the impetus



by Roy Ster Seven on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 3:27am
You know how when you taste instant tea, mixed up from powder, you know it right away? how the artificial sweet and the artificial lemon and the artificial not-Tang taste can’t compare with the very tangy brewed? See that is how i feel when i shop housewares and such….that i am finally tasting my mom and my aunt’s true brew taste in my mouth again. After Mother’s Day, what could be more appropriate?

You see, my mom came from a crocheting, cooking, pot scrubbing, braid your hair every day mother named Grace. i kid you not. Like my own Mom, Big Mama Grace started life as a teacher, but unlike her daughter’s career, stayed home once the grace notes started coming…my uncle Bubba, redheaded Julia Anne, and the baby Jean Wallace. Mama Anne kept the love of hearth and home, to the extent of drawers of doilies, Graceful cross-stitch framed on the walls, and all manners of quilts stitched together with not only Grace but her tiara of half-sisters Jewel, Ruby, Jem, and Pearl (i kid you not). My mom was a woman of three china cabinets and the baby W Jean grew to be one of SEVEN proud china hutches or glass-fronted display cases. Some lit internally.

So when my own lil bro texts to get some new everyday china advice for himself and his lovely fiance, the genes from Jean and the jewels from Julia kick in. i am thrifting and discount-storing like Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray’s Lesbyterian love child. Not satisifed with the cyber pic he sent of the new pattern (Sonoma brand with the make being Vallejo Blue, a smoky earth tone/jewel bright stripe pattern surrounding this amazing deep brown glaze color outside and creamy offwhite inside), i hie myself first to BB&B then finally to Kohl’s to buy one small piece so i can match color in “good light” as my Mama Anne would say. Then it’s Katie Bar the Door, say goodnight Gracie.

It’s Foster glass knockoff dark amber goblets and leaf-shaped side plates with a vein of the beige at the center of the Sonoma bowls. It’s shopping the studio that makes those amazing California regional prints that hang in Baby Barnaby’s, searching online to see if the Sonoma one has the same palette as the dishes. It’s checking out a closing Tuesday Morning store for plastic charger plates in both gold and russet PLUS a deep chocolate brown ceramic coffee urn to go with the new square mugs. i have stocked myself a Mama Anne “gift closet” for Thom’s next five years of birthdays and Christmases. It is NOT about spending money, it’s about seeing a bargain and knowing the joy of a table set by a chef marrying a sous chef, with their friends’ senses of sight and smell preceding the ultimate one of taste…my mother’s and aunt’s, Thom’s, Francine’s, and all the good cooks and hosts our extended family gave access to.

It’s finding enough at Houston’s “third best” thrift shop so far (Goodwill on Shepherd, though the one in the Heights calls my name too, the big ‘un on Wash Ave) that i don’t even need to visit best thrift store number two (Alabama’s Blue Bird Circle) or my current number one (the Catholic Charity Behind Copy Dot Com). Plus those amateurs close mid afternoon while the Goodwill keeps the flow going until 9 PM. Though i will say the ladies of the guilds are the best….seeing what i pick and reject, they will tell me they saw a better version at another thrift store and hand me a Xerox map of how to find that location….one even called ahead and asked her sister to hold the clear glass vases she nearly bought herself yesterday, just for “that tall nice young man with his mother’s good taste.” (compared to that aproned honey, i AM young).

Lil bruh Thom and Francine may hate with equal passion what i hunt and gather for them, and that’s fine. They can donate it back to charity, where hopefully a resale will generate more good works, or they can regift it, another strong family tradition. But most of all, they will know i love them and i want their nest to be as homey and comfy as our mothers and aunts made ours….no matter what the color range. And bed bath and beyond the altruism, i’m still a jerk. The tag said EIGHT pieces of stemware for five bucks, and the nice Goodwill lady must have left four wrapped behind the desk and not in my plastic bags, so i’ll be back there soon with one that matches and a strong hope my $2.50 was not in vain….these four are nice, but the TALLER ones, the birds in the bush, are TRULY great. And just like when you brew your own sun tea, or mix up that special blend of Constant Comment and vanilla spice, the melange of the antique spoon holder next to the Ikea Fiestaware knockoff plates (because their colors complement) is SO much better than the “add water and stir” of the registered flatware and dinner service the bridal consultant recommends.

