Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lunch at work

There are days when whatever I bring for lunch does not sound good at all. I start thinking about it around 9:30 each morning and while typing an email or answering the phone and doing my best to sound intelligent, I’m really trying to decide whether the tuna or leftovers sounds good enough to gag down.

By the way, gagging on my lunch reminds me of my lunches when I worked for Leo Reber at the Lone Butte ranch during the summer when I was about 15 years old. He didn’t provide a refrigerator to keep our lunch in, so we’d just have to put it on a shelf in an old work shed that was open to the hot summer weather. We’d come in for lunch from chopping weeds in the cotton fields and I’d open the plastic sandwich bag and the warm juice from the tomato had leaked all over the white bread and had made it soggy with a little extra juice pooled down in one corner of the plastic bag. There’s nothing like a warm baloney sandwich with warm lettuce and tomato on it. When I took a bite the whole thing would stick to the roof of my mouth and I have to take my finger and scrape it all off. But I digress.

When I each lunch at work, there are the invariable interruptions. They walk up to you and start talking to you about a problem or a question, all the while staring at your Tupperware container with that "You’re actually eating that!?!?" look in their eye, but never really saying it, except one or two of the more obnoxious ones who think nothing of saying anything that pops into their minds - you know the ones. They simply ignore the fact that you’re "in the zone" with your food and just launch into what they want, because in reality, their problem is more important than my food, isn’t it? Besides Mike, aren’t you getting a little "fleshy" and taking you away from your food is actually doing you a favor, right? So I politely turn away from my lunch and listen and provide my input, all the while worrying that their "talk spittle" is spraying into my food. I’ve been known to cover my lunch with a napkin during these interruptions.

Oh - - never bring any fish or broccoli to work; have you ever smelled that in the microwave? But I’ve been known to bring bean burros. Never let anyone see you with a bean burro at work!! The flatulence jokes will never end (as if none of them ever have gas). You’d think no one ever ate beans before (I’m beginning to wonder). I warm them up in secret (hovering over the microwave so no one sees), and then put the burros back in a paper bag and quickly walk back to my desk. I’ll nonchalantly ease one out of the bag a little, take a quick bite, and then slide it back in the bag while I chew. No one has ever caught me yet.

Some days I take my lunch from the fridge (or fast food) and go find a place to eat it away from the office. Doesn’t everyone have a favorite place to go park their vehicle and sit in the shade and eat their lunch and listen to the radio? I did this a lot back in my NCR days in downtown Phoenix where I had a favorite place in a secluded neighborhood. There was one place where there were no sidewalks and the side of the road was wider than most and there was just enough shade. I would go there often and enjoy the solitude. One day I noticed another car driving slowly down the lane in my direction. This person was from the "no concept of space" planet and pulled up about 20 feet away from me. We were nose to nose, both of our vehicles barely in the shade. They turned off their engine and proceeded to eat their lunch. There we were, staring at each other. I thought about laying on my side in the front seat and trying to eat my lunch that way, but it’s hard to drink or swallow without it spilling out of the side of your mouth and running into your ears. Sadly, I started my car and drove off to find another place to eat.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Haunting of Daley House

It only happened a couple of times.  In fact, it was so long between the times it happened that the first occurrence became a distant memory.  Deep down inside I knew it had happened, but I had tried to trick my brain into thinking that it might have been a dream.  I was hoping that I would grow up and move out of the house before I had to experience it again.  It was scarier than knowing that one of the previous owners had died in the kitchen; scarier than knowing that my Dad and Uncle Johnny found a dead man out in the middle of the cotton field within a quarter of a mile from the house; scarier than knowing that the poor man had lain in the sun so long that he had decomposed and our dog had eaten part of him.  And it was much more scarier than hearing the creaking of the rocking chair downstairs going back and forth in the blackness of the night when no one was awake.  I remember one of the Rogers girls coming over to baby-sit us occasionally, but none of the other baby-sitting age girls were brave enough to be at our house at night. 


The upstairs light didn’t have a light switch.  It had a pull-chain with a long string that hung from the light way up on the ceiling down to the halfway point of the stairs.  There was a large coat button tied to the end of the string and when you walked up the stairs you were immediately looking for that button so you could turn on the light as soon as possible.  The string had enough stretch to it that there were times that when you ran down the stairs and pulled the string too hard to turn off the light, it would spring all the way up into the room and land on to the other side of the railing.  That meant that to turn on the light again you had to walk all the way up the stairs in pitch black, walk around the railing and walk around the room waving your arms to find the string.  Before I would go upstairs I would yell for Brandt and find out where he was in the house, since I never put it past him to be up there in the dark ready to scare the bejabbers out of me. 


