Tag Archives: shopping

Feng Shui or Marie Kondo?

Funny how being mostly confined to your house gives you a lot of time on your hands. After over a month of familial isolation, I think I’m finally getting used to what will likely be my existence for up to another year; maybe more. The reason I expect it to take that long for me to feel comfortable going to the gym or eating out at restaurants has to do with my vulnerability to this virus. I will be 73 in a little over a month. I have type II diabetes, essential hypertension, stage 2 kidney disease, and mild COPD. All of these health issues are normally well-controlled but, with COVID-19 that quite likely won’t matter. Ergo, great caution is warranted, IMO.

So . . . what am I doing with that time? Well, it generally doesn’t feel like much, though I do spend a lot more time planning our grocery shopping. I would prefer to have our groceries delivered, but nobody was doing a very good job of it for the first few weeks of this social isolation effort. At first, I went online and spent anywhere from a half hour to forty-five minutes carefully choosing what I wanted to have delivered, only to discover when attempting to check out that there were no times available. Frustrating! That’s beginning to change and I’ve been able to successfully get a couple of deliveries. This necessarily includes several disconnects (for instance, I had coffee from Trader Joe’s delivered but forgot to ask the woman who did the shopping to grind it for us.) Also, nobody picks fruit and some other things the way I do, and we normally shop from a half-dozen different stores depending on what it is we’re purchasing. That’s no longer possible for now.

I also find I’m spending a fair amount of time helping my 16-year-old with her homework, some of which requires a significant investment of time. Today I learned (or re-learned) a lot of stuff about the difference between Napoleonic warfare and WWI warfare, so I could help her answer questions about them. I don’t think I’m capable of helping her with her algebra homework. Although I was in one of the first classes in the Los Angeles Unified School District allowed to take Algebra in the second semester of eighth grade (in 1961) I don’t remember a damned thing about it and I don’t recognize anything when I look at the equations she has to work with. Frankly, I’m not relishing revisiting high school; it was a disaster when I was a student from 1962 to 1966 (one extra semester as a result of cutting far too many classes.)

Now, the point of this post isn’t to regale you on all the ways in which I’m coping—or not—with this pandemic lock-down. I just want to share something I found while straightening out some of the clutter in my office. This “Birthday” card, homemade by my brother’s daughters almost 28 years ago, was in a bag with old photos, etc. I decided to scan it and I’ve share it on Facebook. I want to share it here as well. It warms my heart. My nieces were four and seven at the time.

It WAS a happy birthday; my 45th

A Guy Can Dream, Eh?

Last night I dreamed I was grocery shopping. It’s not like I haven’t done so in the past few weeks. I think it’s because, unlike the past, when I could just stop into a store to pick up a few things, and a lot of our shopping was ad hoc, now we have to carefully plan and resign ourselves to not getting some of the things we’d like to have because it’s just too risky to be out there.

Last Monday (not yesterday Monday) I hit Trader Joe’s early, when us old folk are given an early hour to avoid the crush, picking up just about everything I figured we needed for the week. On Thursday, I had to take my youngest to her high school, where they were allowing kids a half hour—staggered, so there weren’t too many kids there at once—to empty their lockers. Afterwards, we hightailed it to Smart & Final to grab a few things we can’t get at Trader Joe’s.

That’s been it. However, I’ve been constantly thinking about how and when I need to get more groceries. It’s difficult to get a month’s worth of food, especially perishables, and especially when you haven’t done anything like it in your entire life. I think that accounts for the dream. It’s just on my mind more than it has ever been in the past.


Social Separation – Day 10?

I’m not sure when we decided it was best to lock-down the ol’ homestead, but I think it was prior to the entire State of California doing so. I know it was before my County’s (Ventura) Health Dept. ordered our current lock-down and shelter-in-place restrictions. My City of Simi Valley was slow on the uptake, (at least in part) because most of the City’s “leaders” are very conservative Republicans and, no doubt, they believed Trump when he declared this a hoax. While it’s too early to draw any serious conclusions from what little data is available, according to VC Emergency, Simi Valley (population 125,851) has over twice the cases of both of the two largest cities in the County: Oxnard (population 209,877); and Thousand Oaks (population 127,690.)

