Rain!

It’s late June.  In fact it’s June 28th and we have rain in Northern California.  I hear the last time this happened this late was something like 20 years ago.  Daytime highs are unseasonable cool – the 70’s!  This weekend it will heat up back into the 100’s just in time for the 4th of July.

I always welcome the rain, especially when it brings a brief respite to the stifling heat around here.  Yesterday we opened up all the windows and let the mild temperature and pre-storm breeze blown in and cool down the house.  The sounds of rain on the roof and cleansing smell that accompanies this rare downpour  wafted in the open kitchen window as I prepared dinner for the two of us.  Beef Stroganoff was the faire.  It is still cool and cloudy this morning as I plan to bake a pound cake recipe I’ve been threatening to try for some weeks.  Cranking up the oven is not something I usually do this time of year, so I better take advantage of the coolness outside while I can.

I recall another unusual rain from a long time ago.  It may have been June, not quite sure.  It was 1968 – I was 18.  And it rained like hell while we were at Disneyland!

My friend Bob’s brother in law worked for Bank of America.  It was one of those corporate night’s at The Magic Kingdom where they stop letting in regular folks about 8 pm and allow friends and family of B of A employees have the run of the place.  It was rained cats and dogs all evening.  Despite the watery deluge, the park was open save for a few ‘attractions’ that must close when it’s raining…most of the outside rides.

Something that was up and running that night was a new ride called Pirates of the Caribbean.  It had recently opened to much fanfare.  It may have been the first time I experienced ‘Pirates’.  The rain didn’t matter.  We rode the ride then ate at Aunt Jamima’s Pancake house across the way.

The “we” in this case was Bob and his date, my date (his 16 year old sister) and myself.  We trapsed and slogged around Disneyland for a few hours, slipping and sliding at times on the wet cement and wooden steps leading to some of the rides.  There was an umbrella or two at hand, but they kept getting in the way while standing the in lines.  My date’s real rabbit fur hat didn’t fare well in the wet as it began to smell like, well, a wet dog (or rabbit)!

Our evening ended a bit early, around midnight, and we drove home with memories of one of the more unusual times at one of my favorite places, thanks to the rain.

Today, this morning, it is raining and I have a day off to savor the rain.  It may be a slight nuisance to some but it’s a joy to others.  My daughter lives in Seattle, so she is no stranger to rain…it is a daily occurrence about 9 months of the year.  She and husband Roth and son Rowan are looking forward to a summer of sunny days, something they haven’t had much of all winter – it’s been unusually wet in the Northwest, even for Seattle.

As for Loretta, she’s not as big a fan of the rain as I am.  I think it’s her upbringing in Santa Barbara that ilicits this disdain for the wet stuff.  It’s not that she hates the rain, it’s that she would rather be outside in the sun.  Me?  Not so much.  I don’t hate the sun, I just have a hard time with the stifling heat and oppressive humidity.  Living in the valley of Northern California, I think what I most hate is the the $300+ electric bills for air conditioning that accompany this time of year.  Just another fact of life one must accept in these parts.

The rain, I will enjoy it while it is here.  It will go away after today and make way for the heat coming this weekend.  It won’t return until late fall at the earliest unless we get blessed with a summer thunderstorm or two of course.

Learning to golf wasn’t about the golf

An icy chill in the air from the gentle sea breeze.

Long morning shadows.

Gulls circling overhead with their high pitched laughing sounds occasionally descending on the fairway en masse to fight over some cast off tidbit.

The smell and sounds of the ocean – just a few yards away.

The tiny, nine hole course to ourselves until the fourth hole.

Countless mulligans.

Balls lost in the pond.

A cup of coffee staying relatively warm through the third hole.

Spending a couple hours away from a still sleeping family on a cool, winter Sunday.

Trying to learn how to putt across a crispy, frost-laden, ill kept green.

Quickly retrieving a errant drive from the neighboring fairway, apologizing to the other golfers.

Long since forgotten conversations that seemed important at the time.

Learning to golf with a buddy, not concerned we weren’t any good at it…and never would  be.

Never once considering how blissful these times were and how they would end someday.

Home in time to greet the waking family with a batch of pancakes and grilled sausages.

Feeling good about it all.

