I look into my little box;
there it sits, nestled on a little white paper and triangle tray,
my first carrot cake of the season.
I love it’s nutty goodness, crunchy walnuts, slivers of
orange carrots, plump juicy raisins.
I dig in with my white plastic fork.
“I just got back from Africa,” he says from the podium.
“They don’t have enough food or water at the refugee camp.
They come to me begging for help and I can’t help them.
I am helpless.”
“The young men come with applications for universities. They
need the fees to get in. If I had the money, it would have to go
to feed the children. There is nothing I can do.”
I munch on my cake. It’s awfully good. I dip into the creamy white
frosting. Umm, made with creme cheese. My favorite.
“Next month,” he tells us, “I go on a mission to South Sudan. They are
having a civil war and 50,000 have died. They tell me they don’t kill priests.”
“Oh, look,” I think to myself, “a little tiny carrot on top of the frosting.
Isn’t that cute?” I hold the little brown box with one hand. It’s one of those
collapsible ones that folds out into a box with handles. Handy, huh?
He reaches out to me in the crowd. He is very tan which
means he has been sleeping outside all summer. He looks to be
about twenty and very f—–up.
“It’s drugs or alcohol or both,” I think to myself. I give him the universal symbol for no in Korean, crossed forearms. He veers off.
“I hope he gets the help he needs somewhere,” I think.
“Wow, look, a little more cake on the bottom.
Let me get that.”
Read more of Courtney’s writing in:
I shook my head. I must be hungrier than I thought.
Cutting it off with Debbi, I made my way to the lunch room. There was going to be an after-hours work party at the pizza place. I was really thinking about the party and anyone interesting I might meet.
The school term finally lurched to an end. We were all exhausted with finals and term projects.
One day Debbi told me “I knocked over a lamp in the living room and haven’t had time to pick it up.”
In some weird way, that made total sense. Our little group babbled endlessly either about school or the current boyfriends.
However, life chugged on at the Megastore. I got to work a bit late the next Saturday and people were milling around in clumps, whispering. Debbi and another State girl were huddled together. I had to immediately invite myself into the conversation. They talked in low voices.
“I can’t believe it!” Janet, a short, somewhat chubby, English major was saying. “I was just working with her!”
“I know, I know,” Debbi was saying with a brilliant gleam in her eye. “Isn’t it something!”
“What, what?” I was practically jumping up and down at this point. What was going on?
“It’s Sharlene,” Janet almost whispered.
“What?” I said too loudly and two of the day girls turned and stared at me, then turned away.
“She got arrested!” Debbi blurted out.
“Arrested!” I was stunned. My mouth formed an O shape.
“Handcuffs and everything,” Janet chimed in. “The police were just here and they took her away.”
My head was reeling. “For what?” I got out.
“Stealing,” said Debbi smugly. My mouth dropped.
“It’s like this,” explained Janet. She did a small finger point to the corner where the payment book and the box had been. They weren’t there. “She was taking the payments from the customers and giving them a receipt for their money, but then taking maybe $5.00 from the payment and putting it in her pocket.”
“But the book had two copies,” I said. “How could she change the bottom copy?”
Debbi glanced around then leaned forward, proud of herself, “She found a way to cover the bottom copy when she was writing and then changed the bottom amount to what was in the box.”
“So how did they find out?” I was dumbfounded.
“Well,” Debbi was having more fun than a barrel of exploding snaps, “these people kept coming in and complaining that their statement in the mail didn’t match how much they had paid in the store. When one or two people said it, Marge thought they were just trying to pull a fast one, but then so many came in, she began to suspect something.”
“Yeah,” said Janet in a very hushed voice, “that’s when she started watching all of us.” My stomach got queasy.
“They finally figured out it was Sharlene but they could never really seeing her doing it. So, they had to wait until they saw her do it two or three times and then they could get her.”
“Yeah,” Debbi had to add, “Marge wants to eat Norma’s head.”
