Category Archives: lost in thoughts

chain letter …

I received an internet “chain letter” tonight via Facebook. At first glance I cringed … then I sighed heavily and cringed again. But, since I was sitting on the pot’, I read through it.

It is important to note that this was sent to me by someone who I suspect never sends superfluous things like this to others. I questioned for a moment whether or not her account was hacked, or maybe she was feeling glum or blue, and I was intrigued. So … I read it.

While reading the message, I was flooded with memories of my youth. Memories of opening the squeaky lid to our mailbox on Antonio Lane and reaching in to find an envelope addressed to me. It reminded me of that important and giddy feeling I had on the inside while carefully carrying it to the roll-top desk in my bedroom. Not seeing a return address, I would inspect the cancellation stamp.

“Ooo! From Arizona? Who is this from?”

It could be from Colorado, or somewhere else in California, or somewhere nearby like Cupertino or Campbell. It didn’t matter; it was a mystery that needed to be solved. I slowly would break the envelope’s seal and remove and unfold the letter.

And there it was — a message.

Letters like this always included directions about how many letters the receiver needed to send and by when. Some even contained a list of addresses to send it to. The frantic feeling of having to do what was required within the deadline would build. I would have to do this! Otherwise, the unspeakable could happen — bad luck, sadness, or something else to avoid. If I were to send them in time following the exact directions outlined, something magical could happen. Something like good luck, granted wishes, or some other mystical occurrence.

It was exciting. It was mysterious. It was entertaining. The wonder of it all. IT WAS FUN!

I could see my towheaded-self open the second drawer down on the right side of my roll-top desk to retrieve fresh and clean ruled paper, carefully counting out the number of sheets I needed to complete the task at hand. God forbid I didn’t have enough! I’d search my school binder (a Star Wars Trapper-Keeper) and other drawers in the house until my supply needs were met. I would grab a pencil, sharpen it into a point, and start the task of carefully copying the directions.

If I used a pen, I would be quickly reminded that pencil was a better option, especially considering how I deemed mistakes as a definite reversal of fortune if left uncorrected; or worse, scratched out. If my Eraser-Mate had a good eraser on it, I might use it. But, pencil was safer … it was good decision making.

If all went well, I would be able to complete the letters, fold them neatly in thirds, insert them into envelopes, carefully address them, and seal them – an act that seemed like I was sealing my fate inside each and every envelope. The sealing gum tasted like the misery and doom that would overcome me if I didn’t get them in the mailbox by the deadline.

Then, the hardest task of all had to happen … asking Mom for stamps.

“What on earth do you need twenty-two stamps for?”

She would ask this while at the kitchen counter cutting carrots, or while sitting at her sewing machine, or while unloading groceries.

“For a chain letter.”

“For what?! A chain letter? Do you know how much stamps cost?”

She would be clearly irritated and then follow up with:

“I don’t even know if I have that many stamps. Go get my purse.”

It was a good sign if the stamps were in there; or if some were found in her purse, and some in the catch-all cupboard, or some in the wall basket by the kitchen phone that held mail, address books, and coupons.

Once the stamps were adhered, and the squeaky mailbox lid was closed over the letters that were dropped in, there was a sense of relief. Then a sense of dread. Over the next few days, knowing the letters were out among the thousands of other letters floating through the US Postal Service, there was this sense of expectation.

“I sent them three days ago. That means there are seven more days until I can ask for three wishes. So then, that means that in twenty days, I will get those wishes granted. Wait! No…. Twenty minus three is …”

I count on fingers. Math never was my strong suit.

“… seventeen, so in seventeen days I will get those wishes granted. Awesome!”

Then it gets blurry. Time goes by. The letters would be forgotten along with the anticipation and the hope for whatever the chain letter promised. It would be replaced by other childhood antics, or rehearsals, or playing with friends, or reading, or anything and everything else.

Only to be remembered when, surprisingly, some random day as the squeaky lid to our mailbox on Antonio Lane would be opened to reveal an envelope addressed to me, and that important and giddy feeling would fill my insides while I carried it carefully to the roll-top desk in my bedroom.

So … I thought about it for a minute. And then I did it. I held down my finger on the text bubble in the Facebook message, selected copy, started a new message, held my finger down again, and pasted the message in it. I chose fourteen people as directed (with a sound methodology in an attempt to ensure those who receive it wouldn’t be targets by others in my list), and I clicked send.

