Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Gift Wrapper I'm Not

When I was growing up I never learned to wrap gifts. Maybe it was the lack of need, since the free wrapping service of department stores came to my rescue. Unlike my sister who had a job every Christmas vacation wrapping gifts for customers, I never worked. In my day only "low class girls" worked. A t hrowback to England, maybe?

All the years following I've tried to avoid wrapping, choosing to pay for the service that once was free. Only recently, when the store where I bought a baby gift didn't wrap and I couldn't find the only store that wraps for a price did I decided to tackle the job myself.

Armed with strong wrapping paper and tape I looked at the odd-shaped gift--a baby tub--to determine how to attack the problem. No amount of paper and tape would make my job easy. So I unrolled a long piece of the paper, plopped the tub in the middle and proceeded to wrap. The paper was not the regular wrapping kind, I had inadvertently selected a stronger type advertised as useful for imprinting. At least it wouldn't tear, I figured. I completed the job with a fellow non-wrapper and here are the results. I don't think I'll do this job again.

Step 1--Lay the the tub in the proper position
Step 2--Decide which folds to make and carefully crease the paper neatly in a symmetrical manner and tape.
Step 3--Pay no attention to the number of taped folds in the container, they'll all be on the bottom.
    Step 4--Don't fight with ribbon, use colorful tape. I chose stars in blue, since this was a boy's tub.

    Step 4--Turn the package over and admire. I had a miniature coffin. Not a happy gift for a happy occasion.
   Step 5--Be sure the gift is swiftly given and opened before anyone notices the shape.


Bed Bugs? What Are They?

You've read about the new influx of bedbugs. In my day bedbugs were like lice in a kid's hair. Both came from unclean homes and bathless kids. Now scientists are telling us to be alert for these near-microscopic crawlers any place you sit or lie down: movie theatre seats, office areas, clothing, hotel/motel beds and sofas. They love to jump from one person to another, bite you on the neck, legs, arms.

I know from experience about bedbugs. I encountered them in the most likely place: Mexico.

A fellow teacher Fran and I planned to spend the summer in Mexico City attending Mexico City College. Six or maybe twelve weeks of study and travel. We found the perfect place to live in one of the better colonias in the city, a short distance to the bus stop, near Chapultepec Park and restaurants. This was the summer of 1959.

When the taxi that ferried us from the airport to the colonia (subdivision) we were amazed to find we were in one of the ritziest areas of the downtown area. The driver drove us to a two story white brick home with an equally tall brick fence surrounding the property. The woman who met us at the door was a maid, which raised our eyebrows--"A maid? Hmmm." Our hostess was an artist who spoke no English. I was able to  communicate ok, since I'd studied previously in Monterrey, Mexico.

We helped the maid carry our bags up a beautiful winding stairway off to the side of a gorgeously decorated living room. And there the gorgeous decorations ended. We may as well have been in a low income apartment. No color, a simple bed in each room furnished with one chifferobe and one lamp and table. windows looked out on the back of the roof of the home. Drab draperies and bedspreads. We each picked  a room and I immediately began to unpack, as I felt the drabness would disappear as we became accustomed to the living quarters. Outside properties were beautiful with landscaping up and down the streets.  We were lucky to have found this place.

We turned in early and it was once in bed that I realized my mattress had that musky odor of having never seen sunshine. OK, I thought, I'll lie on a towel. Sometime after turning off the light I began to have an itchy feeling up and down my body--legs, neck, arms. Thinking of ants, I jumped up and turned on the light, pulled back the covers and inspected. Nothing. I went through that routine most of the night, getting little sleep. I assumed, without knowing how, that I had bedbugs. Never had I experience them, nor had I lice, but I sensed about both.

The next morning I repacked my bags, told my friend we had to find another place to live, as I couldn't sleep on that mattress. She had had a delightful night's rest. I was envious. My main problem was How to Say in Spanish "There are bedbugs in the bed." This had to be done diplomatically.

