Bless the IRS

1040-form

There it was in my mailbox.  The dreaded official looking envelope with the hateful return address, “Internal Revenue Service.”  What could this be, I wondered?  A thank you letter from my Uncle Sam?  No, he doesn’t send thank you notes for paying what is perceived as due him.  He doesn’t send love notes either.

He DOES send party invitations – only he calls them “tax audits.”  With trembling hands I picked up the envelope. Oh, God!  I’m being audited!  I instantly felt a sense of dread.  I hate dealing with all that financial stuff anyhow. I’m creative, not detail oriented.  I thought I had sorted all the deductions and credits and shuffled my official papers for the last time this year.

I had carried my brown envelope of receipts faithfully to my tax accountant, unable to deal with the torture of filling out a return myself. I brainwashed myself into believing that “CPA” after the tax preparer’s signature was insurance to keep the auditors away, similar to the way the cross is protection from Dracula.  So much for that fallacy.

I coughed up my tax dollars, sent in my neatly prepared return and filed away my receipts in the legal folder way back in April.  So what now?  Visions of hungry auditors danced in my head like demons. I made my quarterly payments – on time. What did they want?  Blood?  I rushed to the files where I keep important papers, head spinning. I must have made a terrible error some place.  I thought I had been careful. I meant to be careful. What if I hadn’t been careful?

I recall the time years ago, in desperation for a job, I went to interview with the IRS. No joking around there. By the time I got out, I felt like I’d been audited, though I’d actually only been interviewed. I must have flunked miserably because I didn’t get the job, or even a second interview. Thank goodness it was a job and not an audit. I’d probably still be paying.

In my limited circle of acquaintances, the people who seem to get in the most trouble tax wise are those that are self-employed or try to run their own small business, make a few bucks, and don’t have the expertise or inclination to keep up with things adequately. It all goes okay for a while, then one day the IRS catches up with them. By then they are thousands in the hole, the business has gone under from poor management, and they are broke. They cut a deal for payments and end up paying every month for the rest of their natural life.

I couldn’t be thousands behind.  No way.  I even hired an accountant.  I’m a good American.  I pay my taxes.  God bless the USA.  Where’s the flag?  So what is this danged envelope doing on my table?

Okay, I’ll open it. Hum, doesn’t mention anything about an audit. Five pages long, very impressive. None of it makes much sense, though. Sounds legal. They must send the same word processing letter to all of us tax evaders… er… citizens, whether it applies to our particular case or not. They just fill in the different figures from individual returns.

“We have refigured your taxes.”

Delightful and what possessed them to do that?

“You claimed an incorrect amount as credits.”

Huh?

“You owe $146.92 as shown in your tax statement below.”

I’m so happy it isn’t an audit, I practically kiss the envelope and can’t wait to send the $146 (including penalty) and get them off my back. Never mind that I can’t figure out what I did wrong.

“If you think we made a mistake, please call us,” it says.

Oh, right!  I’m gonna argue with the IRS and get audited every year for the rest of my life.  Funny thing, though, the money they say I owe was from the rare time that I ever actually received a refund. It was suppose to be applied to the next year’s taxes. It says so right there on line 67. I just don’t get it.

I stew for a while, and finally decide I’m paying an expert. If the CPA can’t protect me from Dracula, maybe she can at least explain the bite marks. So, a desperate FAX and a phone call later, and guess what?  She doesn’t get it either.

“Don’t pay yet,” she advises.

Easy for her to say.  I’m the one going to jail.

“Give me your power of attorney.  I’ll call them.”

So… here I am in a dilemma.  Do I pay money I don’t think I owe?  Do I argue?  Do I hope it can be settled amicably?  Do I dig in my heels and fight?  Is my sanity worth more than $147?

God bless America.  I love the IRS!

©2000 Sheila Moss
Posted in Finance, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Yankee in Nashville

travel trailer

 

A fellow humorist and writer always looking for a easy pun, made an interesting comment the other day:

We would love to go visit my niece in Nashville, but I’m afraid we probably wouldn’t all fit in her apartment and we’re too cheap to spring for a hotel. I wonder if there are any trailers for rent in the area?

