Uber Tooth Fairy

 

Unknown-1The call came from Pacific Coast Highway, from a place that’s not so easy to pick up an Uber ride. “Nicky” was standing in the far-right lane, blocking cars from slamming into me.

He jumped into the passenger seat, announcing “Today is a perfect day. A good day. Want to know why?”

I slid the destination across my screen . . . Nicky was headed to Mission Viejo. He was just short of wired, in a natural way, looking as if he might jump out from his torn-off jeans.

“Why?” I asked. Sometimes I wonder why I do this. Oh, I’m a writer. Or just curious.

He leaned as far as he could, almost in front of my face, and said “To get new teeth.” He grinned, without teeth. Not one tooth peeked through his lips.

It was one of those cases that I hoped for a proper response. One came from experience. I am a Sharks Hockey fan. His smile looked like the shots of the team in the game program, with or without their smiles fixed. I had a crush on Mike Ricci . . . now in Arizona.

“You played hockey?” I love rhetorical questions. On medium Uber rides.

“I used to, when I was younger.” He couldn’t have been more than 30, but without teeth it was hard to nail a year, let alone a decade. “I’ve spent my life pushing the edge. The older I get, the more dangerous my quest. Boogie board, shredding into nothing, climbing up cliffs one isn’t supposed to, but I live.”

“Except without your teeth,” I said. “Maybe your teeth have gone to outer space and you’ll get them back when you visit that last place that takes your life,” I have no idea why I said this. The ‘wired’ was contagious.

“Ah, you know, then. I figured it out, you have an old soul.”

“No,” I said. “I think this is my first time on earth.”

“No. You’re 5,000 years old. Been here many times. I know. I think I saw you land. It was on a ship, just south of the nuclear power plants, San Onofre.”

“I didn’t land here. I arrived in Seattle.  I am certain,” I said. I was at the off-ramp, to a road taking us up to the medical building.

“You take care,” Nicky said. “I’ve had this dream about America. You will survive. Many won’t.”

I was going to ask him about what would happen to him, but he jumped out of the car and dashed across the parking lot. He turned, at the door, and pointed to his mouth. He was smiling.

I could swear he already had his teeth in.

Sleeping Babies on 20 January

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Uber encourages drivers to ‘get out there because riders do not want to be wet’ when it rains. This is a golden opportunity, as it’s been five years since the wet stuff fell from above. This was Inauguration Day, Friday and a great opportunity for me to keep my mouth shut.

Which I did not. (more…)

The $89,000 in my Checking Account . . .

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I am sitting here, alone in my sparse bedroom, looking at the balance in my checking account.

It’s $89,000.

It’s not mine. More than $55,000 belongs to the Federal Government. The rest, about $35,000, goes to the State of California. Capital Gains, unmet by the discount for moving away and leasing my house for four years.

I needed the money, to survive. A part of my San Francisco life had come to an end, but not quite as long as I held onto the house. Now, it’s gone. I purchased the loft in 1995. About $250,000. Sold it for $995,000. Powerful investment, you say?

Not so much. I looked up how hard it would be to move to Ireland this morning. A bit hard, unless I had a job. Perhaps I could go onto an Irish Dating Site and meet someone, be whisked away to a grey-with-cool-mold and ivy covered castle perched on a cliff above the sea . . . Too Heathcliff.

Two things hurt my feelings this morning.

I loved my 30 years in San Francisco. And, while the move was a good idea at the moment, the selling is not so bad.  I didn’t end up in broke Oklahoma or Kansas [these places have become third world with Republicans in charge . . . ]

Republicans. Their new leader has not paid taxes since God threw the unworthy into the sea. He will lower taxes for those richer than Satan himself, all hot and groping with stringy fingers. He didn’t win the most votes. But, this doesn’t do me or the people I care about, any good.

This hurts. I would rather give the money to help people get educated . . . those steel workers, coal miners who only know how to dig the dirty stuff out of the ground. I’d send them to school to learn something  21st century . . . as fossil fuels are not going to last forever. And how much steel can you push in one day, as opposed to installing solar panels?  Or learning a new language? Or opening your own business?

I would rather give the money to set up wellness clinics, keep people healthy, as we are all about the loose the affordability of healthcare. Over the past 18 months, I didn’t have to pay for a mammogram, annual checkup, colonoscopy, about $3000 per year extra . . . but gone when Affordable becomes “Pay for it, you sucker.” If Social Security had been ‘private’ in 2008, we would all be poorer than peons in Mexico.

I would rather set up a quiet place, on a cliff overlooking the sea . . . which I would have, if $89,000 were to be mine. I would purchase. I would pay taxes. I would support a community and, best of all, give back.

Now, all I have to give is a link to places that have been set up to help people cope with the end-of-democracy as we know it . . .

I’m laughing. And will be until 2018, when – gerrymandering and voter suppression aside – we might have a chance to get America back from a disaster worse than what the Bush Depression left us with in 2008.

I’m laughing and want to shake Obama’s hand for pulling us out, in spite of Republican opposition from the first night of his inauguration. Obama didn’t go far enough, but I want to thank him anyway.

I am laughing as I shredded all my credit cards. I owe not a penny. I urge you to do the same, as the regulations set up to protect consumers from bank fraud and worse, this regulations will disappear faster than Affordable Healthcare.

Now, it will take some time to find the right pen – a fountain pen loaded with charcoal ink that stays on your hands for about a week after you’ve spilled it on the back of the checkbook.

Then off to the mailbox. Which one? The one down by the sea, not far from a little house that I could have put a down payment on, and finished my novel in the little office with a view.

Oh stop, I can write here. In my little room. Stay tuned.

Final 2016 Uber . . . Ohio and 1000 Steps

A BMX bike champion, to meet his pals at the Penguin Cafe in Laguna Beach. His best ride? Lake Louise, Banff

A couple from Vancouver, wanted to see 1000 Step beach – I warned them that it was, indeed, 1000 steps. “ We’re Canadian. We will have no problem.”

A father, two daughters, from San Clemente to Dave and Busters. “To catch the football game,” the papa said. “What game?”
He pointed to the oversized red jersey, emblazoned with OHIO.
“The celebration is all Ohio fans, there are about 1000 of them. Dave and Busters is the only place that will take us.”

Dave and Busters is in The Spectrum. I begin this last day of the year, hoping for a new sweater. Nordstrom was in front of me.

Happy Gnu Ear, people.

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Me. At the Louvre.

California, I love You!

If you live in California, and are breathing after January 1, 2017, you will be able to

Have one free beer while having your hair cut in a barbershop or beauty salon – this will make a bad new-do appear better.

Wear your Denim with pride as it’s the official California fabric – rest easy, my 1960s high school superintendents who wouldn’t allow patten leather shoes or Levis.

Companies with 25 or more employees will pay $10.50 per hour, up by 50 cents – this will put me out of business, as I am my boss and go shopping too often.

Drivers for Uber or Lyft can’t have a blood alcohol level of 0.04% or more – wish some of my passengers had the same content rule.

Ban on Text While Driving now includes searching for Pokemon Go characters – who does this?

A program providing electric-car rebates will now only be available to people making $150,000 or less – The X P90D starts at $109,000m so I could spend my savings and get $7500 income tax credit and in California, at $2500 tax rebate, which would mean I could drive 24 hours a day for Uber and eat once a day.

Every autographed collectible sold in California must come with a certificate guaranteeing that it’s not a forgery. Thanks Mark Hamill of Star Wars who must have had a real challenge with documents that came from far, far away.

If you see an animal trapped in a heated car, you may break the window – after calling law enforcement – do they ever come when you need them?

MOST IMPORTANT, getting ready for the 2018 election . . . you can legally take a selfie of you and your BALLOT. I needed this in November.WalkCake.jpg

Monday, Monday . . . so @#$ for me”

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Apple store . . . the 5th of December . . .

My iPhone took a dive yesterday afternoon. Not a ‘fall-off-the-table=decent” but a full-fledged leap into the afterlife. The earliest appointment I could get with Apple was 2 pm on Thursday.

Not soon enough. My being is enclosed in a slim black flat cylinder, subject to death by height.

Also, the Garage Door is hanging at half-staff.

More later.

I’ve saved these items that appeared in my mail and doorstop 15 years ago.

