Thursday, April 30, 2009

Three Cheers for the Little Guy

Because my refrigerator is surrounded by 1950s cabinets, I got out my tape measure, took down the dimensions, and hit the road. Although I try to lessen my carbon footprint as much as possible, I have no desire to live without refrigerated food. How hard can it be to get a refrigerator, I thought. The whole thing should take an hour or two. After all, I knew what I wanted; it was just a matter of finding a good price.

I really am naive. I started out at Lowe's for no other reason than the fact that they carry some nice-looking appliances and open at the crack of dawn. I wandered through the appliance section comparing dimensions. Something was off. Not a single refrigerator had dimensions even close to what I needed. I wandered around some more. Several Lowe's employees gazed lazily at me as they drank their coffee. No one approached me. No one offered to help. Could it be that I don't know how to use a tape measure? Am I really that home improvement-impaired? Since no one seemed inclined to sell me anything I decided to just move on and not only get some answers but also spend my money elsewhere.

So I went to Sears. After all, the holy grail was a Kenmore Elite with french doors and a bottom freezer. Once again I wandered the aisles, my dimensions ridiculously different than the dimensions of each and every model on the floor. Once again no one noticed me. Desperate, I found a stockperson and asked if someone could help me, and five minutes later the appliance guy emerged from the depths. "I need a refrigerator that's 66 1/2" tall and 35" wide," I said. "Everything on the floor is at least 69" tall and too narrow. Did they stop making the size I need?" He replied, "Let me see your dimensions," as if I was somehow misstating what I had written. "I guess refrigerators have gotten taller," he finally admitted. "Well, are there any models in the size I need, anywhere?" I asked. He suggested that I just buy the wrong size and see if the delivery people can "cram it in."

"The space is surrounded by cabinets original to the kitchen, and I don't want to remodel. I just want to chill my beer," I said. His response was to go to the desk, turn on the computer, and go to The Sears salesperson then proceeded to troll the Sears website while I stood in the Sears store. Having nothing better to do, I surreptitiously read the printed emails that littered the desk. "It's been a terrible month and commissions come out next week," one stated. "Let's really push some appliances this weekend!" I wondered if my salesperson had bothered to read his email.

"Aha!" he finally exclaimed. "There is one model that will pretty much fit." I asked if there was a sample on the floor. "No," he replied. "But I can order it from the website for you." I thanked him and explained that I do have my own computer and could just do that from home, if I wanted to order an appliance sight-unseen. At this point I despaired of ever finding a new fridge, and decided to see if the one I have could just be repaired.

Back at my house, I began calling repairmen. The first two calls yielded no answer, and no answering machine. My third call, to Ralph's Appliances, was answered on the first ring. I explained the situation. "Sounds like a freon problem," the man who introduced himself as Craig explained. "Unfortunately, there's no way of fixing that. Most people don't make the size fridge you need anymore, but there is one GE model that has the right height and width. It's a little too deep, but it beats hiring a carpenter and dealing with all that. I have one model on the floor in stainless, but can order other colors, if you want. We can have it to you by Friday." Craig! I love you! I hopped in the car and sped off to Ralph's.

At Ralph's Appliances in Nazareth, PA delivery, installation, and the hauling away of the old appliance is included in the sale price. There is no need for a service contract or extended warranty because they service what they sell. My fridge cost less than it would have if ordered online, and came with a special rebate for people who buy from small, local dealers. Again: Ralph's Appliances in Nazareth, PA. They pick up the phone. They help you. If you need an appliance, please help them. And say hi to Craig for me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Joys of Home Ownership

I'm supposed to be happy that I own a home. Building equity and all that. But it often feels as if home ownership actively works against you. Let's say, for example, that a year and a half ago you bought a home with a really old refrigerator, so old that it's a lovely harvest gold model. You think, "I'd like to replace that one day," but you don't, because the old refrigerator still works, and you have other ways to spend your money. On occasion you look at the fridge and think, "One of these days, when I can afford it, you will be carted off and a stainless steel Kenmore Elite with french doors will occupy your spot," but then you finish your coffee and get on with your life.

