ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP – #31 SCALE

On a scale of 1 to 10, asked the survey, how do you feel about our delivery service?

I have been a patron of Amazon for quite a few years. Maybe eight or nine at this point? They have always been easy to work with. They’ve had their issues, of course, and there have been bumps in the road, too. I’ve gone with them over the bumps to the smoother paving down the road and I really thought we had worked it out.

Then, they decided to add their own delivery service because … well … money and all of that. Amazon Logistics was going to be their own special delivery service. This would be the one who could get you your package in 24 hours, even on Sunday or a national holiday. Good idea. Unfortunate location.

It was a perfectly reasonable theory, but they didn’t understand there are places in this world where the standard GPS doesn’t have a real grip on location. It thinks all the roads are driveable. Maybe if you are in a jeep and very careful about the swamps through which you are passing and you never stray off the narrow road, you might get here. If not,  the mud will joyfully suck your car all the way to your door frame.

The Blackstone Valley is that kind of place.

We get deliveries. We get deliveries almost daily in non-snow months. I do a lot of my shopping online. We are both getting older. Not hauling heavy boxes and having them delivered make life easier. UPS, FedEx, and the USPS are daily visitors. They have no problem finding our house or getting our packages to the table by the rear garage door. But their drivers know the area and they know to not take the back roads.

No one goes on those back roads unless they are afoot and looking for interesting photos … or their dog really loves that swampy smell.

Logistics, on the other hand, has yet to find us. Ever. They sometimes deliver our packages to other towns. Our neighbors. The middle of the woods. A number of them have simply disappeared, never to be seen again. Moreover, they have set up this cool delivery service so you can see the truck on which they have loaded your package and follow its movements as it advances towards your house. In theory.

Yesterday, I had a package coming. Free 24 hour delivery — so what could possibly go wrong?

I watched the truck from when it was up in North Uxbridge. They said there were six more stops before us. We are always the final stop.

I watched the truck as it left its delivery point and supposedly head for our house. It was about 2 miles away. All the driver had to do was turn around, get back onto Route 146A, drive one mile. Make a right. Go one more mile and voilà, there we are. You can see the house and the driveway on Google. It’s a little harder in the summer with all the leaves on the trees, but we aren’t hidden behind a fence or a hill.

And, as I already mentioned, UPS, FedEx, and the post office have no problem finding us. Apparently, neither does Google.

Our delivery woman headed — not towards the main road but via our most twisting, tiny roads which wander through woods and swamp. They will, if you know how to do it, eventually– after crossing the Misty Meadows Golf Course — get you here. It’s not the shortest or easiest easy way to get anywhere in this valley, but if you make manage to make it to the other side of the golf course, go straight ahead on Chocolog Road. You’ll be in our driveway chick-chack. We are a blink away from the golf course. You can walk there from here. Even I can walk there from here.

She didn’t go straight ahead onto Chocolog road. Obviously hopelessly lost, she made a left back onto West Street and headed for Milford. Into the “delivery instructions” box I typed “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY! TURN AROUND!”

She didn’t turn around and the truck trundled on towards Milford.

“No, no,” I cried into my computer. Then I got myself on the phone to Amazon. For once, it didn’t take me an hour to find their number and I very quickly explained that the truck had gone in the wrong direction and was leaving my town and heading who knew where. I wanted her to come back. Now. Before my package vanished, never to be seen again.

Eventually, I realized that by some kind of magic, the truck had landed in my driveway. I was still ON the phone with Amazon. I then realized she wasn’t getting out of the car to deliver the package. I took the phone and the Amazon lady with me. Barefoot down the steps and up the gravelly driveway to the vehicle.

“Give me my package,” I said. It was late, almost seven. I was hungry. I’d been awaiting the package all day.

“I can’t give you the package,” she explained, her voice sensual with her lovely West Indian accent. “I need your access code.”

Access code? What access code?

“Is the package addressed to this location?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Is it addressed to Marilyn Armstrong?” I questioned.

“Yes,” she said, “But you need an access code.”

What access code? I’ve never needed an access code for Amazon or any other delivery service. Not even when Apple was delivering two computers.

By then, Garry had arrived. I could see that blood was going to be spilled in my driveway that warm summer evening.

“Give me my package, ” I said, gritting my teeth. “Give it to me.  Now. You are at the right address and I am the designated recipient. You are NOT leaving here without giving me the package.”

