An Apartment with a View

As she hopped off of the golf cart, Teresa pointed to a slime covered retention pond with a fountain of water bursting from its center and said, “We have six lakes on the property. It’s nice to have a view of them from your apartment, but that’ll cost you extra. My apartment is near one on the other side of the complex and it’s so peaceful. It’s a lot better than an apartment facing the parking lot.” I nodded and said nothing. I was thinking, how dare they put a fountain in the middle of a retention pond and then charge you extra to live near it.

At another apartment complex the representative that showed us around said, “You can fish in our ponds but I wouldn’t recommend eating the fish because of the pesticides.” She waved to a woman and her child fishing in the retention pond near the swimming pool. In the apartment complex I currently live in some of the fish in the ponds swim with their backs partially exposed. I wonder if that’s because of the pesticides. Maybe it’s because the water is so murky, we wouldn’t know there were fish in there otherwise.

The owners of apartment complexes must think that lakes are appealing to people because a lot of the complexes in our area have the word lake in their names. They have names like Camden Lakes and Lynn Lake. I don’t know about the Camden in the U.K., but Camden, NJ doesn’t have a lake. If it did have a lake, it would probably be polluted and smelly and not something you would want to live near. Some apartment complex owners think people like wind. There are apartments named Crosswinds and Windjammer. What is a windjammer?

Some of the shabbiest looking apartment complexes have the best names. Across from the laundromat is an apartment complex called The Chateaux Versailles. Down the street from us is Bel Air Apartments. If the name is fancy enough tenants won’t notice the paint peeling of of the buildings and the potholes in the parking lot. The fancy names will fool tenants into thinking they live in the lap of luxury.

Brandywine Apartments is located down the street from my parents’. That’s an appropriate name for an apartment complex. Brandywine is probably what you’ll be drinking after you’ve lived there for five years and you’ve missed another night’s sleep because you could hear your neighbors loudly having sex and the woman upstairs just bought a new aerobics DVD.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my apartment complex. It’s nice. Other than not having water on Tuesdays, I have no complaints. Sometimes, I like to lounge on the pesticide coated lawn near the retention pond, watch the hump back fish swim in circles and relax. Now this is living.

Let Them Eat Cake

I’m trying to be healthy. Most of the time, I eat food that is good for me. I’ve always enjoyed fruit and nuts and bark-like healthy things, like Grapenuts.

When I was younger, I wasn’t very excited about sweet food. Recently, I have developed a sweet tooth. I like sweets. I love cake. People must be able to tell that I like cake because I seem to be in situations where people offer me cake often–free cake. How can I turn down free cake?

Not so long ago, my parents stopped by to visit us after eating out. My father had a piece of cake that he got but hadn’t eaten. He left it in our refrigorator. It was a relatively large piece of white cake with a thick layer of icing on it. I can’t eat an entire piece of cake without getting a belly ache so I space it out. I’ll eat a couple of fork fulls after lunch and a couple after dinner. That is how I planned to eat this piece of cake.

About a day later my husband casually mentioned the cake and that he was going to throw it out. When I told him that I was eating it, he was shocked and dismayed.

“I didn’t think you liked cake,” he said.

I was wondering how he could think such a thing about me. Of course, I like cake. I love it. I especially love ice cream cake. If I could live in an ice cream cake house I would. That would probably never happen. An ice cream cake house wouldn’t do well in Flordia.

He thought that because I didn’t eat dessert in restuarants that I didn’t like desserts. I had to explain that ordering a dessert in a resturant is a waste because sweet is sweet. If I can buy something sweet for a third of the price in a grocery store, why would I waste my money buying it in a resturant? Why waste money on it at all? I get offered something sweet almost daily for free.

Anyway, he ended up eating more than half of the piece of cake in front of me. He complained about how sweet it was the whole time. I’m still not sure how or why it happened. It’s all a blur. At first there was enough cake to last me five days. Then there was only enough for one day. What happened? Where did it all go? It went into the belly of a cake-hater. It went into the belly of someone who can’t even begin to appreciate the lovely joy and happiness that is cake. Cake. Cake. Say it out loud with me. Cake. Doesn’t it make you smile.

