What I Learned This Week

TGIF!  Happy weekend to all those who worked all week and now have a chance to relax.  Now two weeks unemployed, every day is the weekend for me!  Not to rub it in or anything.

What I Learned This Week:

  • WinCo Foods may have decent prices, but they are not very community oriented.  They expect local residents to spend their money there, but they refuse to allow local churches to conduct a holiday canned food drive outside their store on Saturday mornings.  A manager told me that this is easier than choosing who to say yes to and who to turn down.  She also told me that their attorneys won’t allow it.  I wonder what would happen if the community were to turn WinCo down the way they turn down the community?  Lucky thing there are so many other supermarkets in the area.  Wonder if they all feel the same way?
  • We have a population of resident frogs on the property between the church and the parsonage.  And I don’t mean the little things that hop out of the bushes at night at my parents’ house.  No, these guys are big suckers.  The kind of grenouilles whose cuisses show up drenched in garlic butter at French restaurants.  The kind that end up pickled in formaldehyde and dissected in biology classrooms.  The kind of tz’fardeah that jumped out of the Nile en masse and took up residence in the mixing bowls of the Egyptians and in Pharaoh’s bed chamber and in his bed.  I don’t know what these guys are feeding on, but they are obviously happy amphibians.  Ribbit!
  • Tower Mart’s deli counter closes promptly at 7 pm.  So if you get a hankering for some potato wedges in the evening, forget it!
  • My niece has acquired a one-piece PJ outfit that is all red and white stripes with pictures of the Sock Monkey on the pocket and on the footies.  Adorable!
  • The way Highway 70 in Marysville is being chopped to pieces by construction crews, it is very difficult to get over to Yuba City, particularly if you are new to the area and haven’t a clue about where you’re going.
  • When you buy a book for a penny on eBay, do not be surprised if it has been written in, marked up and highlighted to within an inch of its life by a maniacal college student.
  • Marie Callender’s sells frozen pie crusts in the supermarket, and they are both vegetarian and kosher.  Big smiles!
  • If I clap my hands, my little grandniece will copy me and start clapping, too.  If only I could figure out who or what we are applauding.
  • If Starbucks messes up your drink, they will not only remake it for you, but will also give you a coupon for a free drink next time.  Woot!
  • My mother-in-law’s coconut crème pies are a huge hit with all of our family and friends.  Three cheers for Aunt Jackie pie!
  • Technology has always confuzzled me, but I am a bigger technodork than even I imagined.  I have just barely figured out how to use Spotify, but Twitter is making me frustrated!  Sign me “caught somewhere between the @ sign and the hash tag.”

Blogs I discovered and enjoyed this week:

  • Piglove – The adventures of Bacon, the pot-bellied pig!
  • Must Be This Tall to Ride – Dad shares custody of his five year old son while maintaining his sanity and his job as a writer.  Funny, funny stuff.  No typos, please!

Blog posts that most moved me this week:


Twilight outside our new digs.  In silhouette are my nephew and niece.  After spending hours digging a trench to try to fix the gas line to the social hall, my nephew had to drive back over here to help my niece when her car wouldn’t start.  If you listen very closely, you can hear my grandniece in her car seat screaming her fool head off — just because she can.

Starbucks Blues


It’s so unfair.

Why am I dreaming about Starbucks now, just when we’re going to be all broke and poor and unemployed?

When we lived in Fresno, there was a Starbucks three blocks in either direction of the entrance to our apartment complex, and yet we pretended the place didn’t exist.  This was back when we were DINKs:  Double income, no kids.

Then we moved to the desert, my wife ran out her unemployment, and we promptly became SINKs (single income, no kids).  There wasn’t much in our little hole of a town, but we did have two Starbucks, and we started to notice.  My wife became hooked on black iced tea sweetened, the big one (which at first was “vente” until they came out with the thirsty person’s “trenta” size).

I was not impressed.  Eventually, we got to the point where, to feed my wife’s habit, I would head straight from work to the drive-through to bring home her tea.  By this time, we had stopped worrying about cash.  I mean, how would we pay for her giant tea if I didn’t happen to have any green on me?  Which was most of the time.

