It’s Comin’ Down the Street

O-ho the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street
Oh please let it be for me.
O-ho the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street
I wish I wish I knew what it could be.

One of the catchiest tunes from the play (and subsequent movie) Music Man is the delightful ditty the townfolk – along with an adorable (and lisping) Ronnie Howard — sing when they see a Wells Fargo truck coming to deliver a package. Apparently Wells Fargo was to the 1900s what Amazon is to us today.

While I don’t find myself singing when I am expecting an Amazon package to be delivered, I do look forward to the delivery with great anticipation, if only because I don’t want it to be stolen from my front porch.

O-ho my Amazon delivery is a-comin’ down the street
I hope it’s full of lots of toys and books.
O-ho my Amazon delivery is a-comin’ down the street
I hope I hope that I can beat the crooks.

Amazon’s endless efforts to figure out more ways that they can become the one-and-only remaining retail business on earth result in all sorts of new and unexpected ideas.  You might have heard of the recent idea of giving Amazon drivers access to our homes so that they can walk right in and leave our packages where we will trip over them when we come home. Amazon promises delivery people most likely won’t walk off with our iPads and pain killers as they leave.

Apparently that idea isn’t going over so well, partly because people are a bit uncomfortable with allowing strangers into their homes when they aren’t there, but more so because of the $200 plus cost to even Prime members. But neither rain nor snow nor reluctance to allow Amazon delivery people to check out our abodes prevents them from coming up with more new delivery options. Now, apparently Amazon is testing the notion of giving delivery people access to the trunk of certain compatible cars, at no cost to Prime members. I guess that’s better, unless one of them decides to hide his murdered mother-in-law in a stranger’s trunk.

Yesterday, I was eagerly awaiting a delivery from Amazon. I had made sure to stay home to get the package because I have given Amazon access to neither my house nor my car. Since it’s a birthday gift for my youngest grandson, I didn’t want it stolen.  But lo, and behold, I wouldn’t have had to stay home, at least as long as I stayed close. Why? Early in the afternoon, as I’m reading my e-book on my iPad, suddenly a message pops up.

Your delivery will be there shortly. There are only seven stops before your package will be delivered.

I have never seen a message like that before, and I order A LOT from Amazon. There was a link to an interactive map from which I could follow the green dot (my package) as it made its way to the red dot (my house). I got nearly as excited as I do when I order an Uber car.  I love to follow the little car as it makes its way to my house. Similarly, as my package drew closer and closer, I couldn’t take my eyes off the little green dot. I found myself even getting frustrated when the dot wouldn’t move quickly enough.

“What? Did you stop for a cup of coffee?” I crankily asked my iPad.

Yep. I got crabby over a technology that I didn’t even know existed a half hour before my delivery.

 There are only six stops before your package will be delivered. There are only three stops before your package will be delivered.

The messages kept popping up, until finally, Almost there! The driver is on the way to you.

And it was true. Within a few minutes, there was my package on my porch…..

 

Within seconds, I got a message indicating the package had been delivered, and it included a photo of my little package leaning up against my door.

O-ho, my Amazon delivery is sitting on my porch;
I didn’t have to give a stranger my key.
O-ho, my Amazon delivery is sitting on my porch;
They left a photo so that I could see.

First and Ten, Do It Again

I believe most people are good
And most mama’s oughta qualify for sainthood.
I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights.
I believe you love who you love;
Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.
I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks.
I believe most people are good.  – David Frasier / Ed Hill / Josh Kear

The other day I was cleaning the house, and began listening to the new song from Luke Bryan called Most People are Good. Playing that song wasn’t perhaps the smartest thing in the world to do, because that happens to be one of those songs that runs endlessly through my brain at night, beginning just as soon as I wake up, even if it’s just to turn over. I then lay awake for two hours, perhaps because some of the words won’t come to me; it might be because I can’t remember who sings the song; I could be wondering if there is any living human being with whiter teeth than Luke Bryan’s; it might simply be because I’m trying to figure out if it’s true that most people are good. I hope he’s right.

I love the verse for many reasons, not the least being the line about Friday nights looking better under neon or stadium lights. As I listened to the song that day, it suddenly struck me that there are likely many people, most who have never lived in the south or the midwest, who don’t understand why Friday nights should be under stadium lights.

My husband, for example. Bill grew up in Chicago. Not in a suburb of Chicago but right in the city itself, on the south side, along with Leroy Brown. He went to his neighborhood public high school, where they didn’t play football on Friday nights. There was a reason that Leroy Brown had a razor in his shoe. So, while he can conceptually understand about Friday night football games, he can’t understand with his heart what high school football means to people throughout middle America.