Your old fridge will soldier on until, two days before you are expecting guests for the weekend, two days before a weekend when you will have no time to sit around waiting for a delivery truck, two days before you need things like ice and cold drinks, it will silently die. It will die at exactly the time when carpenter bees have decided to invade your wood deck, necessitating an expensive visit from the exterminator. It will die at precisely the time when you can least afford the Kenmore Elite of your dreams. It will die on the day you are paying your monthly bills and feeling poor. It will die at the worst, the absolute worst, possible time.

A year ago, your washing machine conducted a similar assault on your morale, leaving this world right in the middle of a spin cycle that included all of your underwear. Although you've never done anything but clean and gently use them, your appliances appear to hate you. The carpenter bees clearly hate you. The US economy definitively hates you, although the chances are that the refrigerator that you must now rush out to purchase will probably be on sale, which is the one bright spot in this saga.

Aren't you glad you're not a renter?

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Change Is Gonna Come

It's been hard to spend time in front of the computer when summer has arrived inexplicably early and I can sit on my porch for hours reading, particularly when I'm reading an engrossing book. Here's a little rhetorical game: name the most important change that happened in America in the 1960s. Student protests? Civil rights? Sexual revolution? A movement from the "conformity" of the 1950s to various "freedoms"? That's what I would have thought, but I would have been wrong. What's true is, in a sense, the reverse: the most important, most lasting, change to emerge from the 1960s was the conservative movement, the rise of the right. The lasting effect of 1960s liberalism was almost 30 years of conservative Republican rule. Without the upheavals of the 1960s, Nixon would in fact have become a political footnote. Reagan might never have seemed so darn sensible.

Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus, finally out in paperback, provides not only a lively history of the 1964 Presidential race, but demonstrates how wrong have been assumptions about the results of that race. Johnson won in a landslide. Goldwater was a raving fanatic. How was it, then, that within a year of his historic victory Johnson was beleaguered, how was it that ultimately his Presidency is remembered as "failed"? Perlstein charts the grassroots growth of the conservative movement, demonstrating that Goldwater lost as much because of an ineffective campaign as because of any love for Johnson, and showing how, as early as 1962, the seeds of conservatism had begun to germinate.

Many accounts of the early 60s discuss passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Bills as culminations, victories in a long-fought struggle. I've read many an account of Mario Savio on top of the paddy wagon in Berkeley birthing the Free Speech Movement, and of the mop-topped Beatles revolutionizing pop music. Hidden underneath these accounts, though, is the fact that for many Americans these events were not triumphs but confusing tragedies. The Great Society? The War on Poverty? Government, overreaching. The British Invasion? Long-hairs, their guitars blaring noise. Free Speech? Ingrates, coddled by state-provided education. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act became law. Shortly thereafter, our first summer of riots ensued. Americans watched Harlem erupt in flames live on TV. The fact that government could not legislate consensus was demonstrated even as Johnson intensified his attempts to do just that. Most Americans abhorred upheaval, preferring perhaps not conformity so much as stability.

Goldwater turned out to be a terrible campaigner, articulating his ideas with statistics and boring recitations of the logistics of military hardware. By the end of the 1964 campaign, though, a politician emerged who was able to couch conservative notions in an emotional pitch, who was able to talk about "us" and "them" without sounding like he wanted to blow up the world or blow apart America society. His name was Ronald Reagan. His role campaigning for Goldwater was his springboard to the California Governor's mansion, and the rest, as they say, is history. Hopefully it is a history Perlstein will undertake. Now that he has shown how a movement was born and grew, perhaps he'll next describe its apotheosis.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Afternoon

Got any big Earth Day plans? Probably not. The first Earth Day, in 1970, was more of a nationwide protest than holiday, with 20 million participants nationwide. In New York, Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic and people picnicked on the sidewalks. Dead fish were dragged through midtown. Demonstrators in DC poured oil in front of the Interior Department to protest oil spills. College students in every state skipped classes to plant trees.

