Marvellaland

Essays on memoir, music, and more from Beatrice M. Hogg

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“Show You” Shopping

 

40_percent_off_light_redI said that I wasn’t going to do it anymore, but at the mall on Friday night, I caught myself doing it again.

I entered the store of my one my favorite brands “Hi!” the young sales associate greeted me and walked away. I proceeded to roam around the store, checking out the latest fall merchandise. Other customers, younger and paler than me, entered the store. “Hi! Most of the things in the store are 40 percent off today.”

Wait a minute. Why didn’t she mention to me that there was a 40 percent off sale? Other people entered the store and I heard her tell them about the sale. When I felt the slight elevation in my blood pressure, I knew that I would be indulging in some “show you” shopping.

This is a phenomenon that develops when you feel like you have been overlooked or dismissed by a store employee, either because of race, age or class (or any combination of the above). Some small part of you wants to prove that you belong there, prove that you are as good (or hip or rich) as anyone else. Many times I don’t even think that the slight is on purpose. Maybe the more dissimilar the person entering the store is from their demographic, the less likely are salespersons to consider them a potential customer.

I immediately walked over to the leather jackets – $500. Good thing that my discomfort was only a slight one, as it was payday and I had over $1,000 in my checking account. I walked over to the tee shirts, the ones that I always bought from the clearance rack on previous visits. But today, I was going to buy one from the general stock, since they were 40 percent off and I was pissed off. But before selecting one, I took my good ol’ time browsing the store, watching to see if they were watching to see if I was pocketing any of the jewelry, scarves and peasant blouse I was touching. Finally, I returned to the front of the store and picked out a tee shirt. I felt justified as I walked out of the store with my brown paper shopping bag.

As I continued strolling through the mall, I thought about other incidents. Last year, while in one of the shoe stores in the mall, a sales person came up to me as I was looking at their funky backpacks. “Are you looking for a backpack for your grandchildren?” On this occasion, my blood did boil. “No, I do not HAVE any grandchildren,” I responded in my most menacing growl. Over the years, I had bought hundreds of dollars of shoes in this store. Now I was too old to even be considered a customer? I was tempted to buy the most expensive, most outrageous combat boots that they had in the store, but I refrained from giving her the sale. I wrote a letter to the company, and the manager emailed back, “Epic fail.”

Last year, I went to an upscale shopping center in a nearby town. Since I had just started a new job and was in need of new glasses, I went into an eyewear store. Neither of the two salespersons standing idle at the counter greeted me. When a young Caucasian woman came in a few minutes later, they greeted her and asked if she needed some assistance. I continued to peruse the designer frames but still no sales person approached me. After about ten minutes of being ignored, I walked out later. A few months later, I spent $400 on new glasses at my local branch of the store, where the staff was a lot friendlier.

During holiday shopping in San Francisco a few years ago, my best friend (who is white) and I went into a high-end department store. We spent almost an hour admiring the designer handbags and shoes. Not once were we asked if we needed assistance or if we wanted to try on expensive shoes. I have noticed that staff at upscale stores gives everyone the once-over before determining if they are worthy of their attention. No stylish but discreetly done nails? No shoes displaying the logo of the latest hot designer or a trusted European favorite? Next!

Once, my Latino then-boyfriend and I decided to visit at a local Porsche dealership. The sales woman grudgingly came out of the office. When we told her that we were just looking, she quickly returned to her office, never to be seen again (but we could see her peeping out of the window at us). No high-pressure sales pitch, no offer of a test drive – nothing. We both had decent jobs and probably could have afforded a Porsche, if somebody had wanted to sell us one.

I remind myself that Oprah was told by a salesperson that she couldn’t afford an expensive handbag when she visited a European boutique. If I ever find myself with a five-figure windfall, I plan to buy a car – with cash. I will wear my oldest jeans, a shapeless top, and carry my cheapest purse. When ignored, I will respond in true “Pretty Woman” fashion, “Do you work on commission?” I will whip out my cashier’s check emblazoned with zeros. Or course, they will probably call my bank and possibly even the police, but eventually they will kiss my ass and I’ll “show you” shop for a brand new car.

