Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tale of Exceptional Customer Service

Sometime back in early 2010 - don't ask me exactly when because I'm terrible with dates these days! - I bought a fancy-dancy Keurig coffee brewer after having had the chance to try one at work being that we have one in the Dispatch Center which gets extensive use.  I figured it would be the perfect thing to have at home being that when Amanda or I would brew a pot of coffee most of it got tossed as neither one of us seemed to finish the pot and with a Keurig you get one fresh-brewed cup at a time.  I'll admit the brewer wasn't inexpensive but once we got it we loved it - as apparently did Tesla as next to it is often his favorite place to perch!

Tesla and the Old Keurig

Fast forward to the past few weeks or so when my fancy-dancy Keurig machine started having some issues.  Most of the time it was taking forever to brew a cup of coffee which could only be accomplished following a lot of finagling and coaxing.  I decided it was probably due for a good cleaning so last weekend I bought some white vinegar, followed the instructions for descaling the brewer, and last Sunday it worked like a champ again.  Yay!

Unfortunately that 'yay!' didn't last for long as when I attempted to brew a cuppa joe this past Wednesday it just wasn't happening.  I'd get the indicator telling me that it was "brewing" but no water was coming through the K-cup and no matter what I did to cajole it, it just wasn't happening.  Caffeine-deprived and cranky I posted the following status update on Facebook:
It appears that my beloved Keurig Machine has officially bit the dust in spite of my repeated efforts to resuscitate it. I find this to be most distressing. Most distressing indeed.
Several friends responded that I should contact the folks who manufacture the Keurig machines as they themselves had either had problems with one or knew someone who had problems with one and after contacting Keurig, they were sent replacement machines. Knowing that mine was out of warranty by close to a year I wasn't positive that I'd be so lucky but I figured it couldn't hurt to try so I picked up the phone and called the contact number for Customer Service listed on their website.

Within moments I was talking to a very nice gentleman who told me to gather up a flashlight, a measuring cup, and a paperclip so that we could try some troubleshooting techniques.  Alas, upon completion of following his instructions my beloved machine still wasn't working but the nice gentleman with the soft Southern twang on the phone said not to worry, that they'd send me out a brand spanking new machine free of charge including the shipping and handling.  All I needed to do on my end was to return the K-cup holder to the company.  Really?  Even out of warranty?  Cool coffee beans!

All of that transpired late Wednesday evening and early Friday morning look what arrived on my doorstep via FedEx -

Behold the new Keurig!

Tada! Behold my new Keurig machine!

I must say that I am most impressed with Keurig's Customer Service and with their willingness to replace a brewer that was out of warranty but had obviously broken down to the point of no return.  I find a company who stands behind their product to be a rare exception these days and I can't say enough good things about Keurig at this point - you people rock and roll and am most grateful for my new machine which brews a mighty fine cup of coffee - mighty fine indeed!

Speaking of which, I'm going to go brew another one now!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Five on Friday - The February 2003 Version

Nine years ago today my father lost his battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma but rather than dwell on that sad day, I thought I'd simply use February 2003 as a jumping-off point for this week's Five on Friday  meme presented and hosted by our man with the most over on the West Coast - Travis. Granted, I'm pretty sure there are only two songs in this batch that my Dad would have ever listened to but two is better than none and I book-ended the five with the ones he would have listened to.

So what events transpired in February - a month that is not high on my list of favorites - to inspire my musical choices?

February 3 – Police respond to a 911 phone call from one of Phil Spector's neighbors and discover the body of actress Lana Clarkson, with a gunshot wound, at Spector's his home in Alhambra, California. Spector is arrested on suspicion of murder." Written by Barry Mann, Phil Spector and Cynthia Weil, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" is one of the foremost examples of Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique - a music production technique for pop and rock music recordings.

February 8 РAvril Lavigne scores her third #1 single "I'm with You", making her the second artist in history to have three consecutive #1 songs from a d̩but album in the Billboard Mainstream Top 40.

February 20 – Fire engulfs a Rhode Island nightclub during a fireworks display which was part of the performance by rock band Great White. The fire quickly spread across the ceiling, filling the building with thick, black smoke, killing 100 people and injuring 160 others as audience members rush for the exits. Many people are missing for some time, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley, who is later confirmed to be dead.