i am the Phoebe Bufay of the china cabinets, not wanting the catalog look of every Crate and Barrel display window, but a piece with a STORY and a PROVENANCE to share with friends…”yeah, it’s nice, but it’s GREAT with that chip on the back i painted in with nail polish….that ding saved me two bits on the service for eight.” Rachel can settle for tasteful Ralph Lauren selected collector’s items, but Monica’s wacky color sense and open shelves instead of kitchen cabinets draw my eye more….”were the walls always this purple?” (Joey on closing episode).

So next time you are presented with an online registry or visit Target for the housewarming, sure, look at what the sheep may pay full price for. Get you a baaaah-gain. i’m certain the registrants will admire and appreciate and lust for it too. But maybe spend more of you and your eye and less of your debit card in a funky shop where you might need a dishwasher pit stop before the wrapping paper…that’s the tea that refreshes and the nest only YOUR chickies inhabit. And when you visit, they may even move it out of hiding and put it center front in the china cabinet/hope chest of their lives. Just like you’ll remain in the center of their hearts. Some lit internally.
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Roy Ster Seven ‎Beth Lazarou maybe you should let me help stage…it’s basically prop=shopping a set dressing anyway. i’m fast and CHEAP, ask any bathroom wall
May 10 at 6:01am · Like
Roy Ster Seven ‎Hugo Leonardo Peralta and Shaun Botes not to worry the “china hutch” will turn back into a bookcase soon…just need to take some pix first.
May 10 at 6:01am · Like
Roy Ster Seven ‎Lane Roebuck Logan Shacklett u feel me here i know u do
May 10 at 6:47am · Like
Roy Ster Seven ‎Molly Davidson can i get a shout out
May 10 at 10:05am · Like
Carolyn Cox I love it, Roy. You’re a masterful storyteller!
Wednesday at 6:13am · Like
Roy Ster Seven this one might go in BOTH Allie’s proposed book and mine.
Wednesday at 6:14am · Like
Roy Ster Seven i never felt more domestic (in an Erma Bombeck way) than when i stood this morning at 7 AM on an ottoman in my kitchen, clad in a bath towel and reading glasses. Using a miniscule plastic shot glass (the only thing small enough), i was bail…See More
Thursday at 10:16am · Like
Roy Ster Seven ongoing domesticity today: luncheon at the desk at the office is three spoons of peanut butter (crunchy), two Lindor pre-wrapped truffles (one white chocolate, one dark), and a big ole Coky Cola, extra ice. Would Oprah approve?
Thursday at 12:52pm · Like


Always wondered what that phrase meant, and finally Wiki’d today to find out that the best theory seems to be when a neighbor loudly drops one shoe on the floor, you await the drop of the second….that must be one clumsy neighbor.

My “clumsy neighbors” lately, those whose second shoe is suspended between their possession and my “thud” of an understanding, have included Former Work Wife, My Favorite Work Sibling, and Kissing Cousin.

FMW used to be one of my very best friends. We could talk about anything….vent on the job or the personal life, finish the thoughts (and even the french fries) of the other. Then when I was in NYC to rehearse CURTAINS something happened. I forgot to do something, or said something, or reversed something I had promised her, and the mojo left—-like that epi of JACK & KAREN where Will and Grace can’t win suddenly on Game Night. I have tried since to regain the connection, with direct questions, with jokes, with stupid gifts, with gossip….and the tempature has thawed somewhat in the last week, but the shoe is still in VERY slow motion as the tracking shot follows it toward the floor. Once it hits, I fear it will bounce in even slower motion, roll under the bed, disturb dust bunnies, and who knows maybe even end up with a broken platform heel. I’d rather heal us. Wish I knew how, as I miss my occupational spouse so much. Others report a similar feel from her…maybe I’m just selfish and think it all revolves around me. If it DOESN’T, sure would like to be the cobbler who puts her klutzy footwear back into the cha-cha heels we used to share.