Clear Evidence We’re Winning The Race To The Bottom, And Why You Need To Stay Indoors.

In the last 10 days I’ve been out of the house to shop for groceries three times. All three were after stores had announced special early hours for folks over 65 years old (I’m nearly 73), those with comorbidities (I have several) or whose immune systems are compromised, and pregnant women.

My first trip was to The Grocery Outlet, a store that specializes in purchasing closeouts. I wasn’t looking for anything other than fresh fruit and milk. There was very little, though I did manage to get two half pints of lowfat milk. I purchased a few canned items as long as I was there. They’ve got pineapple chunks for $0.99/can, which I consider a great deal and which is half the ingredients in one of my favorite comfort foods.

My second trip was to Vons, again early in the morning. They are opened from 7:00 am to 9:00 exclusively for the above-mentioned classes of people. It was pretty crowded, but I was able to shop for everything I needed (except eggs) and stay at least six feet apart from other folk. Even in the checkout lines, everyone was maintaining their distance, so it appeared a little busier than it would normally. That was last Thursday, I believe.

My third and final trip was to Trader Joe’s, this past Monday. They don’t open until 9:00 and, until 10:00, they have two lines form from the entrance. One line is for the same classes of people as the other stores, and the second one is for everyone else. They only allow 20 people in the store at a time and, when it’s time to usher them in, they merge both lines like traffic is supposed to merge onto the freeway or from two lanes to one. They also hand each person a disinfectant wipe, which I was quite glad for as I was a bit concerned about having touched the handle of the cart I was using, I don’t wear gloves, but I’m scrupulous about not touching my face with my hands until I return home and wash them thoroughly.

The store was better stocked than I had ever seen it in my over twenty years here. Since there weren’t too many people inside, it was easy to avoid getting close to others. I was able to purchase everything on my list, including eggs! Checkout was fast since it was hardly crowded. I remarked to the guy who checked me out how fully stocked the store was and he said they had just received the first order they actually requested. Up until that order, they were merely accepting whatever the warehouse sent to them.

So . . . that’s about the extent of my forays out into the world in the past ten or so days. I also participated in an interesting Zoom chat with a friend in France, which included several others from different parts of the world. We were discussing the new world of virtual working, something I had introduced to Rocketdyne well over a decade ago and which, unfortunately, had never caught on to the extent it is now necessary. It was an interesting and calming experience.

I’m not planning on going out again for at least another four or five days. I’d like to make it a week before returning, but we may run out of eggs before next Monday.

One last thing; I wonder how many others have experienced the same thing. As a family, our grocery shopping habits have always been pretty ad hoc; that is, we make lists, but we go shopping sporadically. Sometimes we might not go for a few days and others we might go every day for several days in a row. We shop at Costco, Vons, Trader Joe’s, The Grocery Outlet, Sprouts, and others, keeping separate lists for the things we need from each of them (though a couple are at least partially interchangeable.)

We can’t do that any longer. We’re changing our habits so we can shop for a week at one place and at one visit. This has not been our MO, and I find myself struggling a little bit. I am thankful to live where we do, as there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of anything other than paper goods (TP and PT) which people (er . . . I mean idiots) have been hoarding. Fortunately for us, we buy those things at Costco and normally have at least a month’s supply out in the garage.

Also, many people have offered to shop for us and I’m considering taking one of them up on their generosity. What’s holding me back is my feeling that there’s no reason for them to expose themselves. Although I’m older and somewhat compromised, there’s no guarantee they won’t get sick and, from what I’ve read, even those who recover and never require intubation, there may be significant, residual, life-long diminution of lung function. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.


Hunkering Down

After hearing a television pundit suggest that millions of people are terrified of what’s happening with the Corona Virus, I got to thinking about it and posted the following on Facebook:

“I’m not terrified, but I am dealing with the reality I may not survive this pandemic. I’m nearly 73 and have numerous underlying conditions, including mild COPD. My family and I are isolating in our home, but we need groceries now and then. I’ve been out a couple of times in the past week, but I’ve been careful to maintain distance and refrain from touching my face until I get home and can wash my hands.

