I love to read and have enjoyed many non fictions this summer. One of the most recent is a collection of facts in a book called, The Book of General Ignorance. I find myself reading it each night before I go to bed and because I am a collector of many things I really enjoy the bits and pieces of facts that it shares. My favorite so far plays right into a little comic I have started called, “Fact”. The comic is a one image format created to encourage the viewer to read more about what I have drawn. Kind of a mental scavenger hunt. The first one is called, Napolean’s Entourage. Enjoy the hunt for the real story!
Fast forward to the day my husband, Jevon, tells me he will coach our then 4 year old son in soccer. I knew my husband wouldn’t be like the overzealous bully who first coached me but I had my concerns and I voiced them. “Relax”, he said. ”I have been coaching since I was 16. I love the game and I understand the kids.” That would turn out to be the understatement of all time. As my son grew older and our daughters came along my husband continued to coach soccer teams. There were times he was coaching 3 and 4 teams as our nephew spent 3 years living with us. Each and every season he evaluates his team members and guides each one of them toward their natural strengths while navigating them away from their deficits. On the field, at every game, my husband’s voice is the loudest thing you hear. But the content is always positive. If he needs to correct a player he calls them to the side for a one on one discussion. At the end of every season Jevon would give out the patches, pins, or trophies to each child with a special speech celebrating the individual soccer player. For 13 years and countless teams, I have watched tables full of kids stuffing pizza in their mouths as they hang on my husband’s every word. Girls and boys, who otherwise might only try the sport one time, have returned to “the beautiful game” again and again because Jevon convinced them they were smart, they were athletic, and they were loved.
I admire my husband”s gift for coaching. But I am not alone. His best friend, Greg, admires it too. At a fundraiser for UC Irvine, Greg bought Jevon an experience. It was to be assistant coach at the university’s women’s soccer game against UC Berkeley. He did not expect to sit on the bench and instruct the UCI team through the game. He knew this was only a token coaching assignment but he was excited none the less. As I sat with my daughters across the field watching his movements and reactions I snapped some photos to save the moment for him. He stood behind the bench but that didn’t deter his enthusiasm one bit. When the head coach asked him what he thought of the players Jevon gave an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses on the team and the coach agreed. Jevon was thrilled.
My husband has single handedly given me back a love for the game of soccer. I watch our children run up and down the field with great pride whether they win or lose. They understand the game and have the confidence to get out there and learn. They do not shut out my husband’s voice but rather play to it adjusting mistakes and accelerating their learning curve. Do we have a Pele or Mia Hamm in our family? Probably not but what we do have is three children who listen to their coach, try very hard, and definitely know what “off sides” means.
Funkytown Tattoo in Fort Worth, Texas had previously been a hair salon. When the tattoo shop team took over the lease they simply moved in their furnishings and equipment. The lobby had no retail, just a pool table and television. To use the bathroom customers were forced to cross through the sterile tattoo area because the ramp, for that purpose, was loaded with clutter. There was no area dedicated for tattoo consultations. There were partitions for each tattoo station that reflected the cowboy culture of the area so we worked with that starting point and completed the theme through out the space. By cleaning the shop and clearing out the clutter we were able to paint, and install proper service areas and retail to make this shop a success.
Liberty Tat2 was well designed and clean when we arrived. However, it lacked an inviting lobby and wasn’t being used to its full potential for its large size. We stuck to the existing color scheme but tried to break up the excessive use of gray with pops of color such as a much needed dressing room with red curtains. Centering the retail counter has helped customers feel welcomed into the space as opposed to the original floor plan that left them feeling as if they were interrupting work in progress. Adding racks of retail items provided waiting customers and walk ins an opportunity to move through the space with a purpose with the added benefit of generating more money for the shop. Thankfully Lincoln Electric was able to loan us welding and plasma cutting machines so we could create some cool signage and clothing racks. Joey advised me to paint the overhead lights back to white above the tattoo stations to create more light in the work space. This simple task vastly improved the working conditions for the artists who work there. By keeping the lights black in the lobby we were able to keep the waiting area warm and intimate thus creating a sense of calm for customers before their tattoo experience. Sammy insisted we add crown detail to the top of the walls leading into the work stations. This detail gave the lobby to work station transition just the polish it needed. We had a great time bringing this shop to its full potential.
This last May I finished filming 10 episodes for the new Spike TV series, Tattoo Rescue. Designing and renovating tattoo shops across the country presented new challenges for me and my team but along the way we made sure to take in some of the local interest while working hard to upgrade the design and customer experience of these struggling businesses.
