Snatched Conversations

“I just made up my mind to be cremated,” my 93-year old friend told me recently.

“Why not be buried?” I asked.

“I don’t want to rot in a box,” she said.

“Then consider being sprinkled,” I said.

“I cant swim,” she said.  Orange

“My mother wasn’t a good cook,” my friend said. “So imagine my delight as a young girl when I came home from school one day to the aroma of stew simmering on the stove.”

“Did she surprise you with a home-cooked meal?” I asked.

“No, she was stewing meat for the dogs and I got a frozen dinner,” she said.

“I had a friend in college who slept in a bathtub,” Jules said.

“Why there?” I asked.

“Because we called him Mr. Machine and he had shifty eyes and I guess he had to live up to his name,” he said.

“It’s not brunch anymore,” said the hostess in the hotel dinning room.

That would make a good title for a novel, I thought. The story would center around a woman of social standing searching for the perfect brunch in her city in order to invite her best friends to join her and announce she was going to kill herself, except in the course of trying different dishes around town she falls in love with the cooking of an old-timer Parisian chef whose food awakens the passions in her life.

Calvin says, “You’ve fallen off your rocker.” beagle

 

 

 

A Marathon of Our Own

This last Sunday Alf and I had a Bay to Breakers experience of our own.

We drove into the city where Alf dropped me off at work while he went to the beach to wait until I was finished. It was the Bay to Breakers marathon run with the city streets swollen with more cars and traffic and he was anxious about parking. But he got lucky and was able to find a spot a block away from the ocean, in a good neighborhood, on that sunny morning with a cool breeze.

An hour and a half later, he called.

“The car’s been stolen,” he said out of breath. “I’ve looked everywhere.”

“Call the cops,” I said. IMG_0130

He did. They told him every officer in the city was on duty for the run and nobody was available to come and take a report. Would he please go to the nearest police station?

That police station was more than two miles away.

Alf walked there while I finished my work and then a colleague dropped me off.

The station was in a relic of a building, well preserved, but institutional and cold inside. By the time I arrived Alf was finishing up with the report.

“We’ll call you if we find your car,” the police officer said with pity in her eyes.

Not likely. It’s probably on its way to Tijuana.

I made a quick mental inventory of the things left in the car and concluded I could live without them. Alf, on the other hand, was going to miss his cool dark glasses, his jacket, and the Fastrak tag. With that alone the thief could crisscross every bridge in California on our dime.

We called our insurance company, they sprung for a car rental, and we drove home.

An hour later Alf got the call.

“We found your car. You have 20 minutes to come get it otherwise we take it to the impound lot. Make sure you get a release form from the police station where you filed the report.” Click.

So off we went back into the city, back to the police station to get the form. By now it was 9 o’clock at night.

From there we drove to the impound lot, or tried to. It was impossible to find for the first hour. Then we spotted it. It was tucked under the freeway in a darkened lot. We walked in. Another woman in the waiting area was talking loudly on her cell phone.

“My car was stolen and I’m waiting for the police to get here so I can get it back,” she said.

We wondered how many other cars were stolen that day. It must have been good pickings with all the runners and tourists in town.

We showed the release form to the clerk at the counter. She examined it, then went to her computer screen, then frowned.

“You need a stamp on this,” she said.

“A what?” I said. This reminded me of life in Mexico. Did we need to slip her some money?

“Without the stamp we can’t release your car,” she said.

It was now 10:30 at night. I wanted to come around to her side and strangle her.

“Where do we get this stamp?” Alf said holding me back with his arm.

“A police station,” she said.

“There’s a perfectly good one right across the street,” I said.

“That won’t work, you’ll have to go to this one,” she said as she slipped a piece of paper across the counter to us. “Not all police stations have the stamp.”

Now I was convinced we were in another country.

The piece of paper gave us directions for walking, driving or taking public transportation there.

We climbed into the rental and followed the driving directions. What looked like a quick trip across town on paper turned into a nightmare of going in circles of barricaded and one-way streets. It took us another hour to spot the station. I stayed in the car and locked myself in. It felt like I was in a war zone. Alf went in and came back with the famous stamp on the release paper.

