Where’s The Liquor Department?

Shortly before I left work this evening, Phillip sent me a text message, asking me to buy some tequila on my way home.

Ever since Washington voted to privatize our liquor sales (an idea I voted against, by the way), the only place to buy alcohol in our neighborhood is QFC. I’ve written before about how much I dislike shopping at our QFC. Well, I dislike buying liquor at QFC even more.

The liquor department at our QFC is closed off from the rest of the store, and the liquor in the back is locked in cabinets. (They’ve had a problem with shoplifters, apparently.) Tequila is in the back.

So, in order to buy liquor there, you walk in, look through the cabinet doors, decide what you want, then walk back up to the cashier. If it’s busy, like on a Friday evening, you have to wait in a long line, because there’s, at the most, two cashiers – but usually just the one. Then, when you reach the front of the line, you tell the cashier that you want something from the cabinets. The cashier closes up their cash register, grabs the cabinet key, and walks back with you. They’re usually impatient with you, because they’ve left a long line of people waiting at the register. I find it an unpleasant experience.

I miss the State Liquor Store, the one that used to be on Broadway. It had its bottles all along the walls, in open shelves, with the cashiers in the center of the room. You could take your time, look at the bottles, read the labels, and ask the cashiers any questions you might have.

So, I got Phillip’s message this evening, and I decided not to stop into QFC to buy tequila.

I walked into the Bartell Drugs on Third Avenue, across the street from the bus stop. An employee was opening a box at the front of the store. I asked her if they had a liquor department.

(Correction: It was a Rite Aid.)

“Oh, thank Jesus, no,” she replied, “The one up the hill does, the one, um…”

“Oh yes, the one on Fourth, next to the library?” I asked. She said that was the one.

I thanked her and walked up to the Bartell Drug on Fourth Avenue. I looked around, until I found an employee opening a box in the aisle. I asked him if they had a liquor department.

“We do,” he replied, “We keep it locked up behind the cash registers.” He pointed toward the front of the store.

When I thanked him, he added, “We keep it locked up because if we didn’t…”

“You’d have no liquor department?” I suggested.

“Exactly right,” said the Bartell employee.

I bought a bottle of tequila and a bottle of rum from the friendly cashier. (Bartell Drug employees are always extra friendly.) Then I caught a bus home.

I got the impression that, in general, neither QFC nor Bartell employees are happy about liquor sales.

(Edit: And Rite Aid employees don’t seem too happy, either.)

 

A Novel Based On A Real Person

Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, was first published in 1999.

The first sentence is: “My mother did not tell me they were coming.

Girl with a Pearl EarringIt’s 1664. Griet, the story’s narrator, is a 16-year-old girl in Delft, Holland. Her father had been a tile painter, until a kiln explosion blinded him. Her younger brother has been sent off to start his apprenticeship. Griet’s family is getting by on charity from the tradesmen’s guild. The charity is not enough.

As the story opens, Griet has been sent to work as a live-in maid for the household of a painter named Johannes Vermeer. Her talent for returning furniture to its precise locations, essential for cleaning the room of a blind man, will be needed when cleaning a painter’s studio. Griet also has an unneeded talent for arranging vegetables in artistically pleasing colors and patterns while working in her family’s kitchen.

Griet’s new employment as a maid will bring her family some money, but will also bring them shame. It’s known that maids tend to be temptresses and/or thieves.

Griet is a creative and intelligent person – more so than a girl should be in 17th century Dutch society. But she is wise enough to mind her manners and her words. Her master, Johannes Vermeer, recognizes, and encourages, Griet’s artistic talents, which causes the rest of the Vermeer household to become suspicious of their maid’s motives. Griet knows that if her master were ever to ask her to pose for one of his paintings, it would ruin her life.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a story of propriety and class. It presents a believable story of life in 17th century Holland. It’s a wonderful book.

I enjoyed it a lot.

The young woman who posed for Vermeer’s masterpiece was, of course, a real person. Today, no one knows who she was. Not much is know about the life of Johannes Vermeer or his family. Girl with a Pearl Earring is a novel, a work of fiction and imagination.

Why I chose this book:

Phillip bought this book from the charity bookshelf in his office, and I borrowed it from him (which would make it eligible for one of the Reading Challenge categories). We’d both seen the movie that was based on this book (which would make it eligible for another category). I’ve read that there was a short-lived play based on this book (yet another category). But I used it for the “Novel based on a real person” category. I think a fictional story about a person most people recognize, but no one knows anymore, is the best fit.

Here I Go Again

I am starting a third year with doing a Reading Challenge. I start with a little more wisdom, but still not enough. I know that I can read fifty books in a year, and that I don’t need to combine Categories, like I mistakenly did in 2016.

I’m not any better at judging the length of library holds, however. I wonder if anyone, even library employees, can accurately predict how long someone’s hold will last. There are so many unpredictable factors, such as suspended holds and early returns.

Once again, it is the unpredictability that makes this whole thing so much fun for me.