It might seem stupid to support a business that doesn’t acknowledge you as a customer, but sometimes it is immensely satisfying to shatter a stereotype. Of course, those sit-in customers in my birthplace of Greensboro, North Carolina knew that the food at Woolworth wasn’t as good as the food they could get at home, but they still wanted to be served.

I love my new tee shirt.

Belonging

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Many times over the past five decades, I have asked myself, “Where do I belong?” I know that is isn’t in the crowded spare bedroom in a friend’s house that I have called my dwelling, but not my home, for the past two years. But it is somewhere out there, a place that I have to find, or that I will search for forever.

A sense of belonging is an elusive thing. Is it a physical place or a mental one? Even though we can’t belong to a certain person or persons, we can belong with them. Maybe we belong in a certain situation, one that inspires and nourishes us. There are few places and times that I have felt like I belonged, but I remember them all.

Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

I love the mountains. Not the grandiose peaks and pillars of the West, but the rolling hills of the southeast, especially the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a child, I remember riding through the mountains with my parents on the way to my mother’s North Carolina birthplace. The blue fog rolling over the morning mountains like a magical brew always felt like home. As I pressed my nose to my back seat window, I felt like I belonged to this world – this world where my ancestors toiled and died. Daddy would never stop for sightseeing, but one day, I will return to those mountains and discover their secrets.

My Back Yard, Lawrence (Hills Station) Pennsylvania

My hometown was on the top of a hill. I remember lazy, sunny afternoons lying in my yard, looking up at the cloudless sky. It was the place I had called home for all but the first three weeks of my life. Most of my memories and milestones happened right here. After my parents died, it was all mine – my private oasis. I knew every inch of this place – the garage still filled with my father’s tools, the bedrooms where I played, studied and dreamed, the yard where my mother used to grow beautiful roses. As I felt the sun warm my face, I thought about how lucky I was to have a place where I belonged.

Devonshire, England

A year after I sold my house, I went to England with my best friend. I loved London, where everything old was new to me. I explored the historic streets and buildings, finding a surprise in every corner. Walking along the Thames was a treat that never ceased to enthrall me. We spent a cold, rainy day in Cornwall before heading back to London on the train. A few minutes after passing the city of Plymouth, I looked out the window at a town with houses built on its rolling hills. I was overcome with a feeling of peace and calm. I’m going to live there one day. I didn’t know where the thought came from, or what the name of the town was, but it felt like home. A tiny town in Devon was speaking to me though the glass, as the train rolled back to London. I kept staring out of the window until the town faded from view and then I started to cry. I belonged there – but I didn’t know why.

Living Colour Concert, San Jose, Calfornia

A few years later, I was living in San Mateo, California. One evening, I drove my car down to San Jose State to see Living Colour and King’s X in concert. By then, I had been to dozens of rock shows, and I didn’t expect this one to be any different. But when I walked into the hall, I was engulfed by the positive energy. For once, it wasn’t a scene filled with white boy testosterone and attitude. There was color all around me – men and women of all shades, excited that for once, here was a show for all of us. From the soulful drawl of Dug Pinnick of King’s X to the searing guitar riffs of Vernon Reid of Living Colour, the bands and the audience were connected. This was what rock and roll was all about – a place of aural rapture. I was happy – crazily, deliriously, happy – surrounded by my people. I belonged in this place, in the groove that Pinnick calls, “The Church of Rock and Roll.” It may not have been the best concert that I have ever seen, but it was the one that claimed a place in my heart.

Santa Monica, California

Being homeless on the streets of Santa Monica doesn’t sound like a great place to me. But walking along the beach as the first rays of sun light up the sky never failed to buoy my spirits. I would spend hours sitting on a bench, looking out at the waves. I felt like I could do anything, be anything, in this dream-like setting. Even if I could never afford to live there, to have a condo where I could be greeted by this sight every morning, I belonged there. No matter how dire circumstances seemed to be – looking at the waves of the Pacific always calmed me down and gave me strength to face the day’s adventures. 

