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Grumbling Good

We were already two minutes late for school, and Josh and I were two lights away from glory, or Prescott Mile High Middle School, whichever came first.  Right turn ahead: We had the green light!  Yeah, baby!  And then I put on the brakes because there was a woman in the crosswalk, crossing against the light.  Our green light!  She stopped in the middle of the street.  I stopped, too.  We made eye contact.   I made an impatient grimace and waved my hand for her to cross, about as ungraciously as I could.  I’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since.  I could have smiled and waved her across, and maybe made her whole day.  Instead, I probably messed it up.  I was George H.W. Bush in the 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton, impatiently checking his watch after an annoying question.   I was irritated, we were late, I took it out on her, and it felt bad even at the time.  Now it feels worse, because the whole way home, I was thinking: I have a hard little nugget of a heart.

Even when I do the right thing, it’s often not with a good heart, with joy and delight at the opportunity to help someone.  It’s with a grudging heart, like the Grinch pre-Christmas morning. There’s a lady who asks me for rides sometimes.  I always say yes, but I don’t like it.  The whole time, I’m sighing loudly in my head.  It’s not really even that inconvenient; it’s just the principle of the thing!  Let’s just stop and think about that one for a minute:  what principle?  My principal desire not to be bothered!  What the heck!  Prescott has panhandlers out the kazoo.  Just about every time I go to the grocery store, bank, or post office, there’s another one, holding a cardboard sign with the mandatory, “God bless you,” or “Anything helps.”  Yada, yada, yada.  I don’t like this.  And yet, every time I open the Bible, it’s as if God is just putting the message in my face, “Help the poor. Help the needy. Love other people.”  Aw, man!  Dang.  So, grumble, grumble, grumble, I give them a few dollars and one of the bottles of water I keep in my car.  When I do it, I am actually glad to have made the effort, but I sure didn’t want to, and I go through the exact same struggle the very next time I see one.  I’m Lionel Barrymore in It’s a Wonderful Life.  “Back in my day, we worked for a living!  We worked, I tell you!  And we walked to school, uphill both ways, in our bare feet!  On sharp rocks!  We didn’t have anything handed to us!”  Actually, I’ve had a lot handed to me, so I can’t even try to pull that one off.  I know how lucky I am, and I also know that I don’t know anything about the scruffy guy not making eye contact holding out the sign, and I don’t have the right to judge him.  But I still don’t like it.

I have given truckloads of stuff to Goodwill over the years.  But mainly I did it to get rid of my crap.  There, I’m confessing that, too.  So I have been thinking a lot, and having conversations with myself like this: “You did something that helped someone.” “Yes, but I didn’t want to do it.”  “But you did it.”  “But I didn’t like it.”  Does it count, on the big moral abacus in the sky, when you do something that’s good, but you don’t want to?  I thought of that story of  the boy who started throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean — or, like my Dad and I have done, saving stranded earthworms on the pavement by flinging them back into the grass after a rain — so they wouldn’t dry out.  A cranky old guy (cranky like me, except with testosterone) says something like, “Why bother, kid? You can’t make a difference.”  Then the kid says, “It makes a difference to this one,” and chucks it in the water.

I called my Dad and asked him what he thought.  He said, “If you do something through gritted teeth, you’ll come out stronger, because you worked through it.”  I also sought the wisdom of Claire Saunders, Associate Pastor at my church, Prescott United Methodist.  In the grand scheme, she says, “doing good, even begrudgingly, never negates the good done.  Offering someone a ride who needs it, even when the inside of your brain is beyond annoyed with it, still gets that person from Point A to Point B.  Giving someone a bottle of water might make a huge difference in someone’s life.  Who knows how far that ‘pay it forward’ type of action might travel?

“We are all a part of this big web of humanity.  We get the choice to be a positive influence or a negative influence on those we encounter on a daily basis.  That can be annoying as heck sometimes.  Which means that often, our ‘good’ is done with a grumble and an eye roll.  Doing good is good, but sometimes our own hardened hearts prevent us from feeling that same ‘good’ that we seek to offer others.”

So I guess the mission here is a two-parter.  One:  Try to do good when I can, especially when I just want to say “Bah, humbug!” and hide under a pillow, because the good deed does still count — even when the heart of the giver is a hard little nugget.    Two: Work on making my heart a little bit bigger and a little bit softer.

