Archive for March, 2007

Unstuck in Time

imga0001.jpgSunday we drove over seventy miles to get a burger and French fries at Angel’s Diner in Palatka. When a friend and I ate there some time ago we felt we had stepped back into the fifties. I wanted my husband to experience the burgers of our youth in a real, shiny, stainless steel diner. It was easy to spot just past the St. John’s bridge. The sign proclaiming its 1932 opening was faded and worn, as was the interior, though the basket-weave stainless shone in the sun. When I remarked on the worn condition, my husband ticked back the calendar to when we were there last. It was the Mug Race, a sailing regatta and the year was 1985 or 1986—at least twenty years! So I gave the “patina” a pass. We had our wonderful burger, real fries and onion rings, and were transported to another dimension for the first time that day.

The second came on the way home. We looked for a roadside junk shop we had passed earlier and spotting it, Jerry quickly pulled over. The rough, “wake up” edge to the pavement rattled our teeth at the same time a Harley thundered by too close and our radio inexplicably popped on. That was only the beginning of the twilight zone.

The middle-aged woman who ran the junk shop in the small Central Florida town set off my creepy meter. She greeted us by spouting her frustration with misplacing a refrigerator shelf. During our visit she spent the whole time running around looking for the illusive shelf as if it were life or death, her face reddening by the minute. Her clothing was a patchwork of layers and her hair’s red highlights framed sharp, searching eyes. She wound through the sun blanched “products” outside bobbing and leaning as if walking on a mountainside.
There was a lot of stuff outside and some things looked promising until we got up close. I had not noticed the building behind the mildewed sofas, headboards, pea green toilet and other assorted large items. The crimson faced lady invited us into the rooms in that shack — dusty, gray, packed rooms with spider webs draping here and there over the flotsam of many peoples’ daily lives, including a white, signed wedding registry. She offered us each a dirty, well-used whistle as we entered — in case we got lost. We declined. The only available light shot through openings. Doors, windows, cracks? It was too cluttered to tell. I waited for the musty, mildewy smell to fill my nostrils, but amazingly it did not happen. Nor did my nose get that dusty feel. In fact, there seemed to be an absence of scent. I followed a shaft of light, and it too lacked something — no particles danced in the light beams. Strange. But cobwebs coated “merchandise” and threatened to attach to the taller of us. I had to tell my husband to duck under the yellowed doll swinging from a frame overhead. I felt uneasy and kept bouncing outside, partly so as not find myself lost in a back room with only cracks of sunlight, wishing I had taken that whistle filled with others’ spittle. Jerry kept searching for some little thing to buy, not wanting to leave without making a purchase just to be nice. And here you must realize I married a really super guy.

The last time I came out for air I spotted the rusty, iron bird cage standing as tall as me. I called Jerry over and surprisingly he could see it as garden art, too. It was obviously no longer of use to a bird. The door was missing and base had rusted off, but it had curlicues and charm. How much, I asked. $50. She said it was special because her father had brought it from Africa after he sold Pan African Airlines. Okay. I told her mine was a passing impulse and I didn’t really need it, certainly not at that price. Her face now reverted to a tad more normal hue, and easing into one of the many wheelchairs, she told me not to give up so quickly, that she could bargain. She forgot about the shelf for the first time. So Jerry and I discussed numbers in Armenian. He suggested $25 and I said $20, so that’s what I offered. She countered with $50!!!!! I felt like I was in a SNL skit. I reminded her she said she would negotiate. She contended she was since her first offer was $500. Jerry and I both clearly heard $50. She said these cages were $100 in Barberville, which in no way supported her argument. I started to leave and she began bargaining again. I told Jerry I wasn’t sure where exactly where I would put it and he suggested our little back yard where I had been looking for a focal point. Now HE is a salesman. It just clicked. The birdcage was no longer an impulse, but something I had been searching for for years. We bantered and I paid her $30. It seemed a fair price to get out of that place. No sooner than the money exchange was made the lady stepped to where she had been standing when we arrived. “Here it is!” she said, waving a small shelf. The whole incident seemed like theatre and this the puzzling ending.

Did we get taken? Who knows? But our new “garden art” comes with a story, and I guess that’s worth something.

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Before Her Time

texasclassreunion06-022.jpgMy sister was describing her new apartment in a senior complex. She is 67 and considers herself too young to be there. She feels she put one over on them by being accepted. “The doorbell is SO loud, but maybe that’s okay for when I have my hearing aid out,” she said, “and the toilet seat is high and has a grab bar. Looks like an old folks’ home, but that bar will be helpful because I have a hard time getting up. There’s another in the shower and I do have trouble with balance sometimes because of my bad eye, and the seat will be nice because I get tired sometimes when I shower.”

Boy did she fool the management of that place! All those extras they put in for old people happened to be just perfect for her, too.

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