Construction And The Crazy Neighbor Lady

The side of the house I’m working at offers those of a daring nature a treacherously steep passage composed of lovely compacted dirt, shale and clay. Add wetness to the passage and it becomes a slippery slope just waiting for someone to attempt it and go ass over tea kettle.

An initial set of steps have been poured by yours truly to assist in making things a little safer but there’s more work to be done. But before work can be completed, an irrigation catch basin needs to be relocated – it’s currently right smack dab in the middle of the path of the proposed steps.

So, on this day, the digging began. And the drama came shortly thereafter.

I wasn’t 10 minutes into it when I heard the huffing and scuffling at the neighbor’s house next door. A window was thrown open, I caught a head in the midst of disappearing and then an exaggerated exhale of breath. It sounds as if a phone is being dialed.

I can’t quite catch the conversation going on until I hear the loud-enough-to-be-heard-for-my-benefit question/exclamation:

“Don’t you need a contractor’s license to, you know, contract?!?”

I chuckle to myself. All I’m doing is digging a hole. Last time I checked (oh, that’s right: I’ve never checked) one doesn’t need any sort of official license or certificate of excellence in order to put a hole in the dirt. My immediate thought on hearing the neighbor was “No, you don’t, not in this case. Just like you don’t need any kind of certification to stick your nose into other people’s business, I don’t care how good you are at it.”

You have to understand the neighbor next door to the house I occasionally do work at is known as “a crazy lady.” Now … I’m not certain she’s actually certifiable, but I’ve heard tell of past scuffles with others, neighbors and the like having regaled me with those tales. She likes to yell at kids, I’m told, who are doing nothing but laughing to themselves as they walk down the street past her house. I’ve witnessed first hand her laser stare while I’ve been laboring at some chore or another, glowering at me for simply, well, being there. How laboring with my back turned away from her house, minding my own business, is a source of irritation to her is beyond my comprehension.

This particular morning I’m 35′ away, doing my own thing, digging. I’m not bothering anybody. It’s not crack-of-dawn early in the morning (it’s 8:30-ish) so it’s not as if I’m waking someone at an inconvenient hour. I’m not creating any excessive noise or whistling some annoying tune while working. It’s just a simple fact of the crazy lady being one of those people who likes to stick their nose in other people’s business and raise a ruckus for her own purposes. I’m sure you know the type – virtually every neighborhood has one. Sometimes, they’re even a source of entertainment.

But … you’ve got to give her credit: She’s good at what she does. And throughout my time working away on the side yard in the coming weeks, I expect the drama to escalate to a fever pitch.

I’ll keep you posted. And with pictures if possible …

*Above photo not an actual likeness of the real crazy neighbor lady


Fork U.

This is a true story …

It was a Sunday and I was invited over a friend’s for a family dinner. Being Italian, they tended to eat heartily. And especially at Sunday dinner. A little snacking and drinking led to first course of chicken followed by a break with more free-flowing drink. The pasta came out next, then more rest. The main course was laid out afterward – naturally the biggest affair with seconds expected – which usually resulted in belt loosening. Or course, drink and talk and banter punctuated the respite. Then came the dessert. Corner-pieced with appropriate libations. If you weren’t rolled out the door at whatever time you decided to leave you didn’t eat enough according to the hosts.

It was during the pasta stage of the meal where this story centers. It was a simple linguini and gravy with bread which began the whole affair. I was sitting near the end of the table by an uncle named Louie, a member of the family with many a tall tale, big opinions and just as big a voice.

As the last person was served we all dug in to our spaghettis. I casually twirled my noodles around my fork and listened to some story being told by someone at the other end of the table when Louie noticed my manner of food delivery … of which he was obviously not in agreement.

“You know you have a spoon sitting right there beside your plate,” he casually mentioned to me.

“I do, thank you,” I told him. I continued eating.

“It’s not for show. You can use it,” he suggested. I looked at Louie and smiled.