“Why?” I said incredulous.
“Because Norma didn’t notice the difference in the inks on the paper,” whispered Janet.
“Wow,” was all I could say. “How much do you think she got?” Janet put her hands up and shrugged with a question mark face. We finally all decided we should at least look busy and drifted back to work.
We never saw Sharlene after that day. And, Megalopolis Furniture Store did not specialize in any form of employee rehab. Debbi, Janet and Mark, the accounting guy, and I all graduated from State that year. I stayed with Megalopolis a few more months after graduation, just long enough to get a transfer to San Diego and find a full-time job.
We all went on with our separate lives. Still, from time to time I think about Sharlene and my own decision to just think about this green stuff as ‘paper.’
THE FURNITURE WAREHOUSE – Courtney E. Webb
I remember walking into the store my first day of work. I walked through the showroom floor because I hadn’t figured out the employee stairs yet.
The showroom filled up the entire 2nd floor of this gigantic warehouse furniture store. I had never seen anything like it; every aisle was stuffed to the brim with sofas and chairs, side tables, bedroom sets, wardrobe closets, lamps, rugs, dining room sets. It seemed endless.
That day I stopped to look at a display. At first I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. There was a would-be Greek youth statue in an almost stone grey color bent over looking like he was holding something. The something was a large fountain of sorts made with clear strands of acrylic wire strung around the ‘pool’ in a diagonal pattern. The really fascinating part and what caught my attention were the ‘drips’ of ‘water’ that flowed lazily down the strands of wire and into the pool. I stopped to stare and then gawk trying to figure out how this was done. I was fascinated with the ‘water’ returning to the top of the fountain and the way the ‘drops’ moved so slowly down the strands. Amazing.
The Greek youth was a fixture in a master bedroom ‘suit’ as I was to hear it called later. The side sofa next to him was covered in a plush, deep red velvet affair with gold on lay trim. The bed too was covered in a huge red velvet bedspread and I had to gawk again. There were lamps in the suite with more Greek figures of nymphs surrounded by hanging crystal glass ornaments. Wow! We sure didn’t have anything like that in my house!
I wanted to look at more stuff but time was a wasting and I had to get to my new job. I was starting as a cashier at the front desk of the Megalopolis Furniture Store. I was met by my new boss, Marge, otherwise to be known as ‘dragon lady’ or ‘She who must be obeyed.’
Marge was an imposing woman, probably several inches taller than me (and I’m not short.) She emphasized her height by having really tall salt and pepper hair way up on top. I could never tell if that was natural or dyed. God forbid you should ever ask such a thing. Marge explained my duties crisply and succinctly and started the process of explaining debits and credits how all those transactions are recorded on little manila cards.
“Which, by the way, these cards,” she gestured holding several of the small, square manila cards in one large hand, “ are never, never to be taken out of the office or to leave the building. Understand?”
She glared at me when she said this. I think my eyes bugged out a little but I nodded vigorously.
“Good,” Marge nodded, “we can proceed.”
She walked me around the office and introduced me to the day staff and told me that I would only work with them on weekends. I and the other college students, would be working nights and weekends.
“You understand that right?” she wanted to know. Again, I nodded again and we continued our tour.
Life with Marge could be a real trial. She almost fired me once for screwing up; her ice blue eyes boring into the back of my skull.
“Do you even think you can do this?”
I nodded miserably. I needed this job so badly; I had rent to pay, groceries to buy and gasoline to put in the car. I was finally able to keep all the debits and credits in their respective columns.
In time, things smoothed out and I got the hang of things at the big warehouse. Dealing with the salesmen was something else again.
One busy Saturday salesman Jones brought a couple up to the counter.
“Okay, Sir,” he said with that supercilious tone of his. He plunked down his heavy sales clipboard with about a million papers attached. “This young lady will be handling the cash end of the thing,” and he waved my direction.
