Monday, August 30, 2010

water water bo boater...

I have always lived near a large body of water.
I consider myself blessed.

The water is a source of energy, of inspiration, of centeredness for me. In one fell swoop it makes me feel as if I can do anything and also makes me fully aware of how small I am. It’s powerful. It’s serene. It’s…water.

I live on the shores of Lake Erie. Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes and the fourth largest lake in the United States. It’s the thirteenth largest lake globally. Its sheer surface size and what it all connects (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Canada, Michigan and New York) you can easily travel between states, hop to the islands or bring your passport to visit another country.

It’s also the shallowest of the lakes. Its average depth is 62 feet. For comparison; Lake Superior has an average depth of 483 feet deep. That makes our lake the warmest, which is great for water sports, and also the most violent.

I used to own a sailboat. I loved it. At times I wish I still had it. It was one of those things I gave up when I got divorced. Every time I look out over the lake and see the sails, I feel a pang of envy. All those people still with boats...damn them. When there is a stiff breeze, my first thought is, “time to set sail”. But I've no boat to set sail on. So I damn them all again. Many times as the wind picked up, my ex and I would head down to the marina. It was if we were drawn to the boat by the wind. Chores were set aside, work left unfinished. There was a good wind and we must take advantage of We had it down to a science how fast we could set sail. As we were heading out putting on our foul weather gear, we'd pass the power boaters heading in. They'd shake their heads wondering 'why?' and try to give us warning of the rising waves on the lake. Too choppy for them; perfect for us. Our sailboat was perfect for Lake Erie. At 30 feet it was large enough to have several people on board but small enough that I could sail it on my own.

As a sailor, I never pre-plotted a course. I’d hit the mouth of the river and see where the wind was coming from. If our preconceived notion of where we wanted to go was changed by wind direction…well, we’d just change the destination. If there had to be one. Most times there was no destination...just the joy of being on the water was all that was needed. Once when wanting to go to Chez Francois for dinner, the wind was coming directly from the direction that we needed to go. Go figure. So instead of heading to Vermilion we ended up in Leamington, Ontario. It’s due north of Cleveland. Many times when sailing Lake Erie you’d tack back and forth between the US and Canada.

“Hey, could you grab me another glass of wine?”
“Eh? We’re in Canada now. How a’boot a Molson instead? We'er in Canada now don't ya know...” (insert Canadian accent)

But we didn’t always go out when the wind was at its height. There are many times where we would just go and lull about in the summer haze when the lake is like a sheet of glass. Just get out on the water to take the edge off the day's heat and take a dip in the cool of the water. Once while swimming right outside the break wall to the left of the harbor lighthouse we tied rafts to the boat and just bobbed around. When you leave the break wall of the Cuyahoga River, five miles out lies the water crib which is the water source for Cleveland. When the big ships leave the Cleveland Port Authority they head out to the water crib before turning and heading west towards the St. Lawrence Seaway or Highway H2O as it’s called.

HWY H2O Serves Nearly One-Quarter of North America’s Population
HWY H2O is a 2,340-mile marine highway that flows directly into the United States and Canada’s commercial, industrial and agricultural heartland. The waterway carried more than 300 million metric tons of cargo in 2004, valued in excess of $300 billion. HWY H2O ports are often closer to European markets than East Coast or Gulf ports. For example, the distance between Cleveland and Hamburg, Germany, is shorter than the distance between Baltimore and Hamburg.

On this particular day visibility was low. The haze hung low and thick over the still water. My friend Jennie and I lazily resting on rafts. Michael was taking the opportunity to wipe down the sides of the boat. I saw the ship coming down the river. The railway lift bridge had signaled to rise and let the huge tanker through. When it reached the lighthouse it immediately started to turn, instead of heading straight out.

“Ummm…Michael? Look at that ship. Where is it headed? It’s not going out to the crib!” I was slightly alarmed. We’re just this little boat out on a silver piece of glass. The sky and the water were all the same color and the chances of the pilot even seeing us in this glare was remote.

“Get on the boat. Get ON THE BOAT! Now!!!” he screamed to Jenny and I. The ship was looming in the haze. It was starting to pick up speed as it passed by the lighthouse marking the mouth of the river.

We frantically pulled at our lines to get our rafts to the railing. I wasn’t making good enough progress and left the raft and swim as fast as I could towards our craft. Jenny wasn’t a strong swimmer, so I pulled on her line once on board while Michael tried to start the engine.

