Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Yesterday afternoon I was running a little late. My boss and I discovered somebody's screwup, and it was up to us to clean it up.

I knew my wife had dinner in the oven. We'd spoken only about an hour before and I'd told her I'd be on my way soon. So, good and considerate husband that I am, I decided to call her again and let her know I'd be awhile. My daughter answered the phone (four and a half years old):

HER: Halloooo?

ME: Hi baby!

HER: Hi Daddy! I love you!!!

ME: I love you too!

HER: Can I have some chocolate time when you get home? You're workin', but when you get home and we eat dinner can I have some chocolate time?

(I inherited this routine from my grandfather - we have chocolate only as a reward after dinner when she's eaten her entire meal. And then we make this whole production where I ask her, "What time is it?" and she comes back with "IIIIIIIT'S CHOCOLATE TIME!!!!!!!)

ME: Sure sweetie, we'll see...

HER: You know it's goin' to be Kwismas someday? And then Halloween, and your birday, and mommy's birday, and my birday...

ME: Yes honey, I know. Can I speak with your Mommy please?

HER: And Easter, and then Valentine's...I wanna go swimming!

ME: We'll talk about it later, baby can you please...

HER: Can you take me to the park? Can we go to the park with the fire truck? Then we take Rocky to the puppy park and we go to McDonald's and get Chicky and Fra fries!

ME: Honey, your mother's making dinner...

HER: Can you get me a slurpy? Please???!!!

ME: Baby, we'll see. Can you get your mother...?

HER: Can we get a slushie at the baseball game? Can we? I wanna go to the awena and see Shaq attack! Please???!!!

ME: Christina! I have to speak with your mother! Please! Put her on!

HER: But I wanna tell you somethin'...

ME: Well, what is it? For crying out loud,  I'm busy!

HER: I miss you Daddy...when you comin' home?

 

Man! Doesn't that just make you feel like an asshole?


Monday, July 26, 2004

A moment of bravery

I was brave, once.

Many things pass for bravery in our world today. Depending on people's perception of them, certain events are permeated by courage and heroic behavior. But one thing is showing courage while doing your job, and another is being brave because you choose to. In other words, your job description may require you to confront certain perilous situations (soldier, fireman, cop, etc.), but in real life we're constantly being confronted with challenges, and yet we seldom act courageously.

Usually, when we look back at those moments, we wish we'd acted differently. In retrospect black and white are always very clear, and the words we would have liked to hear come out of our mouths shoot out quickly and in sequential order. In the thick of it, things rarely happen as you would have thought they would. Our reactions to menacing circumstances can't be calculated or planned beforehand. If your instinct is to freeze up when somebody pushes you, you're going to have a hard time in the playground until you manage to break past your initial fear and push back.

Well, I had my share of playground fights. I did my bit with the neighborhood gangs, had plenty of fights in high school and more than a few in the service. But none of those fights were anything more than fights. I mean, the purpose of the fight was to fight. There was no honor to defend and no real turf to protect. All either one of us truly wanted was to beat the shit out of the other.

As you grow older you realize the futility of physical violence, and you become much more aware of your own mortality. Fighting becomes something you're no longer quite so eager to engage in. You do it only out of pure necessity.

So back to my bravery.

I was 26 then. Cindy and I had just started going out together. She was bartending at this bar & grill called The Oasis. It was a weeknight and not much was going on. I was sitting at the bar with an acquaintance, having a beer. There were maybe another five or six people there.

This one crazy looking guy kept darting back and forth, between the restroom and the bar. You could see he was tweaking (tweaking = T-Town's word for being on speed) like crazy. He was sniffing loudly and looking wild, while raucously exchanging tall tales with his drinking buddies.

There came a point when the guy had had too much to drink, so Cindy cut him off. He obviously didn't like this. He shot back to the bathroom.

Now people in small towns can be rowdy and ignorant, but it usually comes to pass. Most people don't want to get blacklisted at a bar where they know they're going to want to go back to. Hell, there's only so many things to do in a small town.

