Chris Thompson

A Miserable Shitehawk Production


You never know when your moment will come. You just got to be ready when it gets there.

Take me. My moment came, hell, my moment started coming years ago, generations ago. A man had a barbecue under a hot sun and he just couldn’t get comfortable. You know how that goes. Leaning over the hot grill with the grill fork and the sun just beating down on his neck, just pounding the life right out of him. No amount of cold beer’s gonna cool that sun off, but Lord knows he’s making a good run at it. Maybe he moves the grill over under a tree, but now he’s got bugs raining out of the tree on him where the smoke chokes them out of the leaves. Miserable. Just miserable.

Or there’s a fine fancy garden party of upper crust types, back in the time of powdered wigs or whatnot. And here comes the rain. White dresses and powdered wigs and the rain’s just pouring down, and they’re kicking up the mud all over their britches. What a mess.


So along comes a guy, back in the time of antiquities, and he says what you folks need is a shelter so you can have your fine garden party and all your finger sandwiches come rain or shine. No sun sweltering overhead, no precip of any sort to wash out your good times. Something firm overhead for the shade where you can still smell the fresh air and enjoy the breeze and not have a bunch of kids buzzing around tearing up your furniture if you were to move it inside the house. Maybe the kids can go play in the rain. Kids don’t care about that.

And what he does is he builds like a lean-to. And so what you got is shade overhead and protection from the elements, but with a lean-to you got a big bulky thing what maybe isn’t too appropriate for your more “upscale” garden party. Plus it’s fixed in place, meaning all your garden parties are stuck in the lean-to, even on that rare perfect day where you wouldn’t necessarily want anything between you and the rays.

Here comes another guy, and he says really all you need really is your basic tent. A thin frame of sticks probably back then and some sort of tarp over the top. Now, I don’t know for sure, but I like to think if you look this up it could very well be the ancestor of our very own Mr. Feltsman, President of CeleGreat Party Supplies, who had this moment of inspiration. Could be. At any rate, here comes this, I don’t mind calling him a genius, and he invents the party tent.

Your basic party tent back then was likely an arrangement of sticks with an animal hide pulled over it, and that’ll do you just fine on a calm summer day. We’ve come a long way to where we are today where we got water-resistant woven poly tarp materials and sturdy lightweight metal frames, but somewhere in there a family had their July 4th picnic blown all to hell by a strong gust of wind, to where a man came along and said hey we’d better stake that fabric right into the ground. And then there was the problem of needing a basic understanding of the fundamentals of physics and engineering to construct the party tent, and here came another man, probably Mr. Feltsman’s, what, grandfather? great-grandfather? Along comes someone in the early lineage of CeleGreat Party Supplies and constructs the first collapsible zero-assembly party tent. And that was a big moment for garden parties, folks.


But it doesn’t stop there. See, now you’ve got your collapsible zero-assembly frame and your anchored tarp, but that won’t keep the thing from flapping like a wounded duck every time the wind blows, making all kinds of racket. And I don’t want to brag on behalf of Mr. Feltsman and the brains of CeleGreat Party Supplies, but I have a good suspicion someone in these very offices and halls thought up the innovation of discreet Velcro straps along the seams and flaps to rig the tarp directly to the scaffolding of the frame along the cross-members. Not literally these offices - we’ve only been in this building since last April, you remember - but you get the idea. Someone from our CeleGreat Party Supplies, which was then called Essex Pool and Party before the national expansion. Anyway, you should check with Mr. Feltsman on the details. Don’t quote me on that. Yet, anyway.

What does this all have to do with me and my big moment? Well, before we arrived where we are today, and I don’t mind saying I think the CG200 10' x 10' Mega SunFun Quick Canopy is the best collapsible party tent there is bar none, there were still smart men and women, can’t forget the women, who were bringing the basic design of the early SunFun Quick Canopy into the modern ages. We wanted it to be store-able. Our customers wanted a clean and easy way to package up their tents after the party, and here was an opportunity for an ambitious team member in management to step up with a design for a solid storage bag, one that could fit not only the collapsed frame and canopy tarp, but also the anchor stakes and the as-yet unmentioned removable mosquito netting. Which, by the way, was another solid innovation.


And who submitted the winning design for the storage duffel for the CG200? That’s right, Mike Tolliver, and got a pretty hefty bonus and a title bump out of it, too. That was great work by Mike. Actually, it was called the CG100 back then, and Mike’s duffel design was for the 6' x 6' Standard SunFun Quick Canopy, but it was a real winner. Really can’t say enough about it.

But even there we were presented with opportunities. Mike’s design, you remember, had the two parallel vinyl carrying straps, which were decent enough, but hey, when you think about it, those straps are great for lifting, but when you gotta carry that sucker, loaded up with 35 pounds of frame and fabric, a hundred feet or more from the shed to the garden, the angle of the straps points the feet of the frame right at your knees, and I don’t need to tell you that doesn’t feel too good, wanging your knee into the solid foot of that guy on the go. That’ll change the whole vibe of your garden party before the first finger sandwich. Most folks wound up lifting with the straps and then lugging the loaded duffel over the shoulder, which it turns out isn’t all that great for the lumbar region.


And that right there was an opening for someone to improve the functionality of the CG200 storage duffel, addressing its portability with an important innovation. And who came along but Darvin Jenkins with the double-woven over-shoulder carrying strap. Some were skeptical of Darvin’s over-the-shoulder design, thinking that the weight of the CG200 would pull the strap into the clavicle/neck area and cause irritation, but Darvin had that great report from the internet about the healthy distribution of weight on a person’s spinal column and that pretty much ended that whole discussion straightaway. I personally thought my own submission, with the double-wide strap, was a winner, but it’s hard to argue with science on that kind of thing. Heck of a job by Darvin there. A well-deserved bonus and preferred parking space, there.

