Friday, August 31, 2007

Early Morning Blues And Greens

Yes, I did my 6AM work today. On one hand, we were busy and low on help - this IS Labor Day Weekend. On the other hand, I got three breaks, one of them a 30-minute lunch, and the time did go fairly quickly. I really wish they'd push the kids harder to actually show up for work on time, though. There were two boys who were supposed to come in for me, and they were BOTH late!

Riding to work this morning was really weird. I haven't worked this early since I opened the Wildwood Acme at 6AM the day after the Fourth of July 2003. I'm not used to coming home from work in the dark and going TO work in the dark.

I spent the rest of the day after work taking a much-needed nap.

I got a lousy schedule next week. While I still have a lot of hours, they're a lot of LONG hours, and there's one 4PM-12AM days. I wish they'd get it through their heads that I really can't work until 12AM. I can't make a car appear out of thin air, and people can't always haul me around.

Now you know why I'm so desperate to leave this job. I don't want to work 6AM to 2:30PM one day, then 4PM to 12AM the next. I want the same 9 to 5 hours every day, every week, every year. I want the same stable hours, stable job, and stable paycheck. I want to be able to use my writing ability and not go crazy while earning a paycheck.

I want to prove I can enjoy my job, and there is a way to both make money and do something you love.

I just wish I could find that way now.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

One More Thing

I may not be on tonight, or I'll only be on briefly to check my e-mail. I have work at 6AM tomorrow, which I am NOT looking forward to.
My Roommates

Like my older friend Linda Young, I have always been hopelessly addicted to stuffed animals. They were far better friends than most children were when I was younger. I was quiet and shy and preferred reading books or watching TV to running around outside with other kids my age. When I got older and Mom started ordering me outside more, I would go for long, rambling walks on my own instead of hanging out with buddies like my sisters did. My walks usually took me to Cape May's Washington Street Mall. I'd look wistfully at the expensive stuffed toys in the small toy shop in the indoor mall, then head a block down from the mall to the small yellow Cape May City Library, where I'd settle in for the afternoon reading The Babysitters' Club or fairy tales or Nancy Drew.

Oh, I had dolls, too, Lady LovelyLocks and Jem and Barbies and She-Ra, though I never got into baby dolls the way my sisters did. What could you do with a baby? They weren't fuzzy or fun to hold, most of them didn't have hair to brush, and you couldn't create fantastic stories with them. Besides, I'd seen my sisters when they were real babies, and they weren't a whole lot of fun to take care of.

Unlike my sisters, who gladly gave up most of their stuffed toys when they got into their teens, I never let mine go. Oh, I'd give some of them to thrift shops or younger friends over the years, but I can't remember a time when I didn't have stuffed animals. I was particularly fond of teddy bears, both realistic and "cute." They always seemed so happy and cheerful.

I still collect them now. They're my children and my roommates...and probably the only ones I'll have, at the rate I'm going. They all have stories to tell, as much as any human being...

Paddington Bear: Big Paddington is one of the oldest stuffed animals I have, and the largest. I don't remember much about how I got him, but Mom says some great-aunts or grandparents or something bought him from a gift shop in Cape May when the two-foot tall toy was bigger than I was. Nowadays, Paddington's a bit worn and ragged. His blue felt coat is missing buttons, and his yellow hat has holes in it big enough to drive through. He's a lot skinnier than he used to be, too, having been slept on for twenty five years. Even so, he's still one of my babies, and one of the bears I've "dressed" and put under the Christmas tree for as long as we've done it.

Happy: Happy the Floppy Polar Bear brought sunshine into one of the darkest days of my life in early December 2003. Max, my boyfriend of three years, had just e-mailed me that morning to tell me he was breaking up with me. I came out of the shower that evening feeling lower than the floor of the Atlantic when my sister Anny, brother Keefe, and her then-current boyfriend John trooped into the living room. It was a few weeks before Christmas, and a friend of theirs had given John some stuffed animals for his little daughter. I oohed and ahhed over the cute floppy hippo John was going to give to Katie before Anny pulled out her real surprise - a polar bear with a big smile done in the same style, with floppy arms and legs. Anny said his name was Happy, and he was for me. They wanted to make me feel better, and they couldn't have picked a better way.

Little Mike and Peter Pup: Mike, a floppy wolf cub Lauren sent me from Massachusetts, and Peter, a golden retriever puppy who came from the thrift shop, were named after Monkee members Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork respectively. One of the running gags in our Monkee role-plays is that tough loner Mike and sweet-natured Peter have been transformed several times into a wolf and a golden retriever by various villains.

Lady: One of my favorite toys when I was little was a stuffed version of Lady, of Lady and the Tramp fame, whom my stepmother and biological father bought from a store on Main Street in Walt Disney World in 1986. I must have talked about her to Max a lot, because his Valentine's Day present for me in 2001 was a new Lady. She is one of two items Max gave me I couldn't bear to part with after we broke up. I'd missed my old Lady too much.

Meowth: And here's the other stuffed animal Max gave me I just couldn't get rid of. On one of our numerous trips to the Hamilton Mall near Atlantic City, I'd admired a huge, two-feet tall stuffed Meowith at what was then called EB Games. Meowth was one of my favorite characters from the Pokemon cartoon, whose Brooklyn accent and used-car-salesman mannerisms never failed to make me laugh. As much as I'd liked him, it still came as a shock on a trip to visit Max's parents a few months later when Max brought out a Christmas present...the very Meowith I'd looked at so often at the mall! It was one of the sweetest things he ever did for me (even on sale, Meowth was one costly kitty!).

Lucy: Lucy, a Beanie-Baby-style pug pup, used to belong to Keefe. When he was little, we'd often pretend that, despite their different breeds, Lucy was Lady's rambunctious "daughter." When I moved into my own apartment after college, he gave me Lucy, insisting that a puppy and her mommy shouldn't be apart.

Chow Yun Fat: Chow Yun's story is one of my favorites. Erica and I were taking out the trash at the thrift shop one night last fall when we heard a noise. It sounded like something talking. Erica heard it first, then suggested we check the bags on top of the trash. In one of the bags, I found a stuffed mechanical panda bear waving his arms and legs, his mouth moving as various bear-like growls and squeaks poured out. I instantly asked Erica if I could keep him. The people who live above the shop must have gotten rid of him, though I don't know why they would. Other than being dirty, there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. His arm, mouth, and head moved fine, and his growls, snorts, and squeals were as clear as day. I ended up taking him (and a plant someone donated for some reason) home for free.