Stone Age Tattoo in Acworth, GA was in desperate need of sanitizing & cleaning, new flooring, better signage, comfortable lobby seating and amenities, enhanced lighting, and more efficient work spaces. Thankfully our producers, Heather and Jessie, contacted Empire Today and our flooring needs were met instantly. Cleaning was a more serious venture and that is why you see all the workers in the background in white suits, gloves, and glasses. Sammy led the charge through the renovation and it was amazing what we accomplished in such a short time. Joey had his work cut out for him with this business but in the end the results were fantastic.
A special thank you to my team and the Tattoo Rescue crew who worked in storm conditions, hot paper suits, and with smiles on their faces to help out my Art Department on the makeover. I know many of them were absolutely soaked when that storm hit and luckily rice does draw out the moisture in wet cellphones. Luckily, my tool kit was safely stowed in a covered area so I was not forced to relive the nightmare of the Tiki’s Curse (from Bar Rescue season 2 when my kit was flooded during a monsoon).
I also managed to pick up a little pal who was displaced by our exterior renovations. Don’t worry, I let him go safely into the Georgia pines. At the conclusion of the episode we celebrated with Karaoke and a visit to our friend, Red’s, mom’s home. It was like walking into a dream complete with a Gone With the Wind inspired mansion, herds of cattle, and incredible scenery. One of my all time favorite excursions while traveling with a television show.
I had never read David Sedaris’ books nor heard him on NPR with This American Life when my friend invited my husband and I to hear him read at the Barclay in Irvine, CA. So, I was introduced to his work April of 2003 when he walked onto the stage with his notebook and pen in hand and began to read from his book, Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim. The first story he shared about his neighbors who decided to trick or treat on November 1st had me snorting with laughter. He described his bed covered with carefully selected piles of his Halloween candy and his desperate attempt to save them. When he got to the part where he began stuffing as much as he could into his mouth before his mother could get to him I was then crying with laughter. He proceeded to read additional excerpts and make notes on the reaction of the audience and in between these narrations he shared personal stories about his family and books that have influenced him. Two stories spoke to me personally. One was an disagreement he had with his boyfriend, Hugh. Hugh had argued that prosthetic hands are not made of rubber and David said they were. The other story was about a woman who was bitten by a monkey. So, at the end of the performance, as we filed out, I turned to my husband and said I needed to talk to David Sedaris because I had something for him.
I stood in the massive line of David Sedaris fans and I was the only one without a book to sign. I finally reached the front and David said hello and shook my hand. I told him I had just heard his work for the first time. I then stated, “I have been bitten by a monkey (yeah, I know a chimpanzee is not a monkey), I am an artist, and I have a rubber hand – would you like me to send it to you? You will win your argument with Hugh.” Without a moment of hesitation David wrote down a mailing address and we said our goodbyes.
Sometime in May or June I managed to locate the box I had rifled through fairly recently and found what I was looking for – the rubber hand. I wrapped it up carefully and wrote a letter to David Sedaris which included the following stories I had promised back in late April:
“About the Monkey: I was probably 3 years old and my mother was very involved with the grammar school where my five brothers and sisters attended. She had arranged a school assembly with a woman who owned a chimpanzee. At the end of the show the children were filing out and my mom was talking to the trainer. I remember climbing up onto the stage while staring at this strange new pet in his highchair. He was so amazing and he was staring back at me. (It is extremely important to note that I have since learned that many animals recognize eye contact as a challenge – which is a hard lesson to learn at 3). The rest of the events are muddled in my memory but my mother says the chimp jumped down, charged me, knocked me over, pulled up my dress, and bit me on the belly. She said all she had time to do was yell, “Oh shit!”, in front of an assembly hall full of grade school kids. The pediatrician thought she was joking when she said she was bringing her 3 year old in with a monkey bite.
About Me: I am now a mom with true respect for animals and I am a freelance artist. I have worked in museum exhibit building, toy prototype sculpting, illustration, mural painting, and design. I love using my talent in unique ways and that is why I have the rubber hand.
About the Hand: During one of my investigations into ways to make money as an artist I considered sculpting prosthetics. In 1991 my friends knew a man who had worked at the prosthetic company, Hegenberger in San Francisco for some time and they arranged an informational interview for me. At the end of my tour he gave me a RUBBER hand (glove) as a souvenir. Oddly enough a week before your show I had found the hand in our garage and had considered tossing it in the trash but years of being a devoted pack rat would not allow me to part with it. Your need is totally worth it.
