All Furniture, Half-Off From Now Till Noon!

Talk about a holiday gift! The voice resonated out of the marginally effective overhead speakers, crackling every couple of sentences. Slightly shrill, plenty of volume to carry through the sparsely populated 3000-odd square feet of merchandise crammed space. ‘Attention Goodwill shoppers, from now until twelve noon ALL furniture is on sale, half-off. That’s right, half-off from now till noon. Please take advantage of this instant sale and thanks for shopping your Goodwill Store’.  
Almost immediately a few of the limited number of shoppers gravitated toward the mostly rickety line-up of shelves, chairs, book cases and tables. It would have been impossible for me to not crack a smile; after all on a weekday morning I’m certainly an anomaly in the shop. A sale like this might mean someone picks up a much needed piece for their home that would have been out of reach minutes before the sale. 
Goodwill’s are among my favorite shopping destinations, I’ve frequented them for years on both the giving and purchasing end. I can recall stops in stores in several states covering multiple decades. It’d seem I should have worked that out of my list of destinations years ago but I keep coming back. Years ago I learned the trick: find the shop/s closest to the most expensive neighborhoods in town. Knowing behavioral habits of the upper 10% means they do the same when donating–look up the nearest donation store to their home, load up the SUV with barely/lightly/sometimes not-even-used goods then drop them off at the bay for the bloated tax deduction. A quarter and year-end tradition for the upper 10%. 
Mostly now my purchases are dog related. Ok, they’re almost all dog related. I struggle dropping retail prices on toys (stuffed animals mostly) that my dogs or client dogs are simply going to rip to shreds within months. Same with throw pillows and blankets on dog-designated chairs. Similar with cold and rainy weather race throw-aways. I’ve lost count of the number of bike and running races I’ve picked up perfectly good tops, bottoms, jackets, etc to layer on until the race starter begins his countdown. In fact I almost feel good knowing I’ve pulled decent clothes off the racks that’ll then be recycled right back within weeks or days to shelters or individuals who need them. 
I was in my shop of choice in the prime of holiday shopping season and I bet the surprise sales are a welcome gift to the regulars. On my way out with a handful of my usuals I noticed one of the staffers lining up a couple large armoires then tagging them with –Sold– stickers. Good for them; a better gift I cannot imagine they could receive. 

I Vacuumed the Bed Today

House-spouse duties are top of my list every day. They need to be done before the daily fun begins.  We like our fun so we make sure the chores get done as efficiently as possible.  Toss in a little creativity and push a few boundaries helps move things along. Today I had a client coming back into town to pick up their pup. Great pup, top three-five of my growing list. He’s a shedder. Probably costs him a couple places. 
Moving from a solid-surface floor ranch with a fenced yard+ to a high-rise building with wall-to-wall carpet (enemy of the dog) has meant a significant shift to ‘house-spouse duties’.  Every outside dog trip means leash ’em up, find a coat and bags and head for the elevator. Losing the yard and garage frees up tons of time. Hi-rise means constant battles with smoke alarms when cooking. I normally lose–I’m about as immune to smoke alarms as most are to car alarms. That frequent. 
Apartment size (and quality) washer and dryer means 50% more loads. Minimal storage means multiple  trips to the market every week–not out of choice, out of necessity. Ditto dishes. Trade-offs. 
Wall to wall carpet with dogs means daily crevice cleaning. Guest pups–shedding pups mean even more. An extra level of cleaning is always done after the canine guests leave. Ever aware of shortcuts I found myself staring at a fur-ridden comforter on top of freshly cleaned sheets and pillow-cases. A trip to the dry-cleaners was out of the question; all driving trips are planned. Too big for the washing machine; already learned that. 
Options seemed to be slipping away. Putting away the vacuum I paused with a smirk. Why not? It’s fabric, like the carpet right? I roll around with the dogs on the floor after cleaning it. I’ll be rolling around the comforter after it’s clean. I failed to find any difference. A couple minutes later I was again wrapping up the cord and putting the machine back in its place. Comforter? Perfect. I’ve just shaved hours off my duties over the long haul. Moving things along creatively; lots of fun to be had!