We had breakfast but the artiste was no where to be found. I'd have to discuss this after school that day. We proceeded to walk to the bus stop, and take the particular bus that would carry us on a 25 minute ride up the mountain north of the city. During the break at school there was a small woman holding a placard and standing in the middle of the campus where we changed classes, stating, "Come live at my nice quarters," or something like that. We approached her and she said she had a very clean apartment  and the rent was more reasonable than in the Colonia. I told her my bedbug story and declared I didn't know how to solve my dilemma of a written agreement with the owner. She agreed to take care of the problem.

And she did. Oh, the fury of the artiste, the shrill voices of argument, the confusion. The artist would be losing a summer of rent. How could she find other renters at this late date? She did not have bedbugs, she declared. Our new landlady won the argument and we packed our bags into the small  car that Senora had and we went to her  place. We weren't too thrilled as we drove through a disaster-like area with people living in hovels. But Senora assured us her place was across the street from the American School whose students were the best in the City. She opened the front gate and we entered a paradise of beauty. Her "place" was a motel setting, with dual apartments dotted in a semi-circle, and her family's home at the middle in the back. Bright colors dotted each apartment roofed in sunbaked  tiles. 

Inside was a small living room/kitchen with stove and fridge, a sizeable bedroom furnished with typical Mexican crafted wood  furniture consisting of twin beds with handsome woven bedspreads, a table with lamps in the middle, and a sizeable bathroom. Unbelievable that we had  lucked up on the Senora.

Our new address was Avenida Observatorio. We later learned from Fran's local  friend that we were living in the absolute worst section of town, and that was brought home to us when we attended a few functions in town and had to find a taxi after midnight to take us home. No one would drive down Observatorio. Only a few brave souls did the whole six weeks. That move was the best we could have ever taken.

What began as a bedbug experience of one night turned into a wonderful six weeks of learning  that even today I maintain fond memories.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Because magazine subscriptions can add up in costs, I subscribe to newsletters. My special email address is chock full of reading material about new discoveries, songwriting, creative writing, photography,just to name a few. I'm always signing my name to some avenue of learning. I enjoy reading and learing. My college studies were finished in the Middle Ages and so much can be learned today. But one newsletter I misunderstood and now I'm getting solicitations--well, one so far.

It was about biking. I can no longer bike because of bad knees. When the doc said "No walking long distances, no swimming, no bike riding, no long sitting" I wondered how much more sedate my life could become. However, the bike newsletter that I subscribed to was going to give me information AS THOUGH I were riding on weekends. I'd learn all about taking care of the bicycle, places to ride, how to prepare for a long ride--you understand?

So when no newsletter arrived for months, I figured there was a glitch in the computer system, and I forgot about resubscribing. Until---

Until I got an ad with a biker, his cap and sunglasses on his head, leaning against a huge motorcycle. He is 49, Caucasian, and lives in Santa Fe. He wants to "get to know" me. What a laugh he'd get to know he was solicitating a 78 year old gal! Well, we do seek younger companions nowadays, don't we? If I were single, I might wave a hello back. I've never ridden a motorcycle. Would he give me a ride if I were to fly to Santa Fe (my favorite place in the U. S.)? So far I've no wrinkles or any tell-tale sign of aging. Would I be able to "fool" him into thinking I'm a wee bit older than he? Perhaps before answering I could take a snapshot of me at the local Harley store dressed in the finery of a cyclist and send it to him. (I refuse to wear a bathing suit and a helmet.) Would he take the bait? How far could I go with this ruse?

Then I realize that he looks like a nice guy. You don't mess with nice guys. Guess I'll have to answer that I'm no longer biking, and thanks for the invite. Or just hit "Delete." My husband says the guy looks sincere and to reply and tell him I'm too old for a replacement. Problem is: I never recorded my pass word and refuse to retrieve it. I may get into trouble.

Would he laugh if I sent this photo of my daughter on her mini-bike?