A Bed from Bob

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We have moved to San Diego! (a post explaining that journey expected soon, stay tuned).

Our first night we drove straight to the beach and marveled in it’s salty glory, then slept on our roommate’s blow-up bed. Naturally, the agenda for our first day in California: buy a real bed, return to beach and salty beauty.

Initially, our plan was to get a U-haul and head for Ikea. In, out, done. Then, I had a notion: “Why don’t we call that Craig’s List ad? Those mattresses were cheaper and maybe we wouldn’t have to rent the U-haul…”

My Joshua, always up for an off the beaten path adventure, agreed. He called the cheapest option. Despite not offering delivery services, he was assured that our mattress could be strapped to the top of his Mitsubishi Lancer easy-peazy-safely. “A Lancer, man, I could strap four mattresses on one of those!”. Joshua put the address in our gps and we were on our way!

The location of these mattresses for sale was… unassuming.

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It was a self storage facility.

My first thought: These are stolen mattresses! Scandal! Let’s go check ‘em out! and also, “Let’s put our wallets in the trunk in case this is a catch/rob/harm idea. Some semblance of safety, always.

We were greeted by a charming older man, with tufts of electric white hair and bubbling blue eyes. His skin was dark and dry. He emoted nothing less than my perception of “iconic aged Californian” with his flip flops and carefree mannerisms.IMG_1070

The mattress you see has “BOB MATTRESS” painted across it in red. There are toys scattered around. It only vaguely seems like a serial killer thing to do, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He welcomed us to his showroom,

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We were given permission to bounce around as we pleased. Which, we obviously did, gleefully. In Baltimore we had been sleeping on a mattress we had inherited from my old roommate, who had inherited it from her parents, and legend has it had been THEIR first mattress… yadda, yadda. We were basically accustomed to sleeping on a lumpy straw bed. THESE BEDS WERE LUXURIOUS. This was our first step toward meeting our motto: Everything better in California!

Bob walked in on us giggling on an especially pillowy Queen and offered us a discount, with a wide smile. SOLD! In total, he had about seven storage units stuffed with mattresses, and showed us where we’d need to park for ours. He gave us instructions on how to have the office open the gates for us. We retrieved cash and drove through the maze back to his aisle of units. He had a seamlessly efficient system for moving his inventory.

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Bob is in blue. Hi, Bob!

During the loading/tying/strapping process Bob and I visited and I got to know him a bit better. Bob has been running this business for seven years, much to his surprise. He explained that many of his customers are repeat customers who come back for mattresses for their kids/guests/etc. Low overhead and rapid moving of product allow really cheap prices, everyone is winning. #Winning.

Then, Bob started to philosophize. A muslim man with an elaborate turban and robe approached us. Bob redirected him to the showroom unit, then turned and smiled, “Hope he doesn’t blow us up.”

I stared, “Uhhh”.

Bob smiled. “Dy’know there are people who really think like that. You’ve got to watch out for that group think stuff, Natasha. People get scared and then agree to agree on something and somehow agree that now it’s true. Because it must be? Because they agreed?”

Joshua was still tying the mattress.

“Yeah. That group think stuff is what’s actually scary.”

“Exactly, that’s exactly my point. How long do you have to be a fish in water before you know you’re wet? We’re in the water, Natasha.”

Now, Josh had finished up and we hopped in the car.

Bob handed us some candy as we put our seat belts on.

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Customer service at it’s finest.

Naturally, we continued on to Ikea for our bed frame.

Now, ta-da! Our bed, complete with puppy!

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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You’ve gotta read this book. Especially if you like drugs. And really, who doesn’t? It opens with our journalist setting out on a road trip to Las Vegas with his lawyer to cover a race–which, naturally, they don’t really attend. What do two bachelor fiends pack for a road trip?

“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls… But the only thing that worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge…”

Promising, isn’t it?

Unsurprisingly, they careen through this trip screwing over and horrifying everyone they come into contact with. They even find themselves invited to cover a national drug conference, also in Vegas. You know, for law enforcement. I was once convinced to attend a state trooper graduation. My response was very similar in that I also felt like a double-agent in the hive of the enemy. Needless to say, once you get used to the writing style this book is phenomenally entertaining. I was laughing out loud through my shock over and over.