Naturally I took offense.  There it is again, a pun about the South and the insinuation that we all live in trailers.  Interesting question, though.  Wonder if he COULD rent a mobile home?  I decided to pursue the question.

I was somewhat amazed at the ingenuity of thinking of renting a mobile trailer home.  A quick check of the Metro Nashville yellow pages directory revealed a few choice locations with mobile home rentals.  We cover our bases here. Before y’all come down, though, be aware that they require an application, credit check and expect a 90-day lease.  Be careful what you call a trailer too.  Unless you want something to haul your boat around with, or have a semi-tractor that needs a back end, you could end up with something other than what you have in mind.

Nashville, contrary to popular opinion, is nothing like the image portrayed in popular culture.  Actually, it is a rather modern, cosmopolitan city.  Metro Nashville includes the entire county of Davidson, having expanded years ago to take over the surrounding small suburban communities.  We still have a “country” image.  Nashvillians work hard maintaining this image and keeping the tourists coming. There’s big money to be made from entertainment and tourism.

Too bad you are gonna bypass the Opryland Hotel. It is one of the largest and most touristy places you’ll ever see. Numerous walkways through atrium gardens, including fountains, canals, and waterfalls are the main focus of the multi-billion-dollar complex called a hotel.  Even though are staying at the trailer park, I suggest you at least go look at the hotel.

Opryland Park, the amusement park where I used to ride roller coasters, is gone.  They bulldozed it down to build a fancy new shopping mall for you tourists.  You probably have seen malls before, so I’d just skip it. By the way, most of us locals are still mad about Opryland Park being torn down.  It’s a sore subject around here, so I wouldn’t dwell on it too much.

The Grand Ol ‘Opry is still here and it’s what most of the tourists come to see.  Even if you hate country music with a passion, don’t fail to see it while you’re here.  It is the best professional entertainment show in town – plenty of country music folks all doing their best hillbilly entertainment routine, just for you.  Don’t expect to see them after the show, though.  They probably don’t live in Nashville, and if they do, they have well guarded estates.

You might enjoy a trip to 2nd Street. It is a seedy old section of town that has been refurbished, more or less, for tourists.  You can two-step at the Wild Horse Saloon or buy an overpriced hamburger at Hard Rock Café. The Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Opry, is in the area. Stop in at Tootsies Orchid Lounge, a famous dive bar on lower Broad, where country music stars used to quench their thirst in the olden days. The Tennessee Titans’ new stadium is downtown. When there is a game, the locals flee downtown for their lives while herds of sports fans take over the city.

We are a historic city. General Grant’s army occupied Nashville for most of the war, you see.  We avoided much of the devastation incurred by other Southern cites and also established the useful skill of being able to endure Yankees.

So y’all come, ya hear!  Bring your families, bring your boats, bring your campers, bring your cameras, and especially bring your money!  Our Southern hospitality runs just as deep as your good credit. Do we take care of our tourists, or don’t we?

©2000 Sheila Moss
Edited for length
Posted in Entertainment, Southern Humor, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dollywood Dolly

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Hooray for Dollywood! Okay, I got that out of the way. Just had to say it. I did it, went to the Mecca of Tennessee tourism, the redneck Disney World, Dollywood, number two tourist attraction in the state in be-u-ti-ful Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Why Dollywood? Cause this is Tennessee, folks, and Ms. Dolly herself owns it – Dolly Parton. Yes, THAT Dolly

My partner, bless his heart, never quite grew up and he still just LOVES these adolescent havens of hedonist thrills. We were in the area anyhow for other reasons, and being so close to a theme park was more than he could stand.  Actually, I’ve gotten to where I rather like roller coasters too, so I went along, just in case they had one.

Now, to the park’s credit, there are plenty of things that mature adults might enjoy there. They focus a great deal on musical shows and entertainment.  Tennessee is well known for its talented musical folks and they were there in abundance, singing, dancing, toe tapping and guitar plunking – normal entertainment fare in these parts. Even Dolly’s family had a show.

Unfortunately, not being normal mature adults, we hit only a couple of the shows. Yes, we rode the rides – like teenagers, like idiots! Problem is that most of the rides were water rides. I don’t mind getting splashed. That’s part of the fun. DRENCHED is another matter. SOAKED is another matter. HALF DROWNED is the reality of the matter.

