I have written nearly three hundred articles over the past year and a half. Some have been funny, some have been serious, some have been touching, some have been a bit caustic. Some articles have been popular with my public, my readers, others have been completely ignored. But one article stands out from all the rest, combined. There is one article, over a year old, now, that is searched on, read, re-read, perhaps and, statistically is off the charts over all the rest.
I don’t think it was my best article, not my funniest, but it is, by miles, the most popular. How do I know? Like most bloggers, I pour over my stats. Regularly. I can see how many people, from which countries, are reading my stuff. I can see what tags are most fruitful and I can see what search terms people are using to find my blog. I pour over my stats about as much as some of you scour the internet for information on what an upside down pineapple in your grocery cart may mean to those in the know. “Upside down pineapple” has been my most fruitful post, ever, pardon the pun!
People love to party, that’s all I’ve got to say! Oh, I know! I was shopping yesterday, with the rest of the country. I’d kind of forgotten the mania surrounding Easter. My kids are grown, they’ve moved far away. We don’t dye eggs and hide them in the yard after bedtime, or before sunrise, pretending to be some deranged, confused, and highly dexterous rabbit. I was giving more though to what time we should plan to be at the restaurant for brunch on Easter Sunday in order to avoid the “after church crowd”, at my elderly mother’s request. Apparently, she wants to celebrate Easter, but avoid the Christians. And now, I have to factor in the “after shopping with a pineapple upside down in the cart” crowd! Yikes!
Another thing I didn’t consider was my safety, shopping, yesterday. The parking lots were jammed, the stores all had crazy, long lines, except for the Verizon wireless store. And Ulta. Miracles do happen! No waiting at the Verizon wireless store, on a Saturday afternoon, after many have received their income tax refunds. I haven’t, I won’t be getting a refund this year, but I was still parting with dollars yesterday. After the Verizon wireless store, I went to Ulta because I was out of my favorite fragrance. Last time I ventured into Ulta on a Saturday, the line for the cash registers had forty people backed up past the fake eyelash display with the cardboard cutout of Katy Perry and deep into the mascara aisle, like the newest Disney themed ride attraction! Or a Harry Potter film on opening night! Yesterday, I was the only soul at Ulta.
So, where was everyone from the jammed parking lot? The egg aisle of Target. And there were no eggs to be had. Employees in red shirts were frantically searching the back catacombs of the store for a, hopefully, large, forgotten supply. Even outdated eggs would have sufficed, I’m guessing. Do people really eat all those eggs they hard boil and dye? For the sake of the ozone and the excessive emission of greenhouse gases, let’s hope not! “Honey, drive the Prius down to Target and get a few dozen eggs so we can hard boil them, dye them unnatural colors, hide them in the yard, find them again and then eat them all and fart a hole in the sky.” Maybe not. It must have been mayhem when only a carton or two of eggs remained in the cold case because there were a couple of cartons upended and broken on the floor. The two Target employees not manning the bank of cash registers in the front of the store or looking for more eggs in the back, were trying to mop up the messy egg goo from the floor. Somehow a large bag of flour was involved. All they needed was some shortening, sugar, and a pineapple …
After this scene, I dared not venture in to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, which are normally chaotic on Saturdays! Even though Whole Foods had their scheduled wine tasting, I could not be tempted into the doors do that store on this day. I feared not only the egg shoppers, but also the pineapple shoppers, scampering around the store, pineapple upside down in their cart, peering, hopefully, into the carts of all the other shoppers, practicing for the national holiday only a day away. National Pineapple Upside Down Day! I went home and scrounged for lunch fixings from my very empty fridge. And drank wine I had on hand. No eggs, no pineapple.
The other reason I didn’t grocery shop yesterday? I left my reusable, cloth, grocery bags at home, again. You just don’t go to Whole Foods, load up your cart and then choose between “paper or plastic”. Once in a great while, maybe, you make a small purchase sans environmentally friendly bagging options, but not a whole cartload! And not today, of all days, the eve of these two food centric nationally recognized holidays!
All I know, on this Spring day when most folks of the Christian faith will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, some of you, based on my stats, an alarming number of you, will be wandering, hopefully, through some grocery store, up one aisle, down the next, with a pineapple, upside down, in your cart, in “need” of something far more than milk and a loaf of bread, “celebrating” this national calendar day that probably has more to do with a style of cake than a style of life! But have at it! And I’ll go so far as to say, I’ll bet there are a few who will celebrate both occasions! I only hope you can find a grocery store open today!
Me, I’m skipping church, a tradition of mine for the past several years. I’ll pray at home. Then I’m headed to brunch. And maybe the grocery store, if I can find one open. I have a strange hankering to bake an unusual treat; pineapple upside down cake.
I’ve been a long time customer and fan of Amazon. I may, in fact, be one of their original customers, I don’t know, but I feel like Amazon has been as much a part of my life as, well, shopping online.
My affinity for Amazon goes well beyond merely shopping online, they have totally come through for me on many occasions, one particularly memorable.
I remember the first Christmas season that I was traveling a lot for work. I was far from home, in Durham, North Carolina, I recollect. It was about a week before Christmas and I hadn’t been able to do any Christmas shopping. The kids were in high school and had gone from believing in Santa Claus to believing in capitalism. The husband wasn’t working and hadn’t for years. Money was very tight and I didn’t have a single penny to shop with. In that hotel room, in Durham, North Carolina, late one night, I received, in my bank account, electronically, my first bonus from work. It was a good one. It was actually a couple of bonuses and a commission. My company doesn’t pay either bonuses or commissions anymore, but, anyway, it was a really big surprise that night in Durham. This was the year that the Wii game system was like “the gift”. You know, every year there is some gift that simply everyone must have, and because of its insane popularity, is impossible to obtain, and particularly the week before Christmas. Well, now I was one of those people, trying every (online) avenue to obtain a Wii, delivered to my doorstep, before Christmas. WalMart was out, Target was out, BestBuy was out. I don’t know what made me think of Amazon, I was still under the impression they only sold books, I guess. Maybe I decided, unable to obtain a Wii from a big box store, I’d just give the kids the latest Harry Potter book, or something. More likely, I Googled “Wii” and Amazon came up, top of the list. I found a Wii with all the periphery, for less than the big box stores empty shelf tags had the price listed for, and, it was delivered to my doorstep at about the same time I arrived home! A miracle. Amazon saved Christmas that year. I should make a sappy holiday movie about it.
Since then, and particularly with the app on my phone, I have always tried Amazon first. For everything. You may think I sound like I have a shopping problem. I don’t. I have no problem shopping, at all. I’m actually not that bad. Kindle books are my only real weakness with Amazon these days.
Many, if not most of my friends also swear by Amazon. Amazon, too, is often a topic of conversation in the business circles I frequent, not unlike the weather and traffic. I often see Amazon related posts on Facebook, and, lately, a lot of chatter about Amazon Prime, the premium service you pay an annual fee for. Amazon Prime is not new, it’s been around for a while. I’ve resisted because I keep thinking that I don’t really purchase that much from Amazon, and even if I do, I shouldn’t be, so paying for a premium service is, well, kind of like admitting you have a shopping problem. I don’t. Clearly. I’ve thought I should really justify the enrollment fee by doing an analysis of my Amazon shipping expenses for a year, in a big, hairy, Excel schedule, perhaps do a five-year spread, with a chart and a graph, in my favorite colors, but I’ve been saying this for, well, as long as Amazon Prime has been around.
I don’t know when I finally changed my mind, or what triggered it. As I recall it, I was pretty much sitting in a hotel room, alone, and not even online, and out of the clear blue sky I just thought, “I’m going to get Amazon Prime.” It was like some kind of weird consumerism epiphany.
And I did. The next time I found myself on Amazon, a week or so later, I was ordering a gift for myself. I looked at my list and even checked it twice, I’ve been an awfully good girl this year. I’d just spent ten whole minutes shopping, online, for everyone else on my list, I was done, and, as Christmas shopping tends to do to people, I was worn down, exhausted and feeling self-indulgent. All from the comfort of my office chair. I haven’t set foot near a mall. So, I was on Amazon, on a mission. On my “wishlist”, for about five years now, has been “Friends – the complete TV Series”. I’ve hinted and wished, begged, suggested, and done everything possible to subliminally persuade any of a number of family members or friends to think of that particular item when considering a gift for me. Still, no Friends. So, dammit, after five years, I found it on my Amazon “wishlist” and for about fifty dollars less than the last time I looked. I moved it from my “wishlist” to my cart and then, I clicked the “try the free 30-day trial of Prime” button. I signed up, confirmed my purchase and the doorbell rang. I thought, “dammmmmnnnn!” It was a neighbor bringing the mail to the door for Mom, I was almost a little scared there, for a minute. I love instant gratification, and all, but things need to be logical and explainable, too.
My purchase did arrive quickly, almost unexplainably quickly, especially given the time of year. The free shipping is great, the fast free shipping is phenomenal!
I’ve taken to using “Amazon Prime” a lot like I do “Googling”, it is both a noun and a verb. “Can we just Amazon Prime that please?”
