Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Sour on Power

Or its lack during a blackout! I just discovered this poem I wrote on December 8, 2020 at 1:50 pm. Based on this text the power had been out for well over 12 hours and I was getting pretty anxious about getting it back. Since I forgot I wrote it, I’m saving/sharing it here, where I’m pretty sure I’ll forget about it again. At least it will be somewhere other than just on my phone or iPad.

Listen!
You can hear the wind howl
And feel it shaking the house
As the dog’s quick to growl
And is shushed by my spouse.

Patience!
SCE proactively turned off our power
Last night at 7 was when it went dead
Hoping now in the kitchen the milk doesn’t sour
Yet the butter I’ve found is so easily spread.

Worry!
It’s not just the reefer I worry about
It’s more than the food that might spoil
It’s my iPhone’s ability to let me shout out
When its battery gets low on oil.

Resignation.
So I sit here and wait for my phone to go dead
And try to ignore angry thoughts in my head
Cause they told us the power won’t be back ’til tomorrow
And I’ve little to do save to drown in my sorrow.


Transference

What follows is an attempt at writing a short story from something like ten years ago. It’s based on an actual experience of mine that was both enlightening and humbling.

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house. 

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak. 

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset. 

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.  

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.” 

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring. 

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t. 

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he wanted to do something about it. 

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business. 

James walked slowly over to the bed. Angela was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes. 

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room. 

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better. 

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle. 

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation. 

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring. 

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction. 

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on. 


First Week On My Own

This was my first week running the business I’ve been working at for nearly eight months. The owner had to return to England with his family to renew their visas and for him to take care of some family business.

One of our three warehouses

It wasn’t a surprise. He had asked me early on if I was prepared to do it and I told him I would be happy to. Today was fairly slow, but the guy who’s been helping me out—and who I’m training to replace me when I get a job more suitable to my skills—decided not to come in.

I had to do a bit more than I expected to and by the end of the day I was whipped. I don’t generally have any problems doing the physical work I have to accomplish each day, but I ain’t no spring chicken and some days I really do feel my age. Today was one of them.

Going to bed early so I have the best chance of getting a refreshing night’s sleep. It will be another two and a half weeks before the boss returns. Fortunately, there are cell phones, texting, and email.


Preserving My Past

This is kind of a #FlashbackFriday#FF, since I missed #ThrowbackThursday#TT, though it’s more of just an addition to my life story as made possible through the wonders of Facebook and, especially, the Timeline. Since its inception, I have seen my Timeline as a way to share contemporaneously, as well as retrospectively. I have used it as a way to share both my present and my past, the latter being primarily with the thought my two daughters will one day be able to see who I was, in some sense from the beginning. If others enjoy it, that’s a bonus. Hell – I enjoy it myself once in a while and it gives me a reason to slowly digitize some of my favorite actual, printed photos, which would not be shareable other than in person if I didn’t scan and post them. This seems like as good a place as any; better than most.

The picture I am here sharing was taken quite some time after I owned the business that resided in this small, unassuming space. Nevertheless, the size and location haven’t changed since January of 1967, when my father (fearing I was on the road to becoming a bum) purchased what was then DEB’s Snack Shop and I began managing it. We were partners. My job was to spend 14 hours a day there and his job was to show up once a day and get pissed at me for something I neglected to do or didn’t do properly, as he saw it. He was very good at his job and so was I, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he performed his special task.

This little place consisted of 14 stools and about a 10′ takeout counter. It sat in a parking lot across the street from the main entrance of the May Company store on Hill St., between 8th and 9th Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. It was small, but it was busy . . . and quite lucrative, especially for a nineteen-year-old who had recently just barely escaped High School.

It was here I learned some of the more valuable lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from. Perhaps the most important of them was given by my father when he admonished me to never ask anyone who worked for me to do something I wasn’t willing to do as well. I had five employees and every one of them was older than me, one by around thirty years. Earning their respect was of the utmost importance. Now that I think about it, I was fortunate to be raised with respect for most everyone. Another valuable lesson, which made this primary business one much easier to aspire to.

I also learned what I have always considered my first real marketing and sales lesson. This place was a snack shop. Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, ham sandwiches, fries, etc. We also opened up early enough for breakfast, so eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc. Of course, there were other items and most of the food was marked up 300%, that is the cost of the food item was generally 1/3 of the price we charged.

Then there were soft drinks, none of which were served in cans or bottles. We had a dispenser. The cost of a large soft drink was marginally more than a small one and the difference in cost of the cups was about a penny. The difference in profit, however, was spectacular, with the price of a large drink around two and a half times what the small one went for. I think it was $0.10 and $0.25. Let’s say I made $0.07 (in today’s money that would be $0.50) profit from the small drink. Since the cost of the large drink was marginally more than the small – let’s say $0.05 instead of $0.03 – I made a profit of $0.20 ($1.42 today) on the large drinks.

That’s the data behind it, but the real lesson was in behavior. Over a period of time, I did some experimenting. I didn’t keep a little notebook, nor did I design a devilishly clever test. People would place an order like “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a Coke.” I merely responded in one of two ways and noted the difference in results. If I asked them “large or small” they would frequently opt for the small. However, if I merely said “large?”, they would seldom say “no”.

I don’t know how much more money I made by doing this, but I’m reasonably certain it was on the order of a few dollars a day. Extrapolated out over a year’s time, that would be around an extra couple of grand in today’s money. Not a bad result. Unfortunately, I didn’t last a year, but that’s another story. I have no regrets, btw.

PS – The name of the place in the pic is JEMP’s, which stood for Jerry, Eileen, Marshall, and Penny . . . the Silversteins. Jerry, who had worked at the Grand Central Market with my father for many years, bought the business at a discount when I kind of abruptly told the old man I was through with it. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. This was the Summer of Love, 1967. The rest, as you no doubt know, is history.