On Stage, Sacramento, CA

Who knew that it would take fifty-seven years for me to discover that I like talking about myself on a stage in front of strangers? When I recently read an essay about my mother at the Guild Theater in Sacramento, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t nervous. I was the girl who Daddy called “too backward.” I was the student who stood in front of the room in Spanish class and forgot every word she had ever known in any language. But as I walked to the podium and the spotlight hit my face, I was empowered. I felt like Wonder Woman. I belonged on that stage, telling my stories, bringing to life Momma and the house on Hills Station, and sharing them with the world. When my five minutes were up, I didn’t want to leave.

 

So where do I belong, after all of these years? So many locations, situations, and people have captured a piece of, and a place in, my heart over the years. I never knew I would find home in so many places. I look forward to the next connection.  

 

Lessons Learned

BMH At UniversalMaybe these five tips will help you or someone you know. Or maybe not. This is not a hippie-dippie-New-Agey feel good list about how to find yourself. I hate that shit. But if crystals, tapping, tarot cards, focused mediation or whatever works for you, go for it. This is what works for me.

  1. Have friends who are going through similar struggles. In my life, I have Mary, Lorraine, Teresa, Dorothy and Deb. Without them, I probably would have killed myself or someone else a long time ago. Believe me, people who have not been unemployed during this economic downturn DO NOT understand what you are going through. And long-term unemployed people over-fifty have special issues these days that younger people do not have to deal with. The combination of less jobs, jobs that don’t pay a living wage, employer reluctance to hire older, long-term unemployed persons, the requirement of specialized skills instead of general knowledge and many other factors make this recession vastly different from the ones that have occurred previously. If you don’t have any friends you can commiserate with, talk to people at your nearest job search center, connect with people online, even if you have just leave comments on websites like the National Employment Law Project (www.nelp.org) and Over Fifty and Out of Work (www.overfiftyandoutofwork.com). As long as you get confirmation that you are NOT alone. But if you feel that your mental health issues go beyond feelings of inadequacy or frustration because of your lack of employment, seek professional help. Call a Suicide Prevention Hotline if you feel that you might harm yourself. Many cities have mental health clinics or places set up for low income persons to get treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask to help.
  2. Treat Yourself. Sure, funds are limited and times are tough, but do something that makes you feel good. Even if it is just taking a walk, going to a free museum, a free event, or joining friends for a cup of coffee – you need to find some joy in your life. I wouldn’t recommend spending your last dollar in a thrift store or on the lottery, of course, but do what you need to do. Remember that every day that you wake up is a good day.
  3. Learn from your mistakes and don’t dwell on the past. Everyone who has been affected by the economic downturn would probably have done things differently if they had known what was on the horizon. But you can’t beat yourself up about it. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. I never in a million years thought that I would end up homeless, but it has given me insights that I would never had gotten any other way. Everything is a learning experience…blah, blah, blah. As Mary always says, “It is what it is.”
  4. Find your passion. Yeah, I know this sounds like more hippie-dippie bullshit, but it works for some people. There has to be something that you wanted to do or try that you never had the time for or the balls to do before. Look into things that interest you. Go to a lecture on the subject, take some community college or community center classes, hang out at places where people do what you want to do. Maybe once you see it from the inside, you will discover that it isn’t for you. But a lot of times, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Maybe people won’t take you seriously because you are older or inexperienced. But check it out anyway. All they can say is “no” and that won’t kill you. I’m not one for taking giant leaps, but little baby steps may be all you need to get the ball rolling.
  5. Don’t Give Up. Even though the New York Times says, “The long-term jobless, after all, tend to be in poorer health, and to have higher rates of suicide and strained family relations.” But don’t let it get you down for long. Sure, everyone has those days when you just want to throw a giant pity party and stay in bed. But don’t stay there indefinitely. Good things do happen and sometimes they actually happen to good people. People laugh when I tell them that I enter lots of contests. But in the last year, I have won a VIP trip to Los Angeles (which included airline tickets, transit passes, restaurant vouchers, museum and amusement park passes and a $500 gift card), CDs, concert tickets, tee shirts and other stuff. Other than writing contests, I only enter contests that have no fees attached. I read the general rules and make sure that it is legitimate. But be careful who you give your personal information to, though. Entering contests is fun and it gives me something positive to think about for a while. And that never hurt anybody. I have always found that in my life, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” So don’t give up. Be proactive rather than reactive. I can’t say that I believe in a fairy-tale happy ending, but I believe that moments of happiness happen in all of our lives.