Five Stars! 

There went the neighborhood

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It’s time to talk about my neighbor, “Bessie”. She moved in across the street around the same time as us, at least that’s what I assumed when I witnessed her drag stained, ancient carpet we had ripped out of our house into her own home.

There were other red flags. Our moving truck backed into one of her many cars lining the street and she demanded $500 cash to repair the already beaten vehicle. Her grandchild is at least eight and when I met him he was running up on top of cars one right after the other in his under-roos. Their backyard is clearly the island for misfit toys and semi-broken playground equipment. Most haunting, however are the windows of her home.

Each bay window, typically made into a bench seat or treasured focal point of most homes, Bessie has stuffed with victorian dolls. Naturally, the big bay windows can only accommodate around twenty dolls. So the smaller windows have had her remaining collection pressed against the glass in a single file line. Every window has been dressed in this fashion, which begs the question… can she see out of her own home? From inside does the world look like endless planes of young girls facing away from her?

Are there more dolls inside the house? Does she have them in boxes, as “collectors items” or do they roam free–coming alive at night to tell scary stories of their era to the little boy in his under-roos?

One of my first conversations with Bessie transpired as she approached in her mini-van and called my name with more command than a friendly request usually summons.

“Natasha.”

“Yes? Hi…”

“Are you back from college?”

“I’m visiting for the weekend, yes.”

“What are you studying?”

“English, psych…” I was standing on the passenger side of her van and a dog was hanging out the window. As I reached to touch the golden head I had a horrible realization. The dog was stuffed. She had a taxidermied animal riding shotgun, positioned to be joyfully sticking his head out the window.

“Good for you.” She said, seemingly unaware in the change in my expression as I backed away, muttering some sort of goodbye before scuttling into my home.

There are so many questions which rampage through my mind as I try to confront this. Was this a beloved pet? Does she always keep it in the car, or does she move it around with her? Does he come alive at night, like the dolls, and provide a little whimsy to the grimness of her grandson’s day to day life? Or do the dolls dismiss him, being a mongrel beneath their pedigree?

Furthermore, if she is so attached to this animal why does she have a such a severe lack of affection for the living dog tied to her back porch? Ever since I met him I have referred to this dog as “Junkyard”, not merely due to his surroundings but also because of his unimaginable breed, callous demeanor, and general tramp quality as he hides from the elements under the porch. No matter the season, during the day Bessie keeps him tied to the porch. Upon closer inspection I have multiple times noted that his water is frozen. A fact I repeatedly mention on all my calls to animal control/humane society on his behalf. Once night falls he is released to roam our neighborhood. Assumably, hunting for his food.

Often I am confronted by Bessie as I come home from work. Her voice calls to me from the cluttered maze of her porches. She is always on a fact finding mission and I try to answer her as briefly as possible; never quite sure where in the mess her voice is originating. This morning was no exception, but she was easy to spy as Bessie has now died her wiry locks magenta and her pink head shone through the piled furniture she had burrowed within.

Much like communist domino theory I worry that soon other houses will fall to the magnetism of crazy hoarding renter on an otherwise upstanding block. In five years will Junkyard have his own gang? Only time will tell.

Better Every Day

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Dear Diary,

I’m back at school. I’m also not a latch-key kitty anymore. Growlma meets me at the bus stop every day with the beasts to make sure I come straight home. Meowmy could do it but, alas, the days of me wondering where on earth she is have returned. I hear she’s working, but I never know who to believe around here. For all I know she’s been holed up at the Betty Ford family program.

I feared my return to school would be awkward, at the very least, and result in my earning a social status of pariah after disappearing into the throws of rehab for so many weeks. After all, there is a certain stigma to being a cat and a stigma to addiction. I feared the combination would ensure my exclusion from climbing the social ladder at Hogwarts. How wrong I was! I’ve always known that single girls are drawn to me, my cat charm just woos them every time. Now that my struggles with cat nip have clearly marked me as being in need of “rescue” I can hardly keep them at bay.

Better every day,

Merlin

Merlin’s Godfather

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In this trying time in Merlin’s life I am encouraged more than ever to secure a good male role model for him. Everyone has failed him thus far and it leaves me wondering how much of his addiction is genetic predisposition and how much spurred by the emotional toll of his environment.