For 15 years, the “New Yorker,” with the pages from the “San Francisco Chronicle”, folded not-so-neatly inside, have been near me. On a bookshelf beside my bed. Stuffed into the bottom of a basket by my living room couch.

I can’t throw them away.

Almost at once, I wondered where the fingers would point. First, why would 19 Saudis want to attack us? That was hard to know, as the fact that the men were Saudis didn’t make the headlines. All we knew was that there were several days when no planes flew overhead. Then, three days after the attack, members of the Bin Laden were pulled from where the FBI had hidden them in Texas, and flown home in chartered planes.

The fear was rising. CBSNEWS.COM STAFF CBSNEWS.COM STAFF CBS September 30, 2001, 4:57 PM, ”It’s a tragedy,” Prince Bandar told the Times. “The elders” of the students “came to see me, and one of them was a bright boy from Harvard who like the others had absolutely nothing to do with this and yet we had to tell him to go home and wait until the emotions calmed down. And he told me that he never really appreciated why the Japanese wanted a memorial or an apology for their treatment in World War II.

“The student added, according to the prince, “I understand now that when you are innocent, in the face of emotion, nothing, not even common sense, can help argue your case.”

As to why, the San Francisco Chronicle had a column of “Two Cents Opinion” letters answering a call for readers to address “Whether the president shown strong leadership?”
Six letters were published. Two mentioned Bush’s sorrow, “the way he walked across the White House lawn, straight and determined.” The letter at the bottom of the page, a man named Michael Katz, from Berkeley, is chilling as it foresaw our future, the one that leads to a demonic Republican candidate who might one day stroll across the lawn into the White House. And push a button.

Katz’s letter: “Two generations of Presidents Bush have ‘led’ us toward oblivion. As vice president, the elder Bush presided over the CIA’s creation of the Taliban and the training of Osama bin Laden. As president, Bush was blundered into a needless, devastating – and ultimately failed – war against Saddam Hussein. The resulting US military presence in Saudi Arabia reportedly generation bin Laden’s obsessive hatred of America. Distracted by fantasies of a magical missile defense, the current Preside Bush has presided over an unforgivable failure of basic intelligence and homeland defense.”

This was 20 months before May 2003, when he and Chaney and the rest, would announced that our invasion war would be paid for with the Iraq oil.

History repeats itself, so the saying goes. This time, repeating the inadvertence could be deadly.

 

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Sharks in Baghdad By The Bay

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No place on earth – this one or any other in the universe  – is as peculiar as Baghdad By The Bay.

Several years ago The City gave everyone a little compost bucket, to discourage using the left-over machine shark that shreds what’s left of food and sends it got-knows-where that’s probably not good for the earth..

My tenants took mine. Would I be caught by the Disposal Police if I turned the disposal on to scrape the little clumps of oatmeal that didn’t make it into my mouth.

I turned on my disposal. Nothing. Like a car that’s lost its battery, I turned the crank again. And again.

A smell pervaded the kitchen. I pushed the ‘restart’ button on the bottom [this NEVER works] and whips of smoke crept out the bottom edge of the machine.

I started off for Discount Builders Supply, 7 am in the morning . . . I was the ONLY woman, except for check-out clerks. Why didn’t i think of this before? Forget match.com. I like men in belts . . .

Never mind. I’m off subject. Returned home and Renato my handyman gift from another country installed the new one. Then, I needed to get some vinegar at Trader Joe’s.

I walked up Brannan. By the time I returned back, I had to weave myself through a demonstration of Janitors assembling in front of the Jewelry Mart.

Someone tried to hand me a sign with “Janitors Deserve Health” printed in crimson letters. I’d spent the morning cleaning stuff, but next time I’ll take off my sweatshirt before venturing out the door.

 

Please Follow This Blog . . . it might be famous someday.

One cannot go home again. Or, even try.

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Back on Gilbert . . . fixing my home after being gone since just before Christmas, 2011.

That’s what the paint can listed as the date of my last paint job. 2011? I thought it had been a couple of years, since I left The City for San Clemente, to help my daughter through a rough patch.

Turned out, it was my rough patch. I leased my house to two dim-witted graduate business majors at Stanford who trashed things so I had to re-paint in August 2012.

Then, lost my job. One that I had thought would last at least one year. All right, keep going. Just keep swimming.

I did. And here I am, 2016. Another business that didn’t work [I am great at marketing for other people. Not so much myself.]

It’s Tuesday morning on Gilbert Street. 6 July 2016. The trash truck is here. Somewhere two sirens are wailing across Brannan. I miss these sounds.

I miss The City. If someone had transported me here while I was sleeping, I wouldn’t know where I was. Candlestick Park is gone. So are the 49ers. Not much is left of my neighborhood. Expo Center is gone . . . where will the Antiquarian Book Faire be held this year? The costumed revelers on New Years? All disappeared.

A homeless encampment is being built as fast and sprawling as new construction towers reach for the sky. The Expo Center has been replaced by a massive box of condos that looks like a Lego set assembled by an Occupational Character Recognition robot. Wait. No San Francisco robot – the place for Flower Power, Herb Caen, Willy Mayes, and leagues of famous and infamous characters, living next to each other – would build an ode to boredom. There would be a triangle or twist somewhere.

Eighth Street and Bryant holds a Mercedes Dealership. There’s a median in the middle of Eighth Street, that holds one homeless person, who gets up long before the Mercedes employees show up, wash the windows and open the doors.

I walked by the dealer last night. A couple, in their early thirties, were finishing up a purchase of a S-Class Maybach. The salesman reached out and shook the man’s hand.

The woman nodded, turned her head toward the middle of the road, anticipating what it would feel like to drive off, surrounded by supple leather.

She looked through the man setting up his garbage bag tent, just a few feet away.

I do not think she saw him.

Uber Gas Buddy

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My late afternoon ‘ping’ passenger was down the hill from my house, in the industrial park. “Patty” jumped in my backseat without entering a  destination.

“Where are we going?” My usual question, before my passengers offer “How long have you been driving for Uber?”

“I can’t say, that’s why I didn’t put a place in. We do have to make one stop, before that,” she said. “I ran out of gas, somewhere on the I-5. Don’t worry, we can find it. But a gas station would be the first stop.”

We headed to the first gas station. I say ‘first’ because that station had run out of gas cans. It was only Thursday and the cans were gone. Not a good sign. The second station had one. Then, off we went down the I-5. [Or, is it plain I-5, without the ‘I’?]

“Where do you think your car is?” I thought I’d get a wee idea of the area. I-5 runs smack dab into Camp Pendleton, one of America’s largest Marine base, hugging miles and miles of scenic California coast.

We passed the last south of San Clemente exit, passed Trestles beach and kept trucking south.

“What brand is your car?”

“A little Fiat. ”

A little Fiat. On the northbound I-5.

“Yes. I was late for an appointment, so I thought I’d just get to San Clemente, but when a Fiat gas gauge registers “E,” it’s empty, no leeway.”

Camp Pendleton covers both sides of the highway. No way to turn around, unless sneaking through the Highway Patrol turnaround dip, after the INS Stop-and-Desist installation.

NOTE: Mr. Dictator: We do not need a wall, not with those guys who peer into your car when the INS system suspects a breach.

At last, I could see her car, three miles further toward Mexico [I’m a writer. Instead of saying ‘south’ I thought the reference to Mexico is stronger.] I was surprised that her car was still there. Someone could have come along with a truck and shoved the wee car into the truck’s belly and disappeared..

I urged the car off the highway at the first off-ramp, did a U-turn and headed north. I turned off the Uber fare as soon as I pulled up behind her car, parked a car-length behind her, put on my emergency signals and waited for her to fill her car with the gallon of gas. Of course, the thought that we both could be smushed flashed through my mind. I ignored it.

It took ten minutes, but she got every drop of gas into her tank, came back to the car, picked up her purse from the seat, then handed me $10.

“This is cheaper than AAA,” Patty sold software for a living. She’d figured out the trip and expenses. She’ll go far.

I don’t think Patty will run out of gas again.

I looked at my gas tank. One eighth of a tank. Now, that would be a great ending, but my S-Ca-Pay is like an old VW, and would get me back to San Clemente, another 20 miles, unless I was attacked by illegal aliens, running down the hill, escaping from a band of Marines.

“Would you be interested in . . .”