As far as the wishes and promises it made, I highly doubt those will ever come to fruition. But I must acknowledge this: if I hadn’t received that cringe and heavy-sigh inducing chain letter, I wouldn’t have had those lovely memories, and I wouldn’t have been inspired to put them into  words that others may read – something I love and enjoy, and something I have deprived myself of.

To those who received my chain letter: my hope is that it inspires you to do something you love. Just for you.

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emotional whoopsie-daisy …

Yesterday I was an emotional wreck: unable to think clearly, escape my sadness, talk or listen without crying, or be present for Kirk and the dogs I had to take a mental health day from work — everything — except texting Thomas and Shannon messages of still feeling survivor’s guilt. All because it was the five year anniversary of Dion’s passing.

Whoops. TODAY is the five year anniversary of 08/09/09.

Today I was outside picking tomatoes, okra, and eggplant; and tending to the latest squash and cucumber plants. I was able to actually enjoy the day today — the real anniversary — after having my breakdown yesterday.

And I thought of baby elephants … just like he told me to do when ever I am sad.

“Because who can be sad when they think of baby elephants?”

return from the wild …

I recently went on an extended backpacking excursion with Kirk. I began posting about it when we were in the planning phase, in two different posts: “writer’s block … or maybe not” and “lions, tigers, and bears … oh my!”

Now that I have returned I am ready to regale you with stories of our challenge; the fun, the overcome fears, the laughs, the tears, the pitfalls, the aches and pains, the teamwork, the effort, the mileage, the scenery, and the intricacies of taking an extended “walk in the woods.” It was an amazing journey and an awesome vacation, unlike any I have had. Not only did I get to experience some of the most beautiful aspects of nature, but I was also able to meet the three objectives that I set out to accomplish: push myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. And the hike help me and Kirk do exactly that. We set a goal – a lofty one at that – and we accomplished it. We also had several different mini-vacation moments within our vacation.

A most interesting aspect of this trip was seeing how our planning efforts played out in action. Did we pack enough or too much? Could we actually achieve the daily mileage objectives? Could we carry those backpacks for eight hours a day for seven days? Would we use up all of our cooking fuel before our end date? Would we keep our wits about us if we encountered bears or snakes? Would we end up hating each other by the end of the trip?

Although this hike was definitely a defining point in my life, it was great to come home to New York City yesterday. I was able to hug and squeeze my pooch Victor, sleep in my own bed, and wake up in my own apartment. But … the hiking bug has bitten me and I am already thinking about the next trip. I miss the sounds of rushing water, the free and gentle bird songs filling the air, the wind that whispers through the leaves, and the smell of the earth in all its glory.

Details will be revealed in upcoming posts, with lots of great photos of the journey, too.

lions and tigers and bears … oh my !

Next week at this time, I will start on a backpacking excursion through the Smokey Mountain range of the Appalachian Trail. I have never been backpacking, but I am going to do this! I am going with my friend, Kirk, who also has never done this. It will be – and we know this – a major challenge. We will backpack for seven days, from Fontana, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We will travel approximately seventy miles and from an elevation of 1,800 feet to a peak of 6,600 feet.

Our preparation has taken almost sixty days from our first conversation to the day we leave next week. That’s pretty quick considering we knew nothing of what we were getting ourselves into when we said, “Let’s do it.” We now know a little more. It is going to be hard. It is going to be work. It is going to be sweaty. It is going to be stinky. It is going to be heavy. It is going to be beautiful. It is going to be mind-expanding. It is going to be an experience, adventure, challenge, and reward all rolled into one.

This last week of “real life” before becoming a mountain man, will be stressful. Not because from the “Oh shit! I need to buy this or that” factor, but stressful from the “Oh shit! This is really happening!” factor, the latter of the two which reared its head tonight. I put my fully packed backpack. Damn! That thing was heavy. Granted, I had more stuff in it than I will actually carry, since we are splitting the load, but still … it was insanely heavy. If I were going alone I would change my mind right about now.

We have purchased everything needed to sustain us during this trip. We have food, shelter, clothes, and essentials. Here’s a little view into the big items that were purchased, not including some of the smaller items that were bought.

