So, it really
doesn’t matter why I googled myself but it had to do with my domain & I
googled Jaki Ettinger instead of Jaki Jean Ettinger.
I wasn’t interested
in references to my blog or Facebook & I no longer care about my presence
in the bankruptcy courts representing a company I worked for a decade ago. I do find it amusing at my credit for
participating with my voice in a crowd scene in an anime movie back in the late
I clicked and there
was my name, followed by the name of the company I represented all those years
I never meant to
work on an inaugural committee for George Herbert Walker Bush. I never envisioned working on any inaugural
committee for any President, Republican or Democrat or Other.
But there I was
after the 1988 election, in Washington, D.C., working for a fairly new entrant
into the lucrative world of florists in the District. Bush HW had been elected & the air was
full of excitement & anticipation & the promise of profits from
The company I
worked for was approached to bid on one of the Inaugural Balls. It is prestigious to be asked, prestigious to
be awarded the job.
I do not know how
Inaugural Balls were handled before or after GWH, but that year, floral companies
received a flat fee for the design. The
ultimate profit for a company working on an Inaugural is exposure & status &
a line on a brochure.
Decades have passed
& I no longer remember if I had any part of winning that contract – if I
even typed the proposal. It was my
boss’s project – he worked with one of our most experienced floral designers –
the vision & details were theirs.
boss decided to take his girlfriend to Belize.
The designer on the project left because he was pissed about not getting
I knew nothing about
the project, about its implementation. I
had no one on the staff to give me details.
And my boss was virtually unreachable.
Calling Belize was
not easy in those days – it was similar to calling ship to shore.
Because my boss was
staying at a resort owned by friends we shared, I found out how to contact
him. It was not easy, but I got through
& I began expressing my extreme dissatisfaction with my current plight.
How dare you dump
something this important in my lap? How
dare you leave the country during this? I
have no designer, no written instructions!
What the hell am I supposed to do? Etc., etc., etc.
His response, no
matter what I said, was Stop yelling at me.
Seriously, dear readers, I was not yelling. Had I been in full Jaki Jean fury & force,
there would have been no reason to use a phone line.
I lost a great deal
of respect for my boss that day. There
was a crisis & the only help he offered was to wine & tell me he
believed in me.
It was not the
first time, or the last time, that my boss dumped something in my lap with no
warning or preparation.
But this was an
Inaugural Ball. Shit.
In the end, I had
to put on my big girl panties & cope.
An amazing designer on staff, Miguel, guided me through the
process. Orders for flowers &
equipment from the floral association providing them meant listing every piece
of wire, every piece of floral foam, of tape, every stem of flower.
I could not have
done that without Miguel. Miguel walked
the space of the hotel where the inaugural ball with me as we talked about what needed to go where. Or rather, Miguel told me what needed to go
Our company had a
distinct style – Miguel took it & his mind moved beyond that style to a
presentation that would take viewer’s breath away.
We did this together,
everything revolving around meetings at the Old Navy Shipyard.
Because at any
moment, I could receive a phone call that I had to go to the shipyard for a
meeting the players of the Inaugural Ball my company was working on.
Each ball had its
own set of players – assigned Secret Service, representatives from hotel
management & catering departments, the person in charge of music. I represented the florist, chosen by a friend
& tennis partner of Barbara Bush.
The first time I
went to a meeting, I lost a pair of floral scissors & a floral knife I kept
in my purse. I walked through what
seemed like an endless stream of cubicles occupied by young Republicans dressed
in suits & business attire.
I walked in dressed
in jeans & the only pair of cowboy boots I have ever owned – red George Straight ropers – wearing my Mickey
Mouse watch & a pair of really fine giant cubic zirconia earrings. My east Texas accent resurfaced.
It was good to be a
Texan in Washington.
In the midst of being
on call for Inaugural meetings at the shipyard, there were other parties –
inaugurals are fraught with parties, not just the balls.
may have been fiscal conservatives at that time, they were known for spending
big money on entertainment & parties.
My company was also asked to bid on the Texas Black Tie & Boots Ball. Even without a president-elect from Texas,
that ball is huge & popular. The 1989
stage was to be flanked by giant cowboy boots, with spurs lighting &
rotating. Giant urns needing decorating would
complete the picture.
I decided on
massive dozens of yellow roses in each urn – there is that whole yellow rose of
Texas thing – She is always here when you come home again. I did not get the bid, but a favored florist
brought in from Texas got the job. He
used my design & stipulated that I receive two tickets to the Black Tie
& Boots Ball.
Truthfully, I did
not give a damn about attending the Texas ball – I wanted to get credit for
those here we are when you come home again yellow roses.
Somehow all the
parties & installations prior to the Inaugural came together. The flowers & floral materials for our
Inaugural Ball supplied by national floral associations arrived. And to my surprise, every stem I ordered –
the topicals, the greenery, the roses, the orchids, the lilies – everything
arrived. & other organizations.
The team assigned
to us, volunteer members of AIFD & other floral organizations from across
the country, took Miguel’s vision & carried out an installation to
My boss arrived
from Belize. Eventually, he walked through the installation with me. After I & Miguel & the leader of the
team that carried it out rendered it perfect.
pleased. I was pissed & tired &
weary. As we talked, two men entered across the room.
Two very fit, very
tan, very serious men with earphones.
One said, “I have
tickets for the Inaugural Ball.”
My boss held out
his hand & said, “I think those are for me.”
“I don’t think you look
like Jaki Ettinger, sir.”
Then they walked
across the room & handed the tickets to me.
My boss was stunned,
but I had been sitting in on meetings in the Old Navy Shipyard & I
recognized those two very fit, very tan, very serious Secret Service men.
It was a crowning glory
Of course, I gave
the tickets to my boss, who did not use them.
But it was a
moment. And over the next year, I encountered
those Secret Service dudes who knew me by name.
They were no less stern, but there was always a smile.
So, that is how my
name is on a line in the archives of the George H.W. Bush’s library in College
Station, at Texas A&M. This is enormous in light of
my Aggie father, my Aggie upbringing, my Aggie sister & my Aggie
I can only imagine
how my mother Jean is laughing, appreciating the irony of my father Jack’s
grooming me to be a good little Republican & my guilt for not living up to
So, dear readers, I
have to visit that library.