Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Two sides of visiting the big city

Recently my coworkers and I took the bus to Boston for the day to meet staff we had only spoken on the phone with since a recent merger. My day job had gone from 50 employees in two offices to over 1,500 all over the world. It was time to see where some of the other 97 percent worked.

Arriving on a bus in the early afternoon, my coworkers and I walked from South Station to a dock where we met some of the local crew, boarded a pontoon boat and toured the harbor before heading to the office. “Just another day at the office,” I teased next to a Boston skyline photo on my social media. Upon disembarking, we hiked a few blocks and began the real office visit.

The Boston staff was friendly and welcoming, but their office environment is very different from our cozy Portland setting with its wooden beams and brick accents. The staff is surrounded by glass, glass, and more glass. Our tour guide admitted walking into walls – and even right into a conference room - when he had been too distracted to look up. It felt like I should have my hands in front of me at all times as we maneuvered around glass everything.

Then there was the walking. People who live and/or work in Boston walk in hyper speed and don’t even realize it. I don’t mind walking but my pace is closer to the speed of snail. Toddlers pass me by without losing their breath. My rear regularly brings up the rear on a long-distance walk. In Boston, three blocks can seem like a long distance, especially when trying to keep up the pace that other younger, healthier, more experienced hoofers have set. I get it, Boston, you’re America’s Walking City.

By the time we got back on the bus to come home, I was too wiped out to keep my ear plugs in and concentrate on whatever Katherine Heigl movie was playing. Plus, I was having a hard time seeing the screen above the head rest in front of me. Yes, I am that lacking in height.

Boston Harbor teaser tour
Second Born also headed to Beantown last week to meet with college friends in celebration of her 23rd birthday. Their agenda was slightly different. Fun was the priority, and they had plenty of it. Walking was also a big part of the weekend. I’ve walked with Second Born. I should say, I’ve almost busted a lung keeping up with Second Born, and she’s slow compared to First Born and The Groom when they lived in Philadelphia. From twenty paces behind I’d typically wave to them saying I’ll catch up.

Philly came up in conversation when our youngest returned home from her birthday weekend. While Boston is a great place to visit and I can see why young people would want to head there, Second Born had a different perspective about her time there. While I thought the weekend would remind her of everything the Hub had to offer – plenty of activity, shopping and restaurants, as well as various employment opportunities – there was one aspect of this city I hadn’t considered. She absolutely hated the traffic. In fact, she said, Boston made her miss Philly.

Are return trips to the City of Brotherly Love in our future? Spouse and I spent a decent amount of time in Philadelphia when the Love Couple resided there. It felt a bit intimidating to me, but First Born walked the town like she had lived there all her life. Her sister loved to visit and had no qualms about driving in Philly because the grid made sense to her. Nothing about Boston roads make sense to her or anyone.

With the possibility of Second Born pursuing relocation to another walking city, I’m thinking I might want to get out and take a few steps at a time to shape up for future visits. Maybe by the time she settles into a new city I’ll only be ten paces behind.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

More than just hitting the hot light

There are times when it can be difficult to think of what to write about. After all, not every moment of my life is chock full of fascinating events. This past week, however, my column was handed to me in the form of a gooey, glazed donut. Krispy Kreme came to town.

The first of its kind in the state of Maine, the “hot light” indicating the delivery of a warm, fresh batch of donuts was scheduled to light up at 6 a.m. Tuesday, October 3. I drove by Monday morning just to see how crazy – I mean dedicated – Krispy Kreme fans could be. There were already a few vehicles in the parking lot. I found out later in the day that the first customer, Alice, arrived at 3 a.m. to secure her spot, her adult daughter Amanda snagging the number two spot.

Out of curiosity, at the end of the day I paid a visit to those who had decided to camp out overnight. Already waiting customers were being entertained by a band. This place knows how to take care of its loyal fans.

What fascinated me was that most of the folks I spoke to had never even tasted a Krispy Kreme donut, but they knew someone who did.  Yet there they were with blankets and sleeping bags, ready to rough it on the ground of a cold parking lot (no cars were allowed). Temps were heading for the low 40s later that night.

The first person in line will receive one dozen donuts a week for a year, while the next 99 get a dozen donuts a month. That’s a pretty good incentive for hanging out all night, but Alice – Customer Number One – had a better one. Her coveted position at the head of the line guaranteed that she would hit the hot light for the first time on Tuesday morning.

All of this talking about such dedication made me think about donuts. Then it made me think about lines, and what I would be willing to wait in line for. At my age, if there isn’t a restroom in the immediate vicinity, all bets are off. But in the past, I’ve done my share of waiting in line, as I’m sure many of you have.

Back in the olden days, otherwise known as my teen years, I waited in line for concert tickets at the mall. There was no ordering online then. You were at the mercy of the mall hours and you usually had to bring a friend so your place in line was safe if you needed to step away for a few minutes.

