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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Just four more days.  Wow…time flies when you are having fun (and scrambling to get everything ready for Tuesday’s celebration!)  Lots of recipients and blog followers have RSVP’d for the event.  It will surely be an interesting evening.  Some donations are coming in for the raffle and auction, but still no primary sponsor.  Hmmm….it looks like I am the primary sponsor 😉

Here in DC it seems like Starbucks cafes are everywhere.  I think you can walk to five of them within ten minutes of my house.  Oh, before I go on, let me go back to the sponsorship item really quick since I mentioned Starbucks.  I actually thought they would be a very interesting sponsor.  I have given my $10 away at several Starbucks locations, have given to employees, and happen to frequent their establishment quite often myself.  In addition, the Year of Giving is all about bringing people together, connecting our community.  I’m guessing that if you ask Starbucks what their business is, I doubt they’d say it was making coffee…but providing a much bigger holistic service that had more to do with bringing people together.  Maybe not, just a guess.  But anyway, nothing from them yet…although that’s not for a lack of trying.

Cliff nimbly maneuvers over the curb.

Anyway, do you ever think about how is that every morning a place like Starbucks has everything it needs to quench your cravings?  It’s because of people.  It’s because of great people like Cliff who I ran into on the night before Thanksgiving.  I guess I could say Thanksgiving Eve, but that sounds weird to me.  Anyway, he was hard at work around 10:30pm at the Starbucks closest to my apartment.

I walked around to the back of his truck where he was pulling a dozen crates off at a time with a dolly and then rolling them into the cafe.  Each one was full with fresh milk, coffee beans, pastries, you name it.  “I don’t work for Starbucks directly, but they’re the only account I service,” Cliff told me as he heaved the dolly up over the curb.  “You build up some muscles doing this,” he added with a half smiling half grimacing expression.  He rolled the dolly around the side of the truck, opened the door, and backed into the now dimly lit coffee haven.  It was weird to see someone inside a dark completely empty Starbucks.  Usually they are brightly lit with an even flow customers percolating in and out. 

He came back with an empty dolly ready to load up another set of crates.  Cliff was very friendly and willing to speak with me although he told me he used to be more reserved and kept to himself.  I found that hard to believe based on my encounter with him. 

“It usually takes me about 10-12 hours to do my shift,” he said.  Starbucks goes through a lot of product.  He told me something like that he delivered some 686 units of milk each day, and I can’t remember if that is total or per store.  I’m guessing total, but I just did a quick search and it seems like it is possible that that figure is per store if he delivers every other day.

“I’m a very happily married man,” the 44-year-old from Maryland told me.  “I’ve got two girls and two boys; been married for 18 years.”  I asked if he was going to be spending Thanksgiving with the entire family and he said only one of his kids would be home, “The others are all grown and have their own families.” 

Cliff is a solid guy, not only personality-wise but also physically.  Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to have to wrestle him to get your coffee every morning.  He’s recently been focusing on his health.  “I’ve been working on my weight,” he shared.  “I’ve lost 40 pounds…you see I’m diabetic,” he told me as he muscled another load over the curb.  “I got 20 more pounds to go to reach my goal of 200.”  That’s quite an achievement to lose 40 pounds. 

I waited for him while he disappeared again and delivered the goods.  I looked at the lined walls of the interior of the truck.  It was full of all kinds of goodies.  My mind slipped into a dream-like state and I envisioned myself driving the truck around giving all the homeless people I have met this year some hot coffee and pastries. 

I needed to get on the road to Pennsylvania and I’m sure Cliff was getting sick of chatting with me.  He came back and I asked him what he was going to do with his money.  “I’m going to give it to my wife,” he said grinning like a child.  “A man’s got to provide for his wife and family.”  I shook Cliff’s hand and invited him to the Year of Giving Anniversary Celebration this Tuesday.  “I might have to work that night,” he said.  “But let’s see.”  I started to walk away and he added one last thing, “I’m going to tell my wife about this.  She’s gonna love it.”