Essentials

  • Backpack
  • Tent, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad
  • Tarp, Rope, Compass
  • Knife, First Aid Kit, Trowel
  • Bear Bell, Bear Spray
  • Solar Powered / Crank Radio (this also charges cell phones)
  • Shower (read: butt) Wipes, Sunscreen Wipes, Bug Repellent Wipes

Clothing

  • Boots, Boot Socks
  • Base Layer (tee shirt and leggings)
  • Convertible Pants (you know, the ones that unzip at the knee)
  • Lightweight Rain Jacket
  • Lightweight “sweater” (it’s like the lightest down jacket you have ever seen … and so warm!)
  • Lightweight Water / End of Day Shoes
  • Bear Spray Holster

Food / Cooking

  • Freeze Dried Meals in Pouches (like pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs, chicken and rice, green beans, chocolate mousse, etc.)
  • MREs (poppy seed cake, cheese squeeze tubes, peanut butter squeeze tubes, etc.)
  • Trail Mix, Dried Fruit, Drink Mixes
  • Backpacking Stove and Cook Set (includes two pots, two plates, two mugs, and a burner)
  • Propane canisters
  • Waterproof /Windproof Matches
  • Bear Bag

We must not leave any garbage behind when we are on the trail. We, of course, “Give a Hoot and Don’t Pollute.” We will pack out all garbage and our TP. Yes, we cannot leave TP behind. Yes, we have to take it out with us. We will put it in bags and keep it with us until we can throw it out. The earliest opportunity to do this is when we reach the elevation of 6,600 feet at Clingmans Dome at, a tourist area with roads that lead to the observation tower. There will be garbage cans there. We will offload 5 days of empty food and snack pouches; used up sunscreen, bug repellent, and shower wipes; and (ugh) dirty TP. We will be a sight to behold, neither easy on the eyes nor the nose.

We have one outfit to wear for the entire week. Proper hikers do not change in clothes. Extra clothes take up valuable pack weight. Instead, they wear the same thing over again each day, which is what we will do. We will be gross. Today, I got a manni and pedi since I won’t be able to get one at campsite 113, and since the extra weight of nail clippers is unnecessary.

You may notice that the word “bear” appears in all three categories in the above lists. Ummm, yes, there are bears in the Smokey Mountains. Black bears. Lots of them. They say that this year the population has increased. When we secured our hiking permit we were told that one of our requested campsites was closed because of “aggressive bear activity.” Great. I am not a fan of bears, unless it’s a Bear Claw from Dunkin’ Donuts. I am deathly afraid of bears. But, we have a plan. Kirk found some lovely photographs of these great beasts of murder and mayhem. He has posted them on my Facebook page to taunt and haunt me.

are you sure this isn't an alien?

are you sure this isn’t an alien?

OMG! They climb trees?!

OMG! They climb trees?!

HOLY CRAP! They can fly?!

HOLY CRAP! They can fly?!

At least this one has manners....

At least this one has manners….

When Kirk and I started talking about this hike, we read up on how to manage a bear attack. Ok, maybe it just said “bear sighting,” but in my mind the damn thing is attacking. The steps as outlined were very clear, but did not include “scream like a girl and shit your pants.” Because of this omission, I know I won’t handle the situation properly. So … our plan is that Kirk will keep his wits about him in the event that we encounter a bear. That, I feel, is a very good thing. With my luck, I’ll spray the bear spray in my face instead of the bear’s.

We have to hang our food up in the trees each night when we make camp to keep it out of a bear’s reach. That’s why rope is on the essential list. It’s not to hang someone when we get on each other’s nerves, or to create a snare to catch squirrels. It’s there to hang food from bear’s. There’s this whole technique and process that needs to be done to hang it. It’s rather crafty.

Whether or not there is a bear attack and whether or not we smell, I plan to keep a thorough journal and take many photographs in order to document this excursion. I am not sure if I will have the time or capability to post while I am backpacking. If I can’t post while on the trek, there will be updates and details once I return to New York City in early June.

Wish me luck! And wish the bears luck … Kirk has one mean high kick.

beauty day …

I especially like Sundays when they are considered “Beauty Day.” It’s the day that I like to be restful, calm, relaxed, and take care of myself.

Beauty Day started when I was a young twenty-something who moved into a house with four gay men. Beauty Day was the day after hell broke loose and it was a definite need after the weekend of fun we all had.

I lived in a three-bedroom house with three other guys: Tim, Marshall, and Mike. Tim and I shared a bedroom and my rent was $125 a month. My roommate, Tim, and I looked very much alike, so I used to use his ID to get into Club St. John in downtown San Jose.

