Odd Jobs

Piecing it all Together

Life here is remarkable. There are more hills than I experienced in San Francisco. More rain, in all forms, too. The windows of this building were supposed to be washed yesterday, yet a 30-mile-per-hour wind barreled across Puget Sound, up Vine street and blew over an ancient tree on the corner.

And, the owl, the plastic one that has planted itself on the shelf below the sixth floor apartment, it finally moved. Three feet west and then back two feet east. Head remains buried in the sawdust.

So, Friday the windows will be washed. Yesterday, in spite of the weather and wind, the building across the street got its windows washed. Three men, all dresses like Zorro, hung on ropes and squeezed the dirt off the glass wind-breakers that adorned the side of the building. This morning, the sun was dazzling as it reflected off the early morning building.

Why didn’t our building get serviced? Were the men afraid to hang from the side in the wind? Didn’t want to get dressed up like Zorro, and trip up and down a 12-story building? I don’t know. Friday, when they do appear, I’ll ask. How will I ask, I’ll have to practice how to ask without hurting any feelings.

Is it Raining?

Silly question, if you live in Seattle. I have been here since the last days of April. Visiting a friend, well . . . more than a friend.

We’ve decided to ‘give it a try’ . . . living together in his loft on the sixth floor of a building, one-and-one-half-blocks from the Pike Street Market. I’m back, downtown, where I’d rather be. After 27 years in San Francisco, then a major move to Orange County to be with my daughter in the ‘burbs,’ now, the moans of sirens at 3am and honking cars are music to my ears.

I was born in Seattle. Official War Baby. Lived here for 11 months, then parents divorced and I ended up in Southern California. New dad, two baby brothers. I met my Seattle friend in fifth grade. We were not pals, but were aware of each other. He moved in different circles. I was into music and talking; he was into being cool. In the tenth grade, he gave a party. I don’t know why he invited me, [he doesn’t remember] but it had an Hawaiian theme. I was in line to get my lei, when he reached out, grabbed me, and planted a juicy kiss on my lips.

“You are not the prince,” I said to myself. Later, when I told my mother [I have no idea why I told her this], that he was too short for me.

“Don’t worry. He’ll grow,” she announced.

He grew, in my heart. We had separate lives, married other people, dropped LSD and roamed Griffith Park while at USC, yet nothing ever went further than that.

He kissed me again just before Thanksgiving, in 2021. A walk on the beach. According to him, it was electric.

“He’s tall enough now,” I would add, to tell my mother who has left the planet.

My Time

I will fall asleep at 4:32, on the afternoon of Sunday, November 7.

First, I must transport back 1,195 years into one of my past lives. I was a Scarlet Macaw. A small girl’s captive in a Mayan village long before the Spanish brought smallpox and Catholicism to Pueblo adobe dwellers. My memory returns to my avian existence each year soon after I hear the announcement: “This Sunday at 2am, we all will get back the hour that was snatched early in March.”


So, I return 1,195 years, back to my cage. I watch my capturer weave a tapestry from ferns she had cut earlier that morning. She finishes, then raises them above her head. She reaches my cage, then slowly drops the green curtain. As the last shards of light dim to nothing, my eyes droop and I lose contact with the day.

It’s 4:35 in the afternoon. This proclivity for falling asleep each afternoon, continues for 13 days, until my body clock returns to normal. And I stop getting sleepy as the sun sees the west as a way out of the day.


I don’t like getting that hour back. It makes no sense. I blame the Founding Fathers. Bennie Franklin to be exact. It’s 1783. We visit Mr. Franklin’s bedchamber in Paris. It’s 6am and he stirs awake by sunlight creeping past the damask curtains. The night before he’d dined with a family who spent most of the meal complaining that although rich, not rich enough, they were forced to spend hard-earned coins on candles and whale oil to save off the darkness that dropped after the sun dropped behind Norte Dame.

Bennie has an idea. ”I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o’clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early. I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for sun rising on that day. I looked forward, too, and found sun was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o’clock.”


Ben realized that time could not be lost, forgotten, had, spent, or outed. It could be saved – by hand. The sun, and all mankind, however, could be tamed simply by moving the hour hand on a watch. Thus began the Saving of Daylight, one of the cleverest propaganda campaigns in history. He then applied this theory to the Post Office.

“That Book. How’s it coming?

I think I’m never going to finish the thing. A simple story about making dill pickles in Pasadena in the 1950s has turned into a major tome. Tome, enough to fill five shelves of post-World-War-II history, in the ‘good old days’ when we had to stay home from school because the SMOG was too thick.

Have you ever asked for, and received, a recipe from a friend or family member, only to find that an important ingredient was missing? This is what the story is about. My brothers and I were asked to leave the kitchen, after shaving our knuckles off removing the prickles from cukes, while our grandmother and mother finished prepping the cukes with the “Secret Recipe.”

They promised to give us the ‘secret’ before they died. This didn’t happen. A sudden heart attack took Eunice and my mother had a massive stroke, several years later. And took the secret with her.

This is the story of finding, seeking and trying to get a pickle produced that had the same “SIZZLE” of long-ago dill pickles.

If I finish the book, I might get to leave the earth. Maybe, I don’t want to take off?

We threw some organic . . .

. . . soil, rotting in the bin I had made for all things organic but had started to smell. Bad. Really bad. Over the fence into the bottom the hill behind the house. Three weeks later, we had a ladder that cascaded up toward the top of the hill, then disappeared into some small fog, that didn’t smell good either.