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When I get a ‘ping’ to fetch people from a hotel, especially in Fashion Island, Newport Beach, I know it’s a trip to see John Wayne in all his iron fantasy in Terminal #A.

The Islands Hotel has a limited entry way. The first man, John, came out very fast and leaned down by the passenger window.
“Don will be here in a moment. Don’t know what’s taking him so long?”
John started to get into the passenger seat, then jumped out.

“He should be here by now. I wonder . . . ”

I could see pal Don coming down the driveway, dragging two luggage pieces.
“Oh, my God. I forgot my luggage,” John jumped out. I opened the rear boot door, got the luggage and men into my car, then started toward John Wayne Airport.

“You’d be better after having a beer or something,” Don said

“Yup. What a couple of pals here, suffering from two  hangovers, we have,” added John.

I tried to change the subject. Many times, I’ve thought I should have aspirin or a cool beer to tame the wild, hairy dogs of morning-after withdrawal on Sunday morning Ubers.
“What airline are you taking?”
“We’re going to Salt Lake City, yes we are.”
“Oh, Salt Lake. What airline?”

Without missing a beat: “Excuse us, Ma’m. Do you have a moment to talk about Jesus Christ?”

This is new.
“You’re not wearing white shirts! Where are your badges?“ Then, I remembered the show. I sang, the first few bars of “I Believe . . . I am Mormon!  .  . . ”

“No, we have heard about it.” They even talked in unison.

“You must be the only Mormons who haven’t seen the show.”

“Oh, we’re not Mormon.” The boys again in unison, sounded like a mini-Tabernacle choir.

“I thought so. With hangovers . . . “

“Good clue. We’re the only two residents of Salt Lake who are not LDS. Most definitely not.”

“Except for cousin Josh,” Rob added.

“He never was, even before he turned 13,” said John.

I like to think that life is better for that Utah state, now that the two have returned to Salt Lake City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Many Cenks at LAX?

 

The Young Turks

 

Most of the time, my Uber celebrity experience means that I’m the only soon-to-be-famous person in the car.

Not so, late one Friday afternoon.

The name on the ‘ping’ was unusual.

“Couldn’t be,” I muttered. It was awkward. First time picking someone up at LAX. I’d waited 12 minutes before, got a ride who cancelled [do NOT cancel when you’re ordering an Uber at LAX. It takes 20 minutes to get back to the holding pattern!]

So, the second time, I waited 15 minutes.

Pick up at Terminal Three. I called, just to make certain. And to let him know that my car wasn’t black. It is silver grey. The shot of my car on Uber isn’t right. Many times, people don’t see me.

Even though I recognized the name, he didn’t sound familiar.

I lurched into World Way then pulled up toe Terminal Three. I went past him; called again and this patient man sat down in my back seat. I turned around, just to check if this person were the one I thought it might be.

It was. The Cenk of The Young Turks!

I think I scared him. “Oh my goodness! It’s YOU!. You’re The Young Turk of the Turks! I’m on your list. Get twitter feeds all day long from TYT!”

“So, we’re working for each other, here.” Yes. An Uber driver who thinks Cenk Turks is something that everyone should listen to. Why? Because, I was a Young Republican. For many years, standing alone for capitalism, working hard to get more work, figuring out how to get myself out of danger, then getting back into it. Not so since GWB took a huge bonus and destroyed the Middle East . . . but you know all that.

Last year, at Politicon, I’d met Newt Gingrich. Tried to get an answer as to why he never responded to my letter of resignation to the Republican Party. If I’d seen the light, where were anyone else with a brain?

“Where is everyone else?” I would ask myself, after I’d realized that the [R] didn’t stand for Abe, Ike or anyone with a heart anymore.

Now, in my back seat, was another one. Only famous and noteworthy as a spokesperson.

We talked of current events, most notably the Turkish upheaval into right-wing camps. And, the one we have here, with the [R] party’s final – they’ve been working on this since Nixon – take into the realm that begins takes on 20th century fascism.

He also told me about where he asked his wife to marry him. Not far from where I grew up.

At the end, he shot me in my grey car, and I heaved a sigh of relief. I’d gotten him home, while engaging in a decent conversation.

That’s what Uber-ing is all about. Oh, check Cenk and the rest of what the world needs to hear at The Young Turks!

Will ? for Monopoly Game Pieces

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I was not playing the Albertson’s Monopoly win-everything-no-one-percenter-needs-or-wants game until a neighbor bestowed a pile of game pieces on me.

“Something for the kids to do on a rainy day,” she said, handing me a manila envelope bursting with little squares and shards a bit larger than New Year’s Eve confetti. [If I used Ticker Tape for a metaphor, would anyone know what I meant?]

Rain isn’t in the forecast. This is California! So, last night, just after I gathered stuff needed to file my taxes before April 15  – another activity no one-percenter has to do as many don’t pay 35%  taxes anyway – I sorted, picked, and licked and prayed that the pieces would remain on the board, if I won.

It’s terrifying to think that on the way to verify my winning board, a gust of wind would blow the piece off into oncoming traffic, and I would die after being run over by a Maserati.

What could I do with one million? Undaunted by the fact that the IRS would chomp on a good portion of it, I hunkered down.

Shards. Shards. My Kingdom for Two Shards

I’m not the only human hunched over a first-base size board impaled by black-and-white name-brand shards clinging on squares promising $5,000 Cash, Red Box rentals, Jet Skis or  a million greenback dollars! Someone else might have the missing piece!

Check out the site. More trading than on the floor of the NYSE. I’m not the only one. Thousands of hopefuls need just a one or two for the Big One Million: 613C, 618H. What am I willing to do for this? Do a book report on Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece? That would be too easy.

The Price of Fortune

This is not an R-rated blog. Use your imagination. Send me the where and when, and what. Of course, I’ll have to see your 613C 618H before I make a move.

It would probably be easier to snag a 90-year-old geezer [without grandchildren] on a Republican dating site. Cancel that.

Settling Down

All right. If you don’t have 613C or 618H, I’ll settle for I541C, the $10 Grocery Gift Card. Please, do NOT offer me Q573C, the $200 Family Picnic.

It would probably rain on the day we headed to the park.

 

 

 

Uber La Bohème.

Sunday coming

I have two categories for early Sunday morning Uber fares:  Uber of Shame and Uber of Fame. I try to avoid Ubering in the wee hours so I don’t have to play Shame vs Fame roulette. Last Sunday, fear of scraping the bottom of my bank account overcame the voice of common sense: “Don’t turn that thing on. Wait until noon. Give them a chance to shower.”

It’s the end of the month. Roulette won. I activated Uber Driver at 7:47 am Sunday. Ping! Wendy needs a ride.

The fare was up the hill, in a half-baked gated community. No little house with a uniformed guard and clipboard – just a gate and a call box. Wendy hadn’t texted the code to me by the time I arrived. I had to call.

“Hello.” A low whisper, the don’t-wake-up-the-baby-kind.

“Hi, Wendy. This is Jean. Your Uber driver. I need the code for the gate to get in so I can pick you up.”

“There’s a gate?”

“I should have texted,” Now, I’m whispering.

“No, it’s all good . . . ”  I could hear a man’s voice, close to the phone.

A car cut in front of me, the gates opened. “Hey, Wendy! A car just went through the gates. I’m sneaking in.”

One minute later I pulled into a driveway and parked facing three garage doors. I waited four minutes then began to worry. Was it the right house? Had she been strangled?  Just as I was about to call again, the center garage door began to rise.

Like an exhibition at an exotic car convention, the door slid upward revealing the rear of a black Mercedes Maybach 600. A couple was embracing by the driver’s side door. The woman was barefoot, on her toes, holding her sandals in her left hand. Her right arm was resting across his shoulders, her fingers digging into a crop of black curls.

I’ve played this scene. It’s not an ordinary goodbye. It’s a new category of goodbye – for one, an aloha; for another, simply good, bye-bye. If it’s aloha on both sides, it’s magic.

Wendy turned and nodded to me. I gave her the thumbs up. It was like browsing the Bodice Ripping novel section at Barnes and Noble.

She extricated her arm from beneath the curls, then headed toward me. He took a step, touched her shoulder, she turned and they embraced again. Before he kissed her, he peered around her, pointed to me and said something. I couldn’t read his lips, or hear him.

