Friday, March 28, 2014

The Reading Man of Geneva

Narrow Geneva Ave island seen between cars
   Marta was driving along Geneva Avenue in Daly City when her daughter Karla noticed an old Caucasian man reading a book while pacing on the island across the entrance to Bart station.  The man had grey beard and wore a brown hooded coat.  Karla took note of the book he was holding.  She recognized the book cover as Harry Potter.

   The next time they are in the area the man was not there.  They passed several times and didn’t catch the man again.  Then one day, just when they have given up on seeing the old man, he was there pacing the island with his book in hand.  Then the driver of the car in front of them handed the old man some money.  The mother and daughter realized the old man is a mendicant.  The book reading must be some kind of stage prop for his business. Then Karla saw the book cover.  

   “Mom the man is reading Sherlock Holmes! Last time he was reading Harry Potter.  I thought he was pretending to be reading but if he is changing books then he must be really finishing them.  The man is amazing!” Karla said to her mother beside her.

   There is a sign by the post right next to where the man pace around that says “No Mendicants”.  The man does not ask the motorists for money.  He signals with his hand going towards his mouth that he needs money for food.  Some motorist actually stretch an arm through the window with a dollar bill.  Marta is thrifty like most Filipinos.  She had to think twice if she should let hard earned money fly out her car window.  

   What her daughter saw in the man compelled Marta to dig in her purse.  She swore that she will hand the man something each time she finds him.  In these days when book stores are closing one by one because people played video games instead of read, the reading man of Geneva is a model for those who would not look the other way.  

   The Bible predicted “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.” (Mark 13:8)  Michael Jackson sang We Are The World about a famine in Africa that killed 80,000.  In 1974 George Harrison, sang Bangladesh about a famine that killed 1.5 million.  But there is a famine no one is singing about, the starving homeless living in cardboard boxes, benches and under bridges. Every city, state and country has them.  If we can put them all in one place we will see the biggest famine of all time surrounded by food chains they can’t afford to buy.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Fast Lane to Goodbye

   Charles and Elena found each other from a seniors’ dating site.  He was 55, a three times divorced American and she was 50, a widowed Filipina.  They emailed, chatted and sent photos to each other.  Charles is blond with blue eyes, almost 6 ft. tall and thin as Vic Sotto.  She thought he looked like Brad Pitt.  Elena was young looking, almost mestiza (almost Caucasian)  with long light brown hair and smooth skin.  She has maintained her figure for those rare occasion when she went swimming with friends and family.  Very few women in their 50’s could match her swim suit photos in her dating site profile.  He thought she looked like any other Asian.  Charles is a racist who was running out of options among American women.

   The whirlwind romance was understandable.  Both were middle aged and felt they did not have time to lose.  They both jumped into the relationship with eyes closed, trying to ignore reasons to back out of it.  They had a nice wedding, a memorable honeymoon and life in the US began for the Elena.  

   Before the mortgage crisis of 2008, finding a job came easy for Elena.  It was a pleasant surprise to her that she was offered a salary of $38K a year.  Charles wanted half of it deposited in his account.  Every night he was served dinner and then tea in his favorite seat in front of the television while Elena did all the house chores as any Filipina is used to doing.  

   In his defense, Charles flew Elena to America in Business Class.  He did not allow her to take public transportation.  She got a car from day one.  Charles never let an occasion go without him handing her $150 to buy herself whatever she wanted.  He took her on vacation trips.  He was the best thing that ever happened to her.

   Elena bought herself nice things.  She can do what she wanted with her half of her pay, no questions asked.  She can send some back to the family in the Philippines.  In return, she facilitated the purchase of a condo unit in Charles’ name as sole owner.  With her own money she furnished that home with comfortable furniture and tastefully decorated each room.  None of the first three ex-wives could beat that.  She was the best thing that ever happened to him.

   Then drugs came into the picture.  Charles found meth and things changed.  He became verbally abusive, greedy with money and hateful.  Elena tried to hang in there until the situation became intolerable.  She later walked out and he filed for a divorce. Once again a good beginning found the fast lane to an unhappy ending.  
Post Script:

    A few months after the divorce Charles lost his job due to his drug addiction then he lost the condo unit to foreclosure.  The last time Elena saw him he looked skin and bones thin, walks with a shake and like one shower away from being homeless.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

The In-Law Apartment Lifestyle

   We've heard of the lifestyle of the rich and famous.  Now let's discuss the lifestyle of the NOT rich and famous.  The high cost of living in San Francisco created a unique lifestyle. Garage and ground floor areas have been renovated to accommodate a single person or a couple.  These are called in-law units.  In Tagalog it is called "silong" (under the main floor).  Most of these are cramped with little or no storage space.   Some have bedroom closets but not nearly enough for the typical amount of personal stuff.  This is where a tenant can be creative.   Below are some tips on making the most of the living space without spending more than necessary.

To augment closet space make use of the space under the bed instead of a free standing drawer.  Dollar Tree stores have plastic containers for a dollar that can slide in and out.  A single bed that lay on the corner of the bedroom has one side and the foot of the bed.   Get one for socks, another for underwear, another for sleep wear, etc. For miscellaneous items that do not need to be visited daily push behind the boxes.   The bed skirt and cover could hide the boxes.  This gives more closet space for wardrobe and the absence of a free standing drawer leaves more floor space to enjoy.  

The space behind and under the couch could be used to store food  that does not need refrigeration.   Store food in containers that can be sealed tight or are securely wrapped like bags of rice,  canned goods, wine and soda, laundry and bath supplies, etc.   

