Sunday, July 26, 2009

Puzzles & Bricks

Last Wednesday at around 5:00 in the afternoon I walked downstairs to sign up for the next days Cooking Club. Usually the sign up list is withdrawn by this time so my lovely case manager Erin, and Paul can go out into the world and purchase the ingredients for the next days session, having a good idea of how much they'll need by the amount of people who have signed up.
The sign up list is necessary so that any Tom, Dick, or Harry who happens to show up at the kitchen of the Olympia while we are preparing a meal, and who suddenly decides they want to join up and partake of the goodies, will not be allowed to, and sent away with the kindly admonishment from Erin or Paul, "You're more than welcome to join us. Just sign up next week..." Usually those who are sent away rarely do sign up, I don't know why. Some people just aren't joiners and stand as monuments of independence. Hungry monuments of independence. Thus, we have a small core group of regulars who consistently participate.
Also, little tolerance is shown for those who arrive at the Cooking Club 15 minutes late, or more, and are sent away even if they had signed up. Our case managers rightly want those who come and actually participate in the food preparation process to enjoy the fruits of their labor, rather than give away those fruits to latecomers who had no involvement in preparing the meal. The go away grumbling.
In any case, the sign up list had not been posted Monday, or Tuesday, or by noon on Wednesday. So at 5:00 I went down to see what was up.
Much to my surprise I found a nice poster announcing the cancellation of this weeks Cooking Club due to lack of funds.
"The Fourth of July barbecue was very expensive," Erin later told me.
Instead we were invited to come on down to the lobby Thursday at noon, to work on "fun," puzzles.
Now I happened to know what puzzles my case managers had in mind. And you do as well, dear readers, if you read this blog's last post (see, The Greatest Thing 2). And I also knew the quantity of "fun," that would be provided was highly questionable.
However, I was willing to go along, anticipating another hour of scrambling my mind around fitting little jigsaw pieces together with our new dice, playing cards, poker chips, chess pieces, dominoes, picture puzzle. 1000 pieces.
On Thursday mornings Erin and Paul work over at the Olympia, trying to help those poor, pathetic, individuals crying out for help, to get their life together. They stop doing that by 11:30 and usually begin the Cooking Club. This Thursday, however, they would return to their offices by noon, to begin working on "fun" puzzles in the lobby.
I was down there waiting for them to arrive. They were late of course. Erin by five minutes, Paul by about twenty. "He had to drive someone somewhere," Erin explained.
Wanting to keep my lovely case manager well nourished, I had brought back a plate from the Hippie Kitchen for her. Split peas with chicken, salad, pre-buttered bread, and a small cup of cherries (with pits). Erin loves cherries.
She was very happy that I had thought of her nutritional needs as she had not bothered to bring any lunch for herself. I don't know why.
I sat with her as she ate her lunch and we chatted. I enjoy talking to her very much, and always admire her point of view and respect her opinions on every subject.
Lunch finished, we were ready to retrieve the puzzle from the depths of the basement.
As we entered, Peggy came up behind us, and said, "I like those shorts, you sure look pretty."
"Why thank you, Peggy," I said.
"I was talking to Erin."
"Thank you," Erin said. She did look pretty. She always does. Big deal.
Anyway we brought the puzzle up the stairs and began our work.
I helped Erin finish up the border, and we were very happy when it was completed, now having a rectangular base to fill in. Erin was intensely involved in figuring out the puzzle, exclaiming delightedly when discovering pieces that fit together nicely. She has a knack for this type of activity, so much so that I've christened her, "The Puzzler." She should be the Super Villain in the next Batman movie. "I will puzzle you to death, Capped Crusader!"
Paul soon joined us, then Hardy. Jose stopped by for a little while, then left. Lester and Robert sat and watched us intently, but did not offer to help, which is the norm with these two. Robert wanted to quiz me about the band Led Zeppelin, and ask Erin for a ride to the gym the next day.
