Small town…southern influence. To say a place is going nowhere is to suggest it is stale, limited, and occupied by stiff constraints and dictates. Some places are just that. To take up residence in a place like this meant we were regaled with statements like, “Ya oughta bank at 1-2-3 bank, not 4-5-6 bank.” “All the teachers bank at 1-2-3.” Really? So, this is a dictatorship? Run by yahoos in a town with a population of 7,000? So, the local citizenry carries a great deal of clout. I suppose that is why a town of this type is so progressive. So progressive in fact that the signs saying “Nigger Don’t Be Here After Dark” were just removed last year.
What are you gonna do in a place like this? You could pull up a chair and listen to and watch the bug zapper fry the hapless flies. How about showing up to the Tag Office? There is no Department of Motor Vehicles — instead, there is an office where you can purchase your “tag” and spend time admiring the doilies and other pretty things that the elderly ladies who work to present you with your “tag” are busy making and selling in their down time.
Yessir. Nothing like life in a communistic, stale, limited southern town. Makes me want to go right out and order grits and Johnny Cake, just before I post a friendly sign on the outskirts.
Ranch 99 Market, Pleasanton, near the 580. Went looking because my new job location is situated in the same shopping center. It is really strange that schools are located in storefronts next to Subway sandwich shops and State Farm offices. New phenomenon…sign of the times. So, being the adventurous sort, and highly motivated to avoid freeway traffic at the hour my job ends, I walk on in to the market. Clearly Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Taiwanese in nature. A whole hog’s head sits beside an entire goose, sans feathers but neck and head intact. Smelt are arranged beside salmon and shark. Roe is available. Bright red. The packaging of cookies and cakes is beautiful, with colorful illustrations. Hair conditioner is available in large bottles with images of gorgeous Asian ladies and their long, straight tresses.
I bought one “ball” of shrimp meat with stiff, curly tasteless things attached. When I got home with my treasure, I realized it wasn’t quite so special and threw it out. But, I’m game. Next Wednesday when I return to work, I will make an effort to explore the same market, and be open minded. Not open enough to purchase the pig’s head, but something less imposing. Maybe some cookies from Vietnam.
Nixed the cookies. On my next visit I chose to pick up a loaf of sliced green onion bread and two boxes of tissue of an unrecognizable brand. Tame. Jackfruit. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t, but there it was, enormous size with a bumpy skin in a light shade of brown. Did I say enormous? The size would have necessitated rolling one fruit to the check out. The surprise? It is not from any place in Asia — according to the store sign it comes from Mexico!
…to Rio Vista. Not familiar? Think lots of nothing for miles and miles. In 1991 – being new to the area and clueless as to decorum — I went with a short (complaint) piece over to the local newspaper editor at that time. I think it was a comment for the editorial section. I always seem to have comments. Solicited or not. So, he (in 26 years the paper has gone through umpteen editors, male and female) took a quick look at my prose and turned to me, with a smile on his face, “Hey, you can write.” “How would you like a place on my staff here?” A single, solitary moment of exhilaration swept through me. But, solitary it was. As much as it may have interested me to engage in something fun and academic, I had to beg off. I was new in town…sorely lacking in proper broadcasting technique, but brimming forth with unharnessed creative energy. Sadly, I had to tell the editor I just wasn’t ready. Next thing I know, he was off. On to a bigger audience in a bigger town. Usher in a new editor. No complaint letters to carry to his office. I will lay low.
Specifically the two in our backyard. They emit a strange sound that can not be confused for a dog or a cat. It was quite late, maybe 11:00 at night. I heard something like a call. There are feral cats that like to inhabit space in our yard. I thought it might be them. But the sound was too mysterious, too foreign. I turned on the lights that cast illumination in various directions over the patio and pool area, and there they were. These visitors had decided to enjoy a stroll on our property in keeping with their nocturnal habits. I was convinced that the sound I had been hearing was a distress call because when I looked out in the direction of the pool the bigger raccoon was at poolside making noise and a smaller raccoon was in the water. A few seconds passed and junior climbed out. Senior raccoon turned to look back at the source of my command. I yelled at them to leave.
But, next time I will be prepared with my camera. Since that initial night-time activity, we have found mysterious mounds of leaves and dirt. Two of them in separate places of the backyard. Plus, we discovered patches of dark fur on the patio. Raccoon fur, we are certain. We disturbed the mounds of debris enough to determine whether the activity is repeated the next time we survey our yard.
I realize that raccoons can carry rabies. We don’t intend to rush them if we spot them. They are just so welcome. Over those nasty feral cats that have taken up residence in our yard, the curious raccoons are welcome any time.