Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Snippets From the Boardwalk



The sisters are restless and feel compelled to spread their wings in search of fresh salty air, cool sand, and freedom from worries and never-ending chores. They set their sights on San Diego where a magical place called "The Cozy Condo" beckons. Most fly; some drive, until finally they settle into their cozy nests for the weekend. Not one, but two Cozy Condos face the sparkling water and warm sun of Mission Bay. But wait . . . an unexpected turn of events happens. Their desire for an uninterrupted respite includes extracting snippets of conversations exchanged between walkers, joggers. bikers, skateboarders, segwayers, men, women, children, dogs, and . . . undetermined.

"The older ones never want to participate anymore."
"This is why I worry."
"So I got that recipe for banana bread from Jan."
"And, they're all on my Apple plan, so I have to call."

The view from the Cozy Condo takes their breath away. The sailboats dancing on the water, the moon rising over the horizon, the precision rowing teams, the bustling Boardwalk, and . . . the guys! The guys with their tans. The guys with their muscles. The guys with their hairy bodies and bold tattoos.

"Howdy."
"I've never been with a little guy."
"I'd rather have a butch than a mustache."
"It fell out of his pocket when he was taking a dump."

One of our sisters spouted her own snippet, projecting the internal turmoil of her frustrated self.

"That big guy is so big; I wonder what else is big."

Ah, the Boardwalk. It springs to life at dawn when the fog rolls over its sand-dusted pathway for the energetic joggers who rise to satisfy their compulsions, and finally succumbs to the drunken stumblers who weave back and forth, grabbing walls to steady themselves and be their guide back to their lairs.

"I'm wearing electric underwear."
"You can't drink all day unless you start in the morning."
"I totally wasn't sleeping in my room."
"He lives in the bottom of the house, and, like, it's all moldy and stuff."

The beloved sisters keep themselves fit. They walk, they laugh, they exercise their arm muscles (glass to mouth, down, repeat). The young chicks dancing down the Boardwalk gaze with envious eyes towards the loveliness sitting on the Cozy Porch at the Cozy Condo. Occasionally a gorgeous swan with a purchased body saunters by, but her vanity will soon bite her in the butt when Mother Gravity claims her prize.

"It was a white dress with a boob job."
"That's a lot of estrogen."
"That feel good?"
"Well, you can just get bent."

Crafty. The ingenious sisters are crafty. They envision creations of beautiful bangles crafted from discarded earrings, so they spread out their tools, their sparkly baubles, and their imaginations to produce bracelets that rival Tiffany, or Cartier, or . . . Zales's.

"She has this special thing for it."
"That's not a skull."
"You've gone too far."
"I call it bongo head."

Laughter resounds to condos all around the bay. Laughter returns from residents who wish they could join the sisters' festivities. "Nickel, Nickel" echoes across the ocean as the winner slaps her cards down on the table. Skill, persistence, luck of the draw, and ability to count points entertain the sisters for hours.

"I can't do it like normal people."
"He wasn't on his med's."
"Yeah, if you have books around."
"Gambling's illegal."

Every moment embraces celebratory activities: an excursion to Ralph's, the local grocery market; admiration of seaweed; the discovery of seashells; the purchase of a new dress; petting Harper, the resident dog. But the most important celebration of all is Jalie's birthday. (Her name is really Julie, but the cake decorator misspelled her name) Happy Birthday, Jalie.

"I don't like you; the rest of you are great."
"I don't know why, it sounded like a bad idea to him."
"A revised scavenger hunt."

The lovely sisters keep themselves busy. They drink water; they dine on gourmet food; they drink coffee; they shop at Ralph's; they drink tea; they strengthen the economy shopping for souvenirs; they drink red wine; they walk to breakfast, snapping photos of flowers & wall murals & gates & condos; they drink white wine; they walk the beach looking for sand dollars; they drink RumChada; they snack on aged cheese & artichoke dip; they drink bourbon; they watch award-winning movies; they drink. This leads to all kinds of folly. "Let's utilize these paddles we found in our Cozy Condo," they say. "Let's rank the Boardwalkers with 10s or 8s," they say. The prepare the paddles and sprinkle their Bloody Marry's with pepper. The view is perfect on the Cozy Porch of the Cozy Condo early Sunday morning.

"Ah, I see it's happy hour now."
"Tequila shots - ordered on a platter."
"I'd rather be drinking with you guys."
"If it's not executed right, I'm going to head butt your privates."

The Boardwalkers observe the Finish Line from both directions and accept the challenge. To earn their 10s, they run to victory over the chalky mark. The paddles showing 8s quickly change to 10s along with cheers of encouragement when the male and female finally hold hands after cajoling and hissing emit from the Cozy Porch.