The bliss of recalling these moments over thirty years later.

Super 8…not so super

Note:  This blog contains spoilers.

Hey, we actually went to the movie-movies the other day!  Loretta and I had a rare day off together and decided to see Super 8.  The best parts of the day: any movie on Tuesday at the Regal is just $5.00.  And, we got a $2.00 off coupon applied to our extra-large, extra-greasy popcorn.  The worst part of the day: Super 8.

Let’s back up for just a moment and say this…Super 8 is a pretty good summer, popcorn movie.  It has a decent plot, not-so-terribly-bad CG effects, and an E.T. ending.  Sorry if I spoiled anything for you, but what’d you expect from  Spielberg-Alien faire?  What did I expect from this?  Well, for some reason I expected a little harder-edged treatment of an interesting premise – nasty, pissed off alien escapes from a crashed military train and wreaks havoc on the nearby small town.  That’s what happens, but other things get in the way of making this the one summer movie I had bigger hopes for.

Super 8 combines equal elements of E.T., Close Encounters, and, yes, The Goonies.  Heavy accent on The Goonies.  And herein lies the problem I had with it.  It was just too darn corny.

Most of the Goonies characters are present including the smart-ass chubby kid, the main, cute hero kid whose mother died four months earlier and whose dad is the town sheriff’s deputy, the older girl on whom the cute hero kid has a crush, and a small ensemble of other similar teen and pre-teen characters to the 80’s Spielberg flick.  The obnoxious, little Asian kid from Goonies being replaced by an obnoxious little blonde kid with huge amounts of orthodonture and a wont to blow things up all the time.  The side plot:  they’re making a Super 8 movie for a local film contest.  It is set in the late 70’s complete with the ubiquitous amount of music ala The Knack, Blondie, ELO, et al.  Cheap, handheld video cameras weren’t around yet, hence…A Super 8 film camera is used.

Speilberg produced it, J.J. Abrams wrote and directed it.

It’s not a bad flick.  It is fun at times and has a judicious amount of early teen humor and angst.  The alien is one big bad-ass motherf****r having crash landed in the sixties and only wants to go back home (something we find out later in the movie).  Of course, the cute hero kid ends up bonding on some level with the creature and actually helps him, er, it get the hell out of dodge at the end.  And, of course, the government agency trying to keep the alien as a science experiment is the ultimate antagonist…as per usual.  The main government/army guy gets his just reward…as per usual.

Although Super 8 does take a harder line than any of the other three movies compared to, I expected/hoped it would be more so.  Perhaps a cross between Alien and E.T….if that is even possible.  In all fairness, the alien in Super 8 does kidnap townsfolk and munches on them while rebuilding his spaceship in his makeshift underground lair .  Yes, a bit harder than E.T….he drank Coors and ate Reese’s Pieces!

So, the bad guys get it, the kid saves the day, and the alien flies slowly off into the evening stratosphere just like in E.T. and Close Encounters…I mean just exactly like in the end of those movies.  I do hope the poor multi-legged monster left a spawn of some sort buried somewhere.  I sequel might work in this case, why not?

One other low-point:  it was showing in the smallest, crappiest theater in the place!  The sound system is nowhere near the quality as in the big arenas – grating and annoying at times blaring from the smaller, cheaper speakers.  Too bad as this movie appears to have great sound design.

Go see Super 8.  Though not what I had hoped for, it’s worth the $5.oo bargain matinee in any case.  Spielberg, kids, and aliens…how can you go wrong, I say rolling my eyes?

Ambition or ambitchion?

The other day I woke up from a sound, restful sleep with the word ambition on my mind.  I’m not sure why on this particular day it permeated my opening thoughts, it was just there.

I recall periods of my life where I could consider myself having been ambitious, but I didn’t really think about it at the time.  I simply knew I wanted something, set a afoot a plan on how to get it, and went about it.  I did O.K.

One of the definitions of ambition states ‘desire for work or activity; energy’ as in “I awoke feeling tired and utterly lacking in ambition.”  Perhaps this definition of the word best describes how I felt that recent morning thus spawning this diatribe and springing forth the invention of another word: ambitchion.