MFWS is another matter entirely. Her choice of footwear is the boot she’d like to insert painfully and repeatedly into my buttcrack. She is so unhappy in general, she always needs a target at which her displaced repressed rage can be focused, and for about oh say the new year of 2010 that has been me. I have seen her in the last decade vote various folk off her island of respect, and even in the last eighteen months seen others temporarily draw her itchy steel-toed workboot (or nice red pointed-toe cowboy boot) towards where the Good Lord split’em….but I’m her favorite non-fit at the rodeo. There is no way out of it. Rodney Dangerfield would get more respect from her, when if teamed up, we could move mountains. I see the tracking shot of her podiatric gravity inevitability more like a MATRIX-style rhythmic slow motion, where the boot hits, rolls toward a hapless target and TAKES IT OUT. Death by impact of footwear.

Finally, there is the very cute KC. That flip-flop of casual friendship, as it descends, also teeters on the platonic/erotic line….there is laughter and simpatico and shared world-view and attraction. But where is it headed? Will our respective sandals merge into the mutual “one of mine and one of theirs as long as the feets got soles/souls” or will we cut to a shot of two spread flips and another pair inverted between as the horizontal mambo commences….then the kicking off of the shoes and the gettin-down-to-bidness toe curling? this one has so much passion I could even see the flat-thong-mule used as an impromptu ass-slapper, the better to set up the ole slap-and-tickle. This one is the most promising, and the most distracting, of the dropping shoes….its visual I can see as repeatedly fast-forwarded and run backwards, rhythmic editing with a Benny Hill music soundtrack. Maybe that mix of hilarity and hotness will alleviate the pain of the other two….let’s hope that shoe drop bounces my mood higher as it did last night.

What is the sound you await? What will disturb or inspire your neighborliness? DO YOU NEED TO CUT TO THE CHASE IN THE EDITING OF THE ACTION SEQUENCE AS I DO? Put your pedal to the metal and let me know.


An Open Letter to the Continental website customer service subpage:

I miss the old Continental. For this particular trip, a colleague used his
FF miles to book my travel; never an easy situation, but still negotiable
with careful attention….the kind of attention we used to regularly get from
Continental customer service, particularly since we’re both Platinum
members. No one at Continental could keep clear WHO was travelling, or could
consistently find the records of reservations. Info was sent to the “wrong”
e-mail address repeatedly, even after REPEATED clarification on the Elite
desk line. When on that line, identification info from the customer was
REPEATEDLY asked for, by voice automation and live, as if the record could
not be kept up on the screen. The computer screens were VERY slow to
respond, keeping the customer on hold, the agents annoyed, and other
customers from receiving help sequentially. This is not acceptable.
Customers WILL be proactive, but their patience in a phone call is
limited—we don’t want to be tied up or tie your agents up any longer than
you want us to be, but all of us are held hostage by slow computers.

When i asked later about the computer issues and the ongoing repeats for requests of information, i was told that “Elite Desk ONE PASS Help Line” and “Elite Desk Help Line” (why there is such a distinction, one can only hazard odd guesses) use ” two different computer systems, so sometimes the ONE PASS Elite desk can see info that the just-plain Elite Desk cannot.”  How efficient. Isn’t the POINT of computer systems making the process of doing business or keeping track of a valued customer easily? otherwise, go back to a filing system and a hand-entered ledger.