So, please find enclosed one rubber hand This is a prosthetic glove to fit over a mechanized hand but I can assure you I toured the factory and the hands were rubber!”
In November I received David’s hand typed reply:
Please forgive me for not writing sooner. The rubber hand is absolutely enchanting, as was the story about being bitten by a monkey. I loved the fact that, before attacking you, the chimp had been seated in a high chair. There’s something about monkey owners that just kills me. A few(sic) back someone sent me a copy of Exotic And Small Animals, a cheaply produced newsletter for the type of people who own camels. The ads were good (“Wanted: Albino Groundhog-Will Swap For Well Tempered Iguana) but the articles were even better. My favorite concerned a monkey that reached adolescence and turned upon it’s owner. ”My hand will heal,” the woman wrote. ”But what of my heart?”
I plan to carry the hand on my next tour, and display it on the signing table as a visual aid. Again, that was very nice of you(sic) send it to me. Please know that it has been appreciated.
This morning, my good friend Kathy posted a link to one of the funniest things I have ever read, a blog from a mom that I could totally relate to. I read her description of all the end of the year projects and luncheons, and by the time I got to the photographic proof of her experience, I was giggling out loud. My husband, Jevon, asked what was so funny and I told him I could relate to the trials of a mom trying to wrap up the kids’ year-end project.
He slid his bifocals down his nose and stared at me blankly for a full five seconds, and then then said, softly, “What?” At that point, I realized that most of the school year I am away on production jobs and so my memory of the “tough final run of school” is really by proxy – him.
He is the one who manages school events and assignments for our three children. When I am on the road, I get updates, but in general I don’t get too wrapped up in all the details; besides, he was a high school English teacher and he knows how to run a tight ship. And every time I think to myself that I may be able to bring my expertise to bear, and conquer distance through the telephone, I remember the State Report.
As the parent of every fifth grader knows, the Lords of Education, at some point after we all went to school, decreed from On High that all fifth graders must do a State Report. My youngest daughter was in a GATE class; their version of the State Report was akin to a college research project. Taught by what my husband calls a holistic teacher, her class spent literally months developing their reports, projects upon projects, all to be brought together in a crescendo of almighty understanding, a massive folio like a small phonebook, a compendium of all knowledge to be found on states. When my son completed his, which included a top hat with all manner of things Indianan sprouting from it, I realized that 80% of my college courses did not require this level of in depth thinking.
I still feel my husband’s pain when I think about the long nights of Montana research, the scavenger hunts for colored pencils from my art kit in the garage (aka vortex of chaos), the hopeless search for huckleberries the night before the presentation because our daughter thought of this item at the last minute so there was no time to utilize the interweb, and the hours of editing. I remember calling my husband the day the report had been turned in to see how everything went. I believe I was working on a Kitchen Nightmares episode in Florida so I was thousands of miles away scraping grease from walls and battling masses of cockroaches. He described how the night before our daughter had painstakingly numbered and mounted each page on colored construction paper and was preparing to bind it all together. “I thought it would be fine to run to the store for a couple things for dinner and leave her with the other two (older siblings)”, he recalled. He continued, “ I got home from the store and on the table was a brick of glue and paper with intermittent holes throughout. You would think that if you took glue and paper and punched holes into it that it would weigh less but in actuality it was three times heavier than it should ever have been…….I called all hands on deck and kept all three kids up until 11:30 in an assembly line of recreating each and every page, mounting each on a fresh piece of construction paper, punching 3 holes per page instead of the 15 or so in the original, and binding them all together with yarn instead of masses of glue.” Then he added, “She asked me to help her find everything she needed for the report. She was sprawled out in the playroom and sitting under a pile of pages when I left. It had taken her 2 hours to find your colored pencils in the garage a few days prior but what baffles me was that she was able to find the hole punch and a gallon of glue, pierce every page multiple times, and cement the entire report into a block of ooze inside of 20 minutes.”
Often on a TV show set I can’t pick up my cell phone but that night we had finished on time when my phone rang. My youngest called to ask me where the stapler and glue was. Not knowing my answer would trigger an academic disaster, I directed her to my desk where I had left them several weeks earlier.