260 Richfield was a “known address” in the San Jose bar scene, by the gays and the cops. We were the hosts of many after hour’s parties. I was only 20, but that didn’t stop me from the fun of being young, cute, and gay!

We’d go to the bar, dance and drink, and soon you’d hear other people say, “260 Richfield After Hours!” Tim had started spreading the word. There were times when I would be home in bed when the phone would ring. I would sleepily answer it knowing it would be Tim calling from the bar’s payphone to tell me that we were having an afterhour’s party. I’d get up, clean up the kitchen and bathroom, vacuum the living room, and hide things that could easily be stolen.

Guys would pour into the house as easily as vodka poured into glasses. There was music, there was laughter, there was lots of drinking, and there was always a hook up opportunity. If I had to work my retail store job the next morning, I wouldn’t join the fun. I would go back to bed. Many times, I’d be beckoned awake by Tim, who would sit beside my twin bed and tell me about how fun the bar was, how many cute guys were at the house, and hand me a drink. Naturally, I would sit up, hear the stories, and sip the drink until I was feeling warm, buzzed, and ready to hit the living room.

Eventually, I would end up back in my bed. Either alone, or with someone else (I mean, c’mon, I was 20 after all). Sometimes, Tim and I would spoon and talk afterward and tell stories and laugh about the evening’s antics. A few times, we’d have sex. It was a “roommate with benefits” relationship.

One time, I got so stoned and paranoid that I thought I was going to die. I imagined that people were at my bedroom window telling me how much they would miss me, what a good friend I was, how they would always remember me. I called my boyfriend, John, and he understandably freaked out. He drove his scooter all the way from San Francisco to San Jose in the middle of the night to “rescue” me. By the time he got there, my paranoia had faded into giggles. What a mess!

Most times, these afterhours’ parties would go until the wee hours of the morning. Bars in California close at 2:00am, and we go until 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. If I weren’t working, I would sleep until 11:00 or noon the next day, at which point we’d all get up and clean the house. Gather bottles, deep clean the bathroom, mop the stick off the kitchen floor, take out the trash, change sheets, etc. And all this with some of the worst hangovers ever!

That’s when Beauty Day started. Head pounding, house clean and KKSF on the radio. A long, hot shower and many different kinds of hair and skin products to use. A house of gay men in the early nineties was like living in the Clinique and Halston counters at Macy’s. There were always new soaps, shampoos, creams, toners, or elixirs to try. And when I say “try” I mean try to cover the bags, the hangover skin, the smell of booze emanating from pores, the bloodshot and weary eyes, the beard burn (if it was a lucky night).

Fast forward to today, and most parts of Beauty Day remain intact. Many elements are long gone, kind of like my virginity. First, the hangovers no longer exist since I don’t drink or drug anymore. I am typically awake no later than 8:30am on a weekend day, and I can barely stay awake to watch Saturday Night Live, let alone be out dancing or fucking until 6:00am.

Now Beauty Day is time to regroup and take care of myself. I always have clean sheets on the bed on Beauty Day, and I prefer that my dog be clean and bathed either on or before Beauty Day. I like the house to be clean and the rugs to be vacuumed.

I take a long, hot bath. Bubbles, Epsom salts, sometimes dried lavender crushed in. I soak for at least an hour and keep filling the tub with hot water once it starts draining on its own. I pumice my feet within an inch of their life. I dunk my head under the sudsy water. I shampoo my hair and dip into the water to rinse it. I loofah my entire body. I wash my face with my glycolic face scrub at least twice to exfoliate and open my pores. I manscape when needed, which entails shaving off the five or six hairs that grow on my chest. Sometimes, I get a little more “industrious,” if you know what I mean….

Then, I drain the tub and take a shower. I rinse any residue off and re-wash my entire body. I dry off and Beauty Day continues. I towel dry my hair and leave it clean and natural, no product. I clip my fingernails and toenails. I trim my nose hair, pluck errant hairs growing from my ears, trim my eyebrows and facial hair. I slather lotion on my feet, my legs, my torso, my ass, my arms, and my hands. I layer on glycolic face cream in a vain attempt to rid myself of the fine lines that appear around my eyes. I floss hard and deep and enjoy brushing my teeth for a longer-than-normal time. I brush them twice in row on Beauty Day, “once for clean and once for polish.” I apply a generous amount of lip balm, because without it, I feel completely naked.