But this guy came out of the bathroom fired up, stood squarely in front of the bar and with his finger pointed out at Cindy yelled: "YOU ARE A SOUR PUSS BITCH. FUCK YOU!!!" Then stormed out of the bar.

Cindy did her best to ignore him, and she kept washing glasses and wiping the counter. It's not like she'd never been insulted before, it comes with the job. But it happened in front of me, and you could tell she was hurt by it.

That, more than anything, got my blood boiling. The sudden shock was passing, and now I didn't know what to do. The guy was gone. It was too late to run out after him, he'd probably be out of the parking lot by then.

And then the most amazing thing happened. The guy walked back in. He just waltzed his ass right back in as if nothing had happened. His buddies were still there, that's probably why he hadn't left.

He was crossing the bar to go back to the Men's room again, when without a thought in mind I jumped up and blocked his path. He stopped, momentarily startled. I asked him, "You think you're just going to walk back in here, after insulting my girlfriend?" There was rage in my voice, he could tell. We were both gauging each other; judging size, strength and agility in a second's glance. Both of us were of average build and height. Neither really looked physically intimidating.

My arms were slightly lifted to my sides, in anticipation of his every move. I wanted to tear his fucking head off, and he could tell. He backed off a little, "What the fuck are you talking about?" he said defiantly, like he was getting ready to jump. "You know what I'm talking about, asshole. You better get your nasty ass the fuck outta here before I beat you senseless," I barked. By now his three friends had gotten up from their table and had approached us, but nobody said a word. My friend came in closer too.

My eyes weren't flinching, and they were boring deep into his skull. If he was going to make a move, this was the time to do it. He knew it. "Rock n' roll motherfucker," I was thinking, "rock n' roll!" I was ready to go.

I wasn't completely unaware of his friends. They seemed ready to back him up, but I didn't give a fuck. I was past the point of no return and was not about to back down.

I could tell he was feeling invigorated by the presence of his buddies. He started inching up toward me a little, feeling me out a little further. "Man, I didn't say shit to her. What the fuck did I say?"he asked. "You know what you said, dirtbag," I shot back, "and I didn't fucking like it!" I was getting ready to let loose on him. There comes a point in every faceoff when you feel that if you wait any longer, your opponent is going to get in the first hit. I put my face in his to let him know his time was up. His friends were just standing around, uncertain about what to do.

It was then that he relented. He put his open hands up and said "Aw man, I'm sorry about that. Hell, I didn't mean shit by it." I stared at him in disbelief. First of all, I never thought he was going to back down, especially in front of his friends. Secondly, people on speed usually feel invincible. And third... an apology??? Why not just leave?

"Dude, I don't want your fucking apology," I yelled. "You tell her you're fucking sorry, you piece o' shit!"And I motioned to Cindy.

Cindy was standing there, anxiously awaiting the conclusion to this ordeal. She was probably worried like crazy that we might tear the place up on her watch, so I'm sure she was thrilled when the asshole mumbled out, with downcast eyes, "I'm sorry...I didn't mean anything by that, I was just playing around...I won't do it again," and he sounded just like a scolded schoolboy. Then he looked back at me, as if to say "Okay?" I was watching Cindy. She was suddenly beaming, refreshed. She nodded her assent. I said, "Alright man," and got out of his way.

And so it ended, with no blood spilled. But it hadn't been necessary, since I felt like I'd won the fight anyway. And let me tell you something: there's no better feeling than when you've successfully defended your loved one's honor. I also think it told Cindy that I would do it over and over again if necessary.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Tale of a bridal gown and a fairy godmother

It happened almost twelve years ago, after I'd taken a break from college.  I was working for a production outfit in the Kern Ridge oilfields, a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. Hard, dirty work, but it paid well and they let me keep my long hair.

Like other towns that were born from the oil industry, ninety percent of T-Town's population depended on the oilfields for its employment.

Oilfield workers, it was said, liked to work hard and live hard. T-Town was a breathing testament to it. There was one church and about twenty bars.