February 23: "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones went on to win three Grammy Awards in 2003 for "Record of the Year", "Song of the Year", and "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance". It remains Jones's biggest hit single in the USA to date, and her only one to reach the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

February 23: The Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance was awarded to Johnny Cash for "Give My Love to Rose", a song Cash had originally recorded in the late 1950s.

Continue to rest in peace, Dad, and look out for the new additions that have joined you in heaven lately; they might need some help getting settled.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Where There is Sadness ... Joy

So ... it's been a week since my best friend of 25+ years departed this earthly life (though in my heart I know that she left us on February 14th when she went into cardiac arrest and not on the 16th when her family had to make the very painful decision to shut off life support) and my emotions have naturally been yo-yo'ing all week.  Up. Down.  Around the corner.  Around the world.

Sometimes I look at the cardiac arrest as a blessing that Cyndi didn't have to go through the worst that ALS was going to throw at her.  Sometimes I look at the cardiac arrest as a stinking thief that robbed me of time that I still had with my friend.  And sometimes, well, sometimes I just stop trying to reason things out and just cry.

It hasn't all been tears though, there have been a lot of smiles and joyful memories.  My cousin Amy - ever the organized librarian - searched through some of her photos and found a few from a trip that we took out to California back in 1997 (one of the few times I was able to talk her into getting on a plane and flying west with me). After flying into San Francisco, Amy stayed to visit with her friend Vanessa while I continued on to Stockton to visit with Cyndi but the four of us got together to take a trip up to Lake Tahoe while we were there and thank goodness someone thought to take some pictures. Believe it or not, I didn't have a camera in my hands all the time back then!

See?  My hands are empty!  The pictures are copies of copies so the quality isn't the best in the world but that's okay, they're pictures of Cyndi and we were in our favorite place together and that's all that matters.

I've also spent some time searching through this blog and finding posts that were about Cyndi and I'm happy that there are several to be found as reading them brings her back to life for me even for just a little while.  I'm not going to drag all of them out but there were two that stood out for two very different reasons.  The first was written on October 26th, 2006 and not only was the post about Cyndi but she actually left several comments on it which was highly unusual!
"We do not remember days; we remember moments." ~ Cesare Pavese
The second post is even more special simply because of the response that it received.  I wrote it on August 13th, 2007 when Cyndi was going through a really hard time with putting her autistic youngest son into a specialized home. I wrote the post to ask folks to go by Cyndi's blog and leave her a message of support and encouragement and I have to say, the response was happily overwhelming as thirty people went over and left her a comment.
The Things We Do For Love ...
I had always told Cyndi that people in the Blogosphere were the best and they sure didn't let me down.  Re-reading those comments brought both a smile to my face and a tear to my eye as even though I've lost touch with some of them, thirty people took the time to go say a word of concern to my friend - to a woman they had never met and never would. That spoke volumes as it just went to show that Cyndi was so special that others were willing to take a few moments for her - something I always knew but something that others apparently thought also.

Truthfully I was afraid that somewhere along the lines Cyndi might have deleted her blog or made it private as she never was ever really able to get into blogging for one reason or another but thankfully it's still there and I hope that it always will be as it gives me a little piece of her.  Had I ever been able to talk her into actually blogging it would have given me a bigger piece of her but heck, I'll take what I can get!

Speaking of getting things, I had my once-a-month lunch with my friend Rhonda yesterday and being the kind-hearted soul that she is, she gave me a bouquet of flowers in remembrance of Cyndi.  I'm blessed to have a friend like Rhonda just as I was blessed to have a friend like Cyndi and am blessed with the friends I have made through this thing we all like to call the Blogosphere.

Thank you all for the support and encouragement that you have given to me during this difficult time, it honestly has meant the world to me. There truly can be joy - and beauty - in the midst of sadness.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reflections on a Dirty Windshield

The view from the driver's seat on the drive home from Salem last Friday.
That's all I've got for today.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes All That Wandering Can Be a Sweet Thing

The road goes ever on and on ...

Last week I had occasion to make a trip back up to Salem, Massachusetts (where most of you seem to think I should just go ahead and move to but then where would my "Go To" place be??) and while I was there I had the chance to make a visit to Ye Olde Pepper Companie - an unassuming little building on Derby Street directly across from the House of the Seven Gables.

