Musings and Amusings

Archive for October, 2014

Trick or Treat at The Boo’s 2014

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Pumpkin Tangle 2014

 

Happy Halloween, Everybody!!

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Autumnal Interference

I want to write. I should write.

Days like this get in the way …

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Siren calls I can’t ignore. Swept away by sunshine’s grace.

It’s the Thought That Counts

My doorbell rang a week before my birthday, intruding on my comfy silence.

* cringe *

Isn’t that always an introvert’s involuntary reaction?

Fortunately it was the UPS guy in his behemoth brown truck already turning the corner at the end of the block, racing his way to the next doorbell on the next porch.

I picked up the package addressed to Hub; walked down the hall to where he was sitting on the couch; and playfully asked, “Is this my birthday present?”

It is,” came from behind the newspaper.

What is it?” I teased.

It’s the replacement toilet seat for the one that got cracked.”

 

toilet seat

 

Two facts about our marriage:
1. We like humor.
2. We don’t buy each other ‘have to’ gifts.

What are ‘have to’ gifts?

The birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day conventions that dictate you show your love with gifts on these days. I’m not judging those who celebrate with flowers, candy, and jewelry because they are meaningful expressions of love for many couples.

Just not for us.

I much prefer spontaneous, unexpected gifts on non-event days, although traditional gift-giving days have created some gold nuggets in our family lore.

When I was four – back when we had thriving main streets with a movie theater, a soda shop, and hardware, clothing, pharmacy and ‘Five and Dime’ stores within a 3-block stretch – Mom gave each of us a quarter and let my older sister and me walk to the ‘Five and Dime’ to buy birthday presents for Dad.

I bought him this postcard:

orangutans

And a receipt book:

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2014 Version

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The postcard has travelled back and forth between Dad and me as a ‘laugh’ for 60 years, sometimes appearing in family photos or other unlikely locations.

Although I didn’t understand his job at the time, Dad was an accountant and I became an accountant and finance professional myself. I still like to look at receipt books and ledger paper in the office supply store.

Like the toilet seat Hub gifted me, Mom received tokens of Dad’s love through the years including a rototiller, a riding lawn mower and a washing machine.

Yup. Hub and I are carrying on the family tradition of ‘It’s the Thought That Counts’ gifts.

My grandkids have gifted me rocks, dried seeds and countless crafts. The usual – but nevertheless cherished – stuff, all of which is crammed onto a three-shelf display stand in my kitchen to get pawed over each time they visit.

Solidifying family memories of who, when, where.

My favorite gift from Sparks was when he asked me to participate in his ‘Now & Then’ school project – interviewing an older family member to compare my youth to his. Of his six grandparents, he chose me; and the time we spent discussing the interview questions and compiling this book are a gift I treasure.

 

Now & Then

 

Raqi has shown her love for Hub and me through many spontaneous gestures. When she was three years old and we were saying our goodbyes at their front door, “Wait!” she suddenly cried and scurried into the kitchen.

She hustled back with two single-serving peach paks from her snack cupboard.

“Here, Mima, Papa. For YOU!”

Shortly after, Hub and I were moving to our current home. Raqi had decorated a blue (now-faded) frog at daycare and gave it to me one night at their house.

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As we were leaving, she held out her hands, “Mima, give me the frog.”

Why?”

“Wait till big truck. I bring it.”

Raqi had no experience with moving nor had any of us talked to her about the moving process. She brought the frog on her first visit to our new home and carefully placed it on the top shelf of the display rack.

Some people have an angel watching over them. I have Raqi’s frog.

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Six More Degrees of Diane Keaton

Just prior to reading Diane Keaton’s memoir ‘Then Again’, I penned a self-deprecating post about our connection with hats.

I don’t recommend reading ‘Then Again’. While the content – especially her very close attachment to her strong-willed mother – was informative, Diane’s book was poorly written. Chapters did not flow in logical order and paragraphs rambled, making it difficult to follow her chronological life or grasp the fullness of her relationships with family and significant others.