I recently ordered an MLM anti-aging skin care regime from a friend out of curiosity, duty, and as a favor, to help her make a goal, which will actually, hopefully, also allow her to visit me next spring, and most certainly NOT because I need an anti-aging skin care regime. Yet, when I get really close to the mirror and look at my face I wonder if maybe, there isn’t some way to “Amazon Prime” this whole anti-aging skin care process, maybe I DO need it. I know, it took fifty years for my skin to age as much as it has, nothing is going to change instantly, if at all. But if anything could reverse the aging process of skin in an instant, it’d be totally “Amazon Prime”, for sure (that’s a compliment, and an adjective).
I’ve been trying to be helpful around the house, for Mom, now that I’m home for a bit. So I have “chores” to do every day. These are things that would take Mom, at ninety and not moving too swiftly these days, absolute ages to complete. I’m totally “Amazon Prime”. I can complete the whole list before I go running in the morning. And my runs, lately, have even been “Amazon Prime”, I’ve shaved a minute off my mile average on the past couple of six-mile jogs!
When a social opportunity comes up, like lunch out or happy hour or something like that, and I’ve just returned from a run, or the gym or something, I’ll say, “I’m just going to take a shower, ‘Amazon Prime’, and I’ll be ready in thirty minutes!” And, talking to my Sweetie last night, it’s been such a long time since I’ve seen him, I can’t wait for my next vacation, I wish it would get here “Amazon Prime!”
I saw a Maserati the other day, on a straight, open stretch of road, and like a wish come true, the driver did what I would’ve done, glanced both ways for signs of a cop, then just mashed it! It was poetic, symphonic and nearly orgasmic to see and to hear. The car just flew “Amazon Primerly” down the road. Wait, did I just use it as an adverb?
And now that I have Amazon Prime, the service, it’s not much unlike having a new, over eager and hyper efficient assistant, which is never a bad thing. I get text messages on regular intervals on the ONE order I have forthcoming;
“We got your order!”
“We’ve packaged your order!”
“We’ve taped the box shut!”
“Mail truck is here! There goes your order!”
“Your order is at the post office now!”
“Your order is on the mail truck for the airport!”
“Your order is at the airport now!”
“Your order is on the airplane, got a free first-class upgrade, its having the ‘eggs’!”
“Your order landed!”
“Your order is on the mail truck!”
“Your order is at your post office!”
“Your order is on your postal carrier’s truck!”
“Your mailman got stuck in traffic!”
“Lights green, your order is moving again!”
“Your mailman is on your street with your order!”
Ding … “Your order has been delivered!” … Dong
“How’d we do? Feedback, please?”
I didn’t really mean to write a big, ol’ long article about Amazon Prime, it was just an amusing idea that entered my head this morning as I worried over the Christmas gifts I bought for my family direct from the suppliers, instead of from Amazon, the gifts that aren’t here yet and, if not mailed by about yesterday, won’t make it to Honolulu or Saratoga Springs, New York, respectively, by Christmas. I shoulda “Amazon Primed” them.
Well, gotta go, “Amazon Prime”-like! I’ve got a busy day ahead, I’m on my way, “Amazon Prime”, to run four miles as “Amazon Prime” as I can. Then, I’ve got to shower and get ready real “Amazon Prime” because Mom wants me to drive her to the mall so she can get some last minute shopping things done real “Amazon Prime”, then we’re going to have a relaxing lunch at our favorite little Thai place downtown. Hold the “Amazon Prime.”
I worked in San Francisco today. Rough life, I know, New York City to San Francisco.
I’m tired of being “on the road”, and I’m looking forward to a long Thanksgiving weekend at home with Mom and my friends. Two more weeks of business travel after Thanksgiving and I’m done for the year. I think. I’m considering a personal trip to Hawaii to visit my kid and then, January, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, burn some vacay time and go to Alaska, probably.
I shopped at Union Square tonight, at Uniqlo. I LOVE Uniqlo, and I never had a moment to shop there in NYC. So, tonight, in San Fran, I bought a shitload of cold weather clothing, “Heateach” base layer clothing and a packable down jacket in the most obnoxious shade of purple known to man. The clerk at the checkout stand had to “warn” me that the base layer stuff was not returnable or exchangeable, even if the packages were not opened. Harsh policy, and, for a moment, even I doubted my size small status. But, I made the purchase anyway, figuring I’d just work out four hours a day and cut my food and alcohol consumption in half, bringing it down to what most folks my size consume. Back in my hotel room, after a HUGE dinner and dessert and four glasses of wine, I finally worked up the nerve to try the un-returnable, non-exchangeable, size small shit on. Hello? It fits! Of course I’m a size small. Why do people make me doubt myself? I know me better than anyone. I’m a very curvy, somewhat voluptuous, size small. Every girl’s dream and EXACTLY what I’ve always wanted to be!!
And this, after one of the most amazing meals I have ever consumed! I ate at an “old school” French restaurant last night, and loved, loved, loved it. The service was, appropriately, stuck up. So French. But the food was very good. There is a whole “French Quarter” in San Fran, with several restaurants practically adjacent to one another. I’ve eaten at three, so far, and had a hard time NOT eating at another tonight. I stuck with B44, the Spanish restaurant I made reservations at through Open Table because they had a menu item featuring fish, lentils and avocado all in one dish, which is my interpretation of heaven. It was heaven, and the stuck up, aloof, and somewhat inattentive waiter recommended a zinfandel, originally from here, a hundred years ago, then transported to the Canary Islands. This, I’m quite sure, was one of the best wines I have ever tasted. The aloof waiter’s tip went from 15% to 20% at the first sip. And, just so you know, I never tip only 15%. I’m getting really tired of wait staff that don’t know how to deal with single diners, though.
Speaking of single diners, last night, at the stuck up French place, a single male diner entered the restaurant, the maître’d asked if he was “a party of one”, without missing a beat, the single diner replied, “yes, and ‘party’ is the operative word”. I took mental note, and, I plan to steal that line wherever it will fit! Perfect! I loved it!
So, my day; work, shopping, food, wine, writing. Except for the work part, it was a really good day! And, truthfully, the work part wasn’t that bad, except that I feel like I’m devoting a lot of energy to someone else’s passion. I need to make an adjustment, I just need the guts to do so (link to courage).
San Fran is amazing, though, in my impression, dirtier, filthier, and grittier than Manhattan. I do love big cities, but, while I enjoy the architecture, the food, the culture, I’m lonelier than I ever thought possible. Week after week after week is really beginning to wear on me. I crave companionship, friendship and love. This weekend will be good, before two more very lonely weeks on the road.
The holidays will be a little strange this year, with the kids all far, far away and not returning home, for the first time, ever. It will be a bit quiet, a little sad and a tad lonely without them. I plan on focusing on friends, Mom, and spending some time near home, for a change. I’m looking forward to it.
I managed to not have a teaching assignment, a consulting engagement or a travel day today. Originally, I did, but, thanks to our electric company and a “scheduled” outage for maintenance tomorrow, I was able to get my Monday/Tuesday client rescheduled to another consultant. Since that point in time, I have been so looking forward to today. Shit was gonna get done! All the stuff I can’t do while traveling was to happen today. I had a list. I am a big believer in lists. I feel great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in crossing things off my list.
One of the items at the top of my list was to actually go to storage and fish out the box with my coffee grinder in it. I accidentally bought whole bean coffee last weekend and have no way to grind the beans short of a rock and a bowl. And, frankly, no bowl I’d choose to smash beans in with a rock. I’ve been going to the coffee shop nearby for a latte every morning I’ve been home. There are three choices here, clearly, I could go buy a bag of ground coffee and use that until I next go to storage and retrieve the grinder. I could, alternatively, go buy another grinder. Both of these options are things the “old me” would quickly do. Spend money after spending money. But, wait, at $3.50 per latte, plus the dollar cash tip, I could’ve bought the ground coffee AND the grinder over again already. Damn. I hate math. Math has never been my friend, never an ally. Guess what, I didn’t make it to storage today, I didn’t buy ground coffee and I didn’t buy a grinder. I guess I’m buying a latte again tomorrow morning!
This is representative of how my whole day went.
I knew today would be sort of a low energy day. I ran a long way yesterday, so a little lethargy was to be expected. And, after all, scheduled work or not, it’s Monday. I was not, however, expecting the level of apathy I achieved today. I even underachieved at sleeping in. I had no reason to set my alarm and thought a bit of extra rejuvenating sleep would be nice. I awoke at 6:48. That’s 6:48 AM, to be clear. I checked texts, emails and Facebook and finally got out of bed at, like, 7:02. AM. The realization that I’d need coffee before being able to hold an even remotely intelligible conversation followed achieving a mostly vertical posture. I thought about going to the coffee shop in my PJ’s, which are really just ugly sweats, but talked myself out of it. Miraculously. Instead, I pulled on my favorite Billabong maxi skirt, which I wore out to the store to buy beer last night. No one I knew saw me last night, so, who would know I was wearing the same thing today? I took my Sweetie’s Silver Gulch shirt off and slipped my old, slightly too big, black cardigan on over the cami I slept in. Again, who would know? I didn’t even quite have the energy to put a bra on, the cami would do. My hair was a wild mess of curls after my shower last night and a night on my pillow. The satin pillowcase did not net the desired results of keeping my hair under control. I twisted the mess into a clip and called it good. Off to get a latte.
