Saturday, December 24, 2016

2003 Part 1



Late September 2003:

Riding my bicycle to work one sunny September afternoon, I wished that I could spend the day experiencing new things and exploring new places, rather than working inside the store. Soon after arriving at work, I learned that those adventures were just a few weeks away.

All through 2003, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) held negotiations with the management of Ralph's, Albertson's and Vons supermarkets in the Southern California markets. New competitors such as Trader Joe's, Costco and Wal*Mart were changing the way Americans shopped. In order to be more competitive, changes to current generous benefits and wages had to be considered. The UFCW called the bluff of the "Big 3" and a strike date was established: Sunday, October 12th, 2003.

During the second week of September, a sign-up sheet went up at the Caldwell store with a summary of the events occurring in California. It would involve working at a selected store to assist in keeping the store open during the strike. Several of my co-workers and I put our names on the list. A few days later, Roger, an assistant manager walked up to me while I was in the pet food aisle and said, "The email just came in. You are leaving in two weeks." 

-Friday, October 10th, 2003. 10:00 a.m. - 34 hours before the walk out. 

  I arrived at the Boise airport with my skateboard and a small backpack. Several of the passengers on the plane were Albertson's employees headed for Southern California. Among them were Rosalia and Amanda who worked with me in Caldwell. After a quick stop in Portland, we headed for San Diego. From my window seat I enjoyed seeing Mount Shasta, El Capitan in Yosemite and the vast city of Los Angeles.  The red tile roofs of Balboa Park impressed me as the plane descended into an overcast San Diego.

At the airport, an Albertson's representative waited for us. She told us a driver would take us to our assigned stores. My assigned store was in Escondido, a city 30 miles northeast of San Diego. After about an hour, a taxi van pulled up, and we boarded with about a dozen other Albertson's employees. The driver stopped in a seedy area north of downtown and asked our names, so he could record them and get paid. All the passengers were dropped off in pairs until Amanda, the driver and I were left. He told us that Escondido was a "very dangerous town," and warned us not to go out at night. By the time we arrived at our hotel, near the corner of Mission Street and Centre City Parkway, it was late in the evening. After checking in, Amanda suggested we walk across Mission Street to our assigned store. When we entered, employees were talking among themselves about what would happen at midnight the next day. A smiling young man came over and said in a friendly tone, "You two must be our replacements." I was surprised he knew why we were there. He and Amanda talked for a while.  Five years later, they would be married.

Saturday, October 11th 




In order to keep retail stores functioning during a strike, neither the store director, nor the assistant director is eligible to join the union. Mike, the store director, and Ernie, the Assistant store director were my immediate supervisors at the Escondido store. They had the difficult task of breaking the picket line which was filled with their friends and colleagues to continue administering the store. There was a mutual understanding that each party, the store directors and the picketers outside, each had an important job to do. Because of this understanding, Mike and Ernie were given friendly hellos and handshakes as they crossed the picket lines multiple times each day. I on the other had was not treated kindly when I crossed the picket lines to work.  

Saturday, October 11th 

Amanda got a call from Mike, telling her the strike was set to begin at 12 midnight
We had an entire day to explore the city. Amanda suggested we visit Escondido World Marketplace - a permanent flea market behind the Albertson's store. The flea market was a mix of pawn shop, homeless camp and circus carnival. Later in the evening, Amanda and I helped Mike and Ernie close the store after the strike began. 

Sunday, October 12th

Arriving at work at 6:30 a.m., I got a good handle on my role at the store, which was to keep the store running smoothly. By the time my shift was finished at 5 that afternoon, I was very comfortable with the operation of the store during the strike. That evening, I took a leisurely bus ride to the neighboring city of Vista. Finding Vista a dark and uninviting place, I got on the next bus back to Escondido. 

Monday, October  13th. 

Business at the store was pretty slow, so I got off work around 3p.m. and took the bus to Oceanside. There was an efficient bus transit center in Downtown Oceanside which made traveling between Escondido and Oceanside easy. 
In 2003, Downtown Oceanside was undergoing the change from "Beach Bum City" to "Gentrified Beach Bum City." There were a few new buildings, but most of the downtown area was filled with grimy surf shops, new age hippie art shops and used car dealerships. I walked out on the Oceanside pier and watched the surfers in the waves below. 

Tuesday, October 14th

I worked almost all day. 



Each day I was given $40 cash above my salary for transportation and food. This cash allowed me to try out several of the restaurants within easy walking distance of the store. A full take out Chinese restaurant was inside the store. The Jack in the Box next to the hotel had the most convenient hours. At the time, sandwiches were 99 cents, and an order of French toast sticks was $1.20. Because food was so inexpensive, the $40 a day minus food and bus fares was more than adequate.

Wednesday, October 15th

After I mentioned my visit to the Oceanside Pier to Mike, he suggested I take the next day off to go fishing on the pier. 