I’ll offer this definition of ambitchion: the object, desire, or result desired or sought after through bitching (or complaining).  Of course, the prescribed way of attaining something (desired) is through planning and hard work.  But let’s not scoff at bitching just yet.  Believe me, it many situations, judicious complaining (to the right person) will get the same results in a shorter amount of time!

I’m reminded of a line from Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hank’s character, Captain Miller, is question by his troops about complaints.  His response contains a reference to the direction in which one must bitch, or complain, in order to obtain results.  That direction is up and not down, “You complain to me.  I complain to my superiors.  Not the other way around”.  In other words, expressing a complaint to peers or subordinates really doesn’t do that much good.  In fact, it can be detrimental to a desired outcome.  Complaining to a person without any power to change things is, at best, fun, satisfying, and relieving.  On the other hand, complaining to an overlord may, indeed, move one closer to a desired outcome or result.  Keep in mind, in olden times, complaining to one’s overlord or supervisor may have illicited a less than positive outcome, ie, getting one’s head lopped off.  But, thankfully, those times have (mostly) changed.

“What’s the worst that can happen”, I’ve asked myself, “by expressing a complain (or concern) upwards?  What if he or she doesn’t do anything about it?”  Well, how about this: What if you say nothing?  Seems to me the resulting void in the “make things happen department” says it all.  THEY WON’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT if they don’t know about it!

I’m confident there are pitfalls to having an ambitchious demeanor – being passed over for promotion is one that comes to mind.  So what?  You can get passed over for promotion, be ignored, or be unliked by simply doing nothing – and you’ll never know.

Most of my life, I have always been content with doing my job to the best of my ability, being likeable, politely make sure they know who I am (without being obnoxious), and letting the cards fall where they may.  And for a good part of my (professional life) it worked fairly well.  Although, I did come to the conclusion many years ago (especially in sales) that it’s the obnoxious assholes who get the grease.

One of the morals in life I gleaned from the fantasy/fiction movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was, what if we were born old, settled, and wise and over the course of our life grew young, ambitious, and stupid?  By the way, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s short story (on which the movie was based) is on my must-read list.

I will assume at this point that I was born young, ambitious, and stupid and have moved toward being old, settled, and wise over the years…the standard way of life.  There’s that word again, ambitious.  As I move away from being ambitious I  become more settled.  Settled yes, but satisfied, no – not yet content enough to simply let the cards fall where they may.  Time is too precious and the days are too short to awake every day without some ambition to make things happen, to use what energy I have left and change a situation.

Of course, I’m speaking about a work issue which will remain unexplained for now except for saying I recently took being ambitchious to my peers and moved it up.  I believe I did it with the right amount of expressed desire and pride, wild-eyed idealism (what is left of it), a healthy dose of reminding them of my integrity and motivation, and a smattering of guilt and threats.  Regarding the latter, funny how the mere suggestion of ‘taking it higher’ gets response in these cases. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.  But it will certainly be an outcome no less successful than if I had said nothing at all.  In the corporate workforce these days it’s all about The Open Door Policy, and God help the supervisor who doesn’t at least feign concern for one’s “complaints”.  Geeze, I was good at that during my tenure as a manager!  Feigning concern is a good thing – it never fans the flames, it cools them down.

So whether or not I found feigned concern from this recent “bitch session” or genuine empathy, at least I did something.  I woke up that morning with a spark of ambition and did something about it.  I felt good immediately afterwards…and still do.

Note:  Several of my peers were quite envious of the route I took and asked me to let them know how it turns out (so they could do the same).  Advise them on how to do it properly?  Hardly.  Monkeys will fly out of my ass first!  I’ve worked much too hard at being ambitchious to give it away for free.

My former lives…

I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation.  If I did subscribe to that I may have been a law enforcement official in some wild west town like Deadwood.  Or perhaps I owned the saloon and brothel.  Like I said, I don’t really believe in that sort of mental masturbation, I’ll stick with the regular kind.

No, this is about my actual former “lives” in more than a handful of careers and points in time.

In the garage this morning, I looked up at some luggage stored overhead on a shelf.  I see this suitcase every day and the tag still attached.  A tag that reads, Buffets, Inc.  2002 Tenured Manager Conference.

