You wouldn’t think getting lost with my dad in Arizona’s suburban sprawl on a Thursday night would be my favorite holiday memory.
You see, crab legs were on sale. Labyrinth streets enveloped our desired supermarket in a neighborhood just a few radio songs from my parents’ place. After a lively discussion and a phone call to ensure availability, I jumped behind the wheel of a vehicle my sisters and I call “the box car.” My dad provided IPA-influenced directions to a familiar but infrequently visited place.
America is well-known for its bright, sterile shop fronts repeating ad infinitum – Starbucks, Shell, Walmart, Subway, Valero, Fry’s, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King… again, and again, and again. It’s like a B film with a miniscule scenery budget, the same tired “background” strip playing over and over.
The latter explains why it continued to feel as if we were nearly to the store.
However, with closing time rapidly approaching, we began to worry our expedition – sans navigation technology – would be fruitless.
Thankfully, we rolled into the Safeway parking lot with time to spare. The seafood department’s display cases were empty, causing flickers of disappointment. The employee I’d spoken with on the phone soon appeared and assured us he’d be with us in a moment. Waiting gave us time to notice the department had technically been closed for 90 minutes: the dude had to be doing us a real favor.
Poor guy didn’t know what he was in for… we ordered more crab legs than their facilities could handle. He apologized profusely as he struggled with weighing them (their scale is too small), producing a bar code (their software doesn’t handle an order our size), getting them all into a box, and figuring out how to top off our order when he realized he’d underestimated his stock levels over the phone.
Oh, but it’s not over yet! At the cash register Murphy’s Law attacked the sole cashier with vehemence. The barcode on our giant box of crab legs wasn’t working for her, and suddenly every end-of-night customer in the store was ready to check out. When the manager finally showed up, he spent a good ten minutes figuring out how to get our transaction into the computer. He informed us our “meat department” purchase was by far the largest the store had ever seen.
More than an hour after pulling out of the driveway, we tumbled back through my parents’ front door laughing and lugging our prize to the freezer. It made an excellent feast a few weeks later, on the night before my youngest sister and her brood ended their Thanksgiving vacation and departed for home.
Other memorable moments of November & December 2015:
Sold our truck quickly and for a good price
- Learned about gold panning, sluicing, and processing
- Graduated to a glorious new laptop
- Helped my mom spruce up her resume & cover letter for an exciting career move
- Converted all my old photo albums to digital
- Experienced my first indoor trampoline center (awesome!)
- Walked lots of (dark!) mornings with my parents
- For the second time in my adult life, cut all my hair off.
- Took advantage of American prices, purchasing a few years’ worth of supplies for upcoming life in Australia
- Spent a jazzy/ Mexican evening in Phoenix with my mom’s friend of 30 years & her partner
- Hitched a ride to my sister’s (saving her four hours in the car with kids) with my airplane seatmate and his awesome offspring.
- Met my sis’ co-workers at her holiday work party
- Made pizza and frozen lawn globes with my nephew, and edible playdough with his friend Ethan
- Took a beautiful wintertime country drive, courtesy of my sis
- Went swimming, to the movies, to Bingo for Books, and practiced flashcards with nephew
- Researched the Australian real estate market and plane tickets for my sister’s desiredvisitdownundah
- Ate steaks and ribs galore
- Laughed at the resident deer in my sister’s town… like driving around with a bunch of St. Bernards on the loose
- Had adequate stressful baby moments to prevent me from getting “broody”
- Played endless games of mancala, dice, and cards a“war” with my eldest nephew
- Wrote postcards for hours in a gas station in the middle of Wyoming
- Finally conquered the addictive 2048 game
- Went climbing and ice skating with my eldest nephew
Arizona Part II:
- Got denied a much needed 12 pack of beer thanks to a neurotic clerk’s suspicions about my interim Wyoming license.
- Swam with my eldest nephew at my aunt & uncle’s worldmark
- Converted old family videos to digital, dusting off my splicing skills from my video store years
- Saw the Christmas production at Tucson’s Gaslight Theater
- Made cookies and played hide and seek with my eldest nephew
- Celebrated with Prickly pear margaritas, Scattegories games, and infinite fantastic food
- Got to see my first, live water polo – my cousin’s outdoor practice during an early-winter cold snap!
- Spent New Year’s Eve on a flight to Australia
For the record, I experienced most of the above still in a bit of a fog after an insane September and October. I did have a few moments of clarity and philosophizing, however, on the following topics:
Winter – Not All Bad
Spending a few weeks in the Wyoming snow was a rare treat. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve lived somewhere that requires wearing snow boots most days, scraping your car windows every morning, and regularly shoveling a path. Snow creates an ambiance that’s absent elsewhere. Not just the soft white blanket smoothing over all the shapes of the world, but the way it keeps an imprint of who and what has come before you. Signs of rabbits crossing yards linger; tire tracks leaving driveways announce who has and hasn’t left for work already. And there’s the slow-down required by slick roads, the lumbering and tentative way people move about.
I regularly assert that winter-time-living is equal parts gift and drudgery. Yes, by the middle of winter most souls begin to ache desperately for its end. But because the longing is so deeply felt, spring delivers a huge dose of gratitude that buoys the spirit in a Newton’s 3rd Law kind of way… an equal and opposite adoration for anything not-winter. Of course, by mid-summer people are anxious for a break from the heat. As winter inches forward, disguised as autumn, folks gleefully don jackets and fling their arms wide to pumpkin-spiced foods. So yes, winter sucks. But it also adds a depth to life that just isn’t found in more temperate climes.