I met my bride to be, Cindy,  working behind the counter at one of those bars. She was back in town to help her mother sell her house. She'd been gone for nearly a decade and never thought she'd be back. But life has many twists and turns.

We hit it off, sort of. The electronic dartboard kept taking my money, and she kept refusing to refund me. I'd go up to her and say, "That damned thing just took another fifty cents from me!!!" And she would keep a straight face, look blankly at me and say "Really?" then shrug it off and go about her business. It was all I could do not to throw a bottle at her.

Anyway, she was pretty hot. Before I headed out of there, I had to ask her out.

Six months later we decided to get married. Oh, I don't know what it is with these small towns, but it always seems like everybody's getting married. So we decided to join them.

Now, I'm not really sure how we came up with this next idea. I just remember Cindy telling everybody that this is how we wanted to do it, so I kind of assumed it had to be that way. Well, we didn't want to have our wedding in this crappy little town. The truth is that most of her family had moved away, none of my family was even in the same country, and our friends lived in L.A. The only people who would end up attending would be a handful of our toothless buddies from the bar.

So we chose to head out to beautiful Lake Tahoe,  rent a cabin in the woods and hire a reverend and photographer to go out there and perform the ceremony. No family members allowed.  Needless to say, our parents were less than thrilled. Sure, my mother lived 5000 miles away, but she still would've come down for my wedding. Cindy would have none of it. Too much pressure in getting a wedding together, and we'd seen it break up too many couples in the past.

The preparations would be minimal. I didn't have any vacation time set aside at work, so we needed to figure out what weekend would be the best. It would follow a Friday payday, then I would just call in sick on Monday and Tuesday, and that would do it. Just had to save a little bit of money before then to pay for the cabin, car rental, reverend, license, photographer, gas and living expenses. Piece of cake. Of course, I had to figure out a way to buy the rings and her wedding dress right there and then. We settled on a Sunday three months down the road: October 31st.

Well, I was blessed with a very thrifty woman. She decided to drive down to Los Angeles, meet up with a couple of girlfriends, and walk down Melrose Boulevard's line of vintage shops in search of an "off-white" wedding gown. This took an entire day. But that night she came home with a beautiful dress that cost me less than a hundred dollars.

After checking out the local jewelry stores for her wedding ring (we bought my wedding band at the first place we walked into), we decided to look elsewhere. So we made the drive to Bakersfield and sought out the pawn shop district. Cindy had the peculiarity that she didn't like yellow gold, only white. This didn't make matters any easier. However, we did manage to find a beautiful set with a quarter carat that just needed some minor size adjustment. To this day she still loves it.

Now, the wedding dress needed some altering, as you can imagine, and my mother in law knew the perfect seamstress. It was an old lady who did all her work out of her house, at 131 Lucard Street. The lady had apparently done some fine work for some friends of hers, so she came highly recommended. The main thing though, is she was cheap.

She called her up and told her that Cindy would be going over with her dress. It would be ready in a week, she said. That would suit us just fine.

Well, you'd have to know her to understand just what I mean, but Cindy's never been one to worry much about the details. She grabbed the address and her dress and drove over there.

It wasn't an area we frequented, but in a town this small you pretty much drive past every house there at one time or another. She pulled up to Lucard, parked up the road a ways because the street was a little crowded, and walked up to the house with her dress in tow.

A little old lady opened the door. Cindy walked right in and gave her a hug (she does that with all old people, for some reason) and immediately got down to business. The dress would have to be shortened here, tightened there, and whatever else. The lady was kind and attentive. She had Cindy put it on and she pinned the dress in all the right places. Cindy gave her another hug, thanked her, and asked her how long it would take. The kind woman said she would have it ready in a couple of days. Great!

Cindy was thrilled. She got great vibes from the seamstress; she felt she had  very positive energy. Those things matter to her.

When she went back home her mother asked her how it went. "Fine! She's the sweetest lady you can imagine. She said she'd have it ready the day after tomorrow." Well, this surprised my mother in law a little, because she'd spoken with the seamstress and she didn't sound that sweet. She had also said she was very busy, and it would take at least a week. But Cindy had that effect on people, so she shrugged it off.