There you have it, the lessons I have learned. Take it or leave it. And if you think that all of this is just some happy horseshit, come up with your own list. I wish you luck, strength and wisdom (and a lot of fun, too).

Lowrey, Annie. “Caught in Unemployment’s Revolving Door.” New York Times. N.p., 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.

Happy Christmas from the Covent Garden General Stores

Covent Garden Bag

On this day in 1987, I started on a grand adventure. I left Pennsylvania to spend six weeks in London. Upon my return, I relocated to California, where I have lived since 1988.

           Growing up in a small coal-mining town, tradition was very important, especially at Christmas. I miss those traditions that I took for granted all those years ago. I can’t even count on being able to maintain the silly little traditions that I used to keep when I had my apartment.

But this isn’t the first Christmas that I spent without a permanent residence. In 1987, I decided to leave Pennsylvania and move to sunny California, after a six-week detour to London. I loved spending the holidays alone in cold, gloomy London, where it started to get dark every day around 3 PM. It was almost like a Dickens story come to life. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I walked through the city, exploring different areas and watching people prepare for the holidays. I kept returning to Oxford Street, festooned with rows of colorful holiday decorations that spanned the street. Just looking up at the festive lights made me happy. Also, the main branch of the Topshop was on Oxford Street. I bought a floor length fake fur leopard coat there that looked like a big bathrobe when I got it back to America. I hung out in Harrods a lot, after I found out I could walk to Knightsbridge from my “flatlet” near Victoria Station. I bought my Christmas dinner there – a small baked chicken, a plum pudding and some forgotten casserole. At the Covent Garden General Store, a shop filled with useless trinkets and Christmas decorations, I bought little gifts to take back to friends. I didn’t buy anything for myself there, except a big red plastic shopping bag emblazoned with a photo of Santa and the words “Happy Christmas.”

On Christmas Day, I watched the Queen’s holiday greeting on the tiny television in my flat. I made calls to friends back home, listened to Christmas music, hung up my red Christmas bag, and strutted around the room in my leopard coat/bathrobe. It was a cold dreary day, but I had lots of tea to keep me warm. I watched holiday pantomimes on television, read the Christmas cards that friends sent from Pennsylvania, and celebrated my good fortune of being able to spend Christmas in another country.

I still have that red bag with rosy-cheeked Father Christmas. I recently bought a leopard jacket at Thrift Town for four dollars, a new phone with unlimited minutes, and I still have last year’s holiday purchase of two CDs of heavy metal Christmas songs. I’ve got tea and a Harrods cup. Maybe I’ll be able to get a new television so I can watch the “Yule Log” on Christmas morning and play my DVD of Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge. And I can celebrate my good fortune of still being alive twenty-five years later. Time to continue the traditions.

Eccleston Square

Thirty Six Years Gone – Celebrating Celebration Day

I had to see it. It didn’t matter that it took my last $15, but I had to go. I missed the premiere yesterday. Two days ago, I didn’t have the $34.50 needed to see Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. Even though the movie would be available for purchase in a month – yes, I had to go. I had a reputation to maintain. I had a loyalty to my favorite band. I was compelled to see Celebration Day, the concert footage of the 2007 reunion of the remaining members of Led Zeppelin, with Jason Bonham on drums.

I put on my white Jimmy Page tee shirt, and my black Led Zeppelin hoodie, and stuffed my wallet in my black leather Led Zeppelin handbag. I got to the theater early. The room was empty, except for two guys seating in the back talking loudly about Jimi Hendrix. As time passed, more people, mostly middle-aged guys, trickled in. As I sat there, my mind wandered back to another time, another city, and another movie.

