Friday, September 29, 2006

Ikea -- part three

Who would understand that it has taken me so long to find three items? I waste too much time; that’s my problem. I suddenly want out of Ikea immediately. I think I see a way out and head in that direction. I don’t need magazine holders, a kettle or muffin tins. I am almost to the opposite side of the floor when I encounter a large blinking yellow button on the wall and pause to look at it.

A woman’s recorded voice, soothing as a surgical nurse as she puts you under, asks, “In the dark about the best way to light the home?” A small boy holding a sucker stops to listen also. He reaches up with short sticky fingers to touch the button but his father yanks him away. I press the button; lights flicker at different intensities in the small showroom, highlighting different areas.

“See how important lighting is,” the woman’s voice says. “An overall wash of light helps you get ready for the day. In the bedroom, the right light helps you select clothes in the morning. In the office, the perfect light makes the job easier.”

I haven’t replaced the dead light bulb in my bedroom closet for months and yet my fingers twitch. They want to touch the yellow button. I want to see the lights flash again. Get out! a voice inside shouts. Get on with your life!

I take the stairs down to the “Market Place.” I tell myself, I will look one last time for my three items and if I can’t find them I will leave. I will stay focused on what I need, what I came to Ikea for. I pass crates of picture frames, multi-colored plastic trash cans, clear plastic storage boxes. I pause by a heaping pile of plastics bags containing small white candles in metal cups. “100 Pack Tea lights” the sign next to them reads. I pause and pick up a bag. The candles are small and delicate, like little silver disks. I imagine tea lights placed all around my room glimmering softly as I fall off to sleep and burn down the apartment.

I find myself next to a multilevel display of can openers. Hundreds of them. I pick up one. It’s sleek and efficient looking without all the goo and hardened cat food in the metal parts - $5.95. Do I need a can opener? I consider. Ours looks like something found on the ocean floor with the Titanic, all rusted with immovable parts. But I haven’t come for a can opener, I remind myself. Still wouldn’t it be nice to open a can of cat food without dislocating a shoulder? I should never have come to Ikea. I lack the strength of character, the mental fortitude. There are simply too many choices. As I stand considering whether to invest in a can opener, I notice an orange sign up ahead. “Be Yourself -- Ikea”, it reads.

People always tell you this -- be yourself, like that will solve everything. But what if yourself wasn’t so hot? What if you were missing a few nuts and bolts. What if all the pieces didn’t fit together just right. What then Ikea? I am so tired of all the thinking. I drop the can opener into my empty yellow Ikea bag and move forward.

I scan the Ikea horizon for someone who doesn’t appear lost. I spot a woman employee in a green smock in the center of the room. I walk over to where she stands. She’s looking through a catalogue of merchandise and filling out a form. She doesn’t appear to notice me. I shift a little to my right to align myself with her eyeballs should she care to look up.

“Excuse me, please. Can you help me?” I ask after a few moments.
“One moment,” she says holding up one index finger towards me. I notice the pad on the finger is wide and flat as if she’s been pressing buttons all her life. I check my watch. It’s almost twelve-thirty and I have -- what? -- a can opener.

She flips through a catalog shakes her head, crushes up the form she’s been filling out and tosses it into the garbage can at her feet.
“My first day,” she says.
"They’re the worst,” I say, although I wouldn’t mind a first, a second or even a last day on any job right now. I ask her where I might find magazine files, muffin tins and kettles.

“Well,” she says tugging on her smock, stalling for time. She looks left,
then right.
“How about we try down here,” she suggests at last and turns left. We head toward a room full of big, leafy plants, clay pots and patio furniture and wander through rows of shelves stacked high with boxes. A man driving a forklift beeps for us to get out of his way. I hear cash registers up ahead. I check my watch. I consider finding someone else with more experience. Finally, she leads me back to where I started almost two hours ago at the top of the escalator and points to a stack of wooden magazine files.