When docking our boat, people would assume we were die-hard sailors. We would sail up the river and dock, never turning on the engine or dropping sail until we were close to our slip. Fact is, we just didn’t like using the engine. It was a 1 cylinder diesel that knocked crazily in the hold. I hated the sound of it. So we hardly ever used it. It wasn’t the silent engines that are on the new boats allowing them to glide along in peace. On some days when the wind left more to be desired we’d see other sailboats cruising along at 6 knots. In this wind? How did they manage it? It turns out they were technically under sail, but had their engine running as well. It was silent, so if you didn’t see the slight wake coming from behind their boat, you wouldn’t have known.

Since we didn’t use it that often, sometimes the damn thing would be a little temperamental…to put it mildly. “Damn thing won’t start!” Michael was cursing at the switch like a trucker. Flick on, pump, pump, flick off, push. On the third try the engine sprang to life. The sound of its banging sounded beautiful to me on this occasion. He engaged it to its full capacity and we swung the wheel hard left towards the break wall. The lake was perfectly flat, the only ripples caused by our trailing rafts. The Edenborg, which is 450 feet long, passed right over where our boat had been just minutes prior. We were hyped up with the adrenaline of almost being crushed by this huge ship looming above us a mere thirty feet from our stern. The power of it’s engines rocking our boat as it passed.

Lake Erie can catch people unawares. It's not an uncommon thing to read about casualties and boating tragedies in the paper. Even the most careful of boater has gotten themselves into trouble one time or another by not paying attention to all the signs Mother Nature is delving out.

On a gorgeous day one September some friends asked if they could take the boat out for a quick sail. We’d been out earlier and were content remaining in the pool at the marina. They were seasoned sailors, presently without craft and thought it not a problem to let them take the boat without one of us on board. A sudden storm blew up and pitch poled the boat. Susan had been below when it happened and was white as the sail itself when they came backs. “I’ll never go aboard a boat again…” she said as she hopped off onto the dock, “Ever.” The wind has gusted just twice up to 75 mph, they got caught broadside and Wham! Mast to the water and then back up again.

I’m happy to never have had that happen directly to me. I might have the same view as Susan.

I like power boats, but I've never owned one. There are some good times to be had on a power boat. Have you ever tried tubing behind a sailboat? Fun, but not quite the same. I’m glad that my next door neighbors have one. And last evening I got a call. “What are you up to tonight?” Kevin asked.

“Nothing really, why? What’s up?”

“It's a beautiful night. Melissa and I were thinking on taking the boat out to Lorain and eat at Jackalope’s. Do you want to come with us?”

Without a moment's thought, “Fab! I’m in!"

Ten minutes later, camera in hand, bathing suit on...I was all aboard the USS BoatYetToBeNamed with drink in hand, ready to embark on an evening of adventure.

When we got out on the lake it wasn’t as flat as it had been earlier in the day when their plan had hatched. But with two foot rollers and the wind at our back, the fifteen mile journey shouldn’t be bad. It was the return trip that had Melissa’s bathing suit in a bind. “Do you think it’ll lay down?” she asked speaking of the waves that seemed to be building rather than flattening themselves down.

“Yeah…I think so.” I replied. Usually after sundown the lake usually calms down. I’m an optimist, I always hope for the best. Although the last two times I had a boat outing with Kevin and Melissa, the weather wasn’t accommodating. I didn't want to return to the dock because now I was looking forward to being out on the lake. I kept my fingers crossed, prayed to the wind Gods, gave a knuckle bump to Kevin and he hit the gas.

Jackolopes was great. We watched the sun come down over the Lorain Lighthouse that has been standing watch over the harbour since 1898. No longer actually used as a lighthouse, it is still lit at night, has tours (both by land and water) and is a historical landmark for the lake. My steak was perfect, my drink strong, the company fabulous and the conversation even better. After a couple of cups of coffee, we decided that we should start back home. Melissa had already received over a dozen calls and texts from their daughter wondering when her “errant parents would be home.” Katie’s the watchdog of the family.

We were pleased to see that indeed the lake had calmed itself. The moon sat low and bright in the sky, illuminating a path of sparkling diamonds on the black water for our return. Sitting at the bow in the lounge chair I enjoyed the trip back immensely. The constant purr of the engine, the sound of the spray off the hull with a little David Gray giving a soundtrack for the journey home.

With Cleveland illuminated in the distance, the dazzling lit path on the was like we were skipping along on our way to Oz. It was beautiful.

