The Two Halloweens

October 31, 2011

Before I moved to the Napa Valley, I lived in Sausalito where the residential area below the hills is fairly concentrated within a few short, dimly lit, streets.  So Halloween was early, brief and busy, with lots of costumed children (of all ages) ringing my doorbell.  But since I moved to St. Helena, where I live on the west side of town, I’ve seen far fewer trick-or-treaters.  As one of them explained to me last year, looking disappointed by the caliber of my “fun size” treats, a would-be candy giver really has to advertise by putting up lights and pumpkins and other embellishments to let discriminating treat seekers know that the establishment is open for business.  I swear, I cannot get away from running a retail business no matter where I go.  Anyway, I’ve always noticed that Halloween in St. Helena runs in shifts.  The first shift starts at dusk and looks like a low-key version of my old neighborhood, with a number of happy, well-costumed young kids together with their responsible, flashlight-bearing, coordinated-costumed parents, laughing and photo-snapping, and romping up the streets circled by an antique truck offering hayrides.  The supervised little ones are followed closely by their unsupervised older siblings, some just on the verge of being too old for trick-or-treating, many of them apparently hopped up on Milk Duds and possibly more illicit treats, yet generally fun and harmless.  But then a bit later, just as I’ve started to take in the pumpkins and blow out the candles, comes the late shift.  It never fails that there are a few young children who come out long after the early shift has retired, later in the evening, well after dark, and often with Hispanic parents.  When I’ve asked why, I’ve learned that both parents worked late and this was the earliest they could take their kids out on Halloween.  So now I listen for them, keeping the lights on a little later than I would normally do, making sure that the children of these hardworking parents know that this Halloween house is open for all.

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I’m Still Here?

October 28, 2011

Maybe it’s the change of seasons, maybe it’s that I’ve been up all night with a sick pooch, or maybe it’s just the stress of closing my business, but I am absolutely exhausted, and really look the part.  I glanced in the mirror on my way out the door this morning and couldn’t tell (or remember) if I had put on makeup, so I ran my finger across my cheek just to be sure (I had, but who could tell?).  This is clearly the latest stage in my slow steady decline.  Soon I’ll be breathing into the mirror in the mornings to see if I’m still alive.  I’ve spent most of my life wishing I were one of those thin girls with the speedy metabolisms who could finish off a pound cake and actually lose weight, or one of those bubbly girls with naturally curly hair who always looked like they just stepped out of a beauty parlor, or a tall girl with an athletic physique who could wear sleeveless tops without fear of flapping flesh.  But now what I really wish is to be one of those annoying “morning” girls I’ve always scorned but secretly envied, who can pop out of bed with a smile and loads of zippity in their doo dah, dashing off for a brisk hike before breakfast.  Instead I am a night owl in search of a late night snack and perhaps just one more episode of The West Wing on DVD before retiring; greeting the dawn like the Bride of Dracula without sunglasses.  Or maybe it’s not that bad; perhaps I’m just a bit tired is all.  I hope you have a bright, beautiful day!

Thank you for reading my new blog!  I just wanted to let you know how much I sincerely appreciate it, and also to ask for your patience.  I’m going to post as regularly as I can over these first few weeks to get enough content on the site to give new readers an idea of what I’m up to.   Then I promise to inundate you only a few times a week, or whenever I can fit writing into my busy business-liquidation, bill paying, pet cleanup, raised vegetable bed pest-killing schedule.  My next column will be in the Star on November 10.

Apparently there is new technology afoot that will enable Visa and MasterCard to track your in-store and online purchases and then send emails to your home computer suggesting that you might like to buy more of the same.  This is terrifying, as I’m already traumatized by Amazon’s constantly updated “buying recommendations” based on my prior clicks and purchases.  OK, so they have basic demographic info on me, and I may have glanced at books about dieting, being single, and having a cat.  Does that mean that I am forever destined to be tagged on their Middle-Aged Perpetually Dieting Bitter Spinster list in the Big Brother Motherboard in the Sky? Won’t that label be confirmed when Big Mutha gains access to all my purchases, including those double-stuff Oreos I bought to treat depression last month at Safeway using my debit card, the tab for gravy-laden Chicken Fried Steak night at Farmstead, and of course the thousands of dollars spent on clumping cat litter, canned cat food, cat dental treats, spongy cat play balls, and the dry cat food that my cat decides it no longer likes after eating one-quarter of the bag?  And what about my regular online shopping at Victoria’s Secret (which is guilt-free, by the way, since no local serving store sells serviceable underpants)?  Yes, I bypass the low-slung thongs and the gravity-defying hydraulically-lifted demi-cup bras worn by dead-eyed slack-jawed mouth-breathing supermodels, and go for the cotton blend (so they move but still breathe), smooth elastic waistband, big girl panties I find so comforting.  But will Big Mutha know this and, based upon my size and fabric choices, consign me to the Somewhat Overweight Middle-Aged Spinster Who Wears Naughty Underwear In Front Of Her Cat list?  Heaven knows what products they’ll suggest for me then!