The first Earth Day didn't pass unnoticed by American's conservatives. April 22, 1970 was the centennial of Lenin's birth, a fact made much of by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who claimed the day was some kind of communist plot against America. J. Edgar Hoover also had an interest in Earth Day, placing its organizers on his watch list and sending undercover agents to infiltrate campus activities. Richard Nixon had no comment on the day itself, but three months later he created the EPA and five months after that signed the Clean Air Act. It's been pretty much downhill since then in terms of concrete results, although Earth Day 1990 did spike interest in recycling.

At age 39, Earth Day is in that awkward stage between simple adulthood and early middle age. Today, no oil will be spilled, no dead fish thrown, no classrooms emptied of students. Instead, solitary bloggers will post truncated histories serving as a reminder that the earth still needs tending, perhaps more than ever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Beale Inside Me

Who can really say how it all begins. There's a lack of money, to be sure, but also a lack of overall warewithal. Back turned to family, friends, neighbors, you seek out the company of cats and racoons. You can't afford to have the trash hauled away, but a 28-room mansion affords plenty of space to simply fill up a closet, then a hallway, then parlor, dining room, and finally the bedrooms, one by one. Because you don't leave the house the only way you feel time's passage is in your joints and in the way one litter of kittens leads inevitably to another. Eventually you become an American Miss Havisham. You are a Beale of Grey Gardens.

Every town has its own notorious recluse, its own crazy cat ladies. Few of them become the subjects of Maysles documentaries, Broadway musicals, HBO docudramas. Few of them become cult heroines, but then few of them are the aunt and cousin of Jackie O. Staunch personalities aside, Big and Little Edie occupy a permanent space in my psyche not because of the weird circumstances in which they came to live but because of the ever-hidden reasons why. How does a debutante become a crazy cat lady? How does wealth become squalor?

All they wanted to do was sing and dance. In an upper-class culture that remained essentially Victorian well into the 20th century, in which women were to marry, raise proper children, marry off those children in turn, in which women were definitively not to be heard, all they wanted was a voice. They wanted to perform, to take the male gaze that would enshrine them in domesticity and instead profit from it, flaunt it, overspill its boundaries. Today we would find nothing transgressive about this, but in their day this was transgressive enough for husband and father, sons and brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins all to abandon them. They were poor because their rich family outcast them.

Who wouldn't in turn reject the world that first rejected you? That they ultimately had only each other was no doubt both a curse and a saving grace, a curse because with one another to rely upon there was no reason to leave the house, and a saving grace because neither was alone. It didn't have to be that way. Big Edie's husband abandoned the family because she refused to behave the way he expected her to behave, and Little Edie didn't marry after her debut because she didn't want to, because she wanted a different sort of life. They provided may things for one another, without a doubt, but what each provided the other was primarily an audience. Each allowed the other to perform, to enact, to transgress.

They are pre-feminist heroines who suffered the fate of their ilk. Fifty or 100 years earlier they would have been thrown into an asylum as hysterics; Big Edie's ownership of Grey Gardens instead provided asylum of a different sort. They fascinate me because they could have been me, were I born in a different time and of a different class. Instead, I've been free to transcribe my own life, free not to marry, free to live performatively through the written word in a way they were never free. Because I live in a culture where a woman is free to be an artist, I'm richer than they ever could have been.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Reason to Garage Your Car

Every once in a while something comes along to prove the cliche that no matter how much one has seen one hasn't seen it all. Last night, that thing was a documentary on BBC America entitled My Car is My Lover. The producers set out to document instances of mechaphilia, a desire to have sex with machines, undoubtedly hoping to find a thriving subculture in which lawn mowers, computers, crock pots, and ipods are violated on a regular basis. Instead, they found Ed Smith from Washington state, a loner who has sex with Vanilla, his white VW Beetle.

