Tuesday, March 22, 2011

nice rack

Nordstrom Rack is one hot mess of a place. It's crowded, chaotic, and people step on you. The checkout line wraps around the entire length of the store even on weekday afternoons. The fluorescent lighting in the dressing make me want to jump from something tall.

Nordstrom Rack and I have a relationship of extremes. Sometimes I leave high on pheromones and endorphins and whichever other hormones are released during retail triumph. When I'm lucky. More often, I reach the verge of a meltdown (I don't do crowds) and decide that if I don't escape rightthissecond I will faint or die or possibly both. I curse the day Mr. Rack was born because he's responsible for these lines and this lighting scheme and doesn't he realize that for some of us a sticker that says 35, 45, anything-5, percent off triggers bad flashbacks of third grade math?

One day not long ago (OK, last night), all the frustration and agoraphobia and bad feelings that characterized our relationship for so long just vanished and a chorus of angels and bluebirds flew in (somehow) and began to serenade me. Suddenly I remembered why our relationship was worth fighting for.

side A

side B

Monday, March 21, 2011

context clues: they count

Today, I stop for gas. As I marinate in the pure amount of life being sucked from our unborn children's college funds by way of $4.09/gallon, a large and beefy but smiley man approaches. He asks if I'm in the Navy.

Though the true answer is nothing if not black and white, the hamster wheel residing in my brain begins to spin its please-I-beg-you-to-let-me-overcomplicate-this-question's wheels.

My mouth takes the shape of a donut hole. Mr. Beefy is obviously a spy -- or maybe a psychic. But probably a spy. I say I'm not in the Navy but my husband is, because when dealing with spies it's best to tell the truth.

"Is he an officer?" asks the beefy man.

Me: "Yeah?"

"I noticed the blue decal," he says, gesturing to the Navy registration sticker on my windshield. Blue? Hamster wheel spins faster.

I'd never noticed the blue component of my decal before; in fact, I usually forget that my car sports anything official whatsoever except this one time I tried to meet the ship after infinity months at sea and had to sneak on base due to said sticker's expiration.

I wonder if having a current Navy sticker with blue on it speaks a secret language or means awesome superpower things I don't even know about?

He tells me he's retired Marines. Hamster wheel resumes spinning but in opposite direction. I react as though this is the most fortuitous encounter of my life, blatantly disregarding that 100,000 other military personnel live here. Shoot obligatory how-much-longer-does-he-have-left breeze. Ret. Col. Beefy asks: "Is he out right now?"

"Out? Uhh, no, we drove separately and I needed gas. He's on his way home!"


Monday, March 14, 2011


There's this Ralphs in Mission Valley that I visit infrequently. It's not in our neighborhood and the lines are ridiculous, so I only go when I'm in the area and desperate. I can go months between visits, but nearly every time I've shopped there, I've seen the same homeless guy sitting at the same chair at the clearance table. For the past two and a half years.

There he was at his usual table last week, only this time was different because he was eating a microwave dinner. I'd never seen him eating, just staring. I imagined him having to ask a Ralphs employee to microwave it for him, because frozen dinners do not heat themselves, and it made me sad. Sadder than if he'd been eating a sandwich. I wondered if his mom was still alive or if he had children somewhere.

I'd withdrawn cash that afternoon because Girl Scouts were selling cookies outside and Girl Scouts don't take Visa. I wanted to give him a five dollar bill, or another frozen dinner or a couple of boxes of Samoas, but he was just eating in peace, would it be insulting to assume he was after charity? I couldn't decide, so I left.

When you take the strife of this one homeless guy in San Diego times what Japan's going through right now, the world is just too much.

Monday, March 7, 2011

the dog people: a rough portrait

Soon after I wrote this, I realized that I'm not really *that* dog person, at least not yet. I came to this realization because I discovered a new breed of human. It's a breed I've always known existed but never observed up close until now.

