Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: R.I.P.

The last thing I want to do is wish my life away, but 2012 has been one interminably long year of wishing it was over. It felt as if the year would never end, yet it seemed to deliver unto me little more than one ending after another.

And now that the end has finally arrived, there will be no fond farewell to its passing from me tonight. Nor will Auld Lang Syne finds its melody sung from my lips as I surrender 2012 at the stroke of midnight with a deep sigh of relief. As much as I'd like to consciously forget the difficulties of this year gone by, the dismal irony is that I probably won’t have to do a thing to help the bad memories fade away since aging and the passing of time will most likely take care of everything. Clearly a blessing and a curse.   

I suspect that I’m not alone in my sentiments about the passing away of 2012, nor have I experienced the worst of it when compared to those who are struggling to survive devastations wreaked throughout the year in the name of gratuitous violence and natural disasters. All to whom my heart goes out.

So it's with great release that I now bid my final ‘goodbye and good riddance’ to 2012. Swaha!

© by DK King

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Rock of Gibraltar Bows to the Strong Winds of Change

I’ve known some rough years. I’ve known quite a few bad patches too - some of them admittedly self-created, and the rest, well, perhaps not so much so. And while many of my life-long friends have observed with occasional comment how challenging my life appears to them, it’s the only life I have right now and I feel an inexplicable moral obligation to make the best of it. I confess though that I do at times feel as if I’m a walking testament to the veracity of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” – Lord knows I’ve muttered those words to myself like a mantra long enough to almost be convinced it’s true.

The reality is that I don’t do victimhood or martyrdom very well. Nor do I have much use for the notion of “suffering for suffering’s sake.” Frankly at this stage, I think if I hear one more person offer me up (what is usually meant to be a compliment) some well-intended words of twisted encouragement about how strong I am because of what I’ve endured as if that’s supposed to be enough to keep me going, I think I’m going to puke.

In my experience, the development of inner strength is directly related to how one navigates through the land mines of life and subsequently processes through the post-explosion wounds and emotional compression that is the aftermath … not unlike that which transpires during the formation of a diamond or in the tempering of fine steel.

I believe most people really do try to pave their individual journeys around the wheel of life with good intentions as they maneuver through it all in the best way they know how, the way they’ve been taught. Yet when life hits us between the eyes with a painful and profound compression event which we frequently have little or no control over, it seems the most expeditious and effective way we have as human beings to alleviate our own suffering while simultaneously strengthening our character is to voluntarily change our perceptions, our belief systems and/or our way of being – whatever that entails.

The process of change is very personal and often irreversible. Although change tends to be frighteningly hard for most people, I personally don’t find the actions associated with change to be especially devastating … not anymore anyway. The devastation in my experience comes not from the act of change itself, but from the illusion that has to be shattered in order for the act of change to become a healthy necessity.
I call these illusion-shattering land mines “Towers” because, like the blind-siding shit bombs that they are, these explosions historically strike at my Tower with destructive purpose and without mercy. Upon impact, I know with trembling certainty that something deep inside of me will be violently ripped from my core as the rest of the world callously carries on unaware and unaffected by the gaping hole that’s about to be left in my soul. The feeling of anguish is almost indescribable. Yet it’s from this black hole that true strength is born. Go figure.

The day my excuse for a father narcissistically tried to defend his lifetime of abusive bad behavior by insinuating he’d done me a favor and deserved some credit for making me strong, was the day I knew it was time to release any illusion I’d ever held with regard to his place in my life. It was also the day I officially resigned from my lifetime role as the 'strong one', aka The Rock of Gibraltar. This shit bomb of a “Tower” was clearly a monumental one, yet the changes I ultimately made because of it, a blessing. 

I quickly discovered that people get fighting mad when the rules of a relationship are unilaterally changed and new boundaries are established, particularly when their self-serving agendas have been abruptly obstructed in the process. Resigning from my role as everyone’s Rock of Gibraltar meant that my strength could no longer be used against me or taken for granted. It meant that I could no longer be held to a higher standard simply because I was stronger. It meant that the emotional emergency room I’d generously sustained for decades was permanently shuttered to those who had abused or taken my strong support for granted. And above all, it meant that those around me could have the opportunity to step up and find their own inner strength. Yes, a blessing indeed.

This being said, all I can say now is that the Thanksgiving holiday finally allowed me the opportunity to catch my breath long enough to recognize that the last 12 months have been one of the most difficult years I’ve known in a very long time; the last 3 months, especially so. Talk about feeling overwhelmed by a blitzkrieg of shit bombs. I suppose Winston Churchill was feeling much the same way when he said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Perhaps his brusque quip is just a poignant way of reminding me that “this too shall pass.”

Well, what stone remains of this former Rock of Gibraltar has suffered markedly from the eroding effects of emotional compression, and the cracks are starting to show. It must be time to let go of everything and bow once again to the strong winds of change…

© by DK King

Monday, July 23, 2012

Living The Big Sky Life: Transferring Title

There's a saying in the business world that goes something like this: “You’re only as good as the last deal.” What this really seems to mean is that loyalty is the exception, not the rule. How this tends to play out in the real estate realm is that any repeat business points you think you’ve scored for flawlessly closing hundreds of transactions vanish with a *poof* the instant you make a mistake at the closing table today.