When the day came, my mother in law decided to call the seamstress first and find out if the dress was ready before driving over. She also wanted to settle on what the charges would be, because Cindy wasn't much of a negotiator. To her surprise, the seamstress said she hadn't received the dress. "You told me she was coming but she never showed up. I'm a very busy woman. I don't have time for this. Either bring the dress over or leave me alone." Well, my mother in law went pale. She told Cindy to run over there and get her dress, because this old woman was trying to steal it.

Cindy didn't believe it for a second. That sweet old lady wasn't going to steal a thing. Besides, why would anybody want to steal an old dress? She calmed her mother down and drove out there to get her dress.

When the old woman opened the door and saw Cindy, she instantly smiled. She said,"I have your dress ready, dear. It's here in the sewing room." Cindy tried it on and it was perfect. Just how she wanted it. She showered the sweet woman with hugs! When she went to leave, she asked her, "How much do I owe you?" "Oh, nothing dear," she responded. "It was no trouble at all!" Well, Cindy gave her a few more hugs and went her merry way, happy with the way things had turned out.

Upon her return with the altered dress, my mother in law was incredulous. Why had the old lady lied to her over the phone? She was of a mind to go out there with Cindy and confront her. But Cindy was very discouraging. After all, the dress was ready and no harm was done. Why bother with it? She was certain the whole thing had just been a silly misunderstanding. But my mother in law insisted.

They drove out there together and found the house. It was the wrong house. The address she had written down was 131 Lucard St. The house Cindy went to was 113 Lucard St.

Apparently Cindy had ventured in on some lonely old lady who was just happy to help out and feel useful again.  When we discovered the mistake that had been made, we sent her a nice thank you card with some flowers. We've always believed that she was some type of fairy godmother to us.

Our good fortune would follow us to Lake Tahoe, where we bought our wedding license from a witch (actually a clerk in a Halloween costume) and had a lovely wedding in the privacy of our rented cabin at Pine Cove Resort. A blissful setting!

We proceeded to consummate our marriage (numerous times!) whilst enjoying our two day honeymoon to the max. We did some gambling, a little touristing, but mostly we walked around, soaking up the breathtaking scenery. Those were happy days, and they've lead to a happy union.

I think we've all had fairy godmothers along the way...don't you?
 











Monday, July 19, 2004


View of the house from the road 


San Lorenzo

I recall the beaten path of rocky grass, entrenched by moss covered stone walls. It ran alongside the border of my father's farm, and for many miles farther across the foot of the mountain. El Camino Real, it was called. Too narrow and contoured for any wheeled vehicle, it was only to be traveled afoot or on horseback.
 
Before the advent of carriages -and later motor cars- brought about the need for better roads, El Camino Real was the only way for the local folk to cross the territory without trespassing on somebody else's property. In rural Colombia, during the early twentieth century, the lands were vast and sparsely populated, and the laws were vague and barely enforced. People brandished machetes and shotguns, and defended their turf by whatever means necessary. Many shallow graves were dug near the riverbank; unmarked and unvisited.  
 
Inhabited mostly by mestizos and descendants of the tribal natives who innocently welcomed the Spaniards and the slaughter they brought along with them, the valley near Leyva in this northwestern Boyacá countryside was an arid wasteland of scant resources and little rainfall. Foreign investors would occasionally arrive, eager to take advantage of the cheap land and the inexpensive labor. They would bring about wild schemes and blind notions of harvesting dye plants or looking for oil. Very few left behind anything more than large stretches of useless land, covered by dividivis that nobody wanted.

In the late 1950's, the military took over the government. Agrarian reform removed the land from the hands of the wealthy and distributed it amongst the poor. At least that was its intention. Alas, too many favors were paid with large deeds. Friends of the government enjoyed great land wealth. But many farmers were also able to acquire the lands they toiled as a result. Colonizing was acknowledged as legitimate, and deeds were handed out like taxes. Everybody became a landowner.

