People watching is the best show on earth...

Oct 29, 2008


. Oct 29, 2008
11 Whispers

I am slumbering nicely after an emotional day. A close friend's father was laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery and my last images behind closed lids at bedtime are of the flag presented to her mother by a soldier on bended knee. Grief is a mysterious emotion. An old woman's silent tears flow and yet she looks strong as an oak.

A bright yellow light awakens me, screaming through my bedroom window. An engine chugs. Clanging and rattling chains yank me into coherence. I peek through my blinds and see big plumes of exhaust rising in the cold early morning air. It is coming from a rumbling tow truck across the street.

The man quickly hooks my neighbor's SUV up to his tow truck, working deftly with chains and levers. I wonder for a fleeting moment if he is stealing the car. A light flicks on in the house. The man looks at the glowing window and returns to his cab. His muffled voice speaks into a radio. He returns to his levers and the SUV begins rising.

My neighbor comes out. On bare feet she walks slowly to the car, clutching her thin arms across her nightshirt. The man says something to her and she answers. She stops in her tracks on her lawn, near the sidewalk. She looks left and right, down the street, up to the night sky and then down at her feet.

The SUV jerks to a stop and hydraulics wheeze. The man lowers it back to the ground and motions the girl over. She unlocks the doors and retrieves a tote bag, some papers and a stuffed toy from the back seat. After closing the door, she gives him the key and wipes her face.

The man turns his yellow light off and flicks on flashing blue ones. His tow truck groans and again the SUV rises. Moments later, he climbs into his cab , revs his engine and slowly rolls away.

My neighbor has dropped her bag and papers on the grass. She stands alone on the sidewalk, clutching the small bear and watching her car disappear. I do not know her, but I know the car. It is already gone when I leave for work in the early morning and it does not return until long after I've finished my dinner. It carries two young children to and fro with their mother, and sometimes a friendly mutt bursts out of its hatch back.

I turn my head back from the disappearing tow truck to see the girl looking at my bedroom window. I feel like an intruder. Does she see me? Should I go outside? Stupidly, I wave at her. She does not wave back. She gathers her belongings, wipes her face again, straightens her hair and walks to her front door. The silhouette of a small child stands behind the screen door against the yellow light.

Oct 21, 2008

How Superman Defeats Broccoli

. Oct 21, 2008
10 Whispers

The brisk fall evening has me yearning for hot soup and warm bread. I arrive at my favorite destination for such comfort foods, The Soup Plantation. I love to people watch at buffets; euphoria is in the air with so many delicious choices and no limits besides self-imposed ones.

It's a busy dinner crowd. Adults are giddy at the bread station (myself included) with three kinds of cheese breads, baked potatoes, muffins and more. I remember this is where I watched the Bathroom Sneak last year and wonder if he's been back since. The children here provide a stark contrast to their indulgent parents. Most look out windows or twirl in their chairs, eating a bite now and then. They've not yet courted a love affair with food, like we have.

My full plate and I take a two-seater table along the edge of the main dining area. Tables for four occupy the center of the room. Parents, a young boy and a grandfather dine immediately to my left. The boy and his mother sit with their backs to me, across from the dad and grandfather. A bright red Superman cape covers the boy's back and I wonder if he's had a Halloween costume day at school.

The little boy chatters to his family constantly. His mother taps his plate and he takes intermittent bites of food. About 15 minutes into my meal, I hear stronger urging from his mother:

Mom: Brandon, eat the broccoli now. You have to finish just these few pieces. It's very good for you.
Boy: Yuck! I don't like that. I don't want to.
Mom: Stop it. Dip it in the ranch dressing and it will taste better. No desert until it's gone.
Boy: (shakes his head vigorously back and forth) I DON'T LIKE IT. It tastes like trees.
Dad: What do you mean it tastes like trees? Have you ever eaten a tree?
Mom: It looks like a little tree, but it tastes good. C'mon Brandon, no more fussing. Eat it.

