Saturday, November 28, 2009


On a shopping trip a few years ago, I met The King. No, not that King - I was nowhere near Graceland. This King was in his early twenties, and lacking the formality that usually accompanies royalty, he casually introduced himself simply as "The King". He showed no shyness in admitting his concern for the welfare of those visiting his Kingdom, and without complaint explained that he kept a careful watch, five days a week, over his domain that started at the pencil aisle and ended at the packing supplies. A man of integrity, he took his responsibilities seriously and quickly helped me locate all the items on my shopping list before being summoned over the speaker system. As he walked away he said that if I needed further help, to call him. I'd barely gotten out the words, "Ohhh Kiiing," when he was back at my side - it was almost a pleasure spending more money than I'd intended.
After leaving all my cash at the check stand, I called for the manager - who slowly slunk from his office.
"I'm the manager," he choked, as if fearing that if he heard one more complaint he’d be compelled to run his head through the paper shredder. His demeanor left me unsure of his sense of humor so without calling The King, “King”, I simply pointed at the young man and said to the manager, "That guy is a great salesman and I wanted to let you know."
Like magic the manager's attitude changed lickey-split and happily he stated, "I'll make a note of it in his employee file."
I always take the time to tell store managers when their employees are really good and I would have loved to compliment another guy that helped me at the hardware store.
The store had just opened on a Sunday morning, and I'd begun to scour the shelves for a light fixture when a nicely dressed fellow started down the aisle. With an eye toward tidiness, he was straightening the area by realigning all the merchandise.
After some searching I found a floor sample of the item I wanted, but there were none in boxes on the shelves. So as the young man worked his way toward me I called out to him, told him what I was looking for and asked if he'd help me find one. He agreed in a gentlemanly manner.
Together we'd pulled down, and put back, every box on the messy shelves before he said apologetically, "I guess there aren't any more." When he saw my disappointment he added quickly, "But maybe there are some in the back." My frustration mounting, I asked brusquely, "Well, would you mind looking?!" "Oh, okay, sure," he replied with some embarrassment.
Ten minutes later, as I was about to walk out of the store in disgust, the young man reappeared. His tie was askew, the front of his black slacks and white shirt were smudged with dust, but in his hands was a large box. "It's not the same one, but it's close," he said with a smile.
Happily I took the box to the check stand and when the item wouldn’t come up on the cash register I was asked the price. I stated that I didn't know and explained that the man who works in the lighting department, or (from the way he was dressed) perhaps it was the store manager, had gotten the light fixture from the back room. The cashier called for the two men to come to her register. When they appeared, both the manager and the man working in the lighting department were dressed in jeans and brightly colored T-shirts sporting the store's logo.
The young man who'd helped me certainly deserved to have my stamp of approval placed in his employee file - if only he'd been an employee.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


After one of my treatments last month, we went to the park to see the ducks. Unfortunately the ducks were on furlough (while their ponds were being refurbished) and in their place was a woman who set her parrot on a big rock for me to photograph him (unfortunately she chose a rock that was in the shade – but you can still see him). And there were also oodles of chubby, gray squirrels.
We watched as a young mother held out a nut to one of the fluffy tailed critters. The squirrel was cautions on its approach, but then sat up on its hind legs, took the nut and ate it right there in front of the woman. Of course her son (a toddler) reached out to touch the little guy and beside me, Hubby gasped, “What if the squirrel thinks the baby is holding a peanut and accidentally bites his finger!” I have to admit, I was getting nervous, too. But the mom, being on her toes, had everything under control and easily slipped in between her son and the squirrel.