I put on boxers and a t-shirt, crawl into the clean sheets of my bed and heave a sigh of relief.

It’s my treat for me. It’s my time for me. I am clean. I am refreshed. I am relaxed. I am beautiful. And, while the errant hairs on my ears increase, the fine lines deepen, and Madonna’s hands sometimes appear at the end of my wrists, Beauty Day always makes me feel better inside and out, even if it can’t make me 20 again.

pink lemonade for one dollar !

Recently, my mind has been filled with odd stories from when I was young, most likely because a friend had asked me to tell him about favorite childhood memories. My niece and nephew often ask me to tell stories of my past. It makes me happy to see their eyes light up and hear their laughter and to share a little bit of “me” with them.

Never one to shy away from telling a good story, I willingly share them. Most are random thoughts that arrive while eating dinner, watching TV, or walking down the street. Sometimes they are triggered by a smell or sound or a bit of conversation, which creates a spark. Many of them center around food, which I think is interesting on its own, but each story – each memory – has its own warmth that spreads on my soul.

*     *     *     *     *
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Perry, was kind, warm, and appropriately stern. Kindergarten memories include how much I liked to play house, take naptime on a towel that I brought from home, and eat graham crackers and milk for snack. I remember that Mrs. Perry played the piano. She was also missing a portion of one of her thumbs. It was a little creepy, and you rarely got a glimpse of it, but when you did, it was like seeing something you should not. It was electric.

The kindergarten playground was fenced in and separate from the “big kids” playground. It had its own grass, tarmac, and sand box. On the last day of school, we ran through the sprinklers and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

As a first grader, we had more freedom to roam the campus. Outside the teacher’s lounge, and adjacent to the first grade classrooms and cafeteria, was a large planter with several fragrant gardenia bushes. I was near this bush once when Mrs. Perry exited the teacher’s lounge holding something very interesting, a fruit that I had never seen.

She removed a section and explained how to eat it. I was mesmerized.

“You carefully peel this away,” she said as she removed the white, velum-like pith and exposed the jewel-toned fruit.

“You eat these little seeds, but must be very careful to keep the juice from staining your clothes,” she continued in her kind voice, and popped a few seeds into her mouth.

She handed me a section and a napkin and watched as I showed her what I learned. I put some seeds in my mouth and was surprised at how juicy, sweet and tart they were.

“What is this called?” I asked.

“A pomegranate,” she said and started my lifelong adoration for Persephone’s fruit.

She once joined my mom and me for lunch at Whataburger. I remember sitting across from her in the booth’s hard bench, watching her open the silver and orange wrapper from the burger, raise it to her mouth, and take a bite.

I remember thinking to myself, in amazement, “Wow. Mrs. Perry eats hamburgers.”

*     *     *     *     *

The garage in my house on Antonio Lane had a ping-pong table, a washer and dryer, my dad’s workbench and tools, and a second refrigerator/freezer. It also had shelves of mason jars filled with jams, jellies, and pickles that my mom canned; “the rafters” where all sorts of things were stored, like camping equipment and Christmas decorations; and other clutter that one expects in a garage.

Once, my friend Jerry and I were in the garage having a burping contest. We would take turns gulping 7-Up straight out of a two-liter bottle, burping as loud and long as we could, and laughing at each other’s accomplishment. We would try to burp the alphabet, our friend’s names, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and anything else we could say to make each other hysterical. At the time, this was great fun.

Jerry was sitting on the washing machine when he gulped an excessive amount of soda and began what would have been an Olympic medal-winning belch. As the burp came, so did the soda and he threw up into his cupped hands. Frightened by what just happened, he screamed, “Help me!” opened his hands and dropped it all over him, the floor, and the washing machine.

My mom ran from the kitchen to assess the commotion. I remember her exclaiming, “Jesus Christ! What on earth?” and I think she included her patented “Lord love a duck!” She helped clean up Jerry, but we had to clean the washing machine and the floor.

*     *     *     *     *

My family camped often, either just us or with other families, like the Sharps and the McCarthy’s. Camping memories have been top of mind while planning my upcoming backpacking excursion. The smell of bacon and coffee in the morning, wandering in the trees until late afternoon, fishing in lakes and playing in streams, and roasting marshmallows after dinner. Listening to the adults talk and laugh while drifting off to sleep in my mom’s lap, smelling of burnt wood when crawling into my sleeping bag, unzipping the tent in the middle of the night and walking in the cold with a flashlight to find a place to pee, and gazing up at the many stars in the sky.