From late ’96 to late ’03, I was employed as a manager by Hometown Buffet (Buffets, Inc).  Without going into any more sordid details, I left that company after 7 years and a 30 day notice, moving to another restaurant chain, Chevy’s.  I was just burned out.  After a couple of years with Chevy’s, I found myself in the same mindset – ‘stick a fork in me…I’m done!’

I managed (pardon the pun) to try a couple of other locally owned restaurants/pubs over the next two years, then finally made the decision to abandon the whole notion of food service management as a so-called career.  I was more than done.  I was well-done!

Former lives?  Here’s an abbreviated time line beginning in 1969.  I choose 1969 since that was the year I left college after two years of not going to classes enough and wondering what the hell I was supposed to do with my life.  That was the year I left home and graduated from kid to adult.  Having lost my student deferment, the draft (remember that?) was aggressive in 1969, I decided to be proactive, not get drafted, and join the Navy.

1969 to 1973 – U.S. Navy, airborne patrol squadron radar/anti-submarine equipment operator, Vietnam, et al.

1974 to 1989 – Radio broadcasting, air personality, program director, advertising sales.  Lots of creativity, not much money, managed by non-creative bean-counters.  Had a lot of fun!

1989 to 2005 – Food service management (see above scenario).

2005-2008 – Photography, self-employed, weddings, portraits, mostly playing with Photoshop at home!  Too many Bridezillas and mothers of Bridezillas.

2008-Present – Retail, Photo Technician at a one-hour photo department explaining over and over again to customers that you can’t blow up a wallet-sized photo from 1957 and expect it to be a clear image, making excuses to customers why their order isn’t ready after 3 minutes, repairing digital photo equipment that never seems to work for more than a day or two, putting up with clueless management, glancing at the clock every 5 minutes, thanking my lucky stars I have this mindless job if only for the insurance (for now), trying (in vain at times) to maintain sanity in a crazy work environment, spending long hours trying to avoid self doubt and regret for making poor decisions earlier in life, and punching the clock and going home with a huge sigh of relief.

You may think this last “life” of mine elicits much sarcasm and bags of cynicism…and you would be right!  Most of my fatigue at the end of an 8 hour work shift stems from hauling around those bags. I’m working on it, it’s a constant challenge.

However, overall, I am relatively content.  Notice that caveat – relatively.  I will always drop in a reference to some theory of relativity, it will always be my nature I suppose.  My dear wife, Loretta reminds me often, “Just be happy and grateful for what we have.  It’s not as much as some but more than most in these times”.  I always agree with her, shake my head, and let out a contented ‘sigh’.  It’s not all good – it’s mostly good.  After all…I am still and always will be a realist who daydreams constantly!  A contradiction in terms, a conundrum?  Perhaps.  But that’s what keeps me going.

Note to self:  Toss that baggage tag from Buffets, Inc in the trash after completing this post.

Home Alone – Father’s Day

Father’s Day.  Really the lessor of the two days set aside for parents.  Mother’s Day seems to get top billing, and rightly so.  Optimally, we all take Mom out to dinner or lunch somewhere and try to show her how much we appreciate all that she has done.

Father’s Day?  Well, it’s always seemed to be a day to let Dad do what he wants to, ie, play golf, go fishing, go to a game, fire up the BBQ and incinerate some animal flesh and pound a few brews.  All in hopes of showing him how we care.

For me today, it’s all about solitude and relaxing.  A day away from work solo (kids live miles away and Loretta is working until four).  The weather is not yet hot, windows are all open inviting in the cool breezes of late Spring.  May have to close it all up later and switch on the A/C, no matter.

I’m doing a little readin’, ‘ritin’, and no ‘rithmatic.  I’m also cooking my clam chowder for later.  Dinner tonight?  A simple comfort food dish I’ve made countless times:  King Ranch Chicken Casserole.  The plan to roast a Prime Rib has been put on hold for a later time.

The roasted chicken bones are simmering with some onion, celery, carrots, peppercorns, rosemary, and thyme…making fresh chicken stock for the casserole later.  It all smells good.  It is all good.  I’m enjoying myself.

Best case scenario for Father’s Day?  Spend it with my two kids and Loretta.  Since that is not possible, the second best choice is a day off to myself doing a few of the things I enjoy doing most:  a little writing and a little cooking.  A little eating and a glass or two of wine will come later.

