Sunday, October 30, 2011

Retail Therapy

Is it just me or has the fun been sucked out of retail shopping?
I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but trying to communicate in English with staff in retail shopping venues in Northern Virginia is an exercise in futility.
Don’t get me wrong. I support and indeed, encourage, English and non-English speakers alike to get legitimate jobs. What’s more, I admire the immigrant population, because, to support their families here and abroad, many of them will work in seemingly “menial” jobs (use your imagination) that we native born Americans wouldn't deign to take. Shame on us, eh?
However, as a consumer, I have a much better experience – and probably spend more money – when I can understand what’s being said and know that my comments are understood.
Today, at the grocery store I failed miserably at getting my question (“Are these chicken thighs boneless?”) answered. Maybe it was my fault though. I guess my expectation that the staff at the Salvadoran market would speak the King’s English was a bit high….
Muslos de pollo deshuesados!
Actually what I asked several times was, “Como se dice en espaƱol, ‘boneless’?” in an effort to get to my second question. In other words, in Spanish I asked, “How do you say ‘boneless’ in Spanish?” It was a lost cause. I asked three times and got three different answers complete with hand gestures that I can only hope weren't insulting…
Defaulting to Italian didn't help, because I don’t know the Italian word for “boneless.”
So I didn't buy chicken thighs. But I bought other items and for the second time in three days, was overcharged. 
It seems today’s check out clerk is incapable of simultaneously answering questions and ringing up merchandise. I’m at a loss for why. After all, they’re just passing a bar code over a computer scanner.
That said, I've learned to check my receipt, since some places give you an item for free if it rings up incorrectly. At minimum, I’d think, they’ll make some concession if you’re overcharged.
Not. So. Much.
This smiling lady? NOT me. 
On Friday, I went to World Market where I bought two jars of hummus marked “Two for $5.” When I looked at the receipt and saw that I’d been charged $3.29 for each, I asked why and what the store policy was with respect to the overcharge. 
The checkout clerk – who spoke fluent English – looked at me blankly as if I’d asked her to explain quantum physics. When I asked if I got the product for free, she gave me a look that intimated, “Are you nuts, Lady?” and said something akin to “No way.”
That was all it took to unleash my inner witchy woman.
I opened a can of bi*** on her, demanding a manager “pronto” and she actually fled the register. Lemme tell you, it was no picnic having to deal with the manager to get things straightened out either.
Some people go shopping for therapy. My version of retail therapy was the meditation I did afterwards.
Maybe next time I should try some deep breathing before going into the store….

Written for BFF Inspiration #135. Theme: Witchy Woman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dictation and Desecration

It wasn't on purpose. Really, it wasn't.
About ten years ago I desecrated a cemetery. What the %&$@*?
At St. Peter’s Cemetery in Troy, NY a woman named Kate Mullany is buried in her family’s plot. Mullany (1845-1906) was an early labor leader; she started the all-women’s “Collar Laundry Union” in Troy in 1864. Her “bona fides” include leading 300 female co-workers from the area’s commercial laundries in a six-day strike to cast attention on the need for greater safety on the job and better wages.
In 2000, Mullany – a local heroine – was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY.
In 2001, there was some sort of ceremony at her grave. Ten years later, I have no idea what was being celebrated/recognized/commemorated. All I know is that as a staff member of the local daily newspaper, I was there on assignment on a cold, damp Saturday afternoon.
There were a number of local officials there too, giving speeches. Dignitaries do that, don’t they? And as they tend to do, they spoke at some length.
As I tend to do, when people speak at length, I settled in for the long haul. In a cemetery, getting comfortable meant leaning against a headstone.
Really. Bad. Idea.
I was engrossed in taking notes as VIP after VIP talked about how wonderful the event (whatever it was) was and how happy and proud they were to be there. In my state of concentration, I was blissfully unaware that the marker I was leaning against wasn't designed to prop up a full-sized adult.
Damn you physics and gravity!
One minute I’m copying a quote and the next, I’m on my tush on the ground. Well, technically, on top of the gravestone that’s given way underneath me and fallen backwards to the ground.
To the best of my recollection – I've tried hard, however unsuccessfully, to forget that incident – I hurriedly got up and made a feeble attempt to stand the stone back up again, before beating a hasty retreat out of there.
I wasn't in a haunted cemetery, but that day in the cemetery will “haunt” me for a long time to come, I fear.
Happy Halloween!