My sister was telling me that years ago the park near her house was full of gray squirrels. She and my brother-in-law used to take their son (a toddler at the time) and go visit them. Their son loved the squirrels and called them all Jimmy Squirrel – nobody knew why, that was just what he called them (like his cousin who stubbornly called his dad, Bill – not dad, not even his real name….just Bill). My sister said her son desperately wanted to feed the squirrels (while in his mind he probably also had visions of catching a few) and in his excitement he’d run up to one holding out a peanut – which of course caused the squirrel to take off in terror. He’d chase after Jimmy Squirrel for a ways, eventually throwing the peanut in the direction of the departing animal. But before long he’d turn and moving as fast as a toddler is able, he’d hurry back toward his parents – and right behind him would by a horde of hungry Jimmy Squirrels.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I saw a street person walk past my house yesterday, which is an unusual sight. It’s not as if we don’t have unusual sights along our street: a woman in pj’s and hiking boots walking a tiny dog down the middle of the road, two very large, very drunk old men who took turns running up every driveway to yell the name Bertie into each backyard before scampering off (that was before the police arrived), a fellow dressed in black (black shoes, black pants, black shirt, black bowler) who quacks (through some kind of portable amplifying system) every so many yards as he jogs along, a guy who roams the area at three a.m. calling for Skippy – but seldom do we see street people. I suppose the man spends his nights in the park (beautiful surroundings, but not a safe place to have to sleep). His hair was a matted mess, his clothes were in tatters and he was filthy (which was obvious clear from inside my house).
There are some that believe a derelict gets what he/she deserves. That they are simply shiftless and too lazy to work – which is undoubtedly true in some cases. But that kind of thinking makes it all too easy to sidestep compassion, a commodity that is sorely lacking.
I have a friend who swears that my way of thinking draws those down on their luck to me. She constantly refers to the time I was on the other side of the U.S., standing with a large group of people waiting for a taxi when a homeless man, riding an imaginary motorcycle, pulled up to me and screeched on his imaginary brakes. As a group, those around me took a giant step backwards.
“Hi,” the motorcyclist said to me.
“Hi,” I replied.
“My friend, Charlie, wants to meet you,” he stated.
Oh boy.
Before I could respond, the man pulled out a plant from a spare shirt he had tucked under his arm (an action, I’m sure, meant to keep him from driving in a reckless manner). The roots of the creeping Charlie, void of dirt, dangled freely yet the leaves looked fresh and healthy (leaving me to believe that it had been very recently ripped from its home to go on this little trip).
“Hi, Charlie,” I said softly, hoping the crowd wouldn’t notice that I was conversing with vegetation.
The man smiled at me revealing toothless gums before revving up his bike and taking off with a loud varoom, varoom.
Aside from the homeless down on their luck, there are those with mental problems living on the street. One in particular was a middle aged man who spent much of each day wandering along the same thoroughfare. His disheveled appearance and loud ranting made him a frightening figure. One day Hubby could no longer stand the man’s tortured out bursts and approached him as the man screamed at an unseen partner. Hubby handed the man some money and over the raving, shouted, “Go get some breakfast.” The words seemed to jolt the man back to reality, at least for a moment.
“Okay,” he replied meekly.
Too bad the problems of the homeless can’t be solved as easily as that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


It has been suggested to me that I come clean and stop putting in “Fact or fib” - okay, so the stories are true…except for little portions like: I don’t live in a house the size of a crawl space – it’s more the size of a bread box…and I don’t really call the sweetie I’m married to “Hubby”. Now that we’ve got that straight, let me blather on about the new walking spot Hubby and I found. It’s a quiet, secluded area that feels like it’s out in the country, even though it’s nestled in among the homes of a heavily populated area. In fact, when I was in elementary school all of us neighborhood kids would drag cardboard boxes up to this spot and slide down the hillsides – that was before there were any buildings there, of course – we were good at cardboard tobogganing but not so good we could steer around fences and houses at 20 mph.
I wonder if our parents realized where we were going, since the area was notorious for rattlesnakes. In fact, yesterday, during the walk through this lovely spot, I stayed very alert. Even though Hubby always reminds me that snakes are shy creatures I wouldn’t care to run into one – but that’s just me, I guess; the park workers don’t seem to have that worry. Although the park is full of warning signs about rattlesnakes, I noticed that the door to every building in the place was propped open: the offices, the gymnasium, the restrooms, the utility sheds – are these people a bunch of wackos?! Don’t they know that on a warm day a snake will take refuge in a cool building?!!!!!
