Monday, December 31, 2018

When Taco Bell Doesn't Open On Time

This one was originally posted on Facebook over a month ago....

11/23/18: It's been a busy week. Yesterday, I challenged Collin's former employer on their Facebook page for firing him without a valid cause after seeing their "one big happy family/flexible job" posts (their response came much faster than expected--we'll see if anything actually comes of it). Then I gave Metro the feedback they requested on their Metro Gateway card, which is supposed to make using public transportation more convenient. It doesn't. To reload the cards, riders must go to their store downtown or one of their Metrolink stations--neither of which is anywhere near where we live. And I wouldn't use Metrolink if they paid me to ride it. Guess who's never going to be asked for feedback ever again?

Now, Taco Bell is in the ol' crosshairs. Don't get me wrong--I love Taco Bell. But it's really, really frustrating when we order one black bean burrito, one Fritos burrito and three bean burritos and discover, after we get home, that none of the burritos are labeled. We had to cut them open to tell which was which.

Is it too much trouble to put a sticker on them or something?

This is the same Taco Bell I used to frequent when I was still allowed to go out alone. I'd get there early. It was supposed to open at 9:30. I'd call them. 

"What time do you open?"


"No, you don't. I'm outside your door and it's still locked."

"Hold on."

Then they changed their opening time to 10:00. Same thing.

"What time do you open?"


"No, you don't. I'm outside your door and it's still locked."

Pause. Then, in a muffled but frustrated voice:

"Didn't anybody unlock that @!$$#%* door?"


I worked downtown for the eight years between college and selling my first novel. I knew my way around--I could find anything downtown.

In the years since, I've spent little time down there. St. Louis Center is gone and Union Station isn't what it used to be. There are restaurants everywhere, so why go all the way downtown to eat?

Back in the late '70s-early '80s, it was mostly businesses, hotels, retail and yes, restaurants. Today, some of those big office buildings are apartment buildings. Apartment buildings? People actually live there?

Collin and I had to go downtown yesterday. For all my complaining about Metro's new reloadable fare cards not being the convenience they're supposed to be, I was the first to receive their new card for seniors and disabled riders (half-price fares). 

Now to nag them into online reloading.

Anyway, Collin and I got downtown early--early in that we didn't have to be at Metro until 2:00, not early in that the Metro driver was ten minutes late and almost caused me to fall off the bus (she didn't pull all the way to the curb and didn't lower the bus for my walker).

Great start. Not.

We stopped for lunch at Planet Sub. The subs are good, the chili's good and the big cookies are very good.

At Metro, we were told the process would take about twenty minutes. True. Most of that was spent trying to take my photo for the back of the card (for a minute there, I thought I broke it).

Afterward, we still had an hour to kill before we could get the express bus home. The ride from our place to Metro had taken ninety minutes, and taking a walker aboard had not been easy, so we opted to take the commuter express that would only take twenty minutes.

We found a little hole-in-the-wall donut shop that has some huge, delicious donuts. We didn't find the CVS we were looking for, at least not where we were looking. And we found it surprisingly difficult to find a public restroom. I remember a time when they were everywhere downtown. What happened?

I'm now thinking of writing a guide for travelers--city guides to public restrooms, complete with ratings.

Friday, December 28, 2018

GOAL: To See My Face On A Smuckers Jar!

Just for fun, I tried several of those life expectancy calculators that are available online. They asked questions, basic stuff about height, weight, lifestyle, medical issues, etc.

All of them estimated my life expectancy at 85-87 years. To be honest, I would have guessed I'd be lucky to make it to 70. I'm still skeptical, but it's good to be optimistic.

I know people--a lot of them, actually--I'd bet will outlive me by a wide margin. My friend Carolyn, for one. She's active, she eats healthy stuff most of the time. She and her husband travel a great deal, they keep themselves mentally sharp.

William is another. Besides being twenty-seven years younger than me, he's also very active. I think he walks just about everywhere, and chocolate addiction aside, from what he's told me, he mostly steers clear of junk food.

