boss was flying first class, which meant that I had to walk right past him to get to my seat. I had flown on the same plane with him enough times to know that he usually went to work as soon as he got into his seat.

That’s what he was doing this morning. He had his head down, a stack of printed out e-mails on the tray, a pen in his hand.
He was focused.
I managed to sneak by him on my way to my seat several rows from the back of the plane.
I was holding my breath, with my fingers crossed, as I got past him and into coach as quickly as I could.
When the plane landed in Chicago I was in no hurry to get into the terminal.

I guess I musta been living right.
Or more likely: I was just very, very lucky.
At our weekly one-on-one the following Monday, his first question was “How are you feeling?”

“I was really nauseous last Thursday morning, but I was feeling better by later in the day. And I still had a bit of ‘nervous stomach’ on Friday.”

BTW, a couple of months later, after some follow-up interviews…and after I had given my notice at AATT-w…I got the job in Portland.

Things that survived the move to MO: Part Two


I’ve been doing some spring cleaning. I’m calling it “packing to move.” I don’t plan on going anywhere soon, but I wanta get a head start for when that day does come.

On Wednesday I went through the 2 drawers of my nightstand. I shredded or recycled about a foot-and-a-half tall stack of stuff.
I came across quite a few gems. Mostly cards with notes in them, several letters and some thought-provoking goodies that will continue to move with me, whenever and wherever that might be.
One of the goodies was credit-card sized. It has moved cross country three times since 1996. It reminded me of why I left AATT-whatever.
I loved most of my time at Arthur Andersen & Co.
I hated some of it.
But “Core Values” was taking it too far.
More on that later….

Friday I went through my closet. I’m not a big “shoe guy” but 9 pair will have new owners soon.
I’ve used the “reverse hanger” approach the past few years. Almost everything left in my closet after adopting this annual exercise is something I wear often, or which falls into the “I could never get rid of that…let me tell you a story” category.
The shirt that I wore the day that I surprised my boss in Sarasota with an out-of-nowhere resignation hasn’t been worn since 1996. It falls into the latter bucket.

Paula (my ex) knew that I planned to give notice at my weekly one-on-one with the office managing partner. She sorta freaked when she saw what I put on that morning: the red, white and blue recruiting shirt for what was then called “Arthur Andersen Technology Solutions”…proudly displayed on the shirt. (“AATT-whatever” had gone thru several name changes in the 7 years that I had been in Floriduh.)

The other verbiage on the shirt: “Make the right choice.”

Her: “You can’t have that on when you tell him that you’re quitting! What the heck??”
I told her:
1. He won’t even pick up on it.
2. Plus I’ve already got an answer, but I don’t expect to get the opportunity to use it. (I didn’t.)

Her: “Yeah? So what are you gonna say when he comments on the shirt and the slogan?”
“It’ll be short. Direct. And accurate.”

The reply in my head: “Good things come in threes, Rodger. I made the right choice when I accepted the offer to come to work for Andersen in 1982. I made the right choice to accept the transfer to Sarasota in 1989. And now I’m making the right choice for me and my family.”

I honestly don’t remember much of the conversation after I dropped the bomb. I didn’t have a job lined up. I had a resume on the street, and had even had a long-shot interview (there is a story there).
He offered to help me with my job search. He did. I ended up with a couple of options that would have kept me at Andersen. But I knew that 14+ years was enough.
Those “Core Values” just didn’t ring true. I was expected to be the evangelist to 150 people…selling what was on the credit card. Couldn’t do it.
The 5 components: Integrity; Commitment to quality results; Balance; Initiative; Interdependence.
Who could argue with those 5?
Me. Bigly.

He wanted to know what lead to my decision. We talked about a few specifics regarding how the words on the credit card meshed (or didn’t!) with the reality at AATT-whatever. I’m not sure if we talked about all 5.
We did focus on 2 of them.

I started with Integrity. “We say what we think and we do what we say.”
Arthur Andersen founded the firm in 1913. The motto “Think straight, talk straight” was taught to him by his mother.
I was on the periphery as the “Core Values” were developed. My position when I was asked to comment: this definition is ridiculous…it should simply be “think straight, talk straight.” I lost.
I told him that I was was leaving because: politics is one thing; back-stabbing is another. Saying one thing and doing another, especially by “leaders” was unacceptable. It had turned cut throat, and I was getting out.

