True stories with a twist!

LUXURY CARS

Along wealthy, distinctive neighborhoods in any large city exist blocks of luxury. Luxury everything, from designer clothing to shoes, handbags and cars. Especially cars. Jaguars, Maseratis, Bentleys and Rolls Royce’s.

But when I saw a McLaren I asked; what’s a McLaren?  I never heard of a McLaren.shopping

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article about the elusive McLaren. Perhaps the reason I didn’t know about this car before was that not one of my friends, business associates or Uber drivers ever showed up in one. I never saw such a car in parking lots at Costco, Sam’s Club or BJs. There was never this vehicle in front of me at the car wash either.

As I soon learned, the price was not so outrageously terrible: between $230,000 and $300,500, depending on what extra accessories you prefer in a car. For example, are traffic turn indicators really necessary? And why do you need power brakes, when with a little extra strength-building power of pressing hard on the brake pedal you can stop the car yourself! Think of all the extra accessaries we blindly sign up for that we don’t really need.

Believe it or not, when you consider the price you realize that paying for it is not so impossible to achieve.

There are many ways to save money. Here are some suggestions:

Imagine all the money you could save if you eliminated the excessive cost of driving to work. Since you don’t yet own a luxury car why would you want to drive anyway? The distance between New Jersey and New York may seem far at first glance, but look at it in a different light. 

How much is a gym membership worth? Does anybody think of eliminating this cost? What if, instead of working out on mostly mechanical machines, you walked from Morristown New Jersey to mid-town Manhattan for exercise? You could reap a number of benefits. First, you would eliminate the high cost of joining a health club. Secondly that short thirty mile walk would give you all the exercise you needed to stay healthy and in shape.

By walking you would also save on the cost of train fare. Eliminating the price of train travel would really help those dollars pile up in your wallet. Trains would become totally unnecessary in the Walk-Work model.

The only expense that might increase with this new transportation ideal is the small price of leather replacement for resoling your walking shoes. But compared to all the other savings you will gain, this price is a small one to pay as your shoe leather wears down.

Another price-cutting idea is heating your home. Surely you could manage to eliminate the cost of artificial heat used in so many homes. Do you think our country’s founding fathers were stronger and tougher than we are? They survived the cold by lighting bonfires, wearing warm scarves and drinking hot tea all day, although it might be tricky preparing dinner while wearing those bulky sheepskin gloves!

Try to avoid the occasional broken water pipes that may burst when you shut off the heat, but that is a minor problem, easily managed by the local plumber and your electric or gas supplier. 

Electric lights are another frivolous expense. Abraham Lincoln managed to write by candlelight; what a forward thinking gentleman! Think of the romantic environment he established by candlelight. Try it; everyone in the neighborhood will wish they had thought of the idea first!

You have saved on transportation, gas and electricity, and eliminated the cost of a health club. What about all the money you now waste on food, especially prepared foods, or restaurant meals? Some simple Macaroni and cheese casseroles or peanut butter sandwiches (made on day-old bread, saving 50% on each loaf) would be perfectly filling for a tiny amount of money.

With some of these money-saving ideas you will be in a position to put a down payment on your first McLaren.

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The environment will be so much improved! The conservationist movement will praise your name to the skies! And when you tell people that you have a new McLaren they’ll say,”What’s a McLaren? I never heard of it!”

 

 

Everybody knows that weather patterns have been changing. It used to be true that beautiful weather was consistently dependable in San Diego, California. It was never too hot or too cold there. And the beaches of La Jolla were always perfect too.images-1

This has been a cold winter in New Jersey. We thought it would be a healthy change to return to the quaint custom of opening the front door without shivering.  

As Mark Twain said,

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” But we would do something. We would escape from the northeast to year round sunshine.

But the “Weather-Fixer in the Sky” issued the alarm that “The Hammers are approaching; drop those temperatures and add some rain, Oh, Mighty Weather-Gods!” 

And they did. When we reached the California Shores we discovered that the cold temperatures and rain came along for the ride. 

We had packed lightly for the trip, knowing that California dress codes were casual. So we were able to reach every traveller’s goal: to pack light. All I needed were some T-shirts, a sweater or two, and extra pair of casual pants. That would basically carry me through our vacation. In normal days these choices would have been perfect. But now, in order to venture outdoors, every piece of clothing I packed had to come out of the suitcase and onto my back at one time. Even a pair of woolen gloves that I found in my jacket pocket from that frigid, snowy day we left for the airport were called into action.

Woolen gloves were definitely not what I would expect to pack on my vacation to Southern California. But I will be more clever planning our next trip; I will book us a trip to Antarctica, where it would be a pleasant surprise if the weather pattern were not as cold as tourists would expect. And we will use every bit of subterfuge to avoid detection by that “Weather-Fixer in the Sky.”

