Posted tagged ‘souvenirs’

“The world is quiet here.”

July 24, 2017

Today is rainy and cold. It is sweatshirt weather, closer to early spring than late summer.  My papers were soaked from the middle to the bottom. I have a large front parking space, but the carrier managed to throw them in the only puddle. The plastic cover was useless. Like in the old days, my fingertips had printer’s ink on them.

Gracie had a tough morning. She woke me when she was throwing up. Her head tilt was extreme which caused her dizziness. I grabbed her as she was having trouble walking and put her on the couch. In a few minutes, she had her small tilt back so we went out in the rain while she did her morning business. I got cold waiting.

I find the whole idea daunting, but I have to go out today. From experience I know rainy day roads will be the stuff of nightmares. There will be lines of bumper to bumper cars filled with tourists looking for something to do. They’ll gawk, and their heads will swirl from one side of the road to the other, a mimic of the Regan head moves in The Exorcist. Today will be shop for souvenirs day, maybe a Cape Cod t-shirt or more appropriately for the weather, a sweatshirt. How about some salt water taffy? It is most decidedly not a day to go the movies. That’s for sunny days, for beach days.

I like the quiet of today. I like the dark house. It seems to surround me, to hold me close. I remember being on vacation in Maine one summer when I was young. I remember a rainy day. I wanted quiet from the noise in the house so I took my book and went to the car where I stretched out on my stomach on the back seat. I read all day. The rain on the roof and the windows was soothing. I fell asleep in the car on a rainy day in Maine.

“Always be smarter than the people who hire you.”

July 14, 2017

The windows and doors are all closed. The day is dark, damp and chilly. When I took Gracie out earlier and waited until she was done, I got cold. I was thinking sweatshirt weather. It may rain.

The first summer I ever worked was just after high school. With college in the fall, I had no choice but to get a job. I worked at Woolworth’s in Hyannis, a huge store on Main Street. I had no specific job title but moved from the cash register to counter after counter except for the lunch counter. I spent the most time in the corner where the small animals were housed. My job was to clean the hamster and mouse cages, feed the fish and refill the inventory. It sounds like a gross job, but I was by myself and seldom bothered by the manager which made it ideal. I learned to separate the mother and the babies from other hamsters because if the mother got nervous she’d eat her babies. They were ugly babies. Most of them lived but I never took credit for raising the inventory. Once I worked the souvenir counter which was filled with the tackiest souvenirs, most made in China. A guy once came and bought something then tried to scam me with dollar bills. He kept a running commentary of the amount of money between us hoping I’d get distracted or confused so he could trade a few dollars for a 20. It didn’t happen. He took off quickly when I called for the manager. My favorite part of that job was the lunch counter where I ate most days. The hot dogs in the grilled rolls were my favorites.

Every other summer I worked in the Hyannis post office. It was good money in those days. My job was to sort piles of mail into smaller piles of mail for specific destinations. I started working the primary board where all the mail started. I had a rubber thumb to help me sort the mail. The stool was angled toward the board. The slots in the board were open in the back but had some rope across so the mail wouldn’t fall on the floor. Sorters would come and take the mail back to their boards for further sorting. The mail for sorting came in two foot trays. The worst was a tray of postcards. I swear there were thousands of them on a single tray. I did have some fun as any postcard which had a message but wasn’t addressed I’d sent to a friend or a neighbor. Postcards with postage due also got sent. The worst thing about those post cards was when they were cancelled. Because they were so thin, a pile would go through the machine at the same time and only the first postcard would be cancelled. I was a quick sorter so the foreman would bring me the postcards. I told him they’d better be cancelled. Many weren’t so I just tossed them on the floor. They piled around my stool. The foreman would come, say nothing, pick up the postcards and put them through the cancelling machine again. The last summer I worked there, going into my senior year in college, I was offered a full time job. I didn’t take it.

I spent the next summer in Ghana.