He says he did it for my own good. High cholesterol runs in my family. I’m always saying I want to eat healthy food. He says he was trying to take away my temptation. He did it because he loves me. I still don’t quite understand the logic, but his intentions were good.

We are opposites, a cake-lover who fell in love with a cake-hater. We can share a home, a bed, our lives, but not our desserts. Cake. One day his eyes will be opened and he’ll understand the beauty of cake. One day he’ll come to my side, and we’ll live happily ever after in an ice cream cake house in the country.

The Run Around

I want to be healthy. I have a secret fantasy of running a marathon or being a triathelete. In my dreams, sweat drenched, I cross the finish line to be greeted by a crowd of cheering spectators. Sadly, I’m bad at running. I know what you’re thinking, how could anyone be bad at running? I recently learned that my running style is rather comical. I won’t describe it. If you ever meet my husband, he’ll be glad to act it out for you. After running for about twenty minutes, I have a headache and feel dizzy. Apparently, this also isn’t good.

Still, I know people who run and they always sound so impressive when they say, “I just went running.” or “After my run, I’ll….” Those people seem lean and athletic. They seem like healthy go getters. They seem like people who can endure to the end and get the job done. I want to be like them.

Recently, I’ve decided to start running again. I’ve modified my style to be more normal. My goal is to do it at least three times a week. The problem is that I don’t usually have time to run until about eight in evening. I would never consider running at night alone. So, I’ve come up with a plan. I run around my apartment. I don’t run around my apartment building. I run from room to room in our two bedroom apartment. I set a timer. Right now, I ‘m only running for fifteen minutes. I run from room to room. When I get bored with the running, I do a little dance. Then I run some more. It’s working out well. I keep my heart rate up. My stepson even went for a fifteen minute apartment run the other day. I could be starting a trend.

I’m worried about the carpet. By the time we move out, it might be worn down to stubble. There might be a trail the marks the path I run. It hasn’t happened yet. When it starts to wear down, I’ll move my running outside. For now the apartment run makes me happy. Happiness and health are two of the most important things.

Standing In Line

Standing in line
Standing in line
Someone’s ahead of me every time
Someone’s ahead and someone’s behind
Every time I’m standing in line
This poem was running through my head today while I waited at The Department of Motor Vehicles. When I was eight, I memorized this poem from my third grade reader. I liked the sound of it. I enjoyed reciting it over and over in my head. Sometimes I recited it to my friends, my parents, or my sister. It really meant something to me.
In third grade I didn’t really understand the truth of the poem. It is true though. Someone is indeed ahead and someone is definitely behind when there is a line. The most significant line I had ever stood in at eight years old was the lunch line at school. I went to a small school, so it wasn’t a long line. The cafeteria food was terrible, so I was in no hurry to get to the head of the line.
Today, I wasn’t really standing in a line. I was sitting in a hard plastic chair clutching a small white piece of paper with D403 written on it in bold black ink. Like the other people waiting, my eyes were trained on the lit up board over the door that displayed the number of the next person to be helped.
I was overjoyed when my number came up on the board and was called over the speaker system. “D403 please go to stall number 8,” the disembodied voice said. I leapt from my chair and went to stall number 8. Now that I have a good grasp of the despair of standing in line, I can truly understand the joy of getting out of line. In third grade, I definitely didn’t understand that.

The Price of Gas

I like reading gas prices out loud. This may seem unusual to you, but it’s one of my hobbies. I like to read the prices out loud and comment on how they compare to the average price. I like to point out the difference in prices from block to block. I like to talk about today’s prices compared to yesterday’s and last week’s. I know which sections of town have the highest prices and which have the lowest.

While I say I’m interested in gas prices, my husband says I’m obsessed. He came to this conclusion after he saw me become breathless when we passed a station with unusually cheap gas. I wasn’t actually breathless, I was choking on my own saliva. That choking wasn’t caused by gas prices but by a swallowing mishap. He doesn’t want to believe that. That’s his choice.

