Monday, February 17, 2020

Off Target, So Shop Local

The slow burn is on...

So three weeks ago, Cookie announced he was going to Target.  Well not just any Target, the largest Target in the region.

We needed a few things, and the store was recently remodeled with the latest look and products.  So why not.  The house needed a cleaning product that they carry, and we needed laundry detergent.

Lately, Target's stocking of the store out here in the Baltimore region has been pretty hit or miss on the house care, laundry care aisles.  So I figured I see if this store was stocked better.

What I noticed is that the new Target look is more like a department store selling soft goods, makeup and housewares that a store selling the stuff you need for your home.  The grocery section is still thinly stocked.  But the stuff of life, the laundry detergent, the house cleaning things have been scaled back. Instead of three sizes of detergent, they carry only the huge size.  Need trash bags?  One vendor.  Name brands?  Nope, in-store brands. 

I'm not trying to be difficult but I go looking for Tide, I want Tide, not Up & Up Brand.  Vexed - because now I had to go to another store, I went looking for Murphy's Oil Soap Wipes.  They've carried them for years, and not a sign of them.   So I flag down a stockman and ask him and he said: "We used to carry them, people come in here looking for them, I have to tell them I can get them."  How many people?  Maybe 9, more like 30.

So now I don't have the things I need.  So I go over to the Service Counter to ask if they can get them.  There two people behind the service counter, and an employee clowning around with the older person behind the desk.  No one pays attention to me.  Finally, the younger employee asks if she can help me.  I walk over, ask if this is temporary or permanent.  She smiles sweetly and says she doesn't know but she'll ask the manager when she sees them. 

She doesn't write down the name of the product.  I ask her one more time if she remembers the name and she said "Baby wipes?"

No.  I restate the product name.  "You know, it might be better if you call the 800 number because we just stock what they send us."  Some customer service.

So out in the car, I call the 800-line.  The first call gets dropped, the second one gets stuck in the phone tree, the third call is a charm, or so I think.

A seemingly nice man listens and parrots back what I say, says he'll send it up and thanks me for the call.  Wait a minute, says I.  Isn't anyone going to send me an email even to say they are looking into it?

"All calls to Target's customer service regarding products are recorded as anonymous calls," says the man.

Huh? That doesn't make sense. 

"We never perform callbacks or confirmation emails.  All calls are put into the system anonymously.  You see Target is the most trusted name in the value store category, and we have built our business on stocking the stores with what customers need, and we never want to put any employee in the position of delivering news about any product to any consumer."

Now Cookie has worked in customer service.  You don't to be number one by ignoring your customers.  That only works if you have a monopoly and all the cash in the world.  You take care of people.  You check back with them.  And if you don't have the product, if you aren't going to carry the product, you can at least direct them to the manufacturer for more information on whether or not they make it, and if so, where to buy it.  You know, the old Macy's Gimbel's idea of building trust.

Not this prissy pants.   The buck stopped with him.

Could I speak to a manager, please? 

"No, I'm sorry, our managers are not available."

So I ended the call.

I called back in, got a different person and spoke with her.  "Could I speak to a manager?"

"Of course.  Hold for one minute."

And in a minute I get a manager. I explain what I am looking for, and how the guy I was on the phone with refused to take my name.

"Well we normally don't take that information because we don't want to call with unhappy news...blah, blah, blah...but I will take you name and email, I will get back with you in one week.  I have to send it to the buyer's department.  But you will hear back from me."

I thanked her, but I asked her if you aren't tracking these calls by phone number, how do you tell who speaks with whom?  I mean, did that guy understand his job?  How do you coach an employee if you can't track who he has had encounters with?

"That's a good point."

One week later she wrote me an email and said that the buyer's group in that area will look at the says in that area and decide if we should stock the product. 

GREAT!  You can't hope for more when dealing with a monolith like Target.

But here's the thing, we don't wear Target clothing. We don't shop for groceries at Target.  We are not women or drag queens, and if I were my drag name would be Tempest Fugit.  So I don't need a makeup department.  And their hardware area has been shrunken to nothing. We have no children, so we don't need baby items or children's clothes or toys.   And I don't buy things off the web for home delivery unless they are very basic - like pencils or light bulbs.

And evidently, they don't give a dam what customers want or need or care about.

In other words, Target no longer has a purpose in my life.  I can't trust it to carry what I need.  And I don't spend money where I am not wanted.

But I did find those Murphy's wipes.  Where?  Ace Hardware!  And they are locally owned - they can carry whatever they want.  They need to stock the stores with a certain percentage of items bought through Ace's warehouses.

But have you been in an actual hardware store, lately?  Not Lowe's or Home Depot, but the locally owned stores?  That is where you find customer service.  That is where you find the parts of life, the bits, and nails and bolts.  They want your business and they will look for what you want or need, and if they can't get it, they know who might.

And that got me thinking, the biggest retailers don't need to care.  They have no competition.  They carry what they want you to buy, not what you want.  And frankly, Target isn't inexpensive anymore like it used to be.

So farewell, Target.  I am spending my money locally.   I would tell you that, but you don't care.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Blogger isn't forwarding your comments as they should

An ugly little thing came up today.  Fifty-sixty comments that readers have made were locked in the "Comment Moderation" box.  Many from long-time readers.  I am shocked and a bit annoyed.  I dislike Google and its worming its way into "AI" more and more every minute of every hour of every day.

So I went through and only found five that pestering comments loaded with SPAM.   They were dispatched. 

I also dispatched the anonymous people who complained about my spelling gaffs.  Look, fuckers, this guy is dyslexic.  The mind is dancing to a rumba while the hands move like a waltz.  Deal with it.  If you want perfection, look to God, for surely that is the only place it can be found.  With two exceptions: the Platypus and 45.  Actually, 45 is sent from Satan, so God gets a pass.

Blobby dearest, all of your comments were added, as many other comments from other readers were.

So if you haven't seen them or we haven't interacted, you know what the story is.

In any event, I want to point something else out.


One of the things that I simply can't get used to on the East Coast is the sun setting on a winters afternoon and pitch black by five pm.  I mean by mid-February, its the beginning of twilight, at 5:30, but my MidWestern genetic self needs sun in the afternoon to power through the stuff of life.

Sweet smoking Jesus, I am geeked!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Korporate Kitchen Kreations: The good, the bad, and the ugly

First, the GOOD

This is actually a great cake, and when you serve it to people of a select age you'll hear them say "I love chiffon cake!"  But do it quickly.  That generation is dying off.

Now the BAD

Ever put something in your mouth and say to yourself, "WHAT THE HELL?"

Let me ask you this, when is a Welsh Rarebit not Welsh or a Rarebit?   This.

What looks like melted Velveeta, and isn't?  This.

It's Mustard Sauce.  You use it to make a "Saucewich".   They had to make up a word to describe it.  Think about that.

And I want to know is, why is dad making his own Sunday supper?  Bad divorce and dad is cooking with a hot plate while pretending that he's just a bachelor.  A bachelor that was married to a woman who was never happy with anything it did for her.  Just wait until the weekly visitation next week.

And since it's Valentines Day, the UGLY

"Hearty meals love raisins."

Do they?  Do they really? 

Does good food really like raisins?  Does the burger say to the baked beans "Hey, honey?  Let's invite the raisins to drop in."

I mean why would you do this.  Well, I'll tell you why.  You are trapped in a hot building in the heart of the Raisin Capital of the world, Fresno, and 6 o'clock on Friday and the people in the art department need an answer, two hours ago.

"What's it going to be, Hank?"  Your boss demands. What's the new campaign to drive home that raisins just aren't for five-year-olds?