“A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.”

July 29, 2016

Rain! Finally we have rain, a gentle but persistent rain.

I shut off the air conditioning and opened the windows so I could hear the rain falling on the leaves. The day is extremely dark. I needed a light when I read the papers. The only light now is from my computer. The day is quiet. Rain does that, mutes most other sounds. According to the weather report, it will rain most of the day, and the Cape is under a flash flood warning.

It is only 72˚, the coolest day in a few weeks. I like having the doors and windows opened connecting me with outside. I was happy to turn off the air conditioner.

In the paper this morning I learned a new word for a grouping. The reporter wrote, “A flock of purple, white and red balloons was released.” Who knew many balloons were designated a flock?

I can’t imagine being on the road today. Tourists will be out and about trying to find something to while away the hours. Movie theaters and their parking lots will be filled so some cars will be parked outside the lots on grass and beside all the roads leading to the theaters. Souvenir shop owners love a rainy day.

During college summers I worked in Hyannis. It was crowded with people even on rainy days. Tourists didn’t seem to mind the weather. Cars crawled on Main Street in what looked like rush hour traffic. All on street parking spaces were taken. The store with the most customers sold penny candy, now a nickel or a dime. The Planter’s Peanut store also had a line of customers. I think they were drawn by the aroma. Every restaurant had lines. My favorite was the deli.

I’ll find enough around the house to keep me busy. I do need to make a dump run, but I’m not anxious to fight with the traffic. The dump is a few streets and three long lights away and one of them means waiting a few cycles before I get the green light.

A nap actually sounds good for today. I always think falling asleep to the sound of rain drops is the best nap of all.

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

March 14, 2014

The day is bright with sun but it’s a cold morning, a 25˚ morning. Icicles hang from the edges of my roof. Snow still lies on the ground but the roads are clear. The weatherman says tomorrow will be a warm day. We might even hit 50˚,  but this winter has made a skeptic of me. I don’t trust a warm day. It’s Mother Nature toying with us. She probably giggles when a warm day makes us hopeful knowing that the cold is just biding its time, waiting for its turn. It’s inevitable.

When I was last returning from Ghana, my carry-on was so heavy I couldn’t lift it into the bin. I asked the man beside me, and he was quite happy to help, but he did mention how heavy it was. The reasons were two pottery bowls and a few other breakables I didn’t trust to my checked luggage. The bowls were nothing fancy but are common ones for grinding peppers or ginger.

Souvenirs are tricky. When I was a kid, I tended toward pennants, magnets or plastic gewgaws made in China. Each had the name of the place we were visiting. I remember buying snow globes and plastic dolls dressed in regional costumes. Quality wasn’t an issue for me.

From the beach I brought home colorful shells and dead starfish. The shells stayed around a while, but the dead starfish would start to smell, and my mother would make me throw them away. The round nautilus type shells were always my favorite.

When I was in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, I bought cloth and had it made into dresses which I wore every day. They weren’t really souvenirs. I sent home as gifts wooden animals, heads and giraffes. Ghana didn’t have any giraffes. I bought leather bags and woven baskets, but I used them. One basket became a lamp shade. When I was leaving Ghana, I bought a whole collection of the African Writers’ Series, a fugu (smock), some cloth and not one gewgaw. I would have bought a snow globe but it would have been weird to find one in Ghana.

No matter where I have traveled, I’ve bought souvenirs. Among them are a pottery tea set from England, platters and dishes from Portugal, wooden figures from Russia, cloth from Ghana, a tagine from Morocco, curtains from Dublin and a tablecloth from Hungary.

I didn’t think about it when I was buying everything, but in retrospect it seems as I had grown-up so had my souvenirs.

“There are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes.”

