Cashier

“Mom, do you have to talk to everybody?” Yes. Yes, she did.

The trip to the grocery store was not a necessity, it was a social event for my mother. She was the kind of person you don’t want to get behind in the checkout line. She would strike up a conversation with the cashier, but it didn’t stop there.

Mom

Mom. 1948 photo.

She also talked to other customers in line, the produce manager, the butcher behind the counter, the bakery staff, the shelf stocker, the guy doing “cleanup in aisle 5”.

Her first job as a newlywed was in a local A&P grocery store. She wore that uniform proudly.

So, she must have felt quite at home there, for a lifetime.

But there was more to it than that.

She was incredibly lonely, starving for adult conversation, a social being who didn’t drive, was mostly stuck at home with 6 children and a husband who worked extra shifts to support the family.

My life is so different than hers, but I often find myself doing the very same thing.

There are times when I use that self-checkout, usually when in a hurry. But I’m often aware of how many jobs that system must have eliminated.

And I think of my mother. She would have been 90 years old last week.

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Post inspired by the news from Amazon. They are planning a brick and mortar grocery store that bypasses the cashier, purchases are automatically recorded and charged to your Amazon account as you exit the store. Somewhere, my mother is shaking her head.

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Rails

Native-American-1868

1868 Photo. Library of Congress.

“We will likely be gassed, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, hit with batons.” 

Thousands of US veterans are headed to North Dakota to serve as human shields for the Standing Rock water protectors, who have been ordered to vacate the camps by December 5. Many thousands have braved sub-zero temperatures to stand strong in the protest against a planned oil pipeline which will threaten their water supply and encroach on sacred tribal land.

It is time for a reblog, and a reason to feature an amazing 1868 photo.

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We haven’t heard much lately about the standoff with armed militia in Oregon, where gun-toting white men have now completed the second week in occupation of a federal wildlife refuge.

I don’t completely understand their goal, their issue, or why the federal government seems to be allowing this to persist.

It just made me think of this photo from 1868, taken at the final connection of the Trans-Continental Railroad.

It shows a Native American looking out from the top of Palisades, about 435 miles from Sacramento, California.

We can only imagine what he must have been thinking.

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Crutches

pig-with-crutches

Image from WiseEconomy.com

Black Friday shopping on crutches.

It will change your perspective about humanity. It was over a decade ago, but it left an impression.

After a freak accident in early November, I was sporting a leg boot, trying to heal a broken foot.

Thanksgiving plans were already in motion, I had invited about 15 members of my family to our home. The offer stood firm. I would make the turkey, stuffing, gravy. The invited guests would provide all the rest of the meal.

It all worked out really well, the amount of pre-holiday frenzy would be limited by my new handicap. Loved ones were supportive, sympathetic and grateful that I did not cancel the event.

I was on temporary leave from my job, so I would be free for Black Friday weekend shopping, something that didn’t happen very often.

After a few weeks, I’d mastered the crutches, the first in my lifetime. I had sustained injuries before; sprains, muscle pulls, knee dislocation, etc., but this was my first fracture.

There was no real pressure to purchase Christmas gifts at the time, but I was curious about the challenge.

So, out I went, at about 5 am, to the mall.

We had all seen the pictures of the ugly American shopper, stampeding at the door to save a few dollars. My experience was different this time.

Kindness prevailed.

At first, there was surprise that I would even make the attempt. After that, doors were held open, boxes were acquired from high places, offers were made to pass me up in line. There were smiles, shaking of heads, questions.

But mostly, kindness.

I never forgot. I keep those crutches in the back of my closet.

Just as a reminder.

 

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A Cornish Thanksgiving

“A fresh-killed turkey needs to breathe.” Advice from a poultry farmer that I learned too late.

At 10 pm on the night before Thanksgiving, I discovered that the 18 lb. turkey had spoiled.

I had wrapped it 2 or 3 ways before placing it in a cold garage for storage, leaving room in an overcrowded refrigerator for other holiday foods.

It was something I had done for years with no complications. This year would be different. I had overwrapped the bird. The smell hit me as the first layer was removed.

A look of sheer horror fell upon my face, and my adult children came to the rescue.

They found one grocery store that was still open for business on the other side of town.

food-network

Food Network photo.

We arrived to find a few very large frozen birds that would never work.

And then, we saw them.

Four nearly identical Cornish game hens in the fresh meat aisle.

I remembered a recipe from Emeril Lagasse for an orange-glazed variety that was clipped from a magazine years before, but never tried.

It worked. It went so well with the traditional side dishes and desserts that were already prepared.

Thanksgiving has always been an important holiday, perfect for that food-focused family. But the years of traditional turkey and trimmings, carefully prepared, with some degree of culinary success ? Those have all paled in comparison to this near-disaster of a holiday with a happy ending.

It’s the one we will always remember.

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Secret Sauce

Tonight, we may get snow. Today, I will use the grill on a 70 degree day.

BBQ spareribs is a frequent request, and it’s all about the sauce.baby-back-ribs

Shirley would sometimes bring leftovers for lunch from her weekend BBQ.

