Thursday, July 30, 2009

“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”


When I graduated from Baylor, I hadn’t a clue as to what I might actually DO with the degree for which I had slaved (well, slid through and graduated in spite of everything).  The rule of thumb was, “Want a good job?  Get a good education!”  Ok, well, I had the education, now where was the good job?

Unfortunately, not as plentiful as I would have liked (kind of like today).  Stagflation was ruling the economy, employers were skittish---and I had no idea where to go or what to do.

I wound up at an employment agency I’d found in the classified section of the Dallas Morning News.  I wanted to move to Dallas, I had HAD it with little hick towns. 

The recruiter was, hmm, how to say this here, without using a naughty word…a North Dallas B****.  There you go.  She had the perfect hair and the perfect clothes and the perfect nails and was sitting in her perfect office looking down her perfectly perky little nose at me sneering “We don’t normally deal with GREEN GRADS; however, we might have a spot for you at Liberty Mutual.”  So off I went to interview with Harliss McMurray at Liberty Mutual.

In those days, you went to work for a company and trained, then after the formal training, they told YOU where you were going---and it could be anywhere.  They let us express three preferences, but were not bound by them.  I got my second preference, Houston.  I reported to training in Dallas and was assigned the company car I was promised (“The last training class got Cutlasses!”  us:  “OOOOOHHH, Cutlasses!!!!”  “But this training class, we’re giving out DIAMOND JUBILEE THUNDERBIRDS!”  us:  “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”).

(Here’s a picture of my friend Bob and I, in the parking lot of the Executive Inn next to Dallas Love Field---Liberty’s training “dorm”---and that’s my Diamond Jubilee Thunderbird over Bobby’s left shoulder; it was dove gray with dove gray leather interior and a dove gray landau vinyl top.  STYLIN!)


Main post:

I woke up excited as all get out; today was the day.  Last weekend, I had driven my own car, a 1975 Nova, to Houston and left it at Robert’s.  My own apartment was ready (barely); I had to rent it on “pre-completion” because Houston was gaining 2,000 new residents a DAY at the time.

I had wanted Dallas, but Houston was big, booming, and mysterious; I hadn’t spent a lot of time there and was eager to explore the city.

Got to “work” at the training center of Liberty Mutual in Dallas, on Walnut Hill Lane.  My class had been a lot of fun; we were all pretty pleased with our assignments.  We were “ready for action”.  A guy named Steve Betts (who had been my roommate) was also going to the Houston National Risk office (we had “National Risk” and “Personal Lines”).  We were delighted because it was downtown.  We were going to do our “Bob Newhart” thing; we were going to be sophisticated urban dwellers, with our little hats and briefcases and trenchcoats----but with palm trees, in Houston….

So, there we sat in class, and Larry, our Training Supervisor, says, “Ok, kids, time to turn in your keys!”  Say WHAT?  “Yeah, these are only TRAINING CLASS cars!  Your REGULAR company cars will be waiting for you at the branch.  Now, here are your plane tickets for your trips.  Go ahead and call your supervisor and let him know to send an adjuster to pick you up at the airport.”

Ok, so my supervisor was a woman (OH, the SHAME!)  I called her, and in my most professional voice said, “Good morning, Miss Young, this is Nick Jones, your new trainee.”  “Who?”  “Nick Jones, your new trainee.”  “Am I getting a new trainee?  I wasn’t informed.”  “Uh, yes, ma’am, and I was told to call you and tell you what my flight is, so you can send an adjuster to pick me up.”  “WHAT?!?!  I DON’T HAVE A F*****G ADJUSTER TO SEND TO PICK YOU UP!  TAKE A F*****G CAB!”  “Uh, ma’am, I’m just telling you what I was told.”  “Ok, ok, I’ll send an adjuster.  Jesus!”

Well, THAT’s not a good way to get “in” with your boss!  Oh, well.  Maybe I did it wrong….

So, at 10:00, the Executive Inn’s shuttle drove me to Love Field, and I boarded a flight for Houston.  Arrived at Hobby Airport, and I’ll never forget the announcement droning over and over, in a middle-eastern voice:  “Shuttles now leaving for Downtown ‘eustin!  South-east ‘eustin!  South-west ‘eustin!” (To this day, when I arrive at Hobby, I can still hear that announcement).

I was told to look for a young lady in a blue dress with brown hair (well, THAT narrows it down….).

