Friday, May 27, 2016

Stories and Supermen

I awoke to a phone call. Yes, it was the Acme. Could I come in at noon? They'd had call-outs and were busy. Not at noon, but I'd go in at 1. I wanted some time to write.

And as soon as I finished breakfast, I was on the computer and working on my story. Han and Leia lead a battalion of Ewoks to the drawbridge. They almost have it open when they're cornered by the Imperial soldiers. The Ewoks have fled, but Han and Leia have nowhere to run. The soldiers take Han away, while Boba Fett knocks Leia out and brings her to the King himself.

Palapatine, delighted to finally have his bride, has his own plans for the feisty young woman. While she's unconscious, he makes a black wedding gown (inspired by this gown on Pinterest) appear on her and reads her mind. He's incensed that Leia has become affianced to another at first...but then decides he can use her love to his advantage, thanks to a certain magic mirror he owns...

I got off just in time to eat a quick lunch before heading to work. After I finished Willow, I started my annual Memorial Day marathon of wartime shorts with the 40's Paramount Superman cartoons. Despite some Japanese stereotypes, "Eleventh Hour" is my favorite of these. The story, about Superman sabotaging the Japanese, is surprisingly mature for an animated short, and there's some wonderful, shadowy animation.

As it turned out, I was in the register all day. They'd had call-outs, and they were just busy. I still don't like cashiering, but at least they had a good reason. There really were long lines for most of the afternoon, up until people started going to their parties and barbecues around 5. At least my day went fast. Thankfully, they were able to get one of the college kids in for me when my shift was done. (Honestly, I don't know why I had the Friday before Memorial Day off in the first place.)

Walked to Tu Se Bella's for dinner as soon as I finished. They're an Italian restaurant and gourmet pizza parlor in the shopping center behind the Acme. They always have the Camden County area's most creative pizza toppings on display, and tonight was no exception. I had a slice of cheese, a slice of spinach and tomatoes with chicken on white, and a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper. Yum. The chicken slice was messy and hard to pick up. I eventually ate the chicken off most of it. It still tasted really good, though. Surprisingly for dinnertime, they weren't that busy. I was easily able to snag the table in the front window by the counter and watch all the shoppers stroll by.

I didn't have that big of a grocery order this week. I wanted to restock chicken, but those buy-one, get-one-and-two deals were too much for me. I settled on ground chicken. Bought bananas and peaches for fruit this week. (I'll get strawberries and vegetables tomorrow at the farm market.) Restocked canned chicken, diced tomatoes, mandarin oranges, peanut butter, brown sugar, buttermilk, and trash bags. Treated myself to the Acme's natural brand Caramel Butter Pecan ice cream for a treat.

When I got home, I put everything away, then ate butter pecan ice cream while watching two more Superman wartime shorts. Superman's hearing "Jungle Drums" when he has to rescue Lois from the Nazis, who are inciting stereotypical natives to burn her to death. In the last short made (and the only one not to feature Lois Lane), a beautiful "Secret Agent" has to get to Washington with paper that could incriminate a top spy ring. Superman does everything he can to protect her.

Oh, and I got my schedule for this week as well. Pretty much exactly the same as last week, only with two early days. Same days off, Tuesday and Friday. Hopefully, this time, I'll actually be able to keep both my days off. I really want to get my story finished, and I must get the cleaning done before Lauren visits in mid-June.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Heat Is Finally On

Started the day with an early work shift. Whew, was it hot! It had to be in the 70's and climbing already by 9 AM. I have the feeling this is not what everyone had in mind when they were complaining about the 50 degree temperatures last week. It's probably just as well I only did carts for about an hour when I arrived. I spent a lot of the day in the register. I wasn't happy about it, but we were a lot busier than I thought we'd be. I guess anyone who's sticking around for the weekend wanted to get their barbecue and party supplies now. Thankfully, I was just bagging when I finished. I grabbed a quart of skim milk and hurried home.