Then we talked Balance: “We balance multiple demands on our lives, including personal and work, individual and team, current and future opportunities.”
What total Fucking bullshit that was.
Teamwork for the last year or so had been merely lip-service….and I didn’t see that changing.
Personal life? What a novel freaking concept.
Our kids were 5 and 6. I was working 80 hour weeks. Too much road warrior time. And then all the war inside the building?
I was gonna find some balance.

I got lucky. I found it at a company that got me back to Orygun for four years.
Earlier I wrote about an epiphany that lead me to walk away from that position too.

Above I wrote that I hated some of my time at Andersen, and I did. But I learned a lot, and two things I learned: don’t let heavy inertia win; don’t let a job make your life miserable.
Change it; live with it; or leave it.

I like what Dawes says in “Quitter”:
“Quit wasting my time because pretty soon you’ll find
It’s the only thing of value that we own
You’re gonna have to quit everything, until you find one thing you won’t…”


The Peon’s Court

I am not in the least bit ashamed to admit to my guilty pleasure: for the past several years on most weekdays I have lunch with a hot Latin redhead. On Friday’s I get lucky when my hot Hawg-loving girlfriend makes it a threesome.
Yes…I watch “The People’s Court” with Judge Marilyn Milian (“the hottest judge on television”) at noon on KOZL, channel 27 here in Springfield. MO. Shelly joins us most Fridays.

I am proud of the fact that one of the highlights of my 14 years with Arthur Andersen revolves around that TV show.
The People’s Court made it’s debut in mid-September of 1981. I was finishing up my last quarter at Oregon State. Back then I was eating lunch with Judge Wapner. Until I moved to PDX and became a cube rat at AA&Co. in May of ’82, I watched that show most days.

Flash forward 4 years to June of 1986.
I was 1 of the team of 10 new managers in Andersen’s Portland office: 5 consultants (system nerds); 1 auditor (bean counter); and 4 tax geeks (including me).
We were charged with providing the entertainment for the first evening of the Partner/Manager Retreat…where we worked hard and played hard…like every day at AA&Co.
Roasting senior managers and partners was part of our charge…which had an element of risk. Some of those in the audience weren’t known for their sense of humor, especially at their expense….
We pow-wowed a couple of times and came up with several activities.
The highlight of the evening was “The Peon’s Court.” We had three skits, roasting the leaders of each division.

In each skit my friend Dave Evans played the role of Judge “Hairy” Demorest…including wearing a shaggy wig to emulate the office managing partner’s hair style.

At the retreat, as we started our skits, Harry was flanked in the back row by a couple of “big unit” partners. We didn’t know that members of the firmwide board of partners would be in the audience. If we had known, we might have toned it down quite a bit. But probably not…

For the life of me, I cannot remember the skit roasting the audit division leadership. But the other 2 are etched deep into my memory.

I played Hank Laun in “Asleep at the close” in the second skit.
The head of the Portland consulting division was a class act. Everyone liked Hank Laun. Our skit was based on something that apparently had happened on more than one occasion as he was wrapping up a candidate’s in-office interview.
My script read something like this: Feet up on the desk. Ask a softball question. Hands behind your head. Close your eyes. Lean back in your chair. Toss another softball. Snore a bit. Fall over backwards. Hop up…shake hands…and ask when the candidate can start.
The crowd roared. Hank loved it. Everyone did.

The head of the tax division (my direct supervisor) was named Brian Murphy. He was about five-six. He was never around. This was before cell phones. Getting ahold of him was challenging.
And his writing made the tweeting twit in the oval office seem like a Pulitzer prize winner.
I played the role of prosecuting attorney.
We charged Brian with “premeditated murder of the English language.” We tried him “In absentia.” Mike Morgan played the role of Brian and testified via phone….on his knees he wasn’t much shorter than our HOTD.

I presented three key pieces of evidence: 2 memos to the entire Tax Division that Brian had written, and one letter to a client. I displayed them on the big screen….including all of my edits and editorial comments. I was BRUTAL!! (what a shock, eh?)
Misspelled words. Run-on sentences. Incomplete sentences. Fubar punctuation. One of the memos was three-fourths of a page long….and one paragraph. I bled all over all three pathetic docs.