 Written for BFF Inspiration #134. Theme: Haunted Cemetery

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anger Management

Hello ladies (and gentlemen…)!
So, our blog hop assignment from Jenn Duffy-Pearson this week is to write about a favorite movie. 
As you wish, Jenn….
If, like me, you’re a die-hard fan, you already know what one of my favorite films of all time is. For those of you who are not as passionate as I am, (Don’t tell me, please. It’ll break my heart…) the film of which I speak is the much acclaimed, “The Princess Bride.” It has been called a “cult classic” and make no mistake, that term is dead on. The movie, released approximately 25 years ago, has its own website and a Facebook page with more than 1.75 million followers.
No joke. Check it out at:
Here’s a really fun fact: The cast loves it, too. In an interview earlier this month with Good Morning America, Billy Crystal, aka “Miracle Max” called it, “A great screenplay. It was the perfect cast [and] the perfect movie for us.  For me, I’m so proud to be in it….”
And from Chris Sarandon, (“Evil Prince Humperdinck”): “It’s eternal. It’s multigenerational.”
I couldn't have said it better.
I’m embarrassed, therefore, to say that I just discovered the Facebook page. Yes, I liked it the moment I saw it, because it’s the right thing to do. I mean, seriously, how can you not love this movie?
To begin with, there’s that cast I mentioned: In addition to Crystal and Sarandon, think Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Carol Kane and Robin Wright. Need I say more?
Then there’s the cinematic brilliance. First, let’s talk set design. At the end of the movie when Westley and Buttercup kiss with the sun setting in the background…. Hello! Tissues, please!
And can we discuss the costumes? I think that Robin Wright in the wedding dress and tiara is about as beautiful as they come. What I wouldn't have given to look like that at my wedding…
And please don’t forget the mechanics and technical aspects of the film. Can't you just envision “The Machine”?
But what stands out the most for me (and seemingly for most other fans) is the dialogue. I wish I could say that I can recite the entire film word for word. Not quite, but I certainly know lots and lots of the lines.
Crazy thought it may sound, I sometimes default to the movie’s dialogue as an anger management tool. 
Consider this: There are certain lines in the movie that when said, or heard, make it absolutely impossible to be angry.
Perhaps the most successful line cum mantra for me is Fezzik’s “Hello Lady!” quote. This is the quote in its entirety:  “I saw the prince's stable, and there they were, four white horses. And I thought, ‘There are four of us, if we ever find the lady.’ Hello, lady!”
Unfortunately, the scene is not available on Youtube, but I found it here and it’s worth a gander. (Click on either prompt on the clip in the upper left corner to watch).
Am I right or am I right? Were you able to watch the clip and keep a straight face?

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #19. Theme: Take Me to the Movies

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shake It Up...

If you ask me, I’ll say that I lead a fairly ordinary life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very blessed, but no one’s going to make an action picture based on my life any time soon, if you know what I mean.
That said, every now and then I like to shake things up.
It was not my intent, however, to shake things up at lunch this past Friday.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a bug lover. Being a gardener, I tolerate them, but life without them works just fine for me, too. Yeah, I know they’re part of the ecosystem and as such necessary, blah, blah, blah and all that. Even so, I just can’t get excited about them.
Last Friday I had lunch at La Madeleine – a French-ish cafe with locations in DC, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland and Virginia. I rarely eat out, especially for lunch, but I was meeting a colleague who is leaving the agency where I work. It was a rainy, cold day that capped off a really stressful week, so lunch out felt “right.”
And it was. The fellowship was terrific; the food – potato soup and spinach salad with strawberries – was yummy; the restaurant was warm and cozy, complete with a roaring fire in the fireplace. Mmmmm!
It was all good ... until I got ready to leave.
In addition to my purse, I was carrying a shopping bag with a book and a few other things in it. One of the things in it, of which I was unaware, was a stink bug. Ick!
For some reason, as I approached the door to the restaurant, I opened my bag and saw the stink bug. I started shrieking and swatting at it like a crazy woman … just as a group of young professionals walked through the door into the restaurant.
All eyes were on me, as several staff members rushed over worriedly inquiring whether everything was okay.
“Yes, yes,” I said. “ I've got a bug in my bag. It’s no big deal.”
No big deal, for me, that is....
Reflecting on the situation a few days later, I realized the ramifications my actions might have on business. I’d guess that when it comes to projecting the image of their atmosphere or “ambiance” for prospective customers, the restaurant staff probably doesn't favor wild gesticulations and loud discussion about bugs in bags…. 