Not a forkful of pasta later, Louie was on me about using the spoon once again: “What’s the matter with you? You don’t have manners and eat properly? Use your spoon.”

“Thank you but no,” I told Louie. “I have an issue with metal dragging on metal when I eat. It leaves a coppery taste in my mouth that sets me on edge,” I explained to him.

“I don’t care. Pick up your spoon and use it,” he urged.

“Sorry, Louie. That’s not going to happen.”

Louie stopped eating, dropped his utensils with a clatter and sat back in his chair. Everyone stopped eating at looked at the two of us.

He then reached for his fork, picked it up and leaned toward me with the business end of it half a foot from my face: “If you don’t pick up that damned spoon and use it right now, I’m going to stick this fucking fork in your eye” he stated in no uncertain terms and without blinking.

I looked directly at Louie. “No, thank you. I’m not going to use my spoon. I’ve explained why …”

Louie threw down his fork once again and shoved himself back in his chair. He harrumphed loudly. “Damned disrespectful kids who don’t listen to their elders …” he grumbled. He scooched his chair closer to the table and began eating again.

I looked at my friend for the first time during this exchange and saw him smirking at me in approval. Along with everyone else, I began eating once again.

Later, I discovered the entire affair was a test of my character, typical chest-pounding indicative of Louie. Apparently I had passed the test.

Here Kitty, Kitty

I was minding my own business leaning against the van door, window open, making some notes in a notebook. A squirrel was in a nearby tree chirping up a storm and being more annoying than squirrels usually are. I’d even yelled at it at one point when I was walking the property as I was doing my estimate, but that was to little avail. It satisfied me to yell at the yapping furball, though. I looked up once more to see if I could see it looking down and mocking me.

Then, I saw something out of my peripheral vision.

Looking up, I saw it was a cat. I looked back down to what I was writing … then immediately did a double take.

The cat was sauntering across the street some 50′ feet distant. And, damn … was it ever a big cat! It looked in my direction with a sort of casual piss offedness and continued on its way.

Mentally, I shook cobwebs out of my head at the sight. I don’t think I’d ever seen a cat quite that big. And I’ve seen some big-ass cats in my day: Over-fed, lazy beasts that can barely move across the floor, ones that were walking mats of hair teetering toward food dishes. This one? Was easily making its way to the other side of the street despite its hugeness and headed to a corner that occupied bushes and palm trees.

Interestingly, it was mottled in black and tan and white with stripes here and there, a rather interesting pattern. It had a unique face with pointed-looking jowls aimed at the ground, the defining thing that gave it the “don’t mess with me” look. Then I noticed it had a short, clipped tail as if it had been run over or someone had cut its tail off.

Reaching the opposite side of the street, I saw the cat leap onto one of the palms and begin to sharpen its claws. I swear I saw the palm sway when it leapt atop it. It looked over in my direction once more with that “What the hell are YOU looking at?” glare.

Suddenly it hit me: “Holy crap! That’s not a cat: It’s a bobcat!

I jumped off the van door and dove inside to grab my camera. Coming up with it, I unzipped the case while simultaneously slamming the door shut. I quickly took a few steps toward the middle of the street. The bobcat looked my way a third time, hopped off the tree and ducked into nearby bushes to hide.

That’s when I stopped myself cold.

What the hell was I doing?!? That’s a bobcat for Pete’s sake! I don’t know if they’re dangerous (I’d never heard of any attacks on humans by the animals) but my senses got the better of me and decided it was better not to find out. I turned tail and got back in the van.

But I was determined to get a closer look. I keyed the starter, rolled up my window and drove across the street directly at the bushes where the animal was no doubt hiding. It was becoming quite dusky outside and it was getting more and more difficult to see. I turned on the headlights and maneuvered so the lights busted through the bushes.

Nothing. The thing could have taken off behind my field of vision for all I knew.

That’s when I got hit with another realization. Walking around that house, while I was sizing it up and taking measurements? It came back to me that damned squirrel was raising a ruckus the entire time. No wonder! It had obviously seen the bobcat lurking about and was chittering at it in warning.

