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My Personal Architect

    Yesterday I promised to offer advice on staffing up. Many of us are at the age where we look around and realize we need to expand the payroll. Why rely on friends and family members and relatives when you can have paid staff to smooth out the rough edges of life?

    Of the many ways to staff up, the most obvious is to hire a driver. Like flying coach, driving oneself around town is increasingly something that many of us are no longer willing to do. All that stress that goes into the search for parking -- intolerable. [I often drive to distant, nearly vacant towns in places like Kentucky, with sad Main Streets and giant mega-Wal-Marts surrounded by parking lots the size of airports, just so I can park promiscuously.]

    A personal assistant, someone to handle things like expense accounts, speaking fees, film rights, publicity photos and so forth, would also be helpful. I'd like someone whose primary job would be to say, "I'm sorry but he can't come to the phone right now." This person would also be in charge of arranging my acceptance of journalism prizes and honorary degrees -- the irritating little stuff that keeps a writer distracted from his Art.

  Contrary to rumors, I don't want a personal chef. That's elitist. Doing one's own cooking is not only enjoyable, but it shows the community that you're humble. For desserts, however, I'll have a part-time pastry chef.

   The highest priority for anyone staffing up: Hire an architect. I picked this up from Hearst, at his castle. The architect not only designs, but also runs interference with the contractors. I hate the way contractors view me with contempt simply because they make more money than I do. I need an architect who can serve as the go-between, while also listening patiently to my design ideas for the wiffle ball field, the outdoor shower, the gazebo, the hammock, the treehouse, the firepit, the horseshoe pit, the pendulum pit, and the other improvements to the property that are past due.

    [Here's another idea for staffing up: You could become president of American University. The university has suspended its president, Benjamin Ladner, while it investigates his personal and travel expenses. According to an anonymous letter received by The Post and similar to one sent to the university, "over a five year period, the Ladners charged the university for their son's engagement party, presents for their children, a personal chef, vacations in Europe, maintenance of their residence in Maryland, and wine that cost as much as $100 a bottle." I'm afraid I don't quite see what the problem is. The guy's hitting alums up for contributions, he can't be flipping burgers on the grill behind his mansion at the same time. And do you expect a university president to drink rotgut??]

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 24, 2005; 1:31 PM ET
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