On November 19, 1976, I sat in the crowded Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, anxiously awaiting the start of The Song Remains the Same, the Led Zeppelin concert film. In 1976, Led Zeppelin wasn’t a defunct rock band of extinct dinosaurs, but they were a living, breathing force of nature, the baddest mofos on the planet. If they were dinosaurs, they were like Godzilla, destroying everything in their path and taking no prisoners. We all knew that Plant’s car accident in Morocco was just a temporary setback. In 1977, the mighty blimp would be touring again. This movie was just a snack, just an appetizer for the hard rock buffet that was to come in a few months. It wouldn’t matter that I was the only African American girl on the University of Pittsburgh campus wearing a Jimmy Page tee shirt to class. Nothing would matter when the band hit the stage, filling the Houses of the Holy with their incomparable sound.

That was thirty-six years ago. In fact, this concert footage would be available on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 19, an apt homage to the first Zeppelin film. But what exactly was I here to see tonight? Was it nostalgia, curiosity, or something else that brought me here?
The movie started. The small audience stopped talking. The lights went up in London’s O2 Arena in 2007 and there they were – four men, three sexagenarians and one a generation younger, but older than his father had the chance to become. Jimmy Page, with a head of thin white hair, but with the same sparkle in his eyes and the low-strung Les Paul on his hips. Robert Plant, he of the long curly hair, now tinged with gray, with dark pants and a dark shirt, suitably loose and buttoned, respectively. John Paul Jones, the enigmatic one, with his short hair, jeans and cowboy boots, as befitting a Crooked Vulture. And there was Jason Bonham, proudly bald, carrying on the legacy of loud that he learned at his father’s knee. The concert started out in grand style, but both the audience and the band were a little hesitant – could they pull this off one last time?

As they went from one classic to the next, Led Zeppelin showed the audience why they were the biggest and the best. Once I heard the opening strains of “In My Time of Dying,” I knew why I was here. I was here to celebrate – the life of the late Ahmet Ertegun, the life of the late John Bonham, the life and times of Led Zeppelin, and the love that has sustained me for over three decades. For the first time, Robert Plant acknowledged some of the American blues artists who they had “borrowed” from over their career, blues artists who took legal action against the band when no acknowledgements or royalties were coming their way. Those instances somewhat tarnished the band’s reputation in my eyes over the years, but I could never stop loving them. When they went into “Kashmir,” the reason was obvious. The light, the sound, the hypnotic, mesmerizing beat showed why Led Zeppelin was second to one. “Stairway to Heaven” may get all of the accolades, but “Kashmir” is the true Zeppelin anthem. The song still has the ability to transform, to convert sound into spiritual energy, to take memories of a Moroccan sunset and create an aural landscape. It doesn’t really matter where the real Kashmir is – the song takes each listener to a private special place. And that was the magic of Led Zeppelin.

They could still bring it. I had forgotten what a brilliant bassist John Paul Jones was. Robert Plant still had the voice that had turned the heads, hearts, and loins of generations of women. And Jimmy was still Jimmy, playing his Gibson with joy and feeling. Jason laid down the beat, supporting his father’s mates with masterful drumming that would have made the old man proud. Of course, Jimmy used the bow on “Dazed and Confused.” When he played the double neck solo on “Stairway to Heaven,” the video screen showed split images of his guitar, another homage to the first Zeppelin film. The concert ended with “Rock and Roll,” which was the first song of The Song Remains the Same. At the end, we all applauded. When I was leaving, I heard one young man tell his friend that he had never seen Led Zeppelin “live” before. I remembered holding my Led Zeppelin tickets in my hand in 1977, a concert that was never meant to be.

Of course, the release of the film has reignited talk of a reformation of the remaining members of Led Zeppelin. But as much as I love them, and will love them until my grave, I’m not sure that I want to see it happen. Maybe it is apt that this “Celebration Day” is the end – to go out on a blaze of glory, to celebrate all that was magnificent about Led Zeppelin, and call it a day. But whatever the future holds, I will always be proud that I remember when Led Zeppelin was a band – a band of beauty, power, and seduction that conquered the world.