But then, nobody in my family has ever been known for healthy lifestyles (at least not as far as I know), but several made it into their 80s and 90s. Maybe there's a genetic advantage.

Besides, I did vow to make it to 100 just to annoy the Republicans who've made it their mission to keep us from getting as much of our Social Security as possible. 

I really would like to see my mug on one of those Smuckers jars on the Today show....

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Mom was the pack-rat; Dad was the neat freak. She was Oscar Madison, he was Felix Unger.

Mom kept things long past their usefulness. She didn't quite qualify as a hoarder, but it was close sometimes. She'd write a phone number or address on whatever was handy at the time but never quite get around to copying them into her phone book. Ditto recipes. She'd keep mail stuck in drawers or cabinets and was never able to find a specific letter or bill when she needed it. 

Dad, on the other hand, despised clutter. He liked things neat and often threatened to replace all of our tables with gigantic funnels so Mom would have nowhere to put stuff. He was a minimalist in the truest sense of the word. A place for everything, everything in its place. If he needed something, he knew where it was. Mom could never find anything.

Mom liked to go to garage sales on Wednesdays. She'd come home with a bunch of stuff she was never going to use. She'd take everything to our storeroom until she found a suitable place for each of her treasures. 

Next time she went out, Dad would haul all of it out to the dumpster.

This pattern repeated every week for several years. Mom and Dad are gone now, as are Mom's garage sale "treasures," but Collin and I are carrying on the family tradition. I'm not the obsessive neat freak I used to be, but I do have issues with clutter...and a storeroom full of crap to deal with. Collin, well, he has a lot of good traits, but he also has the pack rat gene.

I wonder if there's a twelve-step program for pack rats?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Encore: Deck The Halls, Part Two (2013)

Gag gifts have become a tradition in our family. I just bought Collin's yesterday.


And a parrot in a pear tree.... 

Ooops! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah...Mom had a roll of TP under the tree and Dad was trying to explain a box of poop to Homeland Security. Well, not exactly.But he was a repeat offender. As a matter of fact, he chose one victim twice simply because she swore he'd never fool her again. 

The target was Cathy, a friend of mine from high school. After Poopapalooza 1, she tried and tried to find a way to exact her revenge--but a whoopee cushion in his truck just didn't quite equal Dad's prank. When she told him she'd never fall for it again, well, that was like throwing down the gauntlet. He looked for a way to trick her into opening the box for a second time, and she unwittingly gave him the solution when she commented on a local souvenir--an outhouse ashtray. (Yep, we're about as redneck as you can get without being Jeff Foxworthy's blood relative.) 

I was seven months pregnant with Collin at the time and had been visiting Cathy, her then-husband, Ralph, and their son Damien (no connection to the character in "The Omen"). Dad sent the ashtray to Cathy with a message I was to relate: he knew she liked it and was sending it as a peace offering. She was touched--until she opened the little outhouse and saw the tiny turd, standing straight up in the tiny potty. 

                           (Not exactly like the one he gave Cathy, but close enough.)

"I'm gonna kill that old man!" Cathy shrieked. (She didn't know it couldn't be done without a silver bullet.) 

I've got a lot of Christmases to cover, so please bear with me. Twelve days may not be enough.


OK, it's not politically correct. I'm not politically correct. Stats say 80% of the U.S. is Christian. That means I'm in the majority, and last time I checked, majority rules. Even if it didn't, I'm a Christian and proud of it. 

I have a lot to apologize for, but that's not on the list. 

Christmas 2008: In Iraq, Santa was making the rounds wearing a bullet-proof vest and packin' heat. Who'd ever have thought Santa would have to travel with weapons? 

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus--and he's armed and dangerous.Don't let him catch you being naughty. There's a stiff penalty for being naughty. 

In New Zealand in 2007, a bunch of drunken Santas invaded a cineplex. Drunken Santas?'s so hard to get good help these days. 