And you say "fuck it," to yourself.  You go all Dorothy Parker on him and think about her famous quotable quote: "It wasn't just terrible.  It was fancy terrible.  It was terrible with raisins on it terrible."  Time to brush up that resume and step up in life, say Azusa, or Oxnard.

Have a happy Valentine's Day, for the love of God, don't serve the ones you love these last two, or you could be like good old dad, bach'ing in some seedy apartment wondering what you went wrong.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

So we're looking at houses in Shaker...

UPDATE: Yes, this is a point in time where we are beginning the process.  BUT, and PLEASE don't imagine this is going to happen overnight.  It has to be done smartly, and it has to be done correctly.  We are not going to leap and hope we land on our feet.  We have to know that the right things are set up in advance.  So while I appreciate your wishes that we "do it now" it isn't going to happen without jobs, etc., set up in advance.  Realistically, this could take two years or more. 

...because we want out of this Hell Hole of Baltimore so freaking bad.

After the husband donkey punched by some Baltimore Bastard while the husband walked to his car after work last year, I am done with this Hell Hole of a dysfunctional city.

I hate the city.

I hate the nonstop crime.

I hate the rude attitude of people.

I hate the traffic, grime and the filth*.

I hate how the voters keep electing bullshit artists instead of people who can solve the problems of this place.

Right now, the only thing I love about Baltimore is a person: Lamar Jackson.  Why?  Because Lamar knows what he is doing.

I so am ready to blow this popsicle stand. 

So I started looking online to see what house prices are in Shaker.  I show what I find to the husband.   He has been amazed by what he has seen.

Will it happen?  Maybe not this year or next. But he sees why I love the idea.

* And I am not talking about porn or titty dancers.  I am talking about the nasty, greasy sooty mess that oil-burning furnaces produce.  I can wipe a window sill on Monday and it's nasty on Tuesday, back to grimy by Friday. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Something other than politics: Vera Bingo

If you watch Vera, you'll get this. 

If you don't watch Vera, you're suspect then, Pet...

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hotter than Dutch Love: Topical Floor and Toridheet

Its builders promised "Tropical Floor Heat". 
And it cranked that out and more.

Cookie had a bit of an unusual childhood.

While I grew up in Shaker, the older I became and the more tenuous my parent's marriage and divorces became, we started spending more time in Marion, Ohio.  It was never my mother's plan.  But it happened as her parents grew older and needed more care. By the age of eight, the time spent in Cleveland on any given weekend grew shorter, and the time spent in Marion became more frequent.  I wasn't complaining, I loved Marion because were always doing things, going places.

But then I saw this picture, above, today and I started thinking about the "heat" in the places I grew up in and how that heat played out.

Shaker Heights was all forced air and pure comfort. Until the first energy crisis hit and then my mother went into heavy conserve mode.  Drafts were the enemy and the furnace never went above 65 in the winter or 75 in the summer for the AC Unit.   Everyone was doing it - it was our duty to weather the crisis.  Things got really scary when there was a national rail strike in the 70s and the coal supplies at power plants became the number one concern.  Thank God a plumber had to pay a call to our house once and admonished my mother for turning the heat down to 55 at night.  "That's when you start causing problems that cost money and help send my kids to medical school," stated the plumber.

In Marion, we had forced air at my grandparent's house, but horrible ductwork.  So the furnace ran, but only the first floor got warm.

At the farm where my mother grew up, and my uncle lived on and my miserly grandfather owned (no penny went unaccounted for, no credit was sought, no loans were given) my aunt and uncle heated with a Siegler Oil Heater - almost exactly like the one in the picture above - a newer model than the one in the ad to the right.  The beast sat in the living room, partially blocking the door to the dining room, and had to have been five feet high by three wide and three feet deep, but it sat 18" from the wall.  It's outer skin was a "porcelainized steel jacket in mellow tones that harmonized with the smartest room decor."  The grate window on the door glowed orange through the screened over the window on the door showing the firebox and heat exchanger.   My cousins and I would park ourselves by the ducts, which cranked out the most delicious hot breeze.  The stove had to heat the whole first floor, and the house was built in 1914 - before the advent of insulation like any of us could imagine.  So the wind whipped through the walls, but that stove kept up with the best of them.  I am not sure how you control the heat on this model in the picture.  Theirs had a small dial on the front that operated the thermostat.

When I would try and describe the heating stove to kids in Shaker, they thought I was lying.  They couldn't comprehend that anyone lived like that.  I knew differently, and it was very cool.  But then again, they also called me a liar when I told them about the vacuum tube and brass cylinders that shuttled money and receipts between the service counters in the local department stores - Uhler Phillips Company and Frank Brothers - in downtown Marion. They also never got to see a litter spring piglets being born to the prize-winning Poland China sow that my grandfather kept, either.   Their loss, certainly not mine.

When Mom bought our house in Marion, it came with a new beast - a hot water boiler system that used "MODINE" convectors.  The idea behind the convector, which held the copper waterline and passed that pipe through a baffle of aluminum fins, was that it was a rectangle box, that reached up just until the bottom sill of the windows, and was about 8" deep.  The front had an open register at the bottom, a steel panel, and then at the top front was a door that you opened or closed to control the flow of heat.  Without all three in place, the system couldn't warm your hand let alone a room.  But when everything was installed properly, it was toasty warm.

The apartments in Columbus both had old coal fire furnaces, converted to gas and ran on a gravity system.  They were expensive and didn't work well. One was an old Iron Fireman unit with an inch thick blanket of asbestos sitting square on the top.

Our house in Columbus came with "THE NIaGRA", a monster of a coal furnace retrofitted with a gas unit, and a blower housing.  When THE NIaGRA (that's what the sign said on the front, and stated it was built in Cleveland, Ohio, by Forest City Enterprises - oh that of the Ratner Family) burner came on everyone knew it.  It sounded like a jet throttling down with a large CHUNK and a hiss.  After two years, it went away and was replaced by modern heating and cooling.

Toridheet: Hotter than Dutch Love
That brings us to Baltimore - a city with a long, long, long history with "rads" for heating.  They sayRAD-ee-aters" here, but they are RAY-de-ators to the Husband and myself.  Big miserable cast-iron beasts weighing hundreds of pounds and taking up valuable space in each room.  In the first house, they were all exposed - because a "boxed rad will lose 10% of its efficiency." 

The plumber assured us that the rads were more than ample for a 2,500 square foot house.  "You're well over the recommended capacity for a house like this." 

But that charming house was masonry walled and stuccoed over, making it like a kiln in the summer and meat locker in the winter.  And no matter how high you had the "ToridHeet" (A name that sounds more like a bodice ripper than a boiler conversion unit) cranked up, you had to have a coat on your back to keep from the cold that came off the walls, got under your skin and made your bones ache.  Even a new modern boiler didn't help.  We moved after two years of torture.

The current house has a more modern boiler, gas-fed, and it does an admirable job of heating the house, but no clever names or spellings.  It's Blue, and Named COLUMBIA. It is almost silent.  Same big ass radiators, but they are all boxed.  Contrary to popular demand, heat may rise in a room, but not in a house like this between floors.  So the first floor has two toasty public rooms and a freezing kitchen, and lukewarm bedrooms.  The good side of it is that it brings everyone up to speed quickly.  The downside is the $200 bill from the plumber who comes out every year to flush and rebalance the system.

It's funny what you think of, but looking back, a furnace simply wasn't something in the basement. In the case of that stove, it was in the living room with us while we played, while our parents played cards and something you never touched, or bumped into when you squeezed through the door to the dining room.  It was simply a fact of life.  When it worked, it was delightful.  When it didn't, baby it was cold inside, too.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Lost Love Rediscovered: Storm in a Teacup

My father ended up with two eight-track players. One her bought after my uncle in California raved about the eight-track technology. The other, a portable unit, was a gift from that uncle, and it arrived after my father had the deck he bought installed into the house stereo system. And another uncle owned a music distributorship. So we ended up with boxes of records and eight-track cassettes.

