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A Korean couple runs the mini-mart on the corner. I don’t go in very often, because I am in the habit of using the older mini-mart up the street. But when I do I find them to be good members of our tiny community. They want to get involved, avoid selling beer to terrible drunks, and in general are friendly. This is a logging, ranching, old red-neck community. It has been an interesting study to me over the years . They condemn all manner of people, but if they come here and be one of us, all bets are off.
An Indian family owns the other convenience store in town. It is much bigger, and actually is a small grocery and liquor store, where it is possible to do an entire weeks shopping, should you be willing to pay tourist prices. The gas is ordinarily quite cheap. The family is wonderful, and has made friends with anyone in town worth befriending. Several generations, intelligent and well educated, hard-working…they put half the town to shame. We have a lot of lazy descendants of early settlers, blaming the system for their lack of employment and constant re-incarcerations. Yet they too are interesting.
My neighbor is an artist. While she has lived near me, nearly 20 years, I have seen her art develop and grow through many phases. She is in her seventies. Her work is startling and often funny. Her husband saves everything. He never knows when he might need things. It makes for a mess at their place, but a source of almost anything we might need in the way of tools, odds and ends…sort of like a hardware store of rusty parts. They have painted their house in bright colors like those in her paintings. Their parrot has learned vulgarities.
The man down the road has built a house which is the kind of thing people driving by on our mountain road slow down to stare at. He calls it “French country” in design, but it is like no house in France. He builds houses for a living, and over the years he and his wife have admired various features of houses he has built for other people. They put all of these features in their new house. It is huge. People around here refer to it as “the castle”. It is a landmark when giving directions to our place.
Another neighbor keeps feeding the feral cats. He wont trap them and take them in for the free neutering program for wild house cats. They breed continuously and he probably has about 150 cats there on any given day. The kittens usually have runny eyes, and the fights among the toms are loud at night. He complains about the coyotes, but he is running a Mickey D’s for the coyote world. We here them yipping and running the river at night. They have a special sound they make when they find something edible. Last night my neighbor shot a coyote.
He has white hair and a long, slightly swayed back. I don’t remember a time when his hair wasn’t white and I have known him nearly 20 years. He builds houses and for years talked about moving to Oregon. I haven’t heard much of that for a while so maybe they decided to stay here, where their children, and now their grandchildren, are at least in the same state, if not close by. He used to ride his mountain bike up the road past our house a couple of times a week. It is a hard climb up this road.
Her passion is keeping the roads clean. Each day she drives her car along the mountain road, parks on the shoulder, and walks a mile or so each way, picking up cans and litter, and putting them into plastic bags. Most of us pick up the crap from in front of our own property, but she is a zealot. It is really a wonderful thing for the rest of us. Still, makes me feel guilty some times. My house is quite often full of muddy boots and stinking jackets near the entrance. I am afraid her house is much neater.
The man beside me on the plane has a most horrible cold. All I can think about is not touching my face or eyes and not breathing too deeply. I have never sat so long so close by someone with a cold before. Poor fellow. He didn’t speak any English. And the flight attendants, although it was a through flight to South America, steadfastly refused to speak Spanish. Yet I would be willing to bet $200 that at least one of them were a Spanish speaker. Our seats were otherwise very comfortable. We each had our own movie screen too.
All the researchers at the Institute speak with heavy accents. And all different. By the time you adjust to one and finally understand everything he is saying, another begins to speak with an entirely different accent from another part of the world entirely. Its an exhausting enterprise. Especially when I allow for the energy used admiring their command of English. Their ages vary considerably. Some have been there for over twenty years. And some are in their thirties, just beginning their scientific careers. Their combined sharpness of intellect inspires me. I find I have great faith in the future now.
I notice a short couple in church in front of me. I makes me think. Most short men would prefer to be tall. Yet by and large they seek out and marry even shorter women, thus insuring that the world has a steady supply of very short people. If they would only marry taller women, they would save their sons from their own fate. Of all short men, only jockeys seem to marry taller women. Jockeys are not worried about height. They would like a dynasty of jockey sons. But they get tall ones. Perhaps they will own the stable.