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I Just Want My Sudafed

It’s spring here in the mountains of Arizona, and everything is blooming. Big clouds of pollen are blowing off the trees, and apparently all that stuff is just going right up my nose. I’ve had a stuffy nose for days, and then a headache from the stuffiness. So today, in desperation, I rooted around my old purses and suitcases, looking for Sudafed — not unlike a bum searching for cigarette butts with a little bit of good left in them. It was sad. I found a lone, little red pill, and took it. (Fun fact: I also found that I have tucked away a lot of extra feminine hygiene products over the years, so if there’s ever an apocalypse, I can do a bustling business on the black market. I can barter!) As always, once I took that little red pill, my head started to open up and I feel so much better now. I don’t always need Sudafed, but nothing else works as well as it does. I don’t even take the whole dose — two pills. I just take one! I am so not a danger on any of the government lists I’m probably on for buying this semi-controlled substance.

I hate to buy it. I feel like a criminal, giving my ID and signing a little book. Stupid government. Stupid meth heads. I’m not going to make meth with it! I just want to achieve breathing in both nostrils! The lame Sudafed substitute — PE — doesn’t work nearly as well.  I tried to buy a 48-pack at Safeway, and the young pharmacy clerk looked at me like I was ready to dance with Satan.  “A 24-pack is the most you can buy,” he said reproachfully.  You moron.  I’ve bought the 48-pack at Wal-Mart before.  I know it exists.  This poor dude probably has not known a life where Sudafed could just be bought, like the beautiful nose-opener it is.  And yet, people can buy Benadryl, which makes you sleepy and you probably shouldn’t drive on it, by the truckload.  Buy it until the cows come home!  But Sudafed?  God forbid!

In tribute to Sudafed, I have written these haikus:

Precious Sudafed
You always open my head
So that I can breathe

Vasoconstrictor
Gift to nasal passages
Red pills, and red tape

I will not make meth
Can’t even do chemistry
Not that good at math

I just want to breathe
No longer to be stuffy
So here’s my I.D.

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

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Meadery Madness

Jeff and Jennifer Herbert chose Prescott because they love this small town in the Arizona mountains.  Jeff is a firefighter who works 56 hours a week in Phoenix, commuting 200 miles every three days. Jen, a talented teacher and endurance equestrian, among other pursuits, does a lot of work in Phoenix, too, but they live here, with their two young sons and two huge black Labs.  It’s a good place to call home.

Thanks to the Herberts, Prescott is on the map for another reason:  Mead.  The drink of Vikings, the nectar of ancient kings.  Jeff Herbert is an artisan mead maker.  Mead is his passion.  It doesn’t take much to get him started talking about it, because he loves it — the art of it, the history.  He loves the idea that you can take things like vanilla, berries, orange juice, mesquite, peach, coriander, Spanish saffron, galena hops, blue agave nectar, and add them to wild-yeast fermented, native Arizona honey and age them in oak barrels and test them and experiment and let nature work its magic, and add a lot of love and tending, and craft a beverage so special that the act of drinking it is an experience in itself.  Tireless and dedicated, Jeff started making hisphoto 13 Superstition Mead, named after Arizona’s Superstition Mountains.  They took their small batches of mead to dozens of tastings and wine festivals and started winning awards.  Seven of the top 50 meads in the world, as ranked on ratebeer.com, are theirs.  Jeff is the editor of the journal, American Mead Maker.  Superstition Mead was even featured on an episode of Two and a Half Men last month.

For years, they wanted to open a brewery and tasting room of their own.  They found the perfect place, right in the heart of Prescott’s lovely downtown.  It was a ruin of a building, 110 years old, in bad shape, but the Herberts had vision, and faith in the owner.  The owner took a lot longer than expected to fix up the place, but the Herberts hung in there, missing some opportunities to host special events and parties because the building wasn’t ready yet.  In the meantime, they poured their vision into creating the perfect wine cellar.   Jen found an old barn and took that gorgeous wood and sanded it for days, and it became paneling on the wall.  They refurbished tables and chairs they got from an old church and made them elegant again.  They believed, and they waited, and from the day the Meadery opened, it has been packed.  On busy weekends, when the tourists come up from Phoenix and over from California, the Meadery is hopping.  It’s the place to be.  Martha Stewart would call it one of life’s “good things.”

You would think that the Meadery’s landlord would be grateful to the Herberts for making his building a Prescott destination.   I would think that.  I would not expect, instead, that the landlord would do something that not only seems like a slap in the face, but like something that could really hurt their business.  It’s not just biting the hand that has fed you; it’s taking a dump on it, if you’ll pardon the expression.  The Meadery is in the basement of 120 W. Gurley Street.  To get to it, you have to go through an open market that sells things like gourmet sauces.   The owner has applied to get a liquor license so that he can turn the main floor and upstairs into a bar.  So to get to the Meadery, you would have to walk through another bar.  You couldn’t buy any bottles of mead — as you can now — to take home, because according to state law, you’re not allowed to “carry alcohol into another licensed premise.”  The Herberts are very worried, and rightfully so, that this will put them and their nine employees out of business.  I’m no lawyer, so it wouldn’t do me any good to bandy about phrases like “restriction of trade,” but this seems pretty crummy to me.