The Fortunes, Beatles, Englebert Humperdink - all came to our house in those hard plastic cartridges.  Storm in a Tea Cup, Green Tambourine, Stone Soul Picnic, and I would dance around the library when no one was looking.

But the Fortunes "Storm in A Tea Cup" was my favorite.

The song was far more complex, more going on in it that most pop records of the day. It just wasn't "ooh baby, baby" and " la la."

Storm in a Teacup took you places.  Up, down, off a little this way and that.

One day you're a kid playing it because you like the sound, and then you are a kid who develops different tastes.  As an adult, it was swept under the rug of old memories as new sounds, artists and beats came into the world of auditory pleasure.

And today, rediscovered.  And I am dancing around my office, the dog's seem annoyed.  But this is a song that I can't sit still to and never could.

How could I have put this song on the back burner?  And now that I can understand the lyrics - wow.

The Fortunes had beautiful harmony and were a wonderful group.

 BTW, I know the video is edited, looped, repeated. But she is mesmerizing. Enjoy.

Monday, December 23, 2019

PCIB - the great American seasonal illness

So what is PCIB?

PCIB: Pre Christmas Idiotic Behavior.

It seems like the virus that strikes in the final five days before Christmas has hit and hit HARD today.

I went to the market for the things we need for dinner on Christmas Eve - a roast, onions, potatoes, and carrots.  To get this stuff you have to go to our local market.  "Market" is a fine store, and I trust their butcher department - none finer.  This store is a small market - maybe about one-fifth of the size of modern supermarkets, yet they carry everything we need or want.

Normally, the store attracts lots and lots of people, a variety of ages and backgrounds.  Its prices are a teensy bit higher, but that's offset by the service, which is superb.

The problem is not the market, but the self-absorbed, clueless clientele.  These are people, by and large, who have attained something in life, and given the neighborhood, that is to be expected.  Normally the parking lot can be a mess by those who don't know how to yield, and those who don't know how to park.  But it's not the rule of thumb.

Except on the five days prior to Christmas when all bets are off.

At five days out:

1) people start coming into the exit and want exit through the entrance.
2) When exiting, they don't form two lines so that some people can go left, and others can go right.  Nope, the dullard will park their monster SUV's smack in the middle so they can make the next to impossible left out of the parking lot.  This backs up traffic, and then other dominos begin to fall.
   a) People can't move freely because of the backup, and people who are trying to get out of parking spaces can't exit because they are blocked by the queue of Lexus (Lexi?), Infiniti, Tahoes, Suburbans, Mercedes and BMW's - all of which are IN A HURRY.
   b) This also means that people are now lined up, static, in the street because they can't turn into the parking lot.
3) People back up without looking.  Yes, I know that cars come with cameras, and radar heads in their bumpers, but you should still look.
4) Several cars within 20 feet will begin to back up at once.  None of them pay attention to the beeping, sometimes they listen when horns start going off.
5) When parking they head in at obtuse angles, this means the people on either side risk damaging their cars because either don't have the space to get into said car, or they have great difficulty backing up when the rear of the neighboring vehicle is two inches from either side of the car they are trying to extricate from said space.
6) And people see a car slowly backing up, that is their signal to walk behind the car.
7) People waiting for a spot, or for someone to run in and make a purchase block cars trying to get in and out.
8) People not pulling into the parking space they found, but instead, they have to back into the space.  Most drivers can nail a space in one turn, or a turn and an adjustment move.  But the people who are backing in, by and large, aren't looking at their car screens.  As a result, their cars and SUVs go in at strange angles, and even after multiple adjustment moves, but their review mirror, except they have no sense of space because they are ignoring the parking lines.  And they are still not in the proper position, see number 5. 
9) When they try and leave the parking space because there are monster SUV's on either side of them, and they don't have use of their fish eye back up camera, they pull out like they are the only ones in the parking.  Never mind the car obeying the parking lot traffic flow, this is about THEM, and screw you other drivers, too!
9) You realize that these people are acting like Mr. Magoo - causing havoc in others and blind to the messes they create.

Inside the store, its all the same, but instead of cars and trucks, now we are talking about humans with carts and baskets.
1) They stare into space, trying to remember the ingredients for mothers mincemeat pie, or they review in their minds their entire shopping list while they stand in the middle of the aisles.  Smack dab in the middle of the aisles.
2) They fail to yield when some politely say "excuse me, may I get through."  You get crickets.  When they move you may or may get an acknowledgment of your right of way.
3) If you try and move their cart - because they have wandered off - they are on your ass for touching their cart.  "That's my cart!"  That may be, but how is anyone else supposed to know that they, not you, should be the one who is at fault.
4) They argue with staff members.  Today at the meat counter, a very thin, very young woman was arguing with the butcher over what a pork loin was. When the butcher pointed out the uncooked loins in the case, she said: "No, that doesn't look anything like what my cooks when it comes out of the oven."  Of course, it doesn't because it's uncooked, Miss Dingleberry.
5) In general, they act like they are in a bubble and that no one around them has anything better to do than wait while the bubblehead does their shopping.

Back in the parking lot, tired and mentally drained from 20 minutes in a market, section one starts all over again.

Retail during the holidays can be hard for store employees.  And acting like "Karen" with her "May I speak with the manager," is far from endearing.  A friend who manages a retail outlet said that in her gourmet foods store last year, one of the Karen emergencies that took her away unloading a supply truck with special orders of cookware (When you have to have a flame color Le Creuset dutch oven, you gotta have it, and red won't do) when a Karen came in, asked to speak with a manager because she didn't like the selection of sea salts they carried.  "What the fuck was I supposed to do, fly to the fucking Isle of Lesbos, capture twenty gallons of seawater, evaporate it, package it and get it to her in an hour?  Well in Karen's mind, that was a reasonable request."

Several years ago when I worked at a bookseller, we had a woman came in and took a game of Risk off the shelf, brought it up to the sales counter and demand a refund.  I asked, "Do you have a receipt?" 

"No," says she in a thick Russian accent. "I have returned many things before and they never ask for a receipt."

Now I knew that this bird walked in empty-handed, and the store is closing in twenty minutes so that staff can get home, so I called the store manager, and in a very low voice I asked for Manager to check the surveillance to see the bird walk in, go to the shelf, pull the game and then bring it up, which manager did. Meanwhile, I was lying off my rocker to the suspected thief. "I'm sorry about the wait but they have to get approval for non-receipted returns.  It's a corporate thing."

The manager came up and says to the woman in a low voice "How may I help you."  She listens to Ludmilla, and then says "We have you on tape, coming in without anything, going to the shelf, picking up the box and then walking it up a refund isn't possible."

Then the Manager starts to give this woman the bums rush to the door.  Ludmilla starts screaming in Russian like someone is hitting her and when she is out the door, Manager hollers out "And have a Merry Christmas!" 

After the store closed, I got an attaboy and a nice report sent off to Loss Prevention and I asked the manager why she wished the thief a Merry Christmas.

"It's Christmas and the season is all about the "experience".

I for one am getting tired of the experience.  Between people behaving as if they have their head in their asses at the market, or trying to steal on Christmas eve, I am tired of the experiences of the yuletide week.

Very, very tired.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Suburbia: So much to unpack...

Beverly has so much love to give.  Really she does.

This dress...or the cabinet of dolls...which would you save in case of a fire?

The exciting and vibratory nature of too much color.

Wall geese.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

It's MY house!

Hissing at her neighbors...