I’ve never waited in line to get a much-desired Christmas present, though I have been laughed at by a store clerk when I asked if they had a toy that was long ago wrestled off the shelves.
As close as I've gotten so far

This particular day wasn’t just about waiting in line for a donut. Just a few years ago, the first two people in line at Krispy Kreme – mother and daughter – might have never had the chance to share this crazy experience. As a pregnant teen, Alice had given her baby, born on Christmas day, up for adoption. It will be four years this Christmas since Alice and Amanda were reunited for the first time in close to three decades. It struck me chatting with them that they may have been strangers until just recently, but the smiles on their faces and their obvious, natural bond made little moments like the opening of a donut shop pretty special for them.

I watched Krispy Kreme’s opening on the news Tuesday morning instead of choosing to stand in the line that snaked around the parking lot for my first taste of donuty decadence, but I’m glad I stopped by the day before to find out what brought people out. You never know what you might learn when you ask what motivates someone to wait in line. I hope hitting Krispy Kreme’s hot light will be a mother-daughter moment that Alice and Amanda can smile about for many years to come.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

What's that cat catching now?

WARNING: If you believe cats should not be allowed outside, you may take offense to this post (as one reader did when it ran as my weekly column in the local newspaper). We choose to let our cats outside, mostly to save our furniture (not that it's that nice... in fact, I really want a new sofa. Oh right, cats...) and because the cat that is the main subject of this post tends vengefully find something to pee on if we don't. Okay, that's the disclaimer. I think.

One morning last week I was getting ready for work when I realized Spouse was in our backyard, slowly circling our fire pit in pursuit of a terrified, fleeing chipmunk. He was trying to convince the little critter to climb into a peanut butter jar. The poor little thing’s heart must have been fluttering a million miles a minute, thanks to his (or her) near fatal altercation moments before with a great big, furry bully - Second Born’s cat, Sophie.

Sophie, a short-hair tuxedo cat, is a top notch, stealth hunter. We spend a lot of time checking her mouth before we allow her to enter the house. We learned that lesson the hard way, after three mice, a chipmunk, and - almost - a bird entered our house via the cat’s jaw.

Sophie the hunter, resting up.
It is a cat’s instinct to provide us, her surrogate family, with a donation to the table… not that any of those ‘presents’ are going to end up on my table. Even though she is catered to with canned and dry food, not to mention spoiled with extra treats, it isn’t enough to assuage her instincts. We can’t get mad at her for doing what comes naturally, but we’ve adjusted to her varying meows. Some are simply meant to signal that she wants to come inside, while others are slightly muffled with a struggling (or stifled) woodland creature.

A while back, we were baffled at how Sophie was catching birds. After all, they fly – she can’t… at least not that we are aware of. One day we witnessed her stalking the birdfeeders Spouse had attached to a backyard tree, then pull a high jump that would any Olympian would envy, and snatch a poor, unsuspecting bird out of the air.

Spouse moved the bird feeders higher up in the tree. Now we have no idea how she’s getting her flying fix – perhaps jumping off the garage roof.

Sophie has not tackled a squirrel yet, thankfully. I’m sure she would not come out on the winning end of that particular pursuit. Mice and chipmunks are constantly on her hunting radar, and their little corpses are constantly being tossed into our driveway for us to find at the end of our workday, or even before we have our Saturday mug of coffee.

It’s important to remember that dogs have owners and cats have staff. When a dog does something that fails to meet the approval of his person, he will tuck tail and hide in a corner, muddled with shame and confusion. Cats have no shame and, in fact, act the opposite of confused. When Sophie was shoved inside the house while Spouse tried to convince the chipmunk that a peanut butter jar would be a safe haven, she stood at the kitchen door with ears back and tail swishing. This is what is known as her “If you don’t let me back out, I may pee in an undesirable area” stance.

Spouse can be incredibly patient, but I didn’t hold much stock in his method of saving this little chipmunk. I had gone back to getting ready for work when I heard, “Got him.” What? He caught this tiny, lightning fast animal with a peanut butter jar? He had indeed, then deposited it back into the woods.

The chipmunk lived to frolic another day, I hope. Sophie was eventually let back out, and within a half hour had delivered a bird to the driveway. We had a cat once that brought home a garden snake and left it under our bed, so maybe mice, chipmunks, and birds aren’t that bad… except maybe to the mice, chipmunks, and birds.

For a cat who is affectionate and sweet, loves to rub her face against yours, and whose purr rivals the sound of a boat motor, you may not suspect that Sophie has a less gentle, more ninja-like side. But she has us wrapped around her little paw, even as we groan at her offerings. We can’t help but love her and also be fascinated, in an occasionally grossed out way, by her many feline facets.