How does someone end up transferring their sexual feelings from human to machine? According to Smith, an encounter with a photograph of a classic Corvette when he was 13 changed him this way forever. Through Smith the producers meet Justin, a 20 year-old from Missouri who is just accepting his feelings for cars. Justin believes his romantic leanings stem from his days as a child playing in the yard, with only a rusting car for a companion. When he reached the age of sexual exploration, naturally he'd masturbate in the car.

If I were a hot-blooded American man trying to tryst with an automobile I'd head right for the tailpipe, but Smith seems to enjoy raping every crevice of his vehicle. In keeping with the tenet that the act of observation changes the observed, participation in the documentary seems to embolden Smith. The producers decide it would be a great idea to have these two mechaphiles meet face to face (they are message board acquaintances) at a large automobile swap meet outside LA. When they stop for the night during the drive down, Smith fondles a Chevy Suburban parked in the motel's lot. In the middle of the night, he ravages the producers' rental car.

Justin's first love is his Beetle, but an oil leak forces him to drive to CA in Todd, a Grand Prix he has recently acquired. Justin is more the romantic than Smith; during the journey he slowly falls in love with Todd, admitting at the end that he can't wait to get home to %#*& the $#@* out of it. Alas, on the night Justin and Todd meet, while Todd reclines in a peaceful slumber, Smith has sex with Todd, caught in the act by the documentarians. Both Todd and Justin seem sanguine about this turn of events, but I'm sad that Justin won't get to be Todd's first.

The auto swap meet appears to send Smith over the bend. He's caught on camera wandering the site, randomly fondling, licking, and kissing cars, his erection barely concealed by his baggy chinos. For the record, this section of the program contained some of the best reaction shots imaginable. It was also sad, and creepy, and very American in the way that this kind of thing can only be American, in that only this culture could produce a man who sexualizes machines, acts on those urges, is happy to tell the world, and encourages the 15 minutes of fame that might ensue.

I probably still haven't seen everything. Perhaps this show will enbolden other mechaphiles to come forward. Surely somewhere in this vast land of ours a man is right now, even as I write these words, creeping into the kitchen, lovingly and quietly opening a cabinet door, and ever so gently yet with great anticipation lifting to his breast a stainless steel Cuisinart 4-slice toaster.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Childhood A Go-Go

My ruminations on department stores and alcohol conjured a somewhat related childhood memory. At some point the Falk's Food Basket chain, of the cocktail lounge that would grill your steak fame, closed. I seem to recall this was caused by a tax problem of the sort where failing to pay your taxes leads to a problem. At any rate, the stores were sold off, but Falk's somehow retained the restaurants, which were naturally named Falk's Cocktail Lounge.

I recall driving by one or the other of the two remaining locations as a child and my mother sighing loudly and exhaling, "Go-go girls." I had no idea what go-go girls were, but they sure sounded like fun, maybe even like something I'd like to be one day. My mother's approbation only made these girls seem all the more glamorous. Even at that early age, I innately understood that anything that made my mother sigh was something really, really cool.

At around the same time much sighing would ensure whenever we visited her good friend Judy Kaplan. I loved Judy Kaplan. She always had candy, let me watch whatever I wanted on TV, and cooked crazy exotic food, the likes of which were never seen in our house, such as squash. Over the din of Laugh-In and sighs I could often make out the words "Marjorie" and "go-go girl." As I eventually came to understand, Judy's daughter Marjorie had dropped out of college and was shimmying her way to financial independence at some local watering hole (probably not Falk's, but who really knows). Marjorie Kaplan was undoubtedly the only Jewish go-go girl in the history of go-go girls, but there you have it. I only recall meeting Marjorie once, when she stopped by to visit her mother at the same time that we were visiting, and I indeed recall her wearing tall, white, patent leather boots. Go-go boots!