“There are, however, numerous vectors and I have a hard time imagining I can avoid them all. I normally don’t get colds or the flu, but I had an as yet unexplained episode of pulmonary distress that lasted a couple of months and finally dissipated with a regimen of Prednisone, but not until I’d coughed so much I needed double hernia surgery. It also led to the testing that resulted in my COPD dx. Needless to say, I’m taking this seriously. I’m sure many of my friends are similarly situated. Wishing everyone the best. Hopefully, we’ll see each other on the other side.”

The Morona Virus

So far it’s received over eighty reactions and dozens of comments either telling me to hang in there or suggesting I do everything from what I am doing to wearing a mask, gloves, and face shield any time I go to the grocery store.

I’m sticking with the protocols I’m following, though may adjust if things deteriorate, which it seems likely they will.

This morning I did go to Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries we needed. After I returned, I posted about it (actually, I checked in when I was waiting in line, sharing a picture of the two lines they were using – one for old farts like me and one for the younger folk) and responded to a couple of friends with the following comments:

“This worked out fine. Everybody pretty much stayed at least six feet away from each other. When we went in, they allowed about twenty people at a time so it’s not crowded and you can maintain distances. I have never seen this store as well stocked as it is now. The guy who checked me out said this was their first order that they actually wrote, i.e. they were just taking whatever the warehouse was sending until now. When we went in it was a mix of us old farts and then those under 65. We were each handed a disinfectant wipe as we walked in, so I wiped down the handle I’d been touching and wiped my hands thoroughly. It’s a challenge opening TJ’s produce bags without licking my fingers, but I got ‘er done. I waited about 10 minutes and was in the store no more than 10 minutes. I’m pretty sure we can remain inside now for at least a week before I’ll have to either venture outside or take someone up on their generous offers to shop for us, though I just don’t feel right exposing others regardless of my situation.”

and, in response to a suggestion I have my children, who are 16 and 18, shop for me, I wrote:

“Being a bit compromised myself (Type II Diabetes, essential hypertension, Hep C, stage 2 kidney disease, and COPD-all mild and not currently life threatening) I’m wary, but I don’t like the idea of risking my children. My understanding is the disease can severely compromise lung function for the remainder of one’s life and I’ve already lived enough for two or three. I also have good life insurance and a pension that will continue as long as Linda lives. I do take what I consider prudent steps to avoid contamination, but you can’t just wipe down every damned thing in the world. Is everyone wiping down their mail? I imagine some folks are, but I’m not in that camp.”

So . . . the adventure continues. Currently, in my hometown of Simi Valley, California, there are eleven cases of COVID-19. That’s double what they were two days ago. This is a very conservative city in CA and I have no doubt many residents (and a majority of the City Council, including the Mayor) believed this was a hoax because you-know-who told them it was. Some undoubtedly still believe it to be one. I expect the number of cases to increase dramatically in the next week or so.


Celebrating Sociopathy At The Grocery Store

Shopping Cart in Parking Space

This is one of many photos I found addressing this issue. Clearly, I’m not alone.

This post was the second in my “Cranky Curmudgeon” period. 😉 It represents a behavior I have long been irritated by, mostly because of what it says to me about the nature of so many people. It’s not as dangerous as similar behavior on the road while driving, but it’s still mildly disturbing and it happens far too often to be seen as a mere aberration. In fact, while looking for a suitable graphic to accompany this post, I was surprised at how many people have registered their anger at those who do this.

Originally Posted 24 February 2006

GROCERY SWINE

I think there are numerous ways in which our country’s celebration of the individual is unhealthy and counter-productive. One of them is clear to me whenever I go grocery shopping. There are two behaviors of many shoppers who demonstrate this. The first is those lazy jerks who, having either picked something up they no longer wish to purchase, or whose children have grabbed something from the shelf, leave it wherever they are when they change their minds or discover their little darlin’s behavior.

Now, if it’s a bag of rice or a can of soup, the only damage is it creates extra work for the folks working in the store. I suppose I shouldn’t say “only damage” as even the creation of extra work translates into greater cost and, eventually, higher prices. Even worse, though, is the tendency of those who decide they no longer wish to purchase something which needs refrigeration, to leave it next to the potato chips, where they happen to find themselves when their befuddled minds finally comprehend the shallowness of their culinary desires.