Seconds later, Wendy was in the rear seat. “Let’s get out of here. Thank god you’re here. I’ve been trying to get Uber since 7:30 am . . . before he woke up. But he did and wants to fix me coffee. Wants to fix me breakfast. I don’t want breakfast. Where am I? It’s pretty here. I just want to go home.”

We headed up to I5. I could hear her iPhone message ringtone. Little train whistles.

“Oh god, he’s texting me. Oh god. He’s Italian. I’m Italian. Where am I? I went out last night with my pals. He was with his pals. Somehow, we all ended up at his house. Then, everyone left, except me. Nothing happened, except for the tour of the indoor pool, the paddle ball court, the five bedrooms and pool hall. Oh god, he’s texting me again. Did I tell you he’s Italian? I’m Italian. All Italians talk with hands and eyes, but he yells. I’m loud, but he yells. Didn’t you hear what he told you?”

“He wanted you to know that nothing happened. And, that you are to get me home safely.”

My universal mother thing kicked in. “I think you’ve got a live one.”

“A LOUD one. He yells. ‘Why are you going?’ ‘I could fix breakfast for you.’ ‘Don’t you want some coffee?’ ‘Please don’t go.’ I can’t listen to all that yelling.”

“Maybe he’s deaf. Or, has wax in his ears?”

“No. It’s his voice. Now, what? Oh, here’s another text. He wants to know if we’re still on for dinner on Tuesday.”

We were almost to her house. I turned off PCH and headed up one of those 45-degree Laguna hills. “Are you going to dinner with him?”

“Maybe. Right now, I just want to go home.”

The mother thing again: “Wendy, I’ll bet your the only woman who has ever jumped up, called Uber and left him on a Sunday morning. You’ve hit him in the male-ego-furry parts.”

One more thing: “If you do go out on Tuesday, I suggest a restaurant with the acoustics of the Hollywood Bowl.”

PS. I now have a new category: Uber La Bohème.

Walking on Beaches at Night with Men.

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J and T had dinner on the pier. J remembered that it was not in her best interest to order capellini pomodoro, so she ordered the clam-chowder-sour-dough bowl and vowed that if she had to share the oyster crackers, she would. T had the rib eye, creamed spinach and, when offered the basket of warm rolls, refused. The conversation ranged from the discovery that Einstein was right ­– relativity is real – to the proper way to fold a fitted bed sheet – Martha Stewart’s version is difficult for a dyslexic to get past step one.

After the Lava cake and some mighty espresso, the two ventured down to the sand. The moon was a slice short of full; seagulls were foraging for the buried remnants of PBandJ sandwiches on organic wheat bread and Dorito specks. J and T stepped over abandoned buckets then moved closer to the moveable line between dry and wet.

J stepped on a plastic rake, causing her to lose her balance [all those Pilates classes didn’t help at all] and fall on the knee-from-hell. Then, as if it had been waiting for her, a wave aimed its foamy fingers at her and struck with such force that her glasses sprang off her head.

T tried to help, but not if his Gucci 1953 horsebit crocodile loafers would be baptized by a primal sea. He waited until the water drew back, grasped J’s hand and lifted her out of the sand.

“My glasses. Can you see them?”

T was at a loss. Had she been wearing glasses? He hadn’t noticed.

J vowed that never again would she walk on the beach in the moonlight, after dinner, with a man on the first date.

She would consider lunch.

Photo: Myra Alex

Plans, Trains and Bucket Lists

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A circle, the size of an oversize negative Oreo cookie, pulsates on my iPhone. I have five seconds to touch it and voila, another Uber adventure begins.

Monday morning, I drove up Pico, then entered the hallowed lands of the gated Talega community. “Sam” messaged the gate code to me. I crept up to the house. For those who are unfamiliar with the driver perspective of Uber, when the GPS determines that you have arrived, the screen turns to green. “Driver has been notified. Please wait.”

“Sam” came out the front door, practical suitcase behind him. I had time to jump out and open the boot to accommodate his suitcase. Then, small talk.

“John Wayne or LAX?”

So much for assuming. [Why haven’t I learned this yet?]

“Neither. Train station.”

“San Juan Capistrano or San Clemente?”

Still haven’t learned the never-assume lesson.

“Neither. Irvine.”

“All right. What time is the train? Want to make sure I get you there on time.”

“Doesn’t matter. We have time. A friend is picking me up, in a private railroad car, attached to an Amtrak train.”

My imagination took off. I wanted to know more.

Sam told me that his old college friend traveled anywhere and everywhere, in his private railroad car. The only limit, of course, is that the destination has to involve railroad tracks. What’s more, he had not one, but two cars. A full-time chef and dining room in one. Living quarters, guest sleepers, in the other. Sam had gone to the Kentucky Derby with his friend. “Another world.”

Another world indeed. I resisted the temptation to ask if this Pullman adventurer was married. “What does this man do, or did, to make this possible?”

“Marketing.” Must be MARKETING. Obviously I missed something in my advertising career.

I wanted to see this vision of what I have determined is an updated version of the 19th Century American Breath of Freedom Train – Breath of freedom for the uber wealthy

I got another fare, so I had to miss seeing the vision of the engine pulling into the station, and a smoking-jacketed gentleman floating down the steps into the sunshine, noticing me and beckoning . . .

Back to reality. Since then, I have found a round house full of possibilities.  Based on their names alone, a journey in a chartered railroad car could put you in contention for the World Bucket List Grand Prize: Moonlight Dome. Northern Sky. Silver Solarium. Stampede Pass. Babbling Brook.

I could be ready in an hour.

Uber | Silent Silver Passenger

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“Your mission, if you should choose to accept . . . “

As an Uber driver, unless the fare is an amateur-green-at-the-gills-drunk, my mission is to give ‘em the ride they want. Period.

Sometimes I receive texts from my fares. I could be my rider telling me to wait in front of the red car in the driveway; or, letting me know he’s the big guy with the San Clemente Triton hoodie in front of MathWorks, always a good sign that the future is bright.

This time, however, I was to pick up Jason. Two minutes up the road, my iPhone dinged.Incoming text. The message was too long for me to read without causing an accident. The signal turned red. I could read it without risking my life.

 “Proceed to xxxx in the San Clemente Business Park, pick up a package from Leon, then deliver it to Josh at xxxx Company in Anaheim. Thank you. Jason.”

So, Jason, the name of the rider, was not human. Rather, a package. The directions were clear. My writer’s brain engaged my what-if gears.

What if it’s drugs? What if it’s a million dollars? The data for the takeover? Something that the sender and receiver couldn’t risk being seen transporting on the 55 Freeway?

I drove to the Business Park on top of the hill, marched into xxxx Company. Reception desk, empty. Offices beyond the reception desk, empty. Not a sound. Dead space.

”Hello?”

“Hello, you’re here?” The man popped up from a cubicle. He had to be a computer programmer. Plastic pocket guard. Three mechanical pencils. Didn’t look like Cosa Nostra.

“You’re a delivery person? Here to get the package?”

“I’m an Uber driver. Yes, I’m supposed to get a package.”

“Funny, you’re not wearing a uniform. Very strange, sending Uber.”

“I have a T-shirt, but it’s for Uber Car Pool and that’s only in San Francisco.” I could tell this was too much information.

He handed me two square Mylar packages. They were heavy, but not heavy enough to be a bomb. Or a brick of marijuana [do they still make those?] “Sign here.”

“What’s in here? Inquiring delivery people need to know.” I squeezed the packages.

“LED lights. For an awning. On a motorhome.”

I placed the packages on the passenger seat. [Rides have the option to sit in front or back.] I didn’t offer it a lifesaver. Or  remind it to use the seatbelt.

Silence for the next 45-minutes. I kind of miss the usual . . . “So, how long you been Ubering? . . . How do you like it?”

At last, I wound my way through a forest of motorhomes, in various stages of upgrades, to the front office. I stopped the car and reached for the package.

It winked at me.

The Life-Or-Death Round-Eye Clutter Buster

December 29. 8:00 a.m. My daughter informs me that Omar, the Painter, will arrive on Wednesday to paint my room.

“My room” is yellow. I’ve been here for three years, temporarily. The encampment – a tale of unfaithful former spouses and boyfriends – is the subject for another day.

It is now 1:15 pm.

I’m hearing voices. “Why don’t you follow the “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Japanese Method”?

