out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.

no more pain, only friends

Saw one of my favorite people, for what had been one of my least favorite appointments,… seeing the dentist. Dr. Quickstad and his staff have allayed whatever fears my teeth and I had about hands poking around inside my mouth. To say they are considerate is an understatement. Never have I been queried more about my well-being during a dental visit. But they are so efficient and capable, that they needn’t worry. 

My first experience having my teeth looked at was the summer before entering 6th grade. Our family was too poor to afford such luxuries as repairing what we already had. We could only take care of our daily needs; the future would have to wait until we hit the lottery (nonexistent in those days). I’m not certain whether it was a nagging toothache or the desire to look better when I smiled. I had skipped 5th grade, going from 4th into 6th. I wanted to “measure up” to older students who would be my peers. But knowing myself as I do, my mom probably dragged me, “kicking and screaming” to the dentist because of the hammering ache from a tooth.

As it turned out I didn’t know pain until I sat in the chair of a middle-aged, Chinese dentist wearing wire-rimmed eyeglasses. The framed certificate hanging on the wall across from where I sat, probably indicated where he’d trained. All I remember is hearing someone say that he’d been an army dentist. He went on to demonstrate on me, how he’d worked on strong, military guys. I should’ve enlisted after the treatment I received.

The dentist was kindly, but formal and stiff. From his demeanor I understood that he didn’t stand for nonsense. Not that I would cause any; I didn’t want him to get carried away with his drill or needles.  I don’t remember there being an assistant, but there might have been. I can only remember watching the dentist’s every move, with eyes like a hawk’s.

Over the course of many months, the dentist worked a miracle. Badly decayed teeth were removed or filled with silver. The improvement gave me the self-confidence to open my mouth without hesitation, smiling, laughing, grinning, speaking. But I must admit the path to my new look was sheer agony.

Novocaine was administered with a needle that looked like it was meant for a horse. And there was no numbing the area beforehand. As the dentist stuck the huge needle into my gums, administering the sedative, I pressed my head as far back into the headrest as it would go; it would’ve gone further if it could have. I was only anesthetized for extractions, fillings were done “cold turkey.” The drilling felt like a jack hammer inside my head. When it hit a nerve, it took all my self-control not to want to kick somebody, anybody. But as a Catholic school student, I was expected to suffer in silence, and I did. 

I came to like and admire the middle-aged, Chinese dentist, wearing wire-rimmed glasses. He discounted my fee because of our financial situation. My mom always paid what she could each time, $5 in cash. I felt proud when I handed over the money; for a moment I didn’t feel so poor.

My first dental experience ended happily, but it didn’t negate my fear of dentists. So throughout the years, I’ve not attended to my teeth as I should have. Somehow that chore always fell to the bottom of my list of things to do. But I did make certain that my daughter’s teeth were always looked after. I didn’t want her suffering, physically, mentally and emotionally, as I had. Her teeth are gorgeous, thanks to braces.

At 61 I’ve found Dr. Quickstad who, with his staff, has made dental appointments more like…visits with friends. They’re ensuring that through the remaining decades of my life, I continue to bite, chew, swallow, and smile, grin and laugh with all my pretty teeth showing.

no more pain, only friends…hugmamma.

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma

new album

Not sure if there are any Michael Jackson fans reading my blog. If there are…good news! A new album of 10 unreleased, new songs should be in stores in November. Evidently someone found a hard-drive with hundreds of songs sung by MJ. Among them, was “Hot Time In The Summer Sun” by Sly and The Family Stone. In my mind, I could see and hear Michael singing the lyrics to the rhythmic tune. Head bobbing up and down, back and forth, while he sat moving to the beat. Happily doing what he loved to do, what he was obviously born to do. That’s how he should be remembered, how I’ll remember him.

My favorite memories of MJ are captured on a DVD of his live concert in Yokohama, Japan. He was in his late 20’s at the time. He cut a lean, mean, “dancing machine” figure. Belting out song after song, gliding and spinning across the stage, he owned it. The ultimate performer, MJ gave himself totally to the act, to the fans. Therein lay his Achille’s heel.

Jackson grew up in front of his fans; realized his full artistic potential because of them; he earned hundreds of millions of dollars because they bought his music, attended his concerts; and he felt completely engulfed by their love. On the flip side, Michael didn’t enjoy a normal childhood; he didn’t grow in other areas which might have given balance to his life; he spent money as fast as he made it, knowing he could always make more; and he kept many individuals who knew him and loved him, at arm’s length. He dedicated his life to his fans, the only ones he seemed to trust as being loyal and truthful to him. He lived in a fantasy, peopled only by himself, his fans and a select few, very few.

In his naiveté, MJ’s total trust in his fans was his final undoing. Inviting those who seemingly adored him to take shelter under his roof cost him dearly. While he went about the daily routine of his life, the free-loaders dug in their heels aiming to stay on the payroll for as long as they could. When MJ’s attention and devotion strayed from them, mother and children resorted to “bringing him down.” And they did.

Michael fled Neverland, a land of fantasies and wild imaginings, where all his dreams, and nightmares, came true. Living abroad with his 3 children, MJ tried to heal his life, himself. Their love, an innocent one, nourished his soul, bringing him back to a shadow of his former self. But at least he was alive, focusing upon them, and not his audience, his fans. But at 50, he contemplated a comeback, a personal performance for his children now old enough to understand and appreciate his talent. But in the bigger picture, Jackson owed millions in unpaid debts. Creditors were clamoring for their money. So “This Is It” was an answer to so many prayers.

Performing 50 live concerts was probably not in the realm of possibilities for Michael Jackson. In older age, he was not what he had been as a dancer, or even as a singer in his earlier years. But he was still amazing. My daughter and a couple of dancer friends were dumbfounded when they saw the film showing what might have been “the greatest show on earth,” for this generation. In their 20’s they could not believe MJ could belt out tunes and “shake his body” alongside younger dancers. They sat in the darkened theatre until the credits were done and the last strains of his voice were heard. I think they felt humbled by Michael’s huge talent.

Sad that MJ is gone, but like Elvis and others before him, such a predictable end to a glorious, but unreal life. Too much too soon, too fast to slow down, and fans always wanting more, expecting more. And their icons always aimed to please.

who controlled whom?…hugmamma