It All Started at Pitt

This weekend is Homecoming at the University of Pittsburgh. I sent in this essay to commemorate the 225th Anniversary of Pitt’s establishment, but it wasn’t used. Go Pitt!

The first time I stayed away from home by myself was when I went to the freshman orientation in Oakland in 1974.  Even though Pitt was only about twenty-five miles from my coal-mining hometown in Washington County, it seemed light-years away to me. I was a sheltered seventeen-year-old, living alone with my illiterate seventy-five-year-old adopted father, who couldn’t understand why a girl needed an education.

Pitt was like a dream to me, a dream of liberation. Even though I was a voracious reader, I had never had a library card before. I would spend hours browsing the stacks at Hillman Library, marveling at the thousands of books available to me. My father would shake his head in bewilderment when I would come home laden with notebooks and textbooks and spend the evenings typing out term papers on my trusty Royal typewriter or reading with a highlighter attached to one hand. There was nothing better than being a student.

During the winter break of 1975, my father died of black lung disease, leaving me orphaned a week before my nineteenth birthday. But it never crossed my mind not to return to Pitt. I carried on, filling the lonely hours with more books and papers. In 1976, I was accepted into the School of Social Work. As a junior, I found that I liked to write even if it wasn’t for a class. Some of my poems were published in the Black Action Society newspaper. Most of my final term was spent doing Independent Study, writing papers about social problems and issues that interested and intrigued me. One day, Dr. Anne Jones asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a writer. Such an idea had never crossed my mind. Writers were those esteemed individuals who filled the stacks at Hillman Library or the impassioned professors that conducted my elective literature classes. As a freshman, one of my Black Studies literature teachers had told me that I could not write about my “black experience” because I grew in an integrated coal mining camp of 500 people. What would I write about?

But I never forgot her comment. I spent almost twenty years working in social services, even after moving to Northern California ten years after graduation. In California, I started to write book and concert reviews and op-ed pieces, even getting some of them published.  I liked seeing my byline, which even appeared in Astronomy. For four years I was the Communications Coordinator for the National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, combining my loves of writing and social work. In 2004, I received a MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. My final manuscript was a 150-page collection of essays about growing up in a coal mining town in western Pennsylvania, embracing the heritage that was deemed to be “not black enough” in 1974.

In April 2011, Dr. Jones died at the age of 89. Even though I only saw her once after my 1978 graduation, her words have stayed with me for over thirty years. I often wonder if I would have become a writer if she had never asked me that question. In August 2012, my first novel, Three Chords One Song, was published as an eBook. In the final chapter, one of the characters donates a large sum of money to the University of Pittsburgh, doing fictionally what I will never be able to do in real life. I still proudly wear my Pitt class ring, which has been on my finger since I received it in 1977. I will never be able to repay what Pitt gave to me – the chance to learn, to dream, and the confidence to write it all down.

Spam Guard is On

 

How did I get on these lists? Almost none of these messages have anything to do with MY life, but I get over a hundred a day. I decided to spend a few minutes of my oh-so-valuable time on reading the headings from a page of spam. Spam – I used to like Spam™ (the canned meat product). It made for a tasty lunch treat, even though the other kids looked at me funny. Maybe I’ll try that new turkey Spam™.

Back to the topic at hand. Recently, I printed out a page of spam messages from my e-mail account to see what relevance they had to my current lifestyle. But I will not give any of them free advertising by mentioning their names. Just because I like Spam™, I’m not stupid or anything.

