Saturday, March 10, 2018

Trashing Waste Corporation of America

I'm done.
I've had it with WCA, and they know it.

In January, the talented team of trash collection technicians which services my neighborhood destroyed  my trash receptacle--the second such container I've had to replace in a year's time. I had little choice but to immediately replace it with another 32-gallon Rubbermaid container for the princely sum of $32.44. Oh, and by the way, these events always occur on Saturdays, when WCA's corporate offices are closed; there's no one to immediately speak with.

I wrote WCA with my complaint:


Enclosed is December’s invoice for trash collection service at my residence in Lakewood Forest North... You will also find a WalMart receipt for $32.44 for a 32-gallon Rubbermaid trash can, which has been credited against the invoice amount of $54.86. I have enclosed a check for the remainder, $22.42.

This is the second trash container I have replaced in the past year. Your crews continue to destroy them at a rate of about two per year, by my count, which is wholly unacceptable. 

Please counsel your collection crews to treat these containers as if they were their own. In this case, this one is yours now.


No response from WCA to this letter, but they did cash my check...and not long after, stopped picking up my trash. I called Customer Service, explained my complaint, and the guy on the other end of the line actually agreed with me, and promised to resume service (which he did). Seven weeks later, the kind and considerate neighborhood WCA crew graciously dropped off an official WCA trash container on my driveway. And they refused to pick up my trash. I called Customer Service.

This time I spoke with a very understanding woman who placed me on hold for a time, and returned with apologies and promises to restore my service, credit my account for the cost of the can, and to have the official WCA container retrieved, as I didn't want it, and didn't have room for it in my tiny suggestion of a two-car garage. Within 24-hours the WCA can had been retrieved, and my trash was collected on the next trash day. Until today.

The crews refused to pick up our trash--which happened to include this week's grass clippings, which have been rained on overnight, so they're nice and pungent  in their industrial-strength trash bag. It's Saturday (of course), and Customer Service is not accessible at WCA (if indeed it ever existed). 

It's not like when you get miffed at HEB, and you can go to Kroger.
WCA apparently has a lock on our neighborhood trash collection, so there's no competitor to keep them honest: They can destroy my trash cans and refuse trash service with impunity. They are the Trash Monopolists, sole arbiters of any and all complaints; judge, jury, and trashocutioner. 

This isn't over by a long shot, but it's certainly out there, in public now.
Stay tuned for all the trashy details...

Friday, January 19, 2018

Elegy for a Friend

My boyhood chum, Kenny Richardson, died from a heart attack this week.
He was just a few weeks younger than me.
My earliest memories of the childhood years spent on Forum Drive include Kenny.
I’m still wrestling with the fact that he now belongs to the ages.
James Kenneth Richardson
(March 10, 1955 - January 17, 2018)
Kenny lived in the house across the street. He was the youngest of three. His father was a Navy veteran who worked for the post office, and I never knew what his mother did besides keep house and chase three kids, which is quite enough for anyone. Mrs. Richardson was one of our Cub Scout den mothers, and we met in their garage. I think every third grade boy in the neighborhood was in that first scout den.

We were never in the same classes at Valley Oaks Elementary School, which is probably a good thing, but we rode Bus #55, driven by Mr. Jenke, which picked us up at the bus stop across from Dr. Chreiten’s house, and dropped us off every afternoon on the corner, at the house next to mine. We grew up in the late 50’s and 60’s, when kids could and would play outside until dark, or our parents called us home—whichever occurred first. Kenny’s dad would whistle for him from the driveway of their house—one, slightly shrill, thin, drawn out shriek, emitted by two fingers placed in the corners of his mouth. Mr. Richardson would squeeze out that whistle like a bagpipe player, long and loud, and audible for two blocks, which was the effective range of our roaming as small children.

(My mother, on the other hand, would come to the front door of our house, and just holler, “Breeeeeeeyeeeeeent!” The results were the same. We’d stop whatever it was we were doing—storming the Alamo, playing Tarzan in the chinaberry tree, or crafting a fortress from scavenged items in the neighborhood—and head to our respective abodes for supper.)