I’m writing about it because this is a small town, where people look out for each other.  Superstition Meadery deserves better than this, and so do the Herberts.

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

 

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Live and Let Live, It’s Prescott

photo 12 croppedIn our small Arizona mountain town of Prescott — pronounced “Preskitt,” rhymes with biscuit — there are two Fred’s grocery stores.  In our family shorthand, they are “North Fred’s” and “Rehab Fred’s,” because the latter happens to be near a lot of drug and alcohol rehab places, which we seem to have a lot of in Prescott.  The clientele at the North Fred’s is more suburban; the Rehab Fred’s is more quirky.  That’s okay.  Prescott is quirky.

At the nearby Wal-Mart, for instance, it is routine to see cowboys wearing their sidearms strapped to their belts.  I have given up being fazed by people sporting pajamas, or wild, enormous tattoos, or anything that might have turned my delicate head back east.  Live and let live, it’s Prescott.  I just push my cart.  Once, though, at Wal-Mart, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something dark and small behind me.  Very small, too short to be a person.  That’s because it was a duck.  A black duck, just standing in line.  He seemed to be hanging with two human companions, by their cart.  I sneaked a picture with my phone.  Later, I mentioned it to someone who works at Wal-Mart.  “Yeah, they come here a lot.”  What I love about my town is that nobody batted an eye.  A duck in the express checkout lane … that’s just Prescott.

Today I went to the Rehab Fred’s, trying to hurry, as always, so I could come back home and get to work.  There he was, my least favorite cashier, Mr. Grumpy.  I have written about him before.  He has a thing about scanning the Fred’s VIP card before he will scan a single grocery item.  He won’t move without that card.  I don’t like this, because if I’m behind the cart, trying to put its entire contents on the conveyor belt as quickly as possible, I don’t like having to push the cart aside, take those two extra steps — it’s the principle of the thing — and give the guy my card.  He is the sole exception in all my Fred’s shopping experiences; every other cashier will just start scanning.  The cash register doesn’t care; you still get the VIP discount.  Not Mr. Grumpy.  In the past, he has actually folded his hands and waited until I gave him the card before he would scan a single item.  Not even a bunch of grapes, or a single bottle of ketchup.  He would not scan them with a mouse, he would not scan them in a house.  He would not scan them at all, the louse.   Today, I wasn’t having it.

“Do you have your Fred’s VIP card?”  Yes, I said, “but can I give it to you in a minute?”  He sighed.  “I guess so.”  The bagger guy stepped forward and asked if he could help me unload my cart.  “Yeah, she needs it,” the cashier said.  Grr.  Still, I count it as a victory.  On the way out, in succession, I saw three things.  One was a lone piece of broccoli in the parking lot.  I took a picture of it.  As Samwise Gamgee said in Fellowship of the Ring, “I don’t know why, It makes me sad.”  Two, a bumper sticker:  “Honk if you really need to poop.”  Why would anyone have this on his or her car? To feel solidarity — no pun intended — with anyone who honks?  Seriously, I am baffled.  Then, another bumper sticker:  “Constipated people don’t give a poop.”  Except it didn’t say poop.  Again, why this needed to be said is a mystery to me.  I don’t have a bumper sticker, but if I had to choose one, it would probably have a happy dog on it or something.

But live and let live.  It’s Prescott, where life is generally pretty good.

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington. P.S. I changed the name of the grocery store.

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Missing Folksy TV

If you ever want to strike terror into the heart of your kids, I can recommend two ways:  One is to yell, “Where’s the Midol?” and watch them scatter.  The other is to sing the opening theme song of the old TV show, “Hee Haw.”  The words are simple, but the delivery is everything:   “Hee hee, hee haw haw! Hee hee, hee haw haw! Hee hee, hee haw, haw, haw, haw, haw, haw, haw.”  This has, at least on my kids, an effect similar to what I imagine that of a stun gun to be.  They gape in horror at the donkey-like sounds coming out of their mother’s mouth.

