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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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Return to lately 2002.

we're buying a new blouse
september 14, 2002

I received a really nice e-mail this week from a BBC producer who's flying over from London in a few weeks to film a documentary for The Travel Channel. The special will be on exotic foods. She read my Dallas Restaurant Reviews, liked them, and asked for my help in locating restaurants in Dallas that serve rattlesnake.

A few years ago, that would have been an easy question to answer. Back in the mid-nineties, Highland Park Cafeteria served not only rattlesnake, but alligator as well, but they've since gone out of business. The only two restaurants in Texas I know that still serve snake are the Antlers Lodge in San Antonio, where Mary and I lived for nine months when we first moved to Texas (and where, in one of the supermarkets, we lifted out of a freezer bin what we first thought was a huge turkey, until we rotated it around and discovered we were holding a frozen cow's head, used in some of the local Mexican dishes), and Big Texan Steak Ranch, in Amarillo, where you can not only buy rattlesnake, but fried rabbit, buffalo meatballs, breaded mountain oysters, and ostrich burgers.

I've always enjoyed unusual food, a way of bypassing what can be the boredom of beef, chicken, pork. Sometimes, drawing up a food list for next week's meals, I'll think, If only God would create some new animals we can kill and eat. I love watching Iron Chef, there's something sincerely touching about it, that panning shot of an army of chefs obediently arrayed in their starched uniforms, to the swell of movie music, brought together to steam forty lobsters so the juices, dripping down, can flavor a skillet full of asparagus. I stand in the middle of our kitchen, coffee cup in one hand, Krispy Kreme doughnut in the other, the tips of my fingers already sticky, close my teeth around the swollen curve, feeling the sugared crust crack within my gentle bite, proud to be part of a species so extraordinary in its accomplishments it not only splits atoms but dips doughnuts.

Lately we've been eating a lot of fruit. When Mary first started going to her speech rehabilitation center following her stroke I made her a sandwich each day, feeling she should have something substantial to get her through all her different exercises and lessons. The problem with sandwiches though, as I realized after a while, is that the meat in the sandwich increases her cholesterol level, and the mayonnaise lowers her coumadin level (the higher your coumadin level, the more difficult it is for your blood to form clots).

So we switched to fruit. Each day Mary has two servings for the brown bag lunch I pack her, an apple or orange, which we think of as the "main course", and then a small tub of grapes, cantaloupe or honeydew melon, the "dessert". I've started eating fruit myself, amazed at how good strawberries taste, or fresh, wet chunks of pineapple.

Along with healthy eating, we've also gotten into home improvement projects. Our first was modest, re-caulking all the kitchen counters, and the shower stall. I had caulked part of the counters years ago, and was always afterwards a bit embarrassed at the obvious trail of my impatient thumb along the angle where the two planes of the counter met. Now, going to our local Home Depot to buy caulking supplies, we discovered there is in fact a tool you can purchase that slides effortlessly along, crimping the caulk into place while it simultaneously removes any excess, a remarkably cheap tool, made of bright red plastic, shaped like an arrow head with a rear handle. (Using "buy" and "purchase" in the same sentence, to avoid repetition, reminds me of our neighbor Jim, himself a stroke victim, now recovered, who advised Mary to try to think of a synonym whenever the word she wanted wasn't available, saying "feline", for example, when the word "cat" wouldn't come, an example of the useful redundancy of language, much like our own bodies come with spare parts, in case they're ever needed, two eyes, two lungs, two kidneys, though for whatever reason, only one heart).

Sometimes now, early in the morning, standing in the kitchen in my pajamas, waiting for the coffee to finish dripping, I re-admire how, this time, we did a job so professional.

Our next project, much more ambitious, was to create a tile top for the window seat in our breakfast nook. Our kitchen, unlike the bright, colorful rest of our home, is almost entirely black and white. Black and white striped wallpaper, a huge, black and white cowskin stretched across one of the walls, showing you just how big a cow really is, black and white furniture, curtains. So for the tiles we decided we'd go for a black and white checkerboard pattern, but to place in that pattern some colored tiles depicting fish or palms or something, to break the severity.

We first tried a huge, thick-carpeted store near Mary's rehabilitation center. Inside, you walked from mock-bathroom to mock-kitchen, one after the other, displaying the different tiles, all of which were expensive and gorgeous. A middle-aged saleswoman came over at one point, hands held down in front of her, and quietly told us to please let her know if she could be of any assistance.