Ye Olde Pepper Companie at 122 Derby Street, Salem, Massachusetts

It might not look like much from the outside but once you pass through that door you become like a kid in a candy shoppe because that's exactly what it is run by America's oldest candy company as a matter of fact!  I'm not going to tempt you with all of the chocolaty and sugary goodness to be found at Ye Olde Pepper Companie in this post but if you'd like to pop over to The Distracted Wanderer I certainly will as I show you around inside and introduce you to America's oldest produced candy - the Salem Gibralter.

So what are you waiting for?  You're not going to gain any weight just looking! Honest!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"I Always Thought I'd See You Again" ~ James Taylor

I went to bed last night feeling somewhat sad with this song winding its way through my head as even though I went to California believing that it was going to be my last trip there, after visiting with Cyndi and seeing the improvements that she had made in being able to speak again and her positive attitude of getting better and getting home even with the ventilator in tow, I thought there might actually be time to see her again before the ALS got even worse. When I left I told her that I would be back if I could and heck, I even went ahead and bought another plane ticket for April as the price was too good to pass up and I thought for sure she'd still be around then.

The universe apparently had other plans though and never being very good at gambling, buying that plane ticket was one that I took and lost and I'm now in possession of a ticket that I really don't want to use as going back to California this soon would probably be a bit too painful.  So, I'll hang on to it and try to find something to do with it during the next year before the credit expires but if I don't, well, that's okay I guess and I'll just chalk it up to the faith that I had that Cyndi would still be there.

After all, you've got to have faith, right?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reaching Back to 2006 and a Guest Post

Once upon a time, when this blog was still fairly young, my friend Cyndi wrote a guest post for me; for those of you who weren't around back then I thought I'd share it and by doing so, share some of my friend with you. I think that in reading this, you'll be able to get a glimpse into why it was that I loved her so and always will.  I just wish I had been successful in convincing her to write her own blog but she thought she was too wordy ... ha! Like that ever stopped me!

Thursday, September 26th, 2006

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." ~ Albert Einstein

I'm annoyed by people who mangle the quotations of others in an effort to communicate their own ideas.

With the mea culpa tidily handled, I say: It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our sanity--or at least MY sanity.

O.K., you got me. Linda would never resort to such a cheesy lead-in. I confess, I am a guest; guest blogger, that is. I'm Cyndi, Linda's friend, alter-ego, former dispatch partner and part-time conscience, in no particular order. Linda is taking a well-deserved day off. She has kindly allowed me to achieve my 15 seconds of fame via today's post, and for good reason. It is, after all, my sanity that is challenged, but for a change it was not one of my own three kids who sent me plunging down the abyss.

Nope; this time it was Linda's dear Amanda who gave me the hearty shove.

Mind you, most of the time I adore Amanda. She's a great kid. We share certain traits; sensitivity, a love of various arts, a flair for multitasking, and California birth certificates (I had to throw that last bit in just for Amanda. Yo Cali-girl!).

Yep, Amanda's a great kid who somehow felt it perfectly reasonable to tap into my conversation with her mother this afternoon to let us both know that she absolutely had to have the telephone line cleared right away because she had to make a call of her own.

So far, no big deal, right? Sure, Linda and I live some 3,000 miles apart and converse only a couple of times a month, but we were barely in the midst of invoking world peace or ending the threat of global warming when said interruption occurred. Granted, my 14th birthday passed sometime around the time Cleopatra was batting her lashes at Marc Anthony; still, I can vaguely summon that feeling of urgency that drives adolescent talk fests. Finally, it hasn't been all that long ago that my own daughter passed through the age in which a five minute delay in making a phone call feels more like five years of agony.

Given all of this, I thought Linda's response was quite generous, mom-wise: She offered Amanda use of her cell phone to place her call. And Amanda said ... no. Nope. No thanks; only the landline phone would do, because she needed to place a three-way call, and apparently this was not possible on Linda's cell phone.

What I said at this point is ... well ... probably best not repeated here.

Mind you, Ms. Amanda already had possession of the family computer at this point, yet she wanted the PHONE too? For a conference call?

I hereby nominate Linda for Mother of the Year for ever so calmly suggesting that we hang up so she could call me back on her cell phone. Problem solved; so why does the whole thing still stick in my craw hours later?

