A Report From the Front Lines of America’s No. 317th National Pastime by Guest DW Blogger, Stephen Weihs
As General Mac Arthur once posed, “There are many Heroes, but few true Lunatics.” How refreshing then to see so many Lunatics on full display at the 3rd Annual Tom Douglas Lawn Party & Croquet Tournament last weekend. Seventy-three teams of six from around the Puget Sound region participated. I was a proud member of the Dillon Works team with the terrifying name: Dillon Works – May Contain Nuts.
The members of our team were drawn from all areas of the company – Sue Sarchin – Paint Shop Supervisor, Randy Harvey – Sculptor, Cate Taylor – Purchasing, Darryl Reeds – Fabrication, Mike Swensen – Driver, Julieta Collart – Design, and myself, Stephen Weihs – Estimator. From the beginning we approached this endeavor with a deadly seriousness. We practiced during lunch and breaks for four weeks, ran mallet handoff drills, debated the benefits of different ball strikes, all toward the goal of honing a disparate group of ragtag misfits into a lean, mean force of mallet-wielding warriors. Sort of like Seal Team 6 with wickets. Or those 300 Spartans who battled a Persian army of 300,000. (Except that we kept our shirts on and there were no beheadings or disembowelments.)
The Croquet Tournament took place under a blazing August sun in a greenspace behind the South Lake Union Discovery Center. The space was decorated with Alice in Wonderland style details, with vendors under white tents selling fanciful alcoholic cocktails with names like The Mad Hatter and The Flamingo, The Jello Shot. Dress ranged from sophisticated garden party attire — sleek sundresses and coordinated hats for the women; waistcoats, bowties and straw hats for the men – to surreal costumes of every stripe, including mohawk-haired rockers, inmates , kitty kats, some guy dressed as a bellhop, and a waitress in a fuschia ballet tutu with a flamingo on her head. Our pillbox hex nut hats fit right in, and were probably a little conservative considering the competition (Best Costume Award went to the Heavy Metal Rock Band team). The imaginative decorations and dress, mixed with a rocking band and those fruity cocktails, all lent to the creation of a loose festive atmosphere. The crowd was prone to lots of cheering and dancing, and several persons guzzling from a plastic flamingo lawn ornament which had been filled with alcohol. In case you haven’t noticed, flamingos were a reoccurring theme throughout the day.
Ten different croquet courses were set up on the lawn, each designed and sponsored by one of the ten Tom Douglas restaurants in the Seattle area. The courses were each designed around a theme, which basically gave the course designers the freedom to obscure the courses with balloons, or turn the wickets into mushrooms, or make the team members wear blindfold and handcuffs, while shotgunning a beer. Judges at each course timed how long each team took to navigate their ball through the wickets and obstacles. The combined times from all ten courses were added up for each team to determine which teams went on to the Semi-Finals and Championship Round.
Right from the start we brought our training and discipline to the task at hand. The lumpy ground and obstacles made course navigation very tricky, but like true Lawn Ninjas, we sped through the courses with enviable precision. By the end of ten courses, it was clear that May Contain Nuts would be going on to the Semifinals round!
Our greatest competition came from a team fielded by the Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham. A little investigation uncovered that the brewery competed in croquet tournaments year round and were last year’s Runner Up for the top prize. Clearly, this group of juiced-up ringers was here with a chip on their shoulder and a score to settle. Honestly, they were a little scary. Randy and I performed some reconnaissance and found that this was a tight fast team who moved together with a hive mentality. They were more like croquet-playing automatons than flesh and blood men. I haven’t been to Bellingham recently, but it is probable that there is some sort of bovine growth hormone in the beer supply, because each member of this team stood seven foot tall with rippling biceps and enormous claw-like hands. At least, that’s how I remember it. I admit the many Mad Hatter cocktails I drank that afternoon may have colored my perceptions slightly. In any case, only our best effort in the semifinals would get us past these behemoths into the Championship Round.
The performance of May Contain Nuts in the semi-finals was a blur. So quickly were we passing the mallet and moving the ball through the wickets that it is difficult to remember clearly. For example, did Julieta actually appear on the course as a ghost-like 7th team member and block the ball from going out of bounds with her feet? Were several of our best shots actually pushing the ball with the head of the mallet around corners and through the wickets? How exactly did Randy receive that bloody leg gash? No one can say. In the heat of the moment, the line between skill and creative cheating gets very fuzzy. I look back on the semifinals and say, “Embrace the Mystery.”