I have developed the Life-Or-Death-Round-Eye-Clutter-Buster Method. No Zen. Not an ounce of organization.

Simply stated, “What would happen to this [book, knick-knack, scarf, Nixon T-shirt, golden sealing wax, or collection of 351 #2 Ticonderoga pencils] . . . IF I WERE DEAD?”

I picture my daughters, one holds the plastic popping Santa I’ve had since 1968. The other, waves a scarf an old lover bestowed upon me after his visit to Paris, with another woman.  At their feet, the cast-iron popover pan, bequeathed to me by my father [DO NOT EVER use soap and water].

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All right. I’m dead.

And so it goes. Today I died a thousand deaths.

 

Rudy | Secret Recipe

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly. This is #25. The Buck stopped yesterday.  Rudy carries on.

Christmas Breakfast idea from Rudy’s North Pole Cook Book.

Enjoy your day.

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Rudy | The Bucks Stop Here

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly. This is #24. It is Christmas Eve, the night of magic and hope.

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The refrain circles in his head, an endless loop of melody sung in liquid soprano tones. His antlers serve as radio transmission towers. The tundra shakes and sways to the beat.

 

“Deer flying high and crimson sleighs on the wing
Snow banks and snowmen, a chorus that sings
Wide chimneys of bricks and sacks full of bling
These are a few of my favorite things.”

 

Time to fly. Rudy looks up. The sky is filled with a million stars. The full moon looks like the backlit clock tower in a Disney movie. The glow flickers. A cloud? A wisp of smoke from Santa’s chimney?

 

No. A flock of Amazon drones heading south, like geese in reverse migration.

 

Rudy paws the ground with his freshly polished hoof. Dasher and Dancer call out the words as they appear, like those of fumes from a solitary Piper Cub trailing an advertisement for suntan lotion across the sky on the fourth of July.

 

“The. Bucks. Stop. Here?”

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Rudy | Avoiding Evil

Rudy is too busy to breathe today.

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As if climate change [for the worse] weren’t enough, this message just appeared in Rudy’s email:

“Governors of these states have announced that no refugees will be allowed to enter to seek refuge from terrorists . . . “

Trying to determine how to get around this travesty, will take most of his day. No time to greet followers.

Sorry, children of the Red, Grey and Yellow.

Rudy | “Awe-pricot” vs. “Ape-reecot”

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly. This is #22.

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The captain of the team reviews the Official Weather Report 72 hours before the North Pole ETD. This morning, Rudy ordered pontoons for the sleigh.

“Prepping for that El Niño. I’m impressed with your foresight,” Santa said.

Mrs. Claus jumped in. “It’s the rain, dear.”

“Sorry. There’s more to it. Our home is melting. We won’t be able to sled out of the barn in a few years.”

“But what about the rain, dear?” Mrs. Claus recapped.

“It’s snow big deal.” Santa snapped back.

“Exactly.” Three days before Christmas Eve, fumes from the last-minute rush of freshly painted nutcrackers would overcome Santa. Mrs. Claus, intoxicated from the brandied apricots concocted by the Elves, would pass out by 16:00 hours.

“So much for Global Warning.”

Image: http://altonbrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/alton-brown-apricot-brandy.jpg

 

 

 

 

Rudy | The Darkness Before Dawn

Right now, Rudy is preparing to be plunged into 24 hours of darkness.

Winter wields a double-edged sword. Today, the day will give up its light earlier than any other day of the year. The night will be long enough to unleash tales of long-ago heroism and valor.

And, for one instant, noon and midnight will intersect. The sun will turn from the Northern Hemisphere and without fanfare, the days will begin to stretch, longing for summer’s lingering lights.

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Join Rudy and the team as they pause to welcome the spirits at 8:48 pm in the Pacific Time Zone. White robes optional.

Rudy | The Day After . . . The Office Party

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly. This is #20. DO NOT LET THE CHILDREN SEE THIS POST.

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Exhibit A

Santa gets letters before December 25th. His staff replies with mail merge canned copy. Rudy receives emails and messages too – the morning after the North Pole Post-Holiday Office Party.

Last season, he made his way up the path to the Barn, repeating . . . “I will not sip, munch or chew juniper berries or anything prepared by the elves.”

The mantra failed. He’s up against diabolical odds. For months, the elves plan how to turn Rudy’s Red Nose into an ornament of shame.

They never fail. These are only a few of the emails and Tweets Rudy tried to purge from his inbox the morning after the 2014 party, where silver buckets of brandied apricots lined the buffet table:

“Rudy! I have your pants.”

“Hey Rudy! How did you get the lampshade off your rack?”

“Rudy, please get the mice out of the water cooler!”

“Your antlers are in the back of my sleigh.”

“Return my wife by noon tomorrow or I’ll tell Santa.”

It took a team of hard-nosed Manhattan attorneys six months and 17 motions to get the judge to declare Exhibit A inadmissible. It could have sent Rudy to the pervert pen for life.

 

 

Rudy | A Ruinous Rack

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Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. This is #19. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

Oh the humanity!

Rudy is obsessed with space and time. And geography. As noted in the December 5 blog entry, he was eager to hear the what happened when his great-great-great – too many to list because doing the math requires calculating by 20 and blogs are supposed to be quick studies – grandmother’s seasickness spread to the humans and forced the passengers to take refuge on an island in the Caribou-ean Sea.

“Why did they stay so long,” Rudy would ask his mother. “It must have been hot, being in the tropics and all. Why?”

For years, she evaded the question.  She would cock her head and scrape her hoof on the pine needles.

“I hear your father calling.”

One day, Rudy stood his ground. “I know you’re hiding something. I just know it.”

Yes, she was hiding the fact that her grandmother had fallen victim to the oldest distraction to the female of any species: A male creature with a rack 561 6/8 inches with 88 scoreable points.

A Bucka-deer.

Voila! Evidence that more than one aberration hung from his family Antler [read Tree]. She swore him to secrecy, made him promise NEVER to tell.

“Tell, and you abandon any hope of mating.”

What doe would want to risk birthing progeny with a snout that glowed like the embers of abandoned campfires AND antlers that had more points than a fact-filled Progressive?

Rudy | Reindeer Games | Reindeer Only

Adolescent deer have mastered the Art of the Zeal.

They dare each other to skate on thin ice. The athletes toss engineered orbs onto one their budding antlers. Best yet: Two orders of Burger King onion rings strewn on the footpath leading to the ranger cabin. The game didn’t disband until late afternoon, when the ranger came looking for the rest of his lunch.

Water Polo

The pinnacle of their sporting life is water polo. Competition is fierce for league placement and ranking. Stag and doe go head to head from dawn ’til dusk in the purest of mountain lakes.

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Humans, on the other hand, have created a bastardized form of the noble sport, splashing across pools sullied with chemicals that would kill if used in the gaseous form.

The sight of the inflated sporting gear have been known to make stags peer into the glare of headlights until meeting their doom in the ultimate white light.

Some have resorted to invading the human stadium sites, a form of protest that has so far proved unsuccessful.

Deer Pool Dog

Rudy | Get Me Off Your Lawn!

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. This is #17. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

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The Elders tell tales of winters descending in mid-September and forcing ancient herds to flee blizzards that blow in at noon and disappear at sundown.

“Curses,” they whisper. “Curses brought on by inappropriate depictions of our bodies. Heads on the walls of human man caves and stuck inside bear dens. Our bodies formed by concrete and wire.”

What constitutes the violation of the sacrosanct?

Lawn deer.

Cement families. Holiday scenes of deer lit from within. Horrific. However, California needs snow pack. Perhaps the answer to the drought could be a preponderance of deer icons until 20 feet of the white stuff covers the ground, awaiting spring thaw?

Curses be damned. Logon to Amazon today.

Lawn ornament from Rustic Gardens

 

Rudy | The Antler Fairy

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. This is #16. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly. Please share.

One day, leaping fawns, spot on with joy and fun. Overnight, everything changes. Males and females mature to Harts and Hinds. Their heads itch and compulsively butt. All for what?

IMG_0162Antlers.

Horns suck energy from deer bodies. They are useful when two stags log on Tinder simultaneously. Adolescent doe spend their high school years either devising elaborate ways to display the outcroppings.

In either case, the antlers fall off. The youngsters place them on their pillows in hopes that the Antler Fairy will leave them a succulent and yummy carrot.