Erica may have been right about him calling for help. A huge thunderstorm passed through that that would have permanently damaged poor Chow Yun's electronic insides if he'd been left out in it!

Birch, Donnie, Daffy Duck, George, Pablo, Erica, and Kurt: These guys all came from the thrift shop. Birch and George are bears. George has odd ears on the side of his head and a goofy smile; I tied a bit of red fabric from the thrift shop around his neck to give his purplish fur some more color. Birch is a small tan and off white bear cub whose color gives him his name. Donnie is an American eagle with big, round eyes and a tuft of fuzzy "feathers" on the top of his head; he's named for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Erica is a vintage 80s Pound Kitty I found last Christmas and named after my friend Erica who runs the shop. Kurt is a white seal cub I named after male Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning. Pablo is a small but colorful parrot. Daffy was so dirty when I pulled him out of a bag filled with small junky knick-knacks, Erica gave him to me for free. (He's since received a bath in Uncle Ken's washing machine.)

Dawson: Dawson was a birthday present from my mother when I was in high school. He's is a heavy, fuzzy fellow with movable limbs, a huge purple velvet bow around his neck, and a very serious expression. He's one of my older bears and looks it; I've been meaning to fix that one strand of yarn from his paw that came loose for years.

Nala and Copper: I picked up these two in yard sales last year. Copper is a Beanie-ized version of the puppy character from The Fox And The Hound. I believe the Nala is one of the toys released during and after the release of the original The Lion King in 1994. I remember seeing them in stores them. Nala has a grosgrain ribbon "collar" with a pink and green felt flower, and when you squeeze her rear, she makes purring noises.

Lamby and Hugh: Lamby is a newcomer. I won her from a whack-a-mole game at Six Flags Great Escape in July. She's a cute white lamb with a sweet expression and the appropriate curly "wool." Hugh was my present from Lauren last year. Lauren apparently got two identical stuffed kola bears from an eBay auction of Build-A-Bear toys and gave one to me. I named him after Australian actor Hugh Jackman (I already have a Beanie Baby kola named after Mel Gibson).

Mint: One Easter, Mom gave each of her children a pastel stuffed animal she'd found in a display at K-Mart. Rose's was pink; she eventually named her Petunia. Anny's was yellow. Keefe's was blue. He called him George, and he became one of his cherished companions, one of the few stuffed toys the now-fourteen-year-old still has today. Mine was mint green and was dubbed Mint Julep, or just Mint. Mint was one of the few stuffed animals to not only survive high school, but be small enough to come to college with me as well.

(Incidentally, we weren't the only ones who loved those bears. Mom thought they were so cute, she eventually bought herself a lavender rabbit from the same display she named Violet. She also bought a big white stuffed rabbit with a jelly bean print ribbon she named Jelly Bean Bunny, or JB Bunny for short.)

Tails: Tails is a large Tails the Fox, Sonic The Hedgehog's sidekick. My sixteen-year-old sister Jessa said she won him from the Wildwood Boardwalk several years ago. I adopted him when Jessa cleaned out her room last year and got rid of a lot of things, including old toys. (I also acquired a bookcase-style shelf for some of my smaller collectible Beanie Babies and Pokemon from Jessa's room.)

James and Pooh Bear: I had a Pooh when I was little, but he was pretty much loved to death. He vanished long before my teens, so I was happy to find another small Pooh at a yard sale in May. I just bought James, a beautiful bear with big, almost human-like eyes, a big grin, and a red-and-tan checked ribbon, from the thrift shop about two weeks ago.

The Care Bears: My first Care Bear after the line's revival was Cheer Bear, one of several stuffed animals I won from the crane games at Gateway 26 on the Wildwood Boardwalk. My big Tenderheart bear also came from a crane, this one under the Great White wooden roller coaster in the Wild Wheels amusement park on the Boardwalk. I won him while waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks to begin in 2004. Winning him really made my Independence Day; not only were the Care Bears in that machine unusually large for boardwalk crane toys, but he seemed to be the only Tenderheart in the machine, and Tenderheart was my favorite when I was little.

I didn't find the others until I moved. Big and Little Wish Bear and Proud Heart Cat came from the thrift shop. Big Wish Bear just need a washing machine bath to be presentable. Little Wish bear was designed differently from my other small Care Bears, with no moving arms or legs. Grumpy Bear, Share Bear, and Funshine Bear came from yard sales.

Samantha: "Sam" is Samantha Parkington, the Victorian American Girl. I've loved the American Girl series since they were first released, and Samantha was my favorite of the originals. I was thirteen when Mom and Dad finally broke down and bought me Samantha and a couple of outfits for Christmas. I know thirteen is a little old for dolls, but the American Girl dolls are special, beautifully made and designed...and very expensive. Mom probably figured it would be better if I did have her when I was older so I could take care of her better....and I have ever since.

Carrie: Carrie is my first and only Cabbage Patch Kid. Mom had to call her sister in Virginia to find Rose and I Cabbies, since they were so scarce during the Christmas of 1983. Now, how could I give Carrie up after my mother went through all that? Besides, Carrie is the only baby doll I ever really liked having, maybe because she wasn't so "babyish" it bothered me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Job Searching

I spent the morning doing job search and the rest of the day at work. Work was occasionally busy, but mostly dead...for eight hours. I really, REALLY wish they'd give me more consistent hours. Give me all eight hour days or all four hour days, give me all mornings or all evenings. Make up your damn minds.

The job searching this morning did not go well. Everything that interests me wants more experience than I have, which was the problem the last time I did a job search. Most of the listings I saw for "entry level positions" were so fake it wasn't funny.

I wish I knew what I could do. I want to write...but what can I do with writing? How can I turn writing into a viable career that will net me a stable, 9-5 job and still allow me to be creative?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The First Place You Need To Search Is Inside Yourself

I know Lauren's right.