Diane, in interviews, appears charmingly scattered while enthusiastically embracing many passions. In movies, she plays roles that maximize her eccentricity and her underpinning grit. In writing, she could have used a counterbalance to her free-wheeling.

Thus with some reluctance, I opened her recently published ‘Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty’. Fortunately this book is essays which, by definition, have more concise structure than a memoir.

Dane Keaton front

Diane’s topic – beauty – and her broad application of that word held my interest, provoking musings on how the concept of beauty affects our sense of self.

I’m still learning how my ‘writing production’ works best. Right now, that’s filling copious notebooks with whatever is on my mind, and eventually a post writes itself. I have a few mind conversations ‘spinning’ from Diane’s book. Sooner or later they’ll coalesce for me right before they appear for you!

Diane Keaton back

The Time I Was Mistaken for a Drug Runner – Part 3

Fortunately I drove across Illinois to Michigan without a repeat of those flashing police car lights in my rear view mirror. Dad was recovering well, and I remained in Michigan for a week. There were lots of family members present, lots of emotion, and lots of logistics to settle so I was immersed in helping Dad and Mom make decisions.

I kept re-playing my Iowa incident in my mind. Having been fleeced in a scam years ago, ironically by someone posing as a cop, I wasn’t convinced I hadn’t unwittingly provided my driver’s license and registration data to an identity thief.

I decided if I still had doubts after I returned to Colorado and checked all my bank and credit card activity, I’d contact the Iowa State Patrol.

images59QQHGOK

Source: Google Images

Dad’s chemo/radiation plan established, and Plan B’s for local food, driving, cleaning and therapy support if needed, I left Michigan – not wanting to leave Dad but wanting to be in Colorado with Hub.

Lo and behold as I drove the 30 mile stretch outside of Des Moines, this time heading west, I saw two cars pulled over across the highway in the eastbound lanes. Each time the car was boxed in by a police car at its front and rear. The occupants were clearly cuffed, sitting by the side of the road. There were piles on the side of the road as police removed everything from each car – in one case even the back seats had been pulled from the car.

cop search

Source: Google Images

Once home, I got online and confirmed the Iowa information on ‘my paper’ matched the official Iowa State Patrol website and nothing fishy had shown up in my financial accounts. I stashed ‘my paper’ back in my car’s glove box and put that whole episode out of my mind until a year later when Hub and I packed the car for our September 2010 visit to Michigan.

We have our road trip ritual down. Hub drives the first shift when his caffeine is going full bore. Thus he’d be driving the dawn stretch on the second travel day heading east from Des Moines.

des moines sign 1

Hub has a lead foot.

Hub has a deaf ear to my “slow down” pleadings.

I reminded him how anxious I get about being stopped, and I pulled out the “if you REALLY love me, you’ll …” card. I could tell he didn’t think the whole ‘drug runner’ episode would be repeated, but he humored me by staying under the speed limit as we left Des Moines. We didn’t leave the Holiday Inn until 7am, so the sky was light.

About 25 miles east of Des Moines, we passed a police car idling in the crossover. The policeman pulled out as soon as we passed him.  He drove slightly behind us, but he stayed in the left lane. For ten excruciating minutes nothing happened, except for my heart rate skyrocketing as I rummaged in the glove box for my by-now-badly-faded-therma-fax ‘paper’.

Suddenly he accelerated forward, lights flashing. Instead of motioning us over, he zoomed in behind the car ahead of us which bore California plates. Both cars quickly pulled to the side of the highway.

All I can surmise is he ran my plates through the system while following us, and my car was still documented as ‘little old lady; no longer runs with or without drugs’.

I was so giddy, I wanted to shout, “SUCKER!” to those hapless Californians, but knew the karma would surely kickback.

Fast forward to 2014; Hub and I are preparing for our annual visit to Michigan.

And I have a new car with new license plates.

Undocumented in Iowa.