Because my Catholic high school shared a stadium with the public high school, our football games weren’t always on Friday nights; sometimes they were on Saturday nights. It didn’t matter, because Friday afternoons during football season, the entire school was focused on the weekend football game. The Pep Club decorated the halls and the gym. In the late afternoon, classes were suspended because the entire school attended the pep rally. The players were recognized and the coach gave his pep talk to the school body. The cheerleaders led the crowd in school spirit calls. Go Shamrocks!

The night of the game, it wasn’t just the parents of those playing on the field who looked on, but much of the town. The parking lot filled up early. There were announcers and sponsors and concessions and excitement. Though our school was small, our football team was always mighty.  We were like an episode of Friday Night Lights, without the horrible injury in the first game, thank you God.

And something similar was happening on Friday nights all over Nebraska, and Oklahoma, and Texas, and Wyoming, and Kansas, and Iowa, and all over the south and southeast. Young men were playing their hearts out on the football field, dreaming of playing for the state university, while their family and friends and school pals watched.

I don’t know if it’s still that way in my hometown. Back in those days, football was everything. Now I suspect there are soccer games and baseball games and girls’ volleyball games that capture people’s attention. Still, as I think back to my teenaged years, it was much as it is in this tune that country singer Scotty McCreery sings….

Friday night football is king.
Sweet tea goes good with anything.
Fireflies come out when the sun goes down.
Nobody eats till you say Amen
And everybody knows your mama’s name.
You can see who loves who from miles around
In a water tower town – Swindell Cole / David Lynn Hutton / Tammi Lynn Kidd

You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman


Each day it gets a little bit closer to when we see our AZ house in our rear view mirror. We haven’t started packing yet, but to quote an acquaintance, we’ve begun packing in our minds.

What we’ve been focusing on (probably to avoid packing with our bodies) is doing some things we haven’t done before during our last few days before we leave. Last week, on a day when the temperature was going to be in the semi-reasonable range, we decided to embark on an adventure that was a mere 30 minutes from our front door – the Bryce Thompson Arboretum.

According to the dictionary, an arboretum is a botanical garden that contains collections of living plants and is intended at least in part for scientific study. Maybe that’s why it took so long for us to visit this nature center that is only a stone’s throw away. Scientific study = Study of scientific things. Since I flunked geology in college, science is clearly not my friend. Still, the day looked to be beautiful and anything was better than packing.

Not only did I flunk geology in college, I’m not particularly a nature lover. When one of my grandkids (and when I say “one of my grandkids” I’m generally talking about either Dagny or Maggie Faith) brings forth a worm or some sort of beetle to share with me, I quickly dispel the notion with a loud ewwwww. (By the way, I passed off my feelings about nature to my son Court, who, when he was about 14 or 15 years old, responded with an emphatic  “I hate nature” when I invited him to enjoy a nature hike with me.) My sister Bec, on the other hand, is a nature lover. In fact, she volunteers as a docent at the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. She knows the names of birds and plants; I know the names of candy bars and potato chips.

Before we even got into our car, we decided we would take the free tour they offer at the Arboretum. That way, we wouldn’t be tempted to run through the park at break-neck speed so that we could go to lunch. It was a very wise choice. The man who led the group tour is a retired geology professor from Michigan. He and his wife now volunteer at the Arboretum, and actually live on site. He provided the most interesting tour – one that even a non-nature lover such as me could understand and enjoy.

We saw many varieties of trees and cacti and flowery shrubs. We saw bird nests and pack rat nests and hummingbird and butterfly habitats. We learned everything we did (or didn’t) want to know about snakes and scorpions and tarantulas and something called a tarantula wasp. Don’t ask, but suffice it to say if you see a gigantic orange wasp, run for the hills. Our guide can tell me the wasp is more interested than tarantulas than me, but I’m not taking any chances. I hate nature.

I learned that Arizona is currently experiencing a drought. One would have thought that the fact that we haven’t had any moisture would have tipped me off. The dry conditions are causing the cacti to not blossom as they should. That explains why the prickly pear in our front yard that normally is sporting yellow blossoms by now looks non-blossomy.

In perhaps my most daring move of the day (aside from our dreadful lunch later on in Superior) was sitting under something called the Red Gum tree…..

Our guide said the natives call it the Widow Maker as it apparently drops huge limbs at a whim, which potentially fall on anyone standing under the tree. Bill seemed surprisingly eager to take this photo…..