It wasn’t until I began working escrow in Whitefish, Montana that I began to fully grasp the harsh reality of this locution. And boy did I learn it the hard way. Yet how was I supposed to know going in that the title insurance company I was hired to work for had a nepotistic staff of substandard title officers who were never held accountable for the quality of their work?

My experience saw the title officers of Security Title routinely and apathetically shrug off substantial errors in the title reports they prepared, and then become righteously indignant when I dared to become upset, even though everyone knew that I was totally dependent upon those preliminary title reports (called “prelims” for short) to do my job well. And how well I did my job was pretty important since it directly affected the branch’s profitability and long term relevance. Oh duh.

For the sake of an insultingly low paycheck, I endured six stressful months of defensively dancing the quick-step in an attempt to parry and subdue the screaming machine gun fire of demanding and irritated real estate agents, which was inexcusably exacerbated by the inadequacies of my own colleagues in Kalispell on a regular basis.

Call me crazy but I tend to take my livelihood pretty seriously, and the Whitefish buck I needed to earn started and stopped with my reputation. It was hard not to feel at times as if the careless crew at Security Title was going out of its way to sabotage my diligent efforts to develop a solid book of business within the real estate community under its banner as they repeatedly abandoned me to the time-wasting task of damage control for mistakes over which I had no control. 

In the end, management’s callous indifference toward my professional reputation ultimately cost Security Title its branch office. How could the management of a company who arrogantly treated the bulk of its employees as disposable know going in that I would be nigh impossible to replace? Apparently that was a lesson Chef was destined to learn as well.

They say (even in today’s insanely tough job market) it’s easier to find a new job when you already have one. So let the record show that I took that old advice to heart and didn’t waste one moment working whatever edge I might’ve had to my advantage the afternoon I had my “Maryanne” moment on the phone with Deidra.

Joan may have been convinced that it was necessary to loyally endure years of poor treatment by the likes of Security Title in exchange for the illusion of job security, but I was not so compelled. Security Title had done absolutely nothing to cultivate my loyalty, and frankly, any points it may have scored for hiring me in the first place vanished with a *poof* the second Deidra brushed off that last prelim closing crisis with impotent nonchalance because the title officer happened to be her sister.

Part of my routine during the six months I spent working for Security Title was to listen to Joan recite the weekly stats for the valley’s four title companies as published in the Flathead County market share report, and her ending commentary was always the same ... she’d wistfully acknowledge the consistent and significant hold of Citizen’s Title onto the largest piece of the market share pie, and then she’d begin to pine on about how she always wanted to work at Citizen’s Title for they clearly were the biggest and the best. Well, it seems all it took to make Joan’s career dreams come true was for me to have one “Maryanne” moment because as soon as I hung up the phone on Deidra that fateful afternoon, I proceeded to dial up Vern Burton, the owner of Citizen’s Title, and leave a message.
Burton called me back within the hour. He couldn’t believe his luck actually. He told me how Citizen’s Title had been seriously contemplating opening a Whitefish office for years but Whitefish was a very cliquey market and next to impossible to break in to without the right person. Apparently he’d been watching me progressively gather up local market share in spite of myself and Security Title’s self-inflicted roadblocks, and he was impressed enough to now expand into Whitefish with me at the helm. Of course I recruited Joan to make the transfer with me.

Citizen’s Title was underwritten by First American Title and ownership was controlled by Burton’s holding company, Kalispell Title Services, Inc. The holding company had strategically acquired ownership of Flathead County Title sometime earlier because it offered the expansion benefits that come from having another title insurance underwriter (Old Republic) and title plant at its disposal. This acquisition also made the company’s combined market share insurmountable by the competition.

Kalispell Title Services, Inc. leased an office on 3rd Street next door to the Buffalo Café and across the street from Mountain Bank, and established a new office for me under the name of Whitefish Title Services, Inc. (WTS). In a maneuver designed to ensure the loyal lending business of the biggest bank in Whitefish, Mountain Bank, Burton and his corporate cohort, Dan Black, brought in the president/owner of Mountain Bank, Buster Schreiber (aka Mr. B.S.), as a 10% WTS investor.

While Joan and I did receive a nominal pay raise for transferring title companies, our meager salaries were expected to be supplemented with a monthly commission based upon our closing volume as reflected in collected escrow fees. The total escrow fee being charged on a sales transaction at the time was only $75. Typically this escrow fee was split in half and $37.50 was charged to each side (seller/buyer) of the transaction. Aside from the obvious fact that this flat fee was obscenely low, nothing about it made sense to me so I logically decided it was time to increase the escrow fee by $25 – time to make it an even $100.

Well, the local real estate agents squealed in protest like a sty full of stuck pigs. You’d a thought I was trying to drain them of their own life’s blood for an extra $12.50 that they themselves didn’t even have to pay for. Yes, I know. Even at $100, the fee was still obscenely low, especially when compared to what I knew was being charged for the same services in The OC. I could only push the envelope so far however, and given the heated reaction, it was clear anything over $100 would’ve just pushed too far.    

I suppose raising the escrow fee proved to be one of my undistinguished claims to fame. When the local swine finally stopped squealing, it was ironic to watch the four title companies in Kalispell (Citizen’s Title and Flathead County Title included) safely slip through the door of opportunity that I alone had the chutzpah to kick open as they all fell in line behind me and increased their escrow fees to $100 as well. And I'm talking quick, quick and with tacit enthusiasm.