Weather conditions impeded the return leg of the trip, but were nonsensical:
cancelling a flight TWO DAYS before the inclement weather was even
anticipated. When questioned about this policy on the Elite line as I tried
to reschedule my return flight, the agent was very rude, and couldn’t
explain the new policy. When asked what would happen if the weather threat
didn’t materialize (as in, would those flights still go on the originally scheduled day in question) she didn’t know and
didn’t seem to care to find out or help me stick to my original itinerary if
possible. When, after several calls to reschedule, a return flight was
finally settled on, despite having gone over carefully my seating
preferences as a Platinum member, I got bad seat assignments—which was
crazy, as when I printed my boarding pass at the kiosk, I was asked if I was
over the age restriction and travelling without children, thus suggesting I
had assignments on my preferred exit row or bulkhead. Feeling secure, I
didn’t check the seat map—so imagine my surprise to find myself in a
regular row window seat instead of preferred row aisle. To top all that off,
the seat I got doesn’t recline, it’s broken. Perfect.

When food service came through, of the two attendants, one was lovely but
the other was rude and dismissive. Yes, her scanner for credit cards was not
working well and she had to input numbers manually, but that’s not the
customers’ fault. It used to be that the majority of attendants were lovely;
now a 50/50 average is LUCKY. The majority seem to be annoyed that we are
trying to give Continental our business and spend our money with them. Yes,
I have Platinum status with Continental and all my banking feeds my FF total
there. However, with the rise of Kayak and Travelocity, and the ability to
stockpile universal miles through various credit cards, my loyalty can be
swayed. I understand a merger is going on, but it has been for a while and
if Continental can’t keep their customer satisfaction high, a merger is a
prime time to SWITCH allegiances, too. United’s reputation, let’s admit it,
is not “high customer satisfaction.” You guys should be smarter….if the
computer knows I’m Platinum, it should be able to figure out offering me a
chance to “buy” miles toward a particular status as I check in is
counterproductive. It should automatically delete those offers from my
process. We don’t want to be “upsold” as we check in online or print our
boarding passes at the kiosk ANYWAY. Has Continental stopped beta-testing
with actual consumers the new marketing tweaks to the system? If so, more
fool they…we can see right through the ploys. And we’ll hold it against you.

We want transparency, and we want to be treated as if our brand loyalty
matters—not with just the standard “we know you have a choice” vocal
boilerplate each time we land. Step beyond the LETTER of the policies and
get to the SPIRIT of them…if the computer is slow for YOUR staff, think how
the website is for us, the consumer, who’s paying for it, not being paid by
it. Streamline things….we don’t need fancy graphics and animation on the
website, we need it work quickly and efficiently. If merging Continental’s
software HTML coding with United’s is a challenge, admit it and be nice
about it. Don’t EXPECT our understanding, make sure you ask for it and thank
us for lending it. In other words, remember the cardinal rule of getting
customers to return: see the situation from our point of view, not the
company’s. If you can, we’ll stick with you. If you can’t, we’ll find an
airline that will.

the impending "united continent" lurks


Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 6:56pm

an all staff e-mail this morning:


<span>First off, so sorry to have missed the holiday party last night….heard it was great. Way to go Education and Nicole!


Secondly, within the last ten days, three different TUTS staff have mentioned to me a similar feeling. They come from three different levels of our staff: managerial, mid-managerial, and part-time. They all work hard, are effective, and smile every day….but they told me they had given up hoping to affect positive change at TUTS (in so many words). They felt “things are just as they are, no sense trying so hard, settle in and endure.” Again, I am putting words in their mouths, but trying to generalize the take they each shared with me into one general reaction.


It made me sad. Because I had been feeling that too, without realizing it. This is a season of renewal, of hope that a new birth for a new world is possible. It’s a time when January first starts us thinking about what we did last year and what we want to do in the year to come…..Top Ten Whatevers of 2010. It’s even a new decade of a young century. We are mid=plan for TUTS Season 2011/2012, and I’m beginning to zero in on the Gala 2011 that will raise funds to keep us programming another year, as is Development. If EVER we needed a second wind, it’s now….and three key players are winded.