If my interest in gas prices is an obsession, it isn’t my fault. You see, I come from a gas-priced-obsessed family. My mother will drive for miles to save a few pennies on gas. The gas she used to get to that cheap gas station doesn’t matter. My parents can have a lively debate on where to get the cheapest gas. No matter how much you paid for gas, we’ve bought it cheaper someplace else.

When I see a person filling up at a station with prices two, three or sometimes even ten cents more expensive than the station up the road, I feel pity for them. I feel pity for anyone who pays more than they have to for gas.

So when I cut in front of you to turn abruptly into a gas station, don’t be angry. Follow me. Top off your already nearly full tank. Squeeze every drop that you can into it and smile, knowing you just bought the cheapest gas in town.

Help Wanted

It’s hard for me to resist a help wanted sign. I have this constant need to ask for job applications. I’m not looking for a new job. I’ve been at the same job for almost three years now. That’s a long time for me. I’m always looking for something better. I’m always reaching, hoping, wondering what I could become.

Yesterday, I drove by a local real estate school and found myself thinking that maybe I should get into real estate. I think things like that quite a lot. I ride in a taxi and consider becoming a taxi driver. I buy a new pair of shoes and consider becoming a shoe salesperson. I eat a salad and imagine life as a farmer.

I would not excel at any of these jobs. I’m horrible at sales mainly because I don’t like spending money and can’t understand why anyone else would. When I worked in retail at a Levi’s store, I often found myself directing customers to the Levi’s outlet store in the next town over. In my opinion, forty dollars is just too much to spend on a pair of jeans. I would be a terrible taxi driver because I don’t like to drive. I especially don’t like to drive other people around. The responsibility makes me nervous and so would the small talk and possibility of being robbed. Farming isn’t for me either because I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life.

When I was in college, I used to ask people whether they liked their jobs. Most people lied and told me that they did. When I asked why they liked them, people frequently told me it was because they get to talk to different kinds of people. That’s a good thing, if you like to talk to people. Most of the time, I don’t.

What job is right for me? I don’t know. I’m still looking for the ideal job. Unfortunately, that might not exist. I’ll keep on looking until I’m sure it doesn’t.

Split


My stepson has a favorite shirt. It is red and stretchy and has the word split written across it in white letters. He likes to wear it on Wednesdays and keep it on for the rest of the week. We have to wrestle it off of him to put it in the wash. He has other shirts, but something about this one is special.

He’s had this shirt since he was six. He’s twelve now. Needless to say it is getting too small. I can image him at sixteen wearing this same shirt stretched tightly across his chest. His stomach hanging out. The sleeves cutting off the circulation to his arms. The seams straining. The word split looking squashed from being stretched so far. He wouldn’t care. He would probably wear it on a date and be unaffected by the girl’s furrowed brow and questioning looks.

When I ask him what’s so good about his split shirt, he just says he doesn’t know. Then he thinks for a bit and says it’s not too big. This isn’t a sufficient answer. He has other shirts that aren’t too big. I would like to know what he likes about the shirt, so I can get him another. Right now, I can only speculate. Maybe it’s the fabric, stretchy and smooth. Maybe it’s the color, dark red. Maybe it’s the word split written in white cracking letters. Maybe if I used iron-on letters to put split across his other shirts he’d wear them too.

Health Insurance

During my entire working adult life, the only time I have had health insurance was when I was living outside of the country. As an English teacher in Korea, I was covered under the Korean national health plan. After being in the country for a few weeks I received a small blue booklet that was my health insurance card.

Overjoyed at the thought of having health insurance, I used it whenever I could. Things that I would normally ignore sent me rushing off to see the doctor. Swelling in my big toe, time to see the doctor. More acne than usual on my face, time to see the doctor. Food poisoning, congestion, a rash on my arm, time to see the doctor.

I also enjoyed whipping my health card out at the pharmacy. The pharmacist would take my card and jot down some information before giving me my very cheap medicine. I usually wouldn’t use the medicine for as long as directed. That cream for my acne made my face itch. The medicine for my congestion made me dizzy. I didn’t really know what I was taking and that also made me nervous. I had a toiletry case full of ointments, creams and little packets of pills.