We return to the Thai restaurant. They also serve Japanese food. We order vegetable rolls. They are fair. We end up ordering Thai curries again. I almost decide to order rabbit. Halfway through our meal a horrible smell comes from the kitchen. Truly disgusting. In our corner we all look the meaningful restaurant-alarm look at one another. Everyone who eats out has seen and used the look. It is international language. Finally the young woman next to me asks, “What IS that smell?” Waitress pauses. “oh…that is the rabbit.” I am so glad I did not order rabbit. SO glad.
Only on flights to Latin America do you see this. Lines of people with more luggage than the pioneers brought west. Makes you wonder. No matter what they save on customs, the extra charge for a couple hundred pounds of luggage must more than equal it. But they do not think so. They haul bags big enough to be body bags for a football team. You could smuggle entire families if they didn’t need to breathe. Tiny ladies in tight clothing and high heels drag and push luggage carts like high volume trailers at Costco. They argue at the counters.
Yesterday in the airport waiting for the plane was a woman stylishly dressed – cordovan boots and purse, brown belled pants, lighter jacket and a western styled hat to die for. She was chic and had a wonderful degree of élan. Beautiful medium coffee skin and a gold front tooth which I noticed later. Frankly it was fine enough to make me consider one for myself. It’s interesting. One sees many attempts at style in an airport. Most go for comfort in a tuna can. But some try for a degree of dash, most often bottomed out by astonishingly high heels.
Valentine’s Day. Awake most of the night with a horrible cold. This morning on the way back from the park a miracle occurred and both lines of traffic stopped to let us cross. A gentleman on the path froze with fear at the dog until we passed him with the two babies. I cannot keep enough Kleenex with me. I put it in a plastic bag and seal it. Washing my hands every few minutes, taking Excedrin, Sudafed antihistamines, What a bummer. I blame the man on the plane still. It is true jets are the Trojan horses of today.
Luz is from Darien. She has the central American Indian build, not too tall, but not extremely short. Probably about five feet tall She is slender with thin arms and legs. During the day around the house she wears old shorts and a short sleeved Rugby shirt with blue and black stripes. In the morning when she arrives you can tell her plans for the evening after work by her clothes. Last night she went to a birthday party. High platform heels, fancy flared pants, a sequined and shiny pastel top. She is very pretty, especially on her way out.
The woman is far ahead of us on the ramp. But even though it has three sections, we gradually catch up to her. We have a huge cart full of supplies. She is in a ruffled wuite blouse and white pants, both tight. She is strolling. We could let go of the cart and mash her tendons from behind. I know before I can see, at the bottom, finally, as we pass her… She is wearing high platform shoes. From Miami south to Tierra del Fuego, women would rather be crippled and slow than lack style. And style requires heels.
Marcela has gone to visit her baby daughter. She is only nine months old. Marcela works so she and her daughter can live. Her baby stays with someone else while she is a live-in nanny 6 days a week. But when there is an empty space during the day, she can go and visit her own child. It seems a cruel situation until you realize that her job is keeping her baby alive and healthy. The alternative is bleak indeed. I do not know where the father is. Perhaps Marcela does not know either. It really makes no difference now.
The woman who owns the restaurant with pretensions can’t understand why business isn’t better. She sits in the bar or at tables with frequent customers and complains about the clentele. She complains while people wait in line to be seated at empty tables. They wonder. They can feel their stomachs contracting – they see a few people with food and many empty tables. Finally they are seated, but now they wait. The woman complains about business. She does not see that her waitresses have disappeared. She does not see the angry hungry people. She does not hear their low muttered complaints.
Today they are searching the luggage before check-in. When I got to the table there was a cloud of nauseating odor. The man searching the luggage was fanning the air. He was ill and soon, so was I. The man before me at the table had brought the gift for us all. By the time my luggage was searched, the smell was almost gone. The official was happy, but I am alarmed. What if I am trapped by the source of that smell for three hours? If he is anywhere on the plane, all the airsickness bags will be used.