"That's the final judgment on the left."
"Why don't you just stop?"
"I've heard all this before."
"Rugby - pleasure without protection."

And then it happens . . . tragedy strikes. A skinned elbow. A bloodied knee. A dead body chalk outline. Just as the girls cross the Finish Line on their bicycles, one of them is so flattered by the cheers and praise originating from the Cozy Porch, she turns in acknowledgement, her handlebars twist in the opposite direction, and she delivers a most graceful crash landing on the cement. Her elbow and knee take the fall. The Good Samaritans on the porch rise in unison. “Get some water.” “Grab that washcloth.” “Bring paper towels.” “I’ll get your bike.” “Would you like a shot?” The injured girl nodded. “Vodka,” she murmured. Like a trooper, the cyclist mounted up and rode off into the sunset.

"The purse is the nurse."
"And I did it the old fashioned way."
"That's what pictures are for."
"And that's the way you do karaoke."

The young ones know. They admire the matriarchs sitting on the Cozy Porch of the Cozy Condo. The Nanas and Grandmas and Grammys and fur-baby Grannies are all envied for their wisdom and skill in encouraging hand holding and high fiving.

"You still doing that?"
"One day, baby, one day."
"We have to go all around there."
"That's my recollection; I could be wrong."

“Wear solids,” she advised. “White or khaki, and ocean blues,” she instructed. The sisters bring a variety of blues and greens and patterns and sparkles for approval. They all gather on the beach for their group photo, just as the sun begins its final descent into the ocean for the day. They primp. They pose. They preen. They suck in their guts. They lift their chins. All who pass on the Boardwalk admire the women who are framed by the azure bay and sapphire sky. It’s the Boardwalkers who now clap and high five with 10s the sisters who stand proud and devoted to each other for the final portrait in reverence for the Cozy Condos.

"Ten back at ya, ladies."
"You're all cute."
"That's awesome."
"Class of '72."

The sisters report two more snippets, probably uttered by someone of the male persuasion:

"He comes back, gets her pregnant, and then leaves again."
"She actually enjoys being pregnant."

The sisters clean and secure the Cozy Condos on Mission Bay in San Diego and wave fond farewell to the call of the ocean and breath of sea air. Just like the little Sandpipers, the sisters will remember strolling along the beach searching for tiny urchins, chasing the scattered seaweed, and running from the encroaching ocean foam. Their footprints in the sand will be washed away, until they again return to worship the sea.





Friday, March 31, 2017

Searching for Panera Bread

 

I'm giving up Panera Bread for Lent. Or is it Paradise Bakery? No, it's Panera Bread . . . maybe Paradise Bakery. They seem to be on every corner in the city, but I can't seem to find the right one. I like their squash soup, so I suggested meeting my friend, Martha, at Panera Bread at Arrowhead for lunch. I was running late because I had to take Larry to the vet, so I called her. "No problem." I turned into a shopping center next to Sweet Tomatoes, but didn't see Panera Bread. After checking Maps on my phone, I discovered there are two Panera Breads/Paradise Bakery's within a mile of each other. I called Martha again, "Is it on Bell east or west of 75th Ave." "East," she responded. I turned around and headed east - back from whence I came. No Panera Bread. Google maps on my phone pinned it as west of 75th Ave. - right next door to Sweet Tomatoes! Finally finding the correct Panera Bread, I discovered squash soup is a seasonal item - so I had to settle for chicken noodle. The whole episode reminded me of one of my frustrating dreams where I'm running in slow motion and going nowhere.

     Fast forward to Friday. I had made arrangements to meet Patience to pick up some books. She suggested we meet after work at - wait for it - Panera Bread. This one is located 30 miles from my house, where I will have to travel on 2 urban expressways, in rush hour traffic! Driving a freeway between 3:30 and 6:00 in Phoenix can be compared to riding a malfunctioning roller coaster at Six Flags. I thought I left in plenty of time - my phone said the drive would be 45 minutes. Not in a million years! Edging in line to turn into the shopping center took 20 minutes. Happy Hour Haven during March Madness is not someplace where you want to search for a Panera Bread on a Friday at dusk.

     Then there was my critique group who agreed to meet at Panera Bread on Scottsdale Road just south of the 101 on Sunday afternoon. I was just leaving my house when Joanne called, "That particular Panera Bread has been closed." (It must have been a Paradise Bakery.) At the same time, my phone buzzed with a call from Rita, "Joanne must have meant the Panera Bread on Tatum and Shea." I responded, "There's one at Tatum and the 101." Phone buzz, "Let's meet at the one on Raintree. I already called Rita." I found the one on Raintree, but Rita was driving around Tatum and the 101 looking for the Panera Bread - or is it Paradise Bakery? I found Joanne in the parking lot of the Panera Bread on Raintree, so we called Rita. She was not happy, but said she would drive over to meet us. Visions of the Keystone Cops danced in my head.