Unknown“Is it legal here?”

“Where can I buy it?”

That question, in all of it’s innocent sincerity, can hide secret desires and hidden wishes. But it also can be an honest search to help relieve chronic pain.

Several friends have developed age related aches and pains, some severe enough to seek medical advice and treatment. Two have received prescriptions for medical marijuana for the treatment of chronic severe pain. So I am aware of the questions regarding the legality of this drug.

On my trip to California this winter I decided to get information about this strange plant with mysterious healing properties. Marijuana sales are legal in California, and sold in state approved dispensaries. I was interested in trying a balm containing cannabis to relieve pain in my hands. Can the healing claims be true?

After many telephone calls and questions, the advice I was given on the telephone, (with no medical background information requested), was that the best product for me would be an externally applied skin balm containing a three to one ratio of CBDs and THCs. CBD oil from the cannabis plant has no mind altering properties. THC is the part of the plant that does contain that property.

Armed with that advice, my husband, son, and son’s significant other embarked on  our mission to La Mesa to the store that sold a variety of products. To our surprise it was located in an ordinary industrial park along with the most ordinary of businesses and products. No sign here of anything unusual or dangerous. Until we approached the dispensary.

A frighteningly high level of security met us as we continued. We parked the car, walked to the entrance and immediately saw two heavily armed guards blocking our way. I felt as if we were approaching the border of a third world country. The first burly guard, armed with a high caliber firearm, told me to open my handbag for inspection. After passing this first step of security we were each asked for our drivers’ licenses. He took all four of them and handed them to a woman making copies of the documents. Next he placed a tray before us, airport access style, and requested that all bags be put into it. “You will get your papers back as well as the bags,” he barked in his gentlest growl.

All of us were surprised at the TSA-like security of this operation. While the items were being scanned I wondered whether similar precautionary steps were taken by NASA before sending the first man into space.

Finally, as a last precaution, we each had to pass through a metal detector.

My husband asked the guard, “Do all dispensaries have this level of security?”

“Only the legal ones!” he answered.

Finally, inside the dispensary we were met by a woman who offered a written menu of all the products that were for sale. They were arranged in categories: Edibles, vapes, lotions. She was assigned to fill our order and would get us everything we needed. We were not permitted to shop by ourselves.

The feeling inside the dispensary was one of uncomfortably watchful distrust. The woman showed us products in various strengths and combinations of CBD and THC. When I selected one of the balms and reached for my credit card to pay, I was reprimanded with, “Cash only.”

So I wondered, “If I buy this balm will I be finger printed? Will they demand that I pose for a mug shot?”

As I left the dispensary my mind swirled with images of armed guards, X-Ray machines and metal detectors. I thought again of having copies made of my drivers’ license and being assigned a watchful guard playing the role of helpful salesperson.

Is this how a bank robber feels after a successful heist?

Is this how a Brinks armored car thief feels after breaking in?

Is this how it feels to prepare for a lengthy prison sentence?

The real question is, did the Cannabis work? Did it relieve the pain?

I had only a few days to rub the balm into my painful hands before it was time to return to the illegal place I call home. After the strange interlude I do not have any conclusions about the efficacy of Cannabis for joint pain. It was not worth risking arrest for smuggling an illegal substance into New Jersey, so for the time being I will have to hope that Tylenol will suffice to mitigate sore, achy joints.

 

 

 

 

 

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“You should take up knitting; it’s so relaxing”.

Those were the words of a former friend, whom I once mistakenly assumed had my best interests at heart. Now I rack my brain trying to understand what I could have done to her to cause her determination to turn my life into nerve pressuring misery. Knitting: Relaxing? Therapeutic? Really?

Trying to be open and fair minded, I consider the possibility that she has a good idea. As I look around wherever I go, I see women in lectures, on trains, and in recitals peacefully knitting. They appear to be relaxed as they demonstrate the art of multitasking. How hard can a little knitting be? I wonder.

You’ve always liked challenges, I tell myself, and I decide to try knitting. I’ll start with something small. Yes, I can do this! As I think about it I get enthusiastic about learning a new skill. This is going to be great fun. My friend and I head straight to a new knitting shop in Mendham. I immediately understand how addicting this hobby can become. The shop is charming; a converted room in back of an old house. It has original wide wood plank floors and ancient hand hewn wood beams. Displayed around the small rustic shop are beautifully handmade sweaters, vests, scarves and adorable, cuddly baby outfits.images

My enthusiasm increases as I imagine myself presenting my own hand made sweaters to my children, in law children and grandchildren. Depending on how quickly I can turn out each sweater maybe I can make a few for my friends too. I could have them finished in time for the holidays. What would be more thoughtful than a hand knit sweater with unusual hand crafted buttons, hand sewn button holes and pockets trimmed with beautiful special trim displayed around the shop?