----------------------------


Continued in Part 2

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Experiences

Yesterday, I attended the annual shareholders meeting of Skullcandy Inc., an audio design and manufacturing firm located in the bustling area of Park City, Utah. The receptionist at the front desk told me I was the only shareholder signed up to attend, causing me to feel a bit ill-at-ease. Nevertheless, my experience began in an impressive board room overlooking The Canyons Mountain Resort. Under a layer of transparent glass on the twenty-foot long boardroom table were hundreds of welded metal Skullcandy logos at various angles. The independent auditor from Ernst & Young introduced himself as we settled into the comfortable chairs. A minute later, Hoby Darling (CEO) along with two company directors and a former employee entered the room. They all introduced themselves and shook my hand. Hoby offered to grab me a drink, but I declined his offer, as no one else seemed to have anything. He began the meeting by turning on the live conference call to all shareholders. As the only outsider shareholder present, I mentally developed a couple of questions in case the directors asked me for comments. I marked my ballot on the “Executive Compensation Plan,” and since it was the only one, Hoby personally thanked me for approving his pay after the ballot[s] was read. It felt like I had just signed off on his yearly compensation package of 1.6 Million. Hoby asked me to address the board before the meeting adjourned. My prepared question concerned the issue of excess inventory and what would be done to avoid or limit selling this excess to discount retailers. The board of directors admitted there was a problem of too much inventory coming into North America immediately after the last port workers strike, but they assured me that the problem had been mitigated since then. Hoby then asked me to move to adjourn the meeting, and the second came from the former employee.  

 After the meeting, Hoby asked an employee to give me an all-inclusive tour of the facility. He also told me to pick out whatever I wanted from the company showroom.  I thanked him and followed my tour guide through every room of the business. We began in the digital promotions and team management offices. The offices were mostly open, and the walls which did exist looked like the walls of a swimming pool with blue tile and authentic pool coping along the top. I was shown the executive offices, the workroom where carpenters build custom displays for retailers and the prototype room with busy 3-D printers producing test materials. At the digital promotions area, a few workers watched a promotional video. I recognized the video background music as Cool Ghouls, who had recently played in Boise. My brother Scott knows a few of the members.

The next stop was the product testing room. Ovens, hammers, and other impact devices were being used to physically test each product line. Following that, I was led up to the engineering offices where each product is loosely put together at workbenches complete with a variety of small tools, including soldering irons. The "Custom" room where custom speaker devices are made has a series of blue fur-lined headphones recently used on the runways during New York Fashion Week. The engineering offices also include the packaging engineering workspace where packages for each product are meticulously designed. Next, I was shown the HR and accounts office area where sales people were busy sending invoices and emailing retail sales contracts. Then we went into the audio testing room where competitors’ products are dismantled and studied. This room also has a small but significant (and according to my guide, extremely expensive) imitation human ear. A small box with a metal top and a small hole in the center picks up sound waves identical to a human ear. This tool us used to ensure the full spectrum of audible frequencies can be reproduced using Skullcandy products. All the audio testing is done in a small soundproof area which is encompassed with several feet of soundproofing material. The outside of the soundproof room is covered in sheet metal and hundreds of partially dismantled speaker "drivers". The drivers are able to adhere to the sheet metal because of the interior magnets used to produce sound. The entire wall of the sound room looked like someone's art project. I would have taken a photo, but I'm sure photography in this room was not an option. 

For the final stop, my guide led me up to the top floor which overlooked the 2002 Winter Olympic ski jumping site. This floor is used by the handful of IT employees and contains the break time amenities of every forward-looking business. They include a foosball table, a table tennis table, and a mini skateboard half pipe. My tour guide offered to let me ride the mini ramp, but I declined. Several holes were visible in the wall where skateboards had flown into the drywall. Skateboarders who are supported by Skullcandy enjoy the ramp when they stop by for meetings. Skateboarders Steve Berra from St. Louis and Sean Malto from Leavenworth, Kansas, recently stopped by and enjoyed the ramp. 

I was very impressed with the organization of this small company. All of the employees are happy to be at work. The bicycles in the employee area confirm that most of Skullcandy's employees ride bicycles to work. Many skis and snowboards are also visible throughout the office. I was told that every employee is given a season pass to Park City resort and are welcome to take a break during the day to enjoy a few runs down the mountain.  Skullcandy is gearing up to build a new headquarters about a half-mile away from its current location. From the top floor windows, my tour guide pointed to the new location. I look forward to attending another shareholders meeting at the new location soon.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Top Ten Museums in the City of Caldwell