The good news is that the fast dancing I was forced to learn at the onset to the stressful tune of screaming machine gun fire eventually turned into what later came to be called the “funding dance.” At least that’s what everyone who ever worked with me called it. Probably because I’d make them all dance around my office to the tune of the big funding bell I was known to grab from the corner of my desk and ring with the swing of Quasimodo every time a transaction funded. We have a funder! Whoop! Whoop!

Believe you me, everybody wanted to hear my funding bell ring for that meant all parties concerned would soon be dancing their way straight to the bank or into a new home.

Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Living The Big Sky Life: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Montana proved to be a grueling taskmaster. Of course all of the signs were there at the beginning had I only been able to read them with a clarity that is undeniably dispensed through the lens of hindsight.

Frankly, I find it hard to thrive in a place that labors to brainwash me into believing that I should consider myself blessed and thereby be appreciative of the fact that I can work like a slave for a slave’s wage yet somehow be expected to feel incomparable contentment because financial slavery is the price one must pay for the prospect of “quality of life.”  

I tried to believe the hype. I tried to capitulate. Yes, I tried to “live the life.” I really did. But I’m not the type who can thrive when living a lie. Yet unlike some of those well-heeled bulldogs who brought their riches with them, I didn’t have the luxury of not generating an income while living the big sky life and found myself promptly tasked with finding suitable employment upon arrival in June 1992. Standards be damned.

Prior to moving to Whitefish, my career had solidly transitioned years earlier from banking to commercial real estate lending, and the last position I held before the big move was vice president and California corporate broker for a Denver-based lender that specialized in originating commercial mortgage loans throughout the western United States. How was I supposed to convert my specialized, yet somehow unbelievably inapplicable, education and career experience into a paycheck I could live with in a cow town like Whitefish, or anywhere else within the Flathead Valley for that matter, decades before the age of cloud computing?

I began my job search by dropping off resumes anywhere that seemed semi-suitable (given my basic skill set) within the Whitefish community. This basically meant the four banks in town. Talk about lowering my standards. Just the thought of seeking employment at any bank was a claustrophobic compromise for me since I’d purposely left banking for a reason. Glass ceilings that enclose glass cubicles have an asthmatic way of suffocating me with boundless limitation.

It didn’t take long to recognize (admittedly with a huge sigh of relief) that I was mutually classified an over-qualified female and none of the local banks wanted what I had to offer as a consequence, so I took my job hunt down to Kalispell. I left resumes with any business I could find with a tie to the lending industry I knew so well, and this included the four major title companies: Citizen’s Title, Flathead County Title, County Guaranty Title, and Security Title.

I returned home from Kalispell that afternoon to find a phone message on the machine from one of the title companies I’d left a resume with barely an hour earlier. Diedra, the county manager of Security Title, wanted me to meet her at their Whitefish escrow office that Saturday, which came as a huge surprise to me for several reasons. Aside from the fact that there was no evidence (not even a street sign) that any of the major title companies had a branch office in Whitefish, nothing I had submitted for employment consideration even remotely insinuated that I’d ever had any hands-on title or escrow management experience.

Frank Lloyd Wright Building
341 Central Avenue, Whitefish. MT 59937
Security Title’s escrow office was located in the landmark Frank Lloyd Wright building on Central Avenue just north of 4th Street. It was sandwiched between Central Avenue and a paralleling alleyway that offered egress for the cars pulling out of Mountain Bank’s drive-through teller stalls.  

Experience or no, Deidra hired me on the spot and was eager for me to start my new escrow officer/manager job on Monday morning. Apparently Security Title’s local two-person branch office had abruptly downsized to one assistant when the previous managing escrow officer, Maryanne, had stormed out several weeks earlier. Well, it didn’t take me long to understand why.  

No one has ever been happier to see me for the first time than my new assistant, Joan. Joan was a bubbly 55-year old Whitefish native who’d been working for Security Title at least twenty years. Most of those years were spent in Security’s Kalispell office and when the company decided to be the sole title insurer to establish an escrow office in the town of Whitefish, Joan jumped on the chance to work closer to home.

Security Title eventually sent me to its Boise, Idaho headquarters for a week’s worth of corporate training a month or two into my tenure, but it seemed hardly worth the bother for the second that office door slammed shut behind me on my first day of work, my high-stress on-the-job training dance began … and it was to the tune of machine gun fire. The rapid fire commands of those demanding real estate agents forced me to dance as fast as I could while their screaming bullets aimed mercilessly at my feet hoping I'd stumble and they’d have someone to blame for something, anything.

Joan proved to be invaluable to me. She showed me the way with authentic exuberance, and she actively promoted and legitimized me to the locals in a way that only a true native can. My learning curve fortunately proved to be short and it didn’t take me long to make a prominent name for myself in the Whitefish real estate community – something no one else had heretofore been able to do.

This sure came in handy when I had my “Maryanne” moment with Deidra down in the Kalispell office. My dismissed and ignored frustrations had been mounting for months, and when the tipping point finally arrived, I let Deidra have it over the phone one fateful afternoon. Joan and I were alone in the office at the time, and I’ll never forget the look on Joan’s face when I hung up. Seems I said everything she’d ever dreamed of saying after enduring twenty years of mistreatment by Security Title's management.