 

Rudy | Deer Bones

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. This is #14. It’s Monday, so it concerns the soul. And, as the others, is not in any particular order. But will be when pigs fly.

 

Deer guides, mentors and spiritual advisors serve the herd. An exception was made in Rudy’s case, as his parents sought the Peerless Elder Greer for their calf.

Elder Greer’s mentorship included the rudimentary skills for success, with one exception: Literature and the Arts. In his later years, Rudy would recall his exposure to The Deer Lay Down Their Bones, the poem from Robinson Jeffers, as a pinnacle in his life.

 

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Robinson Jeffers

“I was young, yet I learned that aging is not for the faint hearted,” Rudy said. “Growing old takes courage and bravery, to face the end.”

The poet tells of climbing up a winding path to a crevice, where he is overcome by the smell of rotting flesh. He looks down and there, in the midst of ferns and a gentle stream, lay piles of deer carcasses.

“I understood that the place was a refuge for wounded

deer; there are so many

Hurt ones escape the hunters and limp away to lie hidden; here they have

    water for the awful thirst

And peace to die in; dense green laurel and grim cliff

    Make sanctuary,”

 

Elder Greer’s words would stick to Rudy like the velvet on his antlers:

“Would that all beings could have sanctuary. In life as well as death.”

 

Amen.

Rudy | Deer Terror

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. This is #13. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

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It’s been 18 years since the attack.

“In 1997, in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, a man who kept reindeer as part of his Santa Claus act was attacked by a 550-pound bull in heat. When the bull tried to gore him, the man latched on to its 31-point rack of antlers. The reindeer carried the man – who weight 370 pounds – in the air for forty-five minutes. Eventually it pinned him to the ground. Five other men tried to pull the buck off. When they finally succeeded, the buck fell dead from its exertions. The owner was not seriously hurt.”

Deer fear – which led to the War on Deer Terror – went under the radar until the Internet took superseded rational thinking. Observe the finer points of this excerpt from just one of the thousands of Websites calling for the elimination of all deer. “ . . . a man who kept reindeer . . . Santa Claus act . . . 550 pound bull in heat . . . 31 point rack . . . the man – who weight [sic] 370 pounds.”

Other stories of hunters being attacked while ‘minding their own business.” Could this be considered a deadly oxymoron?

You can find more of deer fear propaganda on FOX GNUS, the most unreliable source of information on the planet. The coverage won’t include shots of antlers tangled in the barbed wire fences that line the US border.

By trying to escape seasonal genocide, they descended into rack and ruin.

Baby Fox for Nursery

 

Rudy | La Cage aux Folles

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. This is #12. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

 

RudyDeer Me

The edges of this note were scorched. Or chewed on by a herbivore. Whatever the case, this little piece of science was not meant to be discovered.

Inductive Reasoning:

  • Most deer have antlers.
  • Females have antlers in winter.
  • Males lose theirs in winter.

Rudy [Santa’s entire team] must be

  1. Female
  2. Deer in drag.

Now, why would someone want to destroy this information?

Illustration: http://mother-mary.deviantart.com/

Rudy | “I am NOT a duck, mermaid or naked emperor!””

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts. This is #11. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

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The Hans Christian Anderson storybook was planted on the bottom shelf of the bookcase in his room. Rudy would wake up at 3 am, startled by the chartreuse glow pulsating from the tome’s spine, not by the red light on his snout.

Whenever his mother caught wind of a bullying incident, she would have Rudy pull the book off the shelf, so that she could read an inspiring story from its pages.

Mr. Anderson was a prolific writer. The thing weighed 20 pounds.

“Twenty pounds of inspirational stories should be enough to make him accept himself.” His mother’s guilt hung throughout the house like the aroma of truffles. What would have happened if she had not been dancing so close to the cranberry bog when she was six months pregnant, and slipped?

Would Rudy feel better knowing about a girl fish, the naked emperor, a princess with the sensitive skin, the singing bird, girl with matched, or the switched-at-birth swan? Rudy pretended to listen, playing a La-La-La-La mantra inside his head while his mother read to him.

One day, he found a little book someone had dropped on the path to the ice pond. It was all about rabbits that were different. One told of a rabbit with HUGE feet. Uncomfortable childhood and all that, until it came time to escape from the lone wolf ghost. Another was about a rabbit with a shamrock embossed on the bottom of his paw. He could never get away with a prank, as his prints gave him away.

Until his prints led the way to a pot of gold. From then on, they called him “Lucky.”

Rudy placed the slim book under his pillow.

Rudy | Light Up This 5th Night

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The Fifth Day of Chanukah is special, filled with Greeks, Maccabees, assimilation vs religious purity, and tainted oil. The saga spans thousands of years and millions of personal stories, stories of the power of light over the darkest of times.

Even the saying “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” is subject to controversy. Was is Romans 13:11, John F. Kennedy, or Eleanor Roosevelt?

It was K’ung Fu-tzu, Confucius, who uttered it sometime between 
551 – 479 B.C.E.

Rudy | Moveable Beasts

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts containing random insights into the seasonal saga. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

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Rudy’s second cousins in Wyoming do not posses the gift of flight, so each year they travel on hoof, 150 miles across public and private lands.

Amazing, considering the herd’s geographical route is part of their DNA passed from doe to fawn. They settled in the Leucite Hills in Wyoming’s Red Desert, long before humans followed, crossing the Bering land bridge and setting foot on the eastern portion of Beringia, now known as the tippy top of Alaska.

Humans built ranches, fences, Interstate highways, gated communities and recently, Dillie’s bedroom, in their path. The deer – given the unbecoming name of ‘Mule’ – have continued to move from summer fields to winter habitats in spite of obstacles. Click here for National Geographic’s stirring account.

Except for Rudy’s cousin Ralph’s digression into Dillie’s bedroom, their migration went undetected until 2011, when biologist, Hall Sawyer, placed tracking collars on deer that signed non-disclosure documents. National Geographic photographers got into the act. Watch the wonder.

Rudy | Monkey Ward*

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly. December 8 is dear to my heart, as I was an adman [ad woman just doesn’t cut it] for 35 years. Truth be told, advertising is the world’s oldest profession.

It was 1939. The drums of war were drowning out the songs of hope that Happy Days Are Here Again. The strong leader that Germans had wished for had turned out to be a nasty guy. In Chicago, a manager at Montgomery Ward needed a hook for the holidays. He asked Robert L. May, a copywriter, to write a children’s story.

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May’s career did not match up to his writer’s dream – to pen the Great American Novel. Now, his boss wanted a product that would endear customers to the department store.

May submitted the draft. The boss reacted in typical creative vs. suits fashion: “Can’t you come up with something better?”

May wouldn’t give up. He got an art director to illustrate the draft and the rest is history – the history of how advertising shapes our world.

Rudolph’s story and song and cartoons are heart-warming additions to the US holidays.

Our Rudy will not be 100 years old in 2039. He reached that milestone before the invention of time.

*Monkey Ward is the now-defunct department store’s nickname.
Thanks to National Public Radio for the perfect link. Listen to the story, know more about May’s tragic life.

 

Rudy | Labor Bullying

Author’s note. Rudy | The Unofficial Novella is comprised of notes found stuffed in a stainless steel shoe box that floated up from what used to be frozen tundra. There will be 25 posts. This is #7. They are not in order, but will be when pigs fly.

138687988-a-reindeer-with-ornaments-in-his-antlers-by-gettyimages

Bullying rears its ugly head in subtle ways. Direct hits hurt, such as prancing and chanting “Rudy Rud-ee, Rude as he can be . . . “ in circles around a fellow trying to get through the snow.

Or, “Can we use your nose to read after lights out?” at boarding school.

As an adult, Rudy hoped that the tyranny would cease. Not so. The contemplative image of Reindeer and Tree appears innocent to humans, but is a stinging example of unfair practice.

The photo shoot took ten hours. Rudy’s fee and royalty check from Getty Images is not and never will be ‘in the mail.’

Rudy | The “Fly Agaric”

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No Rudy saga is complete with the science behind how reindeer overcome gravity.

Media truth is hard to come by these days. Today’s content will rely on the world’s renowned purveyor of fact, the British Broadcasting Company, aka the BBC. *

Discover how Rudy and his species take flight, often with humans in tow.