Naturally, being Merlin’s uncle it seemed apt to approach the topic with my younger brother, Noah. It went something like this,

Me: Noah, will you be Merlin’s godfather?

Noah: No.

Me: What? Why?!

Noah: He is a cat.

Me: He is my catSON and if I die I want you to take care of him!

Noah: If you die I’m taking him to the humane society.

Me: What? No! Noah, don’t even say that!

Noah: As soon as you all are gone I’m taking all of these animals to the humane society! They’re not mine!

Me: Noah, oh my GOD!

Noah: No one does else does this, Tasha. Pets don’t have godfathers.

Me: Actually people make wills to make sure their pets are taken care of ALL THE TIME!

Noah: Yeah, well, don’t count on me. Maybe your friend Britney or Courtney will do it.

Clearly, Merlin’s struggle has to do with a shoddy environment. So sad.

Sexy

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Another off-kilter book by Joyce Carol Oates. I love her, I really do. Several of her works are my very favorites, but I feel like I’m striking out with her at Half Price Books these days. There is nothing particularly sexy about this book, for one. It follows a sixteen year old swim star through high school, he is supposed to be the sex symbol around school–though, unwillingly. He’s shy and not too bright. A likable enough character I suppose. Where things get dicey is with his English teacher, Mr. Tracy. Mr. Tracy attends all the swim meets and takes pictures. He is a popular, young teacher. One day he offers swim star a ride home and tells him he can call him by his first name. This, in combination with undeserved higher grades and Mr. Tracy already knowing the way to his house, makes swim star very uncomfortable. The whole thing remains awkward for the rest of the semester and he finds himself in another English class next term.

Now the real awkwardness begins when Mr. Tracy fails the SUPERSTAR swim guy right off the team, which sets the swim mob into revenge mode. Our swim star doesn’t participate in this, but is wise to it as the others start planting child porn and all sorts of gross muck in association with Mr. Tracy to the authorities. It becomes clear there is going to be a trial and Mr. Tracy begs our swimstar to be a character witness, but he refuses as he doesn’t want to get involved in the whole mess even though he knows all the allegations are false. He’s in high school and he likes being popular, after all. The more this goes on the more it appears to others that there has been something going on between him and Mr. Tracy.

In the end, it seems that Mr. Tracy was just a likely homosexual teacher who was targeted because he didn’t let some of the athletes coast through his class. It’s strange to think of faculty being bullied, but this is, essentially, a case of extreme bullying of a teacher. Mr. Tracy commits suicide. Swim star is racked with guilt.

It sounds like a more engaging plot than it actually felt like because all the tension is around the car ride where nothing actually happens, leaving Mr. Tracey’s suicide somewhat anti-climactic.

Though, it is very JCO in the psychological insight of the characters and the writing style. It wasn’t a bad book, I really enjoy her writing. It’s just plot wise… I didn’t enjoy the story. It felt like being stuck in a perpetually awkward situation where I just wanted to tell certain characters to quit acting like weirdos and/or douchebags.

Meh. Three stars.

A Lost Pharaoh

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Dear Diary,

Recovery doesn’t get easier the second time around. I have been clean from nip for weeks now, but as I am being kept under lock and key it hardly seems a proven accomplishment. I’ve been trying to focus on my studies, but I find it hard to concentrate. None of the others here are studying wizardry and are of little use to me in general. Evelyn only counsels me via the telephone now, urging me to participate in the group therapies and individual sessions offered by staff here. I find it difficult, however, knowing that these are dog people. Every Thursday afternoon they bring in dogs for “pet therapy”. These beasts eye me in my corner, salivating, and I know that in another time and place they would be trying to destroy me. Meanwhile, even while I’m being subjected to this intimidation, the staff and other residents are swooning all over themselves to play with the mongrels.

Only one resident said she wasn’t interested in playing with the dogs. She suggested bringing in cats. CATS! It was all I could do not to attack her myself. As if any respectable cat would subject itself to being molested by strangers for their supposed health. Unlike dogs we are INDIVIDUALS with our own dreams and desires apart from our human companions. The level of ignorance is just abhorrent. I don’t belong here.

I belong in ancient Egypt. They knew what was up.

Feeling like a lost pharaoh,

Merlin