Although just slightly eerie this late at night as well. The water was so, so dark. Black, really. No one else visible on the lake. You could pick up the smell of fire pits from the shore. And a burst of laughter every now and again. But we were at least a mile or two off shore. That's a really long swim. At night. After a few cocktails. Let's just pray that there are no floating logs out here in our path. That takes out several boats a year coming back late from the islands.

As our boat sped across the water we startled a few gulls which gave flight. The idea was bounced around to take an evening dip. I declined as every horror movie involving water started playing in the recess of my mind. There ain’t no way/ no how I was going to jump into the lake last night.

My mind KNOWS jaws doesn’t live in fresh water Lake Erie.
Nor does the Loch Ness monster.
Nor Jason.

There have been some fishermen pulling some large ass Bass out of our lake, but I hardly thought they would be big enough to eat me. Nonetheless…I wasn’t even going to dangle my toes in with it this dark. Perhaps with a few more cocktails in me I could’ve been persuaded when my guard was down, but once those movies thoughts start running...that camera won't turn off.

Maybe another time. Once I get my brain to dump all the nonsense horror crap.

After such a great day spent on the water I feel energized. I feel refreshed. I feel inspired.…
Man, did I sleep good last night.

Just keep Nessie on the other side of the pond...


Thursday, August 26, 2010

send off week...

It’s been a send-off week.

Boo started this year of schooling on Monday. What happened to starting after Labor Day? Apparently youth is not as important as it once was. Everyone is in a rush to grow up, do something, go places…be somebody.

Bear’s entering into the sixth grade. They started changing classrooms for different subjects last year. It was a transition for getting organized for my Boo. She ended up in the hoosegow more times than not for forgetting a paper, a notebook or a textbook when arriving at the next class. Three minutes between classes just didn’t cut it.

One of Bear’s classmates was so afraid of not having something she needed at any given time, she never put anything in her locker. She carried it all with her. All the time.

Her damn backpack weighed over 40 pounds. She only weighs 65.

The mothers would get together and bitch about it. But we never said anything…to the school officials at least. We would just talk amongst ourselves.

I guess we must have spoke loudly. They okayed the use of rolling backpacks this year. AND they bought new textbooks that are split into several sections so each textbook doesn’t weigh 7 pounds, only 1. That’s good stuff. They’ve also changed it so there is 6 minutes between 4th and 5th periods. It allows the kids to get the stuff needed for the second half of the school day. But they aren’t allowed to carry backpacks at all this year. They must carry their books and folders needed in hand.


They must have those little developing backs in mind. For once. I kept thinking that if my daughter develops some sort of back trouble later on, I’m holding her elementary school accountable.

They must have heard how loudly I was thinking that. Thus the change. I wonder if I'll get some sort of waiver soon in one of the weekly news envelopes...

But the start of school and sending Bear off on her daily routine isn’t the only send-off I’ve had this week. As you might already know, my best friend Chrissy’s dad past away over the weekend. I didn’t get the word until Monday. I went to the wake. I went to the funeral. I held it together.

I wanted to be there for Chrissy, but I hated going. It brought up all the thoughts of my mom and her funeral just over a year ago. Her dad was to her as my mom was to me. Indispensable. Fantastic. Wonderful. The more loved parent.

I hate funerals. They make me physically ill. I can feel the bile rising if I think about it too much. Funny that I was going to go to medical school. When death makes me sick. Literally. I guess all my patients would have to stay alive. Or I'd be a mess. Could you imagine me tending to a terminally ill patient? "Hi, Mr. Corrigan. How are you feeling today? The chemo helping out at...." Spew. Chunks. It's probably a good thing I changed professions before continuing with that line of work. Too bad I decided after I'd taken the MCATs.

The funeral was beautiful, although I didn’t get much of it. It was all in Armenian, except the Eulogy. That was presented in broken English. My brain didn’t even register it was in my own language until the third sentence. I didn’t know when to stand, when to sit, when to join in what sounded like the Lord’s prayer or when to give the sign of the cross. I was definitely an outsider; an ‘Odar’ or non-Armenian.

I always like to take in my surroundings. I was sitting with several of Chrissy’s close friends, one that she’s known since they were 4. I’ve met them all before, but it had been many years since I’ve seen any of them. It’s a East side-West side thing here in Cleveland. For that matter since Chrissy’s moved back to the East side I hardly see HER anymore. Which sucks donkey doo if you ask me. It's only 18 miles. You'd think she lived in another state. Maybe if she lived in another state I'd see her more. We'd plan things. We take for granted that they are here. You know?

