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Reader inteview #2...

... with Gramm


Have you ever had it happen that you were speaking to someone online, you got to know them, had some conversations, maybe started making some real-life connections to them and then you realized, in the course of doing something completely different that they were the same person as someone you associated with something else?

Yeah, vague, sure, but this was the situation I found myself in with the next interviewee. He e-mailed me to volunteer to be interviewed and not only was he way up in the queue, but I saw in his e-mail signature that he worked for a tax company. It's February. We're all sweatin' the man. I thought he'd be perfect. Then up in the middle of us getting acquainted and setting up the interview, I find out he's the same Gramm I've been hearing about fo'evah from my friend Pineapple Girl. He's even marrying the woman. So, wow. Connections. Without further ado, I give you Gramm:


OMAR: GRAMM! I didn't know you were THE Gramm! Is she there with you? or IMing?
GRAMM: Yes ... Just hung up with her -- phone.

Oh, cool. I feel like I'm meeting Steadman!
Or George Glass.

Who are you and what on Earth do you do?
Let's see ... I'm Gramm and what I do is sort of forgotten thing ... I'm a refugee from the Big 6 (or 5 or however many there are these days) accounting world. I did tax work for them and tired of the culture where there is no personal life. I escaped to the world of tax software. I write software that other CPA's use to prepare tax returns.
I'm an accountant by education so I write the "tax logic" (if that's not an oxymoron) part of our software

Wow. What kind of education does that require? You DO have an education, right?
Right from the back of the cereal box.

Like 50,000 cereal boxes in the shape of heavy books, right?
Yes, painfully boring, coma-inducing heavy books. Actually I've got my Masters in Accounting with an emphasis in Tax.

Do you get annoyed when people in your life ask you for free tax advice?
No, actually, it's one of the things that I sort of take for granted (that I can do my own taxes) and realize that knowing at tax guy is like knowing somebody at the car dealership or having your brother in law be a dentist ... it's just cool to have a good connection.

All right then -- we'll get biographical in a second, but since we're on the subject, can I give you a few tax scenarios and you tell me how screwed the person would be?
Sure ...

All right. I have a friend. We'll call her... "Matty." Anyway, Matty hasn't filed a tax return in five years. I shit you not. She's thinking of filing this year. Is she making a terrible mistake? How screwed is "Matty"?
Matty is less screwed than if she didn't file. No doubt, there's a bend over and we're not using a lube feeling to be had but it all depends on why she didn't file. If it's because she didn't really have all that much income then there's no problem. Any penalties that the IRS can start lobbing at you all start with a person owing tax.

What if she's just, like, really scattered and kind of bad about stuff like that and has had some warrants out for her arrests. Like basically "Shit happens" to the 10th power is just her life every day. Will that excuse work?
Not so much.

So if she generally would have gotten a refund (she's so poor the ants give HER food), it's not that bad?
That's a fair statement. She generally won't get those refunds back, but she won't be hosed and owe a bunch in penalties because the IRS just sucks.

Cool. She'll be glad to hear that. Okay, second scenario: Say someone is about to get married. IS there anything they should do, tax-wise, to prepare for the blessed union? Should you hide your berra-bonds or go offshore with your comic book collection or anything like that?
Ahhh, something near and dear to my heart. Actually, I shall direct you to the taxes thread over at Math+1. Naked Hannah asked that very question and I gave a whole big long explanation.
However, if you've got "Superman #1" in some hermetically sealed plastic baggie, I might move it to safer ground. You know how girls are with comic books.

Yeah, girls are icky. So you're living in Dallas, right? I always hear from people in Austin (myself included when I talk in my head) about how sucky Dallas is compared to Austin. Say something nice about Dallas.
We've got a great new arena for the Mavericks and Stars to play in.

Are you a big sports fan?
Yes. We've also got about eleventy million strip clubs.

Do you know a lot of obscure sports trivia?
I know lots of obscure trivia period. Some of it is sports related.

Who's your favorite sports figure of all time and why?
That's a harder question than I thought...

I ask the tough questions.
It's tough for me to name one favorite. The figures that I like are the ones that take care of business on the field and don't talk trash. Ones that are gentlemen in the community and don't get arrested with a hooker and 56 lbs of coke. Lately I've read a great deal about some contemporary examples of that. David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Peyton Manning. Old School examples that I can think of: Ken Dryden, Wayne Gretzky.

Oh, good, you're not one of those Dallas Mavs fans that hates the Spurs.
While I prefer that Dallas win, I actually have a hard time hating (true irrational hatred) any team.

Even the Lakers? Because those guys are dicks.
Kobe is an arrogant prick, along with Karl Malone. But Shaq, for all that's been said about him, he just plays. He pays his taxes, doesn't father 13 kids with 13 different women.

Yeah, but on MTV cribs, he was comparing himself to Superman and showing off his 20-inch rims. I'm sorry, but that guy's a dick. A responsible dick, maybe, but still.
Ahh, see, i've not seen that one.

Although, i have to admit, his wife was really cute. She's about 1/8th his size, but she seems able to keep him in line, which I admire.
There's some logistics, that while I never want to envision, I just wonder how that all works. Angles and whatnot.

He can afford pulleys and harnesses.
Ahhhh ... that's it. I knew there something I was forgetting as a mere mortal. Plus, since he says he's Superman, maybe he can levitate like Dean Cain did with what's her name back when she was hot.

So, let's talk about your past. Have you ever killed a man? In cold blood?
No men. Small varmints, a duck, a dove, but no men.