Yep, here she comes, on tiny spike heels, smoking a cigarette, with frizzy brown hair:  “Hi, I’m Cheryl!  Are you Nick?”  “Yes, ma’am!”

So we go out to her car.  I’ve had a Diamond Jubilee Thunderbird, remember.  She opens the trunk of this rusty paste blue Ford Granada with no wheelcovers and a crappy tire.  The reason for the crappy tire was readily apparent:  the regular tire was in the back seat.  The front ashtray was mounded over with cigarette butts.  I thought, “Man, what has this chick done wrong to get this crappy car?!?” As we chatted and drove, she said, “Oh, this is the best car in the unit; I get it as Senior Claim Rep!” 

Um, wait.  I was promised a Thunderbird (Diamond Jubilee Edition).

Century_Building So we get to the office, at the Central National Bank Tower in downtown Houston.  (I later found out that this building had an amazing history; that’s another blog post.  Suffice it to say that, dirty, run-down, I still sat there and said, “Man, somebody put Venetian slate on the outside of this building, and carrara marble on the inside!  and it’s got a penthouse!” Ok, a tease:  it was built by Houston legend Glenn McCarthy (the real-life prototype for James Dean’s character in “Giant”) with the scraps left over from the construction of the Shamrock Hotel.  McCarthy moved his famous Cork Club there, to the penthouse, and it was graced by the like of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.  Of course, there was a penthouse pad for McCarthy, too, for when he met some cutie at the club….).

The old CNB building had seen better days.  Worn carpet led to a steel (?!) door, which opened to a reception area with bulletproof glass and a speak-grille; you had to be “buzzed” back.  Walked into the office:  gray linoleum square floors, gray steelcase desks, 5 to a row, 20 rows.  Green “Call Director” phones.  Each row of chairs was a different colour:  Harvest gold, avocado, tangerine, turquoise, seafoam.  Cubicles along the windows.  One glass corner office.  A blue haze of cigarette smoke extending about 4 feet down from the ceiling.  You were smoking, whether you wanted to or not.

Massive banks of card catalogues (like the library) along one wall, that’s how you indexed files (now, computerized, takes seconds).  People screaming into phones, cussing, phones ringing, typewriters clicking, adding machines going.

I reported to my supervisor; I had taken quite a bit of ribbing over reporting to a damn WOMAN (the indignity!).  “Good afternoon, Miss Young!” (best Eddie Haskell).  “Oh my GOD, you can’t be here yet!  Well, go sit somewhere and don’t bother me.  Here’s a “file-in-a-box”, go read it and leave me alone!”  “Um, ok ma’am!”.

So I sat down at the only open desk in the unit (next to the file room and the one and only copy machine, “makin’ copies!”).  I start reading the file.  Cheryl is turning the air blue behind me, while Wanda in front of me is talking seductively into the phone, “Oh, yeah?  Then what would you do?”  Bruce, next to me, is turning the air bluer than Cheryl.  EVERYBODY SMOKING.

I go back to my boss’s cube.  “Um, Miss Young?”  “WHAT IS IT?”  “Um, on this file:  is the accident date outside our coverage period?”  (In claimsworld, the very first thing you do is check the damn coverage.  Did the accident happen in our policy period?  If not, you deny and the claim goes to the correct policy.  It’s elemental, you have to do it---and nobody did on this million-dollar file).  “OH MY GOD!”  Since she had signed off on it (and so did the Branch Manager, and the Home Office Manager, and everybody else in the world, they were all in trouble---a million dollars paid on a claim we DIDN’T OWE!!!!  And had been paying FOR YEARS!!!  and yep, it was lil ol trainee ME that found it and brought it to light.  Not so good a start.

Ok, so they’re all pondering this imponderable and it’s getting on towards 4:00 pm.  I’ve not seen nor heard of a company car and I have no ride home---I’d planned to drive my T-bird directly to Robert’s, where I would occupy the couch until I got into my apartment.  I called Betts on the phone; he said, “Nobody’s said anything to me, either, what should we do?”  “I’ll ask.”  I go over to Rhetta’s cube.  “Um, Miss Young, about my company car…”.  “I DON’T HAVE A G-D CAR FOR YOU!  WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE, GENERAL MOTORS?  HICKMAN IS IN CHARGE OF CARS, GO SEE HIM!!!!!”  So off I go to the Assistant Manager.  “Um, Mr. Hickman, about my company car…”.  “Who ARE you?”  “Um, I’m your new trainee, sir, and this is your other new trainee, Steve!”  “I DON’T HAVE ANY G-D CAR FOR YOU!”  “Um, sir, how are we supposed to get home?”  “GO AWAY!”