Now, even though I work in the health care industry, I don’t have the luxury of health insurance. I find myself feeling envious of those who do. My mother recently fell off of her scooter and shattered her shoulder. She has gone to several doctors and will eventually need physical therapy. She has insurance.

If I had fallen and broken my shoulder, I would have to send my husband out to cut a good straight branch off one of the trees outside of our apartment. We would use tape and string to fashion it into a splint for my arm. My husband would research healing time and physical therapy exercises on the internet, and I would hope for the best.

Spirit Orbs in the Graveyard

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I’ve always wanted to go on a St. Augustine ghost tour. So during our honeymoon in Daytona Beach, my husband and I took a day trip to St. Augustine with the sole goal of going on a ghost tour. We decided to take the walking tour because, frankly, it was cheap. I’m all about cheap.

It was Thursday, January 12th, which is not as scary as Friday, January 13th would have been, but we didn’t think of that until someone else on the tour mentioned it. I don’t remember our tour guide’s name so I’m going to call her Helen because I have a feeling that if I did remember her name I would remember that it was Helen. She was English. I went on a ghost tour in San Diego and my tour guide for that tour was English also. What’s so scary about the English? I told my husband that if the whole music thing doesn’t work out he could have a future in the ghost tour industry. He’s English too.

Helen wore some type of green and maroon period costume and carried an oil lamp. This added to her creepy English air. At the beginning of the tour she told us that she would be taking us to the graveyard and the fort and some other odd places along the way. She said that maybe we would see something unusual or maybe we wouldn’t, it depended on the night, but that we should keep our eyes open and take lots of pictures. I had my new camera so I was prepared to take lots of pictures. I was also very prepared to see something.

Helen walked all of us to a graveyard and told us a bunch of stories about spirit orbs, ghosts, and energies. All of which seemed to appear three times a month for about eight seconds. Three times a month and eight seconds were key in all of the stories we heard that night. I never realized before that ghosts were on some kind of schedule.

Later at the fort, Helen told us stories of battles, executions and bloodshed. There was also an interesting story about some dead party goers, but still no visible ghosts.

I don’t know what I wanted or expected because at the end of the tour I was disappointed. I think I wanted to see something, a wispy figure walking amongst the tombstones or feel a cold finger run down the back of my neck. Instead, I left with a damp butt from sitting on a wet bench and a little less money in my wallet.

Later in my photos, I noticed small orbs of light, but those could have been dust reflecting off of the flash or bugs. Or maybe they were ghosts.

The Nebulous Mooch

patrickMy husband is a musical genius, or at least that’s what people tell me. That’s him up there. His business card says that he is a composer and arranger, but he thinks that sounds pompous. So, I’ll just say that he is a musician.

These days he’s preparing for a concert he’s doing at a local theater. His Fender Rhodes, piled with sheet music, crackles and pops as he plays. Occasionally, he’ll ask me to play a melody for him on my saxophone, which I stumble painfully through. I’m not a musical genius. No one needs to tell me that.

He often complains about being unable to name his tunes. Since I fancy myself as a writer, I figure I can help with this dilemma. I’ve come up with brilliant titles such as, “Poop beaten gold,” a quote from Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra and “Life’s frailest barks” a quote from Phila Earle Hanely. Unfortunately, none of these have met his approval so they are yet to be used.

The other day, he asked me for help naming a tune he had tentatively titled “Beloved Son”. Wanting to make sure I came up with the best and most appropriate title, I asked him what he wrote it about. He told me a story about a Chinese movie he had seen about a family wandering around after being kicked out of their house. “It’s kind of a vague wandering,” he said. I didn’t think that “Vaguely Wandering Chinese People” would be a good name so I turned to my trusty thesaurus.

First I looked up vague and found the usual words like indeterminable, indistinct and unplanned. Towards the end of the list of words was nebulous. Then I looked up wander and found words like meander and drift. Towards the end of that list was the word mooch. “Why do they list the best words last?” I wondered until I realized they were in alphabetical order.

“Nebulous Mooch,” I said aloud and he actually typed it across the top of the page. Nebulous mooch. Sometimes I whisper it when I’m alone in the bathroom. Nebulous Mooch.