Answering machines, Call Waiting, conference calls, email, IM's, blogs, Cell phone, texting, Blackberry/PDA, Pager (yup, some of us still carry those along with the rest of the stuff). My purse runneth over, but I don't feel any more in touch than I did before most of this stuff was available.

So I ask you, gentle readers: Am I the only one who thinks that the whole communication thing is getting out of hand? What would Einstein do?

Personally, I'm in favor of leaving the electronic gear in the hands of the teens (or the cats) and heading for a secluded beach; margarita in one hand and a good book in the other.

See y'all there!

Note from Linda: Thank you, Cyndi! I appreciate you filling in for me as I never would have gotten to the computer before 10:00 p.m. last night as Amanda had it tied up so she could work on her Naruto AMV while IM'ing her friends and still making that three-way call of hers. At least she has inherited my outstanding multi-tasking abilities! Oh, and thanks for the nomination for Mother of the Year though we both know I'd have a snowball's chance in a very warm place of actually winning it - were there such a thing!

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Final Song for Cyndi

Last night at 8:22 p.m. I received a text message from Angela:
"Linda, we will be disconnecting mom's life support tonight. The doctor was very clear that she would not awaken. We think it's what mom would want. I would call but it's just too difficult."
I told her that I understood completely and to give her mom a kiss goodbye for me and tell her that I love her. Angela texted back and said that she would.

I'm still trying to process the fact that Cyndi's gone; that it was just one week ago that I was talking to her and laughing with her; that I was buying her "walnuts with seatbelts" from See's Chocolates and picking out a "Grandma duster" for her to wear instead of a hospital gown. When I left her to head back to Connecticut she was happily getting ready to have a shower and put on her new mint green robe with snaps down the front so that she could put it on easily in spite of the ventilator tube in her throat. After giving her a hug, I walked towards the door to leave and the very last thing she said to me was "I love you"; thank God I had the chance to tell her that I loved her too.

I keep waiting for her to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that "it just ain't right" or to suck it up and stop crying but that hasn't happened yet. Maybe she's too busy going through the initiation process in heaven and will get to me later ... I can only hope. And hope I will.

Rest in peace my dear, dear friend and know that you meant the world to me; I shall never ever forget you and will carry your memory in my heart forever. You were the best.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Update and a Prayer Request

As I sit here looking out the window of my room on the sixth floor of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem and try to digest the news that I just got from California, I can only think that at least I'm in a place that makes me happy as I feel sadder than I have felt in a very, very long time.

A little bit ago I spoke to Cyndi's daughter Angela and received the news that Cyndi has been in a coma for the past two days and the family now has to make the painful decision as to whether or not to turn off the ventilator that has been breathing for her for the past month or hold out hope that maybe - just maybe - her brain will come back to life.

Apparently Cyndi went into cardiac arrest this past Tuesday night following what they think may have been a blockage of some sort in her lungs.  It's not known exactly how long she was without oxygen but after being given CPR for 5-6 minutes they were able to get her heart started again.  However, due to the lack of oxygen, it appears that she has suffered a lot of brain damage and has not had any noticeable brain activity since they revived her.  Angela said that the doctors told her that generally speaking, the first 48 hours following such an event are pretty much the determining factor as to whether or not she'll regain any brain activity and - as much as I hate to say it - it doesn't look like there has been any nor will there be any.

Cyndi was pretty emphatic about wanting to stay alive as long as her mind was functioning - one of the few things that ALS doesn't touch so she was quite cognizant of the fact that the rest of her body was giving out on her - but she also was quite adamant about not wanting to be kept alive if her mind was gone. Angela said that they had talked about it quite extensively (and Cyndi being Cyndi, I've got no doubt she covered all of her bases when it came to that sort of thing) so she knows what her Mom would want done if she is, as feared, brain-dead.  She would want them to shut off the ventilator and let her go releasing her from the prison that her body has become.

As I look at the church steeple in front of me, I am reminded that Cyndi always had a lot of faith and firmly believed that there's more to it than just the life that we live here on earth so I've got no doubt that she would want to "get to it" and begin the adventure that awaits her on the other side. She wouldn't want to be hooked up to machines that kept her alive when her brain was gone and she could no longer think for herself and she wouldn't want to be a burden to those who loved her either.

