Clutter Clearinghouse

Home Shopping Network–QVC
Bazaars, yard sales, closeout sales
One-of-a-kind Items, as-seen-on-TV
Tactile, pleasant-textured items
Gently stroked, then taken home
Stored away in attics and garages
Remedies to drive away aches, pains
General malaise of everyday life struggles
Wasn’t as much about winning
As, not wanting to lose

Another One of Those Days

The day started as usual. When I returned from walking the dogs at seven this morning, the doors to the sunroom were closed.

A bad sign; the thermostat near the A/C read nearly 80 degrees. Our patched-together HVAC unit bit the dust. After mowing and trimming the lawn, we holed up in the sunroom–which had its own HVAC system.

Technicians worked till around 3:30 in the afternoon.  All turned out well in the end–although a few dollars poorer. Chalked up as another chapter in the joys of home ownership.

STONE & SILK (Marvin & Janie) #Unlikely Love Stories #Life and Death

ears if corn

I was a dumb cluck from cornfield country.  She was a stone-cold beauty queen from the East Coast.  Now, there’s a pair for you.

Why he liked her so much was hard to figure.  She was mean–hard to get along with; demanded Marvin’s full attention morning, noon, and night.  Marvin brought Janie flowers, pretty things, but it never seemed to matter.  At work, Marv always borrowed money, because he never had any.  Maybe he thought that was the way relationships were supposed to be?

God forbid Marvin ever looked at another woman–even for a casual glance. When he did, Janie pummeled his arms and shoulders with her fists.  He had to have a high tolerance level.  Was Janie that insecure–jealous of other women? There’s supposed to be someone for everyone.  What had Marvin done to deserve her?

When Marvin worked late, Janie was a nervous wreck until his car pulled in the driveway.  He always called home before leaving work.  They fought like cats and dogs, but when Janie was sick, Marv was  always there by her side.  Nobody knew what went on behind closed doors.  Their private lives were kept private.

The Revelation: Janie had been a former Vegas “showgirl”–if you could call it that.  “The Swan” was a seedy, obsequious dive bar–with obligatory flashing lights, and loud music, hidden in the bowels of Las Vegas.  It was just close enough to the strip, to siphon off drifters from the mainstream and stay in business.  Christened “The Swan,”  because the managing partner’s name was Schwann, not because it had anything to do with “Swan Lake.”

The Miracle: was, that they ever got together in the first place.  Janie danced at “The Swan,” because that was all she had. The shame, less important than necessities of life, she desperately needed.  She lived a distorted, Machiavellian nightmare of what love was supposed to be

Through thick-bottomed drink glasses, Janie was every guy’s ideal woman–worthy of stuffed, sweaty, dollar bills, donated by countless, faceless, nameless men, descending from emotional highs–in various stages of self-control.

Marvin nodded off into semi-consciousness that night, until his head hit the table.  Then, he was just another bottom-feeder, milked dry, tossed out and left for dead.  “Nighty night–sleep tight,” The bouncer mocked.

The next thing he remembered, was waking up in the back alley. “I know I heard ‘Jingle Bells’ playing somewhere,” Marv said.  “Or, more likely, it was my throbbing head.”  That’s when Janie walked out the back door.  Marvin’s clothes were damp, dirty, and disgusting. He was pitiful in a sad-eyed, floppy-eared, stray puppy dog sort of way.

She took pity on me–bought me a cup of coffee at the diner across the street.  She told me right up front, it wasn’t going any further.  I asked the same question, she heard every night at the bar.  How’d a pretty, nice girl like you, end up in a place like this? She turned the same question around.  How had I ended up thrown out of a Vegas bar in an alley?  I answered–it was because I was a hopeless screw-up.

It was a moment of brutal truth–the first time I’d been honest with myself, or anyone else, in my life.  The funniest part–we toasted, first to mutual  failures, then to hopeless screw-ups.  I didn’t have a dime to my name, but I felt better.

We had a lot in common, as it turned out. She was running away from abusive home life with an alcoholic father. I’d been kicked out of the house, by my father, at age nineteen, to sink or swim.  At that moment, I knew I loved Janie.  If given the chance, someday I’d ask her to marry me.

From what Marvin told me, their courtship was a bit like a Hollywood movie script.  The bar’s owner didn’t want Janie to quit; had her followed–made life miserable.  I suspected there was more to that part of the story and he wished to keep it secret. Love always found a way, so they met secretly at different locations.  Like underworld spies or refugees from a war-torn world.

Marvin sat down at a table near the entrance of one predetermined location.  Janie came in a few minutes later, sat at an adjoining table.  “You know–I once sprained my elbow,” was Marvin’s opening line.  It was cloak-and-dagger, old-time movie dialogue.  “Daffodils bloom in the springtime,” Janie answered,  To which Marvin asked, “Did you know bats sleep upside down?”  Janie opened her purse, took out a white handkerchief.  They walked out together, laughing at their private joke–played out to perfection. That was when they weren’t meeting under the “Dumb-Dumb tree.”  The “Dumb-Dumb tree” was in a city park–location known only to Janie and Marvin.

Their Escape:  Janie and Marvin’s escape from “Sin City” was, no less, intriguing.  Highlighted by a two-day exile in an abandoned basement, hiding from some unsavory characters.  It ended with a four-day bus ride to middle Tennessee.  They didn’t know a soul there.  Marvin hoped to land a job at an automobile assembly plant.  Janie was hired to wait tables at a local Mom and Pop eatery.

