After five days away, we were very happy to arrive back at home this evening.
I can report seeing a few unexpected things on this trip to California’s Central Valley:
- More than twenty members of a motorcycle club roaring down Blackstone Avenue in Fresno on Black Friday. A few cyclists had passengers with them, one of which was a child. One bike came about an inch from rear-ending a car and likely going flying over the handlebars. The lead biker was a reckless dude who annoyed the crap out of drivers when he showed off by popping front and rear wheelies in heavy traffic. Lucky for him that cop didn’t see the guy flip him off.
- Trader Joe’s with nearly empty bakery shelves. We had hoped to purchase a challah for Hanukkah Kiddush on Friday, but no dice. The staff said they received no deliveries “due to a misunderstanding” that had something to do with the store being closed on Thanksgiving Day. What, they expected the store to be open on Thanksgiving? Please!
- Motel 6 with a giant electronic sign out on the road that quoted a price more than ten dollars less than the price actually charged for a room. A flyer was posted in the office indicating that the electronic sign is broken. Again, please! Cover the damned thing up then, will ya?
- Restaurant Wars! Many customers were seated on the benches outside Outback Steakhouse waiting for a table to become available. Meanwhile, employees from Tahoe Joe’s across the street walked over and began handing out coupons for free appetizers, stating that there is no wait at their nice, warm restaurant, so why wait out in the cold here? Um, do you think there might just be a reason why a couple dozen people were willing to wait patiently out in the cold evening for a table at Outback while its competitor had no wait? You’d better believe we told the manager what was going on right in front of her nose.
Other things were more expected. Like my sister arguing with my mother about the former’s cat vomiting in multiple corners of the latter’s pretty pink carpet. And arguing with my mother about who is permitted to keep her soy milk in which refrigerator. And arguing with my mother over the choice of restaurant for my father’s birthday dinner. And bringing up forty year old childhood slights, real and imagined. That’s my sister for you.
I am glad we all managed to make it for my father’s eightieth birthday. My mother says he had been dropping hints for the past year about wanting to do something special for this landmark occasion. Turning eighty really means something to him, she told me. For example, she says, he likes to mention to grocery clerks that he can still carry his own bags out to the car. “After all, I’m only eighty.”
My father, on the other hand, denies it all. He says that celebrating his birthday was nothing but a smokescreen of my mother’s, designed to get the kids and grandkids together for Thanksgiving dinner.
If it weren’t Hanukkah, I’d call it the gift of the magi.