That said, I wasn't quite ready to say a final good-bye yet and even though I knew this was coming, I didn't think it was coming this fast.  Angela said that she'll keep me posted as to what decision the family makes but at this point, I'm afraid it's probably all over except for the legalities.

Except for the final pronouncement by a doctor with time of death, my friend is gone and my heart is broken though I am very, very thankful that I got out to see her when I did.  I know that all things happen for a reason, I've believed that for as long as I can remember, and I know that people oftentimes don't get the chance to say good-bye or explain to someone how much they've meant to them in their lives so I should count myself lucky that I did have that chance and that I did have a friend like Cyndi in my life but I've got to tell you, right now I'm not feeling very lucky at all.  Except maybe for the fact that I'm in Salem and I can cry in peace as I mourn the loss of a part of me.

If you're the type that offers up prayers, I would appreciate a few for Jeff, Cyndi's husband, and her children Angela and Ronnie as they make the tough decisions out there in California.  I'm sure they'd appreciate it, too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trying Not to Be Sad But Failing Somewhat Miserably

I've been looking at the computer screen for awhile now trying to think of how to write about the main reason that I flew 3,000 miles out to California last week during a month when the weather is about as unpredictable as it comes and have finally decided that I'm not quite sure how to write about my friend of 25 years who is quite obviously dying but doing it in her own inimitable style. I'm going to try though as writing is cathartic and I could use some of that right now.

I knew that going out to Stockton to see Cyndi was going to be tough but I also knew that it was something that I was not willing to not do.  There was just no way that I was not going to take the opportunity to visit the person who probably knows me best in this life, the person I could always turn to no matter what, the person who always knew what to say and how best to say it, and the person who loved and supported me during some of the stupidest - and hardest - moments of my life.  "Tough" be damned, this visit was important - for both of us.

"Tough" might not be the best way to describe it, though. "Heart-rending" might actually be a better description as that's exactly what it is when you walk into a hospital room in the Respiratory Intensive Care Unit and see someone that you dearly love hooked up to more gadgets and gizmos than you'll find in most Best Buy showrooms.  To see your best buddy lying there in the middle of all those whirring, clacking, buzzing machines with the plastic tubing and bags of dripping fluids and charts and bottles and all manner of medical paraphernalia, looking twenty years older and pale as a ghost against the hospital sheets is difficult - darned difficult - as that's when it really hits you that time is winding down; that Death is coming long before you ever thought possible riding that pale horse found in Revelation 6:7-8; and that there's not a damned thing that you can do about it except accept it and hope that he's not coming at a fast gallop but instead maybe taking a slower trot towards his final destination.  And it hurts.

When I first walked into Cyndi's room at Saint Joseph's Hospital last Tuesday and took in that scene before me, it finally fully dawned on me that there were never going to be any more drives up to Lake Tahoe to park on a spot on high looking over the lake and reveling in the beauty that God had wrought, no more trips to the cemetery that I could see from her hospital window to sit on the grass near Timmy's grave and chat with a fallen friend as we reminisced about days gone by at the Stockton Police Department, no more dinners or lunches at our favorite Mexican restaurant in downtown Stockton where we no doubt ate too much but enjoyed every bite of it, no more impromptu trips to San Francisco or the wine country or the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, no more late-night phone calls that would last for hours with topics that ranged from the Armed Forces to how many cats did she own now to our families and their trials and tribulations to politics and how she wanted that vote she had wasted on Obama back to the possibility of past lives and how we surely must have known each other then to be such good friends in this life to everything in between, and never would there ever be that long-promised return trip to the East Coast and the chance to visit Gettysburg together - something that we had often talked about.

The reality of the situation is that my friend is being robbed of her life by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movements.  Cyndi is now tethered to this life simply by the tubing that runs from the ventilator next to her bed into her throat and provides her the air that keeps her alive; life-sustaining air that the secretions that build up in her throat won't allow her to take in by normal means anymore. She's dying - she knows it and I know it and there was pretty much no getting around that fact as I held her hand and felt the paper thinness of her skin - skin that reminded me of my 92-year old grandmother but which encased the muscles and bones of a beloved friend who is only 58.