The water racing coaster, the Slidewinder, I think they called it, was fun.  Whoopee! Like a bobsled. But, stay out of that Blazing Fury fire and water ride thing. It seems harmless enough. But I was sitting in the front seat when we hit the water. A tidal way hit me right in the face. I didn’t even see it coming. As I went down for the third time, I wondered how I’d missed the diving board. Floating out the door, I waved goodbye to the friendly attendants. As I emptied a small lake out of my tennis shoes and blew my nose, I wondered if Dolly ever really rode this thing.

Only one thing to do at this point, get on the roller coaster and blow dry.  They had one, a metal triple upside down loop type, called the Tennessee Tornado. Funny, if  I shut my eyes tight enough, I can’t even tell that I’m upside down. Kinda like being in Australia, I guess.

The souvenirs are slightly above average. The Smoky Mountain area is famous for  crafts and craftsmen. Problem with buying stuff at a theme park is carrying it around all day, or getting it wet. I looked, but saved my bucks for elsewhere. Well, I guess you could count the caricature I bought from the street artist. I looked so stunning all soaking wet with my big hair plastered down that he had to use a LOT of imagination.

Personally, I like to go out to the nearby craft community and try to cut a deal with the craftsmen. Heck, I found a place in Cosby with fantastic quilts, all homemade, not the imported kind. They saw me coming with tourist written all over me, of course. Probably the camera around my neck. I did manage to escape after buying only one country quilt.

While, I’m on the subject of Dolly’s East Tennessee enterprises, I might as well admit that we also hit her “Dixie Stampede,” a music show with horses.  Something about trying to eat and watch a glitz and glitter horse musical didn’t work for me. The food was good enough, though it was all eaten with our hands, hillbilly style. I think it was just the horse smell and food together.  Actually, I spent most of the evening trying to figure out how the horses did all that running around in the dirt without making any dust. I’ve still not figured it out. Frankly, I enjoyed the pre-show better than the main attraction. The bluegrass banjo picker and fiddler were just plain talented.  The county is “dry,” i.e. serves no liquor. You know, family oriented. Ever had a virgin frozen margarita?

So, that’s the scoop on Dollywood. I’d rather spend the day hiking. Smoky Mountain National Park is just right over the hill, but if you’ve got kids or a honey like mine, they are gonna make you go. Hey, at least I didn’t do the discount mall. If ya go, stay away from that fire and water ride or take wetsuit and a snorkel.

©2000 Sheila Moss
Posted in Entertainment, Southern Humor, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Brand New Woman

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Everybody could use less stress, so I’ve formulated a plan. Yes, I’m gonna get the stress outta my life. I’m gonna be a brand new woman in 12 easy steps:
Before I can take care of anyone else, I have to be okay myself. It is easy to be caught up in doing for others and forget about myself. So, I’m gonna buy myself a new dress. I’m gonna go the doctor for a checkup, and then I’m gonna have my hair done.
I’m gonna wash my hands of other people and quit trying to fix them.  I’m going to quit dropping hints and making helpful suggestions. I’m gonna let my family deal with their own problems, and my life is going to get a whole lot simpler.
Why do we get away from doing things that give us pleasure in life? I quit doing art a long time ago. I don’t know why – it seemed like there wasn’t enough time. But it gave me pleasure to create. I’m going to take a giant step BACKWARDS and see how it feels.
Alcohol might make problems seem better for a while. However, it does nothing to get rid of whatever is causing stress. I’m going to avoid “self-medication.” I know drugs make problems worse, not better.
I’m gonna cut myself some slack. Does anybody care if the closets are cleaned except me? I’m going to be more flexible. I’m going to take time to enjoy a sunset, play with my pet, or call a friend. I’m gonna quit demanding more from myself that I would from others.
I’m going to accept that I can’t always be in control. Some things are like the weather; we just have to live with them. It doesn’t really matter whether I always have things MY way. Let someone else have his or her way. What does it matter? In fact, let it be nobody’s way – but just the way it is.
I’m gonna plan ahead for events I know will be stressful. I’m going to allow some time to unwind after it is all over. I’m gonna do like the income tax accountants who give themselves a mini vacation for making it through April 15th.
I’m going to set small goals, something I can manage with driving myself nuts. I’m leaving a few things till tomorrow. Instead of trying to spring clean the whole house, I’m gonna clean out one drawer per day. I feel relieved already.
I’m going to take more breaks. When I achieve something, I’m gonna reward myself. When I went to college, I studied for a test and after a certain amount was studied, I stopped and ate a fudgesicle. Life needs more of these fudgesicle breaks.
I’m not going to feel sorry for myself. If nobody gives me a compliment, I’m going to praise others and compliment their achievements. I’m gonna get a big glass bottle and a bag of marbles. Every time I accomplish something, I’m gonna put a marble in the bottle. When I feel unappreciated, I’m gonna look at the bottle and see my accomplishments.
I’m gonna do the best I can and not try to be a superwoman. I’m going to quit worrying about what I “should” do. I’ve spent most of my life doing what I “should” do. Now it’s time to do what I “want” to do.  Even superheroes have their critics.
I’m going to keep my sense of humor. I’m going to laugh at myself and my own human weaknesses. If I can’t do anything else, I’m going to make a joke about it and go on. I’m making humor a part of myself and my attitude toward life. If I can do this well enough, maybe I won’t even need the other eleven.
©2000-2016 Sheila Moss
Edited for Length
Posted in Health, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Brown Bag Crisis