I walked back to my apartment, got in my car and began the two-hour drive to Mechanicsburg to spend Thanksgiving with my father.

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Barb in front of the laundromat in downtown Mechanicsburg, PA. (photo: Reed)

Day 266 was Labor Day. 

I spent all day here at my dad’s house.  I needed to go out and find someone to give my $10 to and he offered to join me.  We were going to walk down to the downtown area of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, but his knee and back have been bothering him and he was not sure that walking down there would be a good idea.  So we hopped in the car and drove over there and then walked around. 

We parked in front of Dieners, a breakfast institution in this town. We walked east down Main Street, past Jo Jo’s Pizzeria, which incidentally has possibly the world’s best Italian sub, when I spotted a laundromat just past the Gingerbread Man.  There were two women talking and my dad and I decided to walk up a little further to see who we find.  We past the main square where Main and Market Streets come together and walked another block past Myer’s funeral home, where my mother’s funeral was held, until we arrived at Eckels Drug Store (trivia: this is where a scene from Girl Interrupted was filmed.)

Dad and I headed back toward the laundromat to give the $10 to someone there.  When we got there Barb was coming out with her dog Diva.

Barb's pooch (photo: Reed)

Barb was born in Harrisburg and then moved to Shiremanstown before moving to Mechanicsburg some 45 years ago where she graduated from Mechanicsburg High School.  She has three children and two step-children, 15 grandkids and one great-grandson who will be two soon.  We spent a lot of time talking about her kids.  In fact, she had just returned earlier that day from visiting her son down in Bel Air, Maryland.

She couldn’t decide what she was going to do with the ten dollars, but she did give me her address so I can follow up with her later and see what she decides on.  When I told her that I find one person every day and I chose her for this day she said, “Wow…that is really great.  It is really nice of you that you do this – not too many people would do it.”

“I love people,” the 62-year-old told me.  She lit a cigarette, exhaled and went on, “I don’t have a lot of money to do things for others, but I am always volunteering my services.”  She told me about a friend of hers who was going through a difficult time.  Her friend, who is battling cancer, has a son in prison out near Pittsburgh who got extremely ill and is now in a coma.  “I do what I can for her, sometimes just making some phone calls to let others know how she is doing.” 

Barb didn't make it to Jo Jo's before they closed because she took time to talk to me. (photo: Reed)

Main Street was quite dark now and I checked my watch.  It was 9pm.  She was going to try to get some food at Jo Jo’s so we walked toward the restaurant that is housed in an old fire station.  Unfortunately by the time we got there they had just locked the door.  “I guess I will head up toward the Chinese place,” Barb said.  I felt bad, had I not stopped to talk with her she would have made it in time to get her dinner at Jo Jo’s.  Well, at least she had a few extra dollars for her dinner.

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Lowe's Gainesville, VA (photo:Reed)

I spent the Fourth of July weekend at my friend Tom’s house out in Manassas, VA. Our goal was to gut his bathroom and put in a brand new one and surprise his wife when she returned from visiting her parents on Tuesday. Well, let’s just say that she was surprised alright when she got back. Yeah, we didn’t exactly finish the project, but we did manage to strip it all the way down to the 2×4 boards, water pipes and electrical wiring. Everything, and I mean everything else was ripped out of there. I was back out there this last weekend and we now have the new tub in, the cement board down, the ceiling and walls up and all the pipes and electrical work done.

photo: Reed

Well, while I was out there the first weekend we made many trips to Lowes and Home Depot. On one occasion I let Tom go hunt for some bronze coupling part we needed as part of moving all the pipes and I went hunting for a recipient. I found George scoping out some of the flowers and plants over in the gardening area.