We started band together at Landrum Junior High. (Ironically, our first Band Director, Jack Miles, passed away just last week at the age of 78.) Kenny chose the Sousaphone; I picked the snare drum. Our paths diverged when my family moved from Forum Drive into a new school zone, but I remember running into Kenny when our high schools would compete in football games. He’d be sweating in his band uniform with that fiberglass Sousaphone wrapped around his torso; I was sweating in mine, with a bass drum hanging from my shoulders.

In college I commuted to the University of Houston, and Kenny went to mortuary school. He married—and divorced—found a second career and retired. I lost track of Kenny in the process of my moving out of state, marriage, making babies, and work. 

Only with the advent of the Interweb and social media were Kenny and I to reconnect within the past few years. He’d generally IM me when I was working an air shift, ask about my parents, and make general comments on photos of my wife and kids. Once a year apiece, we’d salute each other’s birthdays. 

I found out Kenny was working as a credit manager for a liquor store, and I showed up one day, unannounced, to say hello and buy a bottle of gin for my gin raisin recipe. It was not a good day for surprise visits, and he didn’t have long to talk. We exchanged pleasantries, I bought a bottle of gin, and we shook hands and said, ‘see you around.’
Only, we never did, again.

Kenny leaves behind two older sisters and a slew of friends, and a place in the tapestry of my childhood memories.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Lessons from Houston Radio Legends

NPR’s Garrison Keillor used to open his weekly “Prairie Home Companion” monologue by reporting, “it’s been a quiet week at Lake Wobegon.” For Houston Radio fans and professionals, it’s been several weeks of woe as we’ve had to say goodbye to familiar and beloved voices.

Paul Berlin (Photo: HouChron)
Paul Berlin was the voice many Houstonian’s listened to for decades on KBME, KNUZ and KQUE. His popular mix of Big Band and pop music standards from the 50’s thru the 70’s stood the test of time, while other Radio stations' formats seemed to change on a predictably regular basis. Rebroadcasts of The Paul Berlin Show on KSEV outlasted their originator, and are still aired each Saturday night. 

Paul Berlin was 86 when he passed away in June. He was married to his wife, “Nezzie,” for 53-years until her death. Berlin’s Radio career spanned six decades.

Randy Schell (Photo: FaceBook)
Earlier this weekend we were stunned to learn long time Houston voice actor and Radio production wizard, Randy Schell, had been killed in a skydiving accident. He collided with another jumper after his parachute had deployed, but his canopy collapsed and he plunged to his death near Pearland, Texas. 

Most people knew Randy as the voice behind AMC’s “The Walking Dead” series, and was also the voice of national brands like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Geico Insurance. I knew him as the loving husband of longtime Radio maven, Donna McCoy.  

Mstt Patrick (Photo:Facebook)
Not 30-hours later came news of the passing of KTRH Morning Show host Matt Patrick, who had earlier this week told his audience that he was discontinuing treatment for cancer. Described as a “morning Radio staple” for decades in the Akron, OH market, Patrick had hosted news-talk shows in Houston for iHeart Radio since 2011, capping a 40-year run in Radio.
He was 58.

There are lessons we can draw from the lives of these men who left their indelible marks on this market and our hearts. Each of them had discovered he secret of dying happy—doing what they loved, and deriving great satisfaction from performing a job well done. Each of them developed lasting, personal relationships—not only with their spouses, but with their audiences. They loved Houston Radio listeners, even as they were loved. And each of us, like each of them, will one day also make a final passage from this life to the next.

So it has been a sad several weeks for the Houston chapter of Lake Woebegon, “where all the women are good-looking, all the men are strong, the children-are all above-average…” and the Radio industry is morning three of its favorite sons.

A public memorial service for Paul Berlin is planned for  10:30am July 25 at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St., in Houston, Texas. Funeral arrangements for Randy Schell and Matt Patrick had not been announced at this writing.

May God bless each of these families as they mourn the passing of their loved ones and celebrate their lives well-lived.