One of my favorite AZ native plants is the ocotillo, a spindly-looking tree that looks dead until it begins to bloom, when it looks beautiful…..

The ocotillo has a cousin called the boojum tree. It is, as you can see, considerably taller…..

Cacti are hardy plants. They have to be, given where they grow. Here is a prickly pear that grows right out of the trunk of a tree. I love nature…..

Aside from the horrible lunch we had later that afternoon, our day was perfect…..

Perhaps I won’t let the word arboretum scare me any longer…..

This post linked to the GRAND Social.

Saturday Smile: Is It Really That Bad?

I mentioned on Thursday a rather unpleasant visit we had to a restaurant in a less than picturesque small town about 30 miles east of our Mesa home named Superior. I had no sooner published the blog post when I got a text message from my brother Dave. Here’s what he said: As Dad would say, “If God was going to give the world an enema, he would stick the hose in Superior.” Dave went on to explain that Dad had used those exact words to describe Craig, Colorado.

My dad wasn’t one to mince words. And he clearly didn’t think highly of the Colorado town located in the northwest corner of the state. I have never been there, so I can’t confirm or deny his description.

The same could be said of my mother. On more than one occasion, I heard her say that the town of Holbrook, AZ, reminded her of a town that had just been hit by a nuclear bomb. Suffice it to say that neither of my parents would ever have been asked to serve on the board of a chamber of commerce.

But when I read the words that Dave wrote, I laughed out loud. Not only could I hear my Dad’s voice saying those exact words, but he might not have been wrong, at least when it came to Superior…..

 

It looks like I will also not be serving on a Chamber board.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Great Alone

If an author has done his or her job right, there’s something in their novel that drives the story. Something that makes people continue to turn the page. Something that the reader thinks about long after they’ve closed the book.

In The Great Alone, the latest offering from Kristin Hannah (who has written such bestsellers as The Nightingale and Firefly Lane) the “something” is Alaska. Even when Hannah’s latest storyline was so depressing that I wasn’t always sure if I wanted to continue, the Alaskan wilderness kept calling me back.

It’s 1974, and Ernt Allbright returns home from Vietnam after living in a POW camp for a few years. His wife Cora, the daughter of wealthy parents who married Ernt against their will, recognizes immediately that he is a changed man. The man with whom she fell in love and for whom she defied her parents is now sullen,unstable, and dangerously volatile. Their 13-year-old daughter Leni, can’t remember the father who wasn’t so unpredictable.

Feeling the need for a change, Ernt moves his family to a remote area of Alaska, where he hopes to homestead and live off the land. Cora agrees, optimistic that a change is necessary to save the family. It works for a while, but eventually Ernt’s mental instability takes over and things take a nosedive.

The Great Alone is a story of neediness, friendship, and dysfunctional love. It is taut with tension and anger. The incredibly difficult living conditions in this small Alaskan town create a dependence on each other that can benefit or wreck someone as emotionally fragile as Ernt Allbright.

I’ve never been to Alaska. I don’t know if a small town in remote Alaska today would look like it did in this book. While the story is unendingly depressing –ironically, nearly laughingly so – I found myself continuing to turn the pages because I was intrigued by the notion of living in such a wilderness. People relied on one another because, particularly during the winter, there were no others on whom to rely. It’s an intriguing background story for a novel.

I find Hannah’s novels to be somewhat predictable and her characters fairly one dimensional; nevertheless, I will give The Great Alone a weak huzzah for its important topic and setting. If you like Hannah’s other novels, you are likely to enjoy this one as well.

Here is a link to the book.

 

Thursday Thoughts

Cheers
Whenever it’s time to go either direction (to AZ in December or to Denver in May), I feel sad. There are things I miss from both places. Family, of course, but other specific things as well. In AZ, I miss the lovely spring weather during which we don’t have to worry about snow the next day, my charming manageably-sized ranch home, Fuddruckers, my garbage disposal (which not only doesn’t back up regularly as does ours in Denver, but is big enough to actually grind up an elephant should that need arise, given that Bill installed it), and our wonderful church. But perhaps most of all, I miss the fancy Fry’s Supermarkets that have sushi bars where you can sit down and enjoy your meal, beautiful delis with seating, and an actual wine and beer bar where you can sit and enjoy a selection of adult beverages…..

I took this photo while sitting at the bar at Fry’s Supermarket.