So, about a year ago, a new couple moved onto the block, buying our friend Gale and Leslie's house.

We were sorry to see Gale and Leslie move out.  But when you win a lottery jackpot, Baltimore's siren call gets drowned out by Pasadena, California's call of luxury and even weather.  And according to Gale, "Pasadena is saying our names, loud and clear."

The new couple looked OK.  Let me take that back:  HE looked adorable.  She - a foot taller - looked odd.  Then she opened her mouth.  Oy.

We were at a neighborhood function in the fall of 2018 and Gale and Leslie invited the new neighbors along, so they could introduce them to the folks in the neighborhood.  We met them, and while he was actually adorable - like a little teddy bear - she was prickly.

Maybe prickly is too abstract.

OK, she was an unmitigated bitch.

We were talking and I mentioned that I had come across some paperwork on their house that was part of the neighborhood archives and I mentioned that the grandparents of a built the house and that "Famous Celebrity" spent part of his/her/its childhood at the house in the summers growing up.

No sooner than I got the name out of my mouth, "Edith" screwed up her face and in a voice that sounded like Mercedes McCambridge's voiceover for the Excorcist she lashed out an "I know who they are and I have their number."

Even the husband was taken back.

OK, then, let's mingle over here...

Then at a second function this past spring, the New People were at another event when "Just Call Me Norma" and I were talking when the Little Bear and his wife showed up.  Again, there were introductions. 

Norma seemed unable to place the house that they owned and I said: "You know, where Gale and Leslie used to live."

That was the wrong thing to say.

Again, "Edith" started blowing smoke out of her nostrils and then she let loose an "It' s NOT THEIR HOUSE IT'S MY HOUSE.  I LIVE THERE."

Norma, who is in her eighties looked at Edith like Edith had invited her to go out for a fun day of clubbing baby seals.  The husband and I quickly got the Hell out of Dodge and took Norma with us to a chair and table along the side of the patio.  After retreating, I looked over to find the Little Bear shaking his head and Edith completely non-plussed by the encounter.

Even the husband - who has unruffled feathers - had a run-in with Edith at Happy Hour event at a local brewpub when he picked up our beers and turned around and ran right into Edith.  She was standing on his heels and when he moved, she got a bath in beer.


Not "Oh, no," or "I'm sorry..."  She called my man an oaf for something she created.

After that, he was done, as well.   After that, when she approached us at the block party or another social event, we went in different directions.   She is radioactive, she is the plague, she is deadly as sticking a fork in a high amp transformer - Satan stay away from us.

Then, last week, I get an email from her:

"Hi Cookie, its "Edith" (Not her real name).  Cory and I are planning on moving to Raliegh in the spring so we are listing the house in February, and I want you to help me write up the history of the house for the agent."

I looked at the husband and asked: "Do I have to help?"

I mean she has been such a pill.  I think I may be one of the few people that would speak to her if I were to get close enough to her.  But seriously, she has managed to piss everyone off.

There were a couple options.  The first of which would be to answer her, in an email, and direct her to the city archives where our neighborhood papers have been donated.  The second option was to ignore her.

The third option was to help her out.  But from a distance.  I have ten fingers, and I would like to keep them.  So I sent her a letter, explained whose grandfather built their house, but also said that he/she/it isn't for everyone's taste, and pointed out that "including them in the listing may not bring you the results you want."

And yet, I also sit here and wonder what is it the Little Bear see's in this harridan he is married to.

The husband offered up a number of plausible solutions (Head injury, psychosis, maybe she was just a bitch and he needs a bitch to function, etc. and so on.) for her personality.  She's too young for menopause, which is what Norma thought. ("I was a bit like that during the change...")  So I am just going with born a B-I-T-C-H.

I did learn that they were put off by the neighborhood not embracing her as a midwife.   Any wonder?

"When she saw that I was pregnant in September and that my due date was January, she was all over me to be my midwife," said another neighbor, Carly.  "When I told her that I was having the baby at Hopkins because we have privileges*, she almost ripped my head off.  Guess the baby won't be getting her name."

Still, I hope that someone nice buys the house.  You have to live with your neighbors and it just makes it easier when people are pleasant.

But the husband made me promise that when we meet the new people I won't even mention the previous owners.

"Not even to suggest that they smudge the house for evil spirits?  What about an exorcism?" I asked hopefully.

Nope.  Nothing.  NADA.

I also hope that a certain celebrity doesn't find out.  It could get ugly.

*Doctor's privileges - her husband is on staff.


Update, the house is sold and the new neighbors are from Wisconsin!  We hit it off, MidWesterners to MidWesterners!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Still lurking about

Cookie is still lurking about.  I haven't been inspired or motivated to blog.  I will be back in a couple weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2019

It speaks the truth.

The great M.K. Brown crafted this for the National Lampoon in 1986.  It remains one of my most favorite cartoons because it speaks the unvarnished truth.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

When Mean Girls Shop at Chico's

Well is Saturday Farmers Market in Westport (which means lots of Pumpkin Spice, Nutmeg and Jaguars in the parking lot) and "The Girls" meet up and just have to get a picture of how cute they look!

Well, there you go.  Bland sameness. But its all so cute!

Oops! One of these women is not like the others!

Second, from left is sporting a baby bump!  Let's all squeal that squeal that only dogs and crystal recognize that we squeal when we get super excited!

So let's go around and meet the girls! Choose the names that you like best:

A) Kim, Kimmy, Kimber, Kimberly, Kimi, KimBerleigh, Kimba, Kym, Kiki, and Kima.

B) Deb, DeBo, DeeBee, Deborah, Debi, D'bora, Debbi, D.B., Deebs, and Debora.

C) Allison, Alli, Alison, Alyson, Aley, Aliegha, Alis, Alison, Allie, and Alson.

D) Hailey, Haley, Hally, Haleigh, Leigh, Lee, Leah, Lea, LeeLee, and Leelah.

E) Jen, Jeni, Jenni, Jenifer, Jennifer, J'fer, Jenny, Jena, JayJay, and Jenafir.

Want to play?  You need ten names, all the same or sound the same - just like their looks.

And hats off to the oldest in the group: Ms. Fourth From Left.  She gets extra love for trying to dress like her 30 Something Daughter.

*Cookie's new most hated term.  As in "I have the worst case of baby fever."  Who says this stuff?  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

When antique shopping, beware the gravy boats

Such a lovely gravy boat, or not. 

(Note: Cookie would like to thank the Privy Counsel Blog for inspiration.  See the link below in the Source mention.)

You see it in an antique mall.  Or better yet, a Paris flea market...

It strikes your fancy.

After all, the most gravy laden meal of the season, Thanksgiving, is upon us in about six weeks or less.  And its larger than the gravy boat that you currently have.

What's not to love, love.  Right?

And it's old.  People love the odd old piece, right?  Its why Sylvester Stallone is still around. Lots to talk about, right?

But what if I told you that the lovely gravy boat that you found for a steal for a few kopecks wasn't a gravy boat at all.


What if I told you that the lovely piece of porcelain, with the real gold trim, was a not even a piece of tableware.


What if I told you it was really a bourdaloue?

Ah, says the idiot who doesn't know their head from their ass, but: "I just adore their tableware.  Very exclusive," as they drag their fork through the golden gravy enrobing their mashed potatoes.

Tant pis.  Right?

But you see, a bourdaloue (BORE-da-loo) is really not a gravy boat.  It is an 18th personal urinal for ladies.

That's right my delight, it is a very fancy personal piss receiver.

In the days before milady had a powder room, she could step to the corner of the room, place a leg up on a stool, hike up her dress and the layers of layers, and make way for this wee vessel and well, take a wee.

What's that you say?  You need to be excused? Not feeling so well?

We understand.