Normally, I try to be done with everything long before the Big Day because I detest crowds and insanity (except my own, of course), but yesterday, I not only ventured out into the last-minute chaos, I was oblivious to it. I had my trusty MP3 player with me, so all was well. 

Music really does soothe the savage beast. I'm living proof of that. 

First stop: the bank, to make a deposit before their early close at noon. We've been with the same bank for something like seventeen years, through numerous mergers and name changes. I've been there longer than most of the personnel. At the teller window (I don't think they call 'em teller cages anymore, though at times they probably should), Pat was smiling. She had good reason to smile: a holiday falling on a weekday. They get, if you'll pardon the expression, screwed on Sunday holidays. Not even a half day off.

Big smiles all around. 

"I'm going to get my turkey," I mentioned. 

She didn't miss a beat. "I thought he was at work," she deadpanned, referring to Collin, not the edible turkey awaiting me at Dierbergs' deli. 

I laughed like a looney tune. Couldn't help it. That was a good line. Wish I'd thought of it. 

We had a pre-fab (OK, pre-cooked) turkey. My son, then an aspiring chef, had no intention of preparing the Christmas dinner. (Did I mention this before? Or maybe I only mentioned it repeatedly to HIM.) He worked all week at the restaurant and had no interest in cooking on his one and only day off. So with our pre-cooked bird, instant sides and my aversion to cooking anything other than in a microwave, dinner was ready in a record 30 minutes. 

Hey, I have better things to do on Christmas Day than cook.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Encore: Deck the Halls (2013)

Because I'm still not back to 100%, I'm going to repeat a post I did back in 2007. Most of you weren't reading my blog then (it was still on MySpace!), so it will be new to you. For those who have seen it before, it's been a while, so please don't send me lumps of coal! And be sure you check out all the cool blogs listed on my sidebar, like William's photoblog--which, coincidentally, has the same title as mine today--Gayle's Square Dog Friday post featuring Hamish in an elf hat, and London Lulu's Christmas blog!


I love Christmas. I love the big dinners and the music and the presents and the family all together for that one special day. Most of all I love the real reason for Christmas. I love knowing that 2000 years ago, God came to earth to live among us, to know us and to save us. I love thinking about what that first Christmas must have been like, and being able to see it so clearly in my own mind. 

I don't love so much of what Christmas has become: angry people on the roads and in the malls, pushing and shoving, jostling for position in the lines for the most popular gift items. I don't love crowds and high-pressured sales pitches and lazy bums who prefer to steal someone else's money and/or gifts instead of working for their own. 

I was at the mall last Christmas. It was funny, actually--as I went from one store to another, a young man attempted to charm his way to a sale: arms outstretched, big smile, big tube of very expensive lotion in hand in a bid to convince me I could not live without that lotion. Little did he know. I changed lanes, moving to the other side of the aisle, and that big smile instantly vanished. I can only imagine what I was called in that disappointing moment! 

Then there was the turkey who attempted to help himself to my cash. I felt his hand the minute it hit the zipper on my messenger bag. I came down hard on the trespassing hand. "If you want to keep that, buddy, you'd better take it back NOW." 

I think he had an accident, if you know what I mean. 

I don't love that there are some who want to celebrate Christmas even though they don't believe in God, in Jesus. And I'm not referring to religions other than Christianity. Our Jewish friends celebrate Hannukah. Our Muslim neighbors have their holy days. I don't know much about other religions, but I'm sure they have theirs as well. gripe is with atheists, the real party poopers. They don't believe in God, don't believe that he came to live in our world as the infant Jesus, but they want the holiday anyway. They want to say the more politically correct "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so they can have all of the fun without belonging to the club. 

I wonder how they explain to their kids what they're celebrating? "Oh, we're celebrating Daddy being sober for a whole year!" 

I say to them, don't celebrate a holiday if you don't believe in it. Too bad, Mr. and Ms. Grinch. No presents for you. 