Upon my return, caffeine supply in hand and four dollars and fifty cents poorer, I set to fixing breakfast. An egg, sunny side up, a piece of toast, a slab of cold moose meat left over from dinner last night, yogurt, honey and berries. This was one of my more industrious moments for the day, by the way. Mom mentioned last night that she wanted to go visit Dad, at the Veterans Memorial. I agreed. We confirmed our plans over breakfast. When we first talked about it last night, I knew she meant we’d go today, but the full impact of that request was just settling in. Visits to see Dad, at the Veterans Memorial, which is about forty-five minutes from home, are usually accompanied by lunch out, and a flurry of other errands, while we’re out. I saw my day to “get shit done” dwindle down to “not gonna get a thing done”. Day = hijacked.
After breakfast, Mom went upstairs to get ready. It takes her a very long time to get ready, even by my standards. I got a couple of little things done and procrastinated with the whole shower, blow dry, straighten, curl, make up, pick the perfect outfit, thing. I piddled around, re-prioritized my list, did a minor thing or two for work, sort of “making an appearance”, and I shuffled things around in my suitcase, which has to be packed by some time tomorrow, for nine days. Suddenly, Mom was standing in my doorway with her jacket on, her purse and cane in hand and her ginormous old people sunglasses masking about 80% of her face. I quickly applied the bare minimum makeup and off we went, me feeling sort of rewarmed, like leftovers from the night before that didn’t quite heat all the way through in the microwave. And you know what, I really didn’t care. Not today. I decided to be apathetic about the whole thing. Apathetic; a pathetic human being.
One of the things on my “to do” list was to go to Express at the mall situated between home and the Veterans Memorial in quest of those same items I dumped on the floor of the Express in Long Island a few days ago. I still want the clothes, I just want to buy them from someone interested in selling them to me. I asked Mom if she wanted to go to the mall and she got all excited. She hasn’t been to the mall in quite some time and wanted to shop for some slacks at Penney’s. I cringe, just a little, to think of actually shopping at Penney’s, but I disguised it as a yawn.
We visit Dad and left some sprigs of holly from the yard near his mausoleum. The Veterans Memorial is in the middle of miles and miles of very flat farmland and I have never been there when it wasn’t windy and cold. Today was windier and colder than usual. It felt like November. It felt like November for the first time this year. We jumped out of the car, scurried over to Dad’s mausoleum, deposited the holly sprigs, said a few words, and fled for the warmth of the car again. We’re sure he’d understand our brevity; he hated being cold, too.
We had lunch at our favorite totally local and very authentic tacqueria before leaving town, so that meant we could now go directly to the mall. I left Mom at Penney’s and ran for Express. My goal was to find the items I had selected the other day, try them on, buy them and return to Penney’s before Mom had made her selections. I didn’t even reach the table with the black slacks of my desire before I was cheerfully greeted and assisted. Pants in hand, I set to browsing for the other items I was questing for. Again, I found myself with an armload of clothes, but, before I could even set a foot in the direction of the fitting rooms, my load was lifted from my arms by the cheerful sales associate, she said she’d “start a fitting room” for me, which, I know, is a subtle way to say, “you keep on shopping, gather as much as you want,” by never allowing my burden of new clothes to become too heavy, it never seems like I’m considering buying all that much. I have been around the mall a time or two, I know how this all works. Instead, I just follow the sales associate to the fitting room and forgo any further browsing. I love everything except for the “other” black slacks the sales associate suggested I try. I make my way to the cash register where the sales associate begins to fluff and fold my selections, assuring the tags are easy to reach for quick scanning. She mentions that the slacks are BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half Off, which isn’t quite as good as BOGO, Buy One Get One, that means the second one is free). BOGOHO?! How can I resist BOGOHO slacks? I know it’s more money, but only H! I find a scarlet pair of slacks, skinny cut, and add them to my pile. They’ll be perfect for the holidays, and they are HO after all! I thank the sales associate and tell her I sincerely appreciated her cheerful assistance. I told her about my experience in Long Island and was glad that my local store was so much more customer service oriented.
There is nothing like a positive shopping experience and BOGOHO sales to lift an apathetic mood. I flounce through the mall, back to Penney’s, where I find Mom, sitting on a stool at the cashier’s desk. Apparently the transaction is taking so long, someone has retrieved a stool for Mom to rest on during the whole ordeal. I wilt a little. I find Penney’s whole environment, from the clothes they stock to how they’re displayed, their lighting and signage, all of it, a bit oppressive. Depressing even. The kind sales associate is helping Mom order the slacks she wants, to have them delivered. They didn’t have her size in stock. Mom is buying four pair; gray, blue, black and tan. They are identical in every way, shape and form to the four pair she currently owns. Every last stitch. These four will just be slightly newer. I’m awash in apathy, again. I glance in my Express bag in hopes of finding my spirits, but they don’t seem to be there.
Mom finalizes her purchase and wrestles with her purse for at least five minutes. She and I have very different purse management methods. I have many purses, but for each of them, I have a consistent system of where I put what. I know exactly which pocket to find my keys in, receipts always go in a certain place, etc. Mom’s system, a word I use very loosely here, is not as formal, routine or consistent. She is always digging through her purse, certain she’s dropped the item she is searching for outside the car, or left it on the counter back at the store. She finally gets her possessions into the purse and we leave Penney’s.
We head to Mimi’s Café where Mom wants to buy the neighbor a couple of carrot muffins. Again, after her purchase, Mom is wrestling with her purse like it’s a crocodile trying to devour her. We make it back to the car and she begins to fret about the receipt for her purchase from Penney’s. I pull the car over and we spend another ten minutes trying to subdue the damned purse. We find the receipt and I begin to head for the highway. Once in traffic, Mom, still elbow deep in purse, can’t find her wallet. The one I just found the receipt in. She swears she’s dropped it in the parking lot, which would be terrible, except we didn’t open the car door at any point in the last round of wrestling the purse. The wallet is finally found on the floor of the car, near her feet, shoved back into the purse and the purse is finally subdued and lies motionless on the floor of the car. Mom’s tired and pissed off at her purse. I’m tired and pissed off at the traffic, time and my to do list. The purse is tired and isn’t speaking with either of us.
We finally make our way back towards Napa. The traffic is heavily congested through the canyon, which frustrates me further. As we creep along I can’t help but think of each and every minute I’m NOT going to have to tackle my to do list.
As we reach Napa, Mom says she wants to get gas before I leave for New York, tomorrow. Knowing that most of what I wanted to accomplish today is going to have to wait until tomorrow, I suggest we get gas today, rather than wait. I don’t want to be anxious to leave for the airport and still have this chore left to do. Mom has only driven, I take that back, I have only driven Mom’s car 45 miles since we last filled it up, the needle is barely off the “full” mark, but she insists. We find a gas station and after Mom beats her purse to a pulp trying to get her credit cards out, again, I put two gallons of gas in the tank and we finally head for home.
It is now very late in the afternoon, I’ve been driving with the headlights on, and there is no way I can complete all the errands around town I’d hoped to undertake today. I’m too apathetic to consider going to the gym, so I settle upon the idea of packing for my trip this evening, while drinking a beer, perhaps, and getting a couple of administrative work items put to rest.
A simple dinner is managed and a load of wash. I do not feel, in any way, accomplished today. My list for the day has all been pushed to tomorrow. Tomorrow night I fly, and I fly from San Francisco, which means wildly unpredictable timing with traffic and who knows what. I finish up my evening reviewing my list for today. My accomplishments are so meager that I add a few items at the end in order to allow me the satisfaction of crossing anything at all off my list. The rest will be carried forward for tomorrow, though I’m a little afraid, tomorrow, only a few tiny items will actually get crossed off. Here is my list.
To Do To Day:
Get coffee grinder from storage
Get cash for tips for trip
Do all four expense reports
Catch up on work emails
Go to gym
Run five miles
Finish packing for NYC and SF
Prepare class materials for SF
Happy Hour with the Ladies Shop for black slacks and stuff Organize five boxes for donation to charity
Make YouTube video
Unpack boxes to dresser drawers Mom finally cleared out
Unpack boxes of shoes & purses to closet after boxes above are moved
Do last load of laundry
Put away clean clothes
Order Mom’s Netflix movies
Mail “the book” back to Clarissa
Massage Get latte Text Sweetie good morning and a safe trip to Prudhoe Bay Eat breakfast Eat lunch Check Facebook Check Blog Stats
Drink a beer Eat dinner Put on pajamas Drink another beer Eat leftover Ben & Jerry’s in freezer Drink water
Wash face Yawn, twice
Brush, floss, rinse Go to bed
Note to self – triple shot latte tomorrow morning. Shits gotta get done.
What I learned today; sometimes, we have to be flexible. We have to make things that are important to others a priority, and adjust our own list in accordance. Of course we have our own things to tend to, sure, but now and then, a day devoted to loved ones is far more important, and appreciated, and right. Everything that’s going to get done will get done, and the rest won’t. The world will keep turning, I promise. Enjoy.
A sound night’s sleep last night. I almost don’t have dark circles under my eyes. Bliss.
Today, I am so excited.