I caught the reactions from the guys sitting next to Harry as I was “making my case.” The audit mucky-muck leaned over and said “this is a joke, right?” Harry just smiled….and said “no. that is a real memo.”
I probably shouldn’t have included the client letter. The high-unit consultant’s reaction was almost exactly the same as my client’s when he received the letter from Brian that announced he was going to be the engagement partner.
The first words I heard from my client Mike when I answered the phone: “What the fuck is this? Who the hell is this guy? Did anybody proofread this word salad shit?”
That evening at the retreat, the words from George Shaheen (google him!) to Harry: “Are you fucking kidding me?!?” HLD just smiled that smile.
Brian laughed that night. But I don’t think he loved it like most folks in the crowd did.

The rest of that evening is a blur.

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.

“What was your favorite thing?”…Part 2

It was another weekend with LOTS of favorite things. This time it was me asking Shelly the question: “What was your favorite thing this weekend?
Before she could answer I gave her my answer: “My favorite thing was glancing over at Tom and Gloria at Piney River as Bob&Jeff sang ‘Like Dogs.’”

It coulda been a tough choice. It wasn’t. The weekend including June 3, 2017 was gonna have plenty of fun things even before I found out that Tom&Gloria were coming in from Atlanta:
…The 13th Annual Rock House Summer was Saturday 6/3/17 {my 6th one…it is always a blast}
…the headliners were The Rainmakers; the Nace Brothers were playing right before them; the 2 bands would close out the night on stage together {great bands individually…awesome together!}
…we were gonna spend a couple of nights at a cute little place called “Shady Acre” and our friends from Pittsburg, KS would also be staying at the 15 room family owned motel {we sat around the pool and talked until the wee hours of 6/4/17}
…Shelly and I were gonna take the Prius on it’s first road trip. A short road trip for us at 100 miles each way, but a roadtrip nonetheless. We were heading for the Piney River Brewing Company in Bucyrus, MO…a few miles east of Houston. {Nobody…other than beer drinkers….has EVER heard of Bucyrus. It is the middle of nowhere! We loved it.}
…the reason to head for Piney River was because Bob&Jeff were playing for a couple of hours. {awesome as always}
This was always going to be “brownie and hot fudge sundae” kind of a weekend…and then Gloria tells me that they are thinking about coming!!
Their visit turned it into a “Double Devil.” I had one at my recruit lunch when I interviewed with Arthur Andersen in Portland in 1981. It had to be at least 1500 calories: brownie, ice cream, hot fudge, more ice cream, more hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts, a maraschino cherry on top.

Having Tom&Gloria at the festival was the second scoop and more hot fudge.
Sunday afternoon at Piney River was a double helping of all the toppings.

I met Gloria in 1989 when I transferred to Sarasota with AA&Co…changing careers but staying with the same employer. We quickly became friends. Gloria was the first babysitter during those rare times that Paula would leave Joseph.

Tom came to work at Andersen in 1991. I interviewed him on campus, and then had to fight for him when staff was assigned. Tom was exactly the kind of person I wanted on my team: smarter than me, and only gonna get smarter. I seriously doubt if he has ever worked for anyone who didn’t learn from him.

They both had different spouses when I met them, and might already have been divorced when we moved back to Oregon in 1996. I don’t know for sure. It doesn’t matter. They will have been married for 20 years in 2018.
When my life was in the toilet in early 2011, Gloria was one of the 4 people who were my rocks. We spent lots of time on the phone. She listened. She inquired. She advised. Gloria was there for me. I can never thank her enough.

Tom&Gloria don’t just like dogs….they love them. Both been very active in “Adopt a Golden Atlanta” which is a volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding warm, loving permanent homes for Golden Retrievers. (Gloria has finally quit asking me when I’m gonna get a dog. She knows that I’m serious when I say that I’m too irresponsible and impetuous to be a dog owner…)
Before the festival, I messaged Bob Walkenhorst with a few of Gloria’s requests. “Like dogs” was at the top of the list. On Saturday she heard if from the parking lot, due to “nature calling” at the wrong time. Sunday we were sitting about 15 feet away when they played it. I wiped away tears of joy as Tom&Gloria mouthed the words to this classic song.

I loved that they got to: meet my friends; meet my sister and her husband; have a few slices from the Reeds Spring Pizza Company; spend a day at the festival; get a tour of the Rock House on Sunday morning…while all 4 of The Rainmakers were in the house; and top it off with two plus hours of Walkenhorst&Porter.
What a great weekend! I’m a lucky fella. Life is Good.

