There are those moments in life that reinforce the idea that everything is going to be all right. I had one of them yesterday.
If you read me often, you know that I always tell the following story in connection with these events. Back in 1990, I was Joan Menard’s speechwriter. It was supposed to be a tough year for Democrats. Part of my daily task list was to go to the Post Office Box, collect the checks, make the deposits, and record the info on the campaign finance form.
Predictions of doom and gloom were everywhere. We had a loud although unorganized opponent who could be dangerous if the mood didn’t change. That was until the one morning when I went to collect the checks. Suddenly, I had the Cancer Research PAC check in one hand and the Tobacco Industry PAC check in the other hand. I knew we were going to be fine. What happened yesterday gave me a similar feeling.
I have not put recyclable bottles out in front of my house since February. The paper and other plastics go out in the recyclable bin but redeemable bottles do not. Why?? Two skirmishes took place at 4 am during consecutive weeks between bottle collecting “professionals”. Enough was enough.
After that, a new ritual began. I would wait until I got a case of writer’s block. Then I would gather the bottles together from the previous weekend or whenever and walk them up to Hannaford’s to buy a bottle of Dr. Perky. Like most of the Dr. Topper, Dr. Wonder, Dr. Whatever spinoffs out there Dr. Perky is the Hannaford’s knock off of Dr. Pepper. It is actually better than the real stuff. Even I cannot drink Vanilla Coke all the time.
The other cool part of Dr. Perky is that is just chemically bad enough for you that it cures writer’s block. There’s some to be a connection there. Those Hostess Bavarian Crème pastries also have the same effect due to their chemical evilness. Who know that back when I thought my writing was based on the hunting down of intensely powerful hallucinogenics like Ayahuasca, all I had to do was stockpile RC Cola and those Debbie’s Brownies with the walnuts in my pantry.
So I bagged up the bottles and headed out. Turning in battles at Hannaford’s is always an adventure because you never know which “regular” you might run into. My favorite is “Little Blue Riding Hood”. This roughly 90 year old Bosnian woman in her blue kerchief who really doesn’t speak but mouths a lot of words, smiles and giggles a lot, claps her hands often, and when really happy points to the sky, is an absolute bottle collecting gangster. Get behind her and you might there for a while.
So as I am making my way up Mohawk Street, this Asian gentleman in an SUV notices me. Lowers his window and says, “You turning those in?? Wanna see a high speed machine?? You don’t want to feed those one at a time. Here, let me show you . . .” He in then invites me to enter the vehicle bottles and all.
Before anybody judges, remember I am a sucker for an adventure. Every cool story in my life started where I said yes where someone else might have said no.
I also have my own way of living and past to take into account. I regularly enter crackhouses, go searching for addicts and the mentally ill under overpasses or in abandoned buildings, and converse with the possibly dangerously psychotic all the time. You cannot bring a schizophrenic to recovery until you are ready and willing to identify with their demons in their world. My own diseases let me walk with other demons in different cloaks daily.
In the past, I regularly bought huge amounts of drugs in the presence of firearms. Funny thing about large quantity drug sellers – they have lots of enemies. Getting caught in some sort of crossfire happens more than you might expect. Not that I’m proud of it, but I’ve driven drunk over 5000 times, including 3 car rollovers and I survived all of those. Cheated on my first wife before we got married and woke up with a knife pointed at different parts of my anatomy before I could talk my way out of it. Oh yeah, there was also that time I got arrested in Tijuana and spent some time in a jail there. In short, if my Higher Power wants to take me out at some point, I figure “Serial Killer posing as a Business Owner from another country who wants to garner a new customer” is not the way it’s going down.
So I got in the car. We drove to Bleecker Street. The whole way there, my new friend told me who cool his machines were. Speed was an important feature. We pulled into the driveway of the redemption center on Bleecker Street. The business, like most successful small businesses, is family owned and family run.
We went in and he cut me in front of the line. 29 bottles and cans, Vanilla coke again, at 10 seconds each would have taken almost 5 minutes. His superfast machine did the entire job in 30 seconds.
Then he had a wrinkle. He inviting me to spin this bicycle wheel he has hanging by the register. Turns out you can get up to 8 cents for each can instead of just 5. I didn’t but it is a neat wait to close out “the sale.”
Of course because I want there, I had to go to Price Rite for my soda. Love the store for many things but we have to talk to corporate about the soda choices. They are Pepsi only. Figuring the whole experience was a “spiritual shove”, I went with the Grape Crush.
I’m not saying I will always go to Bleecker Street now. I would be more likely if there were another “Coca-Cola vendor” in the neighborhood. That’s a hint. Yes, Price Rite is part of my 5 store stop for groceries with an option. Every two weeks, due to product placements and prices, you can regularly find me in Hannaford’s, Price Rite, Dollar General, Price Chopper – you can literally steal fish, and Wal-Mart which has the lowest price on Vanilla Coke. I also add in an Asian market or a Halal meat shop. How many other locales outside of Utica offer that much choice?? Not many. Ha I say.
The moment I walked in the redemption store, I knew life after the downtown hospital was going to be ok. Why?? Here’s this guy who wants a new customer, and positive word of mouth, so much that he presents this way. Who could ask for anything more??
The enthusiasm and passion of his efforts are going to lead others to do the same just via his example. I am willing to bet if some of us learned how to speak more languages, we would be more aware of these efforts going on. It is the want of immigrants to succeed in America, one of the reasons I hate that both local “talk” stations are nothing more than hate radio 21 hours a day, which becomes the foundation of American way of life. Fear not Utica – we have everything we need to succeed right in front of us. Sometimes it speaks a different language or has a different back story than we do but it is still right in front of us.