bag

My honey was on a diet.  He was doing pretty good, losing weight, and wasn’t too cranky any more since he got used to it. It was a nutritionally planned and balanced sort of thing, not a crash diet. He was on the … well… shall we say “fluffy” side. Since starting the diet, his blood pressure has gone down, his cholesterol is normal, and his clothes have all become large.  He looks great!

Anyhow, today he left home for the office before I did. As I closed down my computer and got ready to leave, the phone rang. I immediately knew it was trouble – nobody calls at that hour of the morning.

“I forgot my lunch,” said the voice on the cell phone at other end.

“Okay, want me to bring it?”  I asked.

It seemed like a small problem. It so happens we work close to each other. Often we even share a ride, but this particular day we were commuting separately due to after work commitments. Shows how dependent on me he is, I thought. He can’t even remember his own lunch if I don’t put it in his hand…  MEN…!

Dutifully, I rescued his lunch and mine from the refrigerator and toted them in to the office. I always “brown bagged it.” Though I was not on a diet, the daily fare of grease in the office cafeteria and the fast food alternatives are just not what I wanted to eat every day. Fortunately, we had a refrigerator at the office where we could keep lunches, so I deposited them there. I figured when he had a break in the day, he would come by.

Then things at the office began to get hectic as they usually do. The speakerphone in the conference room died, and I had to run all over the office looking for another empty conference room with a phone that was working. It was necessary to rework all the careful plans I had made two days before to try to be sure that a crisis like this wouldn’t happen – so much for planning ahead.  By the time I “put out the fire” and got back to my desk, there was a note on it.

“I’ll be back later!”

Uh, oh, I missed him. Well, sorry, but it couldn’t be helped. There was also a note with his name and phone number taken by the secretary who answered the phone while I was out having my little fun crisis. I figured he must have called before he came, so I didn’t call back as things were really starting to pile up, the emails were flying, and phones ringing.

An hour or so later the phone rang and I answered it.

“Why didn’t you call me?” said the terse voice.

“Well, I thought you were coming back to pick up your lunch.”

“I didn’t know if you were back, or not. Now I’m busy and I don’t know when I can come.”

He was like a raging bear without food. I could tell he was angry.

“Okay, but I’ve got to leave again after while. I have an appointment to get my allergy shot during lunch.”

“Well, where’s my lunch?”

“In the office fridge.”

“I don’t know where the refrigerator is. Just put it on your desk when you leave.”

“Your yogurt will melt!”

“I can’t help it, just put it out. I have to have something to eat!” he snapped.

Only a man could turn a minor thing like a sack lunch into a major crisis. No point arguing with a hungry bear. Being a man, he could not possibly ask someone for help or directions to the refrigerator. So when I left to go the employee clinic, I put his lunch out on my desk. When I came back, it was gone. I guess he had wilted salad and melted yogurt for lunch. Boy, is he gonna be mad tonight!