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #18. Theme: Atmosphere

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It Speaks for Itself...

For Wordless (sort of...) Wednesday

Stuff, Stuff Everywhere....

Earlier this year, Gary (my husband), who rarely gets sick, woke up one morning complaining of pain in his side. Being a trooper, he decided to “fight through it” and go to work. He made it one stop on Metro before calling and saying he needed to come home.
He went to the doctor later that day, was given a prescription and told if he wasn't feeling markedly better the next day to go to the hospital for x-rays. He took the medication, crashed and that was the end of that day.
The next morning he “iffy,” but well enough, he thought, to go to work. This time he managed to get all the way to his office. But, after half a day I got “the call” saying he needed to go to the hospital. Hearing that from my husband, who is my rock, made my blood run cold.
Off we went to the hospital at full tilt.
Several hours in the emergency room accompanied by “tests” – blood, urine, CAT scan, x-rays, etc. – revealed that Gary had an infected kidney stone.
As if that weren't disturbing enough for me, the doctors said that the best course of action would be to keep him overnight in the hospital for monitoring.
The hospital is located about five miles from our house. The drive home that evening was one of the longest trips I've ever made.
When I got in the front door, the silence was absolutely overwhelming. Hovering between total exhaustion and all-out panic, all I could do was cry. I called my parents and cried to them, then I called a girlfriend and cried to her. At some point, I couldn't cry any more nor could I keep my gal pal on the phone all night so I wrapped up the conversation.
But I was too wound up to sleep. So I paced and took in my surroundings. I saw a decent-sized HD television; lots of clothing, jewelry and other accessories; two cars and a motorcycle; two computers; a stereo; LOTS of books and more. In short, stuff, stuff everywhere.
And I had an epiphany.
None of our “things” meant anything to me if I wasn't sharing them with Gary. If I didn't have him, I didn’t need the rest of it. I was fully prepared to walk away from all of it.
The next morning, when I spoke to Gary, I told him as much. “I don’t care about anything we own, Dear, all that matters is you. Our stuff is so unimportant without you to share it with that, in fact, I could get rid of it all,” I said.
Sick as he was, Gary still had some mental faculties about him…
His reply, “Please don’t!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #17. Theme: “Walking Away”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Herman Cain vs. “Occupy Wall Street” – The Rock Opera

Instead of an alarm to wake us up, Gary and I set our clock to a talk radio station. For the past several days, we’ve been roused by ongoing reports about the movement known as “Occupy Wall Street.”
As a huge admirer of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was more or less “in my backyard” when I was a child, the pictures of protesters on the bridge have attracted my attention. My Dad walks over the bridge every morning on his way to work. What’s it like for him, I wonder, walking through the throngs of demonstrators? (I keep neglecting to ask….)
And now the marches, rallies, etc. have spread to our area – Washington, DC – too.
Living in DC, it’s hard to escape politics, especially when things are heating up in the race for President. Accordingly, candidates are weighing in on what’s going on.
The other morning, our “alarm” (you be the judge!) was a vignette about Republican would-be candidate Herman Cain’s take on Occupy Wall Street. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO said in an interview, Don’t blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it is someones fault if they failed.”
Easy for him to say…. In mid-June Cain’s net worth was given as approximately $18 million. 
Why do I think he didn't get there completely on his own?
Anyway, I was thinking about protests and the civil rights movement came to mind. No great surprise, I suppose. Being a child of the ‘60s, I then began channeling Pete Seeger and this is what sprang to mind.