It was so hot when I got in, I had no choice. I had to turn on the air conditioners. I was hoping to hold off on it, since it's not humid, but it had to be in the lower 80's in my apartment alone. As it turned out the cord on the unit in my bedroom didn't reach the nearest outlet (the one I plug my laptop into). I had to get the extension cord Miss Ellie gave me for the original air conditioner years ago.

When it was sufficiently cool, I ate muffins and a pear for lunch. Watched a couple of episodes of Max & Ruby while I finished. "Max's Froggy Friend" wants to follow him home. Ruby says tea parties are no place for froggies, but Max always finds a way. "Max's Music" doesn't sound so harmonious to Ruby, Valerie, and Louise, who are practicing for the Bunny Scout Concert. When the girls can't play together, it's Max who finds a way to help them keep the beat. "Max Gets Wet," much to his sister's chagrin. She wants him to water her garden, but he'd rather water himself. For once, it's Ruby who figures out how to compromise.

Spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Vader lets the group in. He knows his children are there, and that they'll come to him. He's right, at least about one of them. Luke tells Leia he's going to give himself up to Vader. Leia tries to discourage him, but he's determined. He tries to talk his father out of taking him to Palapatine. Vader knows better. He has to obey his master.

As soon as Luke leaves, Boba Fett arrives. He tells him both his kids are there, and Leia's with Han. Vader once again orders Fett to bring him Leia and get rid of Han...or this time, he may consider tossing him to a sand monster, or worse.

Broke for dinner around 5:30. I put on Willow as I threw together ground turkey, sweet pickle relish, a can of diced tomatoes, mushrooms, chicken stock, whole-wheat pasta, and the last of the chopped onion flakes that have been around forever (I was out of real onion) to make my version of Hamburger Helper. Willow (Warwick Davis) is part of a race of diminutive Hobbit-esque beings who live peacefully in a small village. Willow is determined to become a great sorcerer, even if everyone else in the village thinks he's just a goof. When his children discover a lost baby by the river, it sets off a chain of events that end with him discovering that the baby is a princess who needs to be returned to her rightful kingdom. With the help of a cynical warrior (Val Kilmer) and two very nutty brownies, he learns that size really matters not, and that magic can be found in the most unlikely of hearts.

An old favorite of mine. Davis and Kilmer are especially having fun as the knight and the short farmer who don't know what to make of each other, and the brownies are a riot. If you're a fan of Games of Thrones-esque high fantasy or the cast, this is a no-brainer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spring Into Summer

I was up so late last night, I had just enough time to work on a little bit of writing after I ate breakfast. Went back and added a scene where Lando and Han deal with what Lando did to his buddy in the Kingdom of the Clouds in the, er, proper fashion. Then moved ahead to reveal that Han now has his "command crew," which includes Leia, the servants, Wicket the Ewok, all their horses, and a nervous Luke. Luke knows he's going to have to deal with his father. He's not looking forward to it. Leia's even less thrilled with the idea.

Finished out Radioland Murders and had a really quick lunch before heading to work. Work was dead as can be It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day, the first we've had in weeks. Not to mention, it's the middle of the week before a major holiday and the beginning of the month. I spent the first half of my shift doing returns, and the second half rounding up carts. There were no major problems, and I was in and out.

When I got in, I did two episodes of Rick Steves' Europe while eating leftovers for dinner. Sliced up a very soft peach and ate peaches drizzled with honey for dessert. I thought Cologne, Germany, and the famous Black Forest would provide inspiration for the Gothic Bast Castle and the Enchanted Woods. (And it made me crave Black Forest Cake.)

Let it continue on to Berlin while I cleaned up from dinner.  The Berlin of today is very different from the city I remember seeing when the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989. While it does have many reminders of its tumultuous past (including a segment of the Wall made over into an outdoor art gallery), it's equally proud of its modern and restored buildings, including its main building for its elected body, with its beautiful glass rotunda.