Both episodes happened in the middle of the night when the windows were open.  The windows had these funny ropes on each side inside the frame to help steady the windows as you opened and closed them.   There were screens in place to keep the bugs out and it didn’t take much movement of air outside to feel the breeze come through the curtains.  I could sit up in bed and see all around the farm and down to the intersection of Val Vista and Guadalupe, the front driveway, the tops of the citrus trees, or the sheep out in the field.  The tin roof of the first floor was right outside my window.  It was too steep for anyone to climb on, but if someone were brave enough to get up there, I could have sat up in bed and had a conversation with them through the screen, being only a couple of feet from each other.


I was in a deep sleep both times when I heard it.  It wasn’t something that wakes you up and then you wonder what the sound was.  It was LOUD and I was immediately awake with my heart pounding in my chest and with my eyes shut as tightly as I could.  And it was right outside the window on the roof at eye level.  Something was rolling over the tin roof going back and forth and back and forth very loudly and quickly.  It was squeaking and squealing the entire time with a mechanical sound as it hit the raised parts of the roof and I could feel the vibration coming through the walls.  But yet it had a breathing quality to it as well that I’ve never been able to adequately explain to anyone all these years.   It lasted no more than about 15 to 20 seconds and if I were brave enough to sit up and peer out the window, I would have been able to look right at it.  As young as I was, I was never able to muster the courage to sit up and look while it was happening.  All the other stories I had heard about the house made me too scared and I was never able to confront it.  I was just too scared to find out what might be staring back at me just a few inches away through that flimsy screen. 

Fond memories

Brandt and I slept in the upstairs bedroom.  I loved the upstairs in the old farmhouse.  The windows could be opened on all sides to catch the breeze above the citrus trees.  I could hear the water running through the headgate in the ditch, or a car driving down the road for miles around.  At dusk the birds would make fluttering and cooing noises as they found places to sleep for the night.  If a nearby field was being irrigated I could hear hundreds of frogs croaking their thanks for the cool water.  There was the faint barking of dogs from farms that were miles away, or cows mooing from the distant dairy.  The milk truck that went from dairy to dairy picking up milk had the loudest and squeakiest brakes I’ve ever heard.  He would ride those brakes for a quarter of a mile before he finally came to a stop.  Every time he pulled up to the corner, Dad would say, “There’s the milk wagon and his noisy brakes!”  There weren’t many cars that drove by in those days.  I would lay in bad at night and watch the faint, fuzzy, dancing light the car headlights would make on the bedroom wall as the car drove the mile or two towards our house before they actually passed by.  Very late at night I would wonder who could be driving down the road and I was thankful I was safe in my bed and wondered if the person driving that late at night wished they were home in bed too.  The sound of automobile tires that changed from the cement highway to gravel meant that someone had pulled into the driveway and we had a visitor!  Picking up the living room as quickly as possible was an organized fire drill with Mom yelling “Each person pick up three things and take them into the other room…..and don’t stomp your feet!”  That’s because we had a wooden floor and she didn’t want the visitors waiting at the door hearing all of us running through the house in a panic.  But when we answered the door, the visitors were usually smiling and would make a comment about our noisy feet and Mom would make an excuse, let them in, and usher us kids to a corner.  We’d be polite and smile and shyly respond at the appropriate times, but we know we were to be seen and not heard. 

Our neighbors down the road were Basque sheepherders and every winter they would drive the sheep down from the White Mountains to the alfalfa fields in the valley.  When we would see a temporary fence being erected around the field next to us, we would get excited cause it meant they would be moving sheep there soon.  It was exciting to be driving down the road and come upon a herd of sheep being moved from one field to another.  There would be an entire herd of hundreds of sheep right in the middle of the road.  There were too many to drive around, so all you could do was drive up to the sheep very slowly and them come to a stop and let them drive the sheep around your car.  Some of them already had small lambs and the shepherds would either be carrying them or would place them in the back of a truck.  I couldn’t believe how much poop they left behind.  On particularly cold nights I would lie in my bed under the warm covers and hear the bleating of the sheep and the lambs all night long and wonder how those little lambs stayed warm. 