I finished up with my client today, a little early, something about the Jewish folks in my class and having to go home and have dinner before dark. It is some certain, special time in Jewish world and I have no idea what. I tried to Google it, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and like all things to do with the Jewish faith, I am now more confused than I was ever before. There is nothing about Judaism that makes a lick of sense to me. I respect the faith, completely, but I don’t understand the first thing about it and any attempt to ask about it, or educate myself, has been futile and has left me more confused than before. All I know, their pizza looked just like ours but came from somewhere else and, we started earlier this morning, worked through lunch and finished earlier this afternoon, and I got to go to the mall. I was excited! I have worked with this client for three years, I have been here a half dozen times or more, their office building is perched at the edge of the mall, yet, I’ve never been. I’ve set foot inside, but I’ve never “been” to the mall. There is a difference, and it was exciting.
I didn’t go to the mall, Roosevelt Field, to shop indiscriminately, I went with a plan and a mission. I intended to buy a pair of black slacks for work that do not require dry cleaning. I have a lovely black pair of slacks, from Banana Republic, but they can only be dry-cleaned. Who has time for that? Dry cleaning is for people who are in the same city for more than a day at a time. I need clean black slacks and I need them clean and back in the suitcase in twelve hours. I have some fantastic, washable slacks from Express, a nice navy blue with a subtle gray pinstripe and another pair in classic gray. They fit great, sort of a manly cut with a low rise that looks super sexy on curvy hips, a small waist, and a flat tummy. They wash great, iron great, pack great, last forever and I want some in black, and maybe every other color they come in. I’m pretty excited.
I found the Express for Women after walking about a mile and a half through the vast mall, and that was the direct route, I just sort of parked at the wrong end. Okay, I admit, I did it on purpose, I wanted to see everything. I went in to Express and found the table with “Editor” style slacks. I found black and began to dig for my size, a six regular. There were about twenty pairs of size zero, twenty pairs of size two, ten pair of size four, and two pair of size eight. A dowdy looking clerk, at least my age, eyed me with disproval and disdain. I know, my son used to work at Men’s Warehouse; I was messing up her merchandise. I am sympathetic to this and was being ever so careful not to cause any disarray, but, finally, she could take no more and impatiently asked me what size I desired. She didn’t say desire, I’m not sure what she said, but it was abrupt and curt and with an air of impatience. I told her and she produced a pair for me from somewhere. I thanked her and browsed some more. I grabbed another style of black pants, just to see if I’d like them even better than the “Editor” cut. I found a polka dot blouse, a gray sweater and a beige blouse, all pieces I could use for work. I haven’t bought blouses for work in, literally, years. I don’t work in the same office every week, I can get away with three or four work blouses. But I do, now, have many repeat clients that I see at least annually, and, truthfully, I think I’ve worn the same four blouses to the same clients for three years straight. Maybe four. It is time for a new blouse, or two. Justified! Bam!
I take my armload of clothes and go in search of a fitting room. I find two empty, locked rooms, but no attendant. There’s a mother and daughter duo fighting in one fitting room, to the point of blows, I think, and the other is unoccupied. I wait a moment, with my “I’m being patient and tolerant” smile on my face. Five minutes later, an employee passes, donning a headset and some blinking, flashing transmission device dangling from her grotesquely tight pants (I think she bought the size zero thinking it said size ten). There was a wire running from the transmission device to her headset, giving her the appearance of a secret service operative. She glanced at me, annoyed, and told me to go to the fitting rooms over by the cash register. I did. I stood for a while. There were six fitting rooms. One occupied. All locked. A clan of women pushed past me and were admitted from the occupant of the one occupied fitting room. Is that how one seeks admission, like an exclusive nightclub? You have to know someone on the “inside”? A line forms behind me, like cattle in a chute waiting for the truck going to the slaughterhouse. Everyone else in line is gazing down at their mobile devices, perfectly accepting of the fact that we are the only people in the store, aside from the six employees, who are all too busy with some urgent, but unseen business to attend to us, the customers, with armloads of merchandise that we’d dearly love to give up our hard earned money for.
An employee scuttles past and says, “a couple of you can go over to the other fitting rooms.” I’m first in line, so I go and am followed by the young woman behind me. I’m back where I started. Both rooms are empty, but locked, and there is no attendant in sight. The lady who “helped” me find the black slacks is folding clothes right next to me, but, apparently, that’s all she knows how to do because she can’t open the doors to the dressing room. I stand for another minute or two. The young woman behind me is staring blankly at the lit display on her mobile device. I think there must be a “pacification” app I don’t know about. Everyone seems content with being herded around and never assisted. I’m adding up dollar value of the pile of clothes draped over my arm, I figure about $200 worth, and I lost it. I dropped the clothes unceremoniously on the floor and strode out of the store. I will spend more, twice even, for better service. Gladly.
My son, Dogwood, sends a text from Hawaii, where he lives. He has an update on his quest for gainful employment. He has a fantastic, unpaid, volunteer, position tutoring kids in a robotics club and he loves it. Unpaid, yes, but with connections that may land him an even more fantastic, paid internship. Yes, studies are first and foremost, but, as I’ve said to him, more than once, “I don’t live in Honolulu because I can’t afford to live in Honolulu, so, no, I can’t afford to pay for you to live in Honolulu”. From birth, practically, I’ve taught my kids the value of networking and connecting, and, as a result, he has some fantastic employment prospects. I am proud. I tell him so. I’m so excited, he will do very well in life, having mastered networking so early in adulthood.
I had dinner reservations at a Cuban restaurant, adjacent to the mall, they had a yummy sounding menu and good reviews on Open Table. My client said it was good, and he is sort of a food snob, too, he just doesn’t take pictures of his food, like I do, but when I get my phone out to snap a shot of my meal, he wants his included in the photo, too. Funny. Anyway. Dinner. Cuban. I’m excited!
Upon walking in, it was definitely “corporate”. You can tell, instantly. Meh. Oh well. I was seated next to a woman, also a single diner. You know, the bench seat on one side, little table, chair on the other? That’s where they always put the single diners. Sure, couples sit there, too, usually, one on either side of the single diners, isolating the single diners from the other single diners so there is no chance of striking up a conversation. Couples just try to pretend the single diners don’t exist, that they aren’t there, right next to them, with nothing better to do than listen to what they’re talking about. Oh, it’s true. It’s totally impossible to NOT hear every word, every whisper and every murmur. Tonight, though, I was seated next to the other single diner. In fact, since it was kind of early for dinner, we were the only diners in that half of the restaurant. All the “normal” people who dine in small herds, were seated in the other room. I guess that would be the room for people who have people with which to eat and this would be the room for those who dine alone. The Latin host showed me my seat and pointed at the lady next to me, made a remark, pointed to me and made the same remark, in some Latin language. He translated, “alone,” he smiled, “you are both lonely”, he smiled broader, “single!” I smiled, tolerantly, and took my seat.
The lady next to me made small talk, she’d been to a movie at the theater next door. She downed her elaborate looking cocktail with a foot tall stalk of sugar cane protruding from it and ordered another. I tried to order a beer, but my waiter seemed perplexed by the fact that I might actually want to select a beer from a menu. There was a big, glossy, bound book of adult beverages, and he wanted to show me all the margaritas and sangrias. I asked again about beer. More about margaritas and sangrias. Finally, he let me handle the book, I flipped a few pages and found the rather pedestrian beer list. I was hoping for something exotic, perhaps even Cuban. Negra Modelo is fab, but I buy it by the twelve pack and drink it like some folks drink milk. It’s a staple.
The waiter returned with my beer, and a glass. He asked if I wanted the glass, which was nice, because I didn’t, I prefer the bottle. The lady next to me ordered a glass of Riesling. When her waitress brought it to her, she tasted it and didn’t like it. She got another crazy looking cocktail with the hunk of sugar cane in it. She asked me about my beer and said she’d like to try one. I assured her it was good. She said she really didn’t like beer, so I headed her off, “Oh, I love beer, the darker the better.” She crinkled her nose and thought better of ordering one. She worked on the sugar cane cocktail some more. By the time my dinner came I knew her whole life story; she’s an attorney, educated at USC. Her dad’s birthday is next week, on the 18th, and she always gets him a shirt or a sweater. She’s going to shop for him after her dinner. I hope she can manage. Dad may end up with something really different this year. Her mom is deceased. She is 38 and unmarried, no kids. She wants kids, she’s not so sure about the marriage thing. I smile knowingly. She had an asshole boyfriend that she’s known since school, he’s been married before and has kids, but it didn’t work out. They’re still friends. Her brother is an accountant with a knack for computers and works for Fannie Mae, now. He never passed the CPA exam and she doesn’t understand his success, except that he’s super good at networking is well connected. She had a falling out with her brother, though, because his wife has no teeth and doesn’t know the difference between a proprietary lease and, oh crap, I forgot, some other kind of document. Now she won’t like me, I don’t know the difference. At least I have all my teeth. She’s still talking. She has a friend in California who is getting a divorce and she’s handling the case even though she is licensed in New York and practices employment law, normally. But her friend isn’t good about getting the paperwork done on time and hasn’t even filed her taxes. Her birthday is the same week as her dad’s, though she never mentioned the date, and she wants another Mont Blanc pen. She has lots of expensive pens because she likes to write and her mom “groomed” her that way. I wasn’t sure what that meant. By now, my meal is finished, my beer is empty, my bill is paid, I’m wearing my coat and my scarf, my cross-body bag is slung across my body, I have one foot positioned in the space between our tables, leaning over, like a runner in the blocks waiting for the pistol to fire. I desperately want to leave. She is still talking, and I have so tuned her out, I now have no idea what she is talking about. Finally, she stands, shakes my hand and stumbles out. I wait for her to get, hopefully, out of the parking lot, before I head for my car. So, a lawyer and an accountant go into a bar … the lawyer talks incessantly and the accountant makes note of all the details. Typical.