I wish I knew what I wanted. I thought I wanted to write. That's all I've been told since childhood - you're gonna be a writer. You're a good writer. You should be a writer. They never said "you should be a carpenter" or "you should be a doctor." They said "you should be a writer."

Trouble is, I don't know what I want to do with that.

I'm scared to death I'll get lost in some fancy Fortune 500 company that would take one look at someone like me and laugh their heads off. Even my customers don't take me seriously. Everyone laughs when I tell them I want a real job.

I want to find a way to be creative and still have a regular, paying job. Aren't there any jobs that require you to be creative while providing you with a nice, simple 9-to-5 workday and a nice, normal, regular paycheck? Can't I do what I like and still have normal hours and not have to troop all the way over to the Philadelphia suburbs to do it?

I did a lot of thinking during my swim at my uncle's today while my laundry was in the drier. I know I have to move on, but it's so HARD. I want out of the Acme, preferably now, but how can I get out if I don't even know what I want? If I can't write, what is there for me?

I never thought of being a businesswoman. Business always seems so boring. My older friend Linda Young is always complaining about her boring job behind a desk in some shipping business.

Hospitals and medical work is out. They make me so nervous, and I know nothing whatsoever about medicine or hospitals.

I wish I knew what I COULD do. What does a writer do when she can't write?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Summertime...And The Livin's Easy

A nice, quiet day today, which I appreciate, given what my hours are like later in the week. I worked early, 10AM to 3PM. A few cranky customers and one cracked jar of mayo (thank goodness it was the plastic Kraft Mayo), otherwise on-and-off busy, no major problems.

Today was also gorgeous, hot but not above the norm for August in New Jersey, with low humidity. It was such a nice day that I did my pilates routine outside after I swept the porch. I don't know if I'll do it again. The change of scenery was nice, but I got covered in mosquito bites.

Oh, and I forgot to mention something I saw Thursday night. I kept hearing these noisy thumps on my porch. I thought it might be burglars, but I'm in the back of a house on a well-protected dead-end side street in a small town. I then decided it was very fat squirrels and shrugged it off. It continued on and off for a couple of hours. I was going to the bathroom when I happened to peek out the window and discover what was making the racket. A pair of huge raccoons were playing on my porch! My landlady Miss Ellie told me when I moved in last year that there were raccoons in this area, but I'd never seen them until Thursday night. As long as they stay out of my trash, I welcome them as much as I would any neighbor, fuzzy or human.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Times They Are A Changin'

I had early (9AM) work today. We had some cranky customers, probably due to the continuing heat, but things were generally busy but not problematic.

I spent the afternoon watching the original 1988 Hairspray and working on little things on my computer. I'd only seen Hairspray once or twice on cable, just bits and pieces. Despite the PG rating, this is for slightly older kids than the remake (there's a rather weird zit-popping scene, a riot in an amusement park, and lots and lots of references to insects in the finale), but it's still fun. The original film has some interesting characters that didn't make it into any subsequent versions (the fathers of Amber Von Tussle and Penny Pingleton, the bigoted station owner) and a wonderful soundtrack of real 50s and early 60s dance hits (which I have on CD).

The other big news came towards the end of the day. I made my usual Sunday call to my mother in North Cape May. After almost twelve years in the same house behind the WaWa (and almost 30 years of renting houses in the Cape May/Lower Township area), she and my stepfather have finally decided to buy a house in the Villas area of Lower Township, near the Cape May County Airport. It's apparently a small, brand-new house in a quiet neighborhood where a few friends of Mom's live. They want to have everything done and ready by December, meaning they won't have the money to do Thanksgiving or Christmas at their house this year.

On one hand, I'm happy for them. I know Mom's been wanting to move out of North Cape May for years. The house they currently live in needs many repairs, the neighborhood isn't what it was when we moved in, and they don't really need and can't keep up with their huge yard. Mom and my stepdad are getting older, Keefe's only going to be around for a few more years (and isn't home much anyway), and little Skylar isn't around all the time.

On the other hand, this leaves me in a bit of a bind for the holidays. I've never spent Thanksgiving anywhere but with my family, and Christmas on my own did not go all that well last year. I really don't want to spend either by myself, but I may not have a choice if everyone else is busy.

This is when I really start to feel alone. I wish I could host Thanksgiving. I wish I had a family of my own to spend holidays with, so I wouldn't have to worry about going over to someone's house or the other and feeling out of place. Holidays weren't made for single people.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How To...Get Out Of A Job You Hate

Lauren says I'm too picky. Picky about what? I just don't want to end up in a job I don't like again. I've spent six years trying to find a better job than the grocery store, and I'm starting to think it isn't possible. Maybe all I'm good for is replacing the older women when they can't work in the mornings.

People don't take six years getting out of college to find a job. Why go to college if it's going to take you six years to find a real job?

I'm sick and tired of the Acme. I'm tired of feeling like I owe the stupid union something, just because I'd get treated even worse if they weren't there. I'm tired of working 38 hours one week, 19 hours the next. I'm tired of the obnoxious, stupid, spoiled customers. I'm tired of feeling like the only single, childless 28-year-old in the entire company.

I'm so scared. Every time I look for a job, nothing ever pans out. I go from office to office, giving everyone the same spiel and the same resume. I post my resumes at every major job site. I tell everyone I know I'm looking for a good, solid job. I check the paper. I put in applications.

And, of course, nothing happens. I get turned down. I'm not right. They went with other options. They want their best friend or their boyfriend or someone they've known them for years.

What if I'm doing this forever? What if I'm still trapped doing the same thing when I'm 80?

I want the same thing everyone else has. I want regular, normal hours. I want regular, normal days I can count on and plan around. I want co-workers I can talk to and relate to, who can talk to and relate to me. I want to feel like I belong, like I'm part of a real group. I want to be able to run to the farm market and do all my Saturday chores without rushing.

I love the farm market. I love doing my Saturday chores. I just don't like only having a few hours to do them in.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Playing The Company Way

Mostly just worked today...and that will probably be all I do for the majority of next week, as I have almost 38 hours. I really wish they'd be more consistent with my hours. I'd love to have all morning hours or all afternoon hours, not 3PM on Thursday, then 6AM on Friday. It's a pain in the rear and it makes it practically impossible to plan things.