Involuntarily, I shivered with the thrill of it all.

Pulling Teeth

Shoes with zippers

These shoes have zippers in the back.
They don’t work, have no discernible purpose.
One reason men are glad they are not women.

In the shoe store some 3 dozen women were busily looking at and trying on shoes. In tow with about a handful of them were their pained-looking husbands and boyfriends.

I walked down an aisle and came to an end divider that housed a bench. Sitting on the bench was a bulky dude in a silk-screened T-shirt, babying several shoe boxes in one arm while in the act of pulling out his cell phone to check sport scores or access something on-line with the other. He looked tired, bored, restless … and sad.

I came nearer, bent over him and addressed him in a low voice: “It’s like pulling teeth … isn’t it?”

“Dude, you have NO clue. I’m dying here …” he confessed

I dropped my eyes in understanding, patted him on the shoulder and encouraged him. “Hang in there. It will be over soon. I promise.”

He sighed and nodded. I saluted him by touching my Kindle to my forehead, walked to a bench myself, sat down and began reading.

Dave’s Not Here

“… and I’m going to need you to take your license out completely, if you don’t mind. I have to scan the barcode on the back.”

“Of course,” I told the pharmacist. I removed my driver’s license from my wallet and handed it to her.

She held it beneath a scanner and looked at her screen. “Hmmmmmmm … it’s coming up with a different address than the ondmv-helle printed on the front. Is the one here your current address?” she asked as she showed me the card.

“Yes, it is. Different how? What do you mean exactly?” I asked her.

“The two addresses are completely different, from different cities.” She verified what the cities were. “It happens all the time. That’s why I check with the customer, just to make sure …” she said.

“Well, that’s dumb,” I told her. “You’d think with all the features the DMV includes on the card, all the trouble they go through to make certain information is on there completely, the paperwork, the effort to have them sent out, etc. that they’d get their stuff together and make certain all their ducks are in a row.”

“Yeah … you’d think …” the pharmacist replied.

So …

Dear Department Of Motor Vehicles:

It’s come to my attention the information you have listed for my driver’s license is not the same information printed on the face of the actual license itself. This troubles me.

You see … I made certain to fill out lengthy paperwork – exactingly so – in an effort to provide the DMV with the most up to date information. I took great pains to come into one of your office to make various changes you requested, despite the lengthy wait I endured in order to do so. And that was with a previously arranged appointment.

What I found is that someone (mayhap it was several people) dropped the ball, however. Two different locations conflict with each other due to the DMV’s error(s). This not only confused a pharmacist who assisted me but caused her to do more work than she would have normally done because of your error. Additionally, there was the very real possibility of embarrassment with said pharmacist possibly looking askew at me wondering if I was hiding information from her which could have very well reared uncomfortability’s ugly head on both our parts. (Fortunately, I could give a rat’s ass about such a situation. I’m not such a person of delicate sensibilities nor of fragile constitution so no big deal. But others might not have such a Teflon coating, if you get my meaning.)

Thus, I’m requesting you correct this error post haste so that it doesn’t occur again. And, while you’re at it, I’m requesting a partial refund of the original fees it took to order my updated license being the information is wrong. That only seems fair.

Please contact me at your earliest opportunity and let me know when I will be receiving said refund. If I don’t hear from you in two week’s time (which I believe to be a fair time frame) you can expect a call.


Michael Noble, Disillusioned California Driver

Of Sweet Kernels And Nosy Old Ladies

Of all the markets I enjoy going to, the Ranch Market — catering mainly to the latino community — is one of my favorites.

Terrific, crisp produce (and often boasting a host of different items you wouldn’t necessarily find in a regular grocery store), a nifty meat department with fresh-made chicharrones, several varieties of ceviche and more, pan dulce of all shapes and sizes, fresh baked pies and cakes, hunks of flan and more.