The First 1000 (Miles)

All conditions lined up recently which allowed me to set a new MPG record on my Like 200. 87 MPG!! 
Simply incredible—had I not had a few tanks in the low-mid 80s I would have never believed it. Weather (it’s air cooled and we had a few moderate days), I had a couple clients a bit further away than normal (less stop-n-go), and I bumped up to a better fuel grade. Just a little short of 1000 miles put on since I first strapped on the helmet and: 

  • not a wreck (yet)
  • not a ticket (yet)
  • a few swallowed bugs
  • several gripes about potholes
  • a small wish for a larger rear storage trunk
  • average MPG around 84.5. Yup, 84.5
I’m considering selling my POS truck and using the limited proceeds just for the scooter. I figure that’d pay for everything scooter related until the thing gets put into the grave.  Nervous at first about buying a second hand (although only a few months old) scoot from a private owner and doubly nervous after researching all the bad about them I’m now fully sold. Both on the value equation as well as the pure fun factor. Without a doubt the most fun on it is cruising up and down Mountain for work or play. With so many students on the road I feel a part of the campus community. 

First 1000 down and looking forward to the next.  I have a scooter and am not afraid to use it.


Shuttle Endeavor Flyover – September 20, 2012

I’m a lucky guy~~as I’ve said time and again.  Yet another another example came up again a couple weeks ago. As a result of a direct request by retired shuttle pilot Mark Kelly the shuttle Endeavor flew right over Tucson en route to its final destination. I’ve seen shuttles before watching multiple launches from the pier out at Jacksonville Beach as well as touring Kennedy out by Titus. I can’t recall which one  they have on display at Kennedy, but it’s quite a site to get right under it in the cavernous warehouse in which it’s displayed. Yet in all it’s stationary, staged glory it’s not much of a match for live, unscripted action such as launches.    

Back to my good luck.  Given the flexibility and variety in my daily schedule I was able to adjust my day to be at a near-perfect viewing site for the ultra-low flyover. Positioned in a park just a few blocks from campus I brought a couple cameras as well as a couple of my four-legged clients, we found a shady spot and waited. Sure enough within a couple minutes of the pre-announced time we heard the jet approach from the northeast, swing south then curve around heading northwest.  
It was really an amazing site and the smattering of elementary school kids and retires with whom we were sharing the park felt the same if their cheers were any indication. In a couple minutes the vision was but a memory==yet one more reminder of how good I’ve got it. 

Shuttle Endeavor Flyover – 09/20/12

Wag More – Bite Less

I knew immediately there would be blood. I again tried to step back; by then I was nearly fully backed into the corner and I needed to get the door fully closed as another was grabbing the leash to try and walk himself.  Tears started welling up as I again reassured the mom it was ok; that he was just excited to get going.
Normally the group is separated by a jump proof, lunge proof gate that I sometimes struggle opening. On occasion, however, when someone happens to be home when I’m doing rounds they let the troops all hang out together. I’ve only stumbled onto it a handful of times and the group is so excited to head to the park they all gang-rush me when I walk in. The entire group is a little much to fend off–they each have a unique way of telling me they want to go–it’s actually quite funny but still a little much. 

Meanwhile the pup gave another leap and clamp-down. By now I wasn’t sure I’d be able to leash up and get the guys out the door…..fortunately the mom had begun rounded them up and peeling them away so I was down to just the one to calm. Plus the burning sensation I knew was starting to swell and bleed.  It’s impossible to get up set at the guy; he’s fully blind and 
completely dependent on one of the others for guidance; him jumping and nipping is simply his (over exuberant) way of telling me he wants to leash up and go. 
Getting back on the bike to limp on I was again nearly in tears; see the clamp-down on the upper thigh was the least painful of the nips. The other one, the worst, isn’t fit for viewing in a family friendly format.  Just another job hazard for the local dog walker. 


AMPS+ Hazards

Perhaps not surprisingly hazards do exist in working with animals. Narrowed down to merely dog walking/watching (and toss in the occasional cat, bird and fish) hazards still lurk just around the corner. In the last year+ of full-time AMPS+ and I’ve been: bitten (2x), scratched(several), stepped on(too many to count), slobbered and splashed, had clothes torn, and thrown to the ground (same side as the nasty bug leg of early Monsoon). That’s not including running into wildlife, traffic and impatient neighbors. All better alternatives to punching a clock for someone else. 
With the Monsoon in full swing all manners of  critters are out and about and the combination of very high temps and humidity put extra stress on the pups as well. Recently we’ve had near misses with several coyotes, a couple javi’s, giant toads, some swarms of flying ants, the typical diamondback and my first  Striped Tail Scorpion