It proved to be the moment that changed everything for both of us …

Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Living The Big Sky Life: Cater To You

My girlfriend, Sohowas a frequent guest at Chez Montana. One year saw her staying with us so much that we basically considered her a permanent part of the household. She entered my life within weeks of my arrival in Montana, and she was there for the duration and thereafter. She was, in fact, the only true witness I had to all that comprised my big sky life, and much to Chef’s chagrin, she was often the only reliable reality standard by which I could measure my sanity.

Whenever she’d stay in the green room in our home on the range, Soho typically made it a point go into the office with me every morning where she spent the days working her fashion business in Florence, Italy out of the back room of my title office. This scenario made her daily exposure to the locals and the way business was done in Whitefish all the more inevitable. What I saw, she saw. Who I met, she usually met. She was a firsthand observer of how I was treated and by whom, and this caused her to form very strong opinions about who she considered good and who she considered bad. She quickly developed a highly protective sense of who she deemed worthy of me and who she deemed unworthy, and frankly, more than most seemed to fall into her unworthy category.

And she used me to express her opinions about this in a very unique way.

Not long after the catering business had become fully operational, Soho left Whitefish to handle some business in Italy. When she returned to our home several weeks later, she handed me a blue velvet-coated ring box she had retrieved from the safe in her house in Florence and said, “This is for you. I want you to wear this ring every time you serve hors d’oeuvres to these people who are beneath you so that they can't help but know you are better than they are with each morsel you offer them.” Inside the box was a 14K gold ring set with a huge (¾”h x ½”w) emerald cut topaz citrine beautifully embellished with several small diamonds. Apparently the ring was to say it all.

Because she was part of our household, Soho couldn’t avoid participating in the planning stages of our catering business (albeit cautiously), and aside from Scope, she was the only other person who knew about “The Door.” She watched me pull double shifts for months when, after a full day of working in the title office, I’d come home at night to work the demands of a catering business. The weekends offered no reprieve or day of rest either, merely double the duty, because the majority of our catered functions were scheduled on the weekends. Whether it was marketing, office business, contract preparation, chopping and dicing in the kitchen, washing dishes, or serving at a function, my assignments and duties were numerous and never ending. As were Chef’s.

It took us months to settle on the perfect name for the new business, and the winner was: CATER TO YOU. As soon as the name for our company had been selected, I paid a quick visit to my dear friend and favorite Artist, KA Collins, for the logo design, and wasted no time in putting together "CATER TO YOU" marketing materials and event contracts. The only thing that got in my way was, believe it or not, Chef.

I believe part of the problem was that he’d never been in business for himself as I had. It seemed that his lack of experience fueled his ignorance when it came down to how common business principles can be universally applied to almost any endeavor. Every time I’d try to openly walk him through the developing nuances of our business operation as I was setting it up so that he would understand what I was doing and why, he’d regularly criticize and challenge the majority of my efforts, sometimes to the point of undermining. There were more than a few occasions when I had to hotly remind him that when it came down to running the kitchen, I was of the opinion that he reigned supreme which thereby obligated me to totally trust him to do what he did best. Why couldn’t he offer me the same courtesy when it came down to allowing me to do what I did best in running the business?

After I’d left Montana for good, he called me one day and humbly admitted that he didn’t realize, until I wasn’t there to do it anymore, just how much I’d done and how well I’d done it. It was an empty vindication however –too little, too late- because by the time he’d gotten around to acknowledging the significance of my contribution, I was long gone and he’d fatally driven the business into the ground (within three months of my departure, no less.)

No sense crying over spilt milk. It seemed to me a better solution under the circumstances was to simply slip on that glorious ring, go out into the yard, scoop up a big bowl of freshly fallen pristine (white) snow, and promptly blend it into something worth drinking ... like a strong margarita. Ole'!

Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Living The Big Sky Life: The Door

While I have every intention of serving up a smorgasbord of “day job” anecdotes from my big sky dealings in a downtown Whitefish title office, I’m going to continue with the home on the range theme a little longer as I expand on what it took for us to start up a home-based catering business and “The Door” that spoiled everything. 

The overall business set up took about six months and most of that time was spent constructing and outfitting the licensed restaurant kitchen around which the entire operation revolved. There seemed to be a beautiful logic to our catering business plan, and the partnership made sense at the time because Chef and I brought different skills yet mutual goals to the buffet table. We both knew from experience what it took to run a restaurant and that was definitely not a direction we wanted take. But with a catering business, we could beneficially combine Chef’s professional training and local food industry knowledge with my years of business management and customer service experience. And the fact that we had more than enough space to keep the business literally in-house was clearly the icing on the cake. Some might’ve called it kismet.

With a 1,600 square foot walk-out basement that was only half-occupied by the blue and green guest rooms, we were left with about 800 square feet of open space to build our catering kitchen in. That was more square footage than the entire Unabomber bungalow. The previous owner had originally finished the space off as an open rumpus room replete with wood stove, recycled barn wood wainscoting, and wall-to-wall shag carpeting in some Irish Setter shade of rust. This room also had four windows installed throughout right above the paneling close to ground level, and there was a standard size sliding glass door that opened out to the yard on the east side of the house right in front of the hot tub sun room. This east door was very important and although it was eventually replaced with a commercial fire door, it wasn’t “The Door” that ultimately divided our household.     