Add to that the folks who buy things they don’t really want, but wish to “try out”, and then return it after they’ve given it a go, and you’ve got some large ancillary costs that have to be passed on in order for expected profits to be realized. This “trying out” behavior isn’t limited to grocery stores, btw, but we’ll stick to that option for now.

There’s another thing that truly irks me. I’m not saying I lose any sleep over it. In fact, generally by the time I’ve left the parking lot I’ve forgotten about it. That may be why it’s taken me years to reach the point where I can remember to say something about it. But it does make my blood boil a little when I see it happening. It’s not as egregious, but it’s somewhat related to the practice of perfectly healthy people parking in handicapped spots (even if they’ve managed to con their Doctor into helping them get a handicapped placard).

What I refer to is those who, having transferred their groceries from the shopping cart into their vehicle, now feel it is their right to leave that shopping cart in the parking space next to them. Most of these people are actually thoughtful enough to place the front wheels onto the median strip that divides the parking lot, but some will even leave their carts just sitting next to them, right in the middle of a spot. I suppose this wouldn’t matter much in an area which saw little traffic, but in a busy store it can be a bit of a problem.

What bothers me about this is the message, which is “My time is more important than yours. My convenience is more important than yours.” I can’t figure out how much of this is sheer laziness, outright stupidity, or semi-pathological sociopathy. I’m inclined to think it comes from a culture which is increasingly slanted toward the “me-first, you never” mentality; a belief that life is a zero sum game and you have to grab all you can get or someone else will take it and you’ll be left holding the bag.

This is, undoubtedly, a theme I will continue to harp on as I touch on other subjects in my curmudgeonly quest, not to right all wrongs, but merely to anger those who commit these wrongs and – perhaps – spur others to action in calling people to task when they exhibit these piggish qualities.


This was written nearly nine and a half years ago. Unfortunately, not only hasn’t this issue gone away, I’m pretty sure it’s actually worsened, with the me first, you never attitude it displays spreading to other activities and behaviors. I console myself with the belief the darkest hour is just before the dawn, though I can’t help wonder just how much darker it can get.


My Comfort Food of the Fifties

Pineapple & Cottage Cheese

Pineapple Chunks and Cottage Cheese – Lots of Juice

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley during the 1950s, a time many have suggested was idyllic here in the U.S. While we know that’s far from the truth, it was a time when we didn’t lock our doors and kids were allowed to stay out past dark; at least in Panorama City, where I lived. I traveled between our house and my friend’s house around the other side of our block not by sidewalk, but by cinder block fences and back yards.

It was, indeed, a much simpler time; if not in general, at least for a kid. Or so it seems to me. I don’t recall parents being worried about pedophiles or kidnapping or one of dozens of concerns expressed by today’s parents. In fact, most adults I came into contact with wanted the kids out of the house; the more frequently and longer the better. Kids were, after all, better seen than heard and the best way to keep them quiet was to send them away, preferably outdoors.

I got to thinking about this because yesterday I treated myself to one of my oldest comfort foods, which also reminded me of just how simple some things were. My comfort food – this particular one, that is – consists of two ingredients: Pineapple chunks and cottage cheese. I did change them a wee tad, due to the needs of my diet and the availability of items that didn’t exist back then. I used pineapple in its own juice instead of heavy syrup and low-fat cottage cheese instead of plain old whole milk cottage cheese.

 

Franco-American Spaghetti

Seasoned ground beef mixed with this stuff made for one happy boy back then.

I was in heaven and made three substantial servings out of the can of pineapple and the tub of cottage cheese I purchased. It’s gone, and I’m sated. I find myself now thinking about another comfort food – also pedestrian by current standards – that I enjoyed as I was growing up back then. My mother used to brown a pound of ground meat, seasoning it with lots of garlic powder, then mix it in with a can of Franco-American Spaghetti. I introduced my oldest daughter to it a while back and, in the process, managed to raise my blood pressure dramatically due to the very high salt content of the spaghetti.

Regardless, she loved it and I’ll probably do it again . . . I just won’t eat so much, or so I’m telling myself.

I have other favorite comfort foods – good, garlicky kosher pickles for one, but these two are biggies, and they really do bring me a modicum of comfort; perhaps especially because I can’t indulge in them very often any longer. I don’t mean to sound like a marketer here, fishing for comments, but I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s favorite comfort foods. I’m sure there’s a huge variety.