About an hour later, he calls us both into his office.  “Ok, I’ve got a Ford and a Chevy, who wants what?”  Me:  “I’ll take the Chevy!”  Steve:  “Ford for me!”  So Hickman gives us the keys.  “They’re in the sub-basement; why don’t you boys just knock off and GO HOME!”

So, crushed and glad to escape, we head for the “SUB-basement” (“Sub-basement???”). lugging all our gear.

It’s Houston. It’s 1,000 degrees in the shade.  It’s hotter than Hell in the sub-basement, probably because the sub-basement is so close to Hell itself.

chevrolet-malibu-18 We find the cars.  A puke yellow 6 year old Malibu Classic coupe with the windows shattered and the vinyl top slashed.  A puke blue Ford Torino with a flat tire, but glass intact.  grand-torino-elite-1974-01-01 I survey the broken glass on my “new” car and say, “Steve, maybe you can drive me home.”  “Yeah, ok.”  He opens the Torino---and retches.  The prior adjuster had just thrown all the Kentucky Fried Chicken, Church’s, McDonald’s, Arby’s, and whatever else wrappers in the back.  It was up to the back of the front seat---in Houston, at 100 degrees.  The stench was overwhelming.

We drove my Malibu (hey, it only smelled like freeway exhaust, what with the windows open…) home. 

And that’s the way it happened, Wednesday, August 1, 1979---thirty years ago today, the very-first-day of my now 30-year-old career.

You know, I’ve worked in a lot of claims offices.  Usually the Claims Manager was a fat 50-something dude in the corner office, with a bottle in his desk drawer, a cloud of smoke from the chain-smoking, and a bottle of antacid on his desk.  I always swore I’d never be that guy.

Pardon me while I go into my corner office and pop some Tums.  I don’t chain smoke (any more; I started at Liberty because, why NOT?  I was inhaling enough smoke, might as well enjoy doing it----and I DID enjoy smoking…), nor do I have a bottle of whiskey in my desk drawer (it’s at home, and I have a drink every day when I get home from this madness), but I am, in fact, the fat old dude popping antacids in the corner office with the title “Claims Manager”.

30 years.

Absolutely amazing.

 nick long hair 1



Nick and Robert, in Houston, at Greenway Plaza, sitting on somebody’s Mercedes and dreaming of success, on the start of the grand adventure of life, 1979:

Nick & Robert 

(I’m posting this Friday, July 31; I thought Friday was August 1---shows the advanced stage of elderly decay…and the result of too many antacids, too much scotch, too many cigarettes, and TOO MANY CLAIMS!…but I’m not going to be able to post on Saturday, August 1.  I’m going to Dallas---to see my friend Robert; he’s buying a house and wants my opinion.  We’ve been friends for 37 years and counting.)  (And now I’ve got the theme from “The Bob Newhart Show” running through my head.  Suzanne Pleshette, what a knockout!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And a follow up

When Mother and Dad moved to Dallas in 1948, Dad had a job lined up at one of the defense contractors (Texas Engineering and Manufacturing Company, “Temco”, which was bought by Jimmy Ling; Jimmy Ling then merged it with Chance Vought to form Ling-Temco-Vought, or LTV, which went on to own Braniff Airways, Wilson Sporting Goods, and a whole raft of American companies, but that’s another post). Dad went to work at the newly-formed TemCo, but Mother had no job. After 3 days of lying on the bed crying, she got up, put on her best (only) outfit, fixed her hair and makeup, and took the streetcar to downtown Dallas to find a job.

IMG_0017bShe wandered into a cafe’ in downtown Dallas—the old Cotton Exchange Cafe’, and I ate there many times when I myself worked in downtown Dallas---and sat down to drink coffee and have whatever breakfast she could buy with a fifty cent piece. She asked the waitress if they were hiring; the waitress said no, but that she had heard that they were hiring down at Southwestern Bell for operators.

Mother went to work for the phone company, and I’ve already told that story here. One of the friends she made (and her best friend over the years) was a lovely young lady named Joy McLendon, from Gilmer, Texas. We called her “Aunt Joy” growing up (still do…), and she visits Mother about once a week in the nursing home.

In any event, Aunt Joy, Mother, and several other ladies became BFF’s and remain so today. Every one of them has a totally fascinating story.