Fortunately, Cyndi had regained her ability to speak by the time I was able to get out to see her and she did a pretty good job communicating with me, though at times it was hard to understand her and she quite frequently had to stop in mid-sentence to try to get her throat muscles to work well enough to form the words she wanted to say.  Ever the resourceful one, she had a back-up system should her voice fail - next to her was mounted an iPad2 with a text-to-talk program ready to go if talking became too difficult but luckily we never had to resort to that.  Considering that typing isn't all that easy either with the muscle weakness and contractures in her hands, I was glad we didn't have to go that route.  Besides, it's hard to convey that patented Cyndi sarcasm via typed word!

No stranger to adversity in her life, Cyndi is handling this latest lousy turn of events with the same aplomb that I've seen her use in many a difficult situation and she's not shying away from the cold hard facts of the matter.  We discussed her final wishes (no funeral but a BBQ would be nice, cremation is the way she wants to go with her ashes being spread at some of her designated favorite places) and her biggest worry - which is that her husband of 35 years won't be too lonely and become a hermit or worse when she's gone. We talked about some of our good times and some of our bad times and how our friendship was special in that it had not only stood the test of time and distance but that it had grown stronger over the years rather than faded away like so many friendships do.  We talked about the fact that I'm perfectly happy being single and no, she wasn't going to get her dying wish that I meet someone who loved me as much as I loved him even if she tried to play the "but I'm dying card!"

She told me that she'd had a good long life (I said I failed to see how 58 qualified as being long) and that she had gotten to see and do a lot of things that she had wanted to do in life; she said that it could have been worse, she could have lived during a time when you had to go to the river and pound your clothes with rocks to clean them or where there was no Pepsi (she's been a Pepsi addict for as long as I've known her).  We talked about the people on her list she had all intentions of coming back to haunt or at least giving a cosmic kick to and we talked about the people she'd meet in heaven.

And she told me not to be sad that she was dying.

Well ... that's something that I can't do and I told her as much in between trying not to cry (and in turn making the nurse who had come in at that time to give her a breathing treatment cry also).  I told her that if there was ever a time to be sad about something that this was it and I was going to by-golly be sad whether she liked it or not.  She finally acquiesced and said that okay, I could be sad but just a little and not for long but to be honest, I'm having some trouble with that.

Anyhow, more later as I'm quite violating Cyndi's edict not to be sad right here in this very post where I've pretty much decided that whole 'not being sad thing' is going to take me a long time to master - if I ever do at all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tacos and Burgers and Rice - Oh My!

It's rather hard to believe that a full week has passed and that I have flown out to California and back already but it has and I did. I think I'm still trying to process some of my trip but while I'm doing that, I thought I'd share with you some of the food that I had the chance to enjoy while I was on the West Coast that I can't get here on the East Coast ... and that's probably a good thing as I sure don't need to eat like this on a regular basis!

First up was my late dinner on the Monday that I arrived in Stockton.  My flights were running a bit late so I didn't get checked into my hotel until almost 9:00 and at that point all I wanted was something fast to eat (I really miss the days when they'd actually feed you a real meal on a plane!).  Luckily for me, there was a Jack in the Box right down the road from my hotel so I grabbed an Ultimate Cheeseburger and some Seasoned Curly Fries so that I could take a picture and make my cousin Amy jealous while filling that hole in my stomach! Healthy?  Heck no!  Tasty?  Whoa yeah!


Tuesday dawned rainy and blah but that was okay, I know they need the rain out there and it sure wasn't going to stop me from partaking in my first really good Mexican meal in almost three years!  I decided to head to North Stockton and have lunch at Miguel's which is the very first Mexican restaurant I ever ate at in Stockton way back in 1980 when I visited there with my first husband. Cyndi and I used to go there on occasion also when we weren't hitting up our favorite Cancun as it was closer to her home so yes, there were some sentimental reasons for going there - plus the food is delicious!


I suppose that it looks a little bit like a hole-in-the-wall kind of place but don't let that fool you at all! I got there a bit before the lunch crowd as you can see but when I left, it had filled up quite a bit.

Inside Miguel's

Let's see, I had the combination plate with a chicken taco, chicken enchilada, and chile relleno - delicious!  And may I just say - with no offense to Cancun - that Miguel's makes the best salsa in Stockton.

