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Monday, January 18, 2016

Edible Litter from the Valley...

Afoot in the Valley over the years I've come across many a strange item lying alongside the Tualco Loop Road. Most castoffs have been tools. I've brought home screwdrivers, pliers, a wrench or two (mostly metric), one of which, a hefty box end, could well have been used in the assembly of a 747. Just lately a sturdy paint scraper,... nuts and bolts and other assorted hardware. Nails, tacks, and screws I toss far out into the field to spare a motorist the hassle of having to haul out a spare tire to fix a flat. Stolen mail, condoms still in sealed packages (and others that were not), coins in denominations from a fifty cent piece down to a penny, thirty-seven of which I found littering a yard-long stretch of shoulder several years ago. And believe it or not, some years back on the First of April I found $1,000 in a muddy zip-loc bag.

Day before yesterday what to my wandering eyes did appear but a Snickers candy bar lying in the grass just off the shoulder. At first I thought the wrapper was one more item of litter tossed there by a passing litterbug. On closer inspection I found a fully wrapped, intact Snickers bar, regular size, lying there in the weeds as if it had fallen off the candy shelf at the grocery. "Hmmm," I thought, "this wasn't here yesterday.

Snickers bars and I have a history. In my other life, when I did my best to teach sophomores English as a foreign language, I used Snickers bars as leverage: I dangled them over a struggling student, "If you pass this test, this Snickers is for you." I mostly used them to build rapport with my students in friendly wagers on sporting events, major league baseball match-ups, championship and World Series games in particular.Whenever a student in one of my classes had a birthday, I gifted him or her with a bite-sized Snickers bar in a pre-wrapped gift box ("I need the box back," I'd tell them). Although in all honesty I prefer a Payday candy bar over a Snickers, I picked up the lonely bar for nostalgia's sake, stuffed it in my pocket and carried the roadside gift home for further scrutiny.

Both ends of the wrapper were neatly sealed, as was the seam, and in spite of its lying in the wet grass (a day or two? Overnight? Since morning?), the paper wrap was barely moist. The contents were not squashed, nor was the bar broken in half. Regardless if the sweet hunk came from Wal-Mart or Willie Wonka's chocolate factory, its contents: 250 calories, 12 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of sat. fat, 27 grams of sugars, and 120 milligrams of sodium, remained well-sealed.

The question of the day: should I eat litter found lying alongside the road? But the the bar was still sealed in cellophane...not like it was opened, half eaten with a stranger's bite marks on the truncated remains. Not the same as fishing an uneaten slice of pizza out of a dumpster, was it? But still, the candy bar was lying in the wet grass just beyond the muddy shoulder of the road.... Do candy bars have expiration dates? That could be the all-consuming factor. Yes, they do. And yes it was....  Don't expiration dates principally apply to eggs, meat, and dairy though? And aren't candy bars sealed to keep freshness in? I rationalized the question to the point I could almost taste the caramel. However, I wondered, what if some sociopath injected the Snickers bar with some poisonous substance, a narcotic or worse yet, a laxative? A flimsy wrapper is hardly tamper-proof.

At this posting, the Snickers bar is cooling its heels in the freezer where it will remain until (it's my hope) I'll have forgotten all about it. And then, what a sweet discovery!

(If in the past three days you lost a Snickers bar in the Valley and would like to claim your property, stop by anytime. To prove ownership, though, you'll have to tell me the bar's expiration date. But for now, it's finders, keepers.)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Attic archives...

The holidays are behind us, thank goodness. Now we can look forward to the excitement of the New Year...if, that is, you're one who finds filing the past year's tax returns exciting. Here on site at The Ripple we have the halls undecked, the trappings packed away in bulging totes, and I've been creaking my way up the ladder to the attic one tote at a time.

The last of Christmas to be packed away is the exterior illumination, the strands of lights that while they herald holiday cheer, also illuminate gutters sorely in need of power washing.The three strings are nearly as old as the house. A few sockets are deadouts but those are hardly noticeable during the day. I can hang the seventy-five feet of lights in half an hour, remove them in fifteen minutes thanks to the hooks I strategically placed in the fascia boards when the gutters were new...and clean.

I coil the strands one at a time in a well-worn Sunbeam mixer box, the contents of which are now a ghost of Christmas past. Gently, I nest them between layers of newspaper yellowed with time, sepia toned--old news for sure. The years pile up one on another, and each season as I layer the strands one at a time, I pack the news of yesteryear around them.

One by one I layer the sheaves dated 1983 to 1991. Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, was wrapping up his administration then, about to turn over the reins of the U.S. government to George H. W. Bush (The Vacation President). The pages crossed the presses two and a half decades ago, ten years before the horrific event which bruised and scarred our nation. Two of the newspapers no longer exist in hard copy: The Seattle P-I and Times thump no more on your doorstep or daily fill your paper box but have hopped on the internet bandwagon.Two pages of  Monroe School District's newsletter The Pipeline (Vol. 8, #2, Dec. 1983), separate one of the strands. The Pipeline, too, I believe, is now defunct.
What I have in the tattered box is a time capsule of sorts. Ads show the inexorable march of inflation. Haggens (in Monroe: here today, gone tomorrow), for instance, had bacon on sale for ninety-nine cents a pound. At today's prices, a buck might buy you two thin slices. Priced appliances lately? In 1991 at  Everett's Judd and Black, you could buy a Whirlpool kitchen range for less than $500.

And back then imagine slipping a mobile phone in your back pocket. You might as well have sat on a brick.
Consider the financial markets in the days when the cardboard sides of that Sunbeam box had integrity. From the finance pages of The P-I, vintage 1991: DJIA 2934; S&P 500, 456; NASDAQ, 536. Spot gold a steal at $358 an oz. Oil, $18 a barrel.

And "current" events? The presidential election of 1992, for one (Trump? Who's Trump?). Andrew Cuomo trims his aspirations political to the mayoral environs of NYC; no master and commander of the Free World for Andy. On the home front some things never change. The Seattle School Board, always embroiled in one controversy or another, acting in the best interests of biology and adolescent hormones, decided to distribute "prophylatics"to its students.

And locally, the Monroe S.D. was hoping to refresh its coffers by mounting yet another school levy: public schools, underfunded then; underfunded now; the 3 R's don't come cheap. (At the launch of fiscal 2016, our State is sitting on a 1.3 billion dollar "rainy day" fund: the State gets richer; the schools--more children.)

One of the wrinkled pages of The Post-Intelligencer I smoothed and read proved to be a coincidence. Beneath a half page color photo was an article about Seattle fast food entrepreneur Dick Spady, founder of the iconic "Dick's Drive-in." Dick's had celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Just this past week the drive-in's founder and namesake passed away at the age of ninety-two.

Ninety-year olds are often asked to share the secrets of their longevity. When I look at the cheerful Dick Spady, calorie-packed 'shake in one hand while holding 780 calories of tasty 'burger in the other, I'm fairly certain I've discovered one of his secrets for a long and happy life. On that ending note The Ripple wishes one and all a healthy, happy New Year.