Striped Tail Scorpion
Job Hazard
This guy was probably four inches long head to tail and 3-4 pincher to pincher. Scared the tar about out of me as I opened a door and caught him around a corner a couple feet up the wall.  Few local scorpions are helpful, even though they all eat up a bunch of bugs, so I went ahead and put him down. Since pups are curious by nature it seems the better option to sacrifice the occasional harmful critter to keep a potential problem away from animals under my responsibility. 
Snakes are so common this time of year they almost escape my awareness. Frogs/toads on the other hand are rather rare; at least on my rounds. Most of my rounds take me by (normally) dry river beds and washes, not making for great toad prospects. However, the occasional client lives at measurably higher elevation and/or closer to more stable water sources which means different sights for me. Tjhis Red Spotted Toad was the biggest toad I’ve ever seen. He had to be 10 inches long (toe-to-toe) and five inches wide. Ginormous!  
Taking a few minutes to better understand the local wildlife has proven helpful: which critters to ignore, kill, save, help cross the road, run-like-hell from, etc…..It’s also a way to add something to your conversation bucket. It’s always a shocker to hear how little natives may know about their own backyard. 
Harmless Red Spotted Toad

 In spite of all the minor hazards the upsides of working for my growing of critters (and their human companions) continue to tip the scale in my favor.  Animals 1: Offices 0.   
Two Great Clients!!



I’ve managed to put nearly 200+ miles on my new-to-me Scooter and live to tell about it. A business model for domestic pet-watching, walking, running (AMPS+) can be put together in a couple hours when living compact metropolitan area. In a sprawling metropolis it’s not quite as simple. Without discipline to draw firm geographical lines the business suffers amoeba-like growth. My model over the last year (one year exactly!!) has included virtually 100% referrals; very limited cold-calls or marketing-type clients. 
Referrals mean a constant network expansion; saying yes to something just a couple miles out of the boundary helps the business and builds (or solidifies) another relationship.  It also opens the potential for a referral back inside the boundary (crossed fingers!). However, it also adds an unplanned element of increased time and expense.  Have yet to figure out how add more time to the day but adding a high-powered moped to the mix helps on the expense side!

With my latest AMPS+ business tool I’ve come full circle. I was a punk middle schooler when somehow my brother and I managed to convince our folks we needed to own mopeds. Back in the day the choices in our are were mostly limited to Yamaha and Honda’s. We opted for red and blue Honda Express’.  How we didn’t break bones on those things escapes me. No training, no helmets, no common sense. We were doing something right. Retiring those was tough but I’m sure the couple of bucks made on the sale went to a good cause. Probably a new pair of tight 80’s jeans. 

Graduating to full-on motorcycles was the next step. A series of Honda, shaft-drive, liquid cooled cruisers were my choice through the years. Magnas and Shadows specifically.  Those were great bikes taking me through school and several years beyond. A few crashes, a lot of speed and a pile of near misses. I hung up my helmet on the last one in 2000 after running through a few of them over fifteen years. Still amazed I escaped that period in one piece. Mmmmmmm…………a lot of smooth speed. Mmmmm.

Through all my moves I’ve maintained my two-wheeler operators license just in case. Ever have one of those life things……just in case I think I’ll…….   This is one of those. Through the years I’ve been on a couple quads, bikes and three wheelers but never felt the strong tug to pick up another bike. Until now. 

Cruise Home From the Seller’s

Walter Admiring the New Wheels

Life in the desert seems designed specifically for all things two-wheels. Motorized or not; with a crazy number of sunny, warm and bug-free days every single year it seems a crime to not want to fly down the trail or road with the wind whipping by and the sun toasting your arms and legs. Pedal power carries only so far in this geographically spread community and combined with my need to meet deadlines and do it all on the cheap got me looking for solutions early in the year. Within a couple months I knew about all that was needed about Scooter Nation and where I might fit. Makes, models and sizes unlike old-school mopeds or the big-bikes. Name brand, off-brand, loud, quiet, sleek, traditional, local or Learned about all of it. I walked into what seems to be a great deal on a nearly new second hand and still under warranty. What’s not to like?  

I don’t really fit into the club……….yet my KYMCO Like 200i makes me feel a part of something. Especially when I’m zipping around Campus/mid-town. At 75+ MPG it’s tough to argue against it. After a few hundred more miles we’ll check back in with some stories to tell.