I was told that when I talk or write around TUTS, what is heard is the teacher’s voice on a Charlie Brown cartoon….a wailing non-sensical muted trombone. I apologize for that if you find it to be true, and if you do, stop reading now and concentrate on your own more sensible music.


Here in a kind of weird funny cartoon is what we face daily, a brief overview of non-profit arts and their struggles:




So naturally, we get discouraged. Our process of re-educating our market, our parent base, our donors, and our funders is ongoing, and they are facing their own fears in a tough economic cycle. What to do, pro-actively?


When I was a teenager trying to work at Disney World in Florida, they had a philosophy amongst their “guest relations” (never “customer service” as patrons were friends visiting, not walking wallets). I turned to a friend who started there with me and now runs Disney U, in charge of branding that kind of “guest” loyalty to the Disney way, and co-opting it for companies small and large across the world. His next assignment is Singapore for the new Disney park coming there….


he helped me remember a concept Disney uses, of small change daily. Of finding an opportunity to re-new your spirit as you lift another person’s….a fellow worker, a guest, a child….folks we meet at TUTS each and every day.


It’s called Take Five….meaning, daily, take five minutes to make a little miracle. Nothing fancy. But if you see someone lost in Lexus Lane not sure where the underground parking access might be; or a parent in the HSMT lobby looking for a staff member as they have yet ANOTHER question about their student’s individual welfare; or you take ANOTHER call from someone who thinks TUTS is producing MAMMA MIA and wants a group rate or an audition…..Take Five. Take a deep breath. Try to help them nicely and help yourself at the same time. Be nice to them and invest in the future of someone being nice back to you.


Go see a River performance. Watch Shay or Peggy teach a dance class. Ask John if NINE TO FIVE has found a better market than ours. Get Katie to tell you about pink Twinkles on her desk. Tell Bret “good job” on a relatively quick annual audit. Ask Niki how Karen is doing recuperating, and buy her a Coke as you chat it over. Find out what Seth’s youngest is expecting for Christmas. Tell Christian his mom did an amazing job on the lobby Holiday Tree. Notice how Faye stays late nearly every day, and so does Isabel. They have that much going, it won’t always close by 5 thirty to leave the building. Ask them what is holding them there.


Donate a book to Mary Beth’s Target matching program for MYA. Bring a young performer friend from church or your kid’s school to the incredible Tommy Tune Awards. Ask your favorite store to consider donating goods to Elizabeth’s silent auction at the Gala. Tell David you’ll buy a single ticket subscription for a friend you can then send with another friend who is using your Sunday night staff comps….they may BOTH become subscribers, then pass along to three other individual subscribers and build our base a bit stronger.


It won’t always even Take the whole Five minutes. But it might take your mind off the clouds and let the sun shine briefly. And hopefully, it will add up…your lifted spirit and theirs will lift two other folks, and then you can do the math, even without Faye’s spreadsheet help.


Jessica Stanley smiles EVERY day. Notice her. Marcia dresses like a million dollars to help us earn half that in donations. Tell her you appreciate it. Bob’s partner plays for an amazing local choir….ask him when the next concert is. Rozie has a budding thespian/musician in her house, just rockin high school…they are not in the Tommy Tunes, but she has candy to sell for their own fundraising. HSMT Elizabeth is engaged, and Jeremy just had a baby…Geneva can give you the whole scoop. And if you want a smile on a bad day, ask Misty why she loves TUTS, or Jacqueline why she loves the Tommy Tunes, or just visit the phone room instead of putting your ticket request in their mailbox. That crew could make the Sphinx giggle. And Janette will ALWAYS have a joke or witty comment for you…a funny website or the latest wrestling standings. Check her out.


If you thought dearly departed Lauren had a beautiful feng shui office, you should compare Sam Byrd’s. Lauren’s karma continues there, and Sam brought in his OWN great office furniture. Got a beautiful holiday card you just don’t want to throw away but also don’t want cluttering up your drawers? Mandi is an amazing scrapbooker, and she might utilize it….and if you like the graphics on Pops’ cubicle wall, e-mail him for his WIFE’s website….cool visuals run in the family.