Moments later, the parents return to the buffet. The boy looks at his grandfather, who is deep into his salad. The boy looks toward the buffet and then down at his plate. He swings his legs a few times. His hand quickly snatches a broccoli floret and gingerly drops it under the table. He looks again at his grandfather, still busy eating. The boy's hand returns to his plate. Several broccoli florets lob under his table, bouncing on the floor.

The parents return with soft serve ice cream and some fruit. The mother looks at her son's plate:

Mom: Good job honey! Dad, you must have the magic touch.

The grandfather smiles to himself. The boy's mother returns to the buffet for her son's ice cream and the family enjoys desert together. As they prepare to leave, the boy darts away from the table and his mom follows him. The dad collects the coats and walks away as the grandfather rises. He opens his wallet and leaves a tip. The older man stretches his back, puts on his jacket then bends under the table and picks up the broccoli.

Oct 10, 2008

Large Fries and a Side of Compassion

. Oct 10, 2008
8 Whispers

The moment I enter the deli, all my guilt over being there melts away. What reasonable person would not surrender to the sweet smell of dry salami? My frozen Lean Cuisine left in the fridge at work is long forgotten. A hint of sour from pickles and eggs curing in large glass barrels of vinegar wafts by. A great mound of pastrami steams on the counter top, ready to be taken to a hungry dinner guest. Heavenly.

I am studying the vast over-sized menu on the wall above and having a particularly difficult time deciding on German potato salad or wonderfully seasoned fries for my sandwich's side order. My coworker suggests I pull out all the stops and get both. Why not? You only live once, I say.

Decisions made, I eye the people standing in line with us. A woman behind me waits with two young children. The girl and boy look up and me and offer small smiles. The little girl holds a picture she has colored of an orange pumpkin with a happy grin. "JUAN" is near the top of the page in big green letters with an orange happy face in Crayon. She is perhaps five and proud of her school artwork.

An unseasonal heatwave cooks the pavement outside, but the children's mother wears a nylon jacket. Her hair is long, thin and separating with oil at the crown. She wears no makeup and there are no socks between the end of her faded blue sweatpants and her scuffed tennis shoes. Both children wear school uniforms common in this area - khaki pants and a white shirt. The boy's hair is buzzed. His sister's blond hair is cut a bit jaggedly at the neckline.

As I order my pastrami dream boat, one of the cooks waves enthusiastically from behind the counter. The little girl yells, "Juan! Hi!" and waves her pumpkin drawing in the air. The cook holds up one finger and smiles. "Hi Juan!" says the girl again. Her mother quiets her gently.

We step aside to wait for our take-out orders. The woman approaches the cashier, who greets her warmly. She orders a side of fries and three waters. She pays for her order with exact change: $2.60. The woman and her children sit at the counter, she in between them.

A few moments later, Juan emerges from the kitchen with a pizza platter piled high with fat home style french fries, another plate with condiments of peppers, ketchup, and small cups of shredded cheese, onions, salsa and possibly cilantro. He sets down three tall glasses of ice water with several lemon slices in each. Both children's drinks have colorful corkscrew straws.

He pats the woman on the shoulder and they share some words. He shakes the little boy's hand and the young girl can no longer contain herself. "JUAN!" she yells, "Look at! For you!" He takes his pumpkin picture, smiles widely and gives her a light hug before returning to the kitchen. The woman has already begun eating. She takes one fry at a time while her son takes heaping handfuls.

The cashier calls our number. She hands me my bag heavy with a pound of pastrami, potato salad AND french fries in one hand, super-sized Coke in the other.

Oct 1, 2008

Dying to Vote

. Oct 1, 2008
15 Whispers

I am soaking my feet in warm sudsy water in the little basin below my chair at the nail salon. A pedicure is the one cosmetic luxury I refuse to surrender to my tightening budget for a couple of reasons: one, my lower back issues make straightening my leg after contorting to paint my toes a slow burn and, two, my little piggies take on a life of their own if they are not professionally maintained. I'll give up dinner and drinks before I cancel the pedicure.

