a beautiful sunset? No, a wall.
9 July, 2000

Dear Friends,

. . . Florida. New Mexico. Maryland. Southern California. Germany. Baffin Bay. Greenland. After ignoring my e-mail for a week, I see many of you are getting ready to travel this summer or have returned.
. . . Craig and Jan, who live in Bullhead City, Arizona next to the serene waters of the Colorado River, had been talking about a vacation this year to the steamy South Seas, to somnambulent Samoa, fulminating Fiji, or bombed Bikini -- I can't remember now which one they found so attractive. Normal people would be attracted to Tahiti but none of my friends are normal, as you know.
. . . Barbara and I took our vacation early this year, in January, to exotic Delaware, the Credit Card State. In fact, we're still here, enjoying a prolonged vacation before heading home.
. . . Our new vacation house, by the way, is coming along fine, though it has put a crimp on my cyber-correspondence.
. . . In last week's letter, I talked about the glue that was under the linoleum that was under the padding that was under the rug. One of you wondered what was under the glue. Good question! Wood. Slowly I'm getting the glue and old finish off the wooden floor so it will be a place to call my own, if only for the duration of this vacation.
. . . I'm also building a partial wall to separate Barbara's sewing room from the dining room. Elsewhere in the house I've torn down a closet and torn through two walls only to confront a third wall and what may be a supporting beam, all in an effort to connect a bathroom and laundry room to the rest of the house.
my colorful office
. . . Meanwhile, Barbara's been applying those Arts and Crafts colors to the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Eventually we'll apply such colors to my office, which at the moment -- as you can see at the right -- is painted in primary colors.
. . . For a break Barbara goes outside and rips overgrown vegetation from the ground with her teeth. It's not the kind of thing she'd do at home but here, on vacation, it's a different story.
. . . Vacations, according to one version of history, are a benefit we all enjoy thanks to the efforts of the unions, who also gave us the 40-hour work week. You've probably heard the claim that, without the long struggle of unions versus owners, we'd never have the leisure we do today. (Some scoffers, of course, claim that we have less leisure time than ever.)
. . . I don't find arguments about "what might have been" satisfying. If the unions hadn't done this, or the owners hadn't done that, who can tell what might have been? There's no telling.
. . . Here in the U.S.A., we just celebrated Independence Day and were reminded again that, without the sacrifices of our Founding Fathers and the patriots, we wouldn't be a free country.
. . . For all the truth in this, and recognizing the deep sacrifices made, I still wonder: why are the Australians and Canadians free? When did they rebel? Why aren't they all slaves of the Queen of England? Why did we have to rebel and they didn't? Doesn't seem fair somehow.
. . . That said, I find myself sympathetic to the unions' version of the history of vacations and the 40-hour work week. The reason? I've owned my own business.
. . . If you own your business, it is nearly impossible to take a vacation or work only forty hours a week. There's never enough money to pay the bills, never enough time to do all the work. So owners work overtime and go without vacations. Even so, most businesses fail.
Owners live in a world of scarcity. Given the opportunity, they'd have their employees work long hours and go without vacations until the owner stopped worrying, whenever that might be. That's why I'm sympathetic to the unions' version of history. Two-week vacations and 40-hour work-weeks don't sound like blessings business owners could imagine possible.
. . . When I owned my own business, I'd work fifty and sixty hours a week. When it came time for vacation I'd go into a frenzy, trying to get everything in order at work so my employees could survive a week or two without me. Then I'd drive home, madly begin to pack. Only then would I start planning where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.
. . . Often when embarking on a vacation, I would bring some work with me, usually one of those projects that never get done during regular working hours. Of course, those projects seldom got done on vacation, either.
. . . Now, though, we're on our seventh month of vacation and are just moving into our new vacation house. In fact, Barbara's moving the kitchen stuff in even as I type. Soon we'll be cooking food there.
. . . As I've said before, there's a guest bedroom we expect to be used by you at least once in the next several months. That is, we enjoy being here on vacation but we kinda miss the folks in other parts of the country. Wander by sometime.
. . . By the way, before I conclude this, I'll confide that my friend visiting Baffin Bay and Greenland wasn't there on vacation; he was working. He's a scientist. With work like that, who needs vacations?.

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