How the Rich Get Richer

It made me think I maybe don’t belong in a coffee shop where the customers have Prada purses. It made me think I should maybe dump that high-priced decaf espresso and walk right over to my old haunt Dunkin’ Donuts up Main Street a ways.

starbucksI saw a tastefully turned-out woman with a Prada handbag and perfect hair at Starbucks.

I wasn’t trying to ‘see’ her but she was lingering at my elbow as we both stood at the small station all Starbucks storefronts have. This is the place where management provides straws and swizzle sticks, napkins and a modest range of ‘enhancers’, from cinnamon to cocoa powder, as well as the usual range of choices in the general cream and sugar category.

 I felt I was holding her up, the way she lingered idly beside me and so I muttered an apology for not doing a speedier job of dribbling cream into my coffee from the tall cool carafe that stands beside the other tall cool carafes that hold the lowfat milk and the regular milk. I thought probably she needed access to the cream too.

But when I stepped back, my own iced coffee enhanced to my liking, I saw more: She did treat her own coffee with cream, and Splenda, too; but then she reached into the mini-bin that held the sweetener in the familiar pale-yellow packets, closed her fingers around a good dozen of them and slipped them quick into that slim Prada purse.

Maybe Starbucks can handle this kind of ‘shrinkage’ as they call stealing in the retail world, but it still made me shake my head.

It also made me think I maybe don’t belong in a coffee shop where the customers have Prada purses. It made me think I should maybe dump that high-priced decaf espresso and walk right over to my old haunt Dunkin’ Donuts up Main Street a ways.

Sure, they keep the Splenda behind the counter so you have to ask for it a packet at a time, but things just feel more HONEST there. Plus at Dunkin’ you’re far more likely to be greeted with a “Hey, how’s it goin’?”  which I, for one, will take any day over a “What may I serve you?” 

The Vision Thing

My on-the-road husband did show up at last, ending my week alone and a good thing too. I’d begun hanging curtains on the screened-in porch – curtains on a porch! – but at 108 inches per panel , they’re a little LONG for the purpose and so sort of melt and swirl about on the porch floor like the hemlines of a gathering of ghosts. Of course I realized their excessive length only after whanging a bunch of nails and screwing a bunch of screws along the whole 30-foot length of wall out there to get the curtain rods in place so now I will have to take down and cut the curtains, hem the curtains, RE-IRON the curtains and then hang them again using the cute new bought-for-the-purpose stepladder that looks like a jaunty four-foot-tall upper case A when in use, then magically sandwiches itself shut again to turn into a kind of a Flat Stanley of aluminum, skinny enough to store behind any door.

Anyway the ladder is a great success…

And I know some might say you don’t actually NEED curtains on a screened-in porch.
It’s what Old Dave said the second he saw them. Actually he said one word, “No,” which after all these years of marriage I take as a sign from God herself that I should press on.

I mean I know curtains on a porch may seem weird since the whole idea of a screened-in porch is to let the breezes in. But this porch has a high set of windows above the screen that I find sort of questionable looking and that also force our nice new neighbors to have to look at me out there in my trusty blue nightie 7am, sucking in coffee and tapping madly on my keyboard. Why wouldn’t I want to spare them that sight if I could?

Also – and they don’t know this because they just hot here two months ago – this paradise of palm trees and fern fronds gives way to a very different sight come winter, when Old Dave takes every stick of outdoor furniture we own including the wicker chairs on the three real front porch and stuffs them in practically on top of and in some cases actually on top of all the furniture already living there. Then the place looks like a warehouse.

For years I have felt terrible about this; about the way our former neighbor had to look over from her house and see this mess. I even, mentioned it to her once. “That’s the least of my problems,” she said which I took to mean it was, in fact, a problem, or anyway an eyesore.

Ever since, porch curtains have been on my mind and now I’m just making them, whatever David thinks. I’m going to let them drape to the floor, then gather them up in my arms, flip them over the rod and tug at them until they scallop and fluff like Scarlett O’Hara’s petticoats.

It will be nice! He’ll see! Maybe I can take a picture and post it here when I get them all up, though I expect my progress might slow down now that he’s back and I can be calm and normal again. Anyway they were so cheap. 75% off! I got ‘em at Macy’s during their Super Special Sale Days and then when I pulled out my pocketful of promotional coupons. I saw I couldn’t afford NOT to buy ‘em.

Tell the Truth

Look me in the eye and tell me you accomplished a lot yesterday.

That’s what this guy is saying.

Try telling me you bought gifts, he says…

Or finished the holiday card…

Or finally got done trimming the tree.

Guys like him are always talking like this, always acting so superior, just because THEY may have spent the whole day gathering nuts.


I didn’t spend the day shopping OR trimming OR addressing the envelopes for that holiday card, though all of those tasks go unfinished.

Instead I laundered 8 sets of curtains, washed the windows they belong to, sewed a slip cover for a chair everyone else in the family is happy to bring to the Free Stuff table at the dump and ate a pint of ice cream.

It’s a stressful time of year.

And sometimes, sometimes the only way to throw up a barricade against that stress is to work on something – anything – in no way related to the tasks you’re supposed to be working on.

Human nature, what can we say?

Just Because You’re Paranoid

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you as we used to say in the final years of J. Edgar Hoover’s America. What do you think? Did JFK feel the beady eye of that FBI head when he was sneaking mob-boss girlfriend Judith Campbell Exner into the White House?  Did MLK  sense that one of the highest level officials in the government had teams  of people watching his every move? In other words, did they ever get paranoid?