I suppose I’m a little overly anxious when it comes to snake encounters. And even though I’ve touched them before, the thought of them touching me sends me into a panic – like the time out on my sister’s property (also rattlesnake country). We had taken her van, containing a huge barrel of water (strapped down where the backseats used to be) to water her trees which were planted out in the brush. Keeping a sharp look-out for snakes, I probably had snakes on the brain.
My sister had just scooped a bucket of water from the barrel when the van began to roll backwards. When she yelled, “Hit the brake!” I could have SWORN she yelled “It’s a snake!” and literally trampled her on my way out. Now logically I know that even if a snake was tall enough to reach the door handle, it probably wouldn’t know how to open the door – but then a fear-crazed mind will believe anything.
But doesn’t that experience substantiate my theory that snakes can be dangerous? – even when they aren’t around. I’m sure my sister would agree.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Not only did all of my test results come back great, but I woke up at four
this morning remembering that on this very date, many moons ago a unique character was welcomed into the world. From day one he was great company – as a little guy, when we’d pass the Kentucky Fried Chicken place, he’d point and in his deep, gravely voice he’d say, “I like that Tucky Turkey” – that was before he became a vegetarian.
He had long eyelashes that always caught peoples’ attention which was a great embarrassment to him (wearing a “tiger skin” beret, wasn’t. Compliments were). As he got a little older, when someone would stop us to compliment him on his long lashes he’d copy his hero (Spider Man). He’d point his wrists at the culprit in hopes of covering the unsuspecting person with webs.
A healthy baby he never had so much as a cold for the first two years of his life. Maybe it was his robust health that caused him to be so active as a toddler (climbing out of windows when no one was looking, for one thing – climbing onto the bathroom counter in preparation for shaving, for another).
As he matured to kindergarten age so did his interest in taking things apart (if you’ve ever tried to wind a heavy-duty metal tape measure back into its case, you know it’s an impossible task). And while in elementary school he disassembled his two wheeler (all of it - every single part that wasn’t welded together). His bike sat in a big pile in front of the fireplace for some time (better there than to have bits and pieces scattered and lost in the yard – and there were lots and lots of bits and pieces). Then one day I came home from work to find his bike restored to its original state. When I asked who put it back together (what I probably should have asked, two weeks before, was why did you take the whole thing apart – but really, I knew why: 1. because he could and 2. to see how it worked). He said, “I put it back together, myself. I couldn’t before because I couldn’t figure out how the brakes worked, but on the walk home from school today I knew what to do.”
From the time he was little, he was always thoughtful (he had an unchanging philosophy of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) consequently for Hubby’s birthday gift, the little guy shouted Happy Birthday and opening his shirt allowed a newly found cat to jump free, and land on Hubby’s dinner plate where it began to devour his pork chop – that was before Hubby became a vegetarian. The next year’s gift came under the same heading of “Do unto others” but at least the cymbal clapping monkey wasn’t a live monkey – we were happy about that. But from then on, Hubby’s birthday gifts took an upswing, like the painting of Dangerous Dan.
There were many adventures of lost snakes in the house, detached hands crawling across the floor during breakfast, and entering a semi-dark room to find a head with wild hair and startling blue eyes staring back ominously. What a time was had by all!
So Happy Birthday to the painter of monsters (one of the sweetest souls imaginable) – we love you, Chet!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What would life be without pets? Sure, mine sometimes drive me nuts with their demands. I guess the ones at my house are spoiled and it’s our fault (well, mainly Hubby’s fault) but to a one they are gentle creatures who insist on comforting either of us if they think we’re under the weather or down in the dumps. Of course the rubbing and ten toed massages they give aren’t always convenient, like when I’m trying to polish my nails, or drink a hot cup of coffee. But they mean well and in my book that counts for a lot.