How To Shop

Clothing for entering a blast freezer

This is what I should have been wearing!

Many years ago, when I was in the wholesale food business with my father and brother, we got a new customer who sold to many high-end restaurants. Many would recognize the names of these famous Hollywood eateries, all of which were very successful and (bonus) somewhat recession-proof. This was a very good thing for us, as it provided a substantial boost to our gross income. I became the schlepper; the one who had to drive around every morning and pick up the items our new customer needed to service his clientele. I did not mind. I was young and full of energy and truly enjoyed arising very early in the morning to greet the day.

My job meant driving around every morning, picking up the items that had been ordered and getting them to our customer’s location, where they would be either stored temporarily prior to delivery, or further prepared for later  delivery to their customers. Generally, three days of the week required me to enter as blast freezer that was forty degrees below zero; so cold that it had no solid doors, merely thick plastic curtains as a safety measure, ensuring no one could be accidentally locked in. The freezer was huge and the doors big enough to accommodate a large forklift laden with several palettes of product.

I never had to pick up more than I could carry out by hand, so I wasn’t in there for very long. As a result, I made the decision not to spend the money to purchase the kind of clothing that I would have needed had I been required to spend more than a few minutes in that freezer. I would put on a sweatshirt above my regular shirt, a jacket, and a white butcher’s coat on top of that. Still, I can’t recall a time I was in there more than a minute before I found myself wondering what it would be like to freeze to death. It was painful almost from the instant I pushed aside those curtains and stepped inside!

This meant I would generally stand outside of the freezer for a few minutes and mentally chart the shortest course to pick up what I needed, which would facilitate a quick retrieval and egress. With the exception of stationery stores, which I view as museums of contemporary business practices (and which have those sacred items, paper and writing materials, enshrined within), this is how I have since shopped for everything. I suspect most men do the same, despite never having had to enter a forty below blast freezer. It’s how we roll.


Jesus Laughed at Your Sins

The Laughing Jesus - Click to Enlarge

The Laughing Jesus – Click to Enlarge

As those of us who “celebrate” Christmas begin the long awaited and incredibly drawn-out windup to the denouement of the shop ’til you drop for Jesus season, we’re beginning to encounter articles about who he was and what kind of man he might have been.

Reading these reminded me of my favorite depiction of The Man, drawn by Fred Berger, which appeared in an article written by the Harvard Divinity School Theologian, Harvey Cox. It was published in the December 1969 issue of Playboy Magazine and was entitled “For Christ’s Sake”.

This picture has stuck in my mind all these years because it was the first time I had seen or read about Jesus as an actual human being, not some poor schmuck hanging from a cross. Given the biblical account of his life I knew about, it made perfect sense to me he was a radical revolutionary. Still does. Today, however, I’m afraid what most people think about when it comes to Christmas is gifting . . . and decorating. I can’t believe how many people are plotzing over getting their decorations up. They don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving is over; they want it NOW! Jesus must be twirling in his grave at about 42K RPM.


Are You, or Should You be, Shopping Local?

Shop Simi Valley First Logo

My City's Logo for Encouraging Local Shopping

There are several commercial “movements” gaining steam nowadays expressing the desire of smaller communities to get residents spending more of their money at local, usually small, businesses. Small Business Saturday’s Facebook page has almost 3 Million “Likes”. My city of Simi Valley has spent a fair amount of money promoting the concept. Locally it’s called “Shop Simi Valley First“. Unfortunately, the money that was used to create the website and other marketing efforts to support it has now dried up, possibly never to return. On the bright side, some of our citizens created a Facebook page for them and it’s approaching 1K “Likes”. It might increase now that the “official” effort is unfunded. I think this is a good thing and here’s why.

For the last year or so I have been gently pushing the city, and local small businesses, to recognize the power available to them in the use of social media to market themselves, as well as to create connections that just haven’t been possible in the past. I think, when it comes to marketing – especially in terms of encouraging local residents to patronize small businesses in our city – the connectivity and mutual support provided by services like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp may prove a decisive factor in reasonable, if not substantial, growth.