“How could I have missed them?” I shake my head. There’s stacks of the
unfinished cheaply constructed files for $5.99 a piece.
“Can’t see for looking I guess,” she says.

I think she’s as happy to have found them as I am. I pick one up and examine it. I can see right away it’s too small for Linda’s magazines. In fact it’s not what I had in mind at all. I’m so tired of dead-ends and circles. I follow the arrows to the registers with my can opener.
“Just this,” the cashier asks reaching for a plastic bag.
“Just that,” I answer. “No bag.”

In the parking lot, shoppers force boxes into trunks that are too small. I open the door, toss my can opener on the passenger seat and head to the grocery store. Tonight we're having soup, canned soup.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ikea -- part two

“Excuse me, please,” an urgent voice comes from behind, as I approach the glass doors to the Ikea entrance. A woman pushes a shopping cart about the size of Kentucky past me. A skinny kid stands in the front of the cart and leans his body forward like a hood ornament.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize and give her room to get by. She steers toward a clear plastic container mounted on the wall and takes a pencil, a cloth measuring tape and a yellow and blue pamphlet titled “How to shop @ Ikea.”
A central bin contains huge yellow canvasy bags with sturdy blue shoulder straps. I figure these bags are for all my Ikea purchases but they are so bright and colorful, so summery, I fancy stuffing it with a towel, a swimsuit, and heading off to the beach for the afternoon.
I call Linda on my cell phone.

“Ikea has shopping guides.” I tell her. “They explain how to shop.”
“We definitely need those,” she says.
I can hear her radio in the background. I like her private office. She has cycling pictures on the wall and a small window overlooking the street. Why can’t I have a job like that? I could be happy in an office with a window where I could play my music at a reasonable volume. In fact, I would be content with any job at this point. I would do anything asked of me. Give me a stapler, I’ll staple. Sometimes, I sense that Linda doesn’t think I am trying hard enough to find a job. But I am trying I really am. I sometimes browse the Career/Personal Growth section at Barnes and Nobles, skimming Interviews for Dummies. and Damned Good Cover Letters! I don’t tell her that I get so dismayed with my employment prospects that I inch my way over to the travel section and slobber over guides to the Greek Isles.

I open “How to Shop @ Ikea” and read: “Where to start shopping?”
There are numbered steps, an explanation of the various colored tags I will encounter and a blank “Shopping List”. I take out my stubby yellow pencil and write down magazine files, kettle, muffin tins. This shouldn’t take long I consider and head toward the escalator. Large yellow letters painted on the side of it read “Start Shopping Here.” Well, alrighty!

The escalator delivers me into an expanse of living room furniture. Cozy miniature showrooms line the perimeter. The center of the floor is crammed with furniture in a haphazard fashion. It's as if I am walking through someone’s home. A large family lives here but they have gone out for pizza, or a movie, perhaps. There’s a photo of them framed on the dinning room table, next to a lamp which they forgot to switch off. In the picture, they are happy and blonde and have a golden Labrador. There is the blanket they left on the back of the couch in front of the television on the chronically fatigued green cabinet for only -- oh my -- $195. Automatically, my fingers begin to fondle price tags. I run my hand over a leather couch. This happy blonde family has really, really great taste. I suddenly want all of their furniture.
Move along, and inner voice says, you haven’t any money.

Large blue arrows painted on the floor direct which way to walk and I notice everyone is moving in the one direction. But I can’t tell what direction that is. Am I moving in a big circle, or a straight line? Suddenly I realize I’m standing in a cozy bedroom . When did the scenery change? When did I leave living rooms? In this bedroom the lamps are dimmed. On the night table is a photo of an elderly tanned couple – their hair tousled as if from standing on their Princess cruise line balcony. A thick white terry robe hangs on the bathroom doorknob as if someone has just stepped from the shower. In the dresser, shirts hang on sturdy wooden hangers. No wire hangers at Ikea.