Children’s sweaters will be my first project, I reason. They’re small enough to finish in a couple of days and then I can move up to adult sizes. It pleases me to think how excited everyone will be when they see their gifts this year. images-2

Soon the stack of materials I need is very large. I need a knitting bag, skeins of wool of all sorts of wonderful colors, several sizes of knitting needles, buttons, trim and some knitting magazines. The ones with all those cute pictures. I feel adept and practically professional as I gather all my equipment and materials. So far, considering only the children’s sweaters my bill comes close to $1000.00. But this hobby is going to relax me. And the children will be so excited. It’ll be worth it.

 

The first step in starting to knit is to kick off, jump off, or push off. I’d better check the vernacular before talking about this hobby to anyone conversant in knit lingo.

I’ve only begun my first baby sweater when I notice that the stitches are hard to move. A knitting needle can fit under each wool stitch on the needle holding the yarn but after a couple of stitches I can no longer move anything. The wool is so tight that I have to battle the stitch to get it off one needle and onto the next. I take it back to the knitting teacher. “You have to relax when you knit, or you pull the stitches too tight.” She pulls out my completed rows and starts over again, demonstrating her relaxed, easy rhythmic knitting style. “I can do this,” I assure myself, and take my supplies and new found confidence back home. The first few rows look good. The rows I’ve completed are loose and easy, loose and easy, and “What?” There are now holes between the stitches. The stitches are too loose, too easy, and resemble holes the size of the chipmunk tunnels in our garden. “OK, Not a problem; I’ll rip out these few rows and start again.” I turn on some soothing music and begin to knit a baby sweater. The smaller the baby the better

I am relaxed, I am productive, I am creative. The rows are the right tautness this time, and I am making good progress. I hold the project up to show my husband that evening, and notice an odd expression on his face. “Oh, um, very nice,” he stammers, and looks for a newspaper, book, or anything else to hide behind. I look at the baby sweater and am shocked to see that the sweater has taken on the shape of an alien being. What kind of creature could fit into this garment? A cross between Jack Spratt and Humpty Dumpty?

 

The knitting teacher kindly welcomes me back to her shop and explains something about decreasing numbers of stitches in rows to shape the garment. “We can just rip up to here,” she explains, “and start decreasing stitches there.”

This will be the third time I’ve had to rip out the stitches I knitted. There is nothing relaxing, productive or creative about knitting. It should be called the scorch and burn hobby: knit, knit, rip, rip rip. Two steps forward, seventeen steps back.

 

In the interest of maintaining my sanity and sunny disposition I return everything remotely returnable to the knitting store, leaving me with only $649.37 worth of knitting equipment that I will use to remember the experience.  Then I zoom over to the mall before it’s too late and with love in my heart, buy presents for everyone on my list.

They will be so delighted when they see their gifts this year!

 

FISH TANK CRISIS

There’s a new plant in the fish tank. 

A very pretty one; called “Apongeton” (uh PUNDG-uh ton). It’s an especially beautiful plant that sways with the movement of the water, caused by the bubbling aerator and the filter. 

But there is a problem. The tank inhabitants are afraid of this new green threat, which they consider the separator of the left and right sides of their home. The fish stay huddled in a trembling group, eyeing the new-comer, Apongeton. They’re not sure what to make of it. If they venture beyond their comfort levels and bravely swim through the plants’ moving branches, will they live to tell the tale of their adventures? Will they survive trying to reach the other side?

And so they sit in limbo, huddled together, waiting for someone else to make the first move. Think of government, sitting, doing nothing, and awaiting orders from the top. 

Finally one fish boldly approaches the plant and treads water, staring it down, testing his position. Nothing happens. He remains unchallenged by the plant barrier. So he takes the next step and swims right through the branches and out to the other side of the tank. “Braveheart” is formally named the Boseman’s Rainbow, and is now the official leader of all members of the Aquatic Community.

The other fish in in the tank remain motionless, still too frightened to take the chance of swimming toward the “Green Monster.” They fear the change in their environment, and are willing to wait out the challenge it imposes. 

Several fish approach the new plant cautiously, still unable to make the decision of what to do.

It’s clear to see two sides forming: the cautious versus the fearless. The fearless flaunt their bravery, swimming back and forth with impunity, scoffing at the timid group, who remain trapped by their own fears: confined to the small space on the “safe” side.