I don’t know whether to place a ‘Bro’ Don’t Cuff Me’ or ‘Been There Done That’ sign in the back window.

Save your bail money just in case.

 

Postscript: I wrote this series last week AFTER we returned from our road trip to Michigan in my new car. We rarely saw a police car in any state. Curious about the lack of activity around Des Moines, I located an online report about two Poker players from California who – this month – filed suit against the Iowa State Patrol for a 2013 traffic stop in which police searched the car and confiscated $100,000 in winnings. The suit claims the officers had no probable cause to search the car resulting in unreasonable search and seizure targeting out-of-state cars. Police still have not returned all the money.  (I’m not sure why the poker players would take their winnings in cash and drive around with it in the car!)

This series is an anecdotal story, not intended to imply judgment on profiling, drug wars or police tactics. I continue to place my trust in our public safety officers.

 

The Time I Was Mistaken for a Drug Runner – Part 2

My alarm chirped at 5:30am. I made coffee; dressed in yesterday’s clothes; snacked on a Clif bar and drove out of the Holiday Inn parking lot at 6:00am.

By the time I exited Des Moines, I had driven the interstate through urban, rural and highway construction areas across Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa – all with varying speed limits.

I have always had an irrational fear of being pulled over by a policeman, so I adhere to the speed limit.  Sort of.

Heading east out of Des Moines, the posted limit was 70mph. I set my cruise control at 77mph.

Conventional wisdom says 5mph is the maximum “over-the-limit” to avoid being stopped by the speed cops, but it was 6am with virtually no traffic, and I was headed to see Dad.

Suddenly – the sky pitch black – flashing red lights filled my rear view mirror as a car loomed behind me.

cop car

Source: Google Images

“SHIT” 

My first thought wasn’t a ticket; it was, “I can’t even see if that’s a real cop car.”

A man in uniform approached the passenger side of my car. I lowered my window just enough to see half his face and hear him speak. He bent towards the window and flashed his light at me.

Uniform: “Hi, may I see your license and registration please””

Me: “Yes” (in process of retrieving them).

Uniform: “Do you know the speed limit?”

Me: “Yes, it’s 70.”

Uniform: “Do you know how fast you were going?”

Me (innocently lying): “I believe I was going 74.”

Uniform: “You were going a little faster than that.” (slight pause) “Do you know the second reason I stopped you?”

Me: “No.”

Uniform: “The tint on your windows is too dark.”

Me: “WHAT?”

Uniform (holding up gauge gadget): “There is a federal statute limiting the amount of tint on car windows, but states are allowed to set a more restrictive limit. Your tint meets Colorado limits, but it exceeds Iowa limits.”

Me: “WHAT?”

Uniform: “I need you to come back to my car while I run your registration through our system.”

Me: ?!?!?!?

Me (thinking): “Get in his car? Police don’t say that, do they? I don’t know my exact location. I don’t know who to call. I KNOW I shouldn’t get into his car. He’s got a gun. I don’t.”

Me (meekly out loud): “OK”

Yes, I should have driven to a lighted area or a mile marker or asked for his ID card and called 911. That’s what you always hear on the safety messages.

Have you been in my situation?

When the flashing red lights came up behind me, was I supposed to keep driving and trust that the person behind me knew I was driving to a lighted area and not trying to escape? When he came up to the window wearing a gun, was I supposed to ask him if he minded waiting while I  – uh – called the cops? When he instructed me to come back to his car, was I supposed to refuse when he was the one with the gun?

I admire and appreciate our police. I trust them. I want them out catching bad guys. And I don’t want to be prey to a bad guy pretending to be a cop.

I couldn’t think fast enough, and I was very scared. I prayed he was a real cop and this would have a happy ending – not me dead in a shallow grave.

When I entered his car, I saw a computer on the arm rest between the seats.

cop in car

Source: Google Images

He typed information from my license and registration. We waited a few minutes during which he asked me where I was going. I explained about Dad. Finally the computer spit out a therma-fax printed paper. I was still holding my breath, not knowing whether this was on the up and up or some kind of scam.