With this tune in mind, I offer these lyrics instead:

If you miss me at the back of the bus,
And you can’t find me nowhere, whoa-oh-oh
Check the limo that’s parked next to the bus,
I’ll be riding in there.

I’m a charmed millionaire, oh!
Sometimes life just isn’t fair, whoa-oh
My name’s Herman Cain,
Go right ahead and complain
Truth is I just don’t care!

Guess you know who I won’t be voting for in November if he’s on the ballot….

Driving the Heavenly Highway

As I write this, the sun is setting, signifying the day’s end and the end of the Jewish High Holy Day known as “Yom Kippur” (the Day of Atonement).
Maurycy Gottlieb's "Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur," 1878
Yom Kippur, which falls 10 days after Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – is a 24-plus hour period of introspection and self-evaluation all leading up to being “pardoned” by God for the offenses we perpetrated in the year that just ended.
In an effort to focus on “soul-ful” matters – repenting for our sins, re-setting our minds so as not to commit those transgressions again and seeking clemency from God, among others, we forgo attending to bodily needs, including eating and drinking. There are other activities we are instructed to abstain from too, like bathing, but I’m so not down with that….
As for the fast, I usually hang in for about 24 hours of “no eating and drinking.” Then I start getting light-headed and crabby. So I almost always break fast early.
Per usual, this time around, after approximately 24 hours, Gary and I concluded that we were ready to throw in the towel. But, it seems, God wasn’t done delivering a message to us …
We had decided to break our fast at a buffet restaurant about five miles from the house. From our house, there are several ways to get to the main road that leads to the restaurant. I volunteer not far from the restaurant and I always take the back way. But I was tired, so Gary drove. He chose to go a different way. One might say we were traveling “the road not taken” (by me, anyway).
The route he picked put us on the main road much earlier than the one I generally take. When we turned onto the main road, we were behind a van with the following license plate. 

The Lord works in mysterious ways….

Written for BFF inspiration 129, Theme: “The Road Not Taken.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Poor Nutritional “Model”

Last month I learned through a friend (Thank you, Beth Steinberg!) about a company called, simply, “Good.”
The group’s mission is, “In a world where things too often don’t work, GOOD seeks a path that does. We are people, businesses … organizations, policymakers, students, teachers…. All united in one simple idea, each elevated by being connected. Let’s do what works and never default to what doesn’t.”
The group has a website ( on which, among other things, they host challenges. Last month’s challenge was to connect with people. I didn’t fare so well with that one…
This month’s challenge, for which I’ve signed up, is to “get healthy.” I hope to do better with it for more reasons that one. It’s not like I’m unhealthy, but every now and then I could use a nudge – or a shove – in the right direction.
When it comes to getting healthy, I regularly encounter a BIG roadblock. It’s so obvious it’s almost laughable.
Here it is: I love to eat. Like I said, totally obvious.
Thing is, it’s actually a little more complicated than that….
Sometimes my stomach rules my brain to the point where I seriously lack discretion in picking “rations.”
One especially memorable – and very near dangerous – case of “food faux-pas” occurred during my senior year of college when I lived with a theatre major.
I came home from class one day to find a can on the stove filled with amber blocks that looked very much like dried papaya.
“Canned, dried papaya. How odd,” I thought, even as my hand reached for a piece.
Before I removed one of those scrumptious morsels, however, my sense of propriety kicked in. This was not food I had purchased, therefore it was not mine to take. I’d wait ‘til Kate got home and ask her if I could have some before chowing down.
It kinda looked like this...
So that’s what I did and a good thing, too.
When Kate got home, I told her I felt bad because I’d almost eaten her dried papaya and would it be okay if I had some now? She gave me a blank look.
“Y’know? Your dried papaya? On the stove? In the can?” I said.
“Daphne!” she shouted, scaring me something fierce.
Oh my God! What had I done!
Next thing I knew, Kate was erupting in laughter.
“That’s not papaya,” she said, between guffaws. “It’s modeling wax!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #16. Theme: “Road Blocks”