For the first time in his life, Chef was faced with the exhilarating task of designing what was nothing less than his dream kitchen, and he did a fabulous job with the layout and procuring the equipment necessary to fill it. The entire kitchen was designed around his favorite piece of equipment: a ruby red walk-in cooler he’d acquired from some restaurant going out of business.

Walk-In cooler
As is customary just about everywhere, in order to obtain the licensing necessary to own and operate a commercial kitchen, we had to meet local health department specs and standards. This meant plan approvals, a checklist of requirements, inspections throughout construction, and regular unannounced inspections during operation.

The Flathead County health department “case worker” assigned to our project was a woman named Charlene. Because I worked in the title office all day, I never had the opportunity to meet Charlene, let alone have a conversation with her. All of her business was conducted during the day with Chef since he typically didn’t leave to work the dinner hour as head chef at Jack’s Diamondback until early afternoon.

We were required to make several alterations to the kitchen design in order to meet code and while this came as no surprise, some of the requirements seemed a little over the top. Take the handicap parking/access and handicap bathroom for instance. Our kitchen was not open to the public so the requirement seemed a little excessive, but it was the law and not worth arguing about. We simply complied.

In all of this, my biggest and perhaps only concern was that I be able to gain access to the kitchen from my office upstairs without having to go outside and around the house, especially in the winter. Charlene from the health department approved the plans provided with only one entry door which happened to be the outside door on the east side of the house next to the hot tub sun room. This meant that I’d be forced to go outside and walk all the way around the house, often in inclement weather, every time I needed to get into the kitchen, when I really should’ve been able to walk down a few stairs and easily enter through what later came to be known as “The Door.”

The moveable freezer, handicap bathroom on left
Including “The Door” in the kitchen’s design was my only request and it was extremely important to me. And I had the perfect spot for it right behind a freezer in the back corner next to the handicap bathroom. This point of entry would inconvenience no one, and would be hidden behind the moveable freezer on wheels.

Apparently Charlene told Chef that the “The Door” I wanted wasn’t possible because of fire barrier issues. The wall that separated the kitchen from the west half of the basement was heavily insulated under the drywall to create a firewall because of those fire barrier requirements, but I told Chef that’s what commercially insulated fire doors are for. Clearly the denial wasn’t acceptable. I’d offered him a viable solution, yet had to repeatedly ask him to negotiate a compromise.

Chef would hear none of it and refused to pursue my request because he didn’t want to rock the boat with Charlene (whatever that meant). Every time I brought up “The Door” issue, he’d blow up like volcano. All the while I suffered through months of listening to him and his “Charlene said this” and “Charlene said that.” Yea, well, Darlene said everything except the magic words I needed to hear about “The Door” that meant everything to me. It got so bad I thought if I heard Darlene’s name one more time, I was going to have to a put a hit out on her.

Kitchen work area
While I deeply resented having my request relegated because it was apparently not worth the bother, it wasn’t in my nature to stand idly by and let the kitchen be built without creating options for myself down the road when Charlene was out of my life.

This is where Scope came in.    

We hired Scope to build out the kitchen and one day when he showed up to chalk out the room, I had a little private chat with him about creating my option. I asked Scope to frame in “The Door” without telling anyone, which he gladly did. He then casually sheet-rocked right over the door frame where it laid hidden, waiting for the moment when I could cut out the drywall and seamlessly install my door.

Kitchen work area and sinks
Once I felt safe in the knowledge that my one and only concern had been adequately addressed, and regrettably not through any effort made by my husband and partner, I relaxed my daily petitions to him for “The Door.”

The turning point in our relationship occurred one night after Chef got home from work around 11pm. I was in bed reading a book when he walked around to my side of the bed to talk to me about the kitchen’s progress. It was about half completed with my door frame secretly in place. He’d already showered and was dressed only in a T-shirt sans underwear.

I had to look up at him standing over me because at eye level all I could see was his free swinging scrotum. He excitedly went on about this and that, and somewhere in the mix I had to ask, “What about ‘The Door’?”

He went berserk, and turned to the wall next to my side of the bed and put his fist through it leaving behind a huge hole. I barely noticed any of it because the only thing I could see during the eruption was his nutsack flailing near my face in sync with the erratic rhythms of his rage. It was one of those visuals that’ll never go away … kind of like Sutton in the hot tub.    

The next day saw Chef shamefully contrite. And determined to repair the large 4” hole he’d left behind in his fit of uncontrollable rage, out came his faithful home repair companion, “Home Improvements for Dummies.” He worked on the patch for weeks, but couldn’t seem to ever get it handled. It didn’t matter really because a month later he made the mistake of picking a mean fight with me over something that was relatively minor and hardly worth remembering. After the fact, and after having released some of his pent up frustrations on me, he smugly went outside to take a ride on the lawnmower, and I was left seething in the middle of our bedroom with tears rolling down my cheeks.

I stood there motionless as I struggled to contain the volatile pressure building inside of me. Like some cheap plastic toy airplane with its spinning propeller powered by a tightly twisted rubber band, I felt as if I had one of those rubber bands twisting within me so tightly that it was either going to snap and break or release in a fury. 

Well, it all released in a fury the minute I noticed that half-repaired hole in the wall. I picked up a large rattan vase filled with heavy rocks and began swinging at the hole like the vase was a baseball bat. By the time I was finished, the hole was 8” in diameter. After I hid all evidence of the weapon by throwing the tattered vase in the trash, I went about the rest of my day as if nothing had happened.