*Hoof-Note: The BBC’s reputation for sticking to news that ‘has legs’ survived the sullen skeptics who denounced “Spaghetti-Harvest in Ticino” as Italian/Swiss propaganda. Did you notice the use of the hyphen?

Rudy | The Family Antler

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Throughout millennia, fawn, stag and doe have gazed at their reflections in still water ponds and wondered, “Who am I?”

“Why are my eyes crossed?” “Where did that beard come from?” “Why is my left front hoof shaped like a heart? “Whose nose decided to turn crimson and pulsate after sundown?”

Many of these questions can be answered by referencing the Deer Family Antler. While humans expose their Family Trees to the public through the massive Mormon enterprise’s Ancestry.com, family Cervidae records hang on racks in the most sacred Hall of Secrets, only accessible to the eldest of the herd.

Occasionally, a tribal elder will take pity on a youngster suffering from indignity and bullying. Such was the case for Rudy.

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“You should be proud of your relatives. Your great great great . . . oh heck, I’m not going to list the exact number of greats. The point is that your ancient relatives crossed the pond on the DecemberFlower. The little ship arrived five months after the human-bearing Mayflower because your G-Mother suffered from an advanced case of seasickness, which spread to the humans.”

The elder continued. “The little band of migrants pulled into the first port they spotted. They remained moored on the leeward side, safe from storms and the perils of tropical life.”

Rudy loved geography. He had the highest grade in his class, one of the reasons his classmates bullied him. He had to know. “Where is this island?”

“In the Caribou-ean Sea.”

 

Rudy | Eavesdropping on the Master

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It happened so fast. One minute Rudy was following Dasher and Dancer down the hall, then he slipped on the ice that his mates had tracked in and now he was splayed up against the wall to the conference room. He knew it was rude to eavesdrop, but after all, Santa was the master.*

*“He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been good or bad
So be good for goodness sake.”

Fred Coots
Copyright: Toy Town Tunes Inc.

The words were muffled, but Santa’s rich baritone penetrated the oaken door. “I wouldn’t call them a ‘team’ per se,” Santa said. “They are a preternatural entity the elves concocted for convenience. The one with the cold should learn how to blow his nose.”

When Rudy heard this, was he shocked to learn that he would be cast aside as an inauthentic aberration? Would he be the first to feel be downsized? Just because he had the sniffles?

jobs-santa-1040cs012412Actions have consequences. Rudy had refused to be vaccinated for Lyme disease. According to PolitiFact, this half true. There is no vaccination for the disease, or the common cold. The idea for his replacement was only an agenda item under unfinished business. Now, was true that someone had suggested his position be given to a drone with a solar-powered proboscis?

Hearing this, however, was enough to send his brain spinning so fast it turned his red nose, blue.

Disaster averted.

December 4 Episode

The Post That Launched The Artist | Uber Un-Samaritan

A picture is worth 817 words. Original art courtesy Richard Escasany.

A picture is worth 817 words. Original art courtesy Richard Escasany.

I don’t think “Cassie” was her real name. It could have been the name she used on an Uber account, not the one her mother gave her.

Her location was the address of the Rodeway Inn on the northern edge of San Clemente. The guest entrance is down a steep hill and up a narrow lane behind the building. I parked and waited. I always assume that I am not in the right location, never thinking that it could be GPS or passenger error. After seven minutes, I called Cassie.

She answered on one ring. I was in the wrong place. She was in front of the hotel. I did my Uber-Turn. [I don’t think “no-U-turn” applies to Uber turns, as the law interferes with my brand of customer service.] I pull around the corner and I see a woman, in cut-off jeans and torso-hugging, torn sweatshirt. Two bulging backpacks are leaning against her legs, like bookends. She’s holding an iPhone. Must be Cassie.

My black-and-silver U placard is affixed to the passenger side of my windshield. Occasionally, passengers bend down to peer at me, as if to assure themselves that Freddie Kruger’s mother isn’t their Uber driver. Cassie was no exception. I rolled down the window.

“Yes, I am Jean, your Uber driver, not Jane Fonda.”

That’s good, Jean. So your passenger looks like she could use a joke?

Cassie thrusts the backpacks onto the back seat. I notice that her left leg has a swath of scabs and angry scrapes, as if she’d had an unfortunate encounter with a gravel back road, not so long ago.

“Good morning. How are you?”

Oh, yes, Jean. Rhetorical queries, emanating from my hardwired autopilot. Unsuitable on so many levels.

She whispers, as if her voice would shatter if she spoke louder, “I want to go to the DMV, please.”

“Ok. Yes! Right away.”

Great, Jean. Now you sound like a chirpy waitress in a Midwestern coffee shop.

The San Clemente DMV is a visual oxymoron, a cold gray building planted on a blacktop parking lot, across Pacific Coast Highway from an expansive, brilliant white, private beach. I check the rear-view mirror. Cassie isn’t moving. She is staring at the three people lined up at the entrance.

“Maybe this is a good sign, only a few outside. I hope the wait is not too long.” She opens the door, slides across the seat, dragging her backpacks out behind her.

Before she closes the door, I turn toward her and say, “Who knows. You could be lucky.”

For God’s sake, wasn’t it obvious that luck hadn’t been a part of her life for days, maybe months? Or years.

I watched her sling her backpacks up over her shoulder and trudge toward the entrance. I gave her a five-star rating. My Uber app flashes. Another fare.

I switched gears, focusing on tracking the Uber GPS to Tony, who was waiting in his driveway. He was late for work. We didn’t go far. I needed a break, but the Uber-app flashed before I could click ‘go offline’.

It was Cassie. At the DMV. I didn’t see her when I pulled into the parking lot. Something urged me to stay put. Seconds later, she opened the back door.

“I’m sorry. It will take too long in there.  I was wondering if my Uber driver would be you,” she said as she loaded her packs into the backseat.

“Lucky you. Yes, it’s me. Where to?”

“The pier.”

“The San Clemente pier?”

I must be a sociopath. I am no better than the upper one-percent and their callous politicians whom I despise. There is only one pier in San Clemente. It could have been worse: I could have asked, “I hope you’re not going to jump.”

As I maneuvered through the streets that snaked down to the pier, I heard Cassie’s voice. I thought she was talking to me. I turned. She was on her mobile phone.

“Can you at least bring me a blanket?” Silence. It could have been a few seconds, but the wait was long enough to be uncomfortable.

“I have no place to go.” Silence. “Thank you. I’ll text you when I get to the pier.”

More than once, before I wake up, this scene races through my mind – a chilling, stop-motion endless loop, audio included.

“You are cash-strapped, driving for Uber, when other people your age are comfortably retired, living within their means, whatever that means. You have blankets, Jean. You could have offered to find help. You should know where to get help. You could have done something, said something. Anything.”

I had done something: I gave Cassie another five-star Uber rating. Other than that, nothing.

Now, I think of ways it could have been worse. It could have been raining. It could have been eight o’clock on Christmas Eve. Yes, that would have been worse.

What Happens in Vegas . . .

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My rider flew down the steps, his body taught and lanky, bicep muscles poking out from below the sleeves of his T-shirt.

Obviously it wasn’t Marge, the name on the Uber ping.

He slid into the shotgun seat and pulled a cold bottle of Bud Light from his backpack.

My best mother voice: “You’re not going to open that, are you?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, dearie. Spoil such a lovely lovely lovely Uber lady. Why would I? See, it’s between me legs, it is. Safe and sound. Why would you worry?”

Oh, there were so many ways to answer that, but I never got the chance.

“Name’s Kai, from Sydney. You know, Sidney? Of course you do. I’m on a quest, my dear, a quest to capture the woman of my dreams.”

Said woman was 25 miles north of the coast, deep within the bowels of Coto de Caza, through the portals of Aliso Viejo. An address on Shady Hollow Lane.

“Shady Hollow Lane, straight out of Brothers Grimm, I say. Ever heard of it, Shady Lane? My princess, in a tower, and me a professional personal trainer. It was fate, that I would train to gain the strength to climb to rescue her. Did I tell you I’m an actor? People don’t believe me, but I’m rather famous in Australia. Name’s Kai. My day job, my day job’s a personal trainer.”