We Want A Refund!

October 24, 2011

The local Chevrolet dealership here in St. Helena abruptly closed last week after being in business for 23 years.  The owner had negotiated an agreement with another dealer to provide capital and other resources to enable the business to remain open in our community, where it has supported local sports teams and charities and provided employment for 16 people, not to mention snappy transportation and reliable auto service, for decades.  But General Motors decided to reject the agreement and, on 48 hours notice, revoked the dealership’s franchise sending it into bankruptcy.  It bears noting that GM, an elite member of the government’s “too big to fail” club, would itself have closed without $50 Billion in federal assistance in the form of loans and equity investments, making all US taxpayers unwilling investors in GM stock.  So as a shareholder, I question whether the management of GM acted responsibly when it refused to allow a business owner, who had kept his dealership alive for two decades through unprecedented upheavals in the American automobile industry, to consummate an agreement that would have saved his company.  Having GM executives overseeing your business would be like having my late great-aunt, who was married five or six times, in charge of my love life.  Perhaps we need a lemon law protecting us against bad news bailouts of the automotive industry.  Meanwhile this represents another example of public money going to those who apparently feel little obligation to share their seat in the government-funded lifeboat with those taxpayers they’ve callously set adrift.

Barking Mad

October 22, 2011

I marvel at my dog Winston, an otherwise affable fellow, for his ability to take an immediate and irreversible dislike to a random person or dog he meets without having any basis for it whatsoever.  Maybe he doesn’t like their looks, or their smell, or the jingle jangle of their dog collar or charm bracelet or keys as they walk down the street.  Whatever.  Winston starts barking and snarling and lunging before he even meets these abhorrent creatures in the flesh or fur.  And incredibly, he can bark menacingly at a human yet the forgiving canine-lover will actually apologize — for the dog!  “I shouldn’t have looked him straight in the eye; you’re not supposed to do that” the intended victim will explain, as Winston strains against his lead, spit dripping out of his mouth.  It should be noted that on those rare occasions when Winston has been able to slip the restraints and potentially make physical contact with these undesirables, he immediately curls his butt under his body, cowers and retreats, much like a principled Republican at a Tea Party rally.  I often wonder if my customers would be as understanding if I lunged for their throats, which I have been tempted to do on occasion.  “I shouldn’t have made eye contact with Laura” they’ll explain to the police as they lead me away for my perp walk in chains.  Of course Winston will almost certainly hate the jingle jangle of my handcuffs and take an immediate dislike to me.

I don’t understand why everyone was so surprised at hearing about Muammar el-Qaddafi being dragged from a drainage pipe, similar to the way soldiers dragged Saddam Hussein from a hidden hole in the ground.  All dictator-types appear to be unusually prone to gopher-like behavior: even Hitler and Dick Cheney were known to have hidden in subterranean bunkers.  Clearly the world’s military should stop trying to flush out the enemy using carpet bombing and predator drones, and call in the experts: a team of plumbers.  Picture a white van rolling across the desert emblazoned with the logo: Ruler-Rooter.  The van could have a giant plastic dictator lying on its roof and play Abba’s “Waterloo” whenever someone honks the horn.  A bunch of guys wearing cotton jumpsuits would hop out, feed a long plumber’s snake into an abandoned oil well hole, then suddenly we would hear a loud “pop” and five terrorists, a couple of mullahs in flowing robes, and a CNN reporter with camera crew would stumble out of a nearby cave, shielding their eyes against the glaring sun.  Much cheaper than the Army, except that the plumbers charge time and a half on weekends and after 5 pm.