A book I thought would take another month to arrive, went “In Transit” before the end of December. A book I put on hold two days ago went “In Transit” today. An eBook I expected to be downloaded to my phone by now, is still on hold.

Meanwhile, I’m currently reading a book. And three more will be arriving any day now, probably all at once.

I’ve never read like this, and I don’t, when I don’t have a Reading Challenge going.

A Book Made Into A Movie I’ve Already Seen

O Homem Duplicado, by José Saramago, was first published in 2002. It was translated into English as The Double by Margaret Jull Costa, and published in 2004.

The first sentence is: “The man who has just come into the shop to rent a video bears on his identity card a most unusual name, a name with a classical flavor that time has staled, neither more or less than Tertuliano Máxima Afonso.

The DoubleTertuliano Máxima Afonso rents a video of a movie named The Race Is to the Swift. A colleague had recommended it with a lukewarm review. It’s not a great movie, Tertuliano had been told, but it’s an amusing way to spent an hour and a half.

Tertuliano leads a dull life. He works as a history teacher. He’s divorced, with no children. He has a girlfriend, but he doesn’t expect the relationship to last much longer. He lives alone and doesn’t go out much. He doesn’t find much interest in anything.

Tertuliano watches The Race Is to the Swift that night. He doesn’t care for it. He goes to bed. He wakes up early in the morning with the feeling that there’s someone else in his apartment. There isn’t. He gives into an urge to watch the video a second time. He then notices that an extra in the movie looks very much like him, except with a mustache, a different hairstyle, and a thinner face. The movie is five years old.

Tertuliano searches through a box of photographs, until he finds an old photo of himself. Five years ago, Tertuliano Máxima Afonso had a mustache, a different hairstyle, and a thinner face. Five years ago, he and the actor looked exactly alike.

If Tertuliano and the actor looked the same five years ago, do they look the same now? If they do still look the same, are their lives somehow connected? Why had his colleague suggested that he watch this particular obscure, mediocre movie? Why had he felt compelled to watch it a second time?

His obsession with finding the answers to these questions will change Tertuliano Máxima Afonso’s life and his understanding of the world.

The Double is written in an odd style. (Which I don’t think is a result of being translated from Portuguese to English.) It’s written in the third-person, with the author frequently stepping into the story to remind us that we’re reading a story about a character named Tertuliano Máxima Afonso. Because it’s a story being narrated by the author, it frequently jumps into other characters’ thoughts and actions. It’s told in long, run-on sentences with commas where periods could be, in a stream of consciousness style. Dialogue occurs in the middle of sentences, in the middle of paragraphs, with no quotation marks. (This is not a criticism. It’s an observation.)

He knew where the difficulty lay and admitted it to himself out loud as he reached the street where the school stands, If only I could put all this nonsense behind me, forget about this insane business, just dismiss the whole absurd situation, here he paused to consider that the first part of this sentence would have been quite sufficient on its own, and then concluded, But I can’t, which shows all too clearly how obsessed this disoriented man has become.

The Double is philosophical and introspective. It’s the type of book in which three pages are taken up by someone writing a letter, because the letter writer contemplates all the possible consequences of each phrase. It’s wordy and clever. It’s a novel about human nature and motivations. It’s a novel about identity.

It took me almost half the book to get into the odd style and slow pacing. But, at that halfway mark, I began to enjoy it. Then I began to love it. Then I didn’t want to stop reading this novel, right up to the very last word.

Why I chose this book:

About a month ago, a DVD had arrived in our mailbox, from Netflix. It was a 2013 movie named Enemy, and starred Jake Gyllenhaal. Neither Phillip nor I remembered putting in on our queue. That’s not unusual. We add movies we’ve seen in trailers to our queue on impulse and forget we did until the DVD arrives. Anyway, I didn’t exactly love Enemy, but I didn’t exactly dislike it, either. Mostly, the movie confused me. I felt the clues were there, and that it all must mean something, but I didn’t know what. I actually wanted to understand the movie.

Then I read that Enemy was based on a book named The Double, by José Saramago. I thought that if I read the book, the movie might make more sense. As a bonus, reading the book would fulfill a Reading Challenge category.

The movie, it turns out, is only loosely based on the novel. (There are no giant spiders in the book, for one thing.) The movie seemed to be asking, “Why did this happen?”, while the novel seemed to be asking, “What would you do if this happened?” The novel doesn’t even speculate on how two identical men can exist at the same time.

So, no, reading The Double didn’t help me understand the clues in Enemy. But I enjoyed reading the book.

Star Wars And A Beer

Phillip and I had no plans for today, until Phillip asked me if I wanted to go see The Last Jedi. I appreciated that. I know I’m more of a Star Wars fan than he is.

We went the AMC 10, in the U District. It’s the place that used to be The Sundance. So far, they haven’t gotten rid of either the kitchen or the liquor, although they’ve taken down the menu signs and replaced them with hand-written paper sheets announcing the price of drinks and referring people to the hand-held menus. The lobby signs saying “AMC Dine-In” look pretty permanent, however.