The thing is, as I sing it, I can hear Roy Clark’s banjo and Buck Owens’ guitar kicking in.  That show was a hoot, and if you are of a certain age — and if, like me, you grew up with only four channels and very limited TV options — you may have watched it, too.  When my kids were little, I used to sing, “We’re not ones to go ’round spreadin’ rumors. Really, we’re just not the gossipin’ kind.  Oh you’ll never hear one of us repeatin’ gossip.  So you’d better be sure and listen close the first time.”  There was Grandpa Jones, and Minnie Pearl, and then Archie Campbell, who would sing, “Where, oh where, are you tonight? Why did you leave me here all alone? I searched the world over, and I thought I found true love.  You met another, and (raspberry), you were gone.”  That was a big hit when my kids were babies and I would rock them and sing.  And Junior Samples, at BR-549.  The man was a genius.

I grew up in the South, in Texas and then in Mississippi and Kentucky.  My childhood was punctuated with regional Southern ads that were folksy and sweet — dinosaurs compared to the slick commercials that everybody sees today.  There was a cartoon for Domino’s sugar with a little train chugging along.  “Domino’s sugar, so pure and fine, best sugar on the Sugar Town line… whoo hoo… Sugar Town line.”  There were Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, hawking Breeze Detergent with the special enticement of a lovely dish towel in every box.  “But you cain’t buy ’em,” Dolly would say, “You can only get ’em in boxes of Breeze.”

Remember Tennessee Pride?  There used to be a cartoon hillbilly who would sing, “For real country sausage, the best you’ve ever tried, pick up a pound or two of Tennessee Pride…” and at the end, somebody would say, “And they CALL the packages Tennessee Pride!”  I was a pretty good mimic, and I could drive my mother nuts with that one.  Also, in a huge Southern accent, “It’s not fried, Momma, it’s Shake & Bake!”

When I was at college at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, there was an extremely local commercial for Emma’s, a florist.  A man would say, “Emma’s, the supuh-lative florist!”

I love local ads, because they show the heart and soul of a town.  In an age when restaurants and grocery stores are largely interchangeable from place to place, it’s so nice to see something not corporate, not fancy, pretty low-budget, made by the people who live nearby.

For that matter, I miss hokey old shows and the respectful nod to our rural heritage like “Hee Haw,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction,”  “Green Acres,”  and my favorite, “The Andy Griffith Show.”  It’s a shame that I can’t go up to someone much younger than myself (except my kids, whom I’ve indoctrinated) and say, “I’m a-pickin’…” and have the response be, “and I’m a-grinnin’!”

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

You’ll Never Guess This Weird Trick

Trend watch:  I am seeing fewer of those ads that use the phrase “weird trick.”  Like, “lose a pound a day with this weird trick!”  I guess people are sick of the old weird trick angle.  Now, the big thing is, “You won’t believe,” or “You’ll never guess,” or “this will blow your mind!”  It’s to get you to watch a video.  Like, “This cat sat on the toilet seat and you won’t believe what happened next!” or, “This poor desperate homeless man started to dance and you’ll never guess what happened next!” or, “This beat-boxing grandma started hip-hop dancing and what the cows in the nearby pasture did next will blow your mind!”

I don’t care what they did!  I don’t care about the cat, or the dancing homeless man, God forgive me — I mean, of course I care about him in the sense of, maybe I can somehow help this homeless person — or the hip-hopping cows.  If the video is that good, just say what happens.  It feels like people are resorting to lures to reel you in.  We’re at the tent circus and P.T. Barnum is advertising the Ancient and Mysterious Wonders of the World:  Lobster Boy, the Three-Legged Man, the Seven Veils Dance, Alligator Girl!

I just did a search of these words “you’ll never guess what happened next,” and got 43,600,000 hits.  Really?  Are we that jaded a society that this is what needs to happen to make us click on something?

I often do click, with a resigned sigh… Oh, good Lord, what is it, I’d better find out.  Tick, tick, tick, there go some seconds of my life, along with some brain cells.  I feel like a sucker.  Just tell me in an unmanipulative way what’s in the video.  Put it right out there.  If the cat flushes the potty, just tell me.  If the cows bob their heads, which is not exactly hip-hop dancing in my mind, but who am I to quibble, just tell me.  Or the grandma, for that matter.  Does she do the splits?  That’s pretty exciting; I’d take two minutes out of my life to see that.  If the homeless man dances and he’s the Gene Kelly or Mikhail Baryshnikov of the soup kitchen, hey, I’d watch that.  If the dog steers the car, just say, “Wow, this dog steers a car!” instead of, “You are literally unable to comprehend what this video is about to show you.” What’s next:  “You’d better be sitting down for this.” or “Somehow fashion a seatbelt for your chair, because this will blow you away!” or “Maybe take some Benadryl to knock the edge off so you can handle what you’re about to see!”  You’ll never guess what I’m about to do… it’s a weird trick I call “not clicking on this.”  You won’t believe what happens next!