But as I looked around this church, which happens to be the only Armenian church in Cleveland, I notice that the depiction of Mother Mary over the alter is of distinct resemblance to Chrissy herself! I mentioned that to the other Odar’s with which I was sitting and yup, it was unanimous that if Chrissy were indeed wearing red lipstick, she’d look like the mother of Jesus.

Wait. Red lipstick?
Yes…the Mother has some rather red lips. Who knew? And it was the main alter she presided over with the baby Jesus giving what looked to be a high five surfer hand signal. I'm used to Mary being on the side and a simple cross hanging above the alter. Mary's usually at the side.

There's a tortured looking Jesus was on the left side of the church in a little alcove apse. And some dark, brooding, sinister looking guy on the right side. There was a red veil over some old black leather bound book of Gospels. Who is that scary guy? I haven’t a clue. I couldn’t imagine sitting there as a child. Those images might give you nightmares. They would me.

Chrissy’s dad was very involved with the church. The rest of the family…not so much. Chrissy herself said that she hadn't been there in fifteen years. She told me that the priest made her very aware of that fact. Go figure. It was obvious that St. Gregory of Narek was going to miss him. I heard it mentioned several times that they wouldn’t have been able to build the cultural hall without his overly persuasive letters sent out to parishioners and local business’s to support the project. At least two people attending the luncheon following mentioned ‘No one could possibly say 'No' to that man and his letters’. That made me giggle. It was hard to imagine George as a mafia-esque money gatherer for the his congregation when the most recent photo I’d seen of him wearing google-eyed spring glasses.

George was a veteran of the Korean war. So the Honour Guard was at the gravesite. I’ve seen the Honour Guard in movies, but never in person. Quite a moving sequence of events. I was curious how long they trained to make their folds in the American flag…just so. The salute crisp. The steps perfectly planned. Taps played with just the right tempo and volume.

Chrissy approached me after the conclusion of the internment service. “Thanks for coming Nancy, I really appreciate it….” she said through red rimmed eyes. Her hair was pulled back tight in a high pony. Her mom had made mention that her dad liked Chrissy with her hair away from her face. Chrissy’s mom is well versed in the passive aggressive. Chrissy was sure to have not a single strand anywhere near her cheekbones. Her red eyes didn’t shock me, I’d witnessed her crying several times off and on throughout the services. What shocked me was her rapid approach.

Geez…she saw me last night at the wake. I know it’s been awhile before that, but what the…..her hand was rising towards my head. I thought ‘should I back up?’ That brief moment where the fight or flight instinct kicks in…”Nancy! Don’t MOVE!” Whack. Her hand smacked through the right side of my head.

Whaa………?” was all I could manage.

The people lingering at the gravesite started to turn to find out who could be upsetting the youngest daughter of the recently departed.

“A spider. A big spider. It was IN YOUR HAIR!”

How long had it been there? Where did it come from? There weren’t any trees nearby. Did anyone else see it and think it a hair decoration like the peacock feather headbands all the rage? Had I actually reached up and fluffed my hair and had a spider bite my hand, or fall out on my clothes, or make it’s way down into my clothes, or my neck before she killed it….Ugh. The mere thought makes my skin started to crawl. I’m sure I probably would’ve passed out right then and there.

Maybe even died of a heart attack.

They could’ve just rolled ol’ George-y over a notch and I’d join him in his eternal resting place. The priest was still there and all. I’m sure he’d have said a prayer for me. Even if I were an Odar. And it would make his wife Jean happy…she’d only have to pay half the funeral cost. A discount. A bonus.

And maybe, just maybe, with giving the funeral home business for two services instead of one, she’d get Chrissy that date with the single brother of the funeral home...after all.


Please say a little prayer for Chrissy and her family.
I love you, Christine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

hammy whammy...

For the first time in many, many weeks the air felt wonderful. Not oppressive, hot and sticky as it has been. This air doesn’t sear your lungs when you inhale. This air feels fresh.

I walked my yard this morning in my jammies, cup of java in my hand, looking at the damage the heat and drought has done to my gardens. The leaves are starting to turn early, the maples and plums trees already shedding their foliage. Acorns are rapidly dropping off the pin oak and filling the pond, driveway and deck with their shells. The tomato plant is full of green tomatoes but none turning red and ripe for picking. The perennials all look forlorn and wilted like a dying man in a dessert asking for a last drink of water before he expires.

