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  • I was returning from the Airport yesterday and turned onto the back road that leads towards home, just before dark.
    There are two small houses, near the entrance of the road, neighbors to eachother, each with a blowup holiday Thanksgiving Turkey balloon out front. I noticed they had Frankenstein and a ghost balloon up for Halloween, and I am certain there will be something for Christmas.
    I saw these balloons last night and remembered Dorothy.

    My Father-in-Law’s downstairs neighbor, Dorothy, in Queens, New York observes every holiday with a balloon character in her yard.
    I had seen her holiday balloons from October, until the end of April one for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day and Easter.
    My Father-in-law spends spring and summer in Queens. When Florida gets too hot, and too humid he heads north.
    He is a snowbird.

    The apartment is empty during the winter and one year we had an extensive project in nearby Rye, New York, and then Manhattan, so we stayed at there and commuted daily.

    That was the year, and the month, October 2008, that the stock market crashed and the global economy was evaporating.
    We drove south from Maine to New York, while getting phone calls that the client needed to renegotiate our contract, and then more sinisterly that the client was having a nervous breakdown and was not getting out of bed.
    He sold his private airplane, his wife hinted at disaster. He was responsible for his partners credit default swaps, they could loose everything and then be regulated to death, insult to injury.
    The designer’s husband happened to be named as a TARP lawyer and took up the case that became an ongoing back-story for the rest of the project.

    The house, where we were working, was a former Governors’ mansion that had burned down, been rebuilt in a modern style, and now was being rebuilt to resemble the original.
    It was a huge project. The interiors had ambitious woodwork and a very tight deadline, in spite of the delays that had kept us waiting for months. We needed a large crew to help us get it done on time and then needed move on to the next project that was going to be ready in the early spring.

    These were projects that had their roots in the boom times, were conceived in the optimistic days of market highs and housing frenzy.
    Our job was to stain and “antique” and then finish the walnut library, the 2-storey paneled entry and living room, and a gentleman’s study.
    One wall of bookcases in the study was for memorabilia of the basketball team that the client owned, as a hobby and investment.
    His chief focus was investment in high-tech companies and he was very good at this.

    We re-negotiated our contract.
    We cut out steps in the process that he designer wanted but the client no longer cared about. We compromised and were very scared.
    During that time a proposal for a future project was up for approval. Given the financial downturn we were afraid it would be cancelled. It turned out that the funds had been already secured and we were awarded the job just as the world came to a standstill.
    It turns out that the steps we eliminated saved us crucial time, and we did well on our first project, and then the second one as well. The next project kept us busy for over 3 years at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

    The client got out of bed.
    Recently his group went on to sell one of their investments – none of them without risk - for a tidy sum, a little something called "Skype" that went to Microsoft for billions.

    I think of all this now, during a quiet time in my life.
    The jobs are currently small and few and my calendar has space around the entries.
    The boom years had an echo that carried me through until now and has gently landed me here, on a road, before dark when the lights are just going on.
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