Once he read the printed paper, he handed it to me: “I’m not issuing you a speeding ticket, but I am issuing you a warning for the tint on your windows. Keep this paper with your registration. You are likely to be stopped again in Illinois because of your window tint. If so, this paper will confirm you have already been run through the system.”

Me (looking dumbfounded): ?!?!?!?

He finally explained the I-80 interstate is THE MAJOR drug corridor for drugs that come across the Mexican border into Texas and Arizona. The drug traffickers outfit unadorned cars and minivans with tinted windows and California or Colorado license plates. They drive the drugs north to I-80 then east for delivery in Chicago and Detroit, trying to stay ‘under the radar’.

My bland car with tinted windows and Colorado plates fit the criteria.

I had been profiled as a drug runner!

Stay tuned for Part 3: Drug Running – The Sequel

 

The Time I Was Mistaken for a Drug Runner – Part 1

In August, 2009 Dad called me from Michigan to say he’d been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and would be undergoing surgery in a couple weeks.

True to Dad’s unassuming stoic nature, he followed up with, “I’m fine. You don’t need to come home.”

I can count on one hand the number of people for whom I’d wholeheartedly sacrifice my life.

Dad is on my first finger.

Circa 1957

Circa 1957

Of course I was going home.

I decided to drive since I planned to stay until we made all arrangements for assistance once Dad was home with Mom. Hub couldn’t take time off work and, even though it had been years since I’d driven from Colorado to Michigan, I was comfortable making the drive by myself.

Looking at the map, I calculated the drive time at about 18 hours. Des Moines makes a good overnight stop with a 10-hour drive the first day and an 8-hour drive the second day, timed to get through the Chicago area during the least congested hours – midmorning.

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Source: Google Images

The day of Dad’s surgery, I drove out of our garage at 4:30am heading east towards I-80 with a few truckers intent on passing through Denver before the rush hour bottleneck ensnared their semis. As the sun rose, thankfully it was further to the south with the highway angling northeast, so I avoided having the glare directly in my eyes.

Crossing the border into Nebraska, I thought about James Michener’s historical novel Centennial, which was set in a fictional town in the region I was driving through. Much of the story centered on Native American and pioneer life along the ‘mighty’ Platte River which is formed when the north (Wyoming) and south (Colorado) forks converge in Nebraska, flowing east across the plains.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

As I criss-crossed bridges over grassy draws and drove parallel to dry creek beds, I could see the Platte had been humbled by several drought years. Even today, lives and fortunes rise and fall on the availability of water sources – enough water at the right time. Too much, too little, wrong time can spell disaster. In 2009, Mother Nature was stingy with her resource.

One of the allures of road trips is exploring the quaint, the historic, the road less travelled.

That day, I wanted to reach my destination in the quickest, least complicated way. I sought open highway, ubiquitous franchise restaurants and well-placed gas stations. Pit stops for the car or me; a dash into Wendy’s for fresh-brewed ice tea and a fast-paced walk around the parking lot; I arrived without incident at the Holiday Inn in Des Moines around 3:30pm (with a 1-hour forward time change).

holiday inn 1

Source: Google Images

When I say “without incident”, I should qualify by saying there were plenty of tears accompanying cruise control. I didn’t realize how terrified I would be that Dad might die in surgery. Family members would care for him in the hospital; I’d be needed when he returned home, which is why I timed my drive for his surgery day. But I hadn’t anticipated having to make a call on my cell phone from Wendy’s to see if Dad had made it through his operation. That’s one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make. Thankfully the surgery was successful without complications.

I checked into my hotel room; worked out some stress with water aerobics at the indoor pool; devoured salad, grilled salmon and red wine at the attached Bennigan’s; scrolled through emails and was asleep by 9pm.

Remember Jack Bauer’s countdowns in the tv series 24?

The following takes place between 6am and 7am …

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