Two weeks later, long after things had blown over, Chef was in bed next to me talking while we were both browsing through magazines. When he turned his head to look at me at some point, I watched his eyes double in size as he finally noticed what I’d done to his hole. “What happened to the hole?” he gasped. All I said was, “that’s what you get when you act like an ass.”

That hole was never fixed before I moved away. It remained as a reminder of all that got broken because of “The Door” that never got built.   

Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Vulture Culture" defined

VULTURE CULTURE. A cultural mindset.

The Vulture Culture is a parasitical cultural mindset that encourages self-serving individuals to collectively devour the flesh right off of the bones of society like a wake of New World Vultures gathering to feast on the susceptible.

Those immersed in today’s Vulture Culture tend to personify the gladiatorial spirit of “winner takes all”; and like the competitive arenas of ancient Rome where the sole objective of the properly indoctrinated gladiator is to win at any cost, every victory sustained is the direct result of cutthroat competition on steroids. There are no rules, there are no hostages. There is only winning.

In this myopic quest to win, disciples of the Vulture Culture think nothing of pissing all over everything they step on, and the corrosive uric acid that rolls down their legs unchecked does little more than leave in its wake a wide trail of scorched earth. 

Those belonging to the Vulture Culture have absolutely no desire to contribute anything new or of value to the very society they feed on. They prefer instead to feed upon the remains of the day like scavengers, for what they lack in creative innovation, they make up for in carnage.

© by DK King

Saturday, April 7, 2012

“The New GOP” defined

G.O.P., acronym revision for the new “GENDER OVERLORD PARTY”. A cultural mindset.

The “GOP” acronym known for centuries in the United States to stand for the Republican “Grand Old Party” has been updated to be the new signifier for the “Gender Overlord Party”. This turn of the 21st century revision was made in order to better reflect the bullying nature and evolving cultural mindset of a GOP that has elected to stand on a platform righteously rooted in conflict, contradiction, and condescension.

© by DK King

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Living The Big Sky Life: Houseguest From Hell

Having grown up in a large family, I can say without hesitation that the notion of sharing space with a diverse group of intimates is far from abstract. The social skills one must develop in order to successfully navigate the waters of fishbowl living in cramped quarters with a bunch of other guppies is often underrated, especially when contrasted against the 21st century style of ‘electronic relationship’ that seems to require no physical interaction to sustain. 

Yet when I was growing up and it came time for the King family to vacation or spend any time away from home, we basically had two choices: Spend the night in a plastic tube tent at some campground, or stay the night in the home of another. Anyone who has read my LTBSL posts will know well my strong distaste for camping, so let’s just say that it was never a voluntary selection for me if given the choice. When it came down to fulfilling my rudimentary desires for a hot shower, clean sheets and real milk to drink, I determined early on that the friendly sleep-over was, without a doubt, always going to be my preference.   

Most of the people I know understand the common courtesies that go along with practicing good guest etiquette when staying in the home of another, and I made the mistake of assuming that everyone operated under these considerate guidelines until I had the misfortune of housing a guest who clearly didn’t get it. Not even a little bit.

Having played the roles of both host and guest on numerous occasions, I can say from experience that good guest etiquette is a necessary component for any respectable visit. While a clichéd violation might be to overstay your welcome, you know you’ve behaved like a good guest when your host extends another invitation to visit as you prepare to leave. But I would never expect this invitation to be extended to me unless I’d been gracious to my host and respectful to the other members of the household while sharing their living space.

With 5 bedrooms, our home on the range was soon nicknamed “Chez Montana” because it was spacious enough to comfortably accommodate visiting family and friends like a B&B. And this included many of Chef’s out of state friends, which was frankly a good thing because the prospect of living the big sky life was a huge draw for the bros. Whitefish was “Boy’s Town” after all; and any guy looking to ski, snowboard, hike, fish, hunt, or enjoy whatever other communing with nature quality of life crap that big city folk wistfully prattle on about could find it all just beyond our backyard.

I also knew many of Chef’s old school surfing buddies because I went to school with them in Huntington Beach as well, and when they came to stay at Chez Montana, it was often like a high school reunion in our living room. So when Harrow came for a ski vacation during the winter of 1994, I gave it little thought, even though he was a high school chum of Chef’s that I didn’t know very well. What I did know was that he’d been a guest at our wedding, and of course, everything else I’d heard other people say about him, which was plenty. I also knew that he was the half-brother of Mamasan’s ex-husband, that he was a hair stylist, and that he’d always been crudely rumored amongst the bros to be a closet gay. Whatever.

All of the visitors who stayed at Chez Montana were put up in one of the two bedrooms downstairs. One bedroom was called the blue room because of its circa ‘70s powder blue shag carpet, and the other was called the green room, again because of its bilious lime/olive green shag carpet. The bedrooms were across the hall from each other, and aside from the ugly carpeting, they were sufficiently appointed with anything a guest could need including a nice bed and a full bathroom to share between them.

When Harrow arrived for his four day stay in the blue room, we already had one guest in the house. My girlfriend, Soho, was attempting to have a house built for herself three miles west of Whitefish at the time, and could frequently be found staying with us in the green room. She understood the courtesies of good guest etiquette and was always welcomed in our home because of it. 