Speeding To Work

You may have heard of jury nullification, where a jury has the power to ignore the judge’s instructions and renders a verdict based on its belief in how justice must be meted out.

Since I started my new job in Agoura Hills, which involves a 25 mile drive mostly on freeways (118 -> 25 -> 101) I’ve noticed what I’m calling driver (or speeder) nullification. Shortly after transitioning from the 118 W to the 23 S there are numerous battery-powered signs on both sides of the freeway that say the speed limit is 55 MPH. They also have radar capability which shows the speed of approaching vehicles. If those vehicles are going too fast the sign says “SLOW DOWN.”

My experience is hardly anybody goes slower than 70 MPH and a large percentage of the traffic is moving at 80 MPH, though they may slow down when they see one of these signs. Not to 55, or even 60, but slower than they were moving a few moments prior to approaching the sign. Almost nobody goes 55 MPH and I’ve yet to see a vehicle pulled over and being ticketed. Frankly, I don’t see how they can, because just about every one of them is hauling ass (including me.)

It’s interesting.


My Hometown Shines

According to a post in Facebook this photo was taken of the L.A. skyline the morning after the Christmas storm of this year, 2021. It’s been a while since the city of my birth has shown itself off like this.

If you look closely at the bottom right corner of the photo you can see a stepped, pointy building barely peeking out above one of the smallest buildings making up that skyline.

I was ushered into existence on this planet somewhere in the middle of that group of buildings. California Hospital at 12th & Hope. At the time that building you can just barely see (it’s City Hall) was the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles.

As a young boy growing up in the fifties I was always envious of New York and Chicago’s skyscrapers. Now we’ve got ’em and I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

Sure is beautiful after a storm, though.

Photo by Gary Biasi

Gimme Some Skin!

This post reflects two basic “discoveries” I’ve made within the past couple of years. The first is the magnification my iPhone is capable of providing through its camera. I have been able to take some fairly spectacular pics of various items seen extremely close up and in sharp focus. I find the pictures I can take with it are (or can be) interesting and, at times, beautiful and ornate.

The second thing I discovered is that, although I come from a family whose elderly members weren’t very wrinkly as they aged, I recently began noticing I was developing “chicken skin” on parts of my body, most notably my arms. At nearly 74, I expect I can accurately be described as elderly, so I was a bit taken aback at first. I don’t recall exactly how I took the first magnified photo of the inside of my elbow or my forearm closely adjacent to it, but I found the contours and texture of my aging skin to be quite fascinating, if not at times somewhat freaky.

Here are four pictures—extreme closeups—of either the inside of my elbow or of my forearm just below it. I find the patterns both pleasing to look at and a bit mind-blowing to think of how evolution has developed this envelope for us to live in and be protected by. Its construction and flexibility are truly a wonder, especially when viewed up real close. We humans will no doubt one day be able to replicate human skin (we’re already getting there) and it’s fascinating to me to contemplate how we, in a matter of decades (centuries at the most, depending on how you define progress and accumulated knowledge) we’re creating analogues to naturally occurring physical elements that took millions of years to evolve. Don’t know about all y’all, but I’m fairly gobsmacked by the whole thing.


How Long?

Dinosaur bones and desert mountain background
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

There’s a “tripwire” somewhere
Out there, downstream
Where . . . I’m not sure

Some discover its presence early
For some the revelation is a surprise
Everyone’s waiting for it
Our entire lives
Some wait with dread and trepidation
Some with simple resignation
Many in anticipation
Of what lies on the other side

Are there any who give it no thought?
Like our animal brethren
Who live their lives on a daily basis,
Not as an ongoing saga

Many of us prepare
In numerous ways
Some useful
Some not
I know I’ve been waiting
For as long as I can remember
Now, however, I’m beginning to
Sense its presence more acutely
I feel its approach
Though it’s still amorphous and indistinct

And each time someone younger than me passes
I swear I can feel its hot breath on the back of my neck


Compensation? Maybe

Every since I developed my essential tremors it’s become increasingly difficult to type, especially on my iPhone. The tremors don’t affect me all the time, but often enough to be uncomfortable and, occasionally, they’re strong enough to make it virtually impossible to touch type.

GBoard Helps a Lot!

There are two things that make it easier for me. The first is using GBoard, which is an app that allows me to emulate Swype, which allows me to touch the first letter of the word I want to “type” and then move methodically to each following letter in the word, stopping momentarily on that letter so the algorithm can identify the letter I wish to use.

The second is its ability to predict the word I’m spelling out, which can be quite useful when I’m carrying on a conversation or responding at length to a tweet or FB post. These two things are truly valuable for my ability to continue using my phone to effectively communicate.

However, I’m beginning to think my phone is really getting to know me. The other day I wanted to type the word “cuck” into a tweet and it wanted me to change it to “fuck.” Then I went to type “dude”in a FB comment and, after I had only typed “du,” it suggested “dumbfuck.”

It’s nice that it’s getting to know my personality, but I’m beginning to worry I might be swearing a little too frequently. I’ll have to give it some thought.

Naaah! Fuck it.


Gloomy

A Little Spring Backtrack

I didn’t really realize until Linda pointed it out, but helping my youngest with her classes is forcing me to relive High School . . . and I hated it! I cut so frequently, it took me an extra semester and two excruciating terms of Summer school to graduate. And she’s only a sophomore!

Concurrently, time is beginning to exert itself. I had no trouble keeping up with my kids through my sixties, but my energy level is waning, probably exacerbated by the need to stay put, which results in lack of exercise and eating a little too much . . . of some of the “wrong” things.

Oh, well. It’s raining (actually, mostly drizzling) outside, so gloomy seems to fit the moment.


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