I was on a mission to get a few things to make corn salad that day, corn being the main order of the day. (It’s rather difficult to make corn salad without corn, y’unnerstan’ …) Tomatoes, cilantro and avocados were on the list as well.

Eying the corn as I made my way into the produce department, I went over and began picking out nice, large ears and shucking a portion of the husk to spy their freshness (of which I had little doubt).

Of a sudden, a hand touched my right shoulder. I looked and saw a diminutive old lady looking up at me.

“You better watch out for that,” she warned me. “They put the old stuff on the top, there … see? I’m not sure it’s really that fresh …”

I smiled at her. “Oh, the stuff I’m picking out is fresh all right. It’s super fresh as a matter of fact.” I reached for another ear and pulled part of the husk back to show her. She watched me as I did so.

“But … how do you know it’s really fresh?” she asked.

I pulled yet another from the bunch and repeated the process. “See? Clean and firm and ready to go. I can do this all day long,” I told her.

“But … how do you know it’s really fresh?” she asked again. She stuck her finger at the kernels to poke them and feel them. “They’re too hard” she tried reasoning.

“No … with white corn, the firmness assures freshness,” I told her. As I waved the ear of corn at the others I stated pointedly “I guarantee you this stuff is rockin’ and top notch …”

“Yes, but … how do you know? How do you really know for sure?” It was evident I held her attention and she was interested in what I had to say but I could tell she was doubtful. You could see in her eyes she wanted to believe me but there was skepticism there.

I squinched down to her level and looked right at her. Then, I looked to her right down the aisle past her. Then I looked left, away from her. I again came back to her questioning eyes and whispered to her “This is how I know … don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our secret” I confided.

I grabbed the ear I was holding with both hands and took a gaping bite out of it with exaggerated florish right in front of her. “Oh, man … THAT’S sweet stuff. Perfect!” I offered joyously. I know I had juice dribbling down my chin. I smiled at her toothily.

The surprise in her eyes made me wish I had had my camera right then and there. She gaped open-mouthed and began smiling at me herself. She raised her hand as if she was going to swat me, began laughing and shooshed me away while she made tracks down the aisle, chuckling all the way.

I’m certain she kept an eye on me while I continued picking out corn. You know … to make sure I didn’t put the one I took a bite out of back in the lot …

Zero Conversation

This is Sandra Essiam.

sandra essiam

Or, rather, “sandra essiam,” if you will, spelled without any proper punctuation. (Hmmmmm … it very well could be “sandra, yes I am” too.)

“sandra” shot me a message Thursday morning … 2:25 a.m. to be exact. The message cryptically read “ are you” with no further correspondence. And yes … it read exactly so — no capitalization, happenstance spacing, et al.

Now here’s the thing: I don’t know “sandra.” I’ve never heard of her, I’ve never previously seen her before and I really don’t know what compelled her to contact me at 2:25 in the morning.

I was tempted to respond: “2:25 in the morning. Hell of a way to introduce yourself” was what first came to mind. But two things struck me almost immediately after receiving the message:

First, she wasn’t on-line when I got it. (She shot the message via Google chat which has indicators if you’re actively on-line.) Not that that made any real difference; she would have gotten a return response one way or another had been so inclined. Second, in so responding, what would be the point? It was simply a knee-jerk reaction, my sarcasm kicking in that urged me to boomerang a reply back at her.

What was “sandra’s” motivation for pinging me so early in the morning? Did she want to chat? Was she intrigued by things I’ve said on the web? Was she board? Or could the reason be something else all together?

I’m pretty certain it was “something else all together.” Knowing this, there was no reason I needed to delve into the unknown at 2:25 in the morning. (I mean, I’m an early riser but, unless I have a trip planned requiring me up at that hour, there’s zero need for me to get out of bed at that time.) And there was no reason for me to look into who this “sandra” is any further. Sorry “sandra.”

But … you know what? No … I’m not sorry. Don’t contact me again. And especially when I don’t know who the hell you are and doubly so so early in the morning.