My Father passed a few years ago.  But I do still relish the memories of Father’s Days with him.  We didn’t really have any recurring traditions, we simply spent time together at home, or at lake or river.  Remembering all of that with fondness is worth doing today.

Yes, home alone on Father’s Day.  No regrets.  It is simply a nice day to recall many pleasant things and to forget the less desirable things I must return to tomorrow.  For now, today, I will savor the emails and skype calls from my two children.  It is just not in the cards for any face-to-face this time.  Someday, perhaps we can hang out on a Sunday in June.  Until then, it is what it is.

I hope your Father’s Day is free of angst and full of bliss as mine is right now.

A Curious Case of Murphy’s Law (?)

Chapter Two

Before I get into my short term relationship with the Kaperskys, I should probably tell you a little about who I am.

I’m Ben Langford, a 55 year old retired pharmacist and divorced father of two.  I was born in the mid west and moved to Seattle with my parents as a teenager.  I bought my little house in Sherman Oaks a little over a year ago to be near my children, both married and living in the Los Angeles area.

My life and interests are very mundane by most standards.  Most of my time is spent reading, working on my vintage Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, tending to my orchid green house, and writing.  I was able to retire early a few years ago shortly after a motorcycle accident.  I was broad-sided by the teenage son of a congressman from Kirkland driving a Porsche Carrera.  He ran a stop sign.  After being in a coma for a month, I underwent several surgeries then physical therapy for a year. My settlement was more than ample though it left me with constant pain, a slight limp and one leg slightly shorter than the other.  Oh, and the plastic plate under my skin on the right side of my head will always make my skull a bit numb where it was placed.  Despite the accident, I feel fine…most of the time.

Other than several trips to Seattle each year to visit friends and check on my properties, I’m pretty much a home-body.  I just don’t go out much, preferring to languish on the computer looking for motorcycle parts and writing a blog about orchids.  I find working in my green house provides great solitude and relaxation as well as distraction from the dull ache I always feel in one leg.  I have recently begun a new hobby:  bistro-type French cooking.  My neighbor, Jackie Kapersky,  is also a gourmet chef having graduated from the Cordon Bleu cooking school in France before attending Harvard.  Quite the renaissance woman, she was teaching me how to cook just before the lawn mower got her.

I first met Phil Kapersky at a neighborhood grocery store called Mineo’s Market and Meat just a few short blocks from my house.  Located at an intersection where several old businesses still survive, Mineo’s was a place where many of us “locals” run into each other, exchange pleasantries, and pick up a few grocery items when we aren’t in the mood to drive to one of more of the larger supermarkets farther up the road.  Although the prices at Mineo’s aren’t particularly competitive, it is always well stocked and has managed to survive for many years simply because it is convenient.

Mineo’s is owned and run by a pair of unidentical twin brothers named Anthony and Salvatore, a couple of second generation Sicilians whose parents escaped the Fascists in Italy at the start of the war and opened the market with money they stole from the Nazis before they left.  Anthony Mineo is a broad-shouldered, tall man while brother Sal is a short, stocky fellow who is often referred to by his larger brother as “the midget in the meat department”.  They always manage to maintain a bizarre symbiotic relationship with each other despite the constant verbal barbs thrown across the store at each other, making for great entertainment to patrons.  It was obvious to most observers that the little man really ran things here, though Anthony doesn’t outwardly give much ground when Sal tries to order him around.

Anthony says things to me like, “My brother Sal, what an idiot.  You know we were both the same size until we were teenagers, then he started smoking our father’s cigars in the basement – stunted his growth!”  He would then let out a gruff-voiced chuckle, his wide shoulders moving up and down until the chuckling ended with a few old-smoker like coughs.  “Damn!”, he would utter,  returning to whatever he was doing at the time.

Sal’s meat counter is typical of something one might find in a small town in Italy.  Hanging above the white glass meat case are a few dozen imported salamis, prosciutto hams, and a rubber chicken – the latter priced at $50 a pound, illustrating Sal’s dry sense of humor that punctuated most every conversation with him.  Prices by the pound, scribbled on little white cards, hang from the top of each salami and ham.  The meat case itself offers beef to pork to veal, ground meats, chickens with the feet still attached, and everything in between.  It is well cared for and shows that Sal knows what he is doing.  He has a lot of pride in that meat case.  It was here I first purchased some beef shanks that Jackie Kapersky would use to teach me how to make Osso Buco.