I got a taste.

The sauce blew me away.

She claimed it to be a family secret, locked in the vault.

I persisted. Our friendship evolved at a time when we both needed a confidante.

We were about the same age, and at first glance, couldn’t have been more different. She was a black woman, a mother and wife at age 17, high school dropout, worked her way up as a corporate secretary.  I was a college educated white woman, resisting motherhood, looking for job fulfillment.

We shared an office. We bonded from the first day.

She corrected me early on, “I am not black, I am brown. You are not white, you are pink.” We both laughed about it. We had frequent discussions about race relations.

But mostly, we shared what we had in common… family, home, relationships, feelings, expectations, health issues. Life.

She gave in on the family secret, and I have been blessed to use her recipe.

Every chance I get.

Shirley’s BBQ Sauce

1 bottle Open Pit (0r any unflavored) BBQ sauce.

1 medium onion, diced small.

2 TBS fresh lemon juice.

Pulp from ½ lemon, chopped.

¼ cup sugar.

2 TBS A-1 Steak Sauce.

2 Tsp Hot Sauce.

Stir all ingredients and cook over low/medium flame just until it starts to boil. Stir often to prevent sticking. Allow to cool, it will thicken.

Additional tips:

*Dry-rub the meat with Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours. *Pre-bake the ribs at 350 degrees for 30 minutes before grilling. *Add sauce late, maybe 10 minutes before removing from grill.

 

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Easy to be Hard

I found myself on the steps of Columbia University handing out flyers for presidential hopeful Eugene McCarthy.

columbia-universityIt was the late 1960’s.

I was there for a high school journalism conference, a teenager in New York City for 4 days of culture shock, and the start of my personal political awareness.

Living on the poor side of a small blue collar steel town in Pennsylvania, I knew very little about McCarthy.

I just knew he spoke to ending the war in Vietnam. By then, so many neighbors and friends had come home in a body bag. We were angry, scared, confused, clinging to hope, praying for change.

So when we came upon the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), we joined in the protests, with the support of our teacher chaperone.

I didn’t know my parents’ politics. Dad was a union steelworker, my mother still in mourning for JFK. Politics was seen as a luxury for folks who had time, not for families just struggling to survive.

McCarthy didn’t get the nomination, nor did Robert Kennedy, assassinated in the middle of his campaign. Martin Luther King, a voice of hope and peace, was cut down in his prime. We were one year away from landing on the moon. Vietnam raged on, Nixon found his way to the White House.

It was a confusing time to be a teenager.

And in the middle of that same field trip, “Hair” opened on Broadway. It was billed as a tribal love rock musical; it came with a controversial anti-war message, and some memorable lyrics and music.

We had tickets. It left an impression.

This piece, later made famous by the group Three Dog Night, was one of the most haunting, with lyrics that might just be timeless. Easy to be Hard.

“How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold
How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no
Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend, I need a friend”
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Hair has been redone on Broadway, was made into a movie, but this is the original version, sung by Lynn Kellogg.

Written by Jerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot.

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The Wedding Photographer

On the afternoon of my 30th birthday, I began my career as a wedding photographer.

playmobile-letizia-cambone

Playmobile Image. Letizia Cambone.

Six months later, it was over.

Her name was Kelli. We worked together in the marketing department of an engineering company.

She was beautiful, and maybe the most photogenic person ever, with a smile that lit up a room.

She knew I was an amateur photographer, had seen my stuff. I proudly spoke of a new 35 mm camera, a Canon AT 1 with assorted lenses and filters. (Vintage 1970’s)

It was a hobby. I already had a job as a writer/editor and proposal coordinator.

She asked begged me to photograph her upcoming December wedding.

Jerry was the corporate photographer who had an office adjacent to mine. He filmed progress photos at construction sites, inanimate objects. He took me aside and gave me the warning,  “you never want to be a wedding photographer, it’s the worst”.

I ignored his advice.

The first wedding went so very well, in spite of a few very basic errors on my part as a novice. I never had a backup camera, or an assistant to help set up the shots.

It was a small, intimate wedding that the couple had arranged quickly, with a limited budget. I worked cheap.

I did something no professional would do. I gave her the complete collection of photos and negatives. She was happy to create her own albums, as I was surely not interested. She paid me for my time, and the processing costs. Everyone was happy.

Word got around. We were an office of 1200 people.

Months later, another co-worker named Julie asked me to do her daughter’s June wedding.

The family dynamic was complicated. Julie was recently divorced, recovering from a serious depression. Her ex, my former supervisor, was now living with a woman that I knew, the “other woman” that caused the demise of Julie’s 25 year marriage.

The ceremony went well, there were abundant candid shots that the young bride requested.

And then came the formal group photos.

The father of the bride insisted that his new lady be included. The mother of the bride was furious. The bride was hurt, embarrassed, confused. I was trying to remain objective.

Smile….please ?

It didn’t work. And I began to understand the complexities of wedding photography, the emotional baggage.

It was the last assignment I took. It was fun while it lasted.

I’m glad I never quit my day job.

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