“Let me speak to her,” said the Amazon Lady.

An argument ensued. Eventually, I got the box, which was labeled “oversized” even though the item inside it was a small, still camera. I guess they ran out of normal-size boxes. I let it pass. “Just give me the box, please. Now.”

She handed me the package, worried that she had not gotten whatever code she thought I should have. She had already noticed there wasn’t any code on the box, so I’m not sure exactly how she would know if I had a code or not.

As I trundled back up the stairs — my feet felt sandy and stuck with little pebbles — the Amazon Lady said she was going to try to make them never send Logistics to my house again. I said that seemed like a fine approach and I was very sure it would be a good solution.

So.

On a scale of 1 to 10 — what would you give this delivery? 10 for the helpfulness of the lady on the phone? Or minus two for whoever designed the GPS for the driver.

Suggestions?

NEVER A SUSPECT – MINI FICTION ON A HOT DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Suspect

You’d never guess his true occupation. A mild-mannered man. Easy-talking, casual. You’d have him over for coffee without even thinking about it. Played folk songs on his old guitar which he carried in a heavy-duty case.

You wouldn’t give that case two-seconds of thought, either. Clearly, he valued his guitar — and indeed he did. It was a Martin. A good one, probably 50 years old and who knew who might have played it before he bought it at a musical instrument auction.

He was a man who held values dear and thus he valued, even more than his nearly antique guitar, the far more modern AR-15 he carefully stowed underneath the guitar. It was broken tidily into sections. Easy to put them together and he could do it in seconds. It lay wrapped in carefully cut foam packing underneath the instrument in a well-protected part of the case.

Oddly, the broken-down gun was light. No one guessed there was more to the case than they expected. Flip (his real name was Philip) never told anyone to not pick up the case. His natural ease made his real intentions impossible to guess or even imagine.

Playing songs at parties wasn’t giving him quite the sufficiency of recompense he needed for his comfortable, middle-class life, he had a second livelihood with a much high pay grade.

Assassinating people.

It was so easy and it was all done on cell phones. No one saw his face. No one knew his name or where he lived.

That gave him the funding he needed and left him more than enough to put something by for his eventual retirement. It never crossed his mind that anyone could discover his field of endeavor. Now in his mid-forties, it was probably true. He was a well-established musician and an internationally famous and nameless gun for hire. To the right people.

He wasn’t greedy. He only killed when he needed money and he didn’t kill unless the person he was killing “needed killing.” He thought of himself as one of those old western-style heroes. When someone needed killing, he was the man.

He liked to think he was ridding the earth of its worst vermin. It was possible he had a point. The people he “took out” were, in his opinion, evil anyway and no one was going to mourn their loss. He had some occasional collateral damage, but every business has its burdens.

He grieved when he was forced to take down someone not on his list and he made sure widows and children were cared for. A good insurance policy is more than worth its price. It was hard to argue his point of view … unless you happened to be his target.

Then you could argue, but you’d never win.

GOING TO THE DOGS – Rich Paschall

Chicago Dogs, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have seen a baseball movie that depicts the hard life of the minor league player.  Bull Durham (1988) may be the most entertaining.  It shows the fictional life of players for the North Carolina team, the Durham Bulls.  One Player (Kevin Costner) stays around the minors for many years, while one rookie (Tim Robbins) makes it to “the show.”  Aside from the love story and the humorous moments, the movie shows that minor league baseball is not exactly glamorous for most.

Nevertheless, there are currently 256 minor league teams associated with major league teams, and a long list of independent teams in eight leagues that have no Major League Baseball (MLB) affiliation.  This means there are a lot of players who will never make it to an MLB team (aka “the big leagues” or “the bigs.”)  All these minor league teams represent a lot of major dreams, but why would someone play independent baseball hoping to make it to “the bigs.”  Major league teams already have 5 or 6 minor league teams they follow.  Better yet, why would someone start a new independent team in the face of so many independent team failures.  How many area teams do we need?

Impact Field pregame

With two major league teams in our hometown, (White Sox and Cubs), another major league team just 90 minutes north, the Milwaukee Brewers, and at least five area minor league teams nearby, you would think that building a new stadium and starting a new minor league team would be a crazy dream.  But there are baseball lovers willing to try it.