I smiled sweetly at the old duffer in the grey suit, old enough to be my father and began to ask for coin of the realm and identification to prove it was real money. The very young lady with him wandered off. When we finished the paper transaction I asked “Oh, is your daughter coming back? I can get the salesman.” His face got red and he stomped off.
A few minutes later Jones came huffing and puffing up to the counter and waved a finger at me.
“That was his girlfriend you idiot!” he shouted at me. My mouth dropped. I mumbled some apology and Jones stomped off.
Ah, well, it was the 70’s. The bulk of the night clerks were Cal State students like me. I got the job because I met one of the guys in my accounting class. We were a fairly chummy lot and the job got to be fun because it was easy and we had basically no supervision at night.
The warehouse guys downstairs partied continously. Their specialties were forklift races while drunk. Jeese!
A coworker, Debbi, was an econ major with long, long beautiful red hair. She got engaged to an absolutely homely guy. I could not believe it other than the fact that she talked non-stop and maybe only he could stand it.
Debbi and I were lingering by the counter one Saturday and she was yakking away about The Boyfriend again. I think my brain had traveled into ‘numb’ mode. It was late afternoon on a Saturday and as it approached the dinner hour, more and more customers tended to shuffle on home. I feigned interest.
Behind us, Norma, the hyper-efficient senior cashier was fidgeting over the plies of money on the big table like Mole from Wind in the Willows. It was like she was sure Toad was going to come roaring up any minute, stuff all the money into bags and go screaming off into the night.
After working at this place for a while I had gotten used to seeing the ‘big’ table covered with stacks and stacks of bills. The bills were wrapped around with bank wrappers and the coins were in a large white bag. There were stacks and stacks of credit card slips and checks of every size and description. It was nothing to have a $50,000 Saturday and in 1972, that was saying something. After I had stared and stared at how much money I had to handle each day, I decided to think about it as paper, not money at all. That, I decided would make my life much simpler and of course, it did.
Norma was counting and recounting the stacks, her black beady eyes darting around the table. I knew she would not relax until the Brinks man showed up, took the huge stacks off her hands and off of her conscience. Marge was extremely proud of our reputation of ‘balancing’ everyday with no more than $5.00 off one way or the other.
Anyway, Debbi blabbered on and on and it was getting time for my lunch break when a big Hispanic family hove into view. They were moving slowly, which, they would be since they seemed to have brought every living relative they had with them that day. This was actually a common occurrence in this little town with a large Hispanic population.
I glanced casually over at this slow moving train. I could never understand this phenomenon. Why bring all these people? It seemed so, so, I don’t know, inefficient I guess was the word I would use. Whatever.
Sharlene, one of the clerks who more or less kept to herself, jumped up to help the man. This gire was a little different. She was not a Cal State student like most of us and none of us really knew her. She didn’t go to school at all although she was about our same age. She seemed to sort of ‘float’ back and forth from the day shift to the night shift.
The Hispanic man had obviously come to make a payment on his account. The Hispanics would come into the store and get sold a bill of goods by the flash and dangle of the super-salesmen and walk out with about half a house. At $10 per month payment for all this high quality stuff; the furniture would be worn out and in the trash can before they got the bill paid.
There was a ring notebook payment pad in the corner. There was a top white copy and then a yellow carbon underneath. The cashier would take the customer’s $10 or $15 payment, write out the receipt, give it to them and then put the cash in the little grey cash box under the counter. Norma would snatch up the book and cash box each day and do reconciliation. She would then put the box back the next morning with a small amount of start-up cash.
Sharlene seemed eager to help the man and I was fine with that. I didn’t like doing those payments anyway, boring. She took his money and had it in her hand and wrote out the slip. She chatted busily. She tore off the slip and handed it to him and bent down to put the money in the box. For just a second I thought I saw something go into her pants pocket. But I was really wasn’t focused on her and when I looked again, she had straightened up and everything was back in place. I shook my head and thought “I must be hungrier than I thought.” I cut it off with Debbi and made my way to the lunch room. There was going to be an after- hours work party at the pizza place. I was really thinking about the party and anyone interesting I might meet.