Finished the night with a much-needed bath. Ahh. It felt absolutely wonderful to relax in the tepid water, looking at cake decorating books and listening to one of the Rod Stewart standards CDs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Almost Sunshine

I slept until I heard Charlie cursing under the porch outside. When I did finally get up, I put on one of Scooby Doo, Where are You? while eating breakfast. Scooby and the Mystery Inc. kids wrote the book on running around in gloomy Gothic castles. Their first such encounter was in the third episode of the series, "A Hassle In the Castle." When the kids are marooned on a spooky island, they end up trying to figure out why a ghost wants to scare them away from the scary old fortress there.

Headed out to do the laundry around 11:30. The laundromat was totally dead at that point. It was still relatively sunny and warm then. It did get a little busier, but was never crowded. I didn't have a ton to do at any rate. I was out in less than an hour.

After I put my laundry away, I went right back out again. It had begun to cloud up a bit, but it remained warm, nothing like the past few weeks. I had lunch at a very busy Westmont Bagel Shop. Opted for their lunch box special, a turkey club with chipotle mayo on whole wheat bread and a tiny cup of cole slaw. The sandwich was messy but surprisingly tasty - the mayo added the right tang without being too spicy.

The Haddon Township Library wasn't busy when I arrived. There was a sign on the DVDs not to put them away, so I didn't. I concentrated on returning CDs, audio books, and new releases. (It turns out I could have. The librarian had intended to save the DVDs for a person who never appeared.) Once again, I didn't take anything out - I'm still concentrating on writing.

Made quick stops at Thriftway and Dollar Tree on the way home. Thriftway was quiet. I was able to pick up my whole wheat flour and blended cooking oil (the later on sale) with no problems. Dollar Tree didn't have the plastic scrubbers I was looking for, and it's probably just as well. The line was crazy long anyway.

It had gotten cloudier and a little windier at that point. It never rained as hard as it did yesterday (though it did spit a little), but I thought I'd be safer making for home. I did noticed that Cabana's Water Ice had replaced Kayla's on the corner of Cuthbert and the White Horse Pike. I tried their Double Chocolate Marshmallow Water Ice. No real marshmallow, but yum, was it chocolate-y! The seating area itself isn't nearly as fun as it used to be. The chrome tables and pink and yellow picnic tables are nice, but the wooden swings and goofy cow and Batman statues must have vanished with the previous owners.

Despite the fact that the sun had come out, I still spent the rest of the afternoon working on my story. The Rebels return to Endor to split into groups. The Wookie stallions, called by the Force, arrive, as do the Ewoks. We split into Lando taking Wedge, the Wookie horses, and his friend Niem Numb to attack the Imperials and get into the vault, while Han takes Luke, Leia, the servants, and Wicket the Ewok in the castle itself to open the drawbridge. Han offers Lando the Falcon, which he gratefully accepts. But Luke and Leia both feel something very wrong with the whole scenario...

Broke around 5:30 to eat leftovers for dinner and make Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins. Since it was still a bit cloudy at that point, I watched Radioland Murders while I ate. George Lucas produced this 1994 farce about a series of deaths at a newly-launched radio network in 1940. The station's writer (Brian Benben) has to solve the murders, while the cops consider him to be their number one suspect.

This is one of those movies people either love or hate. I actually think it's kind of fun, especially in the first half, where you get to meet most of the cool characters and get a better idea of the kind of shows they would have had on the air in 1940. It loses momentum badly in the second half, where the farce takes over. I get a kick out of it - if you're a fan of farce, old-time radio, or the cast, this is at the very least worth a look.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Starting With Sun, Ending With Rain

Began a humid and sunny day with an episode of Rick Steves' Europe. I couldn't have told you much about the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, as a kid in the 80's. Most of the countries behind the Iron Curtain were "communist," and thus, bad...at least until the Berlin Wall fell. Despite its often tragic history, there is much beauty to be found in this area. I was actually watching this as inspiration for the next part of my story, which is set in a dark, gloomy Gothic castle. I found the lovely little towns, with their sprightly gypsy bands and smelly cheese, even more interesting.

Spent the rest of the morning (and about an hour or so later tonight, after dinner) working on my story. Han has asked Leia to marry him. She says yes, but they can neither hold their wedding, nor claim his inheritance in Corellia, until they help the others get rid of the Empire. Meanwhile, Lando fought Boba Fett, but the crafty bounty hunter escapes. (No, I am not feeding him to a Sarlacc monster here. That's just a waste of a character. He'll still be useful later.)

