Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet

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I so love the Grocery Outlet chain of discount grocery stores. Why, just today I picked up a jar of ginormous blue cheese stuffed green olives, a bag of the best avocados (trust me, I am a guacamole connoisseur) and a set of four floor mats made for my VW. Ridiculously bargain priced. But the high point of my shopping trip didn’t center around any of the amazing deals. While reaching into the case holding the bacon, I had to ask a fellow shopper if she could move her cart a smidge.

She was apologetic, she moved, and then she said, “I am in no hurry, go right ahead.”

She was so sweet about it, I smiled back and thanked her.

“I am a retired psychiatric nurse with the prison system…those are the worst ones, the crazy killers.”

Ha! I laughed and I felt compelled to match her statement with one of my own. “Well, I am psychiatric, maybe you can lend assistance my direction!” This time we both laughed. She took my hand and emphasized that we are all a little bit crazy and she regaled me with more of her experiences in the world of the hardcore prison community. What an exchange she provided with her rich history.

This day will go down as one of the more interesting and rewarding shopping events. Right there between the dog food, the laundry detergent, and the light bulbs… the lady who offered the friendly slice-of-life within the Psychiatric Department at the Grocery Outlet.

Portland

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Introducing,dscn1440 Bonnie. She and I met at one of the MAX (train) stops.  I approached her for help with purchasing the ticket.  She walked me over to the ticket machine and offered a tutorial.  But, just as soon as she had begun, she changed her mind and, pulling a tiny booklet out of her bag, she tore off a ticket (she buys them in bulk) and handed it to me. “Here, go ahead and take this,” Bonnie said.  I expressed gratitude and took the ticket.

I was in Portland to visit my 90 year-old mom who is displaying symptoms of dementia.  She seems to have held on to her appetite consistently, leaving only the lemon wedge on her dinner plate.  She sleeps an inordinate number of hours throughout the day.  That’s pretty much it.  No TV or radio to be found in her apartment. A couple books on the table.  I am no stranger to altered brain function so I feel a certain special kinship to my mom’s compromised state of affairs although I had to squelch my manic energy and resign myself to her slow pace.  I “entertained” her with my impersonation of an opera singer while at our table in the community dining room.  Somebody complained.

Back to Bonnie.  After she handed me the ticket she asked where I was going.  I answered, “Russellville.”  Bonnie told me she was headed to the same place and that she lives there in the apartments.  So, in keeping with her treatment of the situation, she told me she would ride the train with me to make sure I got off at the right spot.  In the brief exchange of facts and figures, Bonnie and I shared family information.  She was very forthcoming about the life she has lived.  Pregnant at 13 (!!) and then again twelve years later, she has two sons.  She was wearing a uniform and when I asked her what the uniform was for she replied that she is a chef by trade.  She likes the simplicity of her lifestyle, and really doesn’t want for anything.  We hugged as we stood on the platform and said our goodbyes.

Bonnie served as the Portland representation of the friendly New Yorkers I have met on my visits to the Big Apple.  What is the correct term for when someone is under no obligation but chooses to go the extra mile to lend assistance?  Maybe the term is, Bonnie.

April 16, 2017. An amazing footnote I am able to offer.  I repeated my travels to Portland last weekend. Saw my mom again.  In her dementia state, it is no longer fun to carry on conversation.  Very problematic.  But wait, a lovely circumstance presented itself.  Bonnie was there! In the dining room hallway I spotted her  serving the Easter feast! She is, after all, a chef. I approached her, reminded her of how we had met the previous year, and there we were hugging again! Serendipity.

Harleys Are In Town

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imageYou know that bucket list?  Mine included a ride on a bike.  A Harley.  I don’t know a single soul in our family or among our friends who have one…wimpy folk.  But, doesn’t it just suggest a wild streak?   So, I made a pact with myself.  The next time motorcycles, specifically Harleys, come to our town, I am going to be there front row and center.  I will present my case, “Can you please take me for a ride?”  Our town is about 8,000 strong.  Not much going on.  But, I was determined to make my wish come true next time the Harleys arrived.  I did.  I walked to the downtown bar where they congregate shortly after I heard rumbling and I knew what it meant.  I walked with conviction over to the first three men I saw sporting the distinctive leather jackets and standing beside their bikes.

Before I could speak, one very intuitive biker asked, “Where do you want to go?”  I had hit the Mother Lode.  Instinctively he knew I wanted a ride.  Unfortunately, his bike did not come equipped with a passenger seat.  Second guy begged off.  That left happy Mr. #3. Well, maybe curious Mr. #3. Okay, more like cautious Mr. #3.  I had to convince him I wasn’t trouble.  I explained I just needed to fulfill this wish from my bucket.  He gave a questioning look but ultimately agreed and said, “Hop on.”  I dutifully placed the helmet on my head, and like the pros, I put my arms around his waist — time tested security measure — and off we went.

Five minutes into the ride around town I told him my name and he said his name was Jim.

“Who are you trying to make jealous?”  Jim asked.

“No ulterior motive, I just wanted a ride on a Harley and I took this as my opportunity,” I assured him.