Continued Part II
Blake Lively does a stunning reveal at the Met Gala 22 with a Gilded Age gown designed by Atelier Versace. The gown showed up in copper tones and then did a reveal to show patina copper to resemble the Statue of Liberty. The bodice is hand sewn beads to resemble Union Station.
The dress is stated as costing $12,000 but that is clearly for publicity. Maybe, that is what Versace charged the actress. No way a dress like that cost that kind of money. The fashion and design world would really love to find out who was on the design team for the dress, all of which was held in the tightest security before the big event. Also, clearly a small army of workers helped to create the confection and apparently, they were all able to keep tight lips also as, it appears, even Ryan Reynolds, the husband, was totally surprised at the reveal which took the Gala by storm.
El Pais – Retrieved from Internet 5/4/22
Is Putin losing the war? The balance of the first phase of the conflict in Ukraine
The Russian invasion has lost its impetus and a series of setbacks has forced the Kremlin to reorganize its forces, raising questions about its military power
Russia has been unable to capture Ukraine’s main cities – the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and even the badly battered Mariupol are still holding out. Odessa remains free, and Ukrainian forces are regaining ground in several parts of the country. Russian troops are withdrawing from their positions on the northern front, and most particularly from their positions around Kyiv. Analysts with the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believe that Russian forces have abandoned their efforts to capture Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine and the target of an intense offensive since the beginning of the invasion. Russian forces are still shelling the city, but seem to have given up on their attempts to encircle and control it.
Russian military victims
Ukrainian military victims
According to Moscow : there are 1,351 Russian military dead and 3,825 injured. There
17,000 either dead or injured in Kyiv.
According to UN figures there are 7,000 to 15,000 Russians dead or injured. 1,179 Ukrainians dead and 1,861 injured. There are 4 million refugees and 6.5 mill displaced persons.
10-15% of Russian forces are down
Figures provided by Kyiv (March 29);
Moscow and the Pentagon (March 25);
UN (March 24)
4 million refugees
6.5 million displaced people
*The human and military losses during a war are usually estimates due to the difficulty of verifying the figures on the ground
The realization of failure on several lines of attack and the attrition of its forces is forcing the Kremlin to reorganize its deployment in Ukraine. There have been tremendous material losses.
The Russian have clearly loss a tremendous number of military vehicles, ships and planes. Russia obviously want to capture Maripol which will give them access to the Sea of Azov and entrance to the Black Sea. They may still get it.
*The specialized website Oryx, which is documenting loss of military equipment by Russia and Ukraine based on visual evidence, is offering a count that helps gain insight into the material cost of this conflict. Ukrainian losses are probably undercounted.
“The first phase has been a Russian military failure of colossal proportions, a truly impressive thing. It will be the subject of study at military academies due to the accumulation of mistakes,” says François Heisbourg, a special advisor for France’s Foundation for Strategic Research (FFRS), the leading French center of expertise on international security and defense issues. The core cause, says Heisbourg, is an erroneous political analysis by the Kremlin that led officials to believe there would not be such a strong resistance by Ukrainians, a fact that also led to inadequate military planning.
“It’s been a disaster,” agrees Ruth Deyermond, a scholar at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London who specializes in security in the post-Soviet space. “We are observing great losses, communication and logistical failures, signs of corruption. They are being forced to resort to mercenaries, and they are withdrawing from Kyiv. No doubt Russia is losing the war. We cannot confidently say that Ukraine is winning, but we can clearly say that Russia is losing,” she says.
The following is an analysis of the combination of strategic and tactical factors that have led the warring sides to the point where they are at, in a war with an as yet uncertain outcome that will define an era. “The initial