There seems to be a shutdown. Nothing is moving, except for the daring unafraid, few, who take over by assuming all boundaries are limitless. The adventurers have become freer by giving themselves permission to venture away from the fearful ones. By doing so they now have free range of the tank while the others remain ensconced in the small space of a corner, where the plant’s branches can.not reach. 

And so back and forth the adventurers glide gracefully, beating the risks and moving to their own rhythms. Success has its own rewards!


People have many different ways of showing happiness and celebrating.

New Year’s Eve is a perfect example.

Many of us plan to be with good friends, either at home or enjoying dinner at a restaurant. Or at a friend’s house for a party.

Others enjoy larger parties, like the largest one in the world, The New Year’s Eve Party in Times Square, New York City. Watching the ball drop at the moment of the New Year, followed by tons of confetti dropped from above is the highlight and big thrill of the night. If being in the  midst of huge crowds is your idea of fun, you’ll be very happy there. There is no larger crowd getting together to scream, shout, jump around and do whatever else people in large happy crowds do.        

The police presence will be enormous. They will search every bag and will not allow any alcoholic beverages to enter the area. Screening the entrance to the area will be equivalent , and as exciting, as the TSA screening before boarding an airplane. 

Uniformed police, mingling with the crowd will be armed. We are told not to be alarmed at all the uniformed and plain clothes police officers mingling with the crowd, carrying their automatic weapons. 

Even on a stormy, rainy night like this New Year’s Eve promises to be, umbrellas are forbidden from the scene. Any umbrellas that are found will be confiscated! With the increased security around Times Square there is no chance of smuggling even a tiny mini umbrella into the area. Assisting the police in their surveillance will be a squadron of drones overhead. And there will be an armed presence of Homeland Security.

There will be NO public restrooms of any kind. If nature calls, well, deal with it! Is this scenario still holding some appeal to anyone? No wonder the huge majority of celebrants are teens and young adults. One young man from the Island of Jamaica said “I haven’t had anything to eat or drink since yesterday.” He’s in training for the hours of bathroom deprivation.

Doesn’t this sound like a fun New Year’s Eve? You know you’re getting older when this kind of adventure is no longer appealing. Does a quiet evening at home by the fireplace, munching snacks, eating carry-out dinners and watching fun movies appeal to anyone? It certainly does to me!

However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a Healthy and Happy 2019. May all the surprises coming to you in 2019 be good ones.

“No,” I said confidently. “I don’t plan to move away from here. This is my home. My children live here. All my friends live here.”

“That may be true now, but what makes you think that they’ll all live here indefinitely? You might decide to stay, but your children and your friends might move away.”

This conversation took place several years ago, and has come back to haunt me. 

Not one of my children settled in our community or even in our state. As I worked my way through my address book this year, sending out holiday cards, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Many addresses have changed. 

One friend, who was alone after the death of a spouse, moved to Michigan to be near his son.

“Well, that’s understandable,” I thought: “His son and his young family will be company for our friend. He’ll feel useful around his grandchildren, and they’ll be amusement for him.” But that’s not a typical situation. Most people don’t have such a reason to move away; he’s an exception.

As I continued addressing holiday cards I found surprises. The address book brought me to the names of friends who have vacationed in Santa Fe, New Mexico for years. They loved the culture, the weather, and the art, and often said they would love to retire there. Before we realized it, retirement eventually arrived. Their wish was not a pipe dream we often hear; they  actually did move to Santa Fe. images-5.jpeg

A close friend and neighbor of ours always suffered in the cold winter weather of New Jersey. Lots of people feel that way, and many leave for a warm climate for three or four months. Our friends tried that for a while, and then decided to move to Florida permanently We miss the casual invitations to “Come over and see the beautiful Clivia plants in bloom.” images-1.jpegAnd other reasons to get together. We miss their company. 

There are many reasons to make a new start and move to a different community in a different state. There also are many reasons to stay in the place you have always lived. 

It takes a certain kind of courage and bravery to cut ties in a place you know and have known for most of your life. But that place becomes more and more unlike the community you knew before: the reason you lived there in the first place. None of our three children live here any more, and friends are scattering more and more frequently. The town we lived in is not the same town it was. It is crowded, overbuilt, and full of new people of a different age group.

If we saw this town for the first time, and it now was the way it is now, would we still be attracted to it as a place to spend our lives?

Despite any dissatisfaction, we have discovered years ago that there is no perfect place to live. There is no paradise; every state in the union has advantages and disadvantages 

Measuring them and considering options is confusing. I still don’t know what the right thing for us will be, but I do know that my address book is becoming thinner and thinner.

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