The afternoon's heat hangs in the salon. My eyes burn with the day's computer work and I let my heavy lids fall. The more the foot bath vibrates, the farther away my cares go. The pedicurist lifts my foot onto the platform and goes to work. Little pangs of ticklishness make me smile.

A young girl's shrill voice rings out. I pop my eyes open and see two teenage girls bouncing through the door. Their energy shows through radiant smiles and easy giggles. They are white, tall and long-haired, one blond, one brunette, with thin jean clad legs and the requisite flip flops for pedicured toes. They take empty chairs on either side of me and continue their conversation seamlessly. After some chatter about last night's episode of "90210":

Brunette: I'm soooo tired of watching it on the small screen in my room. My Mom keeps hogging the flat screen to watch all that economy junk.
Blond: Ugh. Seriously. If I have to hear about that Main Street Wall Street stuff again, I'm gonna kick the screen!
Brunette: Haha! Ha! Yeah, and all the election crap? I mean, who cares? Politics are boring!
Blond: Thank you! That's what I tell my Dad and he's all, you should care about your future -
Brunette: Heehee! Whatever. It's boring.

The pedicurists working on the girls' feet do not take their eyes off the job at hand. They are young Asian women, perhaps mid-20s. They are simply dressed with minimal make-up. Their shiny black hair shrouds their faces as they continue working, stooped over on small stools.

Blond: My Dad keeps telling me I better to register before Monday.
Brunette: Well I'm not voting either. What's one vote gonna matter? Plus Obama and McCain are both weird!

The woman working on the brunette's feet looks up at her, and then to her coworker who says something in their native language. The woman again looks at her customer. In broken English she says, "You vote. You must vote. In my country, people they die to voting."

The girls look at each other and laugh. The woman's coworker says something to her. She looks down and resumes working. As I leave the salon, I notice a little alter in the corner with a Buddha, some fruit, incense sticks and a small American flag.

Back in the Saddle

4 Whispers

I'm wondering if the bruise on my forehead will ever heal. Repeatedly banging my head on the wall while redesigning my blog template has really taken its toll on this otherwise hard-headed gal. It's with great relief and a small dollop of pride that I present to you Eavesdropping Blogger Version 2.0. I hope you find the new look creative and easy on the eye. Take a second and tell me if it floats your boat or not in my sidebar poll.

For a technical novice, it's been a long strange trip. But I've enjoyed challenging myself, well, except for breaking the panic threshold and resorting to the above-mentioned head banging. Even so, I discovered some very useful sites that you might investigate if you're considering remodeling. If you haven't already visited Blogger Buster, head over straight away. Amanda is the patron saint of Blogger blogs. Tons of excellent tips and code await you with instructions in plain English. Her site is why I still blog on the Blogger platform.

As you can see, I'm taking a stab at monetization, mainly because buying gas and food sucks off all my money for treats and entertainment. Although gas is much more useful, it doesn't taste nearly as good as fancy coffee drinks. Although food tastes better than gas, bread and butter just don't hold my attention like the latest thriller movie. Living paycheck to paycheck sure cramps my style. If you lost your job recently and don't even get a paycheck to complain about, please ignore this entire paragraph of whining as you have concerns more legitimate than coffee and movies. Accept my sympathies on that account.

In the interest of disclosure, the advertisements on my blog do contain my affiliate links. You probably already know that, but saying it straight out makes me feel less sleazy about it.

If you've been visiting for a few months, you know that my Dad had a rough summer with sudden poor health. After many tests and nearly as many stops and starts, we are finally heading down the right road with dialysis treatments for kidney failure - a tough diagnosis but one not without hope. So, thanks to readers who sent well wishes. He is doing far better now and I rejoice in that.

Finally and most importantly, a big thank you to all who continue spending time reading my blog. I find it remarkable and quite humbling that readers visit and comment on my material. This blog that began as a way to store my creative writing ideas has become a real source of inspiration, mostly because of your reactions to my observations. Thanks for that.

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