I had no idea what it all meant, but I was into those boots. I asked once if I could get a pair of boots like Marjorie's, and was disappointed when my request was met with only another a sigh and a definitive "NO." My parents often simply took me out to dinner with them rather than paying a babysitter (and as a consequence, although this is another story altogether, I have attempted to order a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at every upscale restaurant between PA and NYC). Although I spent some months hoping that one day we would patronize Falk's Cocktail Lounge that day never came to pass.

Go-go dancing originated at the Peppermint Lounge in the early 60s, when enthusiastic patrons did the twist on top of the tables. The term is derived from the French expression a go go, meaning in abundance, galore. Although scantily clad, go-go dancers are not necessarily strippers, no matter what my mother thought. By the time I was old enough to go to a bar, Falk's Cocktail Lounge was long gone. I have no idea what happened to Marjorie Kaplan and her white boots. All that remains is this abundance of memories of the sighs galore caused by the simple act of dancing on tabletops.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Remembrance of Patty Melts Past

When I was a kid one of my biggest thrills was accompanying my father on his weekly trip to Two Guys. I'm not sure what exactly killed Two Guys - over-expansion? Wal-mart? changing consumer tastes? - but to a child it was a wonderland indeed. It was the source of all toys, a mecca filled with bikes and cap guns and board games and records and record players and pretty much anything a young heart could desire. Two Guys was so vast, so overflowing with manna, that it had its own restaurant and cocktail lounge right by the entrance, providing succor to tired pilgrims. In fact, the lost world I'm mourning this morning isn't Two Guys per se, but the world of stores so comprehensive, so important, that shoppers would linger so long that they would work up an appetite and need to stop for a meal.

When I think about it, nearly every large retailer I can recall had at least a lunch counter and at most a restaurant/bar. Woolworth's, Grant's, Hess's, Falk's, Macy's, Bloomingdale's. I vividly remember my local Woolworth's, where one could purchase a bird or a cat or candy or K-Tel records and then stop for a patty melt before moving on. I don't remember this, but apparently Falk's, a local chain, sold groceries as well as department store items, and one could purchase a steak from the butcher and then take it into the cocktail lounge, order a martini, and have the cook prepare it for you. Why did this all go away?

Unless I'm in a particular mood I don't tend to enjoy shopping. A couple of drinks might help things along. My local Wal-Mart features an Auntie Annie's pretzel stand, but a greasy soft pretzel doesn't come close sufficing in terms of making Wal-Mart tolerable. Several gimlets, on the other hand, might help me to see the beauty of Jacqueline Smith's fashion collection.

The truly cavernous department stores that remain, in large cities, still have restaurants within them, usually on an upper floor, so that even those who are only stopping in to meet someone for lunch are forced to walk though merchandise. I understand that the world now goes to work each day; ladies who lunch are harder and harder to find. The after-work shopping crowd might be hungry, though, and certainly would be in need of happy hour. Putting restaurants back into stores might entice people to linger, to stop rushing around before hurrying home.

People clearly still have an interest in dining in the middle of a shopping expedition. Every big-box shopping center includes fast food outlets, and often includes some mid-price bar/restaurant chain like Applebee's. Every mall has an awful "food court." The difference now is that one must leave the store in order to get to the food and drink. In fact, one probably leaves the store, gets into the car, and drives across the parking lot to get to it, wasting fossil fuel and contributing to obesity by discouraging the simple act of walking. Put the alcohol back into the stores, people, it's just healthier!