The ride would not be complete until I asked if he could make sure to pass by some teenagers I knew.  “Look, is that Mrs. Wright on that Harley?”  I imagined they would exclaim.  My plan did not take root.  In the 15 minute ride, I never saw a single teenager.  Damn!  Where are they when you want them?!

So, the ride ended, and it was so worth it.  Jim came to trust me, and we parted with an amicable handshake.  Most importantly, I fulfilled my bucket list wish with a little bit of moxie and a lot of glee.

Sometimes I Don’t Know My Ass From A Hole In The Ground

 

This was the statement I made to my supervisor in a telephone conversation. She was in charge of district-wide testing of all ESL students and I was one among the staff members responsible for administering these tests and working the follow-up clerical tasks. Clerical work has always tested my resolve. This annual testing ritual was met with mixed emotions. I enjoyed interacting with students. Paperwork, on the other hand, was torturous.

I had commandeered one classroom which served as the holding place for piles of tests. That is to say I carefully arranged test forms by grade level and assigned each pile a different desk top. And then I stared at each pile. I stared for a couple weeks. All of us working this cycle of testing had a deadline. I knew the deadline. However, that did not make a dent in the staring binge I had launched into. I was to use a certain protocol to detect anomalies, correct them and record data in a binder. Ugh.

My work was not progressing. I had elevated staring at the piles to an art form. They were right there on the same desk tops that I had placed them on nearly four weeks prior, undisturbed. I called my supervisor.

“What was that process … I think I forgot step 4a … You mean there is no step 4a …What happened to it?”

Ultimately, I had to confess. “Sometimes I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.”

The supervisor roared with laughter. I collected the tests, took them to her office and she finished the clerical ordeal. Sometimes.

Registrar of Voters

Do you long for a mindnumbing clerical job? Do you pine away for some task that keeps you at your desk for eight hours a day? Well then, step right up into what proved to have been the way in which I spent each workday for two-and-a-half years. Santa Ana, CA was home to the Orange County Registrar of Voters. In my life during early 1978 to mid-1980.

Imagine the pleasure of working around the clock on election nights. That was when I wasn’t discovering second-hand smoke. Smoking policy was quite different in that era. The largely female-occupied office space was populated by over half the workers puffing away. The woman to my right, two women behind me and my supervisor two desks down.

I was hired with the title “Temporary Extra Help” which translated to no benefits, no benefits, no benefits, ever. Over two years of no benefits…and low pay.

A smoke-filled, very large office. Oh we had windows, but they didn’t open. Sad faces dotted the landscape of this place. My fellow workers seemed to send a message.  Didn’t bode well.

So, after my two plus years of fielding phone queries, using the files to file, and the microfiche to microfiche, I left. I thought I would die there at my desk. After all some of the women seemed to have already arrived at that destination.

Time to leave the clerical pool.

Feral

As in the colony of feral cats that use our backyard, front yard, and outdoor furniture to defecate in, spray on, and sun themselves.

The previous owners of our property left me canned cat food and instructions regarding feeding the cats. You are kidding me, right? You don’t really expect me to feed wild cats, do you? That was 21 years ago. The colony now consists of six cats…I think. We see them parading around “their” domain. I have to say that they look pretty good. Fur that appears to be a reflection of the healthy and steady diet provided them by a neighbor on the other side of the fence. There hasn’t been a litter in years. There is an organized group in the area whose mission it is to spay/neuter the ferals and return them to their spot. I could do without the return.

But poop, and urine, and spray aside, there is one disturbing activity that these ferals   are responsible for. They kill birds. This morning I stepped outside to retrieve our trash bin when I noticed a cat on the driveway. One of the ferals. It dashed away the moment I saw him and that was when I saw the bird on the cement seemingly lifeless. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was a dove. We have had two doves — I am not sure but I think a dove pair mates for life — taking up residence on one utility pole in our yard. I love their unique call.

Dammit! Damn those cats! The dove was still alive but badly mauled. I couldn’t throw it away in its condition. I placed it in a bucket and covered it. When I made another trip to the bucket, it was certainly dead.

Feral cats beware. I am on to you.

Shirley

I feel a special kinship with Shirley Temple who was born 90 years ago. She was born in Santa Monica Hospital, the same hospital I was born in 26 years later. Child stars are cute, precocious, and generally quite talented but I think Shirley was uniquely gifted.

Gertrude Temple already had two sons. Throughout her pregnancy she hoped for a girl — hope was realized. At about 3 years of age Shirley was occupying space in dance class where she was discovered.

I have all of her young childhood movies. I am cueing one right now. I am not much of a singer but that doesn’t prevent me from belting out “On The Good Ship Lollipop”.

I scrutinize her tap moves. As far as I am concerned she exhibits flawless execution. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson served as Shirley’s partner as they navigated the “stair dance” in the movie The Little Colonel. One of the most impressive tap numbers with the two dancers holding hands — a controversial scene for the time.