Somehow I just know this is all going to turn out to be MY fault. It’s ALWAYS the woman’s fault, isn’t it? Even though it is the MAN who forgot his lunch in the first place. Should I strike a blow for women’s lib, I wondered, or just let it go? Blame, the woman – just like a man!

Later, at the dinner table that evening I asked, “How was your lunch?”

“Okay,” said he, seeming not to remember.

Pressing the issue, I asked, “Whose fault was the problem today?”

“Mine,” he said, “for forgetting my lunch.”

I couldn’t believe my ears! How can I be militant and stand up against the unequal treatment of women when he refuses to be a chauvinist? Just my luck, all wound up and nothing to yell about.

Could it be that men are not so bad after all?

Copyright 2000 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor, Work Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ms. Natural Woman

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Taking a long puff on her cigarette, she gave me a hard look. “You have pretty, big hair,” she said, as I went through the door of the building where I work.

The smokers hang around outside to pursue their nicotine habit since it is not allowed inside in the workplace. This particular morning I was trying to get to work on time and sliding under the wire, as usual. I was totally off guard with my mind on the million other things waiting on my desk inside.

Big?” I heard. BIG hair? I guess it was meant as a compliment.

“Er, thanks,” I murmured, while making a mental note to go straight to the ladies’ room and assault the problem with the hairbrush.

I forgot about the incident until later in the day at lunch. A bunch of us gals who work downtown get together once a month for lunch. It’s a “girl thing,” chitchat, a chance to socialize, and a break from the routine.

One of the ladies had just redone her hair in a new lighter shade. Of course, everyone noticed and commented on how nice it looked. Then one of the other ladies speculated on how much she would like to have a new style. The discussion eventually turned to whether or not to “color” your hair or leave it natural – whatever that may be. First thing you know, all eyes are looking at my hair. Good grief! “What is it with my hair today?” I wondered, trying to slide gracefully under the table where they wouldn’t notice me.

Why is that our society seems to be fixated on hair? Billions of dollars are spent advertising and promoting hair products to make our hair softer, curlier, another shade, straighter, shinier, or to add texture. You name it, and if it has to do with hair, there is a product for it. Curly haired women want straight hair and straight-haired women want curls. Go figure.

The one thing most women don’t want, however, is gray hair. When the first few gray hairs come, we pull them out and pretend they were never there. Then others start coming like an avalanche of dirty snow. A man is merely “distinguished” when his temples turn gray. A woman is mature, aged, a senior.

So, we attempt to turn back the clock with a bottle. It used to be called “dye,” but someplace along the line the term fell out of fashion and became stigmatized. So now we “color” it instead. Most women admit to using “hair cosmetics.” You don’t see too many middle-aged women with gray or graying hair these days. It has been “washed away” secretly at home in the bathroom sink or shower.

Finally, one of the lunch ladies asked the dreaded question, “Is that your natural color?

The bitch! Obviously I’m old enough to have gray hair. Now, there is a little white lie that many women use to answer the question about “natural” color. Their “natural color” is the color their hair used to be. Gray is “unnatural.” Go figure.

That reminds me,” I said, “As I was coming to work this morning, there was this lady who said, ‘You have pretty BIG hair’. It made me think of the country music stars and their big hair. I ran as fast as I could to find a brush and visit the ladies’ room to make my ‘big hair’ into ‘little hair.'”

Everybody laughed and they forgot about whether I did or didn’t “color.” Whew! Close call. That opinionated big-mouthed person saved my day.

One acquaintance of mine has long gray hair. I guess she likes it that way – but she would look 20 years young if she would do something with that mop of hers. Sure, once you start you have to keep it up, but so what? Females look better with makeup – barns look better with paint. Shows how brainwashed I am by advertising.

Now if I can just figure out a way to tell the Ms. Natural Woman with the gray mop that she needs to join the twenty-first century, I’ll be okay. Wonder if Ms. Opinionated Big Mouth could talk to her?

Copyright 2000 Sheila Moss
Edited
Posted in Fashion, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Tribute to Jason

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Hi Jason,

I was your customer yesterday at Walmart.  It was a bad week at my house.  The washing machine rolled over and died, then the clock radio committed suicide too. Funny thing, I woke up without the radio to screech at me, but I figured I’d better not depend on waking up spontaneously forever.