Marvin and I started work the same day, working swing shifts, as janitors, for a starting wage of 2.35 per hour–extra for nights and weekends.  It was good money for a couple of young guys with no experience.  What I learned about Marv and Janie, came from working with Marv, at Chrysler’s Assembly Plant #17 for thirty-eight years.  There were occasional encounters with Janie at the supermarket.  They had few friends–stayed close to home.

Both of them are gone now.   I feel their presence every day–especially when I see young couples in love, laughing at private little jokes.   Soul mates, lovers–whatever you choose to call them; neither could have survived without the other.

My first impressions were very wrong.  Janie went first–she passed away in Marvin’s arms.  Marv passed away nine years later.  I was there to bid my friend goodbye.  When death knocked at the door, theirs was only way to go–surrounded by those that loved them most.

“An unlikely pairing, called back to Heaven”

LESSONS FROM “AUNT MARTHA”

After a tragedy, victims struggle to put their lives back together.  As another blogger so eloquently put it, “tragedy is like a pothole, it’s always there, but you learn to drive around it and move forward”  What if someone in your neighborhood committed suicide?  The gossip would be, why did it happen?  What drove someone to take such a drastic and final step?  What did anyone really know about them?  …Sadly, surprisingly little.  There had to be a turning point.  Further investigation revealed the cause–our victim contracted an incurable disease.  Why did he do it?  Because his condition was terminal.  He didn’t want to be a burden.

Many people don’t know their neighbors or much about the neighborhood.  The police would get sketchy descriptions.  The husband was around fifty, with graying hair.  He went to work at the same time everyday.  His wife didn’t go out much.  A foreclosure notice posted on a neighborhood home is a surprise.  A lot had to happen to reach that point.  Yet, no one knew the homeowner lost his job.  The wife took a job.  Her income fell short in making up the difference.  Debt continued to spiral out of control.  There was no recourse for the family other than to walk away.

He was always such a quiet young man, went about his business, never bothered anyone, descriptive words heard too often.  So often, they’ve become a cliché.  A gunman recently opened fire in a crowded suburban Colorado movie theatre.  The gunman’s psychiatrist attempted to warn local police.  She feared his instability enough to break Doctor/Patient privacy rights.  Still, nobody listened.  There are too many other examples–including that of Jeffrey Dahmer.  Media outlets emphasized trench coats in the Columbine disaster.  As if clothing choices caused the tragedy.  Events were analyzed and over analyzed.  I can’t help but go back to the teachings of “Aunt Martha.”

Enter Aunt Martha–she started working for the company at the age of fifteen, during WWII.  She was like everyone’s Aunt Martha, so the name stuck.  Aunt Martha was “old school,” everyone respected her for being firm, but fair.  She knew about the entire operation of the company.  When we met, she had forty-four years with the company.  At a “roast” in her honor, one of the jokes was, “Why did the boogeyman buy a nightlight?” “Because he was afraid of Aunt Martha.” Aunt Martha spoke and people listened.  She was the only woman who could shut down the line at any point.  Aunt Martha elected to become a trainer in later years.  She was one of the best.  If it wasn’t for her, I’d be just another has-been.

A typical classroom session was like the following.  After we watched a video of a face-to-face customer contact.  Aunt Martha asked us, “Now tell me, what do you know about that person?”  Most trainees chose the obvious, “The customer came into our store to purchase our company’s equipment and services.” “That’s Right.” “What else do you know about him?” “He’s about fifty years old and lives in the local area.” “Very good, anything else?” “Did anyone else see anything?” “He dressed like a businessman.”  This answer elicited a warning–don’t make assumptions about people.  She used the late Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame as an example.  He dressed in tattered faded jeans, drove a battered old pickup truck, when he made surprise store visits.  He was one of the richest men in the world.  The point of the exercise was, the more you knew, the better your sales presentation.  It also helped establish commonality with the customer.

None of us were ready for what came next.  Aunt Martha began her analysis in finest Sherlock Holmes fashion.  “The customer was a middle-aged man living in the suburbs.”  “He had two grown children living in different cities.”  “His career as an agent for a major insurance company spanned twenty years.”  “Hobbies included building remote control model airplanes and golf.”  “He was also a deacon in the local Presbyterian church.”  “His wife was originally from the Boston area.”  “He was a local boy.”  “He drove a gold Chrysler sedan and had a spoiled pet poodle named Sophie.”  I sat open mouthed.  The only detail she’d missed, “he was left-handed and smoked Lucky Strikes.”  Some students, including myself, thought this meant  prying into people’s personal business.  Aunt Martha quickly put things in proper perspective.

—-The best part of living, is knowing how to grow old gracefully—-

–Eric Hoffer

From our informal before class discussions, I knew Aunt Martha and her husband had no children.  They resided in an upscale suburban area with their two pet Schnauzers.  Her husband was a chemist.  Chronologically, she was in her sixties, her spirit was much younger.  “Being around young people keeps me young,” She would say.  Students were her adopted family.  There are several “Aunt Marthaisms” that still apply today. “Raising children is the most important job in the world.” “God picked you for a reason.” “Of course teenagers are rebellious, weren’t you at that age?” “Kids need structure–guidance from you.” “If they don’t find it at your house, they’ll look somewhere else.”

I was one of Aunt Martha’s “kids.” I’m glad she saw something in me that others didn’t.  There are too few “Aunt Marthas” in the world.  She passed away a few years ago, now there’s one less.  I’m a better person because of her.  I learned everyone has dignity.  Sometimes I have to cut through the clutter to find it.  I try to always look for the good in people.