I exchange a text or two with my friend, Miles. We went to high school together and ran into each other at a Catholic church in the Sierra foothills some twenty plus years later. Now we keep in touch. I joined a running club he belongs to, on his recommendation. He’s a good friend and he’s checking up on me to see if I’ll be running this weekend, in preparation for the C.I.M., the California International Marathon, in a few very short weeks. My first. I’m excited, in a scared and petrified sort of way. This is his billionth marathon. He’s also checking on me after reading some of my posts from earlier this week. I got a virtual hug. A good friend, like I said. I assure him, twenty miles on Sunday, and, yes, I’m fine.
I also exchange a few emails with “the girls”, in light of the good news yesterday, we are conspiring to find a day to visit, a day when we are all motionless just long enough for a visit, two of the girls returning from Spain, me from New York, another off to Hawaii, and me to New York, again. Visits with friends are a nightmare to orchestrate, but are so, so, so important, and necessary, rare, and enjoyable. Like air to breathe. I’m so excited!
I stop at the liquor store, buy a bottle of red wine and head for the next hotel. A quiet night to write, with wine and a small piece of my Mast Brothers chocolate bar, made in Brooklyn and bought at Shake Shack the other night. I’m super excited!
My TomTom, was on a bender, again, tonight. Armando, that’s my TomTom’s name, he is voice activated and answers to Armando. What can I say? Every now and then, and without warning, Armando decides to avoid the highways and take mostly surface streets, usually in very large cities, like Boston and San Francisco, and usually when I have not the time, the patience or the wherewithal to devise a better, more traveled route. I had the time tonight and saw parts of Long Island I never knew existed. I have a visual on several potential restaurants for my next visit, in just a few weeks.
I ultimately arrived at my hotel, one I stay at regularly, a Marriott, a block away from the United terminal at LaGuardia. I feel like Norm at Cheers when I walk in. Okay, not quite, but I do have a few hotels that I have become quite regular at. I tossed my bags in my room, returned my rental car, and caught the hotel shuttle back. Once in my room, I did what I always do, first thing; look out the window. To my delight, from my window tonight, I see the skyline of Manhattan. I can pick out the Chrysler Building. I’ve worked there before. Okay, for three days, as a consultant, but still. I was on the floor where the gargoyles were perched, it was so exciting, gazing out the window of the conference room, down, on the backs of the gargoyles, only a few feet out of reach on the other side of the glass. I’m sorry, I love architecture and historic old buildings just drive me nuts, especially from the art deco era. I can see the Empire State Building, to which I’ve been to the top, once, and the tippy top another time. I look at the millions of twinkling lights of “The City” from my window, I dare not turn a light on in my room and lessen their brilliance. I will sleep with my curtains open to relish the view. I love every little light bulb, illuminating that magical skyline, and I can’t wait. I’m excited!
I texted Daisy, my daughter. My baby, my youngest. She turns twenty-one next week, “Are you going to be able to celebrate your birthday in ‘The City’ with me next weekend?” She quickly replied, “Yes! I forgot to tell you, I have Wednesday through Saturday off …” I am so excited! We own Manhattan. It is our place. One of our places. We love the wilderness, too. Wherever we go, we will carry what we need, whether shopping bags and mimosas in our metal “water” bottles, or our matching backpacks, we will find adventure and just have a fab time.
It is Friday, and a good day, the end to an interminable, weird and uncomfortable week. I have nearly four days at home before I am off again, and I am excited.
My lesson for the day; stay in touch, network and connect. I recently read a book on charisma, “The Charisma Myth – How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. you know how I love books, most books, anyway. This was a great book, very charismatic, and had some fantastic suggestions. One was to reach out to at least five different people every day, whether through a personal message on social media, a text, a phone call, an email, a letter, a face-to-face conversation, or, I guess, smoke signals or carrier pigeons. However.
I’m also listening to a fantastic audiobook on Audible, “Younger Next Year for Women,” by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. I am so excited, I can hardly wait to listen to it on the plane tomorrow, and in my car on the way home from the airport. One of the “rules” to being younger next year, to not decay until death, is to connect with people, to be social, to have friends, to be in touch, to be touched.
I am as guilty as anyone, we get busy, we try to find time to just sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat work. Retire, watch TV and die. I retaliate against this plight, I rebel against such a routine and mundane life. I live to connect, I connect to live. How many people have you connected with today? Me? My clients, of course, a chatty and partially inebriated attorney over Cuban food, my friend Miles, the “girls”, my son, Dogwood, my daughter, Daisy, and a quick text with my Sweetie before he headed further north through the vast cellular service wasteland to Prudhoe Bay. It was a good day. Still, I am writing, I have to get up in three hours, I’m going to have dark circles under my eyes, again. Now to sleep, in the soft glow of a billion glimmering lights from a not so distant skyline. I’m excited.
Two glasses of wine. Well, maybe two and a half. Maybe my glass is large. I awoke feeling like I’d drained the whole bottle. Oh, wait, maybe I did. I gave Mom one glass in her demure little goblet, and I know, for a fact, I poured myself two glasses, and a splash, but, bottle equals empty. I felt like someone hit me over the head with the bottle when I awoke this morning. Dues = paid.
I, for whatever contrived excuses, did not work out yesterday. I had hoped to go to the gym for a core workout, cardio and yoga, but failed. Today, I planned to run, and per my training schedule, I was to run eight miles.
I got up, slowly. I ate breakfast, slowly. I answered emails and did a little work, slowly. And, slowly, I came to the realization that if I didn’t do my run today, I’d likely not get a long mid-week run in, and I will have let myself down. I have my first full marathon coming up in December, I need to stay on track. I have some busy travel weeks coming up, so, now is the time. Slowly, I pulled my running tights on, wiggled into my Victoria’s Secret hot pink, tiger striped yoga bra, which, by the way, is way easier to put on than to take off, especially when all sweaty. All of my upper body fitness, strength and tone is attributable to the high intensity interval training that is removing one very sweaty Victoria’s Secret hot pink, tiger striped yoga bra after a work out. In case you were wondering. My running shoes and socks were in the car, so I found matching flip flops, a miracle, filled up my hydration pack with water, fuel, ID and insurance card and headed out the door. Honestly, I didn’t feel like walking to the car, let alone running eight miles.
I know myself pretty well. I will cheat myself, I will wimp out, if I can justify it for even a moment. Last night’s missed work out being evidence. I have a six-mile loop that I run routinely. Last week, I was to run seven miles, so, after completing the sixth mile, I ran right past the parking lot at the park where my car was, and ran an additional half mile down the road, turned around and came back. Today, weak in spirit and head throbbing ever so slightly, I knew, knew, knew, without a doubt, I’d wimp out at six miles. There would be no running past the car for another mile, turn around and come back. I know me.
This is where it is a good thing to have a somewhat deviant mind. I told myself we’d do six miles, then see. At nearly mile four I round the third corner of my rectangular route. My deviant mind concocted an evil plan to trick my wimp out mindset. I decided to keep going straight, for an additional mile, turn around, and then finish the remainder of the loop. The result being, eight miles and no possibility of wimping out at six, because, well, I’d still be two miles from my car! Brilliant, I know. Right?
I ran every last inch of eight miles, and then some, my calculations were off by nearly a half-mile, but, you know, it didn’t kill me. I felt accomplished for the day. My self-esteem and self-respect were in tact, perhaps even inflated a little. I headed home for a shower, lunch and the rest of the day to do with whatever productive endeavor I chose. Bliss.
As soon as I walked in the door, though, all I could think was “HAMBURGER!” I wanted a hamburger. And maybe even fries. I wanted a high quality hamburger, not some fast food, cooked earlier today, kept in a warmer drawer and micro-nuked to a sickening shade of gray and soggy limpness upon order. I wanted a gourmet burger with an exotic cheese and a unique sauce and some rare ingredient mixed in. This is Napa, there are no shortage of places I could drop twenty bucks on the burger of my dreams. I may have mentioned, I’m on a money diet, I’m being more mindful of my money consumption and my restaurant food consumption. My spending and my waistline need a little whittling after the past few weeks indiscretions. So, I’m proud to say, I did not go out and get a gourmet hamburger. I ate leftover salmon salad, open-faced sandwich style. Such self-discipline, I know, adding even further to my self-respect and my self-esteem.
After a few more hours of work, HAMBURGER! was still on my mind. I had some Whole Foods, happy cow 85/15% burger, frozen in quarter pound chunks, in my freezer. I decided to get one quarter pound lump out, thaw it, and make myself a burger. I also decided, as a treat, to go to Whole Foods and get some sprouted grain buns. I could eat one tonight and freeze the rest for later enjoyment. Oh, and sweet potato fries would be super duper yummy, too. And maybe one large format beer. We’d see. I hopped in my car and headed for the mecca of mealtime ingredients, Whole Foods. I actually found a parking place, at 5:00 PM. I was astounded, I didn’t even have to circle the lot or follow grocery-laden shoppers down the aisle from the store to their cars. There was just an empty space, sitting there, just for me. Okay, so it was across the shopping center and I had to walk fourteen rows, but, hey, I can run eight miles, I can certainly walk fourteen rows.