When I looked at George I couldn’t help but see a resemblance between him and one hard working gentleman from the North Pole. As it turns out others have seen this similarity too and he has been a working Santa Claus for more than 40 years. He has some great stories too. Check some of them out here:

I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the Santa Claus industry. For example, where is the best place to work? I would have said the mall. But the most fun that George ever had was at a Chik-fil-A believe it or not. But you’re probably wondering what the heck George does for the other 11 months of the year.

Well after a short career in radio he went to work for the US Postal Service for 34 years until retiring recently after suffering a stress-induced coma that lasted one month! “I guess the work was causing more stress than I thought,” he said before jokingly saying, “At least I didn’t go postal!” After coming out of the coma George had to go to speech therapy. He even started volunteering at the clinic which resulted in them hiring him on a part-time basis working one day a week. After four years there this sadly came to an end last week when they let George go due to a cost cutting effort. I felt really bad for him as he seemed to enjoy it so much.

“I would really like to find a part time job around Manassas where I can work about one day a week.” If anyone knows of something, please let me know and I will connect you with George. He seemed very interested in trying to get back into radio and possibly working at a Christian radio station.

photo: Reed

In the spirit of giving George told me that he was going to donate the $10 to his church: Manassas Assembly of God. “I am going to donate it toward the missions.” I went on their website and they have extensive missionary work in all parts of the world.

Before I let him go (he had to go pick up his wife) I invited him to the year-end celebration for the Year of Giving that will take place on or about December 14th here in DC. “Could I come as Santa Claus?” he asked.

Absolutely!

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Day 188 was Father’s Day.  My dad came down from Pennsylvania for the day.  My brother and his wife met us at Guapo’s in Shirlington, VA for lunch.  After getting our Mexican fill, we went over to watch City Island.  I had never heard of this movie, but it is quite good.  Then we went over to my brother and his wife’s house and played bridge.  I really enjoy playing bridge, however, I don’t know hardly anyone who plays and I am not that good.  It is probably the most dynamic card game that I know. 

For dinner we decided to take our father to Ray’s the Steaks (2300 Wilson Blvd.) in Arlington, VA. I had not been there before and was very impressed….well I shouldn’t be surprised, their sister restaurant, Ray’s Hell Burger (1725 Wilson Blvd, Arlingtong, VA), serves up the best burger I have ever sunk my teeth into.  I asked our server, a young lady who was working her last shift before taking a leave of absence from Ray’s, if there were any staff members who were fathers.  She went to check.

Daren (Photo: Reed)Meanwhile we enjoyed a delicious dinner.  They have a special that runs Sun-Tues that consists of a salad, two 5-oz filet mignons, two family style side orders and dessert for $24.99.  For the quality you get, it is a pretty good deal.  We didn’t have anything to drink, but their wines and beers seemed reasonably priced.

Our server returned with Daren.  He’s a proud father of two girls, 5 and 8 years old.  A product of growing up in both Ocala, FL and the Bronx, NY, he considers himself more of a Bronx guy.  “I’m definitely more Bronx when I’m angry,” he says laughing.

He’s been working at Ray’s for about a year and a half.  “It’s a great place to work.  Management is very respectful to the employees.”  He goes on to say that, “Michael, the owner, comes in almost every day.”  

I asked Daren what his favorite item from the menu was.  Check out this video for his answer as well as a little bit about one of Michael Landrum’s newest ventures, Ray’s Hell Burger II  (1713 Wilson Blvd, Alrington, VA).  Caution, you may be mouth-watering hungry after watching:

I learned that Ray’s has no website and does no marketing.  Anyone who has eaten there understands why.  The food is so good that you don’t need to do marketing.  Another interesting thing they do there is on Sundays they donate 10% of their sales to the Boys and Girls Clubs of NE Washington, DC and Arlington, VA.  “I’m going to donate your $10 to the Boys & Girls Club,” Daren shares with me with great excitement.

Although polite, Daren’s supervisor seemed a little bothered that I was potentially keeping Daren from his tables, so I wished him a happy Father’s Day and said goodbye.

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