Alimony – Also Not All Bad
I always thought people collecting paychecks from their divorce were lazy, money-grubbing scum. I jumped right on the bandwagon, lambasting women who created the “ex-wife problem,” simultaneously dragging down the reputation of females everywhere by not pulling themselves up by their god-damned bootstraps.
I realized not everyone has my life experience. I grew up in a dual-income family, and my parents grew up in dual-income families. My mom instilled me with independence and a desire to provide for myself from a very young age. I knew how to do my own laundry before I started kindergarten.
However, the dual-income family is a relatively new [western] thing. There are plenty of women still alive on this earth who have gone most of their adult lives working for free, earning nothing and racking up no future job references and skills.
Ironically, what got me thinking about the subject of alimony was a six month stint
driving riding around the U.S. Boyfriend has a problem with pretty much all driving that he isn’t doing (karma if there ever was… not so many years ago I was nitpicking pretty much every move my former main-man made behind the wheel). To avoid fights, I turned over the proactive position in the car most of the time.
Life in the passenger seat has its perks. I definitely felt a bit spoiled – like a colonial resident being driven around by my servant. But it also changed me from a passionate lover-of-driving to a passive sloth. Suddenly something I formerly adored seemed like a tedious chore. And I began to understand how giving up one’s own preferences and lifestyle in exchange for another’s can leave a person without their former capabilities when situations change.
I’m sure the latter rings particularly true for women who have given up the time one must invest in a career and the connections brought by a lifetime of working. On top of that, suddenly living alone on a small income requires skills and habits that are tough to resurrect or originate overnight. Knowing where to shop, memorizing the costs of common items to compare vendor prices, finding recipes that will stretch food dollars over several days or a week, and sourcing household goods that don’t bankrupt the budget takes research, repetition, and diligence.
A friend of mine has voiced concern that she’d be hard-pressed to re-sharpen her former thrifty ways that her husband is slowly dulling via resistance.
I think for those with no relationship or life-experience context, an apt analogy can be made using smartphones. Most people reading this post own and use a smartphone every single day. Now imagine suddenly not having one anymore. Imagine re-learning how to function without one – looking up directions before you leave home, making plans hours or days in advance, breaking out a book or turning on a computer to find an answer, calling a friend to ask for a recipe, remembering to bring your camera when you’re going someplace special, wearing a watch or asking strangers for the time, picking up the phone and having to talk to someone for 30 minutes to get an answer to your “real quick” question… it would be a steep learning curve at the very least.
Now, I’ll admit there are some truly horrific alimony stories out there. Take this woman’s ex-husband, for instance. But perhaps more often alimony results from structures like the ones talked about in this fascinating article babout the stay-at-home-mom’s in an ultra-rich world where, “a husband may simply ignore his commitment to an abstract idea at any time.” So I’ll just end by saying that these are sticky situations in which sometimes alimony payments are reparations for decades lost on a planned-forever that has evaporated, a gamble that’s been lost.
American Sugar – Definitely Bad
Okay, now for something I won’t defend at all – America’s favorite sugar: fructose.
“But wait!” you say. “Isn’t fructose what’s in fruit? Fruit is healthy! Fructose can’t be bad!”
Here’s why I’m going on this tangent: I nearly cried when, on this visit to my homeland, I discovered a new trend: soda fountains in the checkout lines! Most prevalent at grocery stores, but at other points-of-sale, too, there are now high-fructose dispensers offering ounces of slow death for just pennies. Not only that, the soda fountains now have “flavor shots” – because the soda alone is no longer a big enough sugar-bomb?
Yes, fructose is the sugar in fruit. Yes, it’s packaged in a container of fiber and water when it’s fruit. However, to get the same amount of fructose from fruit that one gets from a 20 oz. soda cI’d bet most Americans have at least this much fructose everyday as it’s tucked into a multitude of ingredients you’d never suspect – your bread, sauces, spreads, etc, you’d have to eat 5 bananas or 9 cups of strawberries or 89 cherries. However, I guarantee you couldn’t put away a burger and fries after eating five bananas.
“Okay, well whatever. I still don’t see what’s so bad about fructose,” you say. “It’s natural.” Yeah. So is arsenic. And cyanide.
“Well, someone told me we have to eat sugar or we’d die,” you say. Correct. By all means, please, please eat huge amounts of glucose, for without it your body will eat itself (this is what happens to diabetics who can’t access the glucose floating around in their blood). However, the only cells in your body that can even break down fructose are in your liver.
“Hey! Isn’t that the organ that cleans toxic crap out of my body? And the organ that does double-time after a big night of boozing?” Yes. Correct.
Look – this isn’t a post about fructose, so I’m going to get down off my soapbox before it’s too late. This was just supposed to be about things I did with my family over the holidays and the things that were floating through my brain. Bottom line – America is crazy-fat and slammed with associated diseases. My jaw drops every time I arrive back in my homeland. America also consumes more fructose than any other country in the world. Coincidence? Maybe. ♣
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|b.||↑||about the stay-at-home-mom’s in an ultra-rich world|
|c.||↑||I’d bet most Americans have at least this much fructose everyday as it’s tucked into a multitude of ingredients you’d never suspect – your bread, sauces, spreads, etc|