He took a breath. Before I could ask him how his name was spelled, or what TV shows he’s been on ‘enough so that the folks don’t leave me alone in the streets of Sydney’, he started speaking again. Later, I Googled “Australian Actor Kai”. Nothing. A couple of references to a TV series from the 1999, so unless he had discovered the fountain of youth, my passenger was a bit south of the truth.

GPS found Shady Hollow. As I turned the corner, I asked him where he had met this princess, the woman of his dreams, the one he was going to marry.

“Las Vegas. Three days ago. Did I tell you she’s the most beautiful woman in the world?”

I stopped the car at the bottom of the steps. He peered up, through the thick bougainvillea, as if tuning his X-ray vision.

He slowly opened the car door, inhaled deeply, as if he were about to dive to the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, then turned back toward me and raised the beer bottle into the air. A toast.

“Here’s to you, Uber lady. G’day, g’day,”

He took the steps two at a time, up to the condo’s front door. Like a helicopter parent lingering outside the gym after delivering her son to the prom, I longed to stay, become that fly on the wall [or moth in the bougainvillea] to see what would happen, but my next Uber pinged.  I had another fare.

I like to imagine that Kai and his princess flew back to Sydney, their bottles of Bud Light gently vibrating side by side, in synch with the plane’s jet engines.

Maybe once, just once, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.

Semantics

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My Uber fare’s house was about as far up you can get in San Clemente. He emerged from the dusk of his three-car garage and injected himself into the front seat. He was a massive presence of a man.

“Do you want me to adjust the seat?” I didn’t know how he was going to fit, without stuffing his knees into the glove compartment [Is it still called the ‘glove compartment? If so, why?]

“Nope. We’re going to the Volkswagen dealership, San Juan Capistrano, please.”

“Picking up a new car?” I see the glass half full. Why open the door to mechanical issues?

“Nope. My old Porsche. I left it there last night. Then, I’m picking my wife up from John Wayne Airport. And, I’m surprising her.”

Before I could answer, he thrust his iPhone6 up in front of me, pointing to the screen.

The image was a tricked out Volkswagen Convertible, draped with a red bow that spread across its snout. It looked like that surprise English sheepdog you might find in the driveway on Christmas morning.

“Wow, that’s great.”

“Yup. It makes up for 15 years of abuse.”

Unsettling words to be heard within the close confines of a car, with a stranger.

“Abuse?”

“I sold her Volkswagen Beetle ten years ago and gave her a Porsche. She has never stopped telling me how I abused her – ripping her preferred vehicle away from her. She has a thing for Volkswagens.”

One man’s abuse is another woman’s unwanted Porsche. I should be so lucky.

Growing Words

A lot has happened, and not happened, between our first days of horticulture in May, and this day in mid-June. There were bubbles of  joy when the first cucumber leaves appeared above the mulch, like sharp points of green light.

Encouraged, I sowed a second round of seeds between wet paper towels, to give them a head start. I waited one week, then peeked. There were four minuscule shoots.

My joy was short-lived. Like wild baby animal orphan babies who bond with unrelated species, the shoots had imbedded themselves into the paper towels. I tried to unhook one little one after another, but they would not let go.

All right, Mother Nature. Have it your way. I planted the seedlings in the mulch, still attached to their paper placentas. Only one has survived, far below the leaves of his siblings, plants that have started to reach for the trellis I placed in the soil, five minutes after I planted the seeds.

A trellis rising above mounds of ungerminated seeds is the epitome of hope. The cukes are headed upward!

Three and a half weeks after we planted, the back patio teems with hope. Leaves the size of lily pads hover over struggling dill and chives. The carrots are in dire need of culling, but I dare not touch them until the little farmer who left on a trip, returns to choose which stalk to rip from the earth so that the rest may grow.

A garden is hope for the future. A garden is also a cruel place. Every two weeks I enlist an army of ladybugs and charge them with doing unladylike chores – devouring the aphids that chew on the leaves. Carnivorous snails that attack leaf eating snails. The caterpillars? The tower of tomato plants could be under siege from a host of deadly hosts tomato fruit worm, potato aphid, stink bug, leaffooted bug, hornworm, silver leaf whitefly.

So far, no sign of the enemy. Or, Peter Rabbit.

I would knock on some dogwood. Alas, none grow here.

How My Inner Voice Cost Me $125

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The party on Saturday was in the cul de sac, so I can’t call it a block party. It had all the trappings of the suburban let-the-kids-play-in-the-street-while-parents-drink-until-silly ‘block party.’

By seven, the group was heading toward ‘silly’ at light speed. I decided to try my first Uber service after dark. Six minutes after I was online, a ping and fare, just two blocks down the hill.

“Would you mind taking me to a recording studio, in Los Angeles?”

Of course not. Off we went. Up through Carson, where my fare had to stop at a Panera Bread to visit the lady’s room. 30 minutes later, I dropped her off at a little studio just off the Golden State Freeway.

Saturday night. Los Angeles. Lots of fares, right? My little inner gremlin crawled out from his bunker and whispered “What are you doing? Get back home. You don’t know the roads, what would happen if you picked up a gang member from Boyle Heights?

I raced to the freeway and was almost back to the OC when my voice of reason took over.

“Do gang members used Uber? If so, go ahead, name one.”

It was late. Even though I was in Orange County, I’d hit the besotted hours, 10 pm to 2 pm.

The voice – “a la Jack Nicholson’s The Shining “Here’s Johnny”  had cost me $140.

Uber Tooth Fairy

The call came from Pacific Coast Highway, from a place that’s not so easy to pick up an Uber ride. “Nicky” was standing in the far-right lane, blocking cars from slamming into me.

He jumped into the passenger seat, announcing “Today is a perfect day. A good day. Want to know why?”

I slid the destination across my screen . . . Nicky was headed to Mission Viejo. He was just short of  wired, in a natural way, looking as if he might jump out from his torn-off jeans.

“Why?” I asked.

He leaned as far as he could, almost in front of my face, and said “To get new teeth.” He grinned, without teeth. Not one tooth peeked threw his lips.

It was one of those cases that I hoped for a proper response. I am a Sharks Hockey fan. His smile looked like the shots of the team, with or without their smiles fixed.

“You played hockey?’

“I used to, when I was younger.” He couldn’t have been more than 30, but without teeth it was hard to nail a year, let alone a decade. “I’ve spent my life pushing the edge. the older I get, the more dangerous event I will try. Boogie board, shredding into nothing, climbing up cliffs one isn’t supposed to, but I live.”

“Except without your teeth,” I said. “Maybe your teeth have gone to outer space and you’ll get them back when you visit that last place that takes your life,” I have no idea whyI said this.

“Ah, you know, then. I figured it out, you have an old soul.”

“No,” I said. “I think this is my first time on earth.”

“No. You’re 5,000 years old. Been here many times. I know. I think I saw you land. It was on a ship, just south of the nuclear power plants, San Onofre.”

“I didn’t land here, I am certain,” I said. I was at the offramp, to a road taking us op to the medical building.

“You take care,” Nicky said. “I’ve had this dream and you will survive.”

I was going to ask him about how he would be, but he jumped out of the car and dashed down the parking lot. He turned, at the door, and pointed to his mouth. He was smiling.

I could swear he already had his teeth in.

This Chair is Not Designed for a Child . . .

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The vertical slats on the seat are digging into the back of my thigh, just above my knee. I pull up my socks to add some protection, but as soon as I bend my knee, the socks inch down my leg.

“Eat your egg, the bus is coming around the corner.”

I can’t see the bus, I can only hear my mother’s footsteps, high heels clicking with purpose on the hardwood floor. Back and forth, from refrigerator to the yellow-tiled counter with red and black roosters impaled every 12 inches on the back-splash, marching toward the sink and stove.

The egg. Its orange yolk has escaped the membrane and spread across the translucent mucous. It’s headed toward my toast, which is succumbing to the onslaught. I close my eyes, and swing my legs back and forth, so furiously that my black patent Mary Jane’s fly off my feet and scoot across the floor, hitting my mother’s ankles. The distraction works. She lifts me up, I can see the short van, through the sheer curtains.

“See, now you’ll have to run to catch it, in your socks.”
I escape. The bowl with the egg will be sitting on the chrome legged table when the bus brings me home from Miss Buckley’s School. I have all day to figure out where to slip the congealed formation into the bougainvillea that covers the kitchen window, like a magenta-tainted spy.