What's lost is the sense of wonder and excitement, the notion that a store is a place people want to be, a place people enjoy so much they want to make a day of it. What's lost is the sense that our cornucopia of consumerist plenty is something to be celebrated with steaks, martinis, and patty melts, that the act of purchasing can be, in and of itself, an event.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Long Weekend

It feels as if the entire country is off this weekend. So I'm taking off, too. Enjoy your ham or your matzo, as the case may be, and I'll be back Monday. Happy Eggs!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tweet Off

What is the fascination with Twitter? I ask this question seriously. It's obviously extremely popular with millions of people and is perhaps the most written-about social networking service. I just don't get it. I understand that actual blogging, thinking up topics, putting thoughts into sentences and paragraphs, can be a time-consuming task. Micro-blogging, with a limit of 140 characters, can be an easy way to throw your thoughts out into the winds. What are you doing right now? it asks, and I guess my answer is, ultimately, "Nothing anyone cares about."

I understand Twitter's usefulness in real-time reporting. Live blogging in more than 140 characters can distract the reporter from the unfolding event, and Twitter is a great way to convey events as they unfold. Following reporters at last summer's party conventions, for example, was interesting, and I always enjoy checking out the Twitter feed one of our local reporters posts for City Council meetings even though, as a participant in the meetings, I'm reading them hours later. My life, however, holds little journalistic interest. Events here in my house unfold at a glacial pace. "Thinking about lunch," I might say around noon, and then an hour or so later I might be able to report, "Eating cheese." If I have one meaningful thought a day, or if one meaningful thing happens a day, it's been an eventful day indeed. Most days feature much more chaff than wheat.

Some people use Twitter as a form of chat. Rather than IM, they correspond in a series of Tweets. I see that this is easier than email in that one can hold simultaneous conversations with a number of people, all from one feed. But who really has that much to say? I sure don't. It's all I can do to think of a Facebook status update that anyone but my cat might be interested in reading, and I only post those at most once a day.

There's also something about the language of Twitter that annoys me. On Twitter, one "follows" and has people "following," as if the site is comprised of millions of prophets or philosopher-kings. I'm not a follower, and I don't want to be followed. It's annoying that Facebook has turned the word "friend" into a verb, but all in all I'd rather friend someone than follow her.

I don't want to give in and Tweet, I really don't. So please, let's all agree not to. If enough of us ignore Twitter, maybe it will go away.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Ham in Every Pot

For the past week, one of my local grocery chains has been running advertisements claiming that they are THE source for Easter ham because they stock no less than 16 types of the stuff. My main response to their barrage of ads was to think, "Are there really 16 types of ham? And if so, why?" I shopped yesterday at that particular chain and am compelled to report that yes, the entire meat department was filled with ham and, although I didn't count, it certainly felt like 16 varieties filled the aisle. I've never seen so much ham in one place in my life.

I never knew ham had varieties. My mother never made baked ham so I'm new to it. How could I have imagined that ham can be purchased whole, half, bone-in, bone-out, shoulder, shoulder butt, picnic, smoked, honey glazed, spiral sliced, country style, or made out of turkey? How could I have imagined that some ham could be had for $0.49 a pound, while some would set one back $3.49/lb.?

Although the Easter bunny filled our baskets, this was not a holiday that we celebrated. What does one eat for Easter if one doesn't like ham? Or is there simply no other choice? And what is the grocery store going to do with all of its unsold ham? What, if anything, does ham have to do with Easter, anyway? The Last Supper was the Passover meal, a feast that was resolutely ham-free. I'm at a loss. I did buy a ham, though, a nice shoulder butt (whatever that is) for the ridiculously low price of $3.34 for almost six pounds. That's a lot of ham sandwiches.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Pay a Cable Bill for This?

One thing Richard Nixon had right was his statement that only Americans can humiliate the United States. Several years ago, the writers of a popular BBC program were faced with a dilemma. Although they had planned out a long-running series centered around a mystery, their star was leaving the show after two seasons. The star was so central to the mystery that he appeared in every shot, every scene. They would have to wrap things up prematurely.