In fact, it smelled as if a dead opossum had stepped in some day-old horse manure, then keeled over a pressed duck, left behind by a band of gypsies. {why are Gypsies always come in bands? A band of what? Rubber bands, bandages?] Needs more work, here! 

I wish I could say that it was an easy JUMP up on the first rung, then magically being lifted to then top rung, but that was not the way it went at all. Not at all. Before I started up, I thought I needed supplies. Lunch. Water. Candy for whatever was waiting up at the top.

If there were a top. 

to be continued

Ikea bans plastic.

I was returning from an LAX trip, when I remembered the plastic bags I ordered from Ikea had stopped arriving. I had purchased them six months ago after another stop in the north of Costa Mesa [a difficult place to visit at 4pm on Sunday].
I went to the usual place, Kitchen Accessories, aisle and they were missing, an entire shelf was empty. It took some time to seek out a fellow human in a Yield-Yellow shirt, but at last I did.
“I am looking for the trash bags I place in my wastepaper basket that was part of my kitchen remodel a couple of years ago. I usually get them online, but that stopped, so I am here, in person, to seek them.”
He looked at me [I had been on the road for three hours, one trip to LAX and another to a local hotel, getting lost the entire time] and I might have guessed it had been a long day for him, too. “We don’t offer plastic bags anymore. We are trying to cut down on the use of plastic.”
I looked around, and the acres and acres of plastic wares, just in the Accessories, department.
“You are kidding?”
He hesitated long enough for me to guess, that this was not funny. Or the joke was lost on him. I decided to repeat Albert Brooks [Put together the coffin] joke ” . . . how long it took his pallbearers to put together the coffin.”
That didn’t work, either.
I had to ask three people the way out, envisioning that I would die there, on a Sunday night, looking for trash bags.
I must figure out how not to have trash. Thanks to Ikea.

To The Wedding . . . with Groom

Sometimes, Saturdays in June my car fills up with wedding people. Mostly, guests — who are always late — or bachelor-night girls seeking places of ill repute. In my day, we tiptoed into Chippendales, which I thought had gone out of business, but it appears in Las Vegas. My UBER  doesn’t go that far, but I would if someone asked for a ride, just before taking that final single ride.
So, on an ordinary Saturday, I got a ‘ping’ that announced I had a ride waiting, but it would take 21 minutes to get there. I must have been the only UBER driver out that day. I drove all the way through San Clemente, took a short-cut on La Pata and ended up in a nice housing development on the edge of Lake Elsinore.

There were two men, plus a son. They all carried boxes, hanging clothes, and briefcases.
“We’re going to get married,” the man who slid into the shotgun seat.
“All of you?”
“Oh, no, just the guy in the back.”
The ‘guy in the back and his son nodded. I asked, “Would you like to stop anywhere, just one more single event?”
“No, I think I’m ready for this.”
We then headed back across San Clemente, up into Talega, to a house, where a throng of family were waiting.
“Don’t forget anything,” I offered. “If you do, I could always go back to your house and pick up what you’ve left behind.”
“We’ve got everything we need. If we don’t need it anyway.”
I wished them good luck and took off.
It looked like it was going to rain.

But, it didn’t.

 

Farewell: Hideaway, Sandy and Kung Pao

I had never met them before, until they were carried in cages down to the shoreline at Alicia Beach, in South Laguna.

Hayden is an honorary member of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and my pal, Judy, sent us the email announcing the ‘release’ of these Sea Lions from the hospital up on Laguna Canyon Road.

The day sun was hot, after several days of indecent rain and floods. We could see Catalina, appearing closer that usual. Hayden stopped at the top of the sand dune and said “Gammy, see the dolphins!”

There were dolphins waiting beyond the rise of the waves, as if they knew Hideaway, Sandy and Kung Pao would soon be joining them. The cages were lined up, the front opened simultaneously. Volunteers held up signs that said “Quiet”  . . . so we wouldn’t make the seals [all women] nervous.

One by one, they exited the cages and looked out at the sea, then back to the cages. I am not going to put words in these seals mouths, but it was as if they might be asking “Really?”

The humans, with black screens held in front, slowly shuffled toward the edge of the sea, The seals gave one last look at the sand behind them, and scurried [can a seal scurry?] into the receding waves.

They swam away, not out toward Catalina, but parallel with the shore, toward a rock outcropping at the far end of the beach. “Someone will stay behind to see if they make their way out into the ocean,” we were told.

That made me feel better, sharing their freedom.

Instead of writing this morning . . .

. . . I decided that my keyboard wasn’t erect enough for me to type without thumb pain.

This is what I did.

I Googled Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 5000 for instructions. I found a video – the un-boxing instructions that have taken over the Internet YouTube channel – and slid the screen to when he turned the keyboard over and saw the four empty spaces, where legs would be placed.

“This is new,” the narrator said. He tipped the keyboard. “I guess I left the other pieces in the package,” he continued, saying that he would get to that later.

Later. He re-opened the package, and found two little black hedges [what else would these gadgets be called] tucked next to the mouse.

He then placed them in the top of the keyboard, noting that he’s never known anyone else who would want the front of a keyboard lifted [I don’t know anyone of that sort either; however, what would that mean?]

I purchased my keyboard three years ago. The box, and the hedges, and my sales receipt are buried somewhere in the landfill between San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. I rummaged through my ‘don’t know what to do with this stuff’ box and found two unused pencil erasers. Stuck them in and voila . . . this is working. So far.

As for my writing, this is it.

erase.JPG

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.