Aunt Joy saw my blog post below this one, and commented favourably on it in a wonderful email to me. She expanded on what I had posted. I asked her if I could post her email, and she said, “Oh, sure, hon, if you want to”.

So here it is. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I find it fascinating.

Joy McLendon Morgan, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, Retired:

IMG_0006 Being in the Routing Office allowed us to get involved in routes, rates, area codes and central office codes (Diamond 2) or what we called NNX codes. With growth, that office grew from about 4 people to 30. That's when I first went into Management, as Routing Supervisor, along with our good friend, Jewel Dalton. In my group were Martha, Joydean, Margie and others.

I was heavily involved in the creation of area codes for Texas, and NNX codes, when we had to open up a new one, or split the area and move some to a new area code, due to growth. That involved so many departments. Once, it came that far, we had to coordinate with the directory publications, also to provide new routing instructions to the operators for Texas. Those were published in the Operator Handbook, which we maintained, printed and shipped to the various towns, precisely by the effective date. We were a major client of a printing company that would come several times a day to bring us printing orders. Due dates were very critical and proofreading was critical.

After leaving the Routing Office, I went to the Planning Dept, a job I loved. I was given the title of Engineering Asst. We planned years ahead for office growth, when to add new equipment, lines and numbers. Then we coordinated with the Engineers who designed and engineered the office, arrange for construction monies, etc. By the time we could finish the job, down to the installation and implementation,. it might be 2-5 years, depending on size, construction budget, etc.

Next, I started assisting the engineers, engineering the smaller, less complicated office. I was given another title, which I have forgotten. After a few years, the real Engineers, who had degrees, rebelled about giving us any title that had the word Engineer in it, unless you were a licensed engineer. (Titles can be very deceiving). So, they eventually changed titles, and mostly used Manager, or Asst. Managers. Same work, same pay, different title.

The back says Taken at Jeans June 1968a Next, I went into the Circuit Forecasting and Provisioning group, where I spent about 15 years of hard, hard work. Our goal was to have the right number of circuits between all entities and towns at the right time. It was at the tail end of that job that I had the privilege of working on the Divestiture job, splitting up the Bell System, identifying new ownership of all properties - buildings, equipment and people - a monumental task. We were to develop capitol structures and boundaries. I l loved the challenge. I really think it was the experience and contacts from this job that landed me my dream job in Public Relations 3 years before I retired, when I went into the Public Relations Group, as the Telephone Pioneer. That was a Manager level liaison job.

Telephone Pioneers The Telephone Pioneer Organization was made up of employees with 21 yrs of service, later 18 yrs, now I understand, any and all employees. It was a huge organization, where we were encouraged to do community service work in our community. It had its own staffs and officers from President down to the secretaries. I coordinated those efforts with Southwestern Bell, other Bell Companies, AT&T, Western Electric (all associated entities). It was a gravy job, I did nothing but travel, but a very serious job, with our own Practices, etc. and we were expected to perform just like any other job, and compete with all Bell Companies, and Areas within our own company, Southwestern Bell, in getting our employees to play a major role in our community.

Jim & Joy-2005I would have stayed there forever if Mr. Right had not come into my life with a marriage proposal and wanted me to retire. This has been the perfect job.

Written on July 29, 2009
Joy McLendon Morgan



She wrote me a whole monograph on her life and her career, which I truly cherish. Joydean Adams (Aunt Joydean) also wrote me a few paragraphs outlining the her life and career.

I know they are reading this, and I would love to have some old pictures of all of them.


I retain a lively curiosity about other people. I always want to know: How did you come to be HERE?

What’s YOUR story?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Old numbers

Inspiration for these blog posts come from all over the place.

Kathy had challenged me to come up with a post (my life has been singularly boring these last two weeks, inspiration hard to come by), and I was trying to do so.

Sabra emailed tonight, asking me for the McCarty’s (Robert’s parents, my substitute parents) address; I rattled it off and sent her their phone number to boot (which I have had memorized since around 1972). The number is “342-XXXX”.

Sabra sent me a return email, smilingly enquiring if that wasn’t really “DIamond 2-XXXX.”

I really don’t know why they stopped using the telephone exchanges. I mean, it was such an easier number to remember!