I got paranoid just this week while spending the night by myself in my normally jumpin’ household.

Just after midnight when I was dead asleep, the TV set in the living room suddenly turned itself on, only I didn’t know it was the TV because it sounded exactly like real bad guys muttering and whispering with each other as they crept into my house. Turned out it was some movie starring Joe Pesci of all the dark and unpredictable  bad-guy actors. It took every ounce of my strength to unlock my bedroom door and walk out into that living room. 

So what is the deal with paranoia anyway? Does  it actually help keep us alive to pass our genes down to following generations? You bet, say the experts, who also will tell you that  if the elevator opens and you don’t like the look in the eye of the only other person on that elevator, then don’t step into it. Trust your instincts in other words.

Just know that they’ll sometimes betray you, as they betrayed this potential client who called up the private investigator my sister Nan used to work for. He wanted to set up surveillance on his house he said because he was  dead sure someone was sneaking in while he was at work and making all the chairs, tables and couches all shorter by cutting their legs down a half an inch at a time. It was either that or he was getting taller he said and at age 50 he didn’t  think that’s what was happening. 

Maybe someone was sneaking in and leaving one of those growth potions like Alice found inside that rabbit hole on Wonderland. If I had to bet  money, I’d say the guy himself was shrinking. After all we do change shape our whole lives through. But that’s how we humans are. We’ll point out the dust mote in  the eye of 100 other people before ever once stopping to look inward and spot the beam  in our own.

Be fun to see Clint Eastwood’s  J. Edgar coming out in December. Leonardo Di Caprio plays him and he’s always great.

Poor Career Choice?

Some people are just in the wrong business, like the motel owner who won’t rent daytimes to couples with no luggage. I keep encountering this one shopkeeper who is so grouchy every single time you almost think it’s a put-on, like Andy Kaufman’s whole career after his Latka-Gravis-on-Taxi days only its isn’t I’m pretty sure.

I was in her shop yesterday and saw a hand-lettered sign on the counter: “We Know About It Thanks” it read.

“So what’s this now, are people telling you the same thing over and over?” I asked her. I thought  maybe the door to the shop sticks or something and people keep mentioning it, but no.

“All different things!” she shouted. “All these news bulletins from morning till night and Did I hear there was a storm coming in and How about this heat! If I hear ONE more person ask me about cold fronts and low pressure systems I’m going to scream!”

“So you’re not much for the old small-talk, is that it”?

“Yep,” she replied with an impenitent smile.

So what I’m wondering is, How do you DO that? Get all salty that way? Because I sometimes think I could use a little salt on the old omelet but how do you do it without hurting people’s feelings, even if it is all a big put-on like Andy Kaufman charging people to be made uncomfortable by him? (Check out the video below.)

I found the above image on the web by Googling  “mean signs.” It shows that in some ways it’s  funny when people are this awful which is why someone pulled out a cell phone and quick took a picture. But my real question is what are they doing, the people with these behaviors, like my lady with the grudge against small-talk? And do they secretly want to be kidded out of their bad moods? I sure would love to hear people’s thoughts on that. In the meantime here’s Andy Kaufman, make of HIM what you will, poor lamb. And for extra fun rent Milos Forman’s “Man in the Moon” in which Jim Carrey plays him, an amazing film with Courtney Love, Danny DeVito, Paul Giametti… (watch the trailer here) Life is a mystery all right and the ones out their on the edges make it more mysterious!


People Are Stupid (Part 99)

What’s the most insensitive thing you’ve heard anyone say? In my column this week I look at how thick people can sometimes be: the perfect stranger who tries to shame a new mom for calling early motherhood hard; the ditzy 20-something who tries to equate what was probably her own mere hangover with the real and dramatic struggles of a man who even when standing still can’t help pitching and tilting about like a sailor in a storm.

I hope I didn’t come off sounding superior for noticing. I mean I realize: people just get nervous and say things. Once my brother-in-law rode down in an elevator with F. Lee Bailey, the most famous lawyer  in the country at the time. He looked at old F. Lee and looked away; looked and looked away, then blurted “Excuse me: Are you who I think I am?”

And that’s nothing compared to what people will say at a wake. Three of the people I lived with died within 15 months when I was a kid so I know. They laugh, tell jokes, even dead-people jokes, believe it or not. They lean in and whisper gossip … and all this without benefit of alcohol which you don’t see served so much at wakes these days but which I can tell you will certainly be served at my wake, to be held in my living room, it’s all arranged.There’ll be drink, food, major sitting around, bring the kiddies we’ll all have fun. Now go up top and read this week’s column. 🙂

I’ll Show You Dry

I knew I wasn’t going to be the only person to think of recording the way your hands look under the all powerful Xlerator hand drier. It’s so strong (and loud) I’ve seen it make small children jump three feet in the air. It blows your skin around and flattens your veins; that’s what you see. But it feels like you’re getting… I don’t know,  ironed – like maybe even your bones are getting ironed and will dissolve any second and leak out of the bottoms of your feet in a thin but calcium-rich broth.

What I wonder is why does it make your veins change color? My hands and arms were perfectly normal-looking when I stuck them under the XLerator at my local Dunkin Donuts. Then, 30 seconds later, they looked like the arms of a heroin addict, and my veins were the color of an eggplant.

For those of you who have yet to encounter this powerful saver of paper towels, the first video, made by a normal person, shows what it does to your hands. Keep scrolling down though to see the one that shows how your face looks under the thing. No doubt we humans are a frisky bunch! I bet God loves that about us.