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ONE MAN’S JUNK


When I woke up this morning I thought of households all over America cleaning up after the Thanksgiving celebration yesterday. All the good dishes, linen tablecloths and silverware or whatever choices the family took, have to be put back in their place today, while the turkey carcass is put to simmer on the back of the stove for the soup to come.

We left all this work quietly waiting for us while we set out for the local thrift store to find a small picture frame. People frequently give away small picture frames suitable for 5×7 photos, so while digging through piles of them you may find a treasure. You remember the old saying: “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”.

Today is designated “Black Friday” for some reason. All stores are open with the lights on, so they aren’t black. I don’t remember when the whole thing started, but it’s a reason for normally sensible people to dash out of their homes in the middle of the night to get a good place in a long line in front of all kinds of stores simply to get a bargain. I don’t think they really care what they buy as much as how much they save. It’s an awesome sight to see.

When we got to the thrift store it was apparent that they participate in “Black Friday” too. Dr. A found a couple of picture frames for the one he accidentally broke, and I found a box of white plastic coat hangers 24 of which cost me $1. I had donated a box of them last year, so maybe these were my old ones.

I sat on my trusty walker watching the crowd and categorizing the shoppers. There were those who possibly needed to shop there, and others who were looking for a bargain. When a post-middle aged man walked by carrying a rubber wet suit, I realized a grandson would be surprised on Christmas morning. A small family of parents and two little girls bubbled past me with the father carrying a three-story doll house while the little girls danced alongside.

A sexy young Mexican girl took a bright red silky dress off the hanger, on her way to the dressing room. She will undoubtedly make an entrance at a holiday party. A black leather jacket made its way to the checkstand for $60.

One lady found several decorated tin trays for her cookie exchange–3 for $4. Then the prize of the day. I’m not sure what it was or what the lady planned to do with it, but it was a tall, 3 ft. decorative metal conical object with no apparent use. While I was waiting to pay for my purchase I mentally decorated it with greenery and berries and a red bird on top and called it a Christmas tree. I should have been there first.

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DO BICYCLES LEAD TO SEDUCTION?


bicycle

In the late 1800s, the newly invented safety bicycle became all the rage across America. Some people thought they were morally hazardous.

By 1892 Wilbur and Orville Wright had taken up bicycling and had recently taken a long trip down south. They went down the Cincinnati Pike, stopped at the County Fair, and pumped around the track a few times. They continued on to Miamisburg, went up and over numerous steep hills and stopped to see the prehistoric Adena Miamisburg Mound, the largest of Ohio’s famous conical shaped reminders of a vanished Native American civilization. In all they covered thirty-one miles. Astonishing!

Bicycles had become the sensation of the time. Everybody rode a bicycle. These were the newest version with two wheels the same size unlike the ones from the 1870’s and 80’s which tended to tip the rider over. These bicycles were a ‘thing of beauty, good for the spirits, good for health and vitality, and generally improved one’s whole outlook on life. Doctors enthusiastically approved.

One Philadelphia physician wrote in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, that from his observation there was no better physical exercise for both men and women. The bicycle was one of the greatest inventions of the nineteenth century.

However opposing voices were raised in protest. Bicycles were proclaimed to be morally hazardous. Until now children were unable to stray far from home on foot, but on a bicycle, in fifteen minutes they could be miles away. Plus young people were not spending enough time at their studies, and more seriously, that suburban and country tours on bicycles were not ‘infrequently accompanied by seduction.’ Canoodling was taking place in every clump of bushes at the side of the road! Outrageous!

Fortunately such concerns had little effect. Everybody was riding bicycles; men, women of all ages and from all walks of life. Bicycling clubs sprouted up all over the country. In the spring of 1893 Wilbur and Orville Wright opened their own small bicycle business, selling and repairing bicycles, only a short walk from their home. They named the enterprise the Wright Cycle Company.