A young couple enters the room and sits on the edge of the bed. The woman is pregnant and wears a tee-shirt that reads “I’m with stupid” with an arrow pointing from her swollen belly upwards. The man stretches out on the bed and puts a can of Coke on the night stand.
“S’nice,” the woman says and runs her hand across the quilt.
“Yeah,” he says. “real nice.”
She glances around the room, her eyes passing over me as if I am a piece of furniture she is not fond of. I've been etched out of her Ikea fantasy. In fact, it's as if I am not standing there at all.
“Rub” the woman says putting her leg across the man’s lap.
“Mmm,” she moans and closes her eyes. I move away quickly following the arrows.

I am in a room filled with all sorts of chairs: brightly colored kitchen chairs, comfortable arm chairs, business chairs with sleek black cushions. Their designs are clean and simple but I suspect reassembling them with the provided nuts and bolts will cause permanent brain damage.
A woman sits in a sturdy wooden chair with her purse in her lap talking on her cell phone.
“I ate a whole pint,” she says. “Cherry Garcia.”

I feel that I am the only one in Ikea with a specific purchase in mind. But yet I have no idea where I am going, or where I will find my items. However, I feel that I will find whatever it is that I am looking for in only a matter of time. The Ikea warp: a misguided sense of certainty in the face of pure chaos.

To my right, I hear a strange, repetitive creaking sound and stop to look. Inside a large glass case, a well-padded red chair is pummeled by a wooden paddle as wide as the average America rump. I step closer. A digital readout inside the glass case counts the number of time the chair has been whacked. So far it’s up to 365, 427.
A woman shopper stands next to me and we watch silently for a moment. Her yellow Ikea sack is empty like mine. Why isn’t she at work I wonder. I size her up. Is she a pathetic unemployed slob too?
“Makes you wonder doesn’t it?” she says.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“How much the poor little chair can take,” she says.
We both stare at the chair far too long. She disappears into Home Entertainment.

I notice a cafe to my right. A sign in Swedish reads, “Lamna ragna hat. --Time for a snack? Leave your cart here.” Am I even hungry for Lamna ragna hat, I ask myself. I am wary of the unemployed tendency to overeat. I walk through the dining room see what the Ikea shoppers are munching on. It’s definitely not Costco fare: boiled potatoes and meatballs in a pale brown sauce. Table after table, strapping men in 49’ers jackets and Britney Spears look-a-likes are eating like Swedes. Ikea warp.

“Excuse me,” I ask a man in line for the cash register holding a tray of food. “What exactly is that?” I point at the puddle of brown liquid on his plate.
“Manager’s special,” he says pointing to a menu on the wall.
“$6.99” I read. Not a bad price.
I get in line with the other shoppers. Steam rises up and wets the glass sheilding the food. I inch closer to the woman with the large metal spoon manhandling the meatballs. Scoop. Plunk. Scoop. Plunk. I’m reminded of the summer job I once had serving food to cheerleaders at a cheerleading camp. Perhaps, I consider, as , I should look for work at Ikea. Surely I could find work here.

While I wait for my serving of meatballs, I imagine going to some small office in the basement for an interview. I see myself seated across the table from the dayshift manager. There are ashtrays filled with cigarette stubs, packets of ketchup, salt and pepper, a “How to Shop @ Ikea” pamphlet folded up and shoved under the table to keep it level. The manager with a thin caterpillar of a mustache will ask why I wanted to work for Ikea. What can I offer Ikea? I imagine no words coming out of my mouth as my mind is seized by the image of that poor padded red chair walloped into infinity. Suddenly, a light goes off. I don’t want Swedish meatballs. I don’t want to work at Ikea.
“Excuse me, please. Excuse me,” I say and push myself out of the line.

the saga continues...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ikea -- part one.

January, 2002.
After three months of unemployment, I craved any small task that required me to brush my hair, put on socks and leave the house. The cat wanted me out too. I was making her chase way too many balls. She collapsed on the floor and let the balls bump off her head.