I figured I’d just pop in yesterday, get a radio and kitty litter and then go on home as I had a lot of better things to do than hang around at Walmart looking at the plants and talking to the greeter, especially with the washing machine on the blink.

Well, the problem was that everybody else in town must have been out of kitty litter too.  There was a mob there – actually there is always a mob there on Saturday.  Honestly, Jason, it is worse than I-24 in rush hour, people crawling all over each other like ants at a pancake breakfast.

I picked out a nice radio.  That took me about five minutes.  I liked the digital one with the big green numbers that I can see at night without my bifocals.  Problem is that “policy” said I had to pay for it in the electronic department.  I could not go to the front registers to check out with it even though it was a $20 item.  I had to stand in line in the electronic department with other irritated, red-faced, customers in the same boat.

We converged on the cash register like a bunch of charging bulls with our groceries, basketballs, drug items, kitty litter, baby food, and even a few honest-to-goodness electronic items. I thought I’d perish with fatigue before I got to the front of the line. Customers and shopping buggies were wound around the electronics department, down the aisle – out the back door and down the Interstate for all I know.

You were there by yourself, Jason, with only one cash register open for the entire electronics department, one young man against an angry mob. Without even a whip or a bullhorn, you stood there checking stuff out, smiling and never becoming impatient. When I got to the front at last, you didn’t even bat an eye when I asked you to check out 12 bags of mulch along with my $20 radio. You checked out my marigolds, my kitty litter, my cucumbers and baby food for my grandson. Like all the rest of the whacko customers, I didn’t want to go to the front and wait yet another 30 minutes to pay for my non-electronic items.

You are a hero, Jason. You work at a menial job doing drudgework. You deal with irritate customers that are frustrated not with you, but with the system. I don’t even know your last name, but I do know that you are a good person. You deal with people and treat them with politeness and courtesy. You do not hide behind the scenes and avoid the raging masses of humanity, as the managers seem to do.

I was impressed with you, Jason. I think you should get a promotion. I don’t know how much you make there, but it could not possibly be reward enough for the job you do. I think you deserve a raise – a big one! You were just trying to do your job.  But, you were doing more than should ever be fairly expected of one employee, and you were doing it with a smile and a “thank you.”

And so, Jason, this is my tribute to you and to the others like you, who labor daily unrecognized and unrewarded, those who give all and ask for no praise in return, but only want to do a good job and help other people in some small way.  That is something we no longer have enough of in in the world.

I don’t know you, Jason, and you don’t know me.  You were my sales clerk and I was your customer.  Our lives passed briefly for a few fleeting moments, and you made mine a little bit easier.  I just want to say thanks!

©2000 Sheila Moss
Edited for Brevity
Posted in Humor, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Parking World

garage

I love parking garages!  Nearly all of us who work in the city get to enjoy their attractive surroundings.  Gray is my favorite color and bare concrete caresses my eyes with its raw and natural beauty. The garage where used to park on a regular basis is, of course, the one I loved the very most, the old Municipal Auditorium Garage.

Strangely, while most parking garages are structures that stretch skyward into high rise towers of concrete and steel, the parking structure where I parked started at ground level and went down. The first level had a bit of daylight seeping in from the open doors; after that it was strictly artificial light with large blowers and all sorts of ominous vents and pipes protruding from the ceilings. The lowest level I affectionately dubbed “parking hell.”

The stairs and corners had the unmistakable stench of urine some days. There used to be certain parking places that I learned to avoid so the smell didn’t get in my car.  Ah, survival in the city. Bad as it is, at least I knew where I was in that garage and the location of the stairs and exits. This garage from hell was eventually demolished. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving structure.

Somehow I never feel safe in these places.  I think perhaps I’ve seen too many movies and television shows where a woman is assaulted, run down, raped or mugged in the shadows of a parking garage. I always feel vulnerable, like an adventurer in Jurassic Park who, after leaving the car, should run for my life without looking back.  I’ve never seen any dinosaurs in a garage, only a few homeless people and once a rat scurrying along the wall.  On second thought, those homeless folk might have been garage customers who gave up searching for their cars and collapsed in exhaustion.