When we used to go to The Sundance, I would order a beer, just because I could. Now, when we go to the AMC 10, I always order a beer, just because I still can.

I ordered a “Left Coast Philly” to go with my beer this afternoon.

Movie Dinner

We saw The Last Jedi in 3D.

I wish the present-day Star Wars films would drop the nostalgia, and the cameos, and move forward with the story. (I liked what Rogue One did with creating a whole new self-contained story, and tying it into the saga only at the very end.) That said, I liked The Last Jedi a lot.

It had great visuals. (I loved Snoke’s throne room as an opera set!)

I recently watched a video from Mimei Land, in which Mimei and Duncan went to go see The Last Jedi. After the movie, Mimei remarked that she loved all the Pokémon. I think that’s both funny and apt. I loved all the critters in this movie.

I’ve tried to stay away from reviews and spoiler before seeing this movie. It’s been tough to do. One thing I have heard is the movie described as “divisive”. Fans either love it or hate it. That’s actually one of the main reasons I’ve wanted to see it.

If a movie gets mostly good reviews, I’ll probably want to go see it. If it gets mostly bad reviews, I’ll probably want to stay away.

But, if a movie gets very good reviews and very bad reviews, if it’s “divisive”, I definitely want to see it – right away. This is a movie that takes chances, that breaks the mold, and creates something we haven’t seen before. That’s how I felt about The Last Jedi. It wasn’t perfect, but it took chances, and I enjoyed it.

The Last Jedi is a movie worth seeing in 3D, with a beer.

New Years, Early

I have started my New Year’s resolution early. I started reading the first book for the 2018 Reading Challenge last weekend. I was in need of something read.

If I get to Christmas, 2018, without having read all 50 books, then I will consider the Reading Challenge failed. I’m not considering this week an extra seven days for the Challenge, in other words. It’s merely an early start.

I’m about halfway through that first book, with two weeks left on my library loan. I wanted to post this so that if anyone is following my progress with the Challenge, it won’t look like I’ve read a 300-page book in, like, two days.

Sloshing Through The Snow

Phillip and I agreed to kept up our tradition of seeing a movie on Christmas Day. When Phillip and Karen started this tradition, long before they met me, nobody went to the movies on Christmas, Phillip tells me, and they had the theaters to themselves. These days, it seems that half the city goes to a movie on Christmas.

Phillip wanted to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I wanted to see The Shape of Water. They were both playing at Thornton Place Cinemas, in Northgate. So we bought tickets to both. We figured we could make it a double feature if we dashed between theaters, and missed the previews during the second show. We bought our tickets in advance, with reserved seats, so we wouldn’t have to hunt for seats.

Then it snowed on Christmas Eve.

The snow was still there on Christmas Morning. We don’t have great tires on our car, we don’t have chains, and we live on a hill. With Seattle snow, there’s always the danger of it melting and freezing. What looks like snow could very well be a layer of snow over a sheet of ice. Plus, we have a lot of steep hills. Phillip and I just don’t drive in the snow, unless we absolutely have to.

Suggested by Phillip

Unfortunately, we’d bought four tickets to shows way up at Northgate.

Fortunately, route 41 runs directly from Downtown Seattle to Northgate Transit Center (right next to Thornton Place Cinemas), every half-hour, even on a holiday schedule.

Text alerts warned us of possible snow delays in the Metro service area. Of course, the Metro service area is all of King County, and King County is roughly the same size as Rhode Island.

We left our apartment with our traveling-in-the-snow-by-bus mindset: Ignore the schedule, and allow a whole lot more time than you think you’ll need. The streets in our neighborhood were bare. The sidewalks were slushy. We could drive, we agreed. We also agreed that we were better off taking the bus.

With Seattle’s microclimates, it could be snowing at Northgate and clear on Capitol Hill. Or, we could drive to Northgate on clear streets, spend six hours in the theater, and find our car in three feet of snow. We agreed to play it safe on the bus.

We got to the stop on Olive Way just as a 10 was pulling in. We got to the platform at Westlake Station just as a 41 was pulling in. Despite the 41 going 40 mph up the freeway (chains on dry pavement) we got to the theater two hours before Jumanji, our first movie, started.

Fortunately, Thornton Place Cinemas has plenty of places to sit and talk and read and play on our phones.

Even with bathroom breaks, and a refill on Phillip’s Diet Coke, between shows, we made it to The Shape of Water just as the previews had started.

Jumanji and The Shape of Water were two different movies, and both enjoyable. Jumanji was silly and fun. The Shape of Water was beautiful and moving.

After the movies, we walked over to the Northgate Transit Center, and got there moments before a 41 left. We rode as far as Convention Place Station and had a 10-minute wait for a 49 up to Capitol Hill. It was the first time we had to wait for a bus today.

We had dinner at La Cocina, and then walked home.

It was a perfect day.