I did not receive dance lessons at the age of 3, 5, or even 15, I began my tap lessons in college at the age of 20. Today I teach tap classes to adults. Thank you Shirley for the inspiration, the delight of watching you, and the joy.

Michael Kors

The fragrance I enjoy. No, I don’t just enjoy it, I live it.

I purchase the largest bottle they have. “They” represented by Macy’s and occasionally the perfume kiosk, center mall.

I discovered Mr. Kors quite by accident. Somewhere around 2007. I went shopping with $120.00 in my purse. I was itchin’ for something new to me. I had been known to use Chloe previously. I like cute bottles. Kors isn’t exactly what I would call cute. But the fragrance is orgasmic! Oh my God, who invented this stuff? Right. Michael did.

My initial purchase came to $95. Okay, so I had enough left over for an order of fries, medium lemonade, and corn dog. Although I am not at all certain that eating even matters when I am wearing Michael.

As life evolves I am reminded of the attractive feature Michael Kors provides. Many (really, many) opportunities have presented themselves to hear a woman in any shopping venue (or even the place where I bank) ask me, “What is that perfume?” “It’s wonderful!” I happily provide the answer.

Maybe we can all walk around feeling orgasmic.

Budgies & Pip

In order of acquisition, Pip*, the female finch came first. So cute. So dainty…delicate. Delicate things “break” and I will get to that. She came via the mom of one of my students. Mom had her own finch caged in the dining room. I admired it and asked where she had found such a sweet bird. “La pulga”, was her answer. The Antioch flea market. I had never been, so I was clueless. I have learned that a man comes up from Mexico laden with animals to sell at the fea markets. And plenty of birds. Sometimes in reaching for a designated bird he loses another one or two. So, she picked up a sweet female finch for whom I had already prepared a cage. I placed a bamboo nest within the cage. That is the place she would fly into, very quickly. She was stealth. Loved her. I “harvested” 5 eggs from her cage and I placed them in my freezer. After nearly three years, she passed. After no sound came from her cage one afternoon, I unhooked the nest to find her inside, eyes shut, in sleeping position, still. She had “broken.” I did not dispose of her eggs for another year.

*She was named after the dot on a domino. A pip.

I don’t like empty cages. I purchased another cage and adopted Daisy and Starr, my first pair of budgies — parakeets. One quite green and the other a pale blue and pale yellow combination of gorgeous. Daisy boasted very long tail feathers. She was the only bird who would allow me to handle her. There was nothing not to like about that bird. Except her death. It came at only 10 months. Starr followed after another year. Starr was the most vocal. She/he, I am never quite sure, is missed.  Some time back I found a strange albino parakeet (see, Albino) complete with pink eyes and he rests comfortably beside the vacated Starr cage. He is quite nervous. Won’t let me touch him. His name is Jelly Bean. Watch the movie Slither for reference.

Replacements exist. Not to sound cold, but budgies are calling. I made my way to the pet store. Just the other day I found Loco with grayish green breast and yellow head. This budgie is getting acclimated. Bought her a new mirror and she uses Starr’s used (washed) swing. Less skittish than Jelly Bean.

Looking forward to a long, healthy relationship.

 

 

My phone, your phone, iPhone

I actually had to research spelling of iPhone…because I don’t have one. Hopelessly out of touch. But that’s so negative. How about, I am not a sheep. I never follow the crowd.

My hair does not follow the trend in favor of straight. Curls for me since I was little. I have never found the appeal in looking like everyone else. When I was a teenager in high school I sewed my clothes. I was not a seamstress of the premium level so my clothes may have spoken to that, but I didn’t care. I stood out. No other girl had my outfit on. Mission accomplished.

Now, phones. Mine is a Great Call flip phone. Meant for senior citizens. Big numbers. Not until last night did I ever feel hopelessly out of touch. But then we went bowling. I took the Groupon with me that I had dutifully printed out at home with great expectations. My expectations were dashed. There in the bowling alley the woman announced that my print out was null and void. My copy did not show a bar code, AND, fine print explained I was to use my smart phone. Smart? So, I suppose that means I am in possession of a dumb phone.

I use my cell phone for making outgoing calls, taking incoming calls, and not much else. There is, somewhere, a method by which I can actually text. What if I don’t want to text? Features like texting are remarkably useless to me. My cell only goes off with an incoming call when I’m driving or in class running a lesson. That’s it. The height at which my lifeline operates. I do have a school director in charge of quite a number of students and teaching staff. I will give her credit for that. Every so often she feels she needs to call me and her conversation to me is punctuated with, “Cyndi can…(kids talking to her) you bri…(bad connection)…no the res…(parents talking to her)…see yo…okay?” What?

I took on ownership of my cell in ’05 after a scare on the highway. My family insisted. I relented. And here I am with a dumb phone. I hate, hate, hate (enough loathing?) hearing phones going off in the workplace. You’re at work, hello! But perhaps even more than my aversion for phones going off, is the visual of folks walking around holding their blessed phone at the horizontal. So cute. People walking side-by-side presumably friends or family, but they are not in conversation with one another, too busy admiring their phone…and looking down. Ugh.