Sleep overs - haunted house style

The old farmhouse was never much to look at.  The yellowish faded exterior walls looked like stucco way before stucco was invented, so I’m told it was some kind of adobe.  The house wasn’t level and it tilted to one side.  Dad said it reminded him of The Fall of the House of Usher and that the house would some day break into pieces and slip into the septic tank.  On the topic of creepiness, it’s true that we had things happen in this house that made us wonder if it were haunted, but that will be in a later blog.  On mornings that pancakes or waffles were served, you had to turn your plate a just right to keep the syrup from running into your eggs.  It was always homemade syrup, so it was runnier than store-bought syrup. When you’re a kid, it’s important to keep the food from touching all the other food on your plate.  Struggling with vegetable juice was the worst!  When you get older you seem to grow out of it and you’re not as picky. When I spent the night at one of my friend’s house and they had pancakes the next morning, it was my first experience with cold syrup in a store bought bottle. My mother’s homemade syrup was always piping hot.  I remember asking their mom to warm it up and getting some strange looks.  I enjoyed pointing out this rotating plate feature to my friends when I was lucky enough to have someone come out to our scary house and spend the night.  (it’s tough to get 8 and 9 year old boys to come over for a sleepover when they’ve heard your house is haunted).  When I had Tim and Collin come over, we all slept upstairs in a double bed.  Both of them insisted on having a flashlight and all they could talk about was which monster was the scariest between Frankenstein, the Wolfman, or the Mummy.  Its funny, but I had no idea why they were so scared of my house.  I was used to all the weird things happening. Anyway, I remember choosing Frankenstein as the scariest monster.  You take a guy pieced together with different dead body parts with bolts sticking out of his neck who liked to throw little girls in the lake and he’ll win my vote every time.  

And what the heck was wrong with that little girl in the Frankenstein movie anyway?  It’s obvious he was a freakin’ monster with an Abby Normal brain and she’s talking to him like he’s Uncle Jim at a family reunion.  The anticipation of her suddenly realizing he was a monster and screaming her head off made me run and hide behind the couch.  There was something about the back of the couch that made the scary stuff on TV easier to deal with.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Horsey, horsey, on your way......to the glue factory

This was a lame horse, in more ways than one.  That's me and Melinda (my cousin) on a horse with no name, since I can't remember what we called it.  I heard Dad call it other names, but I won't list them here.  Maybe Brandt or Kathy may remember.  What I do remember is that no matter how much any of us kicked or jiggled the reins, that horse would never run.  And why wouldn't it run, you ask?  Cause it had a lame leg and walked with a limp.  Something was wrong with one of its hind legs.  One day Dad got tired of us complaining about No Name horse not running and he got tired of it.  He got on No Name and started kicking and jiggling the reins, but he wasn't having much luck either.  He got off No Name, walked into the barn and came out with a rubber hose and hopped back on Lame No Name.  He held onto the reins with one hand and started whacking that horse on the backside with the hose.  With horrified fascination and no small amount of respect, we saw that horse actually run up and down Guadalupe road with Dad on top looking like John Wayne.  He pulled up in front of us and made some colorful comment, got off and took it huffing and puffing back into the lonely corral, since it was the only horse we had.  I guess we were done riding for the day.

A few days later as I was wondering around the farm, I walked over to the corral and saw that No Name was laying on its side in the dirt.  Horses lay in the dirt lots of times and I didn't think too much about it.  But why was No Name licking the dirt?  That was kind of weird.  As I got closer I discovered that No Name was a great big dead horse laying in the middle of the corral.  What do you do with a great big dead horse?  I found out that you call some man out of the phone book that has a big truck with high sides and a back gate that swings open.  The man is usually a smoker and the truck is really beat up and stinks.  He backs up and hooks up the horse's back leg with a winch, pulls it into the truck, closes the back door and drives off.  I don't remember getting another horse.  After that, we stuck to cats, cows, chickens, and pigs.

Table dancing

I've always wanted to begin my life story with "I was born a poor white child to sharecropper parents".  You know, trying to be funny and all.  Now that I look at some of the old pictures, I'm not too sure that wasn't closer to the truth than I thought.  This is me at 3 years old and the family has gone on a picnic (we went on A LOT of picnics and day trips) to Wet Canyon on Graham Mountain.  Other times, when my imagination runs wild, I would like to think that in 1957, paper bag dancing on table tops was all the rage and at the tender age of 3 I had shown a great proficiency at it.  We would travel the country and I would support the entire family dancing for tips and baskets of food.  That's my 4th pair of striped shoes, (having worn out the previous three pair in dancing marathons) and I don't know how many paper bags I've gone through.  In reality, that's probably how I was dressed for the day and most likely Dad put the bag on my head and told me to smile at the camera.  At this point I was the baby of the family and I was still in that stage of being the center of attention (somewhat).  Sadly, you're only cute for so long.