“Find new flirts!” I have been on a few online dating pages, but not this one. (At least I don’t think so.) They all lure you in by telling you how free and easy everything is on their website, tempting you with photos of handsome couples frolicking, dining, or getting married. “This could be you,” is the silent message. If you enter your information, after a few days you may get alerts indicating that members of the opposite sex are interested in you. Want to get to know those flirts? Want to look at their photos? Well, pull out your wallet – that is going to cost you. But I don’t want to gamble with my hard-gained money on the odd chance that one of these “flirts” may not actually BE odd. Or maybe it is a free site. Unfortunately in the online dating world, “free” means “loser.” I joined a free site once. The photos were amusing. Jail photos, photos obviously taken decades ago, photos taken in front of a mirror in a messy apartment, photos with ex-wives or girlfriends edited out – everything was there except photos of nice looking guys. I saw a photo of a man with his dog and wanted to date the dog. One desperate single father wanted me to raise his daughter. I’m not saying that I won’t try online dating again, but it won’t be with a site that sends me a spam message every day at 9:04 am.

“Earn your degree today!” I already have two degrees. But I can get started in a new career in just a few short months. I don’t want to work in the fast growing medical field or the fast growing computer field. And how would I pay for this new degree, when I already have a fast-growing student loan that I won’t have paid off until I am 102? I get at least four new degree messages a day, three of them from the same school. Is this really the ideal recruitment method? Aren’t the sides of buses, the backs of comic books, and ads during afternoon talk shows bringing in enough new students?

“Find expert home repair companies right now!” I haven’t owned a home since 1984 – the year, not the book. On a good day, I live in an apartment. On a bad day, I live in a homeless shelter. And even if I had a house, I would probably solicit recommendations from other homeowners for any household repairs. I definitely would not be contacting a company that sends me messages every day at 10:50 PM. Are the providers of these home repairs the same people who attended those schools that send me spam at 9:53 AM? Is home repair a fast growing field?

“Test drive a new car!” Everyone is having sales on new cars. Did anyone check to see if I had a license? The payment of the aforementioned student loans does not leave much room for car payments. The nonpayment of the aforementioned student loans does not gain me any positive points on  my credit rating. But all I need to do is come into the office and all obstacles were will be eliminated. Sure they will. That’s how my last car got repossessed, which is public knowledge and can be retrieved on the Internet. There are no car dealerships open at 5:11AM. Virtual test drives don’t count.

Which brings me to my favorite ads – the ones for male enhancement products. I am neither a male nor do I need any enhancement, at least not any enhancement that a little pill could provide. The prices are reasonable, the results are guaranteed, and no longer would I have to wonder about being a real man and pleasing my woman. Do these advertisers know or even care that I am a woman? Or are they assuming that at 9:39 AM, I got out of my bed and rushed to my computer, hoping against hope that there would be some magic elixir I could get for my husband or boyfriend that would turn him into the man he hoped to be or once was and could be again? I’ll cross that bridge when I find my soul mate on a online dating site.

This is just a small sample of the offers I receive daily in my spam folder. I could also spy on my partner, clear up my skin, find a rich lonely man, and fix my teeth – all starting with a click of a mouse. I can send photos of my breakfast to 362 of my closest friends on Facebook, but I can’t eliminate having to read about male enhancement pills several times a day? Now I’m tired, distraught, and hungry. Turkey Spam™ sounds good about now…

Thrift Town Rocks!

I love thrift store shopping and my favorite store is Thrift Town. Last May, while shopping at one of the three Sacramento area stores, I found a cool tee shirt. It was a black shirt with half of a guitar on the front below the name “Meniketti.” I knew that Dave Meniketti was the lead guitarist/vocalist of the rock band Y&T. I was planning to see the band at Ace of Spades in August, so I bought the shirt for ninety-nine cents. I refrained from wearing the shirt all summer, saving it for the concert. When I walked into the club on August 26, my friend introduced me to Dave’s wife Jill, who was handling the band’s tee shirt and CD sales. “Nice shirt,” she said. When I checked out the merchandise on the table, I discovered that the graphic on my tee shirt was the cover of Dave’s solo album. The show was fantastic and afterwards, I got to meet the man himself. His eyes lit up when he saw my shirt. Of course, I didn’t tell Jill or Dave where I got the shirt. (I guess they know now.) But in all of my years as a thrift/resale shopper, this is the best and coolest response I have ever gotten to a purchase. The tee may have only cost ninety-nine cents, but the experience was priceless. Y&T rocks and so does Thrift Town!

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