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….

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.

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.


I have mastered the art of procrastination. I have been practicing the art itself for most of my life. This piece is a prime example of my level of mastery: writing a blog has been on my to-do list ever since I heard the word “weblog” in the late 90’s. When you couple my expertise at procrastinating with my almost complete lack of self-discipline, the fact that I ever get anything done that requires effort is very surprising. It only took me about 17 years to finally start blogging by beginning to write this…but will I even finish and “publish” it? Will it be my opening blog entry, or just another document in a folder on my laptop?

When one considers what I did for a living for most of the time that I was a W-2 guy, and that once upon a time I had people close to me who thought I was a serious Type A personality, my well-developed skill at procrastinating doesn’t seem to fit.

I had a moderately successful career in the tax division of what at the time was the largest accounting firm in the world. I spent the first half of that tenure in a practice office with it’s long hours, many deliverables and deadline upon deadline. The last half was in the firm’s tax software business…with more of the same, i.e. hours, deadlines and deliverables….in spades. I seemed to thrive under pressure, often times of my own creation because of the delay in getting started.

I have tried several times over the past 40 years to write a journal. I’ve started one half-a-dozen times. My most recent attempt started 36 months ago, and so far I have managed to write something almost every day. Sometimes it’s brief and boring, i.e. my mundane daily events. Oftentimes it includes copies of texts, sent and received. Other journal entries might be copies of e-mails.

This blog thing doesn’t have any personal sense of urgency. I don’t have to do it. I don’t need to do it. I’m not getting paid to do it.

I’m not even sure that I should do it. There are lots of things that I want to write about that might upset friends and family. I’m thinking that they know more about my life and my lifestyle than they acknowledge. I’m thinking that they know more about my thinking, and how it differs from theirs, than they want to believe. I’m thinking that opening up could be hurtful to some people. But maybe not. I guess we’ll never know unless I move forward, huh?

Will I be able to do that? To put myself out there via other musings. That’s the question?

Maybe I will be able to summon the same discipline and the same approach here that I finally have been able to accomplish with journaling.

Time will tell. Speaking of time…elapsed time since I started this document and the day I posted it online: 11 months, give or take several days. I really do have this procrastinating down pat don’t I?