I gave up on watering. I had tried to keep up, watering both in the morning and evenings. Turning the timers on for the sprinklers to give the lawn and plants a soak. Then I got my water bill and decided that perhaps it wasn’t exactly within my budget to maintain a green lawn.

Looking about my neighborhood, everyone else has given up on watering as well. All the grass is turning a nice shade of beige-brown like shown in the fall decorating magazines. I hope no one drops a match while walking. The whole street will go up in flames. There are a few still standing out in the mornings holding a spray wand, trying desperately to keep alive the flats of annuals put in the ground in the spring. Back when they had visions of bountiful beds of colorful floral. Not any longer. The plants that remain look like those at the end of the season when they are 75% off. ‘FINAL SALE! No Returns! ‘ the sign exclaims. The stores don’t want the risk of having to refund money on plants they bet aren’t going to survive.

I lost a decorative cherry tree in this drought. Although the curly willow seems to love this weather. It’s doubled, maybe even tripled itself in size since it was planted last year. How is it that crabgrass has found its way into my yard when the Kentucky Blue is now singing the blues, unwilling to fight off invaders? Weeds have made purchase in the ornamental beds almost waving to me as I walk by. “Hey there! Yeah, you. Look who won this battle of the garden.” they cry out righteously. They know it’s been too hot to maintain the beds. The heat has knocked the ‘Oomph’ out of my green thumb. The heat has managed to flatten any motivation to work in the yard. Hell, I’ve only mowed twice in the last month. Only the weeds are growing, not the grass. Besides, who’s outside to see the yard anyway?

I haven’t hosted any summer lawn parties this year. I’VE not even sat out and enjoyed the yard let alone entertain others. Normally you can find me reading by the pond, playing a game of cards or just tossing the ball for the dogs. That hasn’t happened. Too hot to sit and the dogs aren’t going to run if they don’t have to. It’s been too damn hot. All that time spent staining the deck, spreading the mulch and edging the beds, getting the yard up to par for the par-ties. It looked probably the nicest it ever had earlier in the year. Not so much right now.

Usually in summer our yard is full of screaming children. Either tirelessly jumping on the trampoline, playing in the playhouse, swinging on the swings or running through the sprinklers. I go through gallons upon gallons of lemonade each summer hydrating Boo and her friends. All activities have remained indoors, except for swimming pools. I’ve handed the baton of Kool-Aid mom to those with pools.

But today it’s gorgeous outside. As I look at the yard, I’m not just accessing which plants need the most TLC or transplanted or removed, I’m also looking for a nice spot to dig a hole.

You see, last night Momma hamster died.

We’ve a household of animals. Two dogs, a cat, a beta fish, a plethora of pond fish (yes, all named) and a hamster. We actually had two hamsters. Then seven, when we found out Momma was indeed a Momma, instead of a Butterscotch. Santa Claus, whom the gift of hamsters was from, apparently had a keen sense of humor. All the babies we gave away to Bears friends except for one that had died. Poppa, or Pumpkin, died not too long after we removed him from the main cage. All he did was eat and sleep. He became huge and then one day, just died.

He’s out here somewhere. I know the vicinity, but the marker has since been trampled by running pooches. I thought it might be nice to have Momma right nearby. BooBear decorated a cigar box for her and filled it with the fluffy bedding that she liked so much. ‘Angel Hair - Night Night’ it’s so aptly named. The perfect fluff bedding for your pet.

Booest cried when I told her I thought Momma was dying. I could tell when we cleaned her cage the other day that she’d lost weight. She was also walking a little odd. On further inspection there seems to be some blockage in her intestine that is causing swelling to her underside.

I don’t know much about hamsters, but I did call the vet. She was polite, and caring, but her answer was ‘It’s a hamster. If it were a dog, or a cat or any other domestic pet….perhaps we would do something. But hamsters have short lives anyway. It’s really not worth the investment.’

I knew that before I called, but did it for BooBear. She was so upset.

“She’s the best hamster I’ve ever had!” Boo said in broken speech through her big crocodile tears.

“I know Baby.” I replied, “She’s also had a really, really good long life.”

“She never bit me once….she was such a good hamster!”

Which she was. We’ve had many hamsters over the years. A few escaped when the kids over playing had left the cage door open. Sometimes I could find them. Or trick them into returning to the cage with extra good treats. One I found had been played with and practically de-headed by the cat before it could be returned to sanctuary. That had upset Boo as well. Her and her friends never left that cage door open again after that. I now always remember to put on slippers or turn on the lights when checking on things in the middle of the night. I had almost stepped on the darn thing in my bare feet when going downstairs for more drinking water. I didn’t find it until first light when I awoke to make the coffee. It was not more than a half an inch from where I could see my footprint in the freshly vacuumed carpeting. Wouldn’t that have been quite a surprise awakening for me while drowsily making my way in the dark.