     Monday morning I had made arrangements to meet for coffee with Beth at - you guessed it - Panera Bread. "Which one?" "The one on the northeast corner of Tatum and Shea." My brain recorded Tatum and Cactus. I drove to the designated corner, but no Panera Bread. She must have meant southwest corner. Nope, no Panera Bread there. I could see one being built on the northwest corner, but it was not open yet. Out comes the phone, and I see a pin for Paradise Bakery inside the mall - that must be the one. I parked my car and headed in the mall, marching in step with the morning mall walkers. It was way on the other side of the mall, so I got my walk in for the day. No Beth. The only way I communicate with her is through messenger on Facebook. Pitiful, huh. So I pulled out my phone - and low and behold I discovered my note about the Panera Bread at Tatum and Shea. I messaged her, apologizing, and said I was on my way. I was certain she was sitting at a table scrolling through Facebook waiting for me. I got to Panera Bread at Tatum and Shea - and after sweeping through the seating areas - I didn't see Beth anywhere. She must have gotten tired of waiting for me. Hungry after my journey, I ordered some comfort food and settled at a table outside to calm down. As I was drinking my coffee, Beth walked up. She had forgotten about our meeting and came after she saw my Facebook message.

     So, no more Panera Bread for me . . . or until October when I can enjoy some squash soup!


Monday, December 5, 2016

The Christmas Tree


I stand in the center of a grove, surrounded by towering beauty. I look around me, admiring the perfect arms of the ones closest to me. I envy the symmetrical way their boughs stretch out at the bottom and gracefully taper to a point at the top. I am shorter than the rest and am jealous of the way they stretch towards the sky, tickling the puffy clouds floating by.

The soft breezes bring crisp air, and I know the best time of the year is quickly approaching. Soon white tufts of cotton will fall from the heavens and settle on my branches, making me proud to wear a dusting of soft snow. Dressed in a coat of white makes me feel just as pretty as the giants standing next to me.

It is the time of year when packs of families come to choose their favorite to take home and dress up in necklaces of silver tinsel and earrings of red and green. I have always wondered what it would be like to shine in a window with ribbons and bows tucked beneath my skirt. But for the past five years, I have never been chosen. In those five years, I never seem to grow an inch.

Here come the children, dressed in padded clothing and black boots. They squeal while their golden-haired dog sniff my trunk. Maybe this will be the family who chooses me.

“This one is too short and too scrawny,” growls the man as he shakes my branches.

The dog starts to dig a hole around my base. “I think it’s infested with bugs,” cries the child as he pulls the dog’s leash.

“Here’s the best one!” announces the teenager, pointing to the neighbor on my right.

They fell my giant friend and carry him through the forest, high on their shoulders, to their car. My spine slumps a little further, and my arms droop to the ground.

As the veil of night shades the sun, the weekend ends its storm of activity. Several of my friends have been chosen, but I remain, a little shorter, a little more crooked, one of my boughs chopped off by a careless hatchet. I start to weep as the rain washes away my white cloak.

The morning sun shines a little brighter because the farm appears a little thinner. The warmth fails to lighten my spirits.

I observe a little girl and her parents off in the distance slowly making their way in my direction. I try to stand taller, but my crooked back pulls my crown forward. When they reach my tuft of land, I study the little girl. Her crutches wrap around her elbows and stretch to the ground. Her feet turn together toe to toe. She slumps forward as she braces herself firmly in front of me.

“I want this one!” she announces, pointing at me.

“But it’s smaller than the rest and it doesn’t stand straight,” argues her father.

“It’s just like me,” the little girl observes.

“Then this is the one we shall choose,” states her father.

They gently release me from my forest home and wrap me in twine. The ride on top of the car is both exhilarating and scary. They give me warm water to drink and display me in their living room in front of the picture window, just as I have always imagined. They dress me in silver and gold shiny bobbles; drape me in a red feathery boa, and string blinking lights around my arms. They hang the heavier ornaments on my backside so I stand a little taller. They hang larger ornaments on my side to hide my missing bough. The father lifts the little girl up so she can crown my head with a star. I smile at my reflection in the window. I have never felt more beautiful.

I will miss my friends at the Christmas Tree Farm, but I know that I was planted with the ultimate goal of some day glowing in a family’s home.