Once inside my favorite place on earth, next to any shoe store in NYC, I grabbed the smaller, double decker cart. I usually use a basket, but in Jillian’s latest Audible book I’m listening to, “Slim for Life,” she says we tend to buy more crap food when we use a hand basket over a cart. Okay, I don’t really think so, but I’ll give it a try. I always figured you could only buy what you could carry if you used a hand basket. But, I’m freakishly strong when it comes to being able to carry desirable purchases in one hand, to the cash registers. Years of practice, my friends. If it were an Olympic sport, I’d win.
I shop at a lot of different Whole Foods, and, unlike Target, who has precisely three different floor plans, every Whole Foods is unique. As I travel around the country, it is my unspoken mission to visit every Whole Foods in the nation. So, that I don’t totally know the layout of my local Whole Foods is not really a reflection of my intelligence. I swear. The Napa store is chopped in two, it really seems like two different retail spaces connected by an opening between at the front of the store and another at the back. I usually stay to the left; produce, meat, wine, dairy, done. I do know that frozen pizza and beer is immediately through the portal to the “other side” at the back wall, and, ingeniously, displayed immediately next to each other. This is my Friday night wall. Pizza and beer.
For whatever reason, tonight, I head directly for beer. Something was beckoning me, an unseen force. OMG! A sale! I knew it! I can sense a sale on just about anything from quite a distance. The sale aura was very strong in the direction of the large format beer. I chose three. They were on sale. I had to.
Bread happens to be near beer and I quickly located my sprouted grain burger buns. Check. I decided to check out the cheese aisle. I love cheese, and have actually 95% given up cheese because I lack control. But, what is a homemade gourmet burger with an exquisite, and on sale, large format beer, without cheese. I settle on two interesting looking cheeses. I buy cheese a lot like I buy beer and wine; the label. If it has a cute label, is organic, locally grown, fair trade and sustainable, I’m fucking buying it. Was my list complete? Something nagged at me from the depths of my mind. I’d forgotten some staples when I was here the day before yesterday. I pulled out my phone and consulted my perpetual Whole Foods shopping list in Evernote. Ah, yes, canned, organic fire-roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce, both of which go really good in my homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. I’ve been lusting for macaroni and cheese and have made Herculean efforts, successful, by the way, to NOT order it from every appetizer menu I’ve glanced at in the past two months. But, Friday is carbo-loading night, perhaps I can make my homemade macaroni and cheese instead of having pizza! I’ve got cheese! So, I stop in the pasta aisle and buy a really cool looking package of organic, whole grain, locally produced, fair trade and sustainable bag of macaroni noodles.
On to canned foods. I load up my cart with cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, regular tomatoes, and tomato sauce. May as well stock up, I seem to keep running out. At last I head to the checkout. I pile my purchases onto the belt, along with the one reusable bag I’ve brought along. I size up my purchases and, in retrospect, I probably should’ve brought another bag. Or two. I swipe my card and wait for Tatum to scan my purchases. Fifty-six dollars. How did I spend fifty-six dollars on buns and beer? I could’ve gone to the best restaurant in Napa featuring gourmet hamburgers and exquisite large format beer and paid less. Oh, but, I do have ingredients for Friday’s dinner. And beer for a few nights. And a whole fucking lot of canned tomato products. I sign my name, unintelligibly, on the screen with the blunt tipped stylus thing, my signature has become, pretty much, a 72-point wavy line, for whatever it proves, for whatever it’s worth. It would be interesting to see if it held up in court, my electronic signature. Not so interesting that I actually aim to find out. But it looks nothing like my real signature. Whatever.
I schlep my purchases fourteen rows out to where I thought I’d left my car. It was actually sixteen rows over. I only looked a little like a dork lugging my canned food and large format beer laden grocery bags to row fourteen, pausing, perplexed, doing the parking lot pirouette, trying to spot my very small, low profile, non-descript Civic amidst a sea of exotic cars and high-end SUV’s. I heft my bags into the trunk, the Civic squats a little from the burden. I climb in, and at eighty degrees, I open the sunroof all the way and silently pray that a hawk with a snake in its talons doesn’t fly over and let go of the writhing snake just as it passes over my car. I know, a weird phobia, but this scene I have actually witnessed, and think about, every time I open my sunroof all the way. Except, on that fateful day, my sunroof was closed and the snake hit the ground, on the shoulder of the highway, immediately next to my car, mere feet away. And as the snake landed, unceremoniously, and pissed off beyond belief, all I could think was “What if it landed on my windshield? What if it landed on my roof? What if it landed on my sunroof and it was open?” That scene is forever, indelibly, etched in my mind, and plays out over and over again every time I reach for the sunroof button. That’s why I usually tilt, instead.
A life of “what-if’s”. What if we squandered our entire lives thinking of all the terrible things that could happen, so much so that we were too afraid to do anything and life escapes us before we know what it is? That, I think, is the worst “what if” of all. Life is a collection of risks, and whether you think you’re assuming any risk, or not, you are. There is substantial risk in staying home, sitting in your worn out recliner, remote clenched in hand, flipping through the channels, watching other people live. So many things could happen, the least of which is that your life is passing you buy, opportunity is fleeting and you’re sitting there, oblivious, because the news broadcast has you terrified to venture out into the world and live your life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’m not saying go out and court danger, I’m saying, take risks. Go out into the world and have experiences. In risk lies opportunity. In the guise of safety lies mediocrity. Open that sunroof and drive. Hell, if you’ve seen a snake fall from the grasp of hawk in flight, and it missed you, barely, what are the chances of that series of events ever unfolding in a similar manner? That, I like to refer to as the “Garp principle.” If you’ve never seen “The World According to Garp” with Robin Williams, this may be lost on you. But, Garp and his wife are looking to purchase a home. As they stand in the driveway of a house for sale, a small airplane crashes into the house. Everyone is horrified, especially the realtor, knowing for certain the sale is lost. Garp is thrilled and says, “We’ll take it!” His wife looks at him incredulously and he explains, “What are the chances of that ever happening again?” Take it. Take the risk. Open the sunroof.
My day at home. My only day at home. So, this is my “day off” for the week. I leave tomorrow at the crack of dawn for New Jersey. So today, on my day off, I must unpack from my week in Montana, launder, then pack again. Except I no longer have functional suitcases, so I, too, must obtain new suitcases in which to pack.
I spent my morning at the Napa Premium Outlet Stores. I’ve been suitcase shopping before, knowing this day was not too distant. The suitcases I am replacing came from Kohl’s, my least favorite store on the planet next to, perhaps, Wal Mart. My issue with Kohl’s is you never know what anything is going to cost, it’s kind of like shopping and playing “Let’s Make a Deal” at the same time. The price an item is marked may or may not be what you will be charged. It will never be more, which is good, because the price most things are marked at Kohl’s s far more than I’d ever be willing to pay. Kohl’s prints and sends stuffed in every newspaper and junk mail heap multiple, multiple page ads. I have placed two “current” ads next to each other, side by side, after ten minutes of fervent searching for the suitcase page and the identical suitcase is listed for different prices. Yes. Different prices for the same item on the same day. How is this accomplished? And then, there’s the real deal at the bottom of the page; when you get to the cashier, you get a “scratcher”, like a lottery ticket, and you scratch away the nasty gray shit to reveal an additional percentage off of one advertised price, or the other, I don’t know which. And, if it’s Tuesday it’s more, and if my mom purchases the suitcase on Tuesday between such and such a time and such and such a time, there is an additional savings, and, if she uses her Kohl’s charge card, if I did my math right, they are going to pay me to take the suitcase off their hands. Bullshit. There is something very wrong with their marketing or their merchandise and I’ve decided I’d rather go to the Samsonite store and pay a couple of dollars more and get exactly what I want, in the color I want. I can arrive any day I like, I can use whatever payment means I choose and the price is as marked. I like it. It’s called simplicity. I crave simplicity. So. That’s what I did, I went directly to the Samsonite store, picked two suitcases out, a large and a small. I found an amazing color, more of a wine than a purple, but delicious and uncommon, which is what I strive for in everything in life. The salesperson was super helpful and super knowledgeable. She rung up my purchase as I told her how my last pair finally wore out after three and a half years. She seemed a little shocked. I assured her that I was pleased with the quality and that I just traveled a lot. She asked where I’d purchased my previous Samsonite suitcases. I told her, “Kohl’s”, a little embarrassed. She informed me that the “Samsonites” from Kohl’s are actually made especially for Kohl’s and aren’t quite the same, nor do they offer the ten year warranty. You see? She told me to photocopy my sales receipt and zip in within the lining in each suitcase and if either should fail in any way, just bring it back. You see? Me = super happy customer. I think I spent ten dollars more than if I’d gone to Kohl’s. I think, depending on all those crazy variables and contests. I don’t care, I’ve got the real deal and the real warranty.