But it wasn't until the 70's that people started buying and selling land from each other again, and wealth from the capital started pouring back into the area. Man-made lakes were built and irrigation became commonplace. The valley became to show some color. As more water was dammed, more condensation was produced, and thus more rainfall befell the thirsty land.
 
It was around then that my father visited the valley and fell in love with it. He envisioned grapevines running along the fields, growing fat and fruitful in a pollution free environment; making possible his lifelong dream of  producing wine.
 
He purchased a small area at first. It contained a large house, which was a half century old and falling apart, but had a strong foundation. Barely a child of ten, I was aghast at the sight of it. I couldn't see what he saw in it, but he had a vision. He named it San Lorenzo del Escorial, because he thought it would look wonderfully on a bottle of wine.
 
During the next few years we would work on making that vision a reality. Every weekend we would make the three hour drive out to work on the house. My father hired some locals to do most of the major reconstruction that was needed, but we did all the cleaning and the painting. In time it became the most beautiful house in the valley. Dozens of family members would sign up to visit every weekend once the project was done. Nobody had known anything as peaceful as San Lorenzo.
 
My brother and I worked hard to buy horses. My father would meet us halfway on the cost, which made it tough but manageable. It also made us appreciate and care for them a lot more.
 
We grew up riding along El Camino Real, playing cowboys and indians and viewing the breathtaking beauty of the valley. Never did you cross paths with another person that didn't greet you, nor ever did you hear an unkind word. It was nothing short of paradise.
 
It was a good ten years before my father's grapes began to take root. He imported the seeds from California and France, and planted a wide variety: Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and others. The grapes were ravaged by birds, possums and other critters, and many methods were devised to protect them. They mostly failed. There were never enough grapes left to make the wine. Yet every season he went at it again.
 
I had already left home when my father bottled his first wine harvest. He sent me a few bottles. They were Chenin Blanc. In that wine, though far from home as I was, I tasted the sweat and tears of the many years my parents had put into it; restlessly toiling after each failed attempt, and going through with it over and over again...it was the sweetest juice a man can taste! I savored each drop like it was the nectar of the gods, and basked in the pride I felt for my father's accomplishment.
 
Many more wines would come, and much success would be enjoyed. But the cost of maintaining the vineyard became prohibitive. The sales of the wine would never pay for the expenses that were incurred by producing it in such a remote region.  The dream would end, soon enough.
 
But the old man did it, and the wine was good. How many people can chase a vision down that well?









Chenin Blanc 

Merlot grapes 

Merlot

The young grapes 


View of the valley from the house 

Friday, July 16, 2004

Those Amazing little ones

This is priceless! My own daughter (now 4 1/2 years old) occasionally comes up with her own handful of gems from somewhere deep inside her memory bank.

She was blessed (or damned from your point of view, I don't know) from early on, to be dragged from one sporting event to another. I've always frequented pro sports events and since she could get in for free until the age of three, well, I just took full advantage of it. We spared no expense and purchased her little cheerleader outfits with our local team's emblems. She looked cute as hell! So much so, that on one occasion she singlehandedly secured us an invitation to join a party in a luxury booth at a Marlins game, just by being cute.

At these events, and especially at the basketball games, she became curiously involved in the rallying cries that the home team's organizers would inevitably push for, during the crucial stretches toward the end of the games. You know the ones: "Let's go Heat!" or "Charge," or just simply "Defense." There are many others as well. They vary from sport to sport, and from one town to the next.

One night at home, I recall my daughter and I were coloring in the family room. We could hear the TV blasting away in the bedroom. Commercials were playing.

As we both silently worked on our projects, we could hear the opening chant from the Queen classic "We will Rock You." It began "We will, we will..." And then she lifted her little face, looked me square in the eye, and bellowed out right on cue: "Wok you!!!" She was barely three years old at the time. I sat there completely awestruck, beaming with pride and with a stupid grin on my face. Then I reached over, grabbed her by the cheeks and gave her a big smooch!

What a wondrous miracle children are, and how infinitely lucky we are to be loved by them!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

TV or not TV...aye, there's the rub!