It was their work on bicycles and all manner of machinery which showed Wilbur and Orville Wright, inventors and aviation pioneers, that an unstable vehicle like an airplane could be controlled and balanced with practice.

The only other word we heard about the hazards of bicycle riding, was the wedding of “Daisy”, after she hopped on the seat of the bicycle built for two.

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GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN


It’s strange, but after a certain age people start worrying about who will inherit all the detritus they have accumulated during their life. What they should worry about is who the heck wants it anyway? By the time you are ready to get rid of it, any likely recipients already have a houseful of their own stuff, and none of it is part of the same era as ours. The sad thing is that sometimes the small things which are so important to us get lost in the shuffle.

jansport

A case in point is my purse. It is a prototype from Jansport which I have carried everywhere exclusively for twenty years. I carry this purse to the grocery store, to the beach, on vacation, out to dinner; you name it and it has been there. This may not seem amazing to you, but what else fits that description? It is canvas and leather, with pockets holding my life, and though I have a number of expensive designer type handbags in my closet, I opt to use this purse my daughter gave me twenty years ago.

In 1969, while at the University of Washington, our daughter met Skip Yowell, a fun loving and exciting young fellow who with his cousin had started a small backpacking company a couple of years before. People in Washington state are noted for loving the outdoors and finding out what is over the top of all those mountains. Skip Yowell and his cousin Murray Pletz, had an idea that they could make a better backpack than what was being used. Murray’s girlfriend Jan, used her sewing machine to stitch the canvas, and Murray told her if she married him, they would name the company after her. So three hippie kids with a great idea became Jansport, and the company grew into one of the largest outdoor gear companies in the country. Jansport gear has made it to the top of Mount Everest and its sister behemoths for so long now they should put a retail outlet on the top of the mountain.

I was often the lucky recipient of a prototype Jansport had made that year, and that was how I came by my very special purse.

Now that you know the story, you can see why it is important to me to know who will treasure this bit of corporate history. Antique Roadshow may someday feature it to the amazement of its future owner.

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A ONCE IN A LIFETIME GUY


I always knew that I had to write about Uncle Henry; one of those uncommon men who enter your life quietly and remind you that goodness abounds in unlikely places.

Uncle Henry married my mother’s sister, Aunt Corrine, in Saudi Arabia sometime in the 1950’s when both were working for Aramco. It was a fortunate union for both of them.

During the 1950’s I was involved with family and work, so I missed most of the good stuff as I like to call their life over there, but later, when they returned to their native soil after 30 years overseas, I caught up.

Henry Alisch was born in New Jersey to a German-American family, and whose cheerful Bavarian mother was often ill. Henry, much like his mother in personality, was her loving caregiver.

Late in the 1920’s when he finished high school, he and his best friend met a man who gave them his business card and offered them jobs in the movies if they wanted to come out to California.

Saying goodbye to family and New Jersey, they hopped a train and came to Hollywood to become movie stars. When they presented the business card to the person at the gate of the movie studio, they found that their benevolent “producer” no longer worked at the studio.

Friendless and out of cash, they quickly found jobs as bell boys at one of the hotels in downtown Beverly Hills, where they were paid 25 cents plus tips per bag to carry them up to the rooms. Both boys being good looking and personable, they amassed a small stash of extra cash.

Lindbergh had already made his flight across the ocean in the last decade, and the barnburners were on each corner offering flying lessons for $5.00 each to eager young men. Feeling brave and optimistic, Henry, or Hank as he began to be called, took a few lessons and got his pilot’s license.

The war had started in Canada, and Hank’s friend went off to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. Henry’s eyesight prevented him from joining up, but he spent four years in MATS, Military Air Transport Service, ferrying planes to Europe during the war. Being highly intelligent, he became an expert in airplane maintenance.

In 1946 the War was over and Henry saw an ad for Airplane Tech, top pay, overseas. Knowing he was qualified, and looking for new adventure, he stepped off the DC-3 and onto the hot tarmac in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia into 124 degree heat. Wishing him well as they picked up their suitcases and stepped onto the waiting airplane were two young men on their way back home.