It is difficult to be home for only a day. After a week of travel and restaurant food, worse, Montana restaurant food, I really just want good, wholesome, clean food. But it is quite difficult to go to Whole Foods and buy ingredients with which to cook a single breakfast, a single lunch and a single dinner and have no leftovers to deteriorate in the refrigerator during my absence beginning tomorrow. I’m so tired of eating out. So, so tired. But, whatcha gonna do? Mom and I decided to finally try the “pizza” place that occupied the sometimes occupied and often vacant restaurant space in the tiny shopping center by the neighborhood market. Pizza, salads and sandwiches, beer and wine. Sounds good enough. We’ve been by before and it always appears closed. Again, today, it appeared closed. The neon “Pizza” sign in the window adjacent the parking lot was not lit. I walked down the walkway to the “front” door, which is actually on the side. It appeared dark within, but the hours posted in the door stated they should be open. Mom was waiting back by the car. She doesn’t walk unless there is a guarantee of some sort at the end of the journey. I went back to the car and tried the door next to the parking lot by the unlit neon “Pizza” sign. It opened. So, either the place is unlocked or they are in fact open. I toddle, along with Mom, up to the “front” door, open it and we venture inside. The tables are all empty and it is quite dark inside. There are lights on, but it is quite dark. Mom and I exchanged a glance, neither of us is too keen on being the only diners in a restaurant. I don’t mind dining alone, but I only if there are other people around me. Being the only patrons in a restaurant makes me uneasy. I noticed the back door to the patio was open and outside were tables. Occupied tables. We were greeted and seated outside.
A little backstory. I grew up with a couple of kids from a large, long-time Napa family, an Italian family, in the grocery business. This restaurant site was once their home. When they built the market next door and the surrounding shops, they converted the house into a restaurant site. This neighborhood is a couple of miles from downtown Napa, and so, a bit removed. Until recently, Napa, the city, has sort of been the laughing stock and ugly stepchild of the Napa Valley, world famous wine region. Passing through Napa was just necessary in order to get to the real destination; everything from just north of Napa, onward. In the past few years, downtown Napa has been struggling, and in some respects, succeeding at also becoming a destination. While there are many vacancies and the “mall” has been officially pronounced dead, it is all slated for redevelopment and some big brands are in line to occupy some of the new spaces. Many downtown restaurants and tasting rooms are thriving and the streets are (infuriatingly) lined with slow moving tourists, both on foot and in cars. There are a couple of nice hotels that seem to be doing well, with another one or two planned. I am of the ilk that growth, development and progress is good. Mom is not. She wants it all the way it used to be; complete with cows and sheep and orchards and only a couple of vineyards. It is my hope that as Napa grows and reinvents itself, that some of these little restaurants out of town a wee bit, will have a better chance of success.
Are we unlike towns, shopping centers and restaurants? Don’t we sometimes need a little re-inventing of our own? A bit of creativity, a new look, a new outlook, a new purpose? Sure we do! And we should fight the same resistance to just want to remain “the way it used to be”. Like all things in life, like all things in the world, we need to progress, we need to adapt, to grow, to change. We need to evolve in order to remain relevant and vital.
As Napa reinvents itself and fosters a better chance of success for its businesses and restaurants, it is this little restaurant in particular that I hope thrives. Bene Gusto. What a bright spot in my week. Mom and I sat on the patio with the other guests, sipped a couple of cold beers from their NorCal beer offering. They featured Napa wines, of course, and a great sounding little menu. On their menu was a “Lunch Bite” special. For ten bucks you get a beer or wine from the list, a salad with greens so fresh Whole Foods should pay attention and a personal, ten inch pizza in any variety you choose from either the New York Style menu or the Artisan Menu, probably ten to twelve different pizza varieties in all. We both ordered a “Lunch Bite” and the salad, as I said, was so incredibly fresh I looked around for the garden. I didn’t see one, but I’ve not had greens so good in a long time. And I do shop at Whole Foods, with satisfaction. My pizza was divine, the crust was perfect, the toppings were of superior quality and creative in their combination. Best of all, our waiter was the best, and I gathered, related to the endeavor. A father, sons project, if I put the puzzle pieces together right. And for all of this splendor, it only cost me ten bucks. So happy. So, so happy. After lunch, on our way back through the restaurant, I checked out their little bar area, which was inviting and had a chalkboard ad boasting pizza and a beer for six bucks as a happy hour special. Perfect.
After my salad, pizza and two beers, back home, I did that which I dreaded; I tried to figure out how everything that had special pockets and spaces in my old suitcase would be contained within the new suitcase, which is completely, architecturally different on the inside. As I’ve mentioned, I never totally unpack my suitcase and if I need this or that, I know exactly which corner of what pocket in whichever suitcase to find it. This is major upheaval. I managed to get it all put together, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be thrashing through everything looking for one thing or another, at least for a while. I managed.
And then, the Sunday night ritual, well, actually, to be more precise, the Sunday late afternoon ritual; I set my alarm for 12:30 AM and tried to sleep while it was still daylight outside and kids were still playing in the streets and neighbors still mowed their lawns. And, about the time life in the neighborhood finally quieted down, my alarm went off and it was time for me to go. Once again.
Today, not so bright and pretty darned early, I set off for Oakland International Airport. My son is moving to Hawaii for a semester, maybe longer. One of his best friends has been going to school there for the past few years and is returning this semester after a semester in Brazil. The two young men are traveling together. My son has been trying to figure out how to downsize his life and his possessions into what Alaska Airlines will allow him to bring on board the plane. I’m a little scared to go look in my storage unit.
I, of course, being a little OCD about airport arrivals, parking and all things travel, was a bit earlier than planned. They boys, relying on others for their travel to the airport, were a bit later than planned. With some communication back and forth via text, I did everything I could to facilitate departure. I filled out name and address tags for all their luggage because they hadn’t secured luggage tags beforehand. I ran to my car and got my trusty Sharpie pen to appropriately label the two bicycle cartons. I had large plastic bags and duct tape in my purse to wrap up my son’s backpacking backpack, to keep all the straps in order and the buckles unbroken. This is what I do. Details.
The boys arrived and got everything organized to check and to carry on; four suitcases, three backpacks, two bicycle cartons, and a partridge in a pear tree. Alaska Airlines is fantastic, by the way. I fly them often and their customer service is top notch. The boys agree. I am betrothed to United because they fly a little more reasonably east to west, which the direction I fly most for work. But my northern adventures, and any west coast travel, I try to fly with Alaska.
I walked the boys to security to see them off, my son and my other son, as I like to say, my son from another mother. As they prepared to go through security, I watched, okay, hovered, to make sure they wouldn’t have to pass anything impermissible over to me. I had to remind my son to put his laptop in a separate bin to go through the scanner, but, other than that, he got it. Until the very last moment when he pulled a full size and quite expensive bottle of cologne and a stick deodorant out of his backpack. The stick deodorant didn’t need to come out at all, and the cologne was supposed to be in a quart size Ziploc bag. Then, I watched in horror as he plunked both items down in the same bin as the computer. We were separated by a large pane of Plexiglas and my son was not watching me jump up and down, waving my arms and motioning in some manner to try to communicate with him. The bin slowly slid into the x-ray machine and I held my breath, just waiting for them to pull it out and throw away his cologne, which, I know was expensive because I bought it for him for Christmas. Not a blink, not a bat of any eye by the TSA agent viewing the monitor. The bin exited the scanner, my son collected his things, waved, and was off. Fair enough.
I’ve mentioned before, I have been conducting a long running experiment with TSA; I have in my computer bag a small bottle of mouthwash and eye drops, loose, and I never take them out of the bag, place them in a Ziploc and put in a bin separately, They have, at this point, about 100,000 miles of undetected travel, loose, in my computer bag. This is my personal rebellion. I feel so smug. Especially since the same computer bag has been pulled off the conveyer and hand inspected numerous times because of all the electronics and cords, but never have the loose liquids been spotted or called out.
I’m going to miss my son. We’re pretty close. I miss my daughter and son in law, too. They live in up state New York. My kids couldn’t be further away, or further apart. Well, technically, they could, but still. Then, my sweetheart lives a very long distance from, me, too, in yet another direction. All I need now is for Mom to tell me she’s moving to Costa Rica without me! Not likely. So, it’s me and Mom, now, left in NorCal.
So I had to go shopping! To make me feel better. A little retail therapy. Besides, I desperately needed cardigans. I love cardigans, classic, slim fitting, waist length, prissy, button up cardigans. I have several, but I’ve worn them pretty much out. I need a few. My black one, the one I wear the most, has a hole, a separation at the seam along the collar. It looks terrible. True, my hair covers it and it looks otherwise okay, but once you’ve gone fishing in a cardigan, beheaded and gutted twenty five salmon in a cardigan and sprayed yourself to oblivion with “DEET in a cardigan, it becomes kind of hard to take yourself seriously wearing it in a professional setting. Clearly, a new sweater is required. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find the shopping in Napa a bit inadequate. No H&M, no Love Culture, no Forever 21, no Charlotte Russe, no Charming Charlie. These are my staples for cute, trendy and inexpensive pieces to mix in with my Banana Republic and Express slacks for work and my jeans and skirts for play. And after driving to Oakland and back, I really wasn’t up to a trip to my favorite shopping venues in Folsom and Roseville. But, when there’s a will, there’s a way. I decided to try out the Premium Outlets in Napa. I was premiumly surprised! I found five cardigans to my liking at J. Crew. No, I found a dozen I liked, I bought five. And they were 40% off! Technically, I was done at this point. Mission accomplished. But I thought I’d better walk the whole “mall” and see what there was to see. I knew better than to go into any shoe stores, I’ve had a real fetish lately and have a tower of shoeboxes in my room that won’t fit into my closet until I do some major rearranging. And I managed to window shop most of the stores, until I came to American Apparel. I’ve only ever been to AA once, in New York City, with my daughter, after I’d blown my entire shopping budget. Even though, technically, I didn’t have any shopping budget left, today, in fact, I’d already exceeded it, I stepped into AA. And when I stepped out a wee bit later it was with a fab maxi dress and a few intimate pieces (buy two get the third for half off, I can never resist underwear sales where it is expressed as “half off”, it makes me giggle). The maxi dress was of such superior quality, I just couldn’t not buy it. The fabric flows so nicely, but is of heavy enough weight to not cling awkwardly to those minor anomalies one may have in their body conformation, if you know what I mean. I’m sure you’ve seen ladies walking around in maxi dresses and every little line, crease, pimple, ripple, dimple and nipple was visible through the fabric, making them look more like a relief map than a lady. American Apparel uses very high quality fabric and the garments are all made in Los Angeles. Irresistible. At this point, I ran to the car before finishing window-shopping the last third of the mall.