I support small businesses. I really do. But I will tell you that I wish with all of my heart that you could buy wine in grocery stores in Colorado. Having a beer and wine bar would only be the icing on the cake.

You Call This Food?
Bill and I took a field trip yesterday to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a state park that, despite only being about 30 miles away from our front door, we have never visited. In fact, we had never heard of it, and only learned about it from friends. I will tell you about our visit next week. But let me quickly tell you that afterwards, we stopped in the nearest town – called Superior – for lunch. The town is optimistically named, as it certainly isn’t superior to much of anything. The restaurant we chose out of the few that didn’t have boarded-up windows was called Buckboard City Café. It was the “café” that sold us – that, and the fact that all of the other restaurants were boarded up. I am not fussy about food; truly, I’m not. While some restaurants are better than others, I can tolerate most any of them. The Buckboard Café was simply awful. The highlight might have been when a man came in to return the burritos that he had purchased earlier. I don’t know why, and frankly, don’t want to know why. What was disturbing, however, was that the server who was helping him literally yelled from the front of the restaurant into the kitchen, “Sue, there’s a man here who wants to return his burritos. What should I do?” What you should do my friend is not holler at the top of your lungs that people are actually returning your retched food. They did, however, boast the world’s smallest museum which we didn’t bother to visit….

We couldn’t help but enjoy the so-called artwork outside in the parking lot…..

Home is Where the Pocketbook Is
I wish I could remember where I come across these things because it would make me so much more believable. But here is an image I found most remarkable, and most troubling. It showed what income was necessary to be able to afford the AVERAGE home in each state. If I read the map correctly, Colorado is fifth highest behind only Hawaii, California, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts. I’m happy that all of our Colorado children (and we) already own our home, because homebuying would be much more difficult these days. Yoiks.

 

Ciao.

How Does This Work?

While we’ve been living it up in AZ these past four months, our kids back at home have had to handle important household chores for us. Gathering our mail once a week and sending it to us; watering my pitiful plants, one of which came from a cutting from Bill’s mom; shoveling snow, which mostly didn’t happen until this month. For their help, we are most grateful.

I got a text from Jll yesterday, around the time that I knew she and Addie arrived at our house to water plants. How did I know they had arrived? Our wonderful RING program which allows us to see all the activity that happens at our front door. Take that, Burglars.

Anyway, here’s what Jll’s text said: Something funny about the next generation. They are bad with keys. My kids struggle to use the keys to open your mailbox and house. They are a remote and keypad generation. It is so weird.

At first that struck me as odd, but I started thinking about our house and our cars. The car keys can be kept in your purse or pocket because you just press a button to start the car. Of course, my car is a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle that not only requires a key, but still has a cassette deck; I missed an entire generation of ways to enjoy music in your car – the CD! But it’s yellow, so there’s that.  At any rate, while our front door does have a lock requiring a key, we also have a remote opener on our garage door, not to mention the remote controls we carry in our car.

It really is funny to think about what those that Jll refers to as “the next generation” would think if they could time travel back to the 1960s and 70s, never mind the 50s. You have your rotary phones which basically dialed your number using sparks. They were slow. You hated to dial any of your friends who had lots of zeros or nines in their phone number. Imagine an emergency situation where you had to dial 911. Even worse if you’re in England and have to dial 999. Would our next-generationers even be able to figure out what to do if we handed them a rotary phone?

And wouldn’t they laugh at our televisions? Those literal pieces of furniture that were massive in size but had a screen about the size of an iPad. They weighed as much as a Mac truck, and when they broke down, you didn’t just go to Walmart and buy a new one. You called in the television repairman.

Following my recent book club meeting, several of us stayed longer because we began talking about our TV experiences as a child. Remember when you didn’t have 24/7 programming? At some point in the night (midnight?), programming wrapped up, and you listened to the National Anthem as you looked at an American Eagle until it faded away until the next morning.

And we had maybe three or four channels. ABC, NBC, CBS, and maybe a random local channel. If the weather was bad, the antennae could go on the fritz and you were out of luck until it could be straightened up once again.

Baby Boomers such as me like to think of those as simpler times. But I have to admit to enjoying my Sirius radio and keyless entry. I like having a couple of hundred television stations from which to choose (though I probably use only 10; still, I appreciate possibilities). I like Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu and iPads and iPhones and being able to change channels without having to get out of my chair.

Still, it’s fun to recall those simpler times when you didn’t have to close your eyes for most of the programming, even on regular television and surprisingly early in the evening.

And don’t even get me STARTED on cursive writing.