The bathroom?  It's closer than you think.

SOURCE: The Privy Counsel

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Things that are molded, or Mousse Abuse

Here it is to save the day...Mighty Mousse is on its way...

Can we just capture and release?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Down the Rabbit Hole in Search of Extended Family

Who are her people?  Because we don't have a clue.

When confronted with jobs that I have never done, should not do, or have vowed never to do again, Cookie's stock answer is "How hard could that be?"

It has brought me to great acclaim as an author of local and regional histories, but it has also gotten me in trouble when I should know better.  When it comes to genealogy challenges, well reader, you are about to find out.

About three weeks ago, Cookie's second cousin, twice removed, sent me a stack of photos saved from her family home after the fire that led to the house's demolition.

Both she and her sister, one in her eighties, the other in her seventies, decided that they would rather tear down the gorgeous and gracious Tudor manor house designed by there father for their mother.  Thefire had done significant damage rather than see it fall into the hands of someone who would screw it up.

And living in the world in which  Millenials want to paint every surface white, grey and black, and after seeing what the two 30 somethings did to our former house in Columbus, I totally get where they are coming from.  If I owned a house like that I would die if I ever saw the half timbers striped away and the place vinyl sided, or worse, left to fall apart when someone with stars in their eyes bought it, only to discover that a quick trip to Lowe's wasn't going to cut it.

The sisters had these twenty cabinet cards (1880s-1890s) and carte de vistes (1850-1870s) that survived the fire in the house, and she asked if I wanted them.  I said "Sure" and they came to me.

About six were from our shared family, but the other folks were from her great grandmother's family.  In a small rural area, where your family has been for almost 200 years, you get to know people, and we talk about their people as well.  When one hears "who are their people," you know that the old women are talking about interlopers with 100 years or less.

And Cookie feels strongly that in this age of easy digitization, that phots should be reunited with family members.

So, like an idiot, and with a "How hard can it be" attitude, I started tracing the family lines.

I had done some work on the line about two years ago when another cousin sent me a picture of a dinner held in Glendale in 1927 and there were two people that we couldn't name.

The cousins and I struggled with figuring it out.

Cookie: Its uncle Mel and aunt Ell's* anniversary party."
Cousin in Ohio: "Are you sure? 
Cookie: "Yes, thats what is written on the back copy that belonged to Mel and Ell."
Cousin in Michigan: "Is that Aunt Mina? But who is the man? Uncle Cal is over there."
Cousin in Ohio: "It can't be Aunt Mina seated because she's standing next to Cousin Ole**."
Cousin Michigan and Cookie: "Oh, yeah.  Could it be..."

And then we discovered that the couple we're relatives, but family friends, Mattie and George.

"Well, that settles that," said Michigan.

Well, said I, not really. "Why are they there at a family dinner?  I mean Ohio to California for someone else's anniversary in an age when travel wasn't a know."

"Oh, yeah...."

Turned out that Mattie was the great aunt of the sisters who had given the images to me, through their paternal grandmother who died young.  She was childhood friends with Mel's sister, who had also made the trek from Ohio to California.  Ohio folks sticking together.  Thank God for

So I put that all away thinking we would never find out anything more until these pictures showed up.  And back down the rabbit hole, I went.

Now, if your people are from "Smalltown", Ohio, from 1850 on, a family takes me about a day with down and dirty speed genealogy.   Easy peasy, and like the idiot that I am, I took this on.

Except, the whole thing turned in an adventure into Genealogy Wonderland, a place where nothing and no one is where they ought to be.  Names were topsy-turvey, marriages - the type that are "until death do us part," were mired in sloppy divorces, and people divorced claimed to be widowed.

One branch traveled from Ohio to New Jersey to Dayton (the Silicon Valley of the 1910s), to Illinois (where a few of them split off for South Dakota) then Montana to Ohio within the span of fewer than ten years, all the while depositing their dead in multiple cemeteries.  ALL of that between 1900 and 1910.

Who does that?


And if that wasn't enough, then they went to California!  Their rail road ticket costs must have been outrageous! (Thank God, not New York.  Researching certain things in New York can be a colossal cluster from afar.  Not always, but enough experience has taught me to say prayers that our ancestors mostly stayed out of New York.)

There are name changes, too.  Cookie is used to surname spelling evolutions.  My father's surname is one that has evolved over time.

So this line has surname ends in "mor".  But these folks played fast and loose there, too.  Some converted to "more", some to "mer" and "imer". Another found three different way to spell the name in the plural!  And we're not talking about a hard for the American mind and tongue to wrap themselves around like Lukoševičius, or MacEòghainn, either.   Theirs was a pretty straight forward German last name.  But sweet smoking Jesus, there was variety, even within the same household.

Finally, I hit pay dirt and found someone killed in the East Ohio Gas Disaster of 1944.  And I had an anchoring place from which to start casting some lines.  I did find the deceased gentleman's grandchildren, who would love copies of the pictures.  Awesome!

But there were other lines, and of course, no one I reached out every remembered Grandfather or Grandmother, Father or mother ever talking about their people.

I did feel very bad for the man killed in the gas explosion, and I felt bad for his wife - her father killed himself on the beach.

And that's what happens sometimes - you work these lines to the point of obsession.  Its a logic puzzle, you just have to solve for "X" or "Y".

I even found one man who ran a movie theater outside of Mansfield, Ohio who died while running the movie projector in the theater that he operated. The only way people knew what happened was employees who went to the projection booth to find out why the reel with Greta Garbo jumping in front of the train was started.  And there he was, dead like Anna Karenina, not under a train, but on top of the tenth reel.

And once you find where ALL of these folks are buried, you have to link them together on Find A Grave, too, and then post their pictures.

So I have paired as many people with their pictures, linked multiple spouses, and next week I ship off hard copies of this stuff to the family members that I can find.

I still have pictures of people related to this family and no idea who they are.  The writing on the back of the images is of no help:

"Uncle John's cousin Martha's twins."

Except for the fact that Cousin Martha never had twins since she would have been sixty when the picture of the toddlers was taken and had spent the last 45 years in a convent in Quebec as Sister Mary Maria.

But I will work this.  All of it.  I will find who those twins belong too.  After all, how hard can that be?  And if not now, then a couple years.  So out of the rabbit hole, I come, for now.

I would like to say then I will have time for myself, but the fact is, I won't.  This really is my passion.  And it's my sickness because once you catch the genealogy bug, there is no cure.

*Yes, Mel and Ell.

**Cousin "Ole" - of Swedish nationality -  who married a woman named Olive, but was nicknamed "Ollie", so you have a married couple named Ole and Ollie.  I won't even go into the triples, Faith, Hope, Charity.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fear in the second week of September

Dear Lord, keep me and this nation safe so we can see him being sent off to jail.

Ever since the day of the 9/11 attack eighteen years ago this Wednesday, I have come to dread the week that 9/11 fall on.   I watched it all unfold on live national TV and it scarred me for life.  I still have PTSD from it because our house in Columbus was right under the final approach to Port Columbus if certain winds prevailed.  By the time my husband got home, I was vibrating with fear every time one of those planes came down.  Afterward, the silence from the lack of planes freaked me out.  I don't handle this week well.

So today, the misery started.  The husband called to say that a chunk of downtown Baltimore was shut down because they found a panel truck with an estimated 1,000 gallons of gasoline in/near the structure.

Let me remind you that gasoline - the liquid - is not what ignites to drive a car.  Its the vapor, mixed with air that goes ka-boom.  So they evacuated a big chunk of Baltimore's front door along Pratt at Charles on Inner Harbor.

That truck with that petrol scares me.  It scares me that some idiot right now is planning to try and do something.

Such tsuris!