The series was Life on Mars, in which a cop from contemporary Manchester is hit by a car and wakes up a cop in Manchester in 1973. Was he dead? In a coma? A time traveler? Insane? Whatever direction the show's creators initially envisioned, they found themselves bound to quickly wrap things up. So here's what they came up with: the hero, Sam Tyler, was in fact in a coma, 1973 some netherworld between life and death but a world that felt quite real. The coma was caused by a brain tumor that the car accident shook loose, or something. Contemporary Sam Tyler undergoes surgery and awakens, restored to his real life. But he finds himself alienated, unable to feel, unable to fit in. He realizes that he was happier in the dream world of 1973. So he jumps off a roof in order to return to that world. The seconds before the real Sam's death become years lived in his ideal world of the past.

Someone had the great idea to remake the series in America. American Sam is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973 New York. Same situation, same characters. But American Life on Mars never caught on, and the show was canceled. However, the writers were allowed to finish the series, bring everything to a close. Like their UK counterparts they had to do this quickly, and had to find some way of ending things despite whatever long-term plotting they had envisioned.

What do they do? They decide to take the title of the show literally. Sam Tyler is in fact an astronaut, lying in suspended animation on his way to Mars in the year 2035. For whatever reason he asked that the dream he be given for his two-year sleep be that he is a cop in 2009. The spaceship hit a meteor shower, it turns out, causing a computer glitch that made him dream that his 2009 dream self had been sent back to 1973. He awakens, we discover that all the 1973 characters are his coworkers on the voyage, and they land on Mars. There was no mystery. End of story.

WTF? Our teeth may be better, our most disgusting food may be much less disgusting than their most disgusting food, but clearly the British are much better at providing sensible narrative closure. The BBC ordered a sequel to LoM, and the only good that comes out of the American ending to the series is the fact that it renders the possibility of a US sequel moot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Career Opportunities

As my loyal readers know, I've been on a fruitless search for a new occupation. Yesterday, that search ended. At long last, I have found a vocation. It all started with a trip to my local Aldi.

I'd never before set foot in an Aldi. I knew it was some kind of grocery store but it always seemed, well, scary. Extremely late model cars populate its parking lot. It lacks windows, looking like a repository for weird, sad, experimental foods. Its shopping carts sit chained together, mocking their potential users. I knew it was some sort of European chain, and I've been to grocery stores in Europe. Scary.

It turns out that Aldi is a medium-sized box filled with strange brands of cheap food. Munkin Dimes brand brownie mix, for example. BunKiss raisins. You get the drift. But they had actual Pringle's, in the largest can I've ever seen. Industrial-sized Pringle's, for about two bucks. It's a warehouse-type store, so once the boxes are stacked the employees have nothing to do but to sit at the cash registers eating Pringle's while they await customers. As I wandered the aisles looking for recognizable food stuff, the cashiers sat on stools sharing a can, gossiping in their bright yellow smocks.

Finally, I thought. A job for which I am qualified. My PhD provides few real-world marketable skills, but I can wear a yellow smock and eat chips made from dehydrated potato flakes just about as well as anyone. As luck would have it, Aldi was hiring. After a brief interview with Toot, the Assistant Manager and Cashier in Chief, I was hired and fitted for my smock. I'll even be making the minimum wage in addition to the Pringle's!

Sadly, my new schedule won't afford me time for frivolities like blog posts. It's an entire career change, and it's arrived none too soon. So, it's been nice sharing my thoughts this past year, but the time for thoughts is at an end. I'm a working girl now, with no time for the internets. If you're in the neighhborhood, though, stop by for some chips with me (and Toot). We'd love to sit with you and catch up.

Not even Wikipedia can state with certainty the origin of April Fool's Day or of the prank. The best guess is that some folks were a little slow to adopt the Julian calendar and continued to insist that April 1 was New Year's Day. These people were called fools. I've been called a fool for a lot less, so despite the cliche some things do change. Whether or not you've got a New Year's hangover, happy April Fools.