Then there is that other side of them which is a different matter entirely: throwing themselves at the bedroom door if someone is napping and they suddenly decide the bed is really their property, sitting on the checkbook as I’m trying to quickly get a balance so I can write a check for a delivery person waiting at the door, cleaning a person’s plate when they aren’t looking, drinking from my glass of water that I keep next to the bed at night (when the slurping noise woke me I had to wonder how many years we’d been sharing the same glass – ahhhh!) And they’ve even been known to try and trip a person if they want to get a point across. Undisciplined? I’m afraid so. And worst of all is the new addition, Fang who bullies everyone else. Once he’s let out in the morning he tramps around the yard checking things out and you can almost hear him saying, “Fe Fi Fo Fum…Someone stepped in my yard and boy was that dumb!”
If only ours had the manners displayed by a little Chihuahua I saw. He was sitting with his owner who was wheelchair bound. The chair had been rigged so that a board formed a small platform between the man’s feet. Dressed in a straw sombrero (the dog, not the man) with danglies hanging down and tiny, tiny sunglasses the Chihuahua proudly shared his owner’s pleasure in watching the traffic go by.
But I have to admit our pets are not as spoiled or outlandish as some. At least they don’t rip things up if Hubby and I have to leave the house (well at least they don’t any more). Nor do our cats use the toilet as a litter box (which sounds like it should be a good thing, right?). I know of two cats that do that – unfortunately neither knows how to flush, and one only uses it when company arrives – the cat’s owner admits it’s imperative she stay sharp in order to check out the facilities before her guests have need of them.
It’s true that ours will only eat what they want to eat (which changes from day to day and is kept a secret from us until the last minute and then only revealed after numerous brands and flavors have been dished up). Still, when they’re sleeping they look so sweet! – even though the place they’re taking up is the exact spot you’ve vacated only seconds before to reach across the coffee table for a magazine.
Perhaps, like children, a pet’s main job is to keep the people they own on their toes.

Monday, November 9, 2009


My first encounter occurred many years ago. I’d locked my keys in the car (the one and only time I did that) across the street from the post office and in front of a rough and tumble kind of park (full of rough and tough kind of folks). Having heard that it was possible to pop up the door lock with a coat hanger, I ran to the post office and begged one off of the man behind the counter. Evidently I wasn’t the first postal visitor to lock their keys in because the hanger was already prepared for its new job.
Unaware that I had an audience, I tried to get the straightened hanger beyond the closed window and into the car. On about the third attempt I heard a man loudly moan, “You’re going to rip the gasket!”
I looked behind me as a tall, dark man appeared at my shoulder.
“Give me that!” he demanded, ripping the coat hanger from my hand.
It was miraculous; in less than five seconds he had the door open!
But before I could thank him he dropped the hanger to the sidewalk and took off like a Jack rabbit with his tail on fire. For anyone who has read my novel, SCREAM ONCE FOR HELP, yes, this scenario was included (sort of).
I watched in amazement as the good Samaritan (with lightening speed) disappeared down a hillside. Stunned by his quick departure I was staring like a goofus at the empty hill when I heard my name being broadcast. I turned back toward my car and saw that a patrol car had pulled up, and a patrolman was climbing out.
Upon approaching me he demanded, “Do you know that guy?”
“No, I locked my keys inside and he was helping me get in,” I stuttered nervously.
Glaring ominously, he snarled, “He’s a convicted car thief!”
Like that’s my fault?
“Show me some identification,” he ordered.
The patrolman was obviously angry, but I was getting a little hot under the collar, too. It was bad enough that I’d locked my keys in, now I was being treated like I’d broken the law!
My hands shaking, I handed over my driver’s license.
“See how nervous you’ve made me!” I blurted out.
But honestly? I don’t think he cared.