Other than laundry and Saturday chores, I'll spend most of next week doing work on my Monkees fanfic The Monkee Knight, which I haven't gotten to in a while. I imagine we'll be starting the role-play soon, too. We have a whole plethora of ideas going through next fall we're dying to write.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hot Child In The City

Whew, what a LOOONG day! I did return everything I needed to return to the Camden County Library, including my volunteering papers. After that, I headed to the thrift shop, where I helped another volunteer, Grace, put out lighter winter clothes.

I'm still kicking myself for thinking my counseling appointment was at 2PM instead of 1PM. I know, most people said it wasn't a big deal, but I look forward to talking to Scott, and it makes me feel so immature and irresponsible when I do things like this! A real adult wouldn't forget something as important as a counseling appointment.

I did go into Philadelphia, though...and I forgot to ask Barnes and Noble about a job, too. On the other hand, I did buy the original Broadway casts of How To Succeed In Business Without Even Trying and Once Upon a Mattress and the rare Finian's Rainbow movie soundtrack from a record/used book store on 10th Street. (Turn down Fred Astaire's last appearance in a non-documentary musical?) I also picked up another Paige Turner book, Murder On A Hot Tin Roof and a new journal from Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer Cold

Ugh. I think I'm getting a cold. It was probably inevitable, given all the time I spend walking in and out of full-blast air conditioning. My nose is runny, my eyes are itchy, my throat is sore (though it's better than it was yesterday), and I have a headache.

Other than that, nothing thrilling today. I still haven't made it to the library, but I did send Mom the pictures from Skylar's birthday party. I think I may have accidentally sent her my copies too, though. Oops. I'll have to see if I can get her to send them back. I did a little bit of work on The Monkee Knight this morning.

Work was steady, with no major problems other than a few missing coupons. I'm off tomorrow, which is good, because tomorrow is going to be busy - I need to get those papers to the library, I have volunteering and counseling, and I'm hoping to get into Philadelphia if the weather holds out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I Guess Mother Nature Thought We Needed The Rain...

...Because it's really coming down out there! Actually, the rain has been on and off all day, but it's never been as heavy as it sounds now. Thank goodness I had off today. I did end up doing my laundry, but that was the only major thing I did. I spent most of the day doing yoga and hanging out on and offline.

Oh, and I posted a new short story at the Monkees Dream World role play site, The Telethon. Enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Listen To The Rhythm Of The Falling Rain

Sigh. On one hand, we need the rain. It's been so dry. I've had a rather cozy day, listening to records, working on stories, and doing yoga. I have the windows closed and no fan or air conditioner on, and the house is still comfortable. I even needed a sweater to go to work today, and I was only there for four hours and got a ride with Dad. (Work, incidentally, was very busy, with a lot of huge orders for college students and their parents, but no problems.) It was nice to have such a quiet, thoughtful day. It felt more a day in late November than a day in late August!

On the other hand, I have things I need to do, and I need to use my bike to do them. I need to do the laundry tomorrow. I need to drop my volunteering papers off at the Camden County Library. I need to send the pictures from Skylar's birthday party to Mom. I hate to have to put this stuff off until later in the week. Thank goodness it looks like the rain will be passed by Thursday, when I have counseling, volunteering at the thrift shop, and would like to try to make it into Philadelphia.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rainy Day Woman

Today was a quiet, rainy day in the Riverside Rest. In fact, this is the first quiet, rainy day we've had in a long time. The last couple of times it's rained was always during a thunderstorm. It turned out to be a good thing I worked early. It was starting to rain lightly as I rode home from work around quarter of 1. The rain became a shower about an hour later, and it just let up around 10:30.

Work was busy, but except for getting out a little late because my replacement was late, nothing major.

I spent most of the day hanging around my apartment, which is how I was going to spend it even if it hadn't rained. I made an applesauce cake from a recipe Lauren sent me, watched the DVD of the 1963 version of "Bye Bye Birdie," was online briefly earlier, and listened to Beatles records (since I missed the Beatles show on WOGL earlier this moring).

I'm just glad it finally rained. We needed the rain. Despite the thunderstorms, it was getting really dry here; I was afraid they were going to declare a drought.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Gorgeous Day For a Farm Market

Went back to the Farm Market today. Shouldn't have skipped last week; I missed it. I love going to the Farm Market. The produce is always great, the farmers are so nice, and it's wonderful to know I'm helping the community. I picked up grape tomatoes, blackberries, green leaf lettuce (spinach apparently won't be back in season until the fall), peaches the size of baseballs, radishes, and the first pears of the season today. (Blueberries are also apparently done for the season, which explains their increase in price in the Acme.)

Work was surprisingly steady-to-dead today. The weather was stunning, bright-blue, low-80s and windy, like a fall day. I assume everyone (understandably) decided they'd rather enjoy the weather than shop.

There was only one major problem, and once again it was early on. There's a woman who always comes in with a ton of 10 for $10 dollar merchandise and merchandise with coupons...and she always has a coupon for every item. Always. This time, however, her items (those new Nabisco 100 Calorie Cookie packs) did NOT match the coupons...AND she was violating that "one coupon per order" rule. I called Diane the head front end manager, and she got the woman to put the cookies and the coupons back.

I owe Diane one. I can guess what that woman does with all that stuff, and why she wants it so cheap. A lot of people buy stuff from the Acme and sell it really cheap in chop shops in Camden and Philadelphia. I believe that's illegal. If you can't afford to buy your items from a warehouse, don't be in business at all.

(It's interesting she was in so early; that woman usually shows up at night. I heard the local Shop Rite will no longer accept her coupons at all.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

In The Library Business

Went to the Camden County Library to pick up my volunteering papers this morning. I'll return them Monday afternoon...and then, I will FINALLY be an official volunteer! Since I was there (and will be going back soon), I rented the new "Most Wanted Edition" of the Disney Robin Hood and the 1963 Bye Bye Birdie. Mostly wanted to see what the new Robin Hood DVD was like. It's one of my favorite lesser-known Disney films, maybe out of nostalgia, since it turned up a lot on the Disney Channel and in revival in theaters when I was a kid.