One time, we stumbled upon a field of Brussels sprouts. Our campsite may have been adjacent to a farm or they may have been growing wild. Regardless, we all picked some and had Brussels sprouts with butter and salt and pepper for dinner. They were delicious! Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables to this day.

*     *     *     *     *

As long as I could remember, my parents had a garden. They grew lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, radishes, zucchini, bell peppers – you name it, they grew it. One year, we even had corn! We had two artichoke plants, too. Each year we would rotate which one we ate from; the other one would flower. Artichoke flowers are stunning, gorgeous, deep purple thistles.

We had a screened backyard patio and ate dinner outside most summer nights, many of which included eating artichokes. Dipping the steamed leaves into melted butter or a mustard/mayo dip, scraping the nutty-flavored meat off with my teeth, cutting out the choke and savoring the heart until the last bite was gone. When I eat artichokes, I think of those summer nights.

In our front yard, we had an apricot tree that sprouted from nowhere. Once mature, it bore ample fruit. It was great to eat them right off the tree, nice a warm from the sun. My mom made jams and preserves. Apricot jam is my favorite jam flavors to this day.

I remember there was a woman who did not live on our street, or even near our street, who used to come and pick our apricots. A poacher! I remember my mom being at the kitchen sink, which faced the front year, and cranking open the kitchen window to tell her to stop picking our apricots. “Lord love a duck!”

The window crank is what really captures my attention in this memory. It was a late 1960s and early 1970s tract home window with a metal crank that swung the window open. It took ten or fifteen cranks to open the window. You had to have a fast wrist to open them quickly, especially when trying to curtail poached apricots.

This ethical lesson did not stop me from poaching my favorite fruit, cherries. My friend, Tiffany, lived directly behind a cherry orchard and in the summertime, we hopped her fence, Safeway or Brentwood paper bags in tow, and spent hours picking cherries. We would fill bag upon bag with cherries, like five or six bags each (it seems). I remember when our task was complete we would sit in her backyard, eat cherries and spit out the pits.

I am sure those cherry orchards no longer exist. It is likely they are now homes or a strip mall. But man, those were good days! And, yes, I was very regular then.

*     *     *     *     *

I remember a dessert that my sister Christy invented called “Delights”. Delights were the “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of ice cream sundae.

They included different ice cream flavors, peanut butter, jam, raisins, cereal, bananas, chocolate sauce, and any other topping in the refrigerator. They were … well … delightful. Rich, sweet, sticky, and chewy. Looking back, I do not know why my parents let us have this sugar feast before bedtime, but we didn’t complain. When Christy whipped up the Delights, everyone was happy.

I recently made Delights for dessert. Mine were no match for what she could concoct. I was missing key ingredients and had to improvise with some left over chocolate chip cookies and other things. They were rich, sweet, sticky, and chewy. The essence was there, but it wasn’t like the real thing. It was like craving McDonald’s French fries but settling for Burger King’s. It just wasn’t the same.

Maybe in June, when I am home for my nephew’s high school graduation, she’ll make some Delights.
there is ice cream in there , i promise …
*     *     *     *     *

I do not recall ever setting up a lemonade stand when I was little. In New York, occasionally kids will set up a table outside their apartment building and hock their wares. One such entrepreneur, just a few buildings down from mine, was selling lemonade quite enthusiastically. He and his little brother were dancing around, happy little kids, while his nanny looked wearily on. He was shouting at the top of his lungs, “Pink lemonade for one dollar!” over and over and over again.

“Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar!”

The lemonade was pink and it did cost one dollar, but it was also watery and not very flavorful. He was so excited about what he was doing it was hard to not buy a cup.

I cannot help but wonder if he will remember this day when he is older. What will he look back on recall? That his mom thought up the idea? That he screamed his throat hoarse? That he bought something special with the money he made?

Will he remember this moment when he tries to convince his children to set up a lemonade stand? Will he tell them about one warm day, when he lived in New York City, he set up a lemonade stand and screamed out to get people to notice?

And will his children laugh as he recalls and reenacts his high-pitched, carnival barker-like sales call “Pink lemonade for one dollar! Pink lemonade for one dollar!”? Will his children follow suit and set up their own stand, and create their own memory to tell their kids, or their friends, or to others who happen to read about their childhood memories on their blogs?