Lunch at Miguel's

After a rather long day - more of which I'll tell you about later - I didn't get back to my hotel room until after 11:00 at night and with lunch having been about twelve hours earlier, I decided to hit up another burger joint - this time the local In-N-Out Burger.  Just FYI, I didn't eat all of the fries though I probably could have if I had let myself!  It's probably a good thing that neither Jack in the Box nor In-N-Out Burger have East Coast chains or I'd really be in trouble!

In-n-Out Burger

Wednesday's lunch I'll tell you about later when I write a post about my trip to Yosemite National Park with Katharine but for now, I'll skip ahead to Thursday after my return to Stockton when I decided that since I was downtown anyway, I may as well stop in at Cancun for lunch. I knew it wasn't going to be the same without Cyndi there with me but tradition dictated that I eat there at least once.


I got there around 2:30 and had the place to myself which seemed to fit how I felt - the dining room was about as empty as my heart. That said, my stomach was pretty empty too so in honor of my friend, I ordered my traditional #12 combinación plate that consists of a beef enchilada and beef quesadilla along with the usual beans and rice.  I opted to add on a chicken taco also as truthfully, I can't get enough of chicken tacos when I'm in California!

Inside Cancun
Lunch at Cancun

Cancun PlateSentimental fool that I am, before I left I asked my waitress if there was a possibility that I could perhaps buy one of their platters to take home with me to go along with the coffee mug that Cyndi had bought for me years ago.  She offered to check with the manager and he graciously agreed to the transaction so I'm now the proud owner of a Cancun dinner platter. What I'll ever do with it I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I'll never look at it and not think of the wonderful meals I shared at my favorite Mexican restaurant with my best buddy over the years. Like I said, I'm a bit of a sentimental fool.

I didn't get back from visiting Cyndi at her new sub-acute care facility in Sacramento until late on Thursday night and at that point I was too tired to even think about eating so there are no pictures of Thursday night's dinner as there was none! I suppose I could have taken a picture of the Super Dog on a Pretzel Roll from Wienershnitzel that Cyndi had requested and I brought to her but I didn't even think of that!


On Friday, I met an old friend and former roommate of mine for lunch at Arroyo's which used to be a restaurant called Luigi Murphy's years ago that he and I used to frequent quite often back when we were attending San Joaquin Delta College together.  A transplanted Long Islander, Scott has been a resident of Stockton for quite some time now and is now the senior sports writer at the Stockton Record. It was great to see him and reminiscence a bit while also catching up on each other's lives.

Being a bit of a stick in the mud it seems when it comes to my menu choices, I had another chicken taco, chicken enchilada, and chile relleno!  Of course, each restaurant makes their food a little bit differently than the other so it wasn't like I was eating the exact same thing over and over again.  That said, even if I had been that would have been okay by me!

Lunch at Arroyo's

Arroyo's sits on the banks of Quail Lakes which is a series of small man-made lakes with a nice housing area developed around them; it's been part of Stockton for as long as I've known Stockton so the view from our table was quite familiar and also one of my last views of Stockton before I pointed my rental car towards Sacramento for a final visit with Cyndi before heading back down to San Francisco to catch my red-eye flight home - something I'm pretty sure I'd never do again!  As far as last views of Stockton go, this one wasn't bad and sharing it with a long-time friend made it even better.

The view at lunch

So anyhow, there you have it - lots of Mexican food with the occasional burger thrown in! Eventually I'll get to the serious stuff in regards to my trip but I just wanted to share this part first. Of course, now I've gone and made myself hungry but there's nary a chicken taco to be found!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Five on Friday - The (Nothing-to-Do-With-George-Orwell) 1984 Version

Every time I go back to Stockton I travel into my past and this trip is certainly no exception as my purpose of this journey was to visit my good friend Cyndi whom I firstmet when we were both employed by the City of Stockton as Emergency Telecommunicators at the Police Department.  Cyndi and I met during one of my training sessions in the Comm Center and from that first Friday night on it was like we had known each other for all of our lives.  Matter of fact, most people were surprised to find out that we had just met and hadn't known each other previously!  Some friends are just like that, though and they are truly blessings from above.

As Cyndi and I first met back in 1984, I thought I'd pick five songs from that year for this week's version of Five on Friday which is presented by Travis of Trav's Thoughts and which you could certainly join in on if you had five songs on a Friday that you wanted to share!