“So, what are you gonna do with yourself today?” Linda asks one morning during my unemployed period.
“Well,” I say, “I should really see about the clutch on my car.”
I like to use words such as “should” or “must” when listing my plans for the day. I find these words convey a sense of urgency mixed with drudgery, capturing -- I feel -- the essence of full-time employment.

“Or,” I hesitate trying to think of something I could do to spruce up our little home. “I should try to find some magazine files -- at Ikea.”
I kick the bulging cardboard box of VeloNew cycling magazines that has been occupying the hallway for eons.

“Ikea?” Linda says surprised. We’d seen the new structure growing like some concrete blue and yellow wildflower at the side of Highway 80 for months but we’d never ventured in. We’re not shoppers by nature. Things in our apartment generally have to decompose and enter the food chain before we replace them.
“Ikea?” she says. I see immediately that I’ve hit upon the Mother Teresa of good deeds. “You really want to go there?”
“Sure, why not,” I offer, full of good cheer and idleness.

I call my sister to tell her I’m going to Ikea. She’d just moved down from Seattle and said whenever she was depressed with her job, the rain or her bangs, IKEA snapped her right out of it.
“Just go, you’ll see,” she says when I call her. I can hear her crunching toast and sipping tea.
“And while you’re there check out the stainless-steel kettles for me.”
“What do you need a kettle for? Don’t you have a saucepan?”
“You’re starting to sound like Ghandi,” she says. "Unemployment will do that to you."
“Why don’t you come with me? I need moral support,” I suggest.
“Can’t. Gotta work today.”
“Where?” I ask. She’d been out of work since January when all the temp
work dried up.
“Landscaping” she says, “Okay, weeding, really, at the Botanical Gardens. At least it’s outdoors.”

After we hang up, I feel the job envy creeping over me. How come I can’t get a job weeding? What’s wrong with me? I call my friend Donna. She’d just opened a baking business. I was hoping she’d offer me work but I was afraid to ask because I knew nothing about baking and didn’t especially want to learn. I tell her I’m going to Ikea to look for magazine files for Linda’s cycling magazines.
“You’ll want a gun,” she says. She’d gone to Ikea in search of partitions for her office space. “It’s like Dante’s Inferno. Endless circles of hell. Kids bouncing on beds, sliding through holes in walls. You’ll get lost in living room displays for days.”
I can hear her hitting the keyboard on her computer in sharp, fierce strokes. She hates the computer as much as I hate shopping.
“Well, it’s not like I have much else going on right now,” I add hoping she’ll pick up on the unemployment fumes wafting off of me.
“Yeah, that’s true,” she agrees. "Hey, I need a muffin pan. See if you can find one of those large ones. I’ll pay you later. “

I drive my pickup down 80 toward the Shellmound exit. Large yellow and blue flags flap in the freeway breeze. I make a right on “Ikea Entry” and park. It is 10:30. If I shop for two hours, I calculate, by the time I get home it’ll be time to go to the grocery store to shop for dinner. My day will be filled in a healthy, productive, economy-boosting fashion.
“Excuse me, please,” an urgent voice comes from behind as I approach the sliding glass doors to the Ikea entrance. A woman pushes a shopping cart about the size of Kentucky past me. A skinny kid stands in the front of the cart and leans his body forward like a hood ornament.

To be continued

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I went and filled up my old truck with $33.54 in gas before my ride last Sunday. Today I find an additonal $100.00 deducted from my account by Valero on MLK and University.

Am I the only one who wasn't aware that gas stations routinely block a chunk of your checking account so that oil companies are guaranteed to get their money?

"We want to make sure that we're protected, that we get payment for the gasoline," says BP's Howell -- a quote from a very interesting article.

so let me get this right: $100 smackers are deducted from my meager checking account for three days to guarantee that BP (earnings topped $22 billion last year) gets their $33.54 outta me. Wells Fargo says "most likely" the $100 will be back in the account by tomorrow. Gee, now isn't that swell?