For our extended staff, mark your show calendars for first Weds of local productions and second Saturday of any show we sell. Nicole can help you attend a loading dock party where you’ll meet stagehands and stitchers, light board folks, HCPA staff and the cast du jour. And if you REALLY want to see Take Five in action, hang out at Encore sometime. The way Suzanne handles guests could be a whole chapter in the textbook for Disney U.


In short (too late, I know) we all can’t be Mary Poppins. But that spoonful of sugar makes the daily dose of real-world medicine a bit easier. Or at least I’m hoping so. Happy Holidays to all, and who’s with me for Five in Aught Eleven? see you next year. </span>





HOT TUB: Bubbling cauldron or warm baptismal font?

Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 10:50am

I am a born Baptist, you know. Dunked in the artificial river behind the glass wall behind the big crucifix of the First Baptist Church of Tavares FL. Wrapped in a white shroud and JC Penny tightie-whities, rehearsed by a youth minister “dry” as they say, to be dipped like a ballroom dancer with a strong preacher as partner, then waded center stage behind the cross, the Reverend’s arm about my waist, his Old Spice handkerchief across my mouth and nose to keep the sputtering down, and the modern John the Bespectacled Baptist made me a new man: at eleven. Not bubbles, no heater. The fire of the Lord can be cold as ice. Afterward I stood on a chair in what was known as Fellowship Hall and blubbered my way through the solo THE OLD RUGGED CROSS. No applause or dancing from the Baptists.


As a child, hot tubs were for quick dips, the main attraction the nearby pool or Florida-adjacent ocean.


My first real bubbled soaking was with a college professor mentor, and i recall her combination of the new hot tub on Brittain Avenue and a six pack of bottled beer to be tres elegant. The chat, the relaxation, the amazing minds at play.


This morning I started the holiday season with a mimosa and a garden hot tub near the French Quarter. I have reckoned to have been in this particular jacuzzi some fifteen times over a decade plus, and my introduction to this B&B was via that tub and it’s owner/guardian, Daddy Jesse.


When I am travelling and in a fresh hot tub, I call my brothers and report in. They hate it. Seattle, LA, NYC, Key West, London….Costa Rica. I want one for the family estate, right off the Central Florida Lake. We’ll see.


Hot tubs have lost their Cali Swinger era, and most master baths build them into the very heart of the home now, but inside and more private: whirlpool tubs, foot baths, the occasional bidet (another baptism daily I long for).


On MTV the hot tubs of reality shows are for the mixing and heating of chromosomes, a magnified petri dish of the amoebic mating dance. For me, they are more like a communal bath, where inside our skin but out of our clothes we let it all hang in, and suck it back from hanging too far out.


Try one. They’re not just for California swingers. We rush our abolutions: a quick shower to freshen up. When I finally make a retirement cabin, the bathroom remodel will have a walk in tub/shower for when I am too old to climb down into a pool of even small water. I first saw such with my stepfather’s family in rural South Carolina, in a mountain cabin octagonal in shape, rough-timbered, with a matching octagonal fiberglass walk-in tub/shower that has inspired me evermore. Your joints need a soak, a spritz, bubbles around you as the bubbly goes down inside  you.


Baptize thyself, simmer a bit….just be. And Baptists? clap and dance a bit. The fires of hell do not warm your hot tub.




Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 10:01am

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLEWith a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer glovesAnd satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tiredAnd gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bellsAnd run my stick along the public railingsAnd make up for the sobriety of my youth.I shall go out in my slippers in the rainAnd pick the flowers in other people’s gardensAnd learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fatAnd eat three pounds of sausages at a goOr only bread and pickle for a weekAnd hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dryAnd pay our rent and not swear in the street


And set a good example for the children.


We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?So people who know me are not too shocked and surprisedWhen suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.