Oh, and just as an FYI for those who may not have seen it before, that last video is mine, mine, all mine!  I needed a video to use for "Thriller" and that one brings back happy memories of my time at the Asbury Park Zombie Walk wandering amid the shambling undead!

Monday, February 6, 2012

'Cause I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane ...

As the song goes, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go ... " so it's just a matter of tossing my laptop in, loading everything in the car, and heading up to Boston to begin this most bittersweet of journeys to the West Coast.

So ... let's get to it then, shall we?  California here I come.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Final Song for Sarge Charlie

Yesterday in Lake Worth, Florida a good man was laid to his final rest with the military honors that he so richly deserved - a full Color Guard, a real bugler to play taps, and lots of friends and family there to pay their final respects and tribute to a man who called it like he saw it, didn't back down from his convictions and beliefs, and adored his wife of 44 years with a love for the ages.

Sarge Charlie had been a force in the Blogosphere for quite some time and he posted as he lived putting his patriotic beliefs and opinions out there for all the world to see. Not everyone agreed with his thoughts and opinions - which was to be expected - but even if you didn't, you had to respect him for standing his ground.  I know I sure did.

As a young man, Charlie enlisted in the United States Army and dedicated the next 26 years of his life to his country.  He served proudly and spoke often of his time in the military on his blog.  As it turns out, Sarge and my Dad both served in Vietnam at the same time and as such, they were both exposed to Agent Orange at the same time.  The insidious nature of the chemicals that they were both exposed to eventually took their toll on both men - taking my father way too young in February of 2003 after his own long and courageous battle against the cancer for which there is no cure - and claiming Sarge Charlie last Sunday, January 29th.

Both my Dad, the Air Force veteran, and Charlie, the Army veteran, fought hard to stay with the women that they loved unconditionally - neither one willing to give up a single minute of their time left on earth - but some battles just can't be won it seems and death eventually had its victory taking them away long before anyone was willing to let them go.  

We've had almost nine years to try to get used to my Dad being gone but I get the distinct feeling that not a day goes by that my Mom doesn't miss him just as much as she did that wretched February day in 2003.  Miss Bee hasn't even had nine days yet to get used to the fact that Sarge is no longer in the next room and my heart goes out to her knowing the rough road that lies ahead as she tries to adjust to being the remaining half of a whole.

That said, I don't for a minute believe that love dies or disappears with a final heartbeat or the closing of a casket. I believe that it lives on and always will as those who have loved us in life, continue to love us in death. As the song says,
"There are more than angels watching
Over me ... I believe ... ohh, I believe."
I'm sure that Miss Bee believes just like I'm sure that my Mom believes and maybe - just maybe - that helps them get through each day just a tiny bit easier.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five on Friday - The "Inspired by Jamie's Blog" Version

I had originally gone in a different direction completely for this week's version of Travis' musical meme - Five on Friday - but after reading and listening to my blog buddy Jamie's Coming of Age Edition on her blog I decided to save the post I wrote previously for another week and follow her lead instead.

Jamie chose her own five songs this week based on the fact that she "... was listening on the radio the other day to one of those pop psychologists who put forth the idea that the music we all come back to, identify as our "favorite songs", and have the most memories connected to are whatever is popular when we are between 13 and 16. This is when we start buying most of our own music, differentiating our tastes from our parents and start associating at a high level with our peers."

That got me to wondering what was popular with me during those years and what music had a big impact on me so I looked back to the years 1971 to 1974 when I was age 13 to 16 and the songs that jumped out at me as being quite memorable during that time made me realize that I was really quite emo before emo was even invented! Either that or I was psychic and knew even way back then that love was going to be one of those thorn-in-the-side themes for me throughout my life!

So here ya go, four rather angsty songs from the years 1971 to 1974 and - because this is Five on Friday and not Four on Friday - a bonus tune from 1975 that might have just summed the whole thing up for me! So how about you? Anything from that age in your life that jumps out at you?

1971 - 

1972 - 

1973 - 

1974 - 

1975 - 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Death and The Horizon

Watching the sun rise on the on the horizon of the Atlantic.
"Life is eternal and love is immortal; And death is only a horizon, And a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight." - Rossiter W. Raymond