Nice cozy arrangement between Wells Fargo and BP -- especially if I go make a purchase (say a gun?) and become overdrawn (which has never, ever happened, huh Ippoc?). The Wells Fargo overdrawn buzzards will surely come swooping down for a feast then.

I tell ya.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Linda said i should blog today about how i refused to wear a camelback this Sunday on my first long group cross ride in Marin with a bunch of very experienced riders because i didn't want to look like a dork. She said I should write about how i brought only one small water bottle that i put in my back pocket, and how i when I rolled up to the meeting spot in Mill Valley, I counted 24 camelbacks. I told Linda I would not write about how i didn't refill my little water bottle at the first and last rest-stop for the next 3 hours. And how with the heat and dust, and more heat and dust, and much guzzling from my small bottle of liquid, how i ran out of water. Or how the inside of my mouth turned to paste and my lips stuck together for the last 1.5 hours of the ride, how i felt like a lost soul in the Sahara tipping my water bottle above my outstretched tongue waiting for a trickle of moisture to fall, how i went up to a perfect stranger in the group and asked "culd oo pleath por son waffer in my boffle?" and how i would not let him stop pouring and how that wretched lukewarm, piss-colored liquid was like heaven on earth. I said, no, i wouldn't blog that because i would sound like a dork, which i am.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

one righteous dudette

I remember hearing a recording of Ann Richards, Susan Faludi, and Molly Ivins talking. Ann Richards told this funny story:

"Right after I was elected governor of Texas, we were in turmoil trying to put things together, hire staff, move into the capitol office, and move from my house to the Governor's Mansion. In the midst of all this, we got a notice that the Queen of England was coming to Austin. It is a real undertaking to entertain the queen. We had to go to entertain the queen school to learn how to act around her. Secret Service flew in from Washington to tell us where we could and could not go and what we could and could not do. On the day she was to arrive, I was in my office at the capitol when I got the call saying the queen was at the airport. I went tearing down the stairs and running across the rotunda to meet her on the capital steps and my mother's voice went through my head as clear as as a bell saying, Where do you think you are going, to see the Queen of England?

And I thought, Yes, Mama, I am!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

more thoughts on veganism...and Berkeley

these are some billboards that Ippoc found in Berkeley. Berkeleyans care very much about animals and passed a law that declared that people were not the "owners" of their pets but rather their pet's "guardians".

personally, I suspect we are Minnie and Daisy's handmaids: "You don't like that brand new 99 cent can of fish filets? I'm terribly sorry. Shall I open you another?"

We don't like that Andronicos sells eggs from abused hens or that red peppers are $6.99 a pound. At the Berkeley Bowl down the road prices are cheaper. you could fill up a Toyota King cab with red peppers and it'd only cost about fiddy cents. but i always seem to get in a fight in the parking lot with some vegan in a volvo who wants my spot. and then there's the aisle clogging shopping carts, and the unfriendly staff at the bulk section.

but we love the animals and feel bad for eating them. we're going to try to be kinder, gentler veganer people.

...better Berkeleyans.

But until then, here's a picture of a particular Berkeley species we see often in our West Berkeley hood. they park on our street and head around the corner to the Bikram studio with their portable yoga mats slung over their shoulder. we call them yoga-fucks...

We have much growing up to do.

Monday, September 11, 2006


So Sunday morning before we were out of our pajamas, we booked a cruise to Mexico. How'd that happen? Ask Linda. She reads the travel section first. Her stepmom who is 93 and has been on a gazillion cruises says we won't want to go on any other kind of vacation ever again after we go on a cruise. Now there's a frightening thought. I think we're too young and maybe 80 pounds too light to be doing the cruise thing. But maybe we're simply in denial. Maybe going on a cruise is the first step into geezerhood. and the second step, most definitley, is watching two hours of the Travel Channel all about cruise ships which i did last night. I don't think I'd like to go on the Disney cruise. Kids up the wazoo is not my idea of fun. And i wouldn't like to go on the Queen Mary 2 and cross the Atlantic because I think in the middle of the Atlantic seeing nothing but water in every direction i might freak out and ask the captain to kindly please turn the boat around. "Let's not put on weight," I said to Linda which is kinda like going swimming and saying let's not get wet. but the food did look pretty good. "we'll go underweight," Linda suggested. "good idea," I said. as we watched the cruisers dancing the "Hustle" i must admit i felt a little queasy. "let's definitely not do that," i said. "No," she said and patted my hand, "we don't want you doing the Hustle." but seriously, i am looking forward to sitting on our private balcony sipping wine with linda.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Vitameatavegamin Vegan Cafe