Be. Just Be.

Things that survived the move to Mo: Part One (KY jelly and athletic cup)

In early 2011, my marriage of 37 years ended. A few months later I moved back to Missouri…and I was traveling lightly.

I never expected to live in the Show-Me state again. After we left MO over 40 years ago, when we had to pick our first password (probably for an ATM in Corvallis), we chose “misery.” Over the years, when required to change passwords, we went with misery1, misery!1, Mi$ery, etc. I was still using it in 2011.

She might still use a variation of that word. I have no idea.

What I do know is that my heart is still in Oregon; I never want to live in Floriduh again; and I’ve got lots of soft spots for Missouri these days. Lots of them.

I’m not expecting to pick up and move west soon. But then, I’ve never been much of a planner. When I do move again, it will NOT require an 18 wheeler, as 3 of our cross country moves did.
It won’t even require an 18 foot truck.
Ok… a little bit re the 2011 move itself, from Tampa to my sister’s at Table Rock Lake: 1 (one) box with my amplifier, cd changer and turntable came via UPS; my car trunk was packed with the essentials; the only piece of furniture that moved was in my backseat…the kiddie rocking chair my folks got for me when I was 2.

Everything else was shipped via the United States Postal Service. About 30 boxes. Most of it came via the “media” rate: books, cds, vinyl, slides, pictures. There is a story there…but not today.

I travel lightly these days, relatively speaking….compared to most people…and compared to myself 15 or 20 years ago. But there was a lot more stuff moving back to MO in 2011 than had left in 1976, when EVERYTHING fit into my 1976 Beetle, so I haven’t gone full circle.
A couple of recent days were “purging days.” I tossed, recycled and shredded a lot of things those two purging days. But I still have too much stuff.

I came across lots of interesting things during the 2-day purge. Lots. I coulda spent a few hours with each of several of the boxes I sorted thru. I’m sure there are some stories there.

There were some letters I’d like to have the time to read. If I only had the time….

{I haven’t hit a tap since I sold my 2nd and last franchised store back in early 2011…but I never seem to have enough time to get everything done?? What’s up with that?}

And then were the things that are pictured here. I don’t think I ever knew who did the wood carving. I assume that the words were the result of a group effort of several folks on my team. There were lots of memorable times after I transferred to Sarasota. Most of them good. And mostly because of the people.

I was on a few great teams during my years at Arthur Andersen. My roles changed several times over the years, but I don’t think I ever really enjoyed a team more than the State Manager and Tax Director teams who honored me with these plaques.
I have been told that I have a pretty good memory. It, however, is not improving. This is my third time living in Springfield, MO. The first time here, I won first place in a contest for the teenage sunday school class at the largest baptist church in town. I memorized a shitload of bible verses. Lots more than the person who won the red ribbon. Lots more. It wasn’t close.

Today about the only verse I could get right would be John 11:35. I’d have to struggle to tell you what I did last Thursday….and I doubt I could memorize 100 words of dialogue.

So here’s what I remember about the prized possessions pictured here, with my memory distorted by time and a work-hard-play hard history.

I received the first one at the one and only surprise party that was even thrown for me. (That is a separate story….it was my 10th anniversary with AA&Co.)aattg-survival

In the first couple of years that I was in SRQ, I occasionally went to lunch with a fellow who had transferred from Dallas. We would laugh at what a mess the office was organizationally. It was black humor, as the place really was fucked up….especially for the “red-headed, step child”…i.e., my product and teams. He and I would often say that I should have a tube of lube in my credenza along with the fifth of Maker’s Mark.

When Frick or Frack stopped in to say something idiotic, David said that I should just open the credenza door and say “you don’t mind if I have a couple of fingers first and a little jelly before you tell me to bend over again, do you?” (I wrote about Frick & Frack back in October….)

One day David and I had lunch at a new Amish restaurant in town that was in a strip center with a RiteAid. After the obligatory piece of pie and discussion for the continued need for lubricant, we walked into the pharmacy and I purchased a tube of KY.
I never did say, to their faces, what he suggested. But it was close a few times. I did have a few discourse doozies with F&F.