Aramco, or American Arabian Oil Co. had a few planes, and Hank was in charge of their maintenance. Dhahran had an American community where he met a beautiful blonde secretary who had arrived in 1949. On a two year contract with Standard Oil of California; this was my Aunt Corrine.

For the next 30 years they lived an exciting life while traveling around Europe for work and pleasure. While Aramco had very few planes when Henry arrived, through the years that number greatly increased. They went often to the Rolls Royce factory in England, and to the Hague to KLM Royal Dutch Airline to check up on engines and parts for the Aramco planes.

During their travels, my Aunt, who had extraordinarily good taste, was able to collect first edition books in England, lovely Persian rugs, handmade furniture in Copenhagen, and china wherever she found it.

Children were only allowed to stay until they reached high school age, and my cousin went off to school in Cannes, France. Years later, while shopping a younger woman remarked on my gold bracelets. When I mentioned Saudi, she immediately said “Oh, Aramco!” I asked where she had gone to boarding school and she had been sent to London.

In 1953 Corrine and Henry’s son Kendall was born. Kendy was Henry’s first born child, and with Down Syndrome it was apparent that he needed help. Henry’s early skills as a caregiver kicked in and through the years he devoted much of his time lovingly trying to give Kendy a happy life. While my Aunt was frustrated much of the time, Henry never tired of taking care of Kendy before he went to live in a school in California.

Years later, after they had moved to Brookings, Oregon, Henry looked at his computer and saw a puzzling message from a long lost and nearly forgotten friend. “Hey, are you the same Hank Alisch who went out to California from New Jersey and learned to fly?” His boyhood friend had found him on the internet.

There are things a born caregiver knows that the rest of us don’t. They know if you need your pillow plumped, or a bite of out of season fruit, or whether you want to talk or just sit and stare at the empty TV. Henry Alisch knew all that, and when each of my parents became ill, they were living next door to Henry and Corrine in Brookings, Oregon, he was able to give them care which I could not while living in California. Later on, after their passing, my Aunt needed someone kind and loving to help her through the days, Henry Alisch was there. They both passed at the ages of 98 and 99. I’m glad I knew you Henry Alisch, you helped me through the pain of losing my parents and were a kind and altruistic friend.

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A TIME TO PONDER


November 9, 2016. America awakened to a new day and a new president. It couldn’t happen, but it did. The improbably result sent shock waves throughout the world. The stock market took a tumble, every country in the world had watched along with us throughout the night, with varying opinions of whether this would be a good thing for us and for them.

Hillary supporters went dutifully door to door handing our literature and pleading her case. “America didn’t need to become great again; it never stopped being great.” If we simply worked together the good times would only become better.

She had the best sophisticated technology wonks could deliver, the best experts that money could buy. She had history on her side. She had more knowledge of what goes on in government than any other nominee in history. What did she miss?

He had his hair, fake tan and his ego. But he tapped into a demographic which had been passed over. The forgotten man, the disenfranchised, groups who no longer trusted America and the government. The black man who came into the office eight years ago in a blaze of hope, had not delivered the goods.

How could this bumptious bully with a terminal case of narcissism recognize that somewhere out in the vast hills and valleys of this disillusioned country a revolution of sorts was building?

It is impossible to predict what Trump’s impulse will be as president, because it will have to become in so many ways, everything he has not been; a healer, a truth teller, someone who studies the issues; and a healer who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

As one immigrant observed: You Americans treat your country like a football. You toss it around secure in the knowledge that you deserve and will get a touchdown. America isn’t a football; it is a delicate Faberge egg; it could break.

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THE BATTLE OF THE SHOPPING CARTS


I wonder, as I do each time I do the shopping at the local Costco store; where do these people come from? My mother and grandmother would stare in confusion to the crowds of people from other countries, all speaking in their own language. and all at the same time.