We returned to the impound lot, handed over the release paper, and got processed quickly. We walked through an outside fenced-in corridor that looked like it belonged in a high-security prison and stopped at a closed gate. A security guard appeared, we handed him the release paper, and he unlocked the gate and escorted us to our car.

We stood there amazed.

Nothing was missing inside. Not a scratch on the outside either.

The guard shook his head.

“That doesn’t happen,” he said. “Usually it’s just a shell.”

It was midnight now. I climbed back into the rental to return it to the airport, the only office still open. Alf followed me in our car.

We drove home in silence with a ton of questions and no answers in both our heads.

Calvin says, “Next time come into the city on roller blades.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea for Two

The kitchen is complete. It’s so different Alf and I feel we’re in an alternative universe. We’re having to get used to it like a new house.

Unlike us, it’s bright, open and sleek.  What was once a traditional kitchen of the 60’s is now a bold space with stainless steel, grey cabinets, black and white granite counters, and a brown hardwood floor. teapot

Our son, the artist, immediately spotted all the flaws. “I would have laid the hardwood floor in the opposite direction,” he said.  A floor is a floor. Vertical or horizontal, once you throw rugs over it, who’s to notice? He did.

Our daughter was thrilled with the upgrade. “Wow. Makes the house look glamorous. I’ll be coming over more often.” Who knew modernizing the house is the secret to bringing the family together.

Right now I’m purging food items, pots and pans, and small appliances before we fill up cabinet space. I discovered I’ve been hording bags of spices, too many spatulas, dish towels and oven mittens, and an extra set of dishes meant for a banquet of 24. Time to toss.

Calvin says, “I have to establish new scent trails to my food dish.” beagle

 

 

Gorgeous in Rags

Riding into work this morning on the subway, a tall blonde got on board.

The car was full so she grabbed a strap and hung on for the ride into the city.

I suspected this was her preferred mode anyway even if the car had been empty.

She was dressed in torn, filthy beige overalls. Her parka had layers of grime on it. Her backpack was vintage muck.

Construction tools spilled out of every pocket. Spiral bound notebooks, too. A pencil.

I looked at her face. She was very pretty. Clear skin, rosy cheeks, bright brown eyes, and she looked freshly scrubbed.  Maybe mid-twenties.electrician

She was one crazy contrast.

I was intrigued.

I got off at my stop and noticed she did, too. We got in line for the escalator. She was in front of me.

I couldn’t resist.

“What kind of work do you do?” I asked from behind.

She looked down, removed her earbuds. “Are you asking me?”

“Yes, I’m curious.”

“I’m an electrician,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

She smiled. “I know,” she said looking at her clothes.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it!” she said with gusto. “I can get dirty everyday while working on fancy new buildings.”

“How do the others treat you, being you’re in a man’s world?” I asked.

“Fine. Most of them are wimps. They’re all babies, you know.”

We reached the top and said good-bye to each other. She smiled.

Babies. I think she gave herself away.

Calvin says, “Never judge a person by their clothes. Take me for instance. You’d never guess that a cynical, freewheeling, and persnickety heart lurks underneath this silken fur.”  beagle

 

 

Spicy Tea

I lunched with an old friend of many years. She looked broody, not her typical self. So I asked her what was troubling her, and the floodgates opened.

“Elliott and I have stuck out 40 years of incompatibilities. A recent vacation is a good example. He wanted a quiet hotel room. I enjoy hearing people’s voices on the street, the dumpsters being filled with crashing bottles, it anchors me to a place,” she said demolishing her cucumber sandwich.

“He likes hiking. My hike is riding the escalator at Nordstrom’s. He’s anxious if a plan doesn’t go well, although he hates planning anything. I plan things out weeks in advance so it’s clearly my fault,” she continued with a furrowed brow.

I wanted to say something but she wasn’t listening.

“He likes hot, spicy food. You’ve seen that. He douses everything with hot sauce. I like a steak and fries. He’s a clutter bug, books and magazines everywhere, and throws nothing away. I dream of minimalist spaces, preferably in a condo with zero maintenance,” she said knocking back her shot of espresso.

“He watches his favorite movies over and over. Once I’ve seen a movie I’m over it,” she said. “Just the other night he watched Bottle Shock for the trillionth time and I sat there trying to find something I hadn’t caught before. You know what?”