I find my toes curling just thinking about it again now!

I asked Bear if she’d like to shop for another furry friend to take Mommas place. She said that maybe she should wait a little while. ‘In respect to the best hamster ever, Mom’.

Smart kid, my Boo.
So, in respect to our just past away hamster, if you would now all bow your heads.

“Please Lord, keep our Momma hamster safe and comfortable on her journey. Amen.”

Oh look. That's where Poppa is! The marker is trampled but not unsalvageable. And it’s in a nice, cool, shady spot here in the back. It’s a perfect resting spot for anyone.

Even for the best hamster ever.


Friday, August 13, 2010

eek on one more...

The cosmos is aligned.
The stars are shining down.
Everything is right with the world, or at least my world. (knocking hard on wood)

Isn’t it amazing that there are some days when nothing happens as planned and then there are others that everything seems to go right? How does or can that happen? It’s like everyone was given the memo to make sure that you…have a glorious day.

The good happening seems to cover everything. From the traffic lights changing serendipitously in your favor allowing you to cruise along to your destination without a single stop. To expecting a long line (per usual) at the post office and finding that you are alone in the building three tellers waiting for your package. From finding the perfect outfit to wear to the wedding this weekend, on sale mind you, to winning twenty dollars in free gas for being the 10,000th customer.

I had one of those days the other day.

When I popped into Marc’s Discount store, which is notorious for it’s low prices but unbelievable long lines at the checkout, I shopped and then with trepidation approached the cash registers. There's normally a big traffic jam near the checkout. People with their full carts jockeying for position at one of the few registers open. The store itself isn’t planned out quite right. The area near the registers is small, to accommodate longer shopping aisles which crams in more merchandise. This makes navigating the aisles a nightmare. It’s hard enough to coax your cart past another in a row, but when you near the end cap at either end of the lane, making the turn is near impossible. Especially at the north end of the store where the registers are.

Trying to make your way around with those waiting to find a line to pay for their goods and you are just trying to get to the coffee, well…let’s just say I’ve found it easier to make several small trips to Marc’s carrying just a basket than to do big shopping with a cart.

As I turned the corner, I did in fact see about 8 people eyeing each others carts and baskets gearing for a possible line jump if one moves along faster than another. I scanned the area and decided that staying towards the left of the store would be most prudent. Only registers 8, 5 and 4 were open but those by 5 and 4 seemed to have overly filled carts which would , for obvious reasons, take a long time to make it through the line.

Marc’s is truly a deep discount store. You can buy pints of locally picked blackberries or raspberries for a buck. I bought a pair of Converse tennis shoes the other day for three dollars and a Coleman cooler for ten. You never quite know what’s going to be there. And they only take cash.

It has a pretty full grocery on top of all the rest of the items available. I used to avoid Marc’s because of the lines, a little on the worn side (i.e. beat up carts and shelves) and many of the consumers haven’t probably even heard of Nordstroms. The Marc's consumer is a good heaping slice of the socio-economic pie.

They have large displays of whatever close out they got their hands on at the register lines, which actually create the line space. Thousands of cans of tomato soup or Cheez-its. Spontanious purchase buys there for the taking. I always looked at these shoulder high stacks and wondered how long it took to pile these all up so perfectly. And what would happen if I accidentally on purpose drove my cart into it.

One day while waiting in line I looked over to see what other items were lined up. I’m a ‘didn’t know I needed it until I saw it’ kind of shopper. Three aisles down were cases of Ramen noodles. Oooh! And at a really good price too! As I reached over to grab the supposedly chicken flavored variety the man in the next lane blew a huge luger into the stack. Needless to say, I was disgusted.

This one guys lack of personal hygiene and manners caused me to set down my little basket of home grown goodness and promptly walk out of the store. I went home and scrubbed my hands until they were red and showered. I witnessed this instance. How many others might there have been? Could I possibly have been handling merchandise with dried foreign substances on it? The thought just made me want to gag.

It was eight years before I returned.

I can’t remember how or why I went back to Marc's to shop, but when I did the bargains were so great (ream of colored tissue paper for two dollars) that I vowed to just examine with my eyes thoroughly for any questionable matter before touching anything and watch my pocketbook grow with the savings rather than shrink while shopping at Target to get 10 sheets of tissue for five dollars.