I was by the man with the bad smell. He and his wife were joking about it. They were British. Fortunately the plane had empty spaces, so when they quit loading people, I moved. The smell was really bad, but even one row up was enough to help me. I would have been ill. I really would. It was overpoweringly loathsome. I am not sure why. They woman was talking about having clean socks. But this was a matter of more than dirty clothes. This was no bath for quite some time. Not even a quick swim in the sea.
Watching the Honeymooners on the flight west, I thought how fat we used to think the 1950’s Jackie Gleason was, and how, but today’s standards, he was merely portly. Concluded: yes, we are getting fatter. Two thirds of prime-time husbands are at least as heavy as Gleason was in his prime, and of those, some are much fatter. I do know that when I teach in the high schools, I am slimmer than half the students, something uncommon thirty years ago. Interestingly, obesity is increasing even in poor countries, where there is limited food. Perhaps we are a science project.
What is the biggest American flag you have ever seen? Not counting the giant ones that eager merchants fly on humongous poles over their parking lots…but counting the ceremonial types. Do you live in a community where everything is draped in the flag, no matter what party you belong to? Do people cry when they sing a patriotic song? Did they do that before 9/11? Is there a Viet Nam Memorial? Some plaque somewhere with the names of every serviceman to have died in an American war? Little old veterans organizing parades? Do the Indians from the Rez march too?
I can hear my neighbor running his weed-eater. Later he will run the leaf-blower, and then he and his sons will ride their quads all over the back forty. He likes noises. Of course, when we run our weed-eater, or drive the tractors, then it is a necessity. Everything is relative. The chain saw might be considered kind of noisy, too, by someone else. We just consider it an necessary evil. Actually, it is quite convenient. When limbs fall from trees and block the road or our drive, we have no city services to come and save us. We’re it.
Another beautiful day. This was the kind of day that makes all those millions of people from the snow belt move to California. But we will pay in March. We will pay when the temperature sinks and stays low, the weather turns bitter and nasty, and we get a foot of snow for Easter. Or, if it doesn’t get cold again, we will pay with 100 degree plus days in April. Last year it was over 95 several times in April. Those Cleveland-ites don’t like it then. They want to go home, but they are already here and reproducing .
When you trim horses’ hooves, dogs are wild about the trimmed off pieces. They whine and bark, and jump high into the air to claim their very own disgusting smelling chew toy. But it seems an ecologically and economically sound thing to do. Dogs eat all sorts of disgusting stuff anyway, as anyone who has a cat box knows. Really, it is amazing, and the next thing they do is come and lick your face. Best not to think to deeply about that. But it is nice to be able to make a dog happy with such a small gesture.
I know I need to work on the taxes. Information the accountant will need. My appointment isn’t til tomorrow though, and who wants to waste the day doing stuff at the desk and computer. I can be outside. I can soak up the sun. And enjoy it because it seems to me man has evolved for the outdoors and not caves. We are not phosphorescent yet. Our ears are usually not that big. Our pupils contract and dilate. We love the sun and fear the dark. How bad can it be? Dermatologists would like for us all to be blue.
When you go grocery shopping, you can see amazing things. I saw a couple getting a good giggle out of packaged cheese slices today. I thought they were getting their money’s worth, even if the slices are “cheese-type-product” rather than good old cheddar. They snickered and whispered over the package for quite some time. I’ll be damned if I can figure out how a package of cheese is entertaining, but they had the secret of it. There was a fat lady in a motorized shopping cart. Of course, the store will cater to what is obviously a frequent customer. Sad.
Last day of February. No Leap Year this. Has the concept of Leap Year, and the once in four chance for women to be pro-active ever existed? Or does it exist now on a cull-time basis? I know many women take the first step. Many men would never move without prompting. And what of the gay couple? Certainly every year is Leap Year for them. Nothing traditional there. Regardless, kindness and empathy are always needed. Human relations need heart first, rules later. Compassion is the key. Every year should be Leap Year, if that is what would change our view.
The Tip Jar