I just got home three days ago after a long run on the road with a new show for Spike TV, shooting a series of ten episodes for a show that premieres in July. We began in LA for the first two episodes, and then travelled to half a dozen states across the country. This is par for the course on renovation shows, and I have done more than my share; I figured this one would be pretty much like all the rest. The hosts of the show are from New Jersey, and, while I was raised in California, I have Jersey in my blood; my mom was born and raised there. Those kind of roots apparently run deep; I felt perfectly at home talking to and working with these two remarkable, and very vocal, individuals. They made my experience on this traveling roadshow as enjoyable as any show I have ever been on, dating back to my first tour of the country with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition all those years ago. Combined with an incredible art team, the time on the road was as creatively productive as any I have ever spent. However, with all that being said, you still need to liven things up a little…
Deep into one of our makeovers, we were behind schedule; the time frame shifted in the middle of the shoot, and where we thought we were on time, we suddenly were not. The whole production was under an immense amount of pressure to finish the renovation early. Pitching in to help, our co-host drove me, his local friend who was helping on the episode, and my project manager to set in the middle of the night, to a very bad area to make the new deadline. Having someone like him jump in and give a hand in the overnight/early morning sprint made me feel very safe on the set. An experienced construction worker, talented in all aspects of build, he nevertheless stressed that there is one tool more important than all the rest when you really need to get a job done: the radio. I have to agree; there is no better way to crank up your work rate while simultaneously reducing your stress level than dancing through a build.
In addition to an incredible work ethic, our hosts have matching senses of humor; the charisma you will see on camera is not an act. And, like all truly funny people, they can take it, as well as dish it out. With the help of my carpenter, I was able to pull off what I consider to be the greatest practical joke of my entire life. At one of our locations, we found out that there was a basement which had once been used as a stable; it was now reputed to be haunted by the long deceased stable owner. On my phone, I have an app for detecting ghosts – hilarious and and a great conversation starter. When I heard the stable was haunted, I fired up the app, and went through the space looking for ghosts; when I read the findings to the cohost (who will now be referred to as “the mark”), it became readily apparent that he is not a fan of ghosts or devices that detect them. I teased him about it, and waved my phone around, but that was it.
One of the great side effects of my job is that I occasionally find myself in places most people do not go, and those places can be serendipitous. So, unlike most people, it is not unusual to find myself in a costume shop, where, in addition to some of the things I was looking for, I found not only the most incredibly scary unicorn mask, but also the germ of a very great idea. Bought it, wrapped it up carefully an unobtrusively, and brought it back to set.
The lighting in the basement was dim, and the rock walls were divided with ancient posts that used to be connected to stable walls. The spaces between the posts were open, save for one section, which was separated by waist-high stone wall with an opening at window height. I found an old grocery cart, and positioned behind the wall, giving me a little room to move, but also just enough space to be out of arms reach. At this point, it became clear that we needed a lure- someone to bring the mark down to the basement, so we spoke to the show’s host, who was more than happy to get in on the prank. In the course of the shoot, my team was removing a large item that needed to be stored in the basement; I told my carpenter to stall and raced downstairs to get ready. I crouched in the semi-darkness, behind my protective shopping cart, so that the dim lighting would just highlight the white horn, blue eyes, and snout of the unicorn mask. “The mark” was sent through the door first. I will now transcribe what he said as he traversed the room…..the video is dark but the audio is very clear.
The team is carrying a long item that takes 5 people to maneuver into the basement space.
The Mark – “Drop your back end……there you go” then he looks to his left where I am crouched in the shadows wearing a dark jacket and the unicorn mask.
“Look at that horse to your right.”
My carpenter- “What?”
The Mark – “The horse!”
Carpenter ignores comment.
Key PA -”That’s almost too easy”.
The guys find a spot to set down the large cumbersome item.
The Mark – “Lay it against the wall”
My Carpenter – ” Woohoo!”
The Mark – “That f—ing horse is moving!”
I was trying to stay steady in a crouch and had lost my balance. The team ignores his comment completely.
“See that horse?”
Again the team ignores him.
“Who’s moving that f—ing unicorn thing!!!?”
He is shouting at this point and still he is ignored. At this point he is back beside me staring into the shadows when I stand up and lean toward him over the grocery cart.
“Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!! YOU MUTHA F—ER!!!!!!”
At this point, it became evident that although everyone knows you can not kill a ghost, even a unicorn ghost, my Mark was ready to test that theory. I quickly pulled off the mask.
Meanwhile, the key pa (who was not in on the joke) is buckled over saying he may need to barf because he was so scared.
Me – “Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”
Best prank ever!!!!