While not one of Disney's huge, no-holds-barred two-disc sets, it is worth picking up if you like the movie. I haven't tried the games yet, but the darker alternate ending (which brings Maid Marian and Prince John back into the story and frankly gives a better introduction to King Richard) and cute Mickey Mouse short "Ye Olden Days" are fascinating and fun.

Work was, with one exception, not too bad today; on and off busy and not much trouble, except for one incident early in my shift. A woman and her son wanted to buy about 30 packages of bacon, fifteen cases of Snapple, and at least ten Capri Sun boxes, all of which are on sale with coupons that come in the flyer. However, you can only use one coupon per order, which I tried to explain to the woman. I ended up calling a manager, and we gave the woman her way (though she DID put most of the bacon back). As it turned out, the grocery manager was wrong and I was right. The coupons WERE limited offers, one per order, as they were last week.

I really hate these stupid coupon sales. They either have to start saying on the signs in very big, unmissable lettering that customers are only allowed ONE COUPON PER ORDER, or need to start saying on the coupons in something larger than fine print. Both would be nice.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Making A Living

Spent most of today working. Work was, as it was earlier in the week and likely will be until we get closer to Labor Day, dead when I came in at noon and when I left, but so busy in between, they asked me to stay an extra hour when someone called out.

I'm actually glad they did. I need that extra hour to make up for my poor hours (and paychecks) last month and earlier this month.

Oh, and it's back to the Dog Days of Summer here. Humidity rose again this morning, and by the time I got out of work, the heat was nasty, too. Maybe it's just as well I did stay late; the later I go home, the cooler it'll be.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Have To Believe We Are Magic

I'm amazed. This is probably the first time I've had two good days in a row since my vacation last month.

I made it to volunteering at the thrift shop on time. The store was having sales on some overstocked merchandise (like clothes and frames and pictures), and I spent most of the morning and early afternoon removing empty hangers, sorting clothes and toys, and undoing knots in costume jewelry bracelets and necklaces.

My favorite find today was a basket of old Barbie/fashion doll clothes, some dating back to the 60s and 70s from the many miniskirts and bell bottoms. Diane, the other cashier at the store, told me she'd found an old suitcase in the back room filled with the clothes...and that suitcase had sat in the back room for a year! The outfits and dresses cost a quarter each, and while some weren't in the best of shape, my Sailor Moon dolls now look nice and retro in their summer minidresses, culottes, and poodle skirts.

I also bought a handsome teddy bear from a huge bag of mint-condition bears someone brought in this morning and four more records (Olivia Newton-John, Toto, Air Supply, and songs from Frank Sinatra's earliest films).

I'm glad I've picked up more records lately, because a package was sitting on Miss Ellie's porch when I arrived home. Yes, it was my record player (turns out Carol Wright Gifts' warehouse is in Edison in North Jersey). It works beautifully...and no need to balance the darn thing this time. My only complaint is the arm is plastic, rather than the metal one on the larger console, and it doesn't return automatically after the side's over. I'll just have to be more careful with the arm.

The union meeting I went to the Acme for was no big deal. Some of it I'd already known, thanks to working for the company for six years and the tussle with the Acme over my transfer last year. The girl who did the presentation was young (college-age), well-prepared, passionate about the union, and a wonderful speaker. I only wish we'd had more time (and fewer distractions from dopey teenage boys) to hear her whole speech!

I went over to FYE afterwards. I figured, since I was already in the area and not really tired, I'd see if they still had The Lion King: Special Edition. They did, and since they were having a buy 3, get one half-price sale, I also acquired last year's release of "Star Wars: A New Hope" and "Weekend At Bernie's."

I took a short look at The Lion King set when I came in. While the movie is as much fun as ever, the menus are very poorly designed, and most of the same few featurettes on Disc 2 tend to pop up everywhere...and that Disney merchandising gets VERY annoying here. (And is right - could we have some trailers, please?)

On the other hand, I LOVED "Timon and Puumbaa's Virtual Safari." That was a blast. (Literally at one point in hot molten rock caves.) While both "rides" were fun, I think I prefer the boat ride. Timon has better commentary, and their reactions to the monkeys and crocodiles alone are worth the price of admission (and my reaction nearly scared ME out of a year or two of my life!).

And the Haddon Township Library called this afternoon while I was working on The Monkee Knight. They have accepted my application! They just want me to come in tomorrow or Friday to do some paperwork.

YAY! It's about time! I wonder why they never responded in February? Oh well, at least they are now. I love helping the community, and I spend a ton of time in the library as it is; might as well give back to them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The World Must Be Bigger Than An Avenue

Today was absolutely stunning, 85 degrees with no humidity in sight. Though I did a few things online this morning (including posting the next part of The Monkee Knight), it was too nice to sit inside all day. I ran to the bank and the post office, then went for a ride down to Haddon Heights, about a half-hour by bike to the south. I visited Haddon Heights last year on a walk on a boring Sunday, but it's a very religious town, and almost all of the stores were closed. (Not to mention it was a rather cold and gloomy day in March.)

Haddon Heights is a nice little historic downtown. It's larger than Oaklyn and Audubon's historic downtown shopping areas, but smaller and less elaborate than Collingswood or Haddonfield. I browsed a few gift shops, checked out their library, and bought a Diet Pepsi Caramel Cream soda from a old-fashioned convenience store (imagine a 7-11 in a general store atmosphere), then headed back down towards Oaklyn.

Between Haddon Heights and Audubon, I found a wonderful collectibles/antiques store called Act Two. Unlike the thrift shop, they were exclusively dedicated to some great junk (no clothes that weren't on dolls or teddy bears). They had toys, Golden Books going as far back as the 50s, a stack of those 40s and 50s cookbooks I've been collecting, a smattering of Star Wars items (a mint-condition kids' record-and-book of the original movie was tempting, but was six dollars and I don't have much money), Muppet items, Disney items (some looked like they dated to the 30s), Coca-Cola, Peanuts, fast-food and roadside icons, gorgeous old dollhouses, records, cassettes, a few CDs and videos, glassware and dishes...and that was just the stuff I actually got to look at!