I did pull the tube out to make a point quite a few times when my door was closed. It was always fun to press the button under my desk that released the door, have the person react to the door closing behind them, and then see me reaching inside my credenza.

I’m sure that some of the folks who worked for me in the trenches had that experience. They knew where I kept the KY. And when they presented me with the plaque everyone knew what I was thinking. Later, I often displayed the plaque on a book shelf in my office.
The plaque with the cup was given to me at an office wide holiday meeting/party. I was pretty speechless when I was handed this plaque in front of 250 people.support_the-cup

My team came thru for me more times than I could count. They also knew that I would got to bat for them. They knew that I would not be silent about things that matter. I had to dust myself off sometimes.

My memory ain’t what it used to be, but I remember driving home with a plaque riding shotgun, music cranked up to 11, smiling from ear to ear and laughing at my good fortune.

I often have trouble finding the right words. I’m sure that I stammered and stuttered when I received each of these plaques. Heck, I can’t find the right words now…25 years later.

Life was good then. It’s good now. I was fortunate to have worked with lots of good folks. They made my life better. Some of them still do. They gave me lots of good memories.

Heroes and Villains

I’ve had had a few “heroes” in my life. Not so much anymore. I’m old now, but I do still have a hero or two…in addition to the fellow whose picture just took that “place of honor” on FB once again as my Profile photo.

Many of my childhood heroes were sports figures, and most of them are gone. RIP to Mickey, Stan the Man, Muhammed.

Some of my heroes were politicians. Rest in Peace JFK, Martin, Bobby…and now Tom is gone.

There were a few others in both categories.

Some of my heroes touched me and millions of others with their music. We keep losing them, but thankfully their music lives in.

One night many years ago on a phone call, my friend Gray asked me who I’d like to see in concert. Someone I’d never seen before.

I had two quick answers: Marvin Gaye and Roy Orbison. Gray was surprised that I immediately named a couple of dead guys.

I never had a chance to see Marvin. None that I know of anyway.

For some reason that I don’t remember, I did NOT go see Roy Orbison at the Schnitzel on October 22, 1998. Roy had made this fantastic come-back. He had dubbed himself “Lefty Wilbury” in the super group The Traveling Wilbury’s. Roy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1987. Lefty Wilbury was quoted as saying “It’s very nice to be wanted again, but I still can’t quite believe it.”

I couldn’t believe it when his gig at The Schnitz ended up being one of his last shows. He was dead 40 some days after he left PDX. The man with the magical voice was dead at 52.

The lesson I learned from that: YOLO.

If you’re my friend, or have read any of my ramblings, you know that Warren Zevon is one of my heroes. This excitable boy still gets fired up when listening to Warren’s songs. Like Roy Orbison he came back from some valleys. I can empathize with that.

My twist on what Warren said that night 14 years ago, when he was the only guest on the 10/30/2002 David Letterman show: Enjoy every bite of every sandwich.


None of these folks have ever been my Facebook profile picture. The only other “hero” that I’ve ever had as my Facebook profile picture is my Mom.

At some point in my career at Arthur Andersen, I was picked for some personal profile piece in a AA&Co publication. One of the stock questions was to name a hero. When I named the guy who is my current FB profile pic, they wouldn’t use it. I honestly didn’t expect them to…it hardly fit the Firm’s image. (See “The Lone Ranger: Part One”)

So I settled for Warren Buffet, instead of my real hero: Alfred E. Newman.

His motto has been mine since I picked up my first Mad Magazine as a 7th Grader at Reed Junior High here in Springfield, MO.

“What, me worry?”

Before the series started I told the wife of my best friend in Oregon, who is a lifelong Cubs fan and who bleeds blue, how I’d like to see a couple of things go.

“I want to see the Cubbies come from behind with 4 in the bottom of the 9th. And I want to start partying in earnest at about 8 pm the night of the election when the flimflam fascist gets BURIED!!”

Joyce wanted a sweep by her Cubs…and a win of any degree of magnitude on Tuesday.
The 7th game starts in a couple of hours. The election is in 6 days.

The world will go on no matter who wins tonight in Cleveland. It’s just a game.

I understand why many people want the system blown up. I wish I could vote for Bernie a second time in 2016. There are a number of “outsiders” who have run successful businesses and never filed for bankruptcy or stiffed contractors and employees. They also don’t randomly grope women “because they can” or do deals with mobsters and Communists. They may not be George Washington…but their pants are NOT constantly in flame from bald face LIES. They also know about The Beatitudes.