You killed a dove? Explain yourself.
Dove hunting. No Ozzy-like stunts No bats either. Actually, I grew up in Southern Alberta (as in Canada).

If doves represent peace, then doesn't dove hunting constitute some sort of pro-war stance?
I think dove hunting is more pro let's go out on a fall weekend and drink some beer and burp and scratch and be manly than it is pro-WMD and all that.

Do you eat them?
I personally don't. I don't even know how to dress a dove. Field dress that is.

Heh. I was going to say to take them to Sak's.
Tiny little Ralph Lauren shirts and chinos. I've only actually done dove hunting once.

Tell me about your childhood. What was it like growing up in Alberta? Were you a Canadian citizen?
It wasn't until I moved to Houston that I realized how country come to town it was. At the time it was all incredibly normal. It was actually a great place to raise a family. I was born in the states so I'm a U.S. citizen and my dad took a job in the oil business and they sent him to work there. The town was about 45,000 people when we moved there and about 60,000 when we left.

What's the oil like up there? Is it friendlier?
Friendlier, it wears a toque and drinks lots of Molson.

What made you move to Dallas and what made you get into the tax business?
The tax business was sort of a "Shit, I've got this big fancy Masters in Accounting with an emphasis in tax degree, my parents would kill me if I went and was a street musician" decision. It was just sort of what came next.
Dallas was more an afterthought. When I graduated, I got a job with Arthur Andersen (now defunct thanks to Enron) in Denver. Why Denver you ask?

Why Denver? I ask.
Well, during college, my parents moved to Denver from Houston (again following the oil) and I did an internship with AA in Denver the summer before my senior year.

Did you blow them away with your mad accounting skillz?
I wowed them or something. Actually, unless you really, really fuck up, an offer for a permanent job is usually the result of an internship.

What kinds of stuff do you like to do outside of work and, um, gunning down flying emmissaries of peace?
Outside of work I'm sort of all over the map. I do lots of different things. Right now, I'm actually refinishing a guitar. Like all other accountants, I like to play golf, I love to see live music (much harder to do in Dallas -- and why I wish I was back in Austin).

What are your musical influences? Do you get to listen to music at work?
For all the sucky things about my job during my busy period (that just ended thank god), there are tons of good things. Two of the best: no dress code and my own private office. Thus, music is on almost all the time at work.
Influences are an interesting topic. Growing up in Southern Alberta, meant much country.

Do they listen to the same kind of country music there that you'd hear in Texas?
Of course about the time I'm aware that there's something else out there and that my parents actually like country means I must rebel. From a country top 40 perspective, yes. You'll hear the same things. What you won't hear is the (I hate this label but will use it begrudingly) Alt-Country sound

Do you still listen to that kind of music now? What's the best kind of music to work to?
Top 40 Country - No. I'm not much into Brooks & Dunn and the like. Alt-Country is pretty much what I'm about most of the time.
grammplusone: My rebellion from country in my crazy youth was right at the explosion of the the 80's metal hair bands.

Oh dude... you sported a mullet, huh?
My guilty musical pleasure is '80s metal and KISS. I was a KISS freak. There was probably a time when my mother considered psychiatric intervention.

I work with a couple of guys like that. They'll be all cynical about music until you mention KISS and then their eyes totally light up.
From the time I was about 11 or 12 until 14 or 15, every square inch of my walls were covered in KISS pictures and posters. I went as Peter Chris (the drummer/cat) for Halloween twice.

Have you seen them in concert?
I never saw them before the got back together in the mid 90's. My little town was too much of a zit on the ass of Alberta to get KISS in for a concert in the '70s. I have seen them twice in the old make-up. Putting them in context back in the 70's, I would have lost my mind. They were so far ahead of everyone else spectacle wise. It would have made my 12 year old adolescent head spin completely around a la Exorcist.

Heh. I think they invited the word "Spectacle." Or maybe I'm thinking "Testicle."
I'm not sure about Testicle but the sure did make the Cod Piece an important part of every metal geek's wardrobe.

Change of subject: What are your goals for this year?
Ooohhh ... all serious and shit. Uhh ... My goals Being an anal tax guy does have a downside. One of my big goals is, when appropriate and necessary, to just get the fuck over myself.

What do you mean by that?
I spent way too much of my 18 - 28 period doing what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. Doing what I "should" be doing instead of listening to myself.
Sometimes it's hard step out of the analytical problem solving fix it mode and just enjoy things. I've just got to get over myself. I feel incredibly lucky that I found the job I have now. It's such a good fit for me. I've always been sort of a computer geek. I can make them work pretty well. However, it was pretty clear from the two real programming classes I ever took that I couldn't actually be a full fledged programmer. I'm just not that smart/good.
However, my job now sort of lets me do my tax stuff, which for whatever reason, I'm good at and combine it with my inner computer geek. That said, I need to leave that part of me at work and enjoy myself more. Laugh more, take more spontaneous trips, enjoy the time I have with my daughter. Fact is, I've probably already reached the zenith of my coolness as a dad. I'm still pretty cool and I don't get the eye-rolling "daaaaaad" with the exasperated sighs but there's times when I'm not cool I want to enjoy those moments as much as possible. [Editor's note: Gramm asked me to clarify that he
wants to enjoy the moments where heactually IS cool instead of the way it insinuates now that he wants to enjoy the moments where he's NOT cool. Because everybody wants to be cool, right? -- ed]

It won't be long before I'm trying to find the website for "Our Lady of the Holy Chastity Belt" convent located on Mt. Virginity in Switzerland (where there are no boys).



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