Man, it's hard to turn away from it, isn't it? That damn box that seems to suck your brains out and paralyze you before it. There may be nothing on, but still you persist, changing channels over and over trying to find something, anything that will entertain you; help you kill some more time. I swear, the informative aspect of TV constitutes a generously stated 10 percent of the total use I give it. That's sad.

I recall in my younger years when I was in college and full of spunk, yearning to make a life for myself that was built on art and culture. I used to consider TV a detriment to my purpose in life. Back then I allowed myself to watch TV with only the agenda of catching movies or educational programming. Maybe the news, and occasionally Dave Letterman after work to unwind (back when he came on after Carson, at half past midnight). But I eventually began to stay tuned for Cheers and Taxi reruns, and I started to get to know their characters. Then I found myself seeking those and other sitcoms out.

When I got married I got a lot more involved in following pro sports. The truth is, a man has to have some kind of release to survive marriage. Watching sports is the healthiest way for men to vent anger and suffer violence without hurting anyone. But the main thing men get out of it, when they've been married for a few years and the initial throes of passion have begun to subside, as they ease into a higher level of comfort with their spouse and they no longer have sex every 4 hours, professional sports give men an outlet through which they can experience the passion that is suddenly missing from their lives. Sure it's a poor substitute, but at least if keeps us faithful to our women (unless they consider that idolizing a quarterback who can throw a touchdown pass with a broken finger is grounds for jealousy!)and home with our families.

I can't knock sports. But I do hate myself for having to stay glued to the TV during the NBA draft, waiting to what every team in the league's choice will be. It's pathetic, and I wish I could pull myself away and do something more constructive with my time.

So here I am. As a long time Lakers' fan I'm devastated to see Shaq leave L.A. But as a South Florida resident and Miami Heat season ticket holder, I'm ecstatic to see him coming our way. I'm all torn up inside. Not really sure how to feel. But after watching 3 hours of ESPN News, viewing Shaq's interview reels over and over, I've decided to shut the damn thing off and sit at my computer to write about it. That's why you're getting this messy blog, without much of a trajectory to it.

Oh well...time to catch the news...

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Smoke

Getting smoked out on the roads this morning.
Last weekend lightning started a few brushfires locally. We're told they're under control, but they're still having to shut down long stretches of highway. Due to the closed turnpike, it took me almost 2 hours to drive a distance of 30 miles. The whole time I spent it moving between 5 and 10 miles per hour, and helplessly inhaling layer upon layer of smoke.
Now I get to work and it seems like the smoke has completely permeated the office. My head is killing me!
On days like this I wish life was more like TiVo and I could stop the action right here, rewind all the way to before my alarm clock went off, then just change the channel.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Vacuum Bags

My parents reside in a land far, far away. Not far away, mind you, far, far away.

During my mother's last visit (she usually spends one week with us, then one week at my sister's), she spent a good deal of time seeking out replacement vacuum bags for her old, now obsolete, Eureka vacuum cleaner. The thing is, she forgot to check the bag size before she traveled. So through email, she got my Dad at home to look at the old bag and determine the size.

I suggested she look in Walmart. From there we moved up the ranks through Kmart, Target, then Sears. No luck. So we searched for specialty stores. Found a nifty little joint called AAA Vacuum services in the Yellow Pages (yes, that's still the only place to find nifty little joints) that wasn't far from my house. She went there, paid $7 apiece for two packets containing three bags each.

With the matter resolved, we gave it no further thought and enjoyed the rest of our time together.

Upon her return, my mother wrote to thank us for our hospitality, to say she'd had a great time, she missed us, so on and so forth, and to let me know that the vacuum cleaner bags she had purchased were the wrong size. According to her, my father had given her the wrong information. But she didn't realize they were the wrong type until she opened one of the packages and tried to replace the existing bag. Then she couldn't find the receipt. Either way, she said, my uncle was coming to Miami in a few days to spend a couple of weeks with my cousin. She was sending the bags with him so that I could replace them.