And after all, we didn’t get in the Championship Round anyhow. The Championship was, as expected, won by the mutants at the Boundary Bay Brewery. But, even as they hoisted the flamingo-crested trophy aloft with their vein-engorged arms, I like to think that we were all winners that day. Especially the little croquet team that could: May Contain Nuts. We defied all expectations in that no one knew who we were and therefore had no expectations for us at all. We came together and worked as a team, which is a neat little trick we may try to do at Dillon Works too. Our thanks to Mike Dillon for sponsoring our participation in this event. We are sure that Mike will want to continue his support of the team for next year’s event with the purchase of brand new professional croquet equipment, matching outfits of waistcoats and bustiers, an indoor state of the art training facility, 24 hour on call masseuse to care for all those mallet bruises and, of course, cases of Boundary Bay Beer, the beer of champions with that tangy steroid flavor.
Julieta, whose background is in architecture, is one of the newest members of our design team. She hit the door running when she first came to Dillon Works, and now that she’s come up for air, we took the opportunity to ask a few questions. Here’s her response:
How did you end up in Seattle?
My husband and I moved to Seattle because we wanted to live in a city that was culturally diverse, ecologically conscious, with a temperate climate and lots of outdoor activities. After an exhaustive comparison of major cities in the US, Seattle won!
What were you doing before you started working at Dillon Works?
Before I started working at Dillon Works, my husband and I were living and working in Honduras. We own a design-build firm in Honduras, mix|design, and are still juggling projects in Honduras while working in Seattle. Our largest project there at the moment is the Cultural Center for the city of San Pedro Sula. It will include the first public library in the city as well as a the first Botanical Gardens, an auditorium, food court, bureau of tourism, Honduran craft stores, and cultural spaces for artists, teachers, and musicians to rent.
What’s the best part about your job?
The best part of working at Dillon Works is that clients demand a high level of creativity for their unique spaces, many times with short time schedules, and I find these challenges very rewarding. The gamut of projects and scales is/are? different from an architectural stand point, however, I find that the skills I learned when I was a student and builder at the Rural Studio as well as the design-build projects with mix|design transfer well to the kinds of projects that are designed and built at Dillon Works. Another great thing about working here is that projects at Dillon Works utilize different fabrication methods, details and ways to develop projects that are directly related with users’ experience, these are aspects of design that have always been an interest of mine and I now get to explore.
Is there anything in particular that surprises you about Dillon Works?
Most surprising thing about Dillon Works: There is a Pterodactyl flying over the reception desk!
You keep flying too, Julieta! We’re glad you came to Seattle, and love having your global perspective as part of our design team!
It’s always fun to see what kind of impression we make on new Dillon Workers. Here’s a little Q&A with Riley, our Design Intern:
Why are you here?
I’m home for the summer from college where I’m currently studying illustration. I knew I needed a summer job and I wanted to get my foot in the door of an industry geared towards what I want my career to some day be instead of working at another restaurant which I have done my share of. My dad had told me a lot about Dillon Works and it seemed like a really great place to be.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA. Technically I live in Pasadena, CA now where I’m attending Art Center College of Design getting my BFA in Illustration Design, but I’m home for the summer.
What do you hope to get out of working here?
I hope to gather the basic experience of what it is really like to work in a fast paced design industry like Dillon Works.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in the few days you’ve been here?
I think, aside from all the projects, the way that each department is so collaborative with each other, its a pretty cool thing to see in action.
What’s the most intimidating thing you’ve seen in the few days you’ve been here?
I’m not so sure intimidating is the word I would use, but maybe the most overwhelming thing I’ve seen is simply how this company is able to fabricate practically anything. That’s a pretty outstanding accomplishment and a lot to live up to and prepare for when starting to work with Dillon Works, but it’s definitely a positive thing.
Seattle-based REI asked us to paint a mural for the exterior of their flagship store and they it to match, as closely as possible, artwork they provided.
Easy, breezy, right? Well it is if your paint shop has many years of combined experience with all manner of finishes, from faux to flashy.