But on this shopping day, as I eyed the checkout, mentally tallying how long this is going to take me to get out of this damn store, a cashier said, “Hey…I can take you right here.“ Aisle 10 was now open for business.

Sort of.

He hadn’t turned on the lanes light yet and as I set down my basket of blackberries and wine his manager told him to ‘Take your break after this customer’. So he hooked the chain behind me blocking anyone else from entering the hollowed realm of 'I'm next!', rang me out and I was quickly on my way. As I walked towards the exit door I noticed all the other people that had been right were I was were still all tapping their feet, looking at their watches and overall looking rather exasperated with the slow process of buying their goods.

It’s a trade off. Good prices? Or good customer service.

But for me, this day of all things gone right has turned into all things gone rightfor a week! It’s been amazing. I think that maybe I shouldn’t have written that, I may jinx this spell. (fingers crossed tight!) 

Only this weather has really blown. So oppressively hot you perspire without even moving. While watching sweat slowly drip down the back of Charlize Theron’s thigh might be extremely sexy in the movies, feeling beads of sweat running down my back into my crack….is not.

Thank God my neighbor has a pool in which I take a daily dip. They have been gracious enough to allow me free access. It’s sort of like the water house in Thailand that my friend Melissa tells me about. She spent a year with the Peace Corp in Thailand. Each day when the heat became unbearable you'd enter the water house, disrobe and splash cool water from a large basin of rainwater with a ladle to bring down your temperature. When I complain of the heat (which she concurs has been bad) she says, “You don’t know heat unless you’ve spent a year in the back country by the equator.’

True that.

I don’t. The chances of me spending a year there are pretty close to nil. Unless they build a Ritz-Carlton and ask me to run the concierge floor, with my own room there to live in….thank you very much. God bless her that she has had this experience that I can listen to and live vicariously through her, but in the meantime when the sweat starts to bead…you’ll find me floating blissfully in my neighbors pool.

Coolest thing about that?

Yesterday Andy brought me out a beer while I floated on their raft.

What was he doing? Yard work.
Mine was completed, so I had the time to relax. In his pool.

You see, the teenager neighbor on the other side has been seeking some extra spending dosh….so he did my work. As I lounged at the other neighbors house in the pool. With a beer. Listening to the drone of the hedge clippers in the mid-day heat.

See, I told you it’s been a good week.

Hope yours is the same….

Monday, August 2, 2010

once upon a loon...


Many times it’s the most simplistic of things that makes me smile; that makes me happy. Yet all around me things seem to continually get more and more complicated. Which does not make me smile. It makes me frown.

I do not like to frown.

So I’m doing my best to streamline. Get back to basics. Go back to when things were so much simpler. Or at least my perception of when I thought they were.

I was out walking with my labradoodle Sienna (aka: the best dog ever) and as we strolled the streets on this wonderful summer night; I smiled. I smiled on the outside for all to see and I smiled lots on the inside. The evening was pleasant and warm. A light breeze lifted my spirits and hair seemed to add a little more spring to my step. All was right with the world.

The past several weeks the air has been heavy with humidity that made even breathing laborious. The weather has matched my mood. Dark; heavy and somewhat sad. It was nice, for a change, to feel good. Really good. To forget about what's past and focus on the now. And now is gorgeous.

We turn into Lakewood Park to walk the pedestrian trail that runs around the perimeter of the park along the shore of Lake Erie. It’s nice to be able to finally legally walk my pet in the park. I like to go and see the sign that I sponsor. It has my dogs names on it and houses bags and instructions for others with pets to clean up after them, if needed.

I see this night there are few others in the park walking their dogs. Many residents are still unaware that the law banning dogs from city property has been lifted. At least on a temporary basis until the council is sure that dogs owners are responsible and won’t add their pets dung to that of the Canadian geese on the ball field.

A gal runs up and stops to give me her card and ruffle Sienna's fur. Sienna is looking quite beautiful as she had a day of doggy beauty at the Paws and Effect dog grooming salon, compliments of Jason and Angel that owns and run the place. Sienna loves going to the salon. Somehow she knows she looks and smells good, you can see it in her gait. She almost preens.