The Village of Rosemont, located alongside Chicago and next to a part of O’Hare airport, has added to their list of ambitious projects by building a brand new 6300 seat stadium, Impact Field.  The cost was 60 million US Dollars.  They sold the naming rights for a dozen years and immediately have a team to play there, the Chicago Dogs, as in hot dogs.

Last winter when we were Christmas shopping at the nearby Fashion Outlet, we saw the location of a soon to open hot dog stand that was also promoting baseball and Chicago Dogs merchandise.  We did not realize then that baseball was coming on the other side of Interstate 294.    I took little notice as they were not yet open for hot dogs.

This year the Dogs joined a string of Midwest, Texas and Manitoba teams in the American Association.  After 3 games in Sioux Falls and 3 in St. Paul, the Dogs opened Impact Field on May 25, 2018 with a game against the Kansas City T-Bones.

Out view of the opposition

We saw the Dogs face off against the Texas AirHogs in June.  Texas has entered a partnership with the Chinese National Team (Beijing Shougang Eagles) and much of their team is from China.  In fact so much of the roster is from China, we heard the Chinese national anthem before the game as well as our own.

Before the game, I started in the right field corner and walked the entire concourse. Unlike most parks, you can circle this field and end up where you started.  I found there was an adequate number of places to purchase your Chicago style dogs.  These come from Vienna Beef, the popular home town hot dog maker.  They have been here since 1893 and no hot dog stand is worth its celery salt if they don’t have Vienna dogs, but I digress.

Along my route I stopped to chat with one Chicago Dogs employee who noted that some of the players have spent time in “the bigs,” while others still hope to get there.  Some want experience to become coaches or managers some day at the major league level.  This employee mentioned a few famous examples, including Hall of Famer and former Cub, Ryne Sandberg.

Game time

One Chicago connection on the team is outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., son of the former Chicago Cubs shortstop.  Another is Kyle Gaedale who is related to baseball Hall of Famer, Bill Veeck. The colorful Veeck worked for the Cubs and planted the ivy in the outfield in 1937.  Years later he was the owner of the Chicago White Sox.

The mascot is a giant Mustard bottle, seriously.  Maybe you wish to have your picture taken with mustard.  There was also a ketchup bottle roaming around but we do not put ketchup on our hot dogs…ever.  In addition to luxury boxes, a must at any new stadium, the stadium has party areas, a Kids Zone, a restaurant and of course, a merchandise store.

There are promotions every day for the inaugural season.  Fireworks on Thursdays and Saturdays.  There’s a giveaway every Friday and kids can run the bases after the game.  You might want to go on Mondays however and be early.  The first 1500 fans get free mustard.  What could be better?

The main drawback is actually the location.  The busy district of Rosemont can barely accommodate more traffic.  Without much land to use, the park has a three-level parking lot alongside.  On a day with a small crowd, it was slow getting in the lot.  I can not imagine how they do it when the park is full.

The story needs a Boston angle for Marilyn and Garry and we have one.  The manager of the team is former Boston Red Sox player Butch Hobson.  Butch was drafted by Boston in 1973 and made it to “the show” by 1975. He spent six years with the Red Sox, a year with the Angels and a year with the Yankees.  Hobson made it back to Boston to manage the Red Sox from 1992-1994. He is still colorful and still likes to argue with umpires.  We’ll see if he gets tossed out of more games than the Dogs win.

LOOKING UP: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: From Below

Looking up is an interesting concept when you live in a town where a two and a half story building is really tall.

Nonetheless, there have been mountains and occasional trips to Boston have given me taller building.

Beacon Hill – almost a tall building
Osprey on the way home
A tall Saguaro and the sun about to set
52-stories up
One little plane up in the air

EVER WILDER GROWS THE GARDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

I didn’t go out for two days because it was raining. When I went out today, it was obvious that the rain had fueled the flowers. Now the lilies have taken the field, along with an astonishing display of red roses.

Even the pink roses — which I didn’t prune because I couldn’t get to them — are flowering with surprising intensity. There are dozens of new columbine shoots. No new flowers, but I think they will come.

There are also a lot of new spiderwort shoots, but again, no fresh flowers. Yet. They have many buds, so I’m expecting flowers are on the way.

Daylilies and Fred Flamingo
Bright daylilies
And the tractor ….
Daylilies with roses along the edge with Fred, standing guard
A daylily on a rosy background
Daylilies with red roses 
FLOWERS OF THE DAY – DAYLILIES