*     *      *     *     *

a tisket, a tasket, what’s in my grocery basket …

I like grocery shopping. It’s not a chore that I dread, like vacuuming or rotating clothes with the change of seasons. Actually, I don’t dread those chores either. I suppose that if I owned my own house I would dread chores like cleaning out the gutters, or painting the eaves, but I am only guessing since those tasks never appear on my “to do” list.

Grocery shopping is always on my “to do” list and I find it to be a fun chore. I like because it involves thinking, planning and strategy. It requires skill: planning the meals to eat for the week, creating a list of what is needed and wanted, a plan for where to get all the goodies, and a definite sense for detail and organization. It’s a perfect project for me.

Grocery shopping in New York City is different from other places I have lived, even San Francisco. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a car. When I lived in San Francisco, I lived three blocks from a Cala Foods, but drove my Ford Escort there and back to stock my fridge and pantry with necessities. I still planned what I would eat, but since I was able to haul more, I bought more.

When I lived in Irvine, grocery-shopping day meant going to Albertson’s, along with Lowes, Home Depot, Walgreens, and Ikea and any other store that my “at the time” boyfriend saw a manic need to get to. The car was filled to the brim with he and I, a dog, wood, plants, potting soil, pots, ready-to-assemble (and ready-to-annoy) furniture, toilet paper and paper towels, huge jugs of laundry detergent, and many grocery bags filled with everything you could possible imagine. You’d have thought we were preparing for the apocalypse.

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In my early twenties, when I first lived alone, I grocery shopped off the belief that if a cupboard was bare and the fridge was empty, it needed to be filled. No empty space was allowed, otherwise it symbolized that I could not afford to have full cupboards or a full fridge. Being able to fill them symbolized that I had achieved a level of success in life. “Being able” meant that my fridge and cupboards lived outside my means.

My first task on shopping day was “the big clean out.” I would throw out old leftovers, dried out rice and days old stir-fry, pasta sauce spotted with mold, cheese with green film and hair, lettuce in its own distinct and pungent brown water, smooshy tomatoes, and anything else that had passed its prime. I would toss almost empty packages of frozen peas covered in ice and shriveled to pebbles, and clear out sausages, ground beef, or chicken breasts encased in an iceberg that concealed the whitish glow of “freezer burn”.

Once complete, I would focus on what was needed to stock my fridge and freezer. More rice, more veggies for this week’s stir-fry, different cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, frozen peas, ground beef, chicken, and breakfast meats; anything and everything in order to fill up the drawers and shelves, only to repeat the big clean out process again two weeks later.

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Now that I am older, I tend to control my purchasing power and stick to what I need based on … well … need. Not the need to fill the fridge, but the need to create well-balanced meals.

In New York City, it is easier to “right size” the grocery shopping experience. First, the task is about buying food to sustain myself for one week. Sometimes, I shop daily for what I will eat that night, but this can become burdensome to do each day.

Typically, “Shopping Day” happens on Sundays at my regular grocery store, West Side Market, early and before it gets too crazy. I put laundry in the washer and then head out to the grocery store. Grocery stores in NYC are small and well stocked, with items housed pretty much to the ceiling. They do not always carry every brand and sometimes I have to go to various places to get exactly what I want. For example, West Side Market never has decent artichokes. I go elsewhere to get those. I never buy paper towels or TP at the grocery store. I buy those items at the Duane Reade, RiteAid, or CVS.

Everyplace in New York City delivers. If I am stocking up, or preparing for a dinner party, or buying more than I can carry (or heavy things like flour, sugar, bottles of juice, etc.), I will have those delivered. It’s a nice treat to fill a cart and leave empty handed. At home, the doorbell rings and Ta Da! It’s all being placed on the kitchen counter. A tip, a thank you, and the chore is d-o-n-e done.

I love strolling through a grocery store when it is not crammed like a subway car. I like to test the ripeness of fruit, debate a change in brands due to sodium content, calculate the price per ounce, fill up a basket, and act like Joanna in “The Stepford Wives” while helping a little old lady who struggles to grasp a hard to reach item. All while humming along the sixties and seventies tunes that ooze out of the store’s speakers.

I follow a definite path through my grocery store. It’s based partly on the store’s layout, but mostly on what I need as shown on my meal plan and shopping list. Produce is always first. I spend a lot of time touching, smelling, considering, and sometimes rethinking my meal plan depending on the state of produce. This is usually where I veer “off list” and add veggies, fruit or herbs that I did not intend buying.