Page Two

It also scares me that the fat petulant baby that goes by the name "President Trump" will be in Baltimore this weekend address in the GOP meetings downtown at the Marriott in Harbor East.  Luckily I learned of this two weeks ago and advised the husband.  Husband works less than a quarter-mile from the hotel and traffic on a good day can be Hellish.  So he was able to request work from Home on Thursday and Friday. 

Still, anytime a normal President comes to your town its a cluster.  The traffic, the resources, ugh.

When its Trump, its a cluster fuck, because you know he is going to take, and take, and then dump on the community.  If I worked at that hotel, I would step in front of a bus to get out of being anywhere near it if I worked there on that day.

Every night in my prayers I say, "Dear Lord, keep the people of this nation safe long enough to see this cretin in the White House shipped off to prison to spend the rest of his days in the type of humiliation that Leona Helmsley endured."

Page Three

On the upside, Muscato and I will be doing the "Bloggers who Lunch" number on Thursday.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The struggle is real, Babe

Hey Babe, I got your back.

This is the post where Cookie says that he has had enough with that oh, so 70s term of endearment, "babe".

I hate it.

I cannot tell you how much I hate it.

There simply aren't the words.

But I REALLY hate it when a couple starts "babe-ing" on each other.   It's the ultimate turn off.

He: "Hey babe, what do you feel like doing tonight?  Chilling at home, or a mellow movie?  You feel like a rom-com?"

She: "You know, Babe, I was thinking we might try that news Senegalise-Cuban fusion bistro at Coventry."

He: "Babe that is a most excellent option."

She: "Babe, I am going up to shower - would you call for reservations?"

He: "Sure thing, Babe."

Me: "Hork."

Such was the discussion I was forced to listen to during my last visit to Cleveland in July.

There hadn't been that much babe-ing going on since the wicked witch that was my step monster "Shark" and my father were fawning all over one and other.  She was a vile, skanky woman, that one. 

Babe this.  Babe that.  Blah, blah, blah, Babe.

And to me what's creepy about this: it's done in front of people and it feeds on itself.

When I gave "Shark" the stick eye over it with my father, the Harpy of Shaker Heights looked at me and said: "Since no one loves you, this is how loving people treat one and other."

This coming from a woman who was so insecure in her future with this man that she had to lie, steal and sleep her way to the middle?

So much to unpack.  So much that I wanted to shove off that balcony.  Anyway...

When you are caught between a "loving couple" who are babe-ing one and other, what's really going on is that they insist on playing out their relationship in front of you.  The more they "babe" on and other, the grosser it gets because its intimacy that no one but the babe-r's wants to be a part of.

My inlaws who were married for almost 70 years had pet names for one and other and they took those names to their graves.  Now that's love.  And its intimacy.

Now the movie, Babe is just downright cute.  But Babe, Pig in the City?  No.  Too much.  One Babe is fine, two? Stop it.

But all this calling one and other Babe this, and Babe that is like them taking their pieces parts and rubbing your face in them.  It's just gross.

Even the occasional "Honey" is fine, but "Snuggum Bugger Lips" is just over that line.

So the next time you get caught in a Babe Storm between two clueless people, remember - their struggle is real.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Dorian: There soon, but not enough, thank God

If you live within 100 miles of the east coast, you have spent the week wondering what Hunnicane Dorian is going to do. 

And it has been a painful seven-plus days  - 168 hours in fact - as Dorian lathered up its fury, destroyed the Bahamas at a painfully slow pace, and then failed to make contact with Florida.  Meanwhile, the President - who always enjoys being the center of attention tried to involve Alabama in his total absence of geographical knowledge.    The people who make Sharpie pens have enjoyed a lot of free advertisements for their product, that they most likely wish they hadn't had.

For us, it has been painfull - make that painfully slow - because eventually, one of two things is going to happen with a hurricane.  It either comes ashore and effects your weather, or it drifts out back to see. 

Dorian, after its trip to the Bahamas, has been reluctant to do what a hurricane should do: get it done or go away.

I liken Dorian to the sibling you are trapped in the backseat of the car with.  It's had it's a meltdown, destroyed someone's house and now a vexed Mother Nature has packed in the station wagon's back seat with you.   

Carolina: "Mom," you opine, "Dorian's touching me!" said Carolina.

Mother Nature: "Dorian, stop bothering the Carolina."

Dorian: "I'm not touching Carolina."  (And clearly, Dorian has.)

East Coast: "Mom, Dorian is hitting me!"

Mother Nature: "So help me sweet smoking Jesus, and I will stop this car and make you wish you had never been created!"

Dorian: "Why are you mad with me.  You CREATED me!"

And when it gets to North Carolina, Dorian will commit its most Passive-aggressive act along the east coast.   It is not hitting Maryland.  It's just going to be ungodly close.  Like the kid who is not touching his sister, but has that finger about a half-inch from her face.

Maryland: "Mom, Dorian is not touching me!"

Dorian: "Am not.  I am NOT touching you."

Maryland: "You are so not not touching me!"

Mother Nature: Maryland, stop falling for that.

We expect day of wind.  Not enough to bring trees down, but enough to blow over trash cans.  Not enough to cause panic, but enough to annoy. 

It could be worse - lots worse.  When Sandy came through seven years ago it was loss of power, loss of communications and a lot of trees.

We won't be out of the woods until November 1st.  Anything can happen.  And it usually does.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

When you are a fan, you are a fan

The husband and I have a Saturday ritual to remind us that we are still Ohioans at heart.  Once or even twice a month, if we lie carefully to our cardiologists, we go to McDonald's for junk food.

We never patronize the one north of Towson because it has a vibe that we don't like.  Same for the one in Govans, which always seems to have mourners from the Funeral Home across the street ducking in for a snack. 

"Did you see how they made up Auntie?  The veil on that hat needs to bee down.  What's the point of having a net vail on that hat if they ain't gonna bury her with it up?"

So we go to another nearby one.  Unlike Columbus where you have fast food on any block on any main drag, in Baltimore it can be a hike.  So today we hiked east.

We were seated and waiting for the food and starting to people watch - because its great people watching this McDonald's - when I needed something from the counter.  When I got there, there was a wait, of course.  And I turn and to my left is Mink Stole. 

I looked and smiled and played it cool.  I see Mink at the market.  But I also see Maryland's legendary Senator Barbara Mikulski.  I see lots of people around here.  So I get what I need, go back to the table and tell the husband.

His response?  He arches his eyebrow.   "Really?"

He looked between the legs of a clown made of helium-filled balloons and says "Her hair is a bit different.  But yup, that's her."

So I do what any person would do.  I post about the sighting on Facebook.

"Mink Stole is at McDonald's.  She took her seat.  And now she is enjoying a cheeseburger.  And no, I am not taking her picture." 

And the comments start rolling in. 

"Really?  Please take a picture," comments DB, a woman that the Husband and I went to college with at Muskingum back in the 1980s.

The Husband says "Really?  DB knows who Mink is?  That's odd.  I mean, odd.

There are a couple more posts from people who want a picture.  Which I am not taking in McDonald's because we all get to enjoy our cheeseburgers in peace.

Someone else says "I would never think of a Mink Stole at a McDonald's.  But that's Baltimore for you."

I updated, "Finished with the cheeseburger.  Now enjoying an icy cold Coca Cola."

I updated again, "Finished, now she's throwing out her trash."  That I took a picture of.

Yes, that is the Mink Stole

Finally my friend Patrick posts in and says "Cookie, I don't think a lot of your friends know Who Mink Stole is, and that it's a person, not apparel."

I posted a couple YouTube videos - Dottie Hinkle amongst them.

That, right there stopped the fashion comments.

I really wanted to stand up and scream "PUSSY WILLOW" but it would have been rude. 