Tomorrow, I depart, way, way, way too early, for a business trip. My alarm is set for 1:30 AM, and my bags are nearly packed. This evening was spent tossing the last few items in and having an early dinner before turning in as early as I can possibly make myself. Dinner? Well, it is Tuesday. And I like tacos, so taco Tuesday? I still have eggs left, so the only solution, then, is egg tacos. Somehow, tortillas make eggs for yet another meal almost enjoyable.
Today was like some weird time continuum thing. Sunday already? How did that happen?
This phenomenon continued beyond just that moment when I awoke and realized it was Sunday. Already. I went down for breakfast, my usual Sunday at home no other plans kind of breakfast; a piece of bacon, a shirred egg, oatmeal, the kind that takes thirty minutes to cook, coffee and some kind of fruit. But I was out of fruit today and I’m not sure how that happened, either. I fixed breakfast, ate breakfast, wrote in my journal, tapped out a few notes on my iPad for articles I’d like to write, perused Facebook for “the news” and to make sure I’d made the appropriate birthday wishes. I had a square of dark chocolate and Mom decided we should have mimosas with her unchilled, $2 bottle of sparkling wine like substance. She’s saving the “good”, chilled bottle of sparkling wine for some occasion that we’ve already made alternate plans for. Whatever. I consented. And then it was noon. How did that happen? Not only is it Sunday, now it’s noon on Sunday. How did that happen?
I did my dishes and took my shower and got ready. Ready for what, I don’t know, but I was ready. I’d planned on, perhaps, working on a video project, which I would need a few items from the grocery store. I was out of fruit anyway. And yogurt. So, I guess I was shopping. Now I had plans.
I’ve been in dire need of a new suitcase. My big, purple Samsonite has no zipper pulls left and the fabric has been worn thin enough in several places that TSA no longer has to open my suitcase to make an inspection. One zipper compartment is so broken I can, in no way, open the compartment. My travel yoga mat is hopelessly trapped in that compartment, weighing down my suitcase just enough that I had to pay the extra weight penalty on my last trip to Alaska, where I had zero intention of doing yoga and most certainly did not need to take the mat. It is a surprisingly heavy item and I just couldn’t remove it from the suitcase without permanently destroying the suitcase. The local department store that I hate with every cell of my being has “the one” suitcase I like on sale for 60% off. I’m very particular about my suitcases. To me, it’s like my house. I spend more time living out of my suitcase than I do out of a house. I feel that my fastidiousness is well warranted. Mom had her Sunday pile of ad inserts from her two Sunday newspapers in a terrifyingly tall tower on the edge of the table. There were no less than four different ad booklets for this one store for this one week. I was made to look through them. All. It was infuriating. I especially love how the items aren’t organized in any logical manner, suitcases were pictured on three different pages in three different, and totally random sections of the booklet. The one I was interested in, of course, was on the very last page. Some of the specials were for today only, others could be combined with stickers received in the mail or coupons from other ad inserts to realize even more savings. When you used the store credit card, which Mom has, the sales associate will give you a “scratcher” and you will realize even more savings of an amount to be known only after you rubbed that gooky gray stuff off the flimsy paperboard, usually also removing the ink stating the amount of additional savings in the process. When I added it all up, before reading the incredibly small print, it looked like they might pay me 34.78124% of the retail value of the suitcase to take it off their hands. I decided I’d better take my chances and stop by the department store on my way to Whole Foods, which isn’t on the way at all, but, you can get clear across Napa in ten minutes flat, even in what Napkins call “traffic”.
I drove downtown and found the only parking place available in the whole city on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I stepped through the dirt planter because the sidewalk was barricaded off for some 9/11 Memorial project that has been in the works since, well, I think 9/11/01. I finally made my way to the door of the department store. Upon entering, I headed towards the luggage section, having to step over an entire family of children and the husband who were lounging on the futon that was displayed in the “off to college” section. Once to the impossibly crowded luggage section, I perused the offerings and only found one suitcase of the brand I require, and, incredibly, in a size larger than I need. Anyone who has seen my suitcase will be amazed by that. I could buy the futon and fit it into the suitcase if I wanted. And the suitcase was blue, and much more than I want to spend, even on sale. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t fit on domestic jets, anyway. Besides, I require purple, or red. I left. I’ll buy zip ties on the way home to secure the unsecure compartments on my old suitcase and keep looking for “the one”, on sale. On to Whole Foods.
I made my purchases, bundled them into my trunk and came home and suddenly it was time for dinner. How did that happen? And now it’s time for bed. How did that happen? I feel like the fast forward button is stuck on my day. I have nothing to show for it but a tub of yogurt and a few pieces of fruit in my refrigerator. SMH. Monday begins in a couple of hours. How did that happen?
Just your basic day. I didn’t have a training or consulting assignment today, so I dabbled with this and that for work. My cousin was to stop by to pick up some items from Mom to sell at her next garage sale. Mom and I are both trying to lighten our load a little, and my cousin loves to find and sell things at her frequent garage sales. It works out well for all involved.
I have a collection of cousins, on both sides of the family, Mom’s side and Dad’s side. I have always cherished my cousins. As an only child my cousins were the closest thing I ever had to siblings. My parents married a little later in life and, so, I came along later than my first cousins. My first cousins, on my dad’s side are a little older than me, my second cousins are actually right around my age. Not that this matters, they’re all fantastic. My cousin who visited today has been an absolute Godsend. As I travel about the country for work, since she lives only about twenty or thirty minutes away, she has been there, when needed, when I couldn’t be. During my dad’s illness preceding his death, she was available at a moment’s notice to drive, to assist, and to support. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for this.
Now that my dad has passed and Mom has her own health challenges, and my schedule, even when not traveling, can be somewhat unpredictable, my cousin makes herself available to drive my mom to her appointments in the neighboring town. Mom is okay driving to the clinic, locally, but the one in the next town is, now, a rather daunting trip for her, alone. If I am home, and not on a conference call, I will tag along. Any time my cousin visits, there will usually be a lunch out. And even though today’s visit was not related to a doctor’s visit, we had our lunch out.
Lunches out, Mom, my cousin and myself, have become a “tradition” that I truly appreciate and enjoy. Three ladies, three generations, enjoying food, drink and conversation. We carefully select our lunch venue and ponder our menu choices aloud, almost in collaboration. My cousin appreciates food much as I do, as more than just nourishment, but as art, as an expression and something worthy of being photographed before being savored.
My cousin is, and has always been, an artist and is extremely creative. Both a painter and a photographer, she sees art in almost everything. I see it, too, but haven’t made art so much a part of my identity as she has. She is gifted, talented, and insightful. I just see neat things and take pictures of them with my iPhone. There are many family resemblances, that now seem to be manifesting, or, at least, we are becoming aware of them; certain preferences in color, in style, in fashion, in architecture, landscaping, and in the art that is just inherent in our surroundings. And a certain joie de vie.
Conversations that unfold between us reveal many alignments and I find this fascinating. As a child, of course, these similarities were not so apparent. She was the mother of the (second) cousins with whom I played and with whom I got into considerable trouble. But now, myself being middle aged, the playing field is a bit more leveled, if you will, and I am discovering more about myself with each opportunity for a visit.
After a fantastic lunch today, at Cielito Lindo in downtown Napa, having passed one of our favorite boutiques on the way to our lunch destination, it was agreed we would stop in after dining. I’d spotted, and, yes, taken a picture of an adorable dress in the window. At Betty Girl’s Boutique, Kim, the owner (the boutique is named after her mother, Betty, who passed away some time ago), makes dresses out of vintage clothing, combining bodices and skirts, adding and removing elements and creating absolute magic. The dress in the window spoke to me. After lunch, I inquired about the dress. It was my size. With some encouragement from my cousin, only a wee bit of encouragement, I tried the dress on. It fit and was fabulous. I came out of the dressing room with some prompting, strutted, twirled and talked about where I’d wear this dream dress. My mom, the voice of practicality and reason, tried in her subtle way to dissuade me. My cousin said, “You’d be crazy not to buy the dress.” And so, I did. I am delighted. I am thrilled. There are pictures. And I now have three occasions to wear this fantastic, one of a kind dress! So, now, I find myself getting into considerable trouble with a cousin, yet again!