July 11, 2013

Last night I re-entered the world. I went to my first Wednesday play of the season. We always have dinner at a friend’s house first so I bought a few appies then drove, a new adventure for me, to Harwich, had dinner then went on to Chatham. Wouldn’t you know it but this play had three acts so I sat far too long. By the time I got home, at close to 11, I was exhausted and the house was stifling. I closed windows and put the air on. Gracie was panting, a barometer of sorts about the heat and humidity. It was close to 12 before it was cool enough to go to bed. I slept until 9:30 and am still tired. That first foray into the world has exhausted me.

We have a breeze and we have rain, not a lot of rain but rain nonetheless. The breeze is enough that the chimes hanging from the trees are making a sweet sound. I have all the windows and doors opened. Gracie loves it as she can come and go as she pleases. Even if I could muster the energy, l’d go nowhere today as the roads must be clogged with tourists looking for something to do. This is the summer of the tourist. Cars are everywhere. I’m guessing people have a bit more money to spend, and the cape is a great spot not too far away and one with all sorts of accommodations and restaurants and then there’s the ocean, the beautiful ocean which surrounds the cape.

I didn’t get my first job until the summer just after I’d graduated from high school. Back then none of us worked summers. Until I moved to the cape, I lived in a town which didn’t offer a lot of jobs for a teenager even if you wanted one. Parents never pushed. We just had to live on the paltry allowance they gave us. We managed.

The summer after high school I worked in Woolworth’s in down-town Hyannis which was a huge store. It had front and back entrances and a long counter for food. I remember the menu slots on the wall and the plastic menus with pictures of the food. I usually took my break at that counter. Working there was an okay job as I worked all sorts of places in the store and wasn’t bored. I worked the jewelry counter, the register, the pet corner and the souvenir section. The only problem was it didn’t pay a lot, but I could understand why as it didn’t take a whole of expertise or talent to work there. The pet section kept me the busiest as I had to change cages and feed the animals every day. There were fish, birds, hamsters and Guinea pigs. Little kids used to come to see the animals and watch the fish. The register was an okay spot to work. I could make change which made me a valuable employee. The souvenirs were mostly from China and included shells, fake driftwood, small boats and t-shorts. People bought a lot of souvenirs. I worked there until Labor Day which gave me a few weeks off before I had to go to college. All in all, it wasn’t a bad first job.


“Souvenirs are perishable; fortunately, memories are not”

October 6, 2011

The house was really chilly this morning. I was nestled under the covers, and Fern and Gracie were right beside me sharing their warmth. When I came downstairs, I decided to turn on the heat for just a while to warm up the house. The heat didn’t go on. I cursed. Nothing riles me more than stuff not working, stuff I have to call an expert to come and fix. I wish my family was more diverse. I think every family should have an electrician, a plumber and a generalist who can fix most anything else. It should be a rule. I know this will cost me big just for the guy to walk through the front door. I suppose finding out before it got really cold was a lucky break, but then people break arms and legs so that word has its downside.

Summer is making a return engagement this weekend. Each day will be in the 70’s. I’m thinking it’s  a farewell present.

My house is filled with stuff which has meaning only for me. The living room is mostly Ghana. A green basket I brought back home with me forty years ago sits under a table. Gold weights are on another table. Next to them is the top of a linguist staff and an old oware board leans against the same table. Finger bells are on the hearth. You put a round piece on each thumb and a bell on one finger of each hand to play it. I bought it in the market. I have paintings from Ghana. A couple were done by the art teacher at my school, Yao Blisah (though I don’t guarantee the spelling of his name).

In here are bags made from Bolga leather, a distinctive red and black leather still used. You can see boys working with the leather in some of my recent pictures. On the wall I have an old Bolga hat made of straw with a tie of that red and black leather. It’s a funky looking hat with straw straight up all over the woven part. I have an adrinka cloth my school gave me when I left. It is my prize Ghanaian possession.

Lately I’ve been thinking about putting together an album of pictures of all of these mementos. I’ll write stories about why each piece of Ghana is dear to me. I figure maybe they’ll become dear to someone else too.

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