There were some followup comments.  We got up to leave as well.

One was from a childhood friend in Shaker Heights who wrote: "What are you doing in a McDonald's?"

My response?  "What do you think? Going through the trash looking for that cheeseburger wrapper."

When you are a fan, you are a fan.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dual Poopage

Seriously, what the hey

When you have a dog, you have responsibilities.  Different from cats, dogs crave interaction and interaction.  They want to be loved and part of the pack, unless you have a dog with a personality issue, and they growl and nip and cow you into being afraid in your own house.  Our neighbor has a dog like that - one that they chose from a breeder, but as is the case, something went wrong and now the dog is more feared than loved.   We have two dogs, and they do very well together or with us, but they are happier with us both at home, because we're all together.

In any event, a cat you can leave in the house overnight and it will look up when you get home and give you a look that says "You're back. Feed me."

A dog, who is attached to you will go berserk with joy because "OH MY GOD, YOU'RE BACK! LOVE ME!" 

We used to say take your dog for a walk, but now we say "exercise your pet" because it implies something being done to keep one's dog, and one's self fit as a fiddle.  What you are really doing is maybe getting some exercise, but mostly take the dog to take a crap someplace other than the inside of your house.

Because we have two dogs, and neither of us is Ceasar Milan, walking them both can be a headache.  Rocky, the Pom-American Eskimo mix is well behaved, but Kevin the terrier hound mix is a terrier at heart which means he forgets corrections and can't hear you.   We tried the whole "walkies!" bit but, Kevin has the attention span of a gnat.

The boys are best friends, and Rocky - because he was here first - is the leader with Kevin playing second fiddle.  We let them choose those roles.

But increasingly, on walks, they commit the act of dual poopage. 

Yes, you heard that right.  They both poop at the same time.

It always wasn't like this.  One would assume the position and the other dog wanted to carry on with the walk.  There was the yanking on leashes, the yapping, the sense of urgency that something really cool could be on that wet leaf and that it needed to smelled and then marked.

Not anymore.

They both take turns choosing just the right spot, but when one goes, they both go.

A neighbor who was walking her dog saw it and called out "How did you train them to do this?"

We can't claim this victory.

"If I knew I could train two dogs to do that, I would get two dogs," said another neighbor. 

But it doesn't work like that.  Like musical children in a family, they have to want to form a band or you get resentment and tell-all books.  With dogs, they have to be motivated by some benefit that only they know.

Maybe its because they are both approaching ten years old, but they are in sync on the pooping. 

There are advantages.  Now one poop bag does the jobbie of two.  Walks are now more walking and less sniffing for the exact perfect place to put down that puppy tootsie roll.

Of course, this doesn't merit their own YouTube Channel.  It is not like they are being very cute - nay - make that excessively cute.  NBC News will never do a closing segment on two aging pups who "poop together," either. 

But it is something that is theirs.  And helped us coin a phrase.

The other thing is when you are a parent, you always think your child is better than most.  We don't have any such delusions.  We love dogs and I sense that they know it.   And who knows, this behavior could stop tomorrow.  Dogs are like that.  You know, they take a shine to one place to lie down for weeks, or months or even years and then one day, nope - I am moving it over here.

And while we'll never have Paris, we'll always have dual poopage.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Taking the stairs, one at a time

This past summer, Cookie looked at the aging clock and I will be 57 in November.  In homosexual years, I will be 97.   But I also looked at the world around me and realized that because I am at the tail end of the baby boom era, I have a lot of stuff and memorabilia that has nowhere to go when I cease to be.  Face it, I am not on the upside of the bell curve of life.

So I am sorting, and giving away a little here, and a little there.

One of the piles I gave away contained the pictures from my nursery school on Fairmount Boulevard.  These were taken in my final days at the place before I started kindergarten.   My parents had remanded their divorce in the summer of 1968 - because the first nine years weren't miserable enough, they decided to see if they could make us even more emotionally damaged than we were - and that meant my father and his Polaroid were back in the picture. The nursery school was my respite from the hate and violence that awaited me at home.  Anyway, on those final days, the old man came and took some pictures of Cookie and his friends on the final days of carefree pre-school.

The pictures are adorable, and they feature lots of students who were going different directions, but too clueless to know that meant that our friendships would cease to exist.   We all had friends in our own neighborhoods, so playdates not only hadn't been invented but were decades away from being needed.  We would go our own ways, in life and scatter to the winds.  Now, fifty-one years later, for the life of me, I can't remember any of their names.  There is a certain sadness to that piece of childhood lost.

Also lost to time is my ability to recall the name of the kind woman who oversaw the place.  She was grandmotherly, I can see her face as clear as I can look at the screen, and her shoes!  How do you forget the orthopedic oxfords that laced on the side!   God! Those caused me no amount of tsuris.  Why, why, why, these?  They were so ugly, unnatural, and had crepe soles.  Why dear God?  Like brown Earth Shoes that laced on the port on the left foot and the starboard on the right.  They were not elegant, that's for sure, but day in and out, she had those hooves on.  Besides the shoes, I remember her car.  She drove a new 1967 Plymouth Valiant two-door sedan, blue, but with redwall tires - which were a thing back then.   Even at four, I was a gearhead.

That's right, Cookie can't remember her name, but I sure as Hell remember those brown clod hopping shoes and that snazzy royal blue car of hers. Both are burned into my brain.

I can see the women who cooked our meals - they all looked like Alf from Green Acres.  And they all looked down at us with their mouths in a snarl. They didn't want us in that kitchen and we had no business even being there, but we looked, and ran off, because that's what a four-year-old does. I am sure they were lovely women, but when they did to fish patties every Friday were criminal.

The teacher's names, however: that is a different matter.

I remember Mrs. Swartz, who smiled and was wore blue dresses and had red lipstick.  And Mrs. Washington who was gentle and also kind, and exceptionally patient with us in that 3-4 age range.

Miss Frances

But most of all I remember Miss Frances.

Miss Frances, who was very young, had the job of overseeing the children who were in their final year at the school.  She was very kind and very patient and she knew which children really needed a nap, and which one or two children were well behaved enough to go to the quiet room and play with amazing toys that never left that room.  To be chosen for that quiet room was a huge honor.  I think I went once.  Most of the time I needed that nap.

For the most part, I did everything she wanted without a fuss.  For example, the before mentioned fishbricks that were black as burnt toast?  Miss Frances knew that I was never going to eat those fried fish patties, but I also knew I was never getting the chocolate pudding dessert if I didn't eat it.  She was wise enough to know that forcing me to eat that burnt fish brick was a pyrrhic victory at best, and I loved her enough that a truce was declared and weekly we negotiated, maybe one bite of the charred-black fish patty for a pudding, maybe two bites the next.  I never ate the whole thing because it was nasty.  But I did finish that pudding.   And she taught us all how to ask permission to "scrape" the food residue off the plate and into the trash when we were done.

Once, they took us downtown to the top of Cleveland's Terminal Tower - a risky endeavor, even though we were all inside a room at the top.  We rode the Rapid downtown.  The Rapid meant the Rapid Transit.  They looked just like streetcars, but Shaker Heights back then had its own private system and they were never called trolly cars: it was the Rapid.

Anyhow, to get to the rapid we had to climb down the stairs from the street level to the grade level at Green Road.  Going down the stairs I was fine.  But back then, going up the stairs at four was a challenge because I hadn't learned how to take one stair with the left foot and the next with the right.  I could do that going down the stairs, but my mind had a had time wrapping itself around that concept coming back up.