Humans of this breed come in every gender, age and socioeconomic group and, as a whole, falsely convey a demeanor almost Swiss in its neutrality. But do not be fooled. These people are not neutral, and they definitely aren't Swiss. These are the Dog People.

Locations heavily populated by the Dog People include:
  • Petco
  • the veterinarian's office waiting room
  • Nate's Point at Balboa Park1
  • any given sidewalk
To qualify as a member of the Dog People, one must A) be a stranger and B) run a surplus of two characteristics: being opinionated and having a compulsion to state the obvious, typically manifesting as a combination of both. Like:

"Wow, look at those paws... she's going to be big... [dramatic pause] -- Really big!"

Prepare your responses to the Large Paws Observation well in advance; you will hear it three times per 20-minute walk. You'll need to tailor your response to each Dog Person depending on the emotion underlying each observation. Start with the four basics: enthusiasm, fascination, pity, disgust.

You can always count on the Dog People to share their overflowing opinions with you no matter how indelicate. In fact, the more indelicate, the better!

Such opinions range from how:

  • fat
  • cute
  • underfed
  • well-behaved
  • clearly untrained
  • old-looking
  • weird
  • questionably parented
...your dog is.

Another characteristic invariably displayed by the Dog Person is strength of conviction. For example, the Dog Person may assure you without question that your 12-week-old puppy will grow to 85 pounds and in reality isn't even the type of dog you think she is. That's right, you've been deceived! Luckily, the Dog People have been sent from the Dog Breed Accuracy People to inform you she's definitely a Terrier2.

The last part is the most important part. Know what you're getting into at the dog park. The dog park is the pinnacle of existence for the Dog People. Chances are you will feel out of place and judged; chances are both feelings are correct3. The seasoned Dog Person, sensing your newness, will sit back and revel in your relative lack of control because his or her dog is older, comes when called, and probably doesn't chase its tail in circles like a brain-damaged mouse.

Like dog, like owner, I guess.

1 Especially at Nate's Point at Balboa Park.
2 Apparently Labradoodles look like Terriers?
3 Especially at Nate's Point at Balboa Park.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Almost every time I go up to pay at Barnes and Noble, the cashier initiates a conversation based on the book I'm buying. We're talking in the 90s percentage-wise and I go to Barnes and Noble a lot. Not a big deal for someone buying, oh, Harry Potter and the Nocturnal Kitten or Intermediate Disc Golf, or any book with a semi-generic title. I imagine that these checkout conversations sound like this:

"So you're a Harry Potter fan too, huh? Let me tell you, my son/grandmother/clergy person/parole officer loooooooooves J.K. Rowling!"

"Playing some disc golf, are we? I've always wondered, is disc golf the same thing as frisbee golf?"

But then you have the semi-underground book buying population, the people who, like me, tend to buy books with titles that while not necessarily embarrassing (oh, but some are), are less frequently seen by store employees. Yesterday I bought this book called Southern California's Best Ghost Towns. To test my theory, I flipped it face down before handing it to the saleslady.

She turned it over immediately. "OOooooohhh, this looks GREEEAA-aaat," she said, stretching each word into fourteen syllables. "Where did you fiiiiiii-iiind this!? I've gotta orrrrrr-der it!" She spoke with the wide-eyed zeal of a 13-year-old with backstage passes to Justin Bieber.

Let's assume the checkout chit chat rule isn't restricted to transactions of the garden variety. What's the conversation like when the book is Get Pregnant By Tomorrow?

(Male) Cashier: [sizes up female customer; has mental images] So, got any plans tonight?
Much like the poor soul in the front of the line at Target holding tampons only, there's also the risk of the price check scenario, when the cashier shouts to his manager standing two football fields away to ask whether How to Tell if You Have Multiple Personality Disorder is 20 percent off this week.

Yesterday on my way out, I noticed that the older man in line behind me was buying a copy of The Sociopath Next Door. I wondered if the sociopath in question was him or someone else.

Then I noticed his other purchase.

Amazon, people. Amazon.