By now you may be thinking the CG200 was perfected down to the last stitch, and hey, you’d be 99.999% right, because as-is that was one awesome party tent, just totally blew away the competition. A revolutionary party tent. But there was, after all, the issue of irritation above the clavicle, which is the collarbone, and into the neck. Seems the weight of the CG200, made of only the sturdiest materials, consistently drags that over-the-shoulder strap in towards the neck on any journey greater than 35-40 feet. Carrying it from the trunk to the garage is no problem, but somewhere between the trunk and the campsite, that Wundertent is rubbing you the wrong way, if you take my meaning.


And when Angelica fitted it with the fitted faux-leather shoulder pad, that was a real breakthrough. Yes, it came after the first several thousand CG200 Mega SunFun Quick Canopies had already been sold, and the minor flaw in Mike’s duffel and Darvin’s over-the-shoulder strap had been noted on several lukewarm internet reviews, but we’re all proud that CeleGreat took the matter in hand and delivered a superior product with a new innovation to address all those concerns. I for one wasn’t surprised at all to see Angelica’s mugshot on the break-room’s Employee of the Month board. That shoulder pad makes all the difference in the storage duffel carrying strap, even while I remain curious whether my own double-wide shoulder strap design might have avoided the whole problem from the jump. I never did get a good look at Darvin’s internet report, although I’m sure it’s legit. Darvin’s a straight shooter as far as I’m concerned.

We had everything licked until that one review on Amazon, I’m sure you remember the one, which complained that the outer seam on the fitted shoulder pad popped its stitching after a dozen uses. That guy, I mean, you probably remember, that guy was seriously P.O.ed. Accused us of not stress-testing our products, which, that hurts. I mean I’m not down in quality control much, but I trust Harvey and those boys to put every CeleGreat design through the most rigorous of testing scenarios before anything hits the market. I won’t get into how the shoulder padding made it through to production and sales with weak stitching, but before long this one tiny flaw, which, hey, came after CeleGreat went way above and beyond in addressing what is really just a minor issue of a little skin-rub from a heavy strap over a long haul, this one little flaw must of circled the internet a hundred times or more in the blink of an eye. I think Mr. Feltsman might of even had a call or two from Consumer Reports, if not CNN. You’ll want to get the story straight from him on that, but wow. It was intense. Folks were coming out of the woodwork on that one.


That was a critical moment. And I remember sitting there at my desk during lunch break, because I often work right through lunch at my desk, I love the job, I remember going over it all in my mind searching for some kind of solution. And I remember a conversation with my ex about some throw pillows she’d made for the kids for their beds for Christmas one year, and I was telling her how kids don’t give a rat’s behind about a throw pillow, they’d probably rather have the cash nowadays, or a new cell phone, and how they’d probably have one good pillow fight and blow the things out all over the room, and I’d be glad they live with her and not me when it came time to vacuum up all the fluff all over the floor. And she told me how it’d take a couple of bears to rip the seams on those pillows. Said I could run them right over in the truck and they’d be firm and sound.

And why, you’re probably wondering? Ultra-strong, 100% nylon, size #92 upholstery thread. And hell if I didn’t take that pillow out one night and run it over a good fifteen times in the truck. Punched it, kicked it, ground it into the dirt, did all sorts of stuff to it. I figured Bobby wouldn’t care, he didn’t look too enthused when he unwrapped it, and to this day I’m not sure he’s noticed anything off about it. I mean I had to wash it real good and that may have distorted the shape some, but I mean to tell you that thread held. Held like the future of mankind depended on it. Wooo-eeeee did it hold.


And when I remembered that, sitting at my desk, I knew that was my moment. You see, I like to think I brought to that moment everything I’d learned in my 38 years on the planet. Everything I’d learned as a kid, everything I’d learned in school, all the wisdom gained from having kids and a failed marriage and a bitter divorce, AA meetings, friends, and the leadership of great people like Mr. Feltsman. I was in a unique position of understanding something essential about the human condition - man has a need for a good sturdy collapsible party tent in a convenient storage duffel with a sturdy carrying strap fitted with a comfortable shoulder pad, and he needs that pad to be stitched using a thick durable thread. And I was also in a unique position of happening to know of a good cheap durable thread that had proven it could withstand all the rage of an embittered divorcee who fell off the wagon spectacularly one New Year’s Eve. Last New Year’s Eve. And I’m back on the wagon, thank Christ.

And hell if that thread, double-stitched in deep black along the outside seam, hasn’t done the job. Not one busted shoulder pad in the 87 days since the new materials hit the shelves. The CG200, already the greatest collapsible party shelter in the history of mankind, has been perfected. I mean it is set to reign as the premiere garden party canopy as long as any of us will walk the earth. And I think that’s something we can all take great pride in.


As I noted, it’s been 87 days now. 87 days of I don’t mind saying unprecedented success, a time when the company and its flagship party tent have gone from the brink of disaster to all new triumphant heights. I have been as happy and proud as anyone to see Stacy and Allen win Employee of the Month in that time - Stacy’s “Hang In There!” cat balloons were a solid hit and Allen has always been reliable with making a fresh pot whenever we run out of the leaded in the break-room. And I know we can’t shuffle the preferred parking spaces as often as some of us might like. What motivates me around here is hearing Mr. Feltsman say “good job” at the end of a hard day’s work, and I know that’s coming any day now. But I also take special satisfaction in knowing that at an important crossroads, when my moment came, I was primed and ready to act. And really, that’s what life’s all about. Sensing the moment and striking while the iron is hot.

Now, is it possible we could talk for just a moment about my hourly? No? Maybe later? Cool. Whenever you get around to it. No big deal at all. Thanks.

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