Some of the structures in this city seem to be engineered for confusion. Do they give prizes for worst designed and most confusing parking garage?  Should they ever decide to have such an award, there are two I’d like to immediately nominate.

Nomination One: The 23 Street garage at Centennial Medical Center, a marvel of inefficiency. You go in the right hand entrance for the hospital.  That makes sense.  However, the left hand entrance, which looks exactly like an exit, is the entrance for the doctor’s building parking. Additional parking is available, but people seem to via for the closest possible places in this concrete jungle of pillars and posts.

They really need to build rest stops for the lost souls in this purgatory. It became so bad that they had to put up pictures so people could remember where they were parked. “I’m parked where the little campfire pictures are, or by the flowers, or in the bird section.” Of course, if you can’t find the bird section, you are still screwed even if you do remember the birds.

Nomination Two: The Tennessean Garage at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital. This garage is a concrete maze like nothing ever witnessed on the face of the earth.  Part of the parking is on up inclines and part of it is on down inclines. Drivers can flip a coin over whether to continue up or go back down to find a parking spot. It is so confusing that it absolutely defies logical explanation.

The levels in this garage are all named on a Tennessee theme:  the Knoxville level, the Nashville level and so on.  Everything is associated. How clever. Problem is lack of distinct naming makes it easy to forget which Ville you are parked in. People wander around its vastness searching for their cars and gasping from lack of water. Camel caravans go by. Lost and wandering souls are ignored and customers with compasses and canteens keep on walking.

Ah, I do love parking garages!  I could go on and on, but I won’t. When the engineers or architects die who build these things, I hope they do NOT go to hell. I hope they are condemned to an eternity of looking for lost cars in a parking garage.

©2000 Sheila Moss
Edited for length & Updated
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Jimbo’s Famous Baked Potato

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HDR Baked Potato | Omnitographer (CC BC-NC-SA 2.0)

Jimbo’s is a place like no other. They sell baked potatoes. Well, actually, they sell “fixings,” the baked potato is almost incidental. Jimbo’s is really a hot dog joint. It seems as if it should be named “Jumbo’s,” but it isn’t.

Jimbo’s is a tiny, tiny little food shop located along with others in the downtown Nashville, so called, “historic arcade,” an enclosed walkway of little shops that was the predecessor of the modern shopping mall back in the days of the dinosaur… well, almost. It is mostly office workers and tourists who wander in from nearby hotels that frequent the arcade these days. They tell me that Jimbo’s hot dogs are really good. I don’t like hot dogs. However, the second most popular item is Jimbo’s baked potato.

Jimbo’s service is reminiscent of the service at the notorious “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame. That is, people must stand in a very long line, usually flowing out the door and into the mall area. Once the customer gets inside the door, the tiny place is very small, hot and smothery and the putrid smell of chili and onion stings the nostrils. Proper Jimbo etiquette is to stand against the wall on one side of the narrow alcove and form a slow-moving line all the way to the back . Once at the back of the shop, customers are allowed to step forward to the counter one at a time, place an order, and then scoot sideways along the counter with their food back to where they started at the front door.

Potatoes are loaded, half-loaded, or one can specify ones’ own ingredients from a list scribbled on the greasy wall menu with a magic marker. “Loaded” comes with chili, sour cream, bacon, cheese, butter, broccoli, onions, and jalapenos. I don’t like jalapenos, which means I must “special order.” Orders are filled by a young man of foreign appearance and paid for at a front door cash register where a young woman, also foreign looking, works.

They are very polite, but I am never quite certain that they will understand what I want. I am very careful to be very exact. And, of course, the entire line is watching and waiting impatiently. Don’t dare screw up the order or you will hold up the whole hungry line.

I get mine with butter, broccoli, bacon and cheese. That way I can find the baked potato under the fixings. When I get chili, the potato is hopelessly lost under the extras and eaten without even being noticed. What a waste.

“Yes, mam?” says the young man.

“Baked potato,” I reply without wasting words.

He grabs a foil-baked potato with one hand and a styrofoam carryout plate with the other. He begins to cut the potato open before I even tell him what I want on it.

“What you want on it?” he says.

“Butter, broccoli, bacon, and cheese.” As fast as I can, I rattle off the list of fixings. I try to make it easy. God forbid I should make a mistake and hold up the whole line.