The latest encounter occurred more recently when I received a call from a police sergeant asking if he could use my backyard for a stake-out. I agreed (contrary to the patrolman’s opinion, I am a law abiding citizen – besides who wants a ring of potential thieves working in the area).
The sergeant arrived that afternoon and upon scoping things out decided that the best place to see what was going on was behind my yard in a small plot being used as a vegetable garden by one of the neighbors. I showed him how to access the garden by squeezing past a brick wall, and then I got a chair for him.
I watched (which he probably loved!) as he set up headquarters (binoculars, walkie-talkie, movie camera and bottled water) behind a row of very tall broccoli. When I heard my phone ringing I ran in and grabbed it.
“What were you doing?” my sister wanted to know, since I normally answer by the third ring.
“I was taking a chair out to a policeman,” I answered breathlessly.
“There’s a policeman doing a stake-out behind the neighbor’s broccoli and I was giving him a chair so he wouldn’t have to squat in the dirt,” I explained.
“Figures,” she replied before stating the reason she was calling.
Unlike the patrolman that had me a nervous wreck, all of the officers on stake-out were polite and friendly except for one who had a somewhat sour disposition. The first time he arrived he knocked on the front door to introduce himself and show me his badge (which they all did). I accompanied him to the back wall, showed him how to get into the garden and explained that the other officers had used the broccoli as a blind. After staring down the long row of tall plants he grumbled, “I hate broccoli!”
Ahhh, sir, I wasn’t suggesting you eat them, only that you use them to hide behind.
It was a little over a week before the sergeant and his men got what they wanted…or at least I guess they did; it’s been several years now and none of them have been back.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I have a pair of English walking shoes that I really like. They’re clogs with black leather tops in a crisscross design and leather piping that runs around the edge where the top is connected to the bottom. Most importantly they’re very comfortable.
One day as I was slipping them on I saw that the piping had a slit in it and beneath the slit the top of the shoe was coming off the bottom. Since I had just noticed a new shoe repair shop, I immediately dropped off my beloved broken shoe.
The following week when the shoe was due to be released Hubby offered to pick it up for me, which he did…after a short argument with the repair man who insisted that a man’s brown dress shoe was mine. Hubby finally went behind the counter, dug through a big pile of shoes and came up with my walking shoe and brought it home. When I saw my wonderful shoe, I was devastated! The repair man had scrunched everything together and slapped on a dab of glue (and told hubby that was all that could be done with it). Sadly I stuck the shoe in the back of the closet wondering if I ever dared wear it again.
Day before yesterday my neighbors invited me over to celebrate the 2nd birthday of their little girl. The mom knew I was still low on energy, so she understood when I said I’d love to come long enough to watch the baby open her gifts – the mom agreed to call me when the party got to that stage.
When I got to the house it was full of people, mostly adults. I was introduced to scads of friends and family and then I took a seat to watch the birthday girl open her presents.
Once the baby had opened everything, I got up to leave and found that my neighbor had packed up huge plates of food and cake for me to take home. She slipped the plates into a paper bag, which had to be carried flat. I balanced the bag on the palms of my hands and as I took a step, I felt my English walking shoe break.
“Oh, goodness,” my neighbor exclaimed, “your shoe is broken.”
Everyone turned and looked at my feet where the side of my foot was sticking out of the side of my shoe.
“I’ll get my husband to carry the food across the street,” she offered.
Embarrassed to be wearing a shoe that looked like something a hobo would wear, I quickly said, “Oh no, I can get it.”
I tried to hurry out of the room and found that the only way I could walk was by stepping with the good shoe and dragging the bad…step with the good, drag the bad.
I tried a gallant smile on my way out, but I don’t think anyone noticed – they were all staring at my feet.
I made it out of the house, and balancing the food on one palm, I managed to remove and pick up my broken shoe. I had gotten as far as the curb when my good shoe (which up to this point had absolutely nothing wrong with it) suddenly fell apart!