My first memorized telephone number was in Dallas; Mother made me memorize it so if I got lost, I could tell the people who found me how to call her. It was FEderal 7-XXXX. We kept that number until we moved to Corpus Christi, where we had ULysses 7-XXXX. Then on to Ft. Worth, where it was ATlas 8-XXXX. In Little Rock, MOhawk 6-XXXX.

I remember standing on a stool (horrors! none of that today!) at the hall telephone (the telephones were in the hall of the house, always; in fact, most houses

we_302Western Electric 302, like the one in our hall

built before 1970 or so still have a telephone niche in the hall) while Dad dialed up Gramp (his Dad). Dad would lift the receiver and dial “O” for “Operator”. “Operator” she would reply. “Long Distance, please”. “One moment”. Silence, with clicks. No music. No ads.

“Long Distance”. “I’d like to place a station-to-station call (there’s another one….) to the Jones residence in Malvern, Arkansas.” “One moment”. click click “Longview”. “I have a station-to-station call for Malvern, Arkansas”. “One moment”. click click “Texarkana”. “This is Dallas, I have a station-to-station call for Malvern, Arkansas.” “One moment”. click click “Malvern Central”. “This is Dallas, I have a station-to-station call for the Jones residence, EDgewood 7415”. “One moment, I’ll connect you”. ring ring “Hello?” (Gramp, very distant) “This is the long-distance operator, I have a station-to-station call for the Jones residence, is this the Jones residence?” “Yes it is” “Go ahead, please”.

All of that for a 3 minute call; the connection took longer than the call itself. Dad used his kitchen timer. Why 3 minutes? Because when you called, the first 3 minutes were charged when the call was connected, then there was a per-minute charge afterwards.

Person-to-person calls were pretty much ONLY for “deaths in the family”.

Then there was the dreaded “Party Line”. Instead of having a “private line”, you could share a line with one or several neighbours and split the cost. Everybody had their own unique ring. This worked fine in theory---but then you had the chatty teenager who tied up the line for hours, the gossipy neighbour who listened in and then spread the news…there were a whole gamut of jokes about the party lines.

5_bell_logos My Mom worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company at 208 S. Akard in downtown Dallas for 20 years. She started out as an operator, then went on to various other posts. She spent a bit of time in the “DDD” office; DDD = Direct Distance Dialing. This office set up the routing for the consumer-dialed long distance calls, using the newly developed “Area Codes”. So, in a way, she helped kill all that preceding business.


Mr.Zip-2003 We lived in Dallas 11, Texas. Before there were ZIP Codes (ZIP standing for Zone Improvement Plan), there were Postal Zones. So we lived in Dallas 11, Texas Mr. Zip, 1964

(now 75211). Great consternation ensued when they added all the numbers to the zones; people thought they were being put-upon to remember all those numbers. Unlike the Area Codes, which now are no longer tied to geographic areas in the big cities---Houston’s are 713 (the original Houston area code), 281, 832, 409, and 979---the ZIP codes are actually still local. So Houston is 770, San Antonio 782, Waco 767, Ft. Worth 762, Dallas 752, Tulsa 741, Little Rock 727, etc. The old zone number is the last two.

While I’m ranting about “things lost”, there is the usual consternation involved in trying to remember the 2-letter state abbreviations. People always screw up Arkansas, “AK” is “Alaska”, “AR” is Arkansas, not “Arizona”, which is “AZ”. At least they didn’t make Arkansas “AS”. The old abbreviations weren’t as easily scanned with optical scanners, nor were they as efficient---but Ark, Tex, Ala, Fla, Tenn, Okla, Cal, Ariz, Miss sure seemed more “user-friendly” to me. (Land of Opportunity, Lone Star State, Heart of Dixie, Sunshine State, Volunteer State, is OK!, Golden State, Grand Canyon State, Magnolia State, respectively. You knew that because their license plates proclaimed it). A bygone era.


I started thinking about all this last weekend in San Antonio; Dad’s cell phone is about dead and we were trying to figure out what to do for a replacement. Dad’s not above a little technology (he was an engineer), but the new phones are something else. We looked at the iphone (AT&T would just LOVE to get me on an iphone plan; problem is, I primarily want that functionality for the GPS and that’s $25 on top of the $30 a month they charge for the data package---$55 a month extra! No wonder they want me so badly….). In any event, consider the long-distance process described above when compared with a sleek new 32gb iphone, from which you can direct-dial Tokyo if you wish---and be furious when it takes longer than 3 seconds to complete the call.

The mind boggles.

I now have an “OSage 9” phone in Houston 77, Texas

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heat, yard work, and when do you become a “Mister”?