One unseasonably cool day in June, I decided to walk the three blocks to Mineo’s for a few things.  Depending on how my leg felt I would walk as often as possible, it helps keep it from tightening up on cooler days. I was standing in the produce aisle when I noticed a tall, slender man in his late twenties walking toward me pushing one of Mineo’s small grocery carts. He had whispy, short, straight blonde hair hanging out from under a beat up Harvard ball cap, a sleeveless muscle shirt with MTV on the front, cargo shorts, and leather sandals that looked as though they had seen better days.  The Rolex watch contrasted with his casual attire and indicated he had a few bucks to toss around.  Either that or the Rolex was a knockoff, I never found out for sure if the Rolex was real.

As I looked back down at the lettuce displayed in front of me I heard him say, “Hey, neighbor, how’s it going?”

“Pardon me”, I returned, not recognizing anyone I knew, “Do I know you?”

“Well, not really.  Not yet anyway.  I’m your neighbor from right next door”.

“Oh, hi.  How are you”, I said still not fully realizing who this guy in the Harvard ball cap was”.

“I’m Phil Kapersky”.

“Ah, right right.  I’m…”.

“And you’re Ben Langford, right?”

“Afraid so”, I answered, “How’d you know…”

“We got some of your mail by mistake one day.  And, I’ve seen you coming to and from your greenhouse in the backyard.  Orchids, right?”

“You got it”, I said extending my hand to shake his already outstretched hand, “The newlyweds from next door!”

“Yeah”, he said with a forced laugh while rolling his eyes, “We moved in about a week ago and haven’t been out much or we would have introduced ourselves”

“Ah, I remember being a newlywed”.

Phil’s face flushed a little as he looked away toward the lettuce display, “Yeah, well, the honeymoon’s over”.

Sensing a little trepidation in his voice, I decided not to question him in that direction.

Phil and I engaged in a little small talk for the next few minutes.  I found out his wife Jackie already secured an assistant teaching position at a local community college while Phil was still trying to break into the corporate computer industry in L.A., specifically at any start up dot come in need of a recent Harvard grad who could write code in his sleep.  I would find out later that he was very good at it and was also working with some friends on a couple of new websites with hopes of making all of them rich in a short amount of time.  It hadn’t happened yet.

We exchanged polite “goodbyes for now” and I headed for the check stand with my Romaine and French bread, he walked toward the meat counter.  As I was checking out, I could hear Phil and Sal discussing not meat, but politics.

“That godamn Bush!”, I heard Sal blare out, “I used to be a Republican!  And Obama?  Not much better, I can tell you that.”  The remnants of Sal’s Italian accent were all but gone until he got angry and started talking about government and politics.

I left Mineo’s and began the short walk home.  It was getting cooler and cloudy.  Strange weather for June in Los Angeles.  Looked like a thunder storm coming.

As I entered the walk leading to my front door, I noticed the silhouette of someone standing in the front window of the Kapersky’s house next door. I wasn’t able to make out the face, but it appeared to be a woman. Was that Jackie?  I couldn’t tell.  However, I would meet the newlywed bride of Phil later that afternoon.

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A Curious Case of Murphy’s Law?

Chapter One

Phil and Jackie Kapersky’s two-month old marriage was ended abruptly by an application of Murphy’s Law, Rube Goldberg events, and an errant John Deere riding lawn mower.

Their tragic story doesn’t end here nor does it begin here.  But let’s begin in the middle with their end.

The short version goes something like this.  On one hot afternoon in August my neighbor, Phil,  decided to mow his half-acre back yard lawn with his newly acquired John Deere riding lawn mower.  Wife Jackie attended to her vegetable garden she had cultivated at the back of the large lot.  Phil got through about half of the lawn when he apparently suffered a massive heart attack and ran over Jackie in her garden with the John Deere.  Parts of her body landed in my backyard and I found blood-stained bits of her clothing for weeks later.  It outwardly appeared to be a bizarre chain of events:  the coroner confirming Phil’s heart attack, the police determining Jackie’s death to be accidental.  Case closed.  In the weeks following their demise, I wasn’t as convinced as were the local authorities that this was as open and shut as it seemed.  Something just wasn’t right.

