Both Neighborhoods Represented Different Risks


I routinely tell my grandchildren that it is all about the adventure. Consequently, I look for something other than the ordinary around every corner. In the process, I sometimes find myself in an interesting dilemma. Yesterday proved to be no exception.


Let me back up and provide you the back-story. Andrea, my daughter, has been shopping for a sofa table for their living area. I’m not sure where all she’s looked, but she’d found a couple of tables that she thinks might work. Wednesday night when I visited in their home, she showed me pictures of them and wanted to know what I thought. I gathered that both are a little pricey. How’s that for using an oxymoron?


I agree with Andrea when it comes to getting what you want. On the other hand, maybe that expression is getting the cart before the horse. To suggest that she is her father’s daughter probably is a better way of explaining the similarities in our approach of looking for quality.


The thought has never favorably crossed Andrea’s mind to check on Craigslist, but I’m not adverse to looking on Craigslist. My track record has been good. I’ve purchased both a grandfather clock and a mantle clock for a fraction of their actual value. Why not look for a sofa table electronically before spending big bucks?

That was my question for Andrea and she had an immediate answer for me. She said: “Dad, you don’t normally get killed shopping at reputable places. That’s not always true with Craigslist. The answer is ‘No’. We are not going to shop through Craigslist”. I knew that would be her response, but I had done my homework. I’d already checked Craigslist and found a vendor who has a small shop where he makes furniture using metal and wood. Consequently, you can custom order the exact size sofa table you want within a range of several inches. The picture reflected a good design and quality work.


Truthfully, the picture captured Kevin’s attention before Andrea was willing to look. The favorable nod Kevin was making as he looked at the picture and the low-dollar price eventually caught her attention. She looked in my direction and said: “Thanks Dad!  Now we can get killed going to a welding shop in an unfavorable part of town.”


What’s a father to do? I assured her that I would take care of everything. I’d stop by the shop the following day. True to my word, I set my sights on the Bastrop Highway (aka – Hwy 183 near the intersection of Hwy 71). I actually took annual leave yesterday afternoon to shop for groceries. Perhaps that will be the second part of today’s musings.


Getting back to the unfavorable neighborhood, I’d activated my GPS when I left the office and thinking I had arrived, I pulled into a small strip center with a pizza place on the corner. I quickly inventoried the names on the storefronts and nothing registered. Looking South, I thought maybe it was the building one driveway down. As it turned out, it wasn’t.


The traffic was so heavy coming from both directions that it was impossible to back track. I parked my car, locked it and walked back in the direction from which I had come. To be certain, I placed another call to the shop owner. He clarified that his shop was behind the pizza place back in the far right corner of the property. I was surprised by the number of shops and the eclectic nature of the businesses that were located behind the street front businesses. I had the thought that it all seemed very strange and surreal. No one would have known that any of that was located behind the street front buildings. They were completely out of sight.


As I was finishing up conducting business with the metal and wood craftsman, he said: “If you had been here an hour or so ago, you’d have been in the middle of a lot of excitement. The police raided the business over there (as he pointed in the direction of a row of offices that were on the backside of those I had just walked past). He said, in fact this morning around 10:00 a fashionable dressed lady stopped by looking for the gaming room. I pointed her in that direction (again pointing in the direction he had just pointed).


I was confused. I know it’s hunting season, but what’s that got to do with a gaming room? I honestly had no frame of reference. He said, a gaming room is where people go to gamble. Today it didn’t work out so well for them.  I guess you could say thy lost.” In providing more details, he said, “I was surprised when I saw them, but their arrival caught my attention. The police officers were were transported here in two ambulances. Out of each ambulance came eight policemen in swat-team uniforms. They were heavily protected and carrying weapons.  I guess they were expecting a violent response. It all seemed to go peacefully, but they rounded up a lot of people.


Wouldn’t you know it? After being warned by my daughter to avoid Craigslist, I could have been rounded up and provided my Miranda Rights. Trust me, when it comes to remaining silent, I’m already toast. I don’t have the good sense to keep my mouth shut. Frankly, I felt a little relieved when I made it back to my car and headed to the grocery store.  Though I have to tell you I dreaded the thought of buying groceries.


So what did the mega-H.E.B. where I headed next and the place I was leaving have in common? Obviously both represented a contrast in socio-economic conditions and neighborhood profile. Yet the thing they shared is that both represented dangerous conditions. When you put too many people in a building, require that they push around oversize grocery baskets and have to negotiate standing in line to enter the correct code to place a price sticker on your produce, things could go haywire quickly.


I’ve never driven a dually pickup, but as I pushed my grocery basket through narrow aisles crowed with way too many people, I felt like I was attempting to park a pickup truck with dual rear wheels in a parking garage in downtown Houston. It was not a feel good experience. However, I tried to make the best of it. Why not talk to people and attempt to be engaging. I even made one woman laugh.


Actually, the woman and I almost ran our oversized baskets into one another. She corrected by turning her basket to her right while I did the same thing by turning my grocery basket to the left. Guess what? A head on collision was a short distance away. We both reacted immediately and duplicated the error of our ways. She quickly steered her basket to her left and I steer my to my right. You got it. We where destined to collide.


At this point, I normally would have asked: “Would you like to dance?”  Fortunately no one has ever taken me up on that invitation.  I don’t know how to dance.  Instead of saying that, I threw both of my hands into the air and pronounced: “Please run over me. Get me out of my misery!” She laughed heartedly.


Did I mention that it took 2 ½ hours to buy groceries?   I couldn’t even go home and complain about it. When the General left town a week earlier and handed me the grocery list, she did so with a word of warning. She said: “Don’t wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to buy groceries. You’ll be sorry if you do.” She was right. She is always right. At least, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it.


If I live to be a hundred and I’m well on my way, I will refuse any future request to purchase three different kinds of mushrooms at the grocery store. I don’t know anything about mushrooms and I had to find a store employee to help me figure out what I needed based on the list I was given. When it comes to shallots, I had to ask a total stranger shopping to my right if she could tell me where to find shallots. She said, “That’s what I’m look for as well.” I breathed a sigh of relief. She appeared to know what she was looking to find. I had no idea.


As it turned out, the lady looking for shallots didn’t know either.  She picked up something proclaiming she thought it was a shallot. She went to ask an employee.  As it turned out, it wasn’t a shallot, it was an onion.  The employee directed us to the shallots. They were located an aisle away.


I was greatly relieved “to get out of Dodge” when I left the grocery store. It may have been one of the worst uses of vacation time I’ve ever experienced. Did I mention, “I’m done with buying groceries?” By the way, the  use of “Dodge” was a reference to the near miss with the grocery basket.  It was a dangerous neighborhood.


All My Best!





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