Still balancing the food, I very slowly squatted down and gathered up the pieces, then tip toeing ever so lightly (so I wouldn’t ruin my embroidered socks on the rough blacktop) I hurried across the street. When I got to my driveway I looked back to make sure I hadn’t left a trail of broken shoe parts littering the neighbor’s yard and to my horror I saw that all the guests were gathered at the big bay window, waving.
Fact or fib – you be the judge.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


When a person is young and has a family it seems that the children (if paid attention to) add the necessary ingredient for a well rounded life. And once the children are grown and gone there aren’t many other things to fill that gap other than pets and certain friends.
We had some of these friends over the other day. We had a great time remembering funny stories, telling jokes and discussing future aspirations. It was a very pleasing day.
And then there are those friends that are off the wall funny and very creative as well. On a visit to the home of one such friend, I got to her porch and through the screen door I could see her laying on the couch. She was reading and using a pair of salad tongs to hold her paperback far enough away so she could see the words – that was years ago, she has since turned to using drug store cheaters.
I feel very lucky to count family as friends. If you have numerous relatives (which I do) who enjoy the same type of humor that you enjoy, you’re very fortunate…now that I think about it, I believe that all of my family members share the same brand of humor, some to a bigger degree than others but still it’s the same – and believe me the things we laugh at can be pretty bizarre. Case in point: there was the time one family member decided the kids’ bedrooms needed a good cleaning: fresh start and all that stuff. The children helped her box up old toys and clothes that no longer fit and in parade fashion marched the bags and boxes down to the alley where it was a certainty that those in need would find them and haul the stuff off.
The cleaning job had taken all morning and the mom had just sat down to recuperate when her teenaged daughter began to yell.
“Hey! Where are my books for school? My books are gone,” she wailed.
The mom ran to the window and looked down to the alley. Sure enough an older, rather small, bag lady was dragging off one of the big trash bags. Slung over her arm was the familiar backpack bulging with the daughter’s school books.
Followed by her brood, the mother rushed down to the alley.
“Just a minute,” she called out, and the bag lady picked up speed. But being beyond her running years she didn’t get very far before the mother caught up.
“You can keep all of the other stuff,” the mom explained, “but I need the backpack; it has my daughter’s books in it.”
The bag lady waved her off and pretending she didn’t speak English, tried to hurry away.
“Wait!” the mother exclaimed, easily stepping in front of the little woman. Pointing at the backpack she said very distinctly, “I need this back. It was put out by mistake. My daughter’s school books are in there.”
With the trash bag slung over one shoulder, and the backpack hanging off the other, the bag lady once again tried to escape.
“Stop,” the mother shouted and grabbed the strap of the backpack.
“That’s mine!” the bag lady yelled (minus even the hint of an accent).
Being younger, the mom’s reaction time was much better and she pulled the backpack away and started back down the alley with it.
The kids, who’d been silent observers, started to yell and point behind her.
Before the mother had a chance to turn around the bag lady jumped on her back.
Afraid of hurting the older woman by trying to push her off, the mother did the only thing she could think of: she began to rotate (going only as fast as is possible when an adult is riding piggy back). She whirled one way and then the other but the bag lady was stuck like glue. Even with the children cheering her on, the mom couldn’t dislodge the bag lady or win the battle for the backpack…until a police car showed up (summoned by a neighbor, who, from an apartment window, had been watching the entire event, and called 911).
Upon hearing the burp of the siren, the mother came to a dizzy standstill and the bag lady slowly slid off, popping several buttons from the mom’s blouse, which in turn displayed her bra for all to see, causing the teenage daughter to yell with embarrassment, “Mom!” before rushing upstairs and locking herself in the house.
With the police in attendance the squabble was quickly straightened out; the mom got the backpack, the bag lady got the bag of discards (which left her grumbling that she should have gotten the backpack, too).
Oh gosh, did we laugh about that one – and in fact we still do!
FACT OR FIB – you be the judge.