While the Rebels are preparing to strike, Vader meets with his master. All of the tax money has been collected and is ready to be used. Palaptine says it's part of a trap to capture the Rebels...and bring Leia and Luke to him. He wants to train Luke to be his apprentice and Leia to be a black sorceress.

Vader's beginning to understand how badly Palapatine's used him. For one thing, he wanted to be the one to train Luke and Leia, and he never planned on them replacing him. All he can think of are the memories of how he'd lost his beloved Padme...and how sad and ashamed she'd be of him now.

Ran some unusual Dr. Seuss cartoons while eating a quick lunch. Two of Seuss' most beloved characters collide in The Grinch Grinches the Cat In the Hat. When the cheery Cat gets on the Grinch's nerves one sunny day, the Grinch first messes with the light around him, then the sound. The Cat is determined to find out what makes the Grinch such a grouch and cure him of it, pronto!

The lesser-known Looney Tunes short "Horton Hatches the Egg" was the first appearance of a Dr. Seuss book on the big screen. Maisie the lazy bird leaves her nest in the care of kind-hearted Horton the Elephant. No matter what happens, from bad weather to hunters selling him to the circus, Horton will not leave that nest ever. "An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent."

Headed off to work as soon as the short ended. It remained sunny and warm, probably into the upper 70's, for most of the afternoon. I spent the first hour and most of the last hour rounding up carts. In between, I did returns, cleaned up a broken jar of gravy, and took customers.

The dark clouds finally rolled in around quarter of 6, as I was doing another cart-gathering round. I rushed as fast as I could to gather all the carts and get them on the patio. I still wasn't finished when I heard rumbles of thunder and one of the head managers sent me inside.

I made it in just in time. It was already starting to rain when I was doing the carts. By the time I was gathering baskets, the shower had become a wild monsoon, complete with thunder and lightning. It was still going strong when I got off of work. Thankfully, it was one of those fast-moving storms. I spent ten minutes watching the show. The moment it slowed down, I left

When I got home, I changed into dry clothes, then put on an episode of Fairie Tale Theatre as I made scrambled eggs with spinach, cheese, and mushrooms for dinner. "Hansel and Gretel" is one of the more straightforward retellings in the series. After they're abandoned by their parents, two children have to find their way home. They make it the first time, but the second time, the birds eat the bread crumbs Hansel dropped. Lost in the woods, the duo find a tasty gingerbread cottage. But the cottage belongs to a wicked witch...one who turns little boys and girls into gingerbread and eats them for her supper. This brother and sister pair have to think fast to save each other from becoming the witch's next meal.

And I got lucky. The rain ended as I arrived home...but there were still dark clouds on the horizon. It didn't start raining again until about an hour or so ago, and I haven't heard any thunder this time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stranger In the Parking Lot

Began the morning with Banana Pancakes. Listened to the original cast album for Kismet as I ate. Wright and Forest adapted the music of Borodin for this enjoyably exotic adaptation of the ancient play. Alfred Drake is the beggar who starts out selling rhymes in the streets of Bagdad and ends up with the Wazir's bored wife (Joan Diener). Doretta Morrow is his daughter Marsinah, who eventually falls for and marries the Caliph (Richard Kiley). "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" and "Strangers In Paradise" were the hit songs; my favorite number is the lovely "Night of My Nights" for the Caliph.

Worked a little bit on writing after breakfast. Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando are called to Jabba's treasure vaults. Turns out Jabba hoarded enough gold to make every farmer in the Kingdom of Tatoon wealthy. While most of the money will go into making Tatoon a better place to live, some of it is reserved for the Rebels' campaign against the Kingdom of the Empire, who has tripled taxes and attacked whole villages that couldn't pay. Lady Mothma, the head of the Rebels, decides it's time to strike Bast Castle.