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

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The Thrill and the Agony

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday, I was riding on a tide of victory.  Molly and I won a ribbon in our very first Rally Obedience trial!  This victory was particularly satisfying because in the last thing we attempted, the Canine Good Citizen test, we bombed.   In that test, if you fail one of ten things, you fail the whole test, and Molly, then a one-year-old Lab, was incapable of “meeting an unknown dog” without wanting to play.  But she had been doing so well lately.

When we first started going to puppy classes, I used to have to put on the brakes by holding onto buildings and light poles as I unwillingly raced to our downtown class and Molly, who absolutely loves going to school, wanted to get there as quickly as possible.  Really, I would reach out and grab fixed objects just to slow us down a bit.  Everybody thought she was insane.  She even pulled one of the rings off the wall of the obedience studio, to which her leash was tethered, when someone called another dog with a similar-sounding name.

But lately, I haven’t even needed the Easy Walk harness, which at one time meant we could walk down the street like a normal person and dog without having people look at us either with sympathy or contempt.  In class, she not only aced every challenge, but really seemed to like it.  She is one of those dogs who needs to work, who likes having a mission.  She gets what we’re doing in there, and it’s thrilling to see her in action.

Yesterday, we knew the sweet taste of redemption.  A bad citizen no more, Molly qualified!  You have to achieve a score of 70 out of 100, and she got an 80!  She would have gotten a 90 if she had done a “down” when I asked her to, but that’s okay.  We passed!  Even better, the five dogs who competed from our school, the Whiskers Barkery in Prescott, Az., all qualified!  We all got green ribbons!  It was the best.  We laughed and celebrated, and took pictures of our dogs and our ribbons.  Today, I don’t know what happened.  Three of us failed.  Not only failed, we got the score of “NQ,” for “not qualified.”  We didn’t even achieve an actual numerical score.

It was hot, and I guess the dogs were just fried.  Molly and I, especially, were a train wreck.  From the minute we walked into the ring, she ignored me.  No craps were given, as my son, Andy, would say.  “Molly!”  “Molly!”  I kept trying to get her attention as we moved from sign to sign, hating the noise of my own voice as I sounded like an increasingly desperate parrot.  She kept wandering off, and I hesitated to pull her back because I didn’t want to get a “TL” deduction (tight leash, which I didn’t know was a fault until yesterday, when we got marked down for it).  I couldn’t get mad at her, either, because she would just shut down even more, so I had to keep sounding perky even as we baked in the sun and this judge kept writing down all the various ways in which we sucked.  It was a nightmare.  We were the Titanic.  We were the Hindenburg.  We simultaneously sank and went down in flames.  Country and Western!  If she’d had a middle finger, she would have extended it in my direction.  If she’d had an opposable thumb, she would have thumbed her cold, wet nose at me.  At one point, she wandered off to sniff a dandelion!  She was Ferdinand the bull, smelling the flowers!

Of course, I took it personally.  “Molly doesn’t love me anymore.”  But my family was awesome, as always.  Blair sent me encouraging texts before and after the event from college.  Andy, Josh, and Mark came out to support me.  Mark got up early and went to Wal-Mart to get me Mexican Cokes, the only Cokes, as far as I’m concerned, because they come in glass bottles and are made with cane sugar.  He also got water bottles and ice for the cooler, and so we had cold drinks, which were heavenly.  Our friends in the class were great, too.  As we had won together yesterday, we failed together today, and I think I can speak for all of us that, even though we failed, we wanted our classmates to succeed.  One for all, as they say.

When we got home, I took to my bed, so down on myself.  Andy and Josh whipped up chocolate chip cookies from some dough we had in the refrigerator, and brought them to me with a glass of milk.   How could I stay in bed after that? And Molly… as soon as we got home, she was her old self, following me around everywhere, responsive as ever.   Our wonderful trainer, Kathy Morris, said that she refused to be discouraged because yesterday, we were all winners.  She believes in us and we believe in our dogs.  Our hearts will go on.  Celine Dion should sing a song about it.  By the way, Molly is one of two Mollys in the class.  There’s Molly White, a Bichon Frise, and our Molly is Molly Brown, the Chocolate Lab.  Well, who’s unsinkable?  Molly Brown! And if we mess up again, maybe the boys will make some more cookies.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.