Well, Miss Frances had my hand and she was going up those stairs.  Me?  Left foot up, then the right foot onto the same stair and stop. Left foot up, then the right foot up and stop.  I was really doing my best to take the stairs as quickly as she was, but the tune I was marching too was not the same tune she was climbing to.  She stopped, watched me, and very gently encouraged me to do what she was doing.  It took a little time but I got the gist of it.  So Miss Frances taught me how to climb the stairs.  And believe me, its come in handy.

She did other things for us.  She taught us how to say "hello" and "goodbye" in French, she taught us how to keep on sharing toys and crayons when our developing minds were moving into that older childhood "MINE-set" mentality.  We knew our limits with her and we never crossed that line.  But she got us ready to move out of nursery school and ready for kindergarten, which was her job.  All in the most loving way possible.

For graduation, she dressed us each up in costume, each representing a different country.  My friend got Korea, and that honked me off because there was something about his silk costume that called my name.  But no.  I was to be a waiter from France!  Complete with a cumberbund!  How unfair, alas, but such is life, no?

On that final day, I never once thought that hug from her would be the last, or that I would never see her again.  But that was the way it went.  And today I learned that the last hug was the final hug at that.  After years of trying to spell her last name - Frances was her first name, and he last name was very eastern European and very long, so we just called Miss Frances - today I found her.  The dear woman passed away in 2004, way too young. 

The nursery school will celebrate its 100th anniversary in a couple years  - it is still going strong.  I am hoping my pictures get displayed.  I have been invited back for the event, and I will have to go.   Of course, I will be 60 that year, and the chance of any of the teachers from my era being alive is slim to none. 

But to you, Miss Frances, I say "Merci."  One day, in that place where we all go when we cease to be, we will meet up.  And I may be old, and unsure, but I will take your hand and let you lead me upward, one foot on one stair, and the other on the next, just as you taught me so long ago.  Until we meet again.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We all hate Karen...

Yes, Karen.  You.  Even when your name is Carol.  Or Suzette.  God, I hate Suzette.

This is the woman who doesn't bring up her "e-coupon" in advance of ordering or ringing through her transaction at Barnes and Noble.

This is the woman, who could by the name "Lynn" or "Char" (short for Charmaine) who holds up the entire fucking line because hs wants her $1 off her sugar laden mocha frapachino, or bitches up a STORM because "It's too early for pumpkin spice?  I want to talk to a manager."

And tell me Karen, Carol, Lynn, Char, or 'Nita, just what is the fucking manager going to do because the food truck hasn't brought the syrup or flavoring for that half-espresso half-decaf, low-foam extra milk FUCKING PUMPKIN SPICE that we can't serve because nothing has changed in the last 100 words of that whining what-wha pie hole of yours.

FINE!  Never come in here again, see who the fuck cares at the multi-billion dollar company that pays their meager wage.  See who the fuck cares.  Trust me, when that regional manager gets that angry message from you not feeling "valued" she is going to roll her eyes and say "Really, Karen, Carol, Suzette, Lynn, Char, Nita of Debi?  Again?"

Because we all know that e-coupon you can't find on your God Damned iPhone, filled with pro-Trump bullshittery from your friends doesn't exist because the company never issues those mother-fuckers BEFORE the ingredients hit the fucking store. 


WHY would they send you a God Damned coupon for an item THEY DON'T STOCK THE STORES WITH UNTIL SEPTEMBER FUCKING FIRST.

So just go the fuck home to your five-bedroom cluster-fucking house with the three-car garage and flip on fucking Dr. Phil, light up that Parliament and look at the fucking sign on the wall that even your ex-husband didn't want in the divorce and wonder why everyone cringes when they see you park that fucking Cadillac and waddle up the walkway.

(Disclosure, Cookie doesn't work in a coffee shop or retailer of any kind.  I am the guy in line behind Karen, and today she held up the whole fucking line.  Fuck you Karen.  Fuck you.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Hi tech and low touch bullshitery

Cookie goes to the doctor every 3 to four months.  My chronic gut issues and my blood pressure make it so.  I love my doctor and his practice.  I gladly pay for the visit - they treat us like humans, not billable and co-pays.

That love affair was put to the test last winter, in the height of flu season, when the practice put in a "self-service kiosk" for patients to sign in and pay their deductibles.

I was greeted by a woman who wouldn't let me speak with the receptionist.  "They only work with new patients from now on.  As an established patient, you will use this kiosk to sign in, and then you will pay your deductible."  I was asked, I was directed.

I found it dehumanizing.  There I was in a germ-ridden waiting room full of people hacking and coughing and all of us were to use the same touch screen?  Yes, the gave us a bottle of hand sanitizer for when we were done, but this was not a hand sanitizer moment* - after using that Petrie dish surface, you should have been able to wash your hands. 

The worst part was that after paying with the keypad, the machine asked me if I wanted cash back from my transaction.  "No, but a couple lottery cards a diet Pepsi would be nice," I thought.  The whole experience made me feel like I was at a Sunoco for a lube job.

The second time it happened, a young woman working at a newly installed stand up desk greeted me not with a "Hello" or a "How can I help you," but with "If you have an appointment, use the kiosk to sign in and pay for your visit."

Can't I go to the receptionist? 

"No, the receptionist is for new patients only."

I was so sour on the exchange that when the doctors assistant came at me with a needle to check my A1C, I refused.

"But my Buttercup, why," she asked.

If I can't deal with a real, live person when I check-in, I said, then you can't jab me with that needle.

When Marty, my doctor came in, he asked what was up.  "Concepcion is really vexed."

She was vexed, what about me?

He explained that it was the hospital that was doing this and that I would get a survey and to lay it out in the survey.  "They don't listen to the doctors - they do listen to the surveys."

So when the survey came, I lowered the boom.  I said I was tired of being treated like a second class citizen because I wasn't a "new patient", and that in my last two visits I had not been asked, but ordered to use the machines.  I explained that I found it a contradiction to the practice's mission statement.

"Efficiency is no excuse to forget that your patients are human beings, not trained seals.  If I wanted to use an ATM, I would go to a bank." 

Fast forward a few weeks and yesterday I got a call from the practice administrator.

"Hi Mr. Cookie, this is Rayleen from Dr. Doctor's office and I am calling about your survey responses..."


"...and I wanted to let you know that we have heard from our patients about the self-pay kiosk in the waiting area..."


"...and I am calling to tell you that we have taken several steps that we hope will make your next visit more relaxing..."


"...And you no longer will have to use the kiosks..."


The upshot was that the front office staff, despite the training got the kiosk thing wrong. 

"We installed these to see if patients would decide to use them or prefer working with our staff and the staff misunderstood the message that they were supposed to share.  We asked them to walk you through a transaction, not force you to use them if you didn't want to."

Rayleen went on to tell me that patients either liked the machine, or hated it, but when they hated it "we heard that very clear.  You are not alone.  Even my mother read me the riot act."

So I received assurances that the staff was trained again to offer, but not insist. "They should ask you if you want to use the kiosk or wait for the next receptionist after greeting you."

This made things better.  Even my husband, a manly man afraid of nothing, said he disliked the machine.

As Rayleen spoke, I could feel my high blood pressure coming down.

"Going to the doctor is stressful - and we don't want to add to that stress.  And we have shared your opinions to the hospital management group.  The check-in kiosks across the board are being rethought.  You are certainly not alone."

When the call ended, I relaxed a bit.  I figured I had won, one small pyrrhic victory.  We'll see when the next visit comes up.

Now if we can only get them to ditch that fucking robocall confirmation system that calls at the worst possible moment, and the ChartHeart system that demands a second confirmation, because just one doesn't seem good enough.

One fucking automated system at a time, sweet Jesus.

*Even in hospitals, employees are warned that hand sanitizers are only good for three uses in-between hand washings - after that, even the most caustic of them do little to no good.