As I see it, local small businesses can use these services not merely to promote themselves individually but, as long as there’s no conflict of interest, they can also promote each other. Here’s what I imagine happening.

Let’s say you have a restaurant that serves a reasonably upscale clientele. You know there is a certain demographic that’s not terribly likely to frequent your business. Maybe they’ll patronize your place on special occasions, but not regularly. Would it be a bad thing to give props to other eating establishments more desirable or affordable to those people? Would it threaten your business or might it not actually result in your being recognized as more friendly and approachable? I’m betting the latter is more likely.

Perhaps you own a clothing store, a dry cleaners, or you’re a Dentist or other professional or service provider. I see no reason why you can’t agree with other businesses to post on each others’ Facebook pages once in a while, sharing what you have to offer or special deals you’re running at the time. Frankly, I haven’t worked out all the details in my head yet. I’ve tried to work with local businesses and the City to encourage this type of practice using social media but, much like my experience at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I’ve met a lot of inertia and resistance to change, even in the face of impending closure or bankruptcy. Part of it is a lack of understanding and part of it is a lack of resources, but the result is the same. Nothing much is happening.

What I envision happening is essentially two-fold. The first thing is that participating businesses benefit from the following of the other businesses on whose Facebook pages they promote themselves. This increases the likelihood of their being noticed by a larger group of residents. Secondly, it also increases the chances people in outlying areas will become aware of local businesses, thereby increasing the possibility people from neighboring cities may drive on over and patronize our local businesses a bit more frequently.

Does this make sense to you? What do you think about promoting local small business and how well do you think the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp can increase awareness of certain types of businesses? I’d sure like to see a more coordinated, concerted effort at making it happen.


Hey! Long Time, No See.

Putting The Pieces Together

These Trying Times

So . . . I haven’t written much lately. I had been writing about things I believe will be helpful to the people and organizations I’m beginning to work with to build their businesses in these trying times. This has been, however, a period of transition for me and sometimes I feel the need to concentrate on what I’m doing, as well as on my current clients and others who have expressed an interest in using my services. One of those services is not yet writing a blog; at least not this one.

The last few weeks have been quite interesting for me. I’ve been working in earnest with two larger clients, both of whom require a lot of attention and even more learning on my part. They are helping me continue my journey from the corporate world to the world of small business. The differences are stark and, sometimes, very challenging to deal with competently. Frightening is a word that comes to mind some times as well.

I live in a comparatively small town. Simi Valley has a population – according to the last census – of nearly 125,000 people. Not tiny by a long shot, but pretty small compared to its neighbor, Los Angeles. Everybody doesn’t know everybody, but it can seem that way at times. It took a while, but I finally settled on a business model I though made sense and, slowly but surely, it seems to be working out. The model is simple. Provide social media marketing coaching for small businesses.

The model may be simple, but I’m discovering the execution of that model is fraught with difficulty. I think there are two things that make selling my services so hard. The first has to do with the lack of understanding – and misunderstanding – of the role social media plays in marketing one’s products or services; the second is tied to the economics of very small businesses and the current state of the economy. I am addressing the former in several different ways, but the latter is something I have little control over.

What’s both interesting and frustrating is that various surveys are showing greater and greater acceptance of social media within large organizations, but it doesn’t seem to be translating into the same interest and use by small businesses. For instance, I am working with a small development company/landlord that has approximately 30 retail tenants. All of these businesses could benefit from the use of social media to market themselves.

They are a combination of restaurants, retail shops, service organizations, and professionals – each with slightly different but closely related needs when it comes to marketing. The landlord is very supportive of the tenants, always looking for ways to increase traffic and visibility of their businesses. They’ve even offered to underwrite some of my services, and I’ve endeavored to offer a package that would be both useful and quite affordable.

Regardless, it feels like pulling teeth to get most of these businesses to take advantage of either the services available to them or the coaching and analysis I can offer in their proper use. This is an ongoing battle I’m not willing to forsake at this time, as I am committed to seeing my little town weather this economic storm and, if at all possible, even thrive. I’m working on different methods to help and am hopeful that some combination of offers will allow me to be both useful and modestly profitable. In addition, I hope to share more and more of what I’m discovering as I travel this new road. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit:

Winston-Salem-SEO.com


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