Finally. “What?” I said.

“I watched for timing of the scenes like I was some professional director or something,” she said.

She went on. “He must do the driving. Months go by and I haven’t been behind the wheel, but I’ve become an expert passenger. He drives too fast. He hates traffic and being stuck behind a car. He maneuvers and strategizes so he can be out ahead. For me driving relaxes me. I daydream to my destination. Driving for him is mastering the road and eliminating the competition.” minimal

“Oh, also going for a walk is impossible. He walks too fast and I lag behind like women do from other cultures. It’s so frustrating. I hate it,” she said raising her voice. Everyone in the restaurant was looking at us. She didn’t notice.

“I love flying. He refuses to step on a plane because he’s sure he’d battle with security and they’d throw him out of the airport. We can’t take a trip anywhere. Talk about selfish.”

She finally stopped and took a breath.

Did she want a response or was this a vent session?

The waitress approached our table. She looked like Lucille Ball with 50’s glasses. “Dessert?”

My friend said almost in a growl, “Is it soaking in whiskey?”

Calvin says, “Holy cow. She’s one angry dude.” beagle

 

 

Down the Hall

Things started off with a cliffhanger as I prepared to oversee a food event for 60 people.

The food distribution truck showed up two and a half hours late and parked a block away instead of in front of the house like they usually do. Then the driver came to the front gate, a Hispanic dude, and saw the six steps leading to the front door and announced, “I don’t do stairs.”
“What?” I said incredulously.
“I don’t do stairs,” he said a second time. “It’s against company policy.”
“Really? You guys have been doing stairs for 20 years with us.”
He whipped out his cell phone, took a picture of those nasty stairs, and said, “I’ve just sent this off to my supervisor for instructions.” Then he disappeared around the corner to sit in his truck. photo-4

I called my rep. “I’ll fix this and get back to you,” he said.
I waited.
No driver.
No rep.
No food.
No answers.

I called my rep again.

“I’ll call my manager,” he said.

The driver came back to the gate. “If we don’t solve this I’ll have to take the food back to the warehouse.”

By now the chef, two friends, a co-worker and I were on the street staring the dude down in a gunslinger showdown.

Suddenly my rep appeared out of the ether. “I was in the neighborhood,” he said out of breath. A short, wiry guy with consternation all over his face. I showed him the tables set and ready and the kitchen.

I showed him those nasty stairs.

Meanwhile the dude had disappeared and returned with his first load of boxes. About 25 of them. At street level.

We had no choice but to make an assembly line sandbag style and run boxes from the street, up the nasty stairs, down the long hall, and into the kitchen.

It took us almost an hour to check every box against the order sheet. The dude was now in the kitchen helping us identify the boxes. The rep stood there with  jaw open.

We finished checking the last item, signed the sheet, and the dude disappeared around the corner.

The rep said he’d make sure this wouldn’t happen again.

You bet. Because you’d just lost a customer of 20 years, dude.

Calvin says, “Cut the dude some slack. If you hauled boxes all day, everyday of the week, you’d be a dragon lady throwing your rights around, too.”  beagle

Quotes on the Run

Overheard at a coffee shop:

My job is a major interruption to the work that most endears me: the contemplation of myself.

Self-forgetfulness is impossible. How can I forget the most provocative subject in the world? Me.

In a conversation:

Today’s marketing mandate: Give the public what they don’t know they need, and then create a market for it.

Alf’s wisdom:

Dead people don’t change lanes.

From author Anne Perry:  ring

It was beginning to appear that her interesting face covered a most uninteresting mind.

He would look at you as is he were really interested in all you said. He never seemed to be merely polite. It was almost as if he were half expecting you to turn out to be special, and he did not want to miss any opportunity to find out.

From author Ruth Reichl:

Don’t mistake a street address for where you actually live.

From screen diva May West:

It’s better to be looked over than over looked.

Vogue Taylors:
Ladies are welcome to have a fit upstairs.

Anonymous:

People who exercise just die healthier.

Calvin says, “Here’s another one: Dogs that don’t exercise daily die fat and fartsy.” beagle