“Butter, broccoli, bacon, cheese?” Yes, I nod stupidly, praying I have not made a dumb error and ordered something not on the list.

The man works with the factory-like precision of an assembly line worker. His hands fairly fly as he loads down the potato: butter, broccoli, bacon and cheese. Once the potato is assembled, the styrofoam dish goes on the counter and I humbly scoot it along to the register where it is wrapped in cellophane along with a plastic fork and napkin. They used to add a peppermint, but have quit giving them out now. I’m afraid to complain. Money is exchanged and I escape out the door until next time – heady with relief and fresh air.

Finding a place to eat the potato is the next problem.

Copyright 2000 Sheila Moss
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An Art Exhibit

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Rural Russia Women – Photo: Alex Markovich

Can you believe that Nashville, the same city that produced Country Music and the Tennessee Titans, could actually produce culture?  I treated myself to a bit of this culture, an art exhibit. Now this was not the ordinary garden variety of art; this was real museum quality stuff. In fact, it was at the museum where I saw it. Nashville was hosting an exhibit of Russian art at the State Museum. I thought there might be an admission charge, but it turned out there was no charge at all. It was FREE!  Yes, seems in order for us rednecks to have culture, the Good State of Tennessee is picking up the tab.

So, how can I describe art?  The paintings were all magnificent, large and beautifully framed oils on canvas, each more fascinating than the one before. The colors were vivid with interesting brush strokes and textures. I almost stepped over the line a time or two to get closer and look. But as the guard approached, I smiled and stepped back quickly.  Whew, close call.

Most of the paintings were portraits, from an era of Russian Art History called “Realism.”   It seems that at that point in time the Russian government decided that art should appeal to the common people. The government actually took over the arts in Russia and required artists to produce art that would inspire admiration for the dignity of working people. With studios, supplies and commissions furnished, all the artist had to do was paint. The paintings depicted ballerinas, old people, and peasants with scarves on their heads.  Apparently, they did not think that nudes would appeal much as there was only one in the entire exhibit and either she was a very modest lady, or it was a very cold day in Russia.

I studied a group of girls in pink ballerina costumes who seemed vaguely familiar.  They appeared to be warming up to dance; each was delicate and graceful with perfectly turned legs.  Have I seen this picture in a reproduction?  An accordion player in a blue striped boat shirt also left me feeling as if I had seen him before. I stood around for a while waiting to polka when he squeezed the music box. Finally, I decided he wasn’t in the mood as he just stood there looking back, captured forever in suspended animation.

Some of the paintings of Bolshevik people were not colorful like the other pictures, but impressive for their stark drabness. I watched a man climbing a light pole in a painting for quite a while. I was really worried that he was going to get electrocuted and destroy the painting, but finally I had to move on. I hope he made it.

My favorite picture was an ancient old lady with sparkling eyes called, “Portrait of my Granny.” She almost seemed pleased to be the subject of a painting. The wrinkles in her face were perfectly captured. She held her glasses in her hands. If you want to know the skill of an artist, study the hands. Many artists do exquisite faces, but forget to capture the hands. Are the proportions correct? Do the fingers look natural? This lady looked so real I suspect that she picks up the book on her table and reads to pass the time when the tourists are not around.

I moved on to a picture of milkmaids collapsed in mirth. What were they laughing about? I waited and waited and studied the picture for clues, but could not figure out the joke. They were not telling onlookers. The secret remains hidden somewhere in the canvas behind the oils, forever a mystery to wonder about. I had a few ideas, but guess I won’t speculate here

One concept of Russian Art is to have several artists work on one painting to support the Russian ideal of submersion of the individual for the common good. Russian art also frequently depicted doorways or windows representing the Soviet belief that they were moving into a utopian society – an idea that I’m afraid hasn’t quite worked out as well as they hoped.

The art is on loan, of course.  I plan to go back again, maybe several times, and look some more. Today was just the sampler. Funny thing, those people in the pictures were almost like us, real people, common people, guess you could say “Russian rednecks.”  Wonder if that is why the museum brought the exhibition here?  Yes, if they were not reds, they could almost qualify as rednecks.

©2000 Sheila Moss
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