So we advanced to the next phase of Starbucks addiction by acquiring his ‘n hers Starbucks cards.  Mine was multicoloured, bearing the words for “thank you” in several different languages.  (My favorite is still xiè xiè, which sounds for all the world like the way one would hail a taxi in the teeming capital of a Third World nation.)

My wife, on the other hand, has a gold card.  Now, for the uninitiated, this is nothing like a gold credit card that allows the holder to get into debt of unmanageable proportions.  No, the gold card provided me with edification regarding how Starbucks got its name.  The gold card simply allows one to collect “stars” each time one spends “bucks” at their caffeinated establishments.  Voilà!  Starbucks.  When a certain number of “stars” are accumulated, the holder of the card earns a free beverage.

There were other benefits of the gold card as well, such as free flavoring shots and free soy.  I believe they’ve since done away with these freebies.

At first, we would periodically receive a card from Starbucks in the mailbox at our front door.  “Congratulations, you have 15 stars and the next drink’s on us!”  I guess recycling all those trees and paying all that postage cut into their profits, as the notices quit coming after a while.

“That’s too bad,” I thought, as I know how my wife loves receiving mail, and we’d receive these missives every couple of weeks.  What could be better that getting mail and cadging a free drink?

Apparently, the whole dog and pony show now plays out its drama online.  Whenever the amount of money on one of our Starbucks cards begins to get low, my wife simply visits Starbucks’ website and fills it up to the brim, no foam, extra whip.

For a long time I felt relatively Starbucks-proof, smug in my imperviousness to its siren song.  I owe this to the simple fact that I don’t like Starbucks’ black tea, and I’ve never been able to abide the taste of green tea at all.

I know, Starbucks isn’t about tea.  It’s a coffeehouse.  Not satisfied to have gained the undying devotion of the jittery morning joe crowd, however, Starbucks had to suck in the tea drinkers as well.

Still, Starbucks must be doing something right.  My wife is rather particular about her tea, refusing to drink anything that is not freshly brewed, often resorting to watering down the stuff that could peel paint off the walls that passes for tea in many restaurants.  Starbucks, however, gets it right, she insists.

In some respects, I have to agree.  I don’t do caffeine anymore, so those trentas are definitely out for me.  I do, however, bow to the deliciousness of Starbucks’ Tazo wild sweet orange and passion teas, both sans caffeine.  Fortunately for my wallet, most of the Starbucks locations that I have visited do not sell these flavors in individual drinks.  If they have it at all, it is in boxes of tea bags to brew your own at home.

Another reason that we stay away from coffee is that my wife and I are both lactose intolerant.  And I just can’t see drinking coffee black, decaf or otherwise.  After all, it’s that rich, creamy moo juice that makes the drink worthwhile.

Ever the marketing geniuses, Starbucks has an answer for those of my ilk as well.  They offer soy milk.  Thus, I have allowed myself the weakness of succumbing to the charms of the vente decaf soy latte.  Also available in mocha for the days when I need my chocolate fix.

While I spent years snubbing my nose at Starbucks as I brought my wife her daily tea, in recent months I’ve upped the ante to purchasing a decaf soy drink for myself as well.  “Swipe twice!” has become our sing-song mantra, as we urge our friendly barista to give us two stars rather than just one, to speed the arrival of the Valhalla that is a free beverage of your choice.

Damn you, Starbucks!  As we refill my wife’s gold card again and again, I begin to see how it is just like any other gold card after all, allowing the holder to get into debt of unimaginable proportions.

Like many addicts, I’ve long harbored an approach-avoidance relationship with Starbucks, believing that I can quit any time I want to.  Now that I’ve been laid off from work, we can no longer afford to indulge in this decidedly hedonistic luxury.  Well, we can still pick up my wife’s tea every few days; it only costs a dollar and change.  As for my vente soy latte, we’re talking a hefty five dollars a pop, bucko.  Let’s just say it out loud, shall we?  It ain’t happening.

So why can’t I seem to stop myself from dreaming about gripping that heat-resistant sleeve and sipping that steamy, frothy, elixir of the gods that makes me go ahhhhh?

I’m expecting my first unemployment check in a couple of weeks, and you know the first place that I’m going.

Someone get me a calendar.  I’m counting the days.