Then I move in this order: cheese; bread; cereal (where I also veer “off list”); cans, jars, and boxes of things (peanut butter, pickles, oils, pastas, rice, sauces, dressings, stock, etc.); frozen items; dairy and eggs; meats; and then to check out, where I get heavy bottled items like juice, seltzer, etc.

Aren’t you happy to know that? Do you feel complete?

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When I first moved to New York, grocery shopping was a new and exciting adventure. Occasionally, a drive to New Jersey was needed to stock up. Grocery stores there were larger, had every brand conceivable, and were like the stores in the suburbs of California. I loved being in the chip aisle. An entire aisle devoted to every kind and flavor of chip possible. I felt the same way with the cereal aisle: neat, orderly, and colorful boxes, and boxes upon boxes, upon boxes upon boxes. Ahhh! Domestic bliss!

When I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I realized I moved two blocks from a New York grocery institution, Zabar’s. Immediately recognizable by their white bags with orange and black lettering, this should have been THE pinnacle of Upper West Side grocery shopping. I gleefully entered the market and went to the glorious cheese case. I was promptly pushed out of the way by a wrinkled biddy that started to fight me for a hunk of cheese. People pushed, grabbed, bumped into me without apology. It is small, cramped, and excessively pricey. I left and vowed I would never grocery shop there. It’s horrible, institution or not.

There is Citerella, the Saks Fifth Avenue of grocery stores. It’s fancy, upscale, clean, and classy. I put some basics in my basket only to quickly figure out that the six meager items already totaled over $50. I set down the basket and slinked out, hoping no one noticed. I only ever buy their artichokes. They have the best.

Fairway Market (also a New York institution) is a ginormous place compared to my regular market. Along with the store’s immense square footage come immense shopping crowds. The lines for checkout are like queuing up for the Matterhorn at Disneyland. To avoid fighting the crowd, the best time to shop there is late at night, usually after 10:00pm. I rarely go there.

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Sometimes, I order online, but I just don’t like to. It’s too hard. I cannot touch or smell the produce (even though it is typically amazing) and I struggle when it comes to determining sizes that I need. I will order something, and it arrives as a tiny little bottle, when I needed a jug. I think a quarter pound of whatever sounds like a perfect amount, it arrives, and it’s too much or too little. I think about how a pound of rocks and a pound feathers weigh the same, but the volume is very different.

Online grocery shopping also takes me forever to navigate and complete. Click here, choose a brand or item, enter a quantity, go back to shopping, then do it all over again. Click click click click click click click click click click click click. It’s annoying. I find it faster to go to the store and do it myself.

I also spend too much money when I shop online. I am a marketer’s dream and fall into simple traps, like enjoying clear Pepsi, which I did when it came out, or that great online shopping feature where it suggests things that you might be interested in buying. “You might also enjoy…” appears showing items that I didn’t know I wanted or needed, but in that moment I realize I cannot live without whatever is being presented and I click away.

One time, I decided to order from freshdirect. I was clicking away and my cart was filling up. One of the items I needed to order was mayonnaise. I love mayo. Mmmmmmm! Tasty! I found my brand and clicked the bottle of mayo. Low and behold, I was offered a selection of products that I might enjoy based on my mayonnaise selection!

Since I bought Hellman’s Mayonnaise, freshdirect thought I would also like Heinz Ketchup, Crispix Cereal (it’s crispy times two!) and Quilted Northern Bathroom Tissue. Hmmmm … some of my favorite things all bundled together: condiments, cereal, and potty time. I needed toilet paper, actually, so I clicked it and put it in my basket. But, how did it know?

I started wondering about freshdirect’s macros or decision engine. Why did an order of mayo bring up toilet paper? What was it thinking? It’s like saying, “You just bought a pair of shorts. You might also like a bicycle tire pump.” It just does not make sense. Maybe they were considering the full and complete food consumption chain, from a very personal angle. It can always start with mayonnaise, but it will always end up with … well … never mind.

Whatever it may be, I still prefer to grocery shop in a store, on my own, at my own pace, with my own list, on my own time, where the only suggestions that I am subject to succumbing to are those that pop up in my own head. If suddenly, while reaching for mayo, I remember that I need toilet paper, it is because I remember I need toilet paper. That is all.