He's always trying to take advantage of the kindness of our two case managers. A typical Republican. Not only that, a black Republican. Not only that, a black Republican on unemployment. Not only that, a black Republican on unemployment who voted for McCain and who now enjoys the increased unemployment benefits that the Obama administration has provided!
"Ley me get this straight, Robert." I asked. "You want a ride each day to the gym so you can exercise, because there is a big hill you would have to walk up in order to reach the gym. Wouldn't walking, or riding your bike up that hill constitute exercise?"
"It's a big hill." he replied.
"Then call a cab."
Erin and Paul continued to feverishly fit pieces together, hogging all of the good ones. An hour passed, then two. It took me an hour to find one piece, and I was increasingly getting frustrated, and thought quite seriously of committing Seppuku, the Japanese ritual form of suicide by disembowelment.
At 2:00 I couldn't take it anymore and returned to my box to call my dear sister in Bullhead. Her stomach continues to bother her, and her back. These things happen as we get older, except for myself.
I refuse to age, have stopped as a matter of fact.
We spoke for a half hour, the I returned to the puzzle.
"Rick, where were you?!" Erin asked. "You were gone so long."
I explained that I had been speaking to my lovely sister. I had changed shirts as well.
"Here," Erin instructed,"you work on this little portion."
I soon put together that little portion, and felt mildly better about the whole thing. Erin meanwhile, had put together a massive portion at the south end of the frame, all except two pieces smack in the middle.
"Ohhh," Erin exclaimed, finding one piece, and fitting it into the puzzle happily.
"See," I said, "I'm no match for your puzzle prowess."
"Yes you are, Rick. Keep looking."
Erin and I raced to find that one piece. Paul had other plans.
"Guess what, Rick?"
"I have a load of bricks in my truck for the garden."
"Really? That's great!"
Paul had been waiting to get some free bricks to build a raised portion in the garden. He had apparently found some.
"Want'a help me unload them?" Paul asked.
"Of course. Erin, stop looking for that piece while I help Paul, please."
Paul and I wheeled out his big dolly (conveyance consisting of a wheeled platform used to move heavy objects) to his truck which was illegally parked on the sidewalk just outside.
It was true. Paul did have bricks in there. About 150 of them. We placed the bricks onto the dolly (horizontal mode) in rows of two, about five brick rows high, then discovered that we couldn't move it because the dolly's inflatable tires were flat.
"Why don't we go to the gas station and put air in these tires, Paul?"
"Do you think we should?"
"Yes, I do. It will be a lot easier to move this dolly, and we won't damage the tires."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Let's do it."
First, we took three rows of bricks off the dolly, and managed to wheel the rest to the garden in back, where we unceremoniously dumped them near where we hoped to build the raised garden.
We then drove up Alameda to the nearby truck station and filled the dollies tires with compressed air.
As Paul and I came from the garden for another load we noticed that a police car had parked near the back of Paul's truck, and it looked awfully like the lone officer was writing a parking ticket. Paul talked to the officer, and I began loading the dolly up, showing the officer exactly what it was we were doing.
This cop turned out to be cool and did not issue Paul a ticket.
Yea, LAPD!
We finished unloading the bricks, no thanks to Robert, who just sat and watched us.
"Thanks for helping out, Robert," Paul said sarcastically.
"Yeah, thanks."
"No, problem," he said, sarcasm rolling off of him like water off an elephant seal, which he slightly resembles.
We returned to the puzzle. Erin was working feverishly by herself now, the others becoming exhausted, or already having committed Seppuku. She had not yet found the one missing piece that would complete the large bottom section.
"Good," I said.
"What was that, Rick?" she asked.
"Are you sure? I could swear I heard you say something."
"Not me."
The missing piece we knew, was ill-regular shaped, with half of a red turtle printed on it.
Finally... finally, I found it, and victoriously fit into its sacred position.
"Very good, Rick!" Erin exclaimed, clearly outraged.
We worked on that puzzle for four and a quarter hours, with about half left to be done. By this time even Paul was burnt out and had disappeared. Erin and I gingerly returned the puzzle to the basement.
Goodbye mighty puzzle. Until we meet again.

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