10. Oddfellows (I.O.O.F) Historical Collection 920 Grant St.
Situated in a stately building adjacent to Fairview Golf Course's 9th hole, the Oddfellows Museum showcases local history along with rare Oddfellow memorabilia.
9. History of the Caldwell Police Collection 110 5th Ave.
Conveniently located in the lobby of the Caldwell Police station, this collection holds photographs and items used by Caldwell Police officers in the past and present.
8. Whittenberger Planetarium Boone Hall at College of Idaho
Caldwell's only large-scale museum of the stars offers monthly presentations as well as seasonal displays.
7. Caldwell Library Online Collection flickr.com/caldwellhistory
Because this museum does not have a physical address, it can be visited by anyone in the world.
6. Van Slyke Museum Harrison Street in Memorial Park
This outdoor museum, located in Memorial Park holds artifacts which date back to the time of the Civil War. Unique farming equipment and two train cars filled with period articles give a unique view of the past. After relocation from their original sites, two of the area's oldest structures now rest within the museum.
5. Glen L. and Ruth Evans Gem and Mineral Collection. Boone Hall at College of Idaho
This museum houses many gems and minerals from southern Idaho, as well as from the far reaches of planet Earth.
4. Caldwell Train Depot Interpretive Center and Museum 701 Main
Located in the newly remodeled Union Pacific Depot, this museum holds local artifacts as well as an impressive model train display.
3. Rosenthal Gallery of Art Blatchley Hall at College of Idaho
With an extensive ethnography collection and several exhibitions per year, the Rosenthal is one of southern Idaho's premiere art galleries.
2. Our Memories / Indian Creek Museum 1122 Main
This vast museum, with over 30 rooms of historic and social significance is one of Idaho's largest destination museums.
1. Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History Boone Hall - College of Idaho
Nationally ranked as one of the top Natural History museums in North America, the Orma J. Smith Museum welcomes everyone from serious researchers to elementary school groups.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Top Ten Coffee Houses in the City of Caldwell

10. Moxie Java
-Back in the 90's and early 00's, Moxie, with its 2 stories of chill space was Caldwell's premiere coffee house. Things have changed a bit with their move to a new location a few years ago, but with convenient hours and a small chill space, Moxie is still a go-to spot for East Caldwell residents.

9. Dutch Brother's
-Now I know what you're thinking; This isn't a "Coffee House", But D.B. is open 24 hours a day. So if someone feels like a caffeine kick at 1 am on a Monday morning in January, this is their place.

8. Chukar Den
- The Chukar Den, is mainly known for its outside seating area next to Indian Creek. This outside chill area is the place to be on a clear day.  

7. Java Station
-Originally a drive through only coffee shop, Java Station's new building hosts a chill area along with a small home decor store. 

6. Jolts and Juice
-In spite of being in the middle of a strip mall, Jolts and Juice manages to maintain a top class chill space. 

5. Imelda's 
-In 2010-2012, Imelda's really pushed hard to be a City Destination coffee house. It hosted live music and had very convenient hours. However, in recent years, its focus has shifted to its food options. While Imelda's still serves coffee, (Its "Mayan Mocha" is legendary among coffee connoisseurs) Imelda's now, is better known among food connoisseurs. 


4. Gathering Grounds
-There are several Coffee Houses in the WVMC neighborhood, but Gathering Grounds attracts not just Medical Center workers. Patrons of Gathering Grounds come from all over the Caldwell area. Its chill space is not the most comfortable, but its homemade chocolate chip cookies cannot be beat. 

3. Copper Cafe
-With it's stunning views of Caldwell on top of the city's tallest building, Copper Caffe is a perfect spot to impress out of towners. Its hours of operation are not the most convenient, but it's chill space is world class. 

2. CHIcoffee
-CHIcoffee is a non-profit coffee house.  Coffee at CHIcoffee is made right and a cup of gourmet drip is only $1. It's hours of operation leave a bit to be desired, but if you want to get in on a good thing, CHIcoffee is the place to be. 

1. The Bird Stop
-With very convenient hours and multiple chill areas, The Bird Stop is what a coffee house should look like. As an added bonus, live music is a regular feature at the Bird Stop most weekend and weekday evenings. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Top 10 Restaurants in Caldwell, Idaho

Top 10 Restaurants in Caldwell:


10. Garbonzo's 
          One of the only restaurants to serve the Caldwell suburb of Valleyview. The atmosphere is basic, like the neighborhood surrounding this pizza destination. Garbonzo's pizzas are mostly toppings with minimal filler. 

9. Los Betos
          The atmosphere of this location is sparse, but when it's 2:30 am, it's better than the alternatives. 
          

8. Indian Creek Steakhouse
          This downtown fixture attracts rancher types from all over southern Idaho. I'm not sure if it's still on the menu, but this steakhouse knows how to prepare Rocky Mountain Oysters that are edible. 

7. Stewart's Grill
           Anyone wanting to rub shoulders with Caldwell's movers and shakers should consider being a regular Stewart's. 

6. Golden Palace
           With hours extending late into the evening, this reasonably priced restaurant is a favorite for those looking for a laid-back dining experience.   

5. West Valley Medical Center Cafeteria 
            Whether you are looking for a quick sandwich or expect a perfectly seared salmon steak prepared by a top chef, this is your place. 

4. Janitzio's 
            Convenient hours, friendly staff and homemade quality.

3. Orphan Annie's 
            Another favorite among the ranching/Country type. Popcorn is served with every meal. 

2. Bon Appetit
            It may be a bit obscure, and many are not even sure if it's open to the public, but those who know, know this is one of  the best places in Caldwell for a reasonable meal any time of the day. 

1. Copper Cafe
             Although this cafe has very limited hours, it makes up in atmosphere and view. (Perched on top of Caldwell's tallest building) 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rue des R├ęcollets - Paris (France)