Listened to another K-Tel record while getting ready for work. The weather was still pretty decent, cloudy and cool, but not nearly as cold as it has been. I opted to ride to work. (Besides, I don't know if there's anyone around to drive me these days.)

Work was pretty much the same as it has been. I spent the entire first half of my shift and the last hour doing returns. We were so busy, at one point, I got stuck in the register for a little while. I also gathered carts and did a small cart of returns, mainly cold or frozen items that had to go back quickly. It showered lightly on and off all throughout the afternoon, but never long enough or hard enough to do much besides get my glasses a little wet.

When I got home, I made macaroni and cheese for dinner. I've attempted white sauce a few times, but it always came out burned or lumpy. This time, it was just perfect, smooth and cheesy enough. I tossed tuna in with the sauce for protein.

 Wish my game came out that well. I'd barely gotten a few minutes into the next round of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga when the Wii let out a horrible noise and the screen got stuck. Turns out the used copy I bought at GameStop was badly scratched. After it did it a second time, I just put it aside and played Kirby Dream Land 3 on the Kirby Dream Collection instead. Unfortunately, thanks to all that drama, my mac and cheese did get a bit burned, but it still tasted pretty good. Added a spinach salad with oil and vinegar for vegetables.

Switched to the original cast album for Dreamgirls while I ate. I actually prefer the movie soundtrack, as I like the cast and some of the additional songs, but this is good too. If nothing else, we get to hear two numbers that were cut from the film, including one for Lorrell when she's realizing just how fed up she is with her relationship with Jimmy, "Ain't No Party."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rain Dazed

It's probably just as well I had early work today. It was humid but not raining when I arrived at the Acme. The rain didn't start until around 11. By that point, I'd been doing carts for nearly two hours. It did shower while I was working, but it wasn't heavy, just enough to make everyone damp. Thankfully, I spent a lot of the second half of my shift doing returns. By the time I was done, so was the rain. I got home dry.

As soon as I got home, I went on the computer. Spent the next few hours working on my story. Luke shows up at the party in his new Force Knight robes and armor and tries to bargain for his friends. Jabba's unimpressed and sends him into his pit, where he fights a two-headed half-snake, half-tiger. Luke does manage to kill the beast. Jabba's not thrilled and calls a firing squad to shoot the young knight. Luke has a few surprises of his own to dish out. The squad is really the Rebels in disguise...and so are many of the other servants. The cavalry has arrived!

While the Rebels handle Jabba's boys, Luke, Lando, and the servants go after Jabba, his daughters, Leia, and Han. Leia finally uses her knife to stab Jabba. She and Luke put their heads together and use their powers to turn Jabba's daughters into common garden slugs. Leia also discovers she has some healing power left after all when her tears heal Han's blindness.

Broke for dinner around 5:30. Watched Aladdin while eating leftovers for dinner and making Pumpkin Bars for dessert. The third big movie of the 90's Disney Renaissance moves into something a tad more exotic - a goofy retelling of a popular Arabian Nights tale. The title character is a street urchin with a good heart who dreams of better things. He falls in love with the Princess Jasmine after he helps her when she runs away. He thinks he won't have a chance with her, until he finds a genie in a seemingly tarnished lamp. The genie grants him his greatest wish, but it doesn't seem to impress Jasmine as much as him being himself. Meanwhile, the sultan's evil adviser and his very annoying talking parrot are after the magic lamp, too.

Robin Williams' stream-of-consciousness riffs as the Genie were what everyone talked about in the 90's, but most of the references seem dated and more than a little strange now. The gorgeous animation and Oscar-winning music (including the hit ballad "A Whole New World") have worn far better.

Finished out my evening with more LEGO Star Wars: The Original Saga. I had a rough time with the first round of Attack of the Clones, a car chase through the all-city planet Coruscant. I just could not get that car to drive straight! The next round, Obi-Wan's encounter with Jango Fett at the clone factory, was a bit easier. (Even if I had a hard time getting Arfour across that bridge in the beginning and kept losing beads.)

And I'm glad I got home when I did. It started raining again somewhere between 4 and 6 PM and has been coming down in a steady downpour ever since.