My cousin Jeff, who grew up with us, is a Jehovah's Witness. They don't celebrate holidays or birthdays. My father always said Jeff became a Witness not because he really believed in their doctrine, but because he was just plain cheap and didn't want to have to buy any gifts. Jeff bristled every year when we put up our Christmas tree. He thought we should give up our tree because HE didn't believe in it. He claimed we were worshipping the tree, of all things! Dad couldn't resist--when he'd see Jeff's truck pull up in front of the house, he told us to get down on our knees and bow to the tree when Dipstick came through the door.

Mom complained that was a little hard on the knees. 

Christmas was always a big deal for Mom and Dad, and it's at this time of the year that I miss them most. (Dad's been gone 16 years now, and Mom 9.) They were always like a couple of kids in their unabashed enthusiasm. They'd spend weeks preparing, shopping for gifts and trying to hide them from us. We were never allowed to put the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it was always the same: we'd get some form of takeout so Mom wouldn't have to cook--she'd begin preparing our Christmas dinner that night and couldn't deal with TWO meals at once. We'd watch a rerun of A Christmas Carol on TV--always the 1938 black-and-white version. 

Once the tree was up and completely decorated, the gifts would start to appear from their hiding places. They would be placed under the tree and Dad would do a count to make sure everyone had an equal number of packages. There was never one gift per person, always at least 7 or 8, usually 10. 

I remember one year Mom was a package short. Dad quickly remedied the problem with cash. He didn't want her to know it was cash, of course, so he wrapped it around a roll of toilet paper. Mom knew it probably wasn't just TP--Dad was notorious for gag gifts. He could be very creative in his gift-giving. His Christmas tradition was a little weird: instead of a lump of coal, the unfortunate target of his ire would get a beautifully-wrapped box of poop. 

I kid you not. POOP. Usually of the canine variety. I remember one Christmas when I was in college, he actually mailed the poop to a friend who was living in Tennessee at the time. I held my breath until it was received, wondering what would happen if postal inspectors happened to open the darned thing! 

I miss those good old days. 

Collin and I are making new traditions, new memories. Collin has never been good at keeping a secret--it's like lying. He didn't get that gene, for which I am grateful. 

Trouble is, I will know every gift he's giving me BEFORE Christmas. The Christmas before Dad died, he wanted a self-propelling lawn mower. He had a bad heart (only in the physical sense) and was having trouble using his old mower. To haul it in Mom's Escort, we'd have to put the back seat down, so we left Collin, then 11 years old, with Dad while we went to get it. All of our plans to sneak the thing into the back yard to hide it were, as it turned out, unnecessary--Dad came to the front door when we arrived, grinning from ear to ear. I knew immediately that my darling son had ratted me out. 

I miss those days.

(Credits: cartoons are all from

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Do You Really Want To Know Who's Following You?

I haven't been blogging with any regularity in the past several months. I do most things online on my phones. Blogging from a smartphone is possible, but not easy--so I didn't. Since most of the bloggers I followed (and who followed my blog) gave up blogging over the past few years, it started to feel like maybe it just wasn't worth the effort anymore. 

I was posting here, as well as the four connected blogs set up especially for my current writing projects. They weren't catching on, though I did have a few regular commenters (thanks, William, Grace and Eve!).

Since I own my domain and the four sub-domains (is that what they're called?), I'm not giving them up. Besides, giving up a domain can leave it open to blogsquatters. One fellow blogger abandoned one of her blogs and it was almost immediately taken over by a hardcore porn blogger. Maybe I'll come back to blogging at some point, if it seems worthwhile again. Maybe I'll repost stuff I'm currently posting on my Three Rs Facebook page. Time will tell.

Anyway, I do go check every couple of weeks for spam and scams--kind of like sweeping out the dungeon to keep the vermin out. Today, just out of curiosity, I decided to check my stats. This is what I found:

China 576
United States 189
Unknown Region 19
Russia 18
United Kingdom 13
Germany 7
France 5
Canada 4
United Arab Emirates 3
Indonesia 3

China? Seriously?

If they're looking for valuable information, they're in the wrong place!