As I’ve posted before, Houston is “enjoying” a heat wave this summer.  A blocking high pressure dome has settled over the gulf coast directly on top of us; as a result, the cooler weather the rest of the country is having (along with the accompanying rain) is staying to the north of us this year.  We’re just roasting.

Usually, night time in the summer in Houston is delightful.  The air temp goes down into the 70’s and we have the humid but pleasant sea breeze.  The stars at night are, in fact, big and bright, and the lights of the city are reflected on the little puffy clouds that hang around.  People here are used to barbecuing, hanging out, driving around in convertibles (ok, that one is me), and enjoying their patios and pools after dark. 

Not this summer, though.  It’s been 100 degrees at 10:00 this year.  That’s Dallas weather.  (As I write this, at 6:30 am Sunday, it’s a little cooler at 82 degrees, about 80% humidity).

All that to say, if you want to do any yard work, you have to do it from sunup to about 9:00 am, else it gets just too damn hot.

In my case, yard work has to be accomplished on Saturday mornings.  I’ve resumed going to San Antonio every other week, Mother’s not doing well.  That means I have every other Saturday morning from 6:30 – 9:00 to get everything I need done, done.  A quick aside:  I really don’t mind yard work.  Many do.  I enjoy it as therapy.  I also enjoy the look of the yard after I get through.

Yesterday, I arose with the best of intentions (much like right now).  Started drinking coffee and checking all my little places on the internets.  As usual, time got away from me and I didn’t get outside till 7:30.  The temp was already starting to climb.

Due to my restricted time schedule, there was a LOT of deferred maintenance.  I had a lot to do and not much time.  So, I set about my task. 

As the temperature climbed, my temper shortened, and my stamina decreased, I kept finding more and more that needed doing.  I arrived at the “grim determination” level—not gonna stop until I get FINISHED, by God!

So, I was standing out in the yard, taking a “rake break” (leaning on the rake trying to breathe).  I wear a floppy hat, shorts, t-shirt and crocs for yard work, so I look pretty hilarious.  My neighbors, Emily and Anthony, had finished theirs and gone to the pool (they tried to get me to go, but I was going to finish!).  The neighbor on the other side of Em is a nice young-ish man, probably early 30’s; he and his cute wife have 2 cute little girls. 

So, Brad sees me leaning on the rake and calls, “Are you all right, Mr. Jones?”  “Yes, I’m fine, just taking a break.”  “Ok, well, you call if you have any trouble and don’t get too hot!”  “Ok, I’ll be careful.”

I went back to work and then realized:  this approaching-middle-age, balding father of two had called me “Mr. Jones”---and I’d accepted it without a thought.  I’ve actually BECOME “Mr. Jones”.  That was a title reserved for my grandfather, my father, and my uncle. 

When I was little, my grandfather (the “real” Mr. Jones!) used to take me to the Bank with him.  We’d walk all over Malvern, and Gramp would proudly introduce his grandson.  Without fail, all the people we met would say, “Good morning, Mr. Jones!”  “Nice day, Mr. Jones” “Good to see you, Mr. Jones, and is this your grandson?”  We’d drive around town and Gramp would point out, “That’s the old Smith place”, or “Old Man Goza used to live there”. We’d see some old man (friend of Gramp’s) out working in his yard in a straw hat, regular collared shirt, long trousers and regular shoes, and I’d think, “Now, old Mr. West doesn’t need to be out there doing that in this heat!”

So, I guess now I’m “old Mr. Jones”, living at “the old Jones place”, and I sure as hell don’t need to be out there in this heat! 

I just wonder: When did I stop being “Nick” and start being “Mr. Jones”?  (And  a corollary my buddy Keith and I postulated while solving the world’s problems over a pitcher of beer:  at what point does a woman make the decision to stop wearing the high heels and start buying “sensible” shoes---i.e. Granny shoes?").

Ah, well, these imponderables will have to wait.  I have to go water my foundation (that’s another blog post), cut a dead limb out of one of the Indian Hawthorns, and take out two or three little junk oak trees in the flower beds.  Then maybe old Mr. Jones can hie himself to church.



The results of yesterday’s labours.  I’ve got to get that dead branch sawn out, and yes, there are a few brown patches right at the street, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  The mockingbird family is singing away from their home in that big bush on the right, and Mr. Blue Jay is courting Mrs. Blue Jay up near the house on the left.