I finally bought one of the 50s cookbooks (a low-calorie cookbook, proof positive that America's obsession with thinness did not begin during the 80s diet craze), a Chipmunks Christmas record, two cassettes (the 1973 Debbie Reynolds revival of Irene and the 1975 Pearl Bailey/Cab Calloway revival of "Hello Dolly!"), and the exact reprint of the 1950 Disney Cinderella Golden Book my sisters and I had when we were kids!

I had a very late lunch at the Merchant's Deli in Audobon. I had a huge turkey wrap. It was so big, half of it is now in my fridge. I wanted to say hi to Bob at the used CD store Abbie Road, but apparently he's only opened on weekends now. Oh pooh. Just as well; I want to have some money left for volunteering tomorrow.

I finally got in around 3 and went straight over to Uncle Ken and Bruce's to do the laundry. Everyone was home, including Jessa, Jodie, and Dolores. Uncle Ken ultimately had to go to a Lions Club meeting, but everyone else had tacos after I took a relaxing (if slightly chillier than last week) swim.

I'm so happy today went so well, especially after yesterday. It felt great to just get out and about on such a glorious summer day.

Oh, and the Camden County Library called today. They wanted me to volunteer for Vorhees, which is more than a half-hour away. I politely admitted I couldn't get there without a bus or carpooling and asked to see if they had anything in Haddon Township's branch. I'm just happy they actuall acknowledged my application this time, unlike February, when I applied and never heard a word.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Small Step For Girl and Muppets....

Finished The Muppet Show: Season 2 today. The standout episodes were Bob Hope (once again parodying real-life; apparently, Hope really did have to stretch his schedule to include the Muppets, hence the backstage plot with Hope there for two seconds and off to another banquet), Cloris Leachman (LOVED her and Link Hogthrob of Pigs In Space spoofing operettas - Link even looked a little like Nelson Eddy), and John Cleese (he made a great pirate in Pigs In Space).

I also thoroughly enjoyed the bonus features. The mock "interviews" with the regular characters, Pepe the Prawn, Rizzo the Rat, and a few I didn't recognize, were hilarious. I especially loved Kermit and Piggy's varying answers to the question "Are you dating?" Gonzo's admittance of his Muppet Show crush on Piggy was also a nice touch. That giant, John Goodman-like bear in the tie was pretty cool, too. (I need to find out his name, which was never mentioned...)

LOVED the Weezer video, especially the authentic recreation of The Muppet Show's backstage area.

I'm really glad they included The Muppet Valentine Special. It's the first Muppet "pilot," and it's a lot of fun. Though the only familiar characters are Kermit and Crazy Harry (here called Crazy Donald), there's a few characters who were prominent in the first Muppet Show season, and at least one skit that reappeared on The Muppet Show, too, the "Love Comes To Koozebane" skit. (Those baby Koozebanians at the end look like mini Elmos, and they're soooooo cute!) Mia Farrow can't sing, but she has a nice rapport with the cast and does a lovely version of "Real Live Girl" from the musical Little Me with sweet oversized blue monster Thog.

The rest of the day, once again, was not pleasant. Work remains an absolute pain. Early on, a mother and her son threw a fit because their food stamps didn't cover the pre-cooked fried chicken, and they annoyed me and got me so flustered until I finally took the chicken off. I never really recovered, and in fact was a nervous wreck for much of the rest of the day. I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE my job.

I did, however, work on The Monkee Knight this morning. Work is going slowly there, with more things now taking up my time, but it is going.

On the other hand, I reapplied to volunteer at the Camden County Library in Haddon Township. They seem bound and determined to not accept me, but I'll keep trying anyway. I wish there was an easier way to get to know people here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We've Got Them

Mostly spent the time I wasn't at work today watching more Muppets episodes. I'm now up to the fourth disc. My favorites this time were Rudolf Nureyev (boy, did I envy Miss Piggy when she got to duet with him in the sauna - and that "Swine Lake" ballet spoof was a scream), Peter Sellars (who wasn't lying when he told Kermie he'd been so many characters, he couldn't remember his own - he apparently told the Muppet performers he'd do anything to not talk about himself!), Julie Andrews (who joined the Muppets for a lovely version of "The Lonely Goatheard" from The Sound Of Music, and Elton John (the Muppets had a grand time making fun of his crazy costumes of the 70s and did some wonderful renditions of two of my favorite John songs, "Benny and the Jets" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road").

Other than that, the day was a pain. Work was quiet when I left and when I arrived...but in between, it got loonier than an episode of "The Muppet Show!" We had long lines and obnoxious customers for much of the afternoon (not helped by one of the managers being on her own for a while, as her helper called out).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer Wind

It was a glorious summer day here. Low humidity, decent mid-80s temperatures, and a cooling wind. Shame I had to spend most of the day working, but at least I got to ride to and from work. Other than a plastic flower vase spilling early on and much confusion with the coupon sales (I have the feeling I'm going to get very fed up with those coupons), there were no problems today. It was on-and-off busy-to-steady, but not as crazy as weekends often are here.

I watched a few more Muppet episodes this morning and when I got home from work. The Steve Martin episode was the unqualified winner. Martin and the Muppets had great chemistry, and with his "Wild and Crazy Guy" persona largely retired years ago, we may never get to see him do things like that balloon animal act again. Plus, the premise of this episode (Kermit auditions new acts) allowed for some more entertaining acts than usual, including a few that sent up the regular Muppet performers.

Other favorites include Madeline Kahn handling Gonzo's crush on her, Rich Little and his Muppet impressions, and George Burns discovering there are creatures on this planet even loopier than his late, beloved wife Gracie.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Most Inspirational, Celebrational, Muppetational...

First of all, as you can probably guess from the title, I splurged and bought The Muppet Show: The Complete Second Season today. I picked up Season One when it was released in 2003, and I'm really glad Disney finally got around to putting out more. (And could we have the rest on a more regular basis, please? I miss my Muppets!)

I watched three episodes after I came home from work and running small errands at Wal-Mart. The Don Knotts one was my favorite. Fozzie and Floyd Pepper expounding on "hipness" was hilarious. So were those hideous lime-green shades Knotts wore. (At least Fozzie's looked normal.)