She’s a docile dog with a friendly manner and wonderful, soft light brown eyes. People are always drawn to her. This gal tells me she works for American Greetings as an artist but has started doing dog portraits. The thought of her coming over to paint my dogs as they sit on velvet pillows, still and regal, makes me chuckle. I can see hanging this portrait over the mantle in the living room. I smile a little bigger. I’m easily amused.

As we stand there chatting, a few other little kids come by. “Big doggy!” a little boy about two squeals. The mother gives me a look of ‘Is it okay?’. “Yes, she’s very gentle. She loves kids” I tell her.

Once her son has his hands deeply embedded into Sienna's fur, my pup gives him a big lick and he again screeches his delight. Sienna is sitting there on her bum with her legs askew watching as the little boy rolls around on the ground directly in front of her. She places a paw on his stomach and he laughs. A few other kids see this and come over to join in the festivities. Sienna is loving the attention but after a time she gives me a sideways glance of Enough. Can we go now?’ So I take her direction and extricate her from the growing crowd of little kids all trying to get her to lick them next and we continue down the path.

There’s a group of nine adults trying to get a group photo. One person takes a picture, then rejoins the group as another takes the next photo with the previous photographer in it and them not. As I get closer along the path I see them do this particular switch three times. It’s a rather amusing little dance they’re engaged in. My mind sets it to a waltz by Brahms. One and two, one and two, one and two...snap!

“Can I take the photo of all of you?” I ask.

Really?” comes the response, “You would do that?” Her tone is incredulous. Like I've just given them a winning lottery ticket or something of that nature.

“Why sure! It’s really no problem at all.”

So I take all their expensive digital cameras and run away….

That didn’t happen, but the thought also made me chuckle.
And smile even bigger, again. I’m thinking, ‘people must think me a loon’. I arrange them all and one by one take several photos on each of the cameras dangling from my arms.

“Oh…thank you! It’s perfect!” The lady in the back tells me. “Stan, take her photo as well! I want a photo of the nice lady and her dog that stopped to help out.”

I really don’t like to have my photo taken. But I oblige and pose with Sienna so these people can look at the photo one day and say, ‘who the heck is this gal?’

I learn that this group is all in town visiting from Iowa and Washington for a wedding. They are enjoying the fine weather as well. We chat for a few more moments and then Sienna and I are back on the trail. As I walk away I am saddened that this simple act of stopping and helping out this group with a photo drew so much praise. Isn’t that just the right thing to do? Wouldn’t anyone have done that?

I look around me and the park is indeed busy on this beautiful summer night. There’s a couple lounging and canoodling on a blanket, some people unsuccessfully trying to volley a ball over by the sand volleyball court, the tennis courts and playground is filled and many other groups are sitting on the bench swings. There are many walkers, bikers and joggers on the path. I think back and try to remember how many people I passed as I approached this group before I asked them if I could help.

In my minds eye I counted twenty-four.

That’s twenty-four other people that passed this same group, that watched the same switching photographer dance and didn’t bother to change their course and stop to assist.

Why is it when passing people on the street, many cast their eyes downward? Or away? As if all of a sudden the most interesting of birds was found nesting in a high tree branch. If they met your gaze they would have to acknowledge you. But by being otherwise engaged by the interest of the pavement, or in the trees, or in the cars driving past, they have avoided contact.

I test this scenario over and over and am always amazed by my results. It seems that the majority of people would rather not have contact with a stranger. They would prefer to load their groceries and not greet anyone between their car, the store and back to their car.

I, on the other hand, like to see how many people I can force into saying “Hi” or “Good morning/afternoon/evening” whatever the case may be. I’ll settle for a mere nod or slight smile. Just an acknowledgement of sorts. Maybe I am a loon. But wouldn’t people be less suspicious of others if we all were friendly with one another?

Back to a simpler way? A simpler time? A time when people helped others out?
Even with the simplest of things like taking a photo.

I’m doing my part.
Can you?

In the meantime I’m content to continue in my own fashion. Who knows? Stan and his wife may actually remember my name when they print out my picture and add it to their album. I may have altered some course of action by my little photographer skills and my loon-ish ways.

I suppose in the big picture, it doesn’t really matter all that much.
But it makes me smile.

And that’s all I need.

Sorry I've been gone for several weeks. I put some of my thoughts down on paper, but it was all very caustic. So I just waited for the cloud to pass. I know Carlos would say, welcome to the dark side if I did indeed post my rantings. But maybe sometime. Now isn't that time.

Thanks for your patience.
It's nice to be back.

And thank you to those sending me condolences on my mothers anniversary of her passing. It really means alot. {{{hugsback}}}