Well, anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm not much for that kind of thing. I'd rather eat my steak raw than return it to the waiter and demand that they give it to me well done as I requested...If I buy the wrong size bolts at Home Depot, I concede that it was my fuckup and just go buy the right size...the list of examples goes on and on. My mother's always said to me it's silly not to complain and get what you need, and I know she's right. But the thought of doing it gives me a sharp pain in the pit of my stomach, so I usually choose not to deal with it.

But of course, as far as this situation's concerned, I'm between a rock and a hard place. I either deal with returning the damn bags, or I deal with her. I chose the bags.

My uncle arrived in town and called me a few days later. I asked him over for drinks and he showed up the next evening with my cousin. But he forgot to bring the bags with him. No biggie, we decided, my sister (who lives a lot closer to my cousin's than I do) would pick up the bags at their apartment and I would get them from her. Somehow.

Well, she did pick them up. But we had no plans to see each other for a few days. So over the phone, she gave me the details of what was needed, along with the address to the specialty shop. Having the bags wasn't really that necessary for me. After all, I had no intention of trying to exchange an open bag of obsolete vacuum bags without a receipt. The whole thing was just more than my stomach could handle.

Now my reasoning here was the following: when my mother went to the department stores she was looking for the wrong size - there really wasn't any reason to believe they wouldn't have the type of bag I was looking for. Well, I was wrong. But it took the mandatory visits to Walmart, Kmart, Target and Sears to figure that out. Hardheaded, I know.

The specialty shop came without a phone number. It was located within a couple of miles from my house, but I work 30 miles away from home. So, on a Friday I decided to venture that way after work. I raced there as fast as you can during Friday rush hour traffic, but when I finally got there after five, they were already closed. The shop had one of those protective gates they lower in front of jewelry stores after hours, so I couldn't see their schedule, but luckily their phone number was boldly printed below their name on the main sign. I figured I'd give them a call in the morning and see if they opened on Saturdays.

That night, through pure coincidence, I met up with my sister briefly. She had the bags my mother had sent in the trunk. I tossed them in the backseat, not really sure what I was going to do with them.

A sense of urgency had begun to creep up on me. My uncle was leaving on the following Thursday, and I needed to have the bags by Sunday when he was coming over for a barbeque.

So Saturday morning after mowing the lawn, I called up the shop and asked about the bags. The had them in stock and they were open until noon. That gave me about an hour. I showered and changed, grabbed my daughter and made her get dressed. We jumped into the car and began driving in that direction. A thunderstorm ensued. Visibility became very limited. People were stopping in the middle of the road. As close as the place was, I didn't think we were going to make it. But we did. They were getting ready to close. I reached to the backseat to grab my umbrella and saw the vacuum bags staring back at me. My mother had scotch taped the bag together so it didn't look so obviously open, but all you had to do was look at it to see. Still, I was so sick and frustrated with this entire production that I grabbed them, along with the umbrella and my daughter, and ran inside.

Soaked (the rain was coming down sideways), we waited before the empty counter while the attendant got off the phone. I placed the two wet packets over the glass top, with the unopened one on top. The guy got off the phone, came to us, looked at the bags and then at me. I said, "My mother bought the wrong size. I was wondering if we could exchange them." He said, "Sure! What size do you need?" I told him. He pulled them off the wall, handed them over and wished us a good day.

I picked up my daughter, put her in her seat, and peeled out of there before he changed his mind. I felt exhilarated! Like I just won at Bingo, or something. Such a small silly thing, and I had made such a big deal out of it.

Of course, it wasn't totally over with. My uncle came the following day and spent the afternoon with us. We had a great time! Then he left without the bags.

Fortunately I reached my sister coming back from somewhere else, and she picked up the bags and delivered them to him the next day. But man, what an adventure!

When my mother called to thank me she asked if I'd had any problems doing the exchange. I said, "No Mom, no trouble at all." After all, it was for my mother. How can any trouble amount to much?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I've been away, sorry...I need a laptop.
In just a few days I've fallen hopelessly behind on answering my email, updating my blog, and a whole bunch of other computer related tasks.
But I'll be posting again soon, hopefully by this evening.
Thanks for checking in!