A theme in some of the photos I took last week: Buildings, former buildings, and things that are vaguely building shaped.
I was buying a pile of books at Goodwill. One clerk rang me up, while another studied the book covers. She stopped on one and asked me, “What is this word?”
“Utopia? It means a perfect world.”
My definition didn’t move her, she looked at me expectantly.
“A perfect world, . . . like a perfect society.”
She waited a beat, then went back to the cover and ran her fingers over the last few letters of “Utopia”. She said, “I come from Ethiopia. It’s like this.”
“You mean Ethiopia is a perfect world?”
“Yes. Except for the first letters.”
I was a little kid, and I was at an event that involved people in traditional Native American dress. It’s likely that the rest of my family was somewhere in the vicinity, but they weren’t present during the situation that I’m describing here. I was in the parking lot with the Johnsons, or possibly with Marty’s family (was their name Lopez?). We’ll say it was the Johnsons. Mrs. Johnson was getting everyone snacks from a cooler in the back of their van. She asked me, “Jeff, do you want a pickle?”
For some reason I felt it would be rude to tell her that I didn’t like pickles, so I came up with what I thought was a more polite excuse, “I’m allergic to pickles.” That was a lie.
She caught me off guard when she asked, “What kind of pickles are you allergic to?”
I panicked. You mean there are different kinds of pickles? Truth told, I don’t think I’d ever actually tasted a pickle. I’d just always known that I didn’t like them. I felt cornered. I would be exposed as a liar and a pickle-bigot. But I saw an out. “I’m allergic to every kind of pickle.”
As I was writing this, I was thinking about an exchange I’d had with Samantha. For some reason, she mentioned that she used to drink pickle juice straight from the jar when she was a kid. At the time I vaguely recalled that she had told that story before. But now I realize that she hadn’t mentioned it before, I was remembering something else. An ex-girlfriend – my girlfriend at the time – also once told me that she used to drink pickle juice.
So I ask you, what’s the deal with girls and pickle juice? Or maybe I should ask, what’s the deal with me and girls who drink pickle juice?
A little BMW stalls out under a stoplight. Half a dozen strangers run from all directions to help push. One tall gangly guy dances around in front of the car – sort of a self-appointed drum major/traffic cop. He does some minor acrobatics as the car brakes to a halt and the crowd of pushers disperse. There’s a quick consultation between the driver and that guy in front. They apparently decide against trying to back into the parallel parking space just behind and to the right of the car. They would have gravity working with them, but would have to slip into the space in one pass – no do-overs. The traffic cop skips back down the hill, stops in the middle of the intersection and signals for the traffic to stop. He gives the driver an all-clear signal; and the car backs slowly into the intersection, veers slightly to the right, and coasts into a pay lot. The traffic guy does a little dance. A patrol car crawls up beside him and whoops its siren, reminding him that his business here is finished. He gives a convincingly brief explanation, pointing at the parking lot, and makes for the sidewalk. The cop pulls away. Traffic rolls. The driver – I guess he’s stuck.