The world will go on no matter what happens next Tuesday. I have faith in our system of checks and balances.

But thinking of what the future could hold, it’s hard to eat and keep a sandwich down sometimes.

Things happen…that’s all they ever do. Hoping for some good things.

The Lone Ranger: Part One

This is a two parter. Part 1 is gonna get me from Corvallis, Orygun to Sarasota, Floriduh. It’s a 9 year journey. I’ll try to condense it.

Part 2 is gonna have me dressed as The Lone Ranger at a weekly project status meeting in the tax software offices of the largest accounting firm in the world. You’re gonna have to wait to hear about me dressed in white levis, white shirt, black half mask, a pair of white handled cap pistols…and the dreaded cowboy hat.

In May, 1981 I was a long-haired, scraggly, denim-wearing student in the “post-bacc in accounting” program at OSU. I had slowed my weed and homemade wine consumption, from the pre-80’s level. Notice I said “slowed.” Not “stopped.” But at Oregon State, pre-AA&Co. I was already a work hard/play hard guy.

In May, 1982 I started in the tax division in Portland, OR office of Arthur Andersen & Co.
Hair cropped. Wearing wool, silk, cotton and shined wingtips. At the time, the WSJ and other news organizations would refer to AA&Co. as “the Marine corps” of the Big 8. When I left Andersen 14 years later, it was down to the Big 5…and the Firm still had the same reputation.

I always impressed you as a strack jarhead, right? Who’d thought that I’d last 14 years in “the Marines”?

–>In ’82 the microcomputer was just being introduced into the business world.
Andersen was always a technology leader, and not just in the accounting profession…in the business world.
–>The spreadsheet “standard” at the time was something called Visicalc. Lotus 1-2-3 followed. Then Excel took over.
–>I became the spreadsheet jock of the Portland office.
–>I worked on spreadsheet based apps in WHQ in Chicago. Some very cool stuff…and a great town in which to play hard.

–>The name of the WHQ group at 33 West Monroe had an unfortunate acronym.
–>The group was called Computer Aides to Tax Practice. (cat pee)
–>I was on the firmwide CATP team for several years, containing one person from each of the five US regions.
–>I made annual trips to Comdex in Las Vegas with the CATP team for three years.
–>What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Ditto my other CATP related boondoggles.

–>In my first 3 years with AA&Co. I was cautioned at evaluation and annual review time that I needed to do something besides spreadsheet based projects or my chances of promotion were slim.
–>Thanks to Betsy Crudele for staffing me on a couple of clients with heavy “compliance work” and transaction planning projects.

–>I fast tracked to manager, getting promoted to manager in 1986 after 4 years with AA&Co. I think this accelerated path was because of, rather than in spite of, the microcomputer.
–>Have I told you that I was a work hard/play hard person? After ’86 I ramped up both of them. Lots of “keep bringing drinks until I’ve burned thru that” as I’d slap a Grant “half yard” onto the table.

–>Andersen decided to bring tax preparation in house and buys a company based in Sarasota that has a PC based package. It takes years and lots of $$$ before the software from the west coast of FL (A-plusTax) is robust enough to replace FastTax in the Andersen offices.
–>The majority owner and the “brains” behind A+ is a guy we’ll call Frick. More about him in Part 2.
–>His right-hand man is a bully, a hillbilly and a drunk. Call him Frack. More about him too….
–>The people in Sarasota insist that their depreciation package is as good as FastTax. —–>Andersen puts together a team to test the A+ depreciation modules. And test it. And test it. I spend a couple of weeks in Chicago as one of the test leads. We find 100s of issues with the depreciation calcs. My write-up is delivered to Frick&Frack.

–>A few months later I was the “sign-off manager” for the OR1040 package from A+….testing the state package for individual returns. F&F in Sarasota receive another long list of points from me.
–>When a friend leaves the Portland office, I inherit her client…and the most complex, convoluted reorg in the Firm at the time. It was ugly. Tax tech memos I was writing had to be approved by several Firmwide experts. I almost worked too hard for the next 9 months to find time to play. Almost. I was now the spreadsheet jock, tax software tester, Code&Regs geek who could manage large projects.
–>But I knew that being a traditional CPA was not in the cards…for the same reason that I give people when I tell them why I don’t have pets: I’m too impetuous and too irresponsible. Plus I get bored.