As most hosts know, life goes on even when there are guests in the house. While we always did our best to spend as much time as possible with the houseguests visiting Chez Montana, the reality was, we weren’t the ones on holiday and our work schedules couldn’t be altered very much.

Harrow predictably arrived on the Delta midnight flight into Kalispell, and since he’d arranged his visit with Chef, Chef was the one who went to the airport to pick him up – the late hour was typically no big deal for a Head Chef accustomed to working the regular dinner shift anyway. Early the next morning, it became clear from the moment I sat half asleep at the dining table clutching a cup of hot coffee that my presence in the house during his vacation was going to be a major irritant for Harrow. I was so resented in fact, that I became invisible and not worth the effort of acknowledging on any level. Whenever I tried to speak to him like any nice host or normal person would, Harrow’s eyes would visibly glaze over and he’d ignore me. Only when Chef was present would he lower himself to offer me some sort of monosyllabic grunt, and it was strictly for Chef's benefit. In four days, I never got so much as a “Hello, kiss my ass, thank you for letting me stay in your home, nothing.”

Buffalo Cafe
514 East 3rd Street, Whitefish, MT 59937
Harrow had absolutely no shame in his game, and he overtly ostracized me as if I were an interloper in my very own house. And to my horror, Chef did nothing to address his friend’s rude behavior at my expense except to insist on day two that Hargett allow me to join them for a late breakfast at the Buffalo Café, primarily because it was next door to my office.

After what happened on the third day, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands.

It began late in the afternoon. Everyone was home except Chef who’d left for work several hours earlier, and Harrow who was up on Big Mountain skiing. Or so I thought. In the middle of my vacuuming, Soho came upstairs to let me know that Harrow had secretly slipped an anonymous female into his room where he was now busy doing the nasty as loud as he possibly could so we’d all be sure to know that he wasn’t gay. Well, Soho was certainly no shrinking violet, but she had tremendous concern for the well-being of my young daughter who happened to be hanging out with her in the green room at the time.

By the time I arrived on the scene downstairs, the unknown hooch had hopped into her car and was pulling out of the driveway. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. After I got over my initial shock at Hargett’s appalling and flagrant disrespect for me, my child, my home, and my other houseguest, I realized there wasn’t much I could effectively say to an ass who refused to communicate with me. I had to kick back.

The three of us sat on Soho’s bed in the green room and plotted as Harrow whistled happily in his room like a lark that didn’t know it was about to be swallowed by a mama mountain lion. It wasn’t long before he emerged from the blue room to take a shower. As soon as he got into the shower, we sent my daughter upstairs on a mission she accepted with glee. Since we all knew that the on-demand hot water heater that Sutton once boasted about was incapable of producing a consistent flow of hot water throughout the house at any given time, we used that deficiency to our benefit when we directed my daughter to turn on and off every hot water faucet inside the house while simultaneously flushing the toilets.

The blood curdling screeches that erupted from behind the bathroom door as Harrow suffered through the alternating extremes of scalding and icy water did little to make up for the insult of his reprehensible and inappropriate behavior in my home. The momentary revenge his screams offered, however, was humorously empowering, and it had the three of us rolling on the floor in laughter for a long time.

We squelched our guffaws behind the closed door of the green room when Harrow eventually left the bathroom and made his way upstairs to lounge on the couch with a cold beer. He barely had a few sips of that beer before passing out with the beer bottle squeezed between his legs. His wide open mouth sagged as the drool seeped from the lowest corner with every snore. I won’t even go into what might’ve found its way into his mouth as he unconsciously snorted on my couch for an hour as if he were God’s gift to my living room.

Now it just so happened that I was scheduled to take the same early morning Delta flight out of Kalispell that Harrow was booked on for his return to Orange County. Considering the tone of Harrow’s hellacious visit, I found the coincidence to be quite ironic.

Chef dropped us off at the airport together, and it was no surprise to me when Harrow grabbed his bags and bolted for the ticket counter, leaving me behind to handle my own luggage on the curb without so much as a word. I didn’t see him again until it came time for me to board the plane before take-off. Harrow was comfortably settled into his aisle seat when I fumbled past him trying to get to my own seat. It took everything I had not to ‘accidentally’ knock him in the head with my heavy carry-on bag as I passed him by. The only effort he made when I walked by was to turn his head away and ignore me as if we'd never met. No one would've ever guessed that he'd just spent four days in my house as the guest from hell.

When our plane made the usual layover landing in Salt Lake City, Harrow got off first and vanished completely. I never saw him again. Suffice it to say, Harrow was blacklisted from Chez Montana forevermore, and Chef got to feel the unmitigated wrath of my indignation. We never had a repeat performance. 

Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Living The Big Sky Life: From Scaredy Cat to Wild Cat

Like every politician, Newt Gingrich is all about getting his name out there any way he can, even if his name happens to be inadvertently attached to some scaredy-cat desperately trying to scratch and claw his way into the House.  

Gingrich’s political ambitions aside, I can say with certainty that his existence played absolutely no role in my young daughter’s decision to name her cat “Newt” in 1990 because she had no clue Gingrich even existed. Like many pet owners, my daughter chose to name her cat after something that had meaning for her, and in Newt’s case, she wanted to name him after the sole surviving young girl nicknamed “Newt” in the movie “Aliens”. Little did we know at the time, however, that Newt’s survival instinct would also be triggered by traumatic necessity to parallel that of his on-screen namesake.