Once we decided what we wanted, we walked over to her, pointing at the tile display we liked.

"Sir, I'm so sorry. We don't sell tiles."

I forget the name of the store, but it was something like The American Tile Company, the word "tile" was in the title, plus there are literally thousands of tiles on display all around us as she was speaking. I'm thinking, are they called something else now? Like years ago, when farm products suddenly became farm produce? Or is it a Halley's Comet thing, where the pronunciation changed? Is "tiles" a two-syllable word now?

"We only display tiles, sir. This is a tile showroom. If you want to actually purchase any of the tiles you see here, you'll need to order them through your architect."

Which was a real drag, because as it happens, my architect had borrowed my yacht, and he and my personal attorney and most of my accounting staff were on a cruise in the Mediterranean, where I couldn't easily reach them. Damn!

Did she know of any place in the area where I could "actually" purchase tiles?

"I suppose one of the retail outlets like Home Depot sells tiles."

Back to Home Depot, where we found what looked like great tiles for about forty-nine cents each. We also bought a huge bucket of an adhesive and grout pre-mix, a broad rectangular metal trowel with sawed edges for spreading out the adhesive, and a floater, a rectangle of soft rubber with a handle above, for working the grout into the joints between the tiles.

It took us two weekends to complete the project, during which we somehow managed to get adhesive and grout all over our bodies, even in our hair, and during every stage of which I thought the final result would be an utter disaster, but in fact the finished window seat looks fantastic, the checkerboard tiles gleaming in the morning sun, Lady, our newest cat, hopping up on them once they've sufficiently warmed, to watch the butterflies outside.

SENTENCE is on a new server, through a different host. I had used HostMe, a subsidiary of FastNet, for years, and never had a problem. Up time was fine, and whenever I had a technical problem, the company was quick to help me.

About a year ago, HostMe changed its billing practices. Previously, I'd receive an invoice in the mail every three months for their hosting fee ($70.50 a quarter, in case any of you are curious how much it costs to maintain a site), and pay it that evening on-line.

Then they changed their policy, requiring all their clients to provide them with a credit card number they could automatically debit. This in itself is not unreasonable, but since I maintained three different accounts with HostMe, for three different websites, and the debit on my credit card bill didn't provide any information as to which account a charge was for, or for what period of time, I asked HostMe to please e-mail me whenever they placed a charge against my credit card, telling me which domain the charge was for, and what time period. They never did. What I ended up doing was e-mailing their billing department each time a charge appeared, asking for domain and time period details. They provided this information at first, but after a while my e-mails would go unanswered, to where I'd have to call them to get this very basic information, so I could keep my records straight.

About half a year ago, I started receiving e-mails from HostMe telling me one or another of my sites was about to be shut down for non-payment. I'd have to get on the phone again, asking them how my account could possibly be past due, since they themselves were in charge of debiting my credit card. It was all a mistake, I'd be told. They were having trouble with the new billing system, but it was all straightened out. Two weeks later, I'd receive the same imminent shut-down notice. Another phone call.

After that, I noticed HostMe had billed me twice for the same domain, for the same time period. Another call. They'd look into it. I never heard back from them. This site, SENTENCE, is paid through October 3, 2002 with HostMe, according to my records and HostMe's own confirming e-mail to me, but I suddenly received a bill from them for over five hundred dollars, saying SENTENCE was a year in arrears, and billing me for the next fifteen months (through the end of 2003).

By now I had spoken to their billing department quite a few times, always the same person, who each time promised to straighten out the mess she had created, but each time, she only made matters worse. I wrote a detailed e-mail to the CEO of FastNet, Steve Hurly, asking for his help in resolving these issues once and for all. That's almost always the best way to rectify a long-standing problem with a company, but Hurly never responded to me, and never had anyone on his staff respond to me. That's a bad sign.

Around about this same time, I also noticed FastNet's technical capabilities start to decline. For two of the sites I maintained, FastNet would frequently lose statistics for the first few days of each month, so that there was no way to tell how many people had visited the site, what pages they had looked at, etc. Technical support told me they couldn't recover the data. The sites were on some of HostMe's older servers, which weren't that dependable.

So I decided to move.

Next Friday, Mary and I are going back to her work for her first visit since her stroke in April.

We're buying a new blouse this weekend.