we went to dinner last night and had some wine. two resolutions merrily squashed in one go. sometimes you just have to say fuck it. so we did. we went to Trader Vic's, birthplace of the maitai so it's said. one sip and i'm right back at the Islander on the Beach in Kauai swimming in their little pool with the lanterns and the warm wind there's this crazy loon of a lady at another table. she looks not so loon like from a distance, but her loud "shit" to no one in particular gives her looniness away. Upon closer inspection she looks quite messed up. Linda said she wasn't a loon but was wearing one of those stupid blue tooth things. i was a little disappointed. I wanted a loon. then i asked linda "what if she can't pay?" it seemed like a brilliant idea for a homeless person, hungry and in need of a drink. wear your best homeless clothes and go to a stuffy place like Trader Vics and eat and drink till you're full then tell the staff you have no money. "What are they gonna do, throw you in jail? then you have a place to sleep and free food." Linda gives me a funny look and says "normal people don't think that way." Anyhow we ordered some wine after our maitai. Linda likes to say that she has "bellavision" when she gets a little buzz. "I got me a bella" she says. I always have bellavision. Anyhow we start planning our future which always involves a plan to leave this messed up country and move to Europe. I have dual citizenship, thanks to my papa being Scottish. We talk about how my job is not getting me anywhere and we ought to open a vegan cafe that serves nothing but vegan food. (her pork chop has yet to arrived at this point.) "soy milk, vegan muffins, vegan pizza, nothing but vegan," she says. "Okay", she says, "here's the plan. We've got a four pronged approach." She holding out three fingers. The loon from across the dining room lets out another "shit!" Basically the plan is that I'm to find a job at Peets, get into the cafe business, get a small business loan, open up the vegan cafe, and then we move to Spain and open a cafe there. "we'll call it "Vitameatavegamin Vegan Cafe" after the I love Lucy espisode, she says. Sounds like a plan to me. We head home and it's decided that prong one requires that I go rent the I Love Lucy vitameatavegamin episode and for some reason i ask to wear her silly BlueTooth thing from her job so that i can call her from the video store. she says yes which i attribute to her bellavision. I pop it over my ear and head out. In the car on the way to Reel Video i try to give Linda a call. "Linda Locke" I call out. "Did you say Tom Gall?" "No, Linda Locke!" "Did you say Tom Gall?" "No!" I repeat louder. I'm sitting in the parking lot now. "Tom G-" "No! No! No!" A man holding his kid's hand gives me a sideways look as he passes the car.

So, that's our plan.

Friday, September 01, 2006

days of wine and roses

it's so hard to come back from a vacation and start working again. we've been easing into the daily rutted routine by continuing our vacationing habits with gusto. I believe we've only eaten at home twice in the past two weeks.

we've been dining out, plonking down credit cards like there's no tomorrow and perhaps there isn't. and recently Linda has learned that "real" people have a cocktail before dinner, then wine with their meal -- a practice we've taken to like fishies.
but then i read how VeloBella and the man have been guzzling 2-3 glasses a night and well that just sheds a whole new light onto our wineaux ways. have we been holding ourselves back? could we have guzzled more? we surely could have. but unfortunately, Linda has to take some nasty meds for her arthritis and these do not mix well mojitos. so we are hopping on the wagon and cleaning up our act.

So tonight we're staying home and cooking -- uh, after we going shopping. But then, by jove we're cooking... something.