Two months earlier, the Kaperskys moved into the little cracker box house next to mine just after their marriage.  It appeared to be a perfect union of two young Harvard graduates beginning their lives together in a suburb of Los Angeles called Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley.

They met in their junior year, he studying computer science, she pursuing a teaching degree in economics.  Phil came from old New England money.  Jackie was born in France to blue collar parents and emigrated to the U.S. at a young age. They both graduated with honors from Harvard and were married shortly thereafter in a small ceremony at the courthouse in Cambridge.  Phil’s father attended as did Jackie’s mother and father.  Phil’s mother refused to attend for reasons unknown.  Rumor has it that she was hitting the bottle that day and simply slept through it.  Another rumor was that she had no affection for Phil’s bride claiming no woman was good enough for her son and simply refused to attend.  Yet another whispered rumor in the community claimed she was already dead the day of the wedding, the newspaper reported she passed away the day after.  Supposedly her doctor was at her side when she died so no autopsy was ordered.  Acute coronary thrombosis was listed on the death certificate.

The Kaperskys decided to move out of Cambridge to the west coast almost immediately.

Phil and Jackie purchased the house next to mine.  They moved in late in the afternoon and the newly- weds from Cambridge spent the next week sequestered in their little home unseen save for Phil answering the door to pay for the takeout food they ordered all week.  My first face to face meeting with Phil would be by chance at a local grocery store near our neighborhood.

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(Chapter Two to be posted Sunday, June 19th)

Why not a evening farmers market? Take a cue from S.L.O.

We visited our local farmers market today in Modesto.  It’s probably been years since we were last there.  Let it be known that this farmers market only runs a few months in the late Spring through Summer.  After having been spoiled for many years with the national celebrity status of the San Luis Obispo farmers market (held every Thursday night all year downtown), our expectations of this one were low.  The last time we we went, there may have been 8 – 10 vendors tops near the end of the summer.  Today, at least, a couple dozen lined 16th street between H and I.  It happens Thursdays and Saturdays so today’s crowd was sparse to say the least.  We may venture back Saturday morning since we didn’t buy anything today, and the larger crowd may provide better photo opps than today.

I know this isn’t S.L.O., but besides their FM having hundreds of vendors including local restaurants that put out great food and BBQs, there are several venues for entertainment of all types…bands, solo musicians, etc.  It happens in the evening as well instead of early morning like this one does.  Perhaps the security issues at night in Modesto preclude an evening FM here.  Let’s face it, the fact is the gouls, gremlins, and other recalcitrants of valley society thrive in the night here and more often than not, scare aware the more gentile.  Our city neighbor to the south, Turlock, put on a farmers market for a time and had to shut it down due to gross gang activity, fights, and public drunkenness.  Such that it is (was).

The smell of BBQ smoke and food cooking outside is very inviting any time.  I don’t own a food service business or I would take the lead.  Modesto restauranteurs:  wake up get your asses out of your near-failing businesses and get involved with this thing.  Or, start something the happens on a regular basis, every week, not once or twice a year.  Just a suggestion from someone who spent years in advertising and marketing…yes, in the S.L.O. area!  I realize some will say, “We’ve tried.  And no one (the public) supported us”.  Probably not.  Then try again and do it differently.  Start slow and small and garner some attention.  If one or two restaurant vendors make a show at the FM, others will follow…they can’t afford not to.  It’s a pain in the ass to execute and may not illicit a profit right away.  So be it.  That’s the way businesses grow – one customer at a time.  And, yes, I also spent many years in restaurant management so I know the effort it takes to “get out of the kitchen” once in a while.

The Modesto farmers market today was very pleasant to visit.  The weather was sublime, the produce was abundant, and the vendors polite and enthusiastic.  This was only the second week of the season.  I hope it stays that way through the summer.  Try checking it out Thursday or Saturday morning.  Buy a loaf of artisan bread, a few vine-ripe tomatoes, or a jar of fresh, locally-made Spanish salsa.  It really is worth the trip to 16th street! Then spread the word, perhaps others will follow.