Costco no longer offers a wheelchair for those of us too lazy to maneuver the aisles, so I take my own walker in order to sit upon whilst waiting for Dr. A to come and relieve me of what part of the list I have been able to stuff into my cart.

The majority of customers I see shopping here are from some part of Asia, however there are a great number of people who seem to be from the Middle East. I am quite happy to realize that I no longer wish to to visit their countries, simply because they are all here.

We continue to be disappointed in the manners of fellow shoppers who apparently have not learned the English words for “Excuse me”, “Sorry”, “Thank you”, and “Yes please”; this last in receiving a sample from the food vendor. I forgive them though, as long as they continue to pick up a word here and there of our language. I would be the same in their country.

I won’t go into the subject of child rearing. It is painful to watch small children scream and slap their parent/grandparent because of the lack of their attention. I was always under the impression that children from another country were quiet and well behaved, as opposed to our own. After all, the ploy my mother used to get me to finish my dinner plate was to make me aware of all the starving children in China, so I always held a certain amount of pity for the poor kids.

In the crowded post office the other day, while a mother was trying to make herself understood at the counter, her rotten little boy was screaming for her attention. As a mother,, grandmother, great-grandmother and former teacher, I admit that I didn’t even try to stifle myself when I glared at him with narrowed eyes and yelled “STOP THAT”! His mother looked around vaguely and patted his head.

I don’t remember that shopping was such an experience in the old days. In fact, my mother had our groceries delivered, and I did the same from the same market when I was first married. The small store we frequented was family owned and hired a couple of high school boys to deliver. I had a mighty crush on one boy while I was still in high school. As is the habit of all people, male or female when hormones begin to be active, I found I needed to go to the store more often than necessary simply to gaze upon the object of my desire. He finally invited me to the movies. In preparation I sprayed myself liberally with my grandmother’s Shalimar perfume, which is either a powerful aphrodisiac or equally powerful bug killer. We took the bus from Alameda to Oakland. both of which put him in close proximity to the intoxicating stench.

He didn’t ask me out again, but he eventually married and divorced the girl who became my maid of honor. We saw him again last year at our 70th class reunion, on his walker with his son accompanying him. He was a nice boy and I’m glad he made it one more time.

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THE VEIL WAS THIN


Happy Day of the Dead” doesn’t sound right for some reason, though for those who celebrate it, I’m sure it is a grand occasion. Ignorant as I am, with such strong Protestant beginnings, I had never heard of it. My religious grandmother even refused to admit that the Irish side of our family probably were Catholic.

My first recollection of Halloween was dressing in a Dutch Girl costume at the age of 7 and offering my handmade paper basket to a neighbor to drop some candy in. There was probably only room for a piece or two of penny candy but I thought it great fun to be out at night and knocking on someone’s door. I don’t remember anyone giving me candy, so I think I simply knocked and ran.

Living in so many places afterward, I was never able to do this again, and I don’t remember any costumed urchins coming to our houses either, so Halloween was never a big deal in our house. My father loved to tell stories of his youth in Grants Pass, Oregon, when tricks such as tipping outhouses over were performed. I don’t think candy was involved.

When my children arrived, Halloween became a much awaited holiday, and the making of costumes fell to me. As the years went by, the costumes became more elaborate, and not to be left out, I found myself in the spirit of the season.

My idea of a Halloween outfit leaned toward the Frankenstein rather than beauty, and my neighbor and I had far too much fun frightening small tricksters.

One of my daughters loved Halloween so much, and I felt bad for her the year she became ill and couldn’t join the others on the street. Eventually she dressed in her costume and sat on a table in front of a large window where children who came onto our porch could watch her and wonder if she was real or not.

Our house is situated so that in forty-two years no one has come to collect booty, however I carefully choose large bags of candy to hand out, making sure they are the kind we like just in case. This morning I bagged them back up and put them in the freezer. I know from experience that they will last until sometime in February.