In an unforgiving landscape subject to the cyclical whims of the seasons, creatures of the wild do whatever they instinctively need to do to survive. And sadly, not all of them do.

When it came to survival of the fittest for the animal kingdom of the Flathead Valley, it was obvious that the harsh winters were always the most challenging for the animals that don’t hibernate during the deep freeze. Keeping warm enough to stay alive and finding enough to eat just to keep warm went hand in hand, or perhaps it was more like hand to mouth.

It wasn’t unusual for us to see deer roaming through our fields of frosty tundra during the winter in search of a morsel. If the deer couldn’t find enough edible vegetation underneath the snow covered ground, they’d invariably make their way to the shallow flower beds around our ranch house where a delicate feast of flowering bulbs could often be found laying dormant not far below the surface. And I learned the hard way that foraging deer made for a pathetic springtime crocus bloom, but by the time I figured that out, the deer had long moved on to nibbling to a nub any tender shoots that could be found sprouting on the saplings we’d been foolish enough to leave unprotected after planting the previous fall. The deer reminded me of rabbits in a cabbage patch, doing what comes naturally, and it was impossible to get upset. It was simply incumbent upon us to plan better.

Although Chef didn’t dare insist that Newt prove he was a real cat by hunting down his own food, Newt certainly knew by this point that every day in Montana would see him in the fight for his life. It was in his eyes, and rightfully so. And it was especially so when Chef would lock the cats out of the house at night (in accordance with principle #1 of his non-negotiable animal doctrine), right about the time the hungry wolf packs could be heard howling while on the hunt along the fringes of our backyard.
Newt on the lookout

As predictable as the sunrise in the morning was the appearance of both cats at the porch clamoring to be let in with the sunlight for a proper feeding. Inky preferred to enter from the front door in the kitchen, but Newt always went for the back door. Probably because he’d come in from the back fields since he seemed to alternate spending his nights between the neighboring hay barn of Sam and Mary Ellen and the storage attic in Peyton’s garage.

The back door of our ranch house had the look of a one-piece dutch door – solid wood on the bottom, and a large rectangular glass window securely set into the upper half with a ledge-like rim. Somewhere along the line, Newt figured the best way to announce his arrival every morning was to leap up and throw the full force of his body against the bottom of the door with a loud thud, lodge his front claws into the window’s bottom ledge, and pull his face up to the glass so that he could scan the open living room and kitchen/dining area. As soon as his eyes would lock onto anyone within viewing range, he would drop down and wait for the door to open.   

Some mornings, it was just too much not to have fun at Newt’s expense. And every once in a while, the second we’d hear his unmistakable thud against the door, we’d hide giggling behind a cabinet and peek around the corner just enough to watch him swivel his head back and forth in the window as his alert green eyes scouted the room for movement, and someone to let him in for breakfast. He could hold onto that ledge for an impressively long time, I might add.

One Saturday afternoon, Newt surprised us all by coming home unexpectedly. Monty and Denise were visiting from Helena at the time, and as we sat around the living room socializing, along came Newt with the standard, yet startling, BAM! at the door. Monty sprung to attention as if a bomb had dropped and quickly looked around exclaiming, “What was that?!” And then his eyes locked onto Newt who was staring at him through the door’s window. To my great amusement, Monty freaked a little, but that was nothing compared to his “Hantavirus!” reaction after I walked over to the door and casually let Newt into the house.  

As wonderful as the neighboring hay barn could be, Newt’s favorite place to hang seemed to be the storage attic up in Peyton’s garage. On the surface, this was no big deal, however, Peyton had just as many acres as we did and a cat of her own to patrol it. Newt ultimately became aggressively territorial with Peyton’s cat, and when Peyton would try to scare him off, he would spit and hiss hostilely at Peyton like wild cat. Peyton was petrified of him.

After a serious territorial altercation with Peyton’s cat, Newt developed an abscess on his neck that required medical treatment. In order to take him to the vet, my daughter and I had to go into Peyton’s garage to collect him from the attic. Peyton came out to “help” but was too scared to really do anything except stand there and watch. When Newt heard my daughter (his master) call out to him, he came to the ledge and crouched. He looked at my daughter and meowed, then he turned to look at Peyton who recoiled with fear and panic when Newt hissed at her venomously. As my daughter began to make the climb to grab her cat, Peyton begged her to get down, afraid that the cat would rip her to shreds. I told Peyton not to worry. The cat would never hurt her. The closer my daughter got to Newt, the louder he meowed at her, and the louder he hissed at Peyton. Back and forth it went until, much to Peyton’s dismay, she reached up and scooped him off the ledge. Peyton’s jaw dropped when the cat calmly settled into my daughter’s arms for the long walk home.
Newt lost a great deal of his socialization skills while living in Montana. Isolation can do that. Just ask the Unabomber, although it might be easier to just ask me. Newt exhausted the last of his nine lives right about the time my daughter and I took to the “pray for me, I drive 93” highway for the last time. I may have considered myself lucky to escape Montana with my life, but poor Newt wasn’t so fortunate. 

In spite of everything, Newt never abandoned us, Newt never let us down. His dedication and generous contribution to our household was unquestionable, and let it be said that we never, ever found a mouse in our house.

In loving memory of Newt, 1990-1997 

Living The Big Sky LifeTM
© by DK King