While a few skits and characters from Season One didn't make it into Season Two (notably Wayne and Wanda and Helga the Wardrobe Mistress), better guest stars and more interesting recurring skits (including "Pigs In Space," which probably explains why Miss Piggy's fuzzy face is on the front cover) more than make up for it.

The rest of the day was variable. Work is still a pain, with several cranky customers and folks annoyed because they just didn't read the fine print on the big coupon sales for this week (I can already tell those coupon sales are going to give me headaches), but it was busy and went by fast. I stopped at a local pizzeria near Wal-Mart for dinner and had two broccoli and spinach slices. Bought a few small things at Wal-Mart, but not the Muppets. Turns out FYE had the better price, so I got it there.

I got a major scare riding home on my bike. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going and almost hit a car on one of the side roads going off of the Black Horse Pike. I was scared and upset and I felt like a fool. I should know better than to daydream on a major highway.

Some of my customers mentioned it had cooled off considerably since I arrived at work, but I didn't believe them until I walked outside and was hit by...cold air. It was slightly humid, but not nearly as much as the past week, and it was windy and cloudy. Matt at X-Entertainment is right. It does feel more like a night in October than August, and thank the lord for that! My first thought when I got outside was "I need a sweater!"

Oooh, and I posted this month's Monkees role play at Lauren's and my site.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

If Your Friends Are There, Then Everything's All Right

My best friend Lauren offered to go half with me on a new record player. No, she insisted. I wanted to pay at least part of it, since she's bought me plenty of things in the past. I have over 120 records now, and I really do want to hear a few of them every now and then, especially since obscure albums like "The Living Strings Play The Music Of Hawaii" or the Nelson Eddy version of "Oklahoma!" are probably not on CD or easy to find online. Not to mention records are cheaper than most CDs or downloads. They cost a dollar at the thrift shop in Collingswood, but I've picked them up for as little as a quarter from yard sales and libraries. I'll keep the larger Victrola-style stereo in the living room for the CD and cassette player, but I've had quite enough of the phonograph not wanting to work.

Speaking of Lauren, we finished the role play tonight. Look for it by the end of this weekend.

Otherwise, this was a rather annoying day. Work was a pain and a half. It was steady-to-dead, but many of my customers were cranky, grouchy, and/or obnoxious, especially parents whose children spent most of the last week inside due to the heat wave and were driving them (and me) up the wall. I also had to deal with a man who was clearly drunk (the scent of heavy liquor came off of him in waves) and threw a fit because he thought I didn't give him his money back, and that was all he had. The guy had me so confused, I'm still not sure if I gave him the right money or not! Apparently, his trailer burnt down two months ago, but he should be working things out with a counselor and financial aid, not drowning his sorrows and annoying people.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

End Of the Records

I just can't get the record player going. I tried my hardest today. I messed with the screw. I messed with the arm. I messed with the record I used. (My Bee Gees Greatest Hits set - about half of the songs are on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, so if something gets scratched on that one, it's not a huge loss.) It worked for five minutes, then slowed, and finally stopped...and would NOT start back up again, no matter what I did to it.

I'd like to get another record player, but I'm broke right now. I don't know why this one isn't working. I've only had it for a year and half, and the CD player and cassette player that are also part of the system work perfectly fine.

Today was even hotter and muggier than yesterday. I volunteered this morning. Apparently, they were swamped by donations yesterday (people on vacation doing things they've put off) and had a ton to do. I mostly went through winter clothes and put out the very few summer items we could fit, as the racks were overflowing. In addition to more records, I bought a large Wish Bear I threw in the laundry when I got home. (She was in good shape, but was dirty and had a small stain on her tummy near her symbol that came right out in the wash.)

I went swimming while I did my laundry. Boy, did THAT feel good. The water is 86 degrees, thanks to the heat. It was fabulous, and so relaxing. I was the only one out there for most of the time.

Unfortunately, I did not get to The Monkee Knight today. I'll see what I can do tomorrow.

Oh, and Lauren and I should be finishing the newest role-play tomorrow. Look for it this weekend or early next week!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer

The Camden/Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey area experienced it's hottest day yet. It hit 100, and the overwhelming humidity made it seem even worse. It was hazy and smoggy, even over here small-town New Jersey.

My original plan was to stay inside all day, wash the windows, vacuum and dust, and work on The Monkee Knight. I did do all of those things, but not for as long as I planned on doing them. The Acme called me in around 8:30AM. Apparently, some of the older women with back and leg injuries that would have been aggravated by the weather called out. I eventually got in around 11 and stayed until 3. Not only did I really want to clean, but the weather wasn't being kind to my own injured knee.

When all is said and done, I got in four extra hours that'll add greatly to my paycheck next week and I did finally get the (much-needed) cleaning done. I didn't work on the story for as long as I'd hoped I would, but we'll see what I can get in tomorrow.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunshine Come On Back Another Day

Ugh. The heat wave continues. There are now official heat warnings for the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, and while it wasn't quite as hot today, it was still massively humid, and I was still sweating buckets when I arrived at work. Work was busy, probably due to the beginning of the month and some major 10 for 10 dollars sales ending today, and we had a lot of obnoxious or just plain cranky people.

Incidentally, the Raid seems to have worked. I saw two ants this morning that may have been leftovers, but none since.

I didn't do much besides some quick work on The Monkee Knight this morning. I should be able to do more tomorrow, including more cleaning.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Down And Dirty With the Simpsons

Began cleaning today. I put it off last month because of my knee, and no matter what everyone says, I just can't put it off any longer. The apartment looks terrible; the bathtub and sink in particular were bad, and I was starting to get tiny ants around the crack between the sink and the small counter next to the stove. (In fact, this crack is right above the area under the sink that gave me mouse trouble in the spring.) I ran to the Family Dollar on the White Horse Pike to pick up some Raid before cleaning.

On my way home from Family Dollar, I stopped at the 7-11 for a Slurpee to combat the continuing intense heat. I've been getting their Crystal Light Passionfruit, which actually tastes more like Sour Watermelon than the flavor that claims to be Sour Watermelon and is probably sugar-free.