Here’s a photo-shopped image the Client asked us to replicate:
….and here’s what we delivered:
How did we do? You tell us.
Part of Dillon Works’ annual Holiday Pot Luck tradition involves a party game in which one or more topics are written on a conference room whiteboard first thing in the morning. Throughout the course of the day, Dillon Workers respond anonymously in writing and cast their votes for the best responses. The winners receive Fabulous Cash Prizes, but we all have a blast learning about our co-workers exploits, foibles and predicaments. Here’s a sampling of this years Q & A with the winning responses in BOLD:
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED:
- Don’t stick out too far; the lawnmower is just around the corner
- How you gonna do it if you really don’t wanna dance? Get your back up off the wall!
- Take big steps, your shoes will last longer
- Don’t go crazy
- There are three sides to every story
- Write on the board to the right _before drinking lots of BK’s egg nog
- Never turn down a free meal
- Do your best, that’s all you can do (mum on sitting exams)
- Be thankful
- Don’t expectorate to if expect to rate
- Put human relationships above all other priorities
- Just shut up and listen
- If you need help from someone, make it as easy as you can for them
- Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie 1935. (Boss requested for career guidance)
- Enjoy your kids while they’re young because they grow up too fast
- Work hard a become a leader; be lazy a become a slave. Proverbs 12:24
- It’s not how we get into trouble, it’s how we get out of it
- If you’re unhappy with your life – volunteer. Helping others puts your troubles into perspective
- Fail fast and fail often
- When they say, “Do not feed the bears”, DO NOT feed the bears
- Pain in inevitable; misery is optional
- Try not to have a boring life
- If you don’t have looks or smarts, you’d better work on your personality!!
- Accelerate halfway through the turn
- When hiking and being attacked by wild animals, you only have to run faster than the person you’re hiking with
- Moisten needle before insertion
- Put your worries in your back pocket, ’cause it all comes out in the wash
SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME:
- I sent away for an application to clown college
- I can make both Meth and Moonshine
- At 17, I hitchhiked from Albuquerque, NM to Sopchoppy, FL
- I can’t feel the bottoms of my feet
- I am an ordained minister
- I once stood in line at Studio 54 dressed as Darth Vader
- I was a bedwetter
- I had a pig for a pet
- I sang in a choir
- I was an altar boy
- I have lived within five miles of the house where I was born for 90% of my life
- I was written up in a medical journal for having my lazy eye fixed with medication (not surgery)
- I own a surgical rib spreader
- I like beer
- I did training with the 2nd Ranger Battalion in the back woods of Louisiana while wearing women’s perfume
- My life is apparently very boring
- I’m allergic to dogs
- I’ve had lunch with Lady Gaga
- I was robbed at knifepoint
- I got berated by Diana Ross
- I really don’t know what I’m doing
- I once assaulted a postal worker
- I can trace back my family genealogy at least 29 generations
- I turned down a modeling job to work at Dillon Works
MY WORST JOB:
- Restek (- Computer Support)
- 4th hand on a shrimp boat
- Scraping paint off school buses
- Hoeing sugar beets
- Lawn mower & tractor showroom prep
- Wiping old people’s bottoms & shaving the old ladies at a nursing home
- Changing dampers inside a 40 ton coal mill
- Painting seat numbers on arena bleaches – row after row…
- Cleaning horse stalls every day before going to high school
- Working at the car wash through winter
- My work life is apparently very boring
- Worked at the shipyards in Ballard, (7) 16-hour shifts. My company put me up in the Thunderbird Motel on Aurora for two months. I couldn’t sleep at night because the “lady” working next door was very busy
- Super microscopic speck finder
- Project Manager at Universal Studios (’nuff said)
- I worked for an owner who would yell at all his people on a daily basis and tell them they were incompetent morons
- Having to walk streets filled with mobs of drunken frat boys in old town Pasadena while dressed as a leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. Me: “Top of the mornin’ to ya”. Them: “f@#k off!”
- Sitting in a ‘library quiet’ shop with a magnifying glass and tweezers cleaning/repairing precision tools
- Picking up F.O.D (Foreign Objects Debris)on a runway in -12 degree weather
- Owning and running a stupid Class H Bar and Restaurant