   Because it might be prohibited to use nails on the walls use decals to decorate the walls.  They are inexpensive, could look elegant depending on the design and you won't mind leaving it on the wall when you move out.  It would be a way to express a personal design statement.  

   In-law units can be furnished with very little cost by buying from Goodwill stores. Detail clean it before bringing the item in.  For fabric covered furniture, vacuum, then use a lint roller to pick up clinging hair and other particles that resisted the vacuuming. Then spray the fabric parts  dripping wet with Fabreze fabric freshener.  When it dries the furniture will be as good as if it had been dry cleaned.  Wipe down the legs and non-fabric parts with furniture polish from Dollar Tree.  The executive chair on the photo is a perfect example.  The cushion feels as good as new, the missing arm rest is no big deal as long as it did not cost an arm and a leg which a new one would.  

   Goodwill stores also have elegant decors that are inexpensive.  With careful picking and cleaning the in-law unit can look just as good as a regular apartment. The copper vase and fake flowers cost $8 and would have cost around $20-25 if brand new.  Remember that just because the place is small doesn't mean it's unlovable.   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Brown Bag

   Brown Bag is a program that provide seniors with food items.  Senior citizens in San Francisco receive groceries from Brown Bag weekly.  One has to get creative in cooking meals that utilize the contents of the brown bag as ingredients.  Each week brings some of the following food items:
Fresh Produce


Ground turkey 

Chicken legs
Canned Goods
Sweet Peas
Green beans
Sweet Corn
Tomato Sauce


   Below are some recipes:
  • Pasta Sauce:  Use ground turkey (instead of ground beef), sauté with minced garlic, chopped onions, chopped celery then add tomato sauce from can.
  • Oatmeal Breakfast: cook oatmeal the usual way then add Nestle chocolate as flavoring, add milk and sugar or add any fruit from can.
  • Sweet Corn Soup: pour Campbell’s Cream of Chicken in a sauce pan to boil then add the sweet corn and stir until ready.
  • Mashed Potatoes:
    season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper.

  • Potato Soup: chop potatoes into small pieces and add to Campbell’s Cream of Chicken.
  • Chicken Soup: chop chicken into small pieces and add to Campbell’s Cream of Chicken.
  • French toast:
    beat eggs and add milk and sugar, dip the bread and fry in butter.
  • Juice: invest in an electric juicer and make apple juice or pear juice, peel the orange to make orange juice, peel the carrot to make carrot juice.
  • Arroz Caldo Soup:
    boil chicken legs to tenderize then debone; sauté chicken meat with chopped ginger, minced garlic and chopped onion when cooked add the chicken and chicken broth and rice; add salt and pepper.
  • Fruit Salad:
    mix canned fruits with Nestle Cream then add sugar.
  • Barbeque Chicken:
    boil chicken legs to tenderize then debone; fry chicken meat in 1½ table spoon barbeque sauce, 2 table spoon Worcestershire Sauce and oil; cook until the sauce has dried.
  • French Fries: peel potatoes and fry then dry with paper towel and ad flavoring.
  • Tinola:
    sauté chicken meat with chopped ginger, minced garlic and chopped onion then add potatoes (instead of green papaya)
  • Shanghai egg roll: sauté ground turkey with minced garlic and chopped onion, chopped celery and cook to let dry then roll in wrapper and fry; serve with sweet and sour sauce or ketchup.
  • Chicken Afritada
    : boil chicken legs to tenderize then debone; sauté chicken meat with minced garlic and chopped onion then add tomato sauce, potato,  bay leaf and carrots.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Greatest Love Story

   In the Bible Jacob met Rachel for the first time and he burst into tears (Genesis 29: 10-11) then he worked for fourteen years to have her as his wife. (Genesis 29:18, 27)  He stayed in the same place while many of his children were born.  The hardest thing to do is move.  Anyone who takes this step knows it comes from the heart.  But as soon as Rachel gave birth to their first son Joseph, Jacob immediately made plans to return to his own land like Rachel’s child indicated the first day of the rest of his life (Genesis 30:25).   

   On his way back to his land from Laban’s, his elder brother Esau came to meet him half way with four hundred men.  Jacob became afraid that Esau might be planning to harm him and his family.  He sent ahead of him a servant with peace offering of gifts for Esau Genesis 32:13-21).  

   When the two bothers got within sight of each other Esau still had four hundred men behind him (Genesis 33:1).  Jacob divided his children, and positioned them with the maidservants and their children in front, followed by Leah and her children and Rachel and her son Joseph to the rear. (Genesis 33:2)  He put Rachel and her son to the rear to protect her.  The arrangement was based on his love, from who he loved the least to who he loved the most.  As Jacob himself said in Genesis 32:8 “If Esau attacks … then the other …will be able to escape.”  When the one you love is in danger, you get expeditiously brave and astute.  Jacob was not a military man.  He was a shepherd.  However in the face of a perceived enemy his heart ruled to protect Rachel as only the best military commander can.

   “Then your slave my father said to us, ‘You well know that my wife bore but two sons to me.”  Judah said repeating what his father Jacob said to him previously (Genesis 44:27).  Jacob had two wives and yet he calls only one his wife, clearly referring to Rachel who had two sons while Leah had six sons and a daughter.  (Genesis 30:20-21)  In his heart Jacob has only one wife, Rachel.  He will be with her again in paradise someday.