–>In late 1988, I was picked to be the sign-off manager on the 1120S software developed by A-plus: was it robust and accurate enough to be used in the Andersen offices?
–>Test prep involved a couple of weeks in Cleveland.
–>Followed by a couple of trips to Sarasota in early 1989.
–>The s/w wouldn’t even print the 1120S for the first several days we were in Floriduh! WTF?
–>That was the first time that I laid eyes on Frack. He immediately tries to intimidate me with something like “Oh, you’re that Steve Weece guy huh? We’re gonna teach you a few things son.”
–>Daily status meetings with Frack while in Sarasota were not fun. Who likes being lied to and bullied? And how many bullies like a target that won’t back down…and who likes to tussle a bit? I was Frack’s target…and his nemesis.

–>Back in Portland after the 1120S fiasco, my HOTD (head of Tax Division)…we’ll call him JP….wants to discuss an “opportunity.”
–>Andersen has acquired a second s/w company….we’ll call it TD. Based in Hotlanta, but the development had been moved to Sarasota. TD software was sold to Fortune 1000 clients. Big dollar annual license fees. (A+ was sold to small CPA firms…for small dollars.) Many of the companies licensing the TD software were audit clients of AA&Co. That’s where the real money was.
–>The opportunity for me: transfer to Sarasota and be one of the two managers on TD’s state product. Call it SM. This was the aircraft carrier of tax s/w projects. Requiring lots of bodies and $$$. On top of it, the product was deficient from a technical tax perspective….i.e. full of errors and bugs.
–>I knew that I was not suited to continue in the line office career path of the Marine Corps…for lots of reasons.
–>My wife had always wanted to live in FL. Happy wife, happy life. (She still lives in that fetid swamp of a state, with its bugs, its humidity, and its lack of geographic diversity.)

–>I flew down to Sarasota to be “interviewed”…even though some big unit partners in the Firm had called JP, my HOTD, and told him that it was just a formality. They wanted me to be in Sarasota full time.
–>The interview was a very strange one.
–>It was supposed to begin with Frick, starting at 9. It was probably 10:30 before I saw the weasel.
–>Then it was lunch with both Frick and Frack. Only “lunch interview” I ever experienced where one of the interviewers had several drinks.
–>After lunch I spent an hour in Frack’s office. He was very direct when we wrapped up: “If it was my call, I’d never bring one of you “line” people here. I’d send that damned TD product back to Atlanta. I’d never hire an Andersen person. And certainly not a shit stirrer like you.”
–>Frack had thrown down the gauntlet.
–>Bring it on Frack!  A few years later the F&F boys were gone, and I moved into Frick’s office.

–>The close of the interview was with an Andersen Consulting partner who was in theory running the office. Call him JG.
–>I don’t remember his exact question, but I remember my answer: “I don’t agree with Frack on much. I strongly disagree with him on one thing: the partners of the Firm need LOTS of Andersen people involved in the tax software business, and some of them need to be based here. Frack said that if it was up to him that there would be no Andersen people in the building.” That was not the end of the conversation with JG.
–>When I got back to Portland, my HOTD and I got together at the Veritable Quandary after work. Lots of my “play hard” evenings started there.
–>He had received a call from JG. JP asked me about my interview. I filled him in. JP said that he hated to lose me in PDX…but he knew that I was the right guy for the challenges in Sarasota and that I was up to the task.

–>I finagled another trip to Sarasota before I committed to the transfer. “Paula needs to feel good about the decision too.”
–>I remember the two of us walking on the beach talking about the “opportunity.”
I told her that I could be throwing myself into the lion’s den. And that the guy who ran the den was a vindictive, sadistic, drunken hillbilly.
–>Frack turned out to be even worse that I imagined.
–>The wife really wanted to move to FL. I liked the software development game. I was sick of dealing with the nightmare and complexities imposed by Ronnie Raygun’s Tax Reform Act of 1986.
–>May, 1989 we moved to Sarasota from Portland. She was 38 and pregnant with the first of our two children. The fun was about to begin.

Whew…that pretty much sets the stage for Halloween twenty-five years ago. That’ll be Part 2.

There are some other stories from my Andersen days too. Maybe I’ll write some of them down at some point….stay tuned.