7-11's in the midst of a huge promotion for The Simpsons Movie. I don't care much about the Simpsons, but even I couldn't resist a promotion this big. As Matt of X-Entertainment mentions in this very breathless article at his site, some stores even converted into an all-Simpsons "Kwik-E-Mart" for the weeks surrounding the opening of the movie. The White Horse Pike store isn't one of them, but they still have a ton of Simpsons merchandise. I even bought a Squishee cup to go with my Superman Returns Slurpee cup from last summer. (It's the green one with Lisa, one of the few characters from the show I sorta like.) I saw a box of Krusty-Os on one half-price shelf, but despite the massive size, the front cover did not look appetizing.

Of all the Simpsons stuff 7-11's peddling this summer, the must-have would probably be the infamous pink-frosted donut. I hate donuts, but I figured today I'd have one anyway, just for history's sake. I like trying weird, unusual, and "limited edition" flavors of regular junk food. I think I'm one of the only people who liked that cinnamon-flavored Holiday Pepsi Spice they did two Christmases ago, and I was also big on Crystal Pepsi in the early 90s. I had to do it. I had to know what a pink frosted Simpsons donut tasted like.

I took a big bike the moment I walked out of the store. I managed to get through almost half of it before coming to the conclusion that, as cool as the Pepto-Bismol pink frosting was, it was TOO FREAKIN' SWEET! Blech. Like eating fifteen thousand pounds of sugar at once. I don't have THAT big of a sweet tooth. I ditched the thing without finishing it and concentrated on my Passionfruit Squishee instead.

Here's my simple version of the south-of-the-border rice dish you find in boxes in the stores. It's better for you, and tastes better, too!

Spanish Brown Rice

1 cup water
1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 medium plum tomato, chopped
1/8 medium green pepper, minced
1/8 small yellow onion, minced
2 small jalapeƱos, chopped (if you like your Mexican food spicy)
1 tsp ground red pepper (increase if you like your food spicy)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cilantro

Set water on high heat until it reaches boiling. Add rice, tomato, green pepper, and yellow onion. Clean and seed the jalapenos, then add them (keep the seeds for an even spicier dish). Add the spices. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and everything is blended.

Serves 2

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Market Day

I went to the Collingswood Farm Market today for the first time in over a month. It was even hotter and more humid than yesterday, but I seriously needed to restock my vegetable bin and especially my fruit. I bought blackberries, peaches, radishes, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, blueberries, a cucumber, a zucchini, farm-made blueberry butter, and bananas and plump cherries from a wholesaler. I'm enjoying the fruits my my labor - literally - as I type this. A bowl of glistening blackberries and blueberries topped with luscious Light Cool Whip sits in front of my monitor.

One of the few things I love about summer is the abundance of produce. From May to early November you can buy almost every fruit and veggie under the sun at produce stands and farm markets, often for cheaper than grocery stores sell them, and get them hot off the vine (or even hotter, for people with gardens). The peaches are big enough to play softball with. The berries are the color of jewels and burst with flavor. The plums have so much juice, you could probably get a full bottle from just the two in my kitchen. The tomatoes are ripe and smell warm, like they were in a dryer.

I came home for an hour to cool down and have lunch, then went to work. Work was steady, and there were some fairly obnoxious customers, probably due to this being the beginning of the month coupled with that big dollar sale. Unfortunatly, by the time I'd finished work and rode home, not only was I sweating buckets again, but my knee was really sore. I guess it's not up for two back-and-forth bike trips in one day yet.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Frying An Egg On The Sidewalk

THAT'S how hot it was today. Hot, humid, sticky, hazy. I was sweaty for an hour after arriving at work. I rode my bike to work today for the first time in a month. My knee is still sore but is better, I was tired of asking for rides, and I need the exercise. I don't care how hot it is. If you have to get to work, you have to get to work, and you can't always rely on other people to do it.

Work was very busy. It's the beginning of the month, and we're having a lot of weekend-only 10 for $10 sales. I actually got an extra hour in because my replacement was late (and still hadn't shown up even after I left). The morning was spent working on stories and doing Pilates.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Back In The Saddle Again

I'm slowly trying to return to my regular schedule. I volunteered today for the first time in over a month. My knee wasn't the only thing keeping me away - I've had a hard time fitting it in with my schedule, and there was vacation. I made up for it by donating a pile of books and my old DVD player and buying a pile of records, a book on Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, a US Acres picture book, and a stuffed folk-art bird.

It's also been over a month since I last had a counseling appointment. Scott and I agreed that, with my weight loss going well, it's high time I concentrate on the one thing I really want - getting a real job. I agree with my sister Rose that the best way to do that may be to muscle in on local volunteering. As much as I love my volunteer work at Erica's store, it just isn't helping me find jobs or meet people my own age. I'm going to do a more thorough online search, starting tomorrow.

Tonight...I'm reading Monkees fanfiction. It's so hard to find good Monkees fics online anymore. Most of it is Mary Sue mush, but this long-running tale at the MonkeesFic Live-Journal is proving quite interesting...

Goin' Down

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Out Of Place

I'm not really very good in groups, and family get-togethers make me nervous. Nobody ever knows everyone, or I don't know everyone. I don't know what to say to anyone over the age of 12. I feel out of place. No one else is ever all alone. They all have kids, or friends, or parents, or pets. They all talk about their jobs and their children. No one is ever single, and if they are single, they're dating or are much older than I am. I know Bruce and Ken don't mean to make me feel uncomfortable, but without football or something similar to distract me, I feel like a fifth wheel. Like I don't belong.

There were already people in the pool when I got there while my laundry was in the dryer, people I didn't know. Friends of Uncle Ken's girlfriend Dolores. I like Dolores a lot, but I felt weird around them. Later, some neighbors and their kids showed up to use the pool. I've only met them once. They were nice, but I'm not familiar with them.

I've been overeating a LOT lately, too. I've gone way over on Weight Watchers several days since I've returned, and I haven't been getting in the extra biking because of my sprained knee. That was part of the reason I initially turned down having dinner at Bruce and Ken's tonight. I've done it twice in a row, too. I did want to eat at home. I finally decided that chicken Parmesan and Caesar salad sounded good, and anyway I wanted to see my biological father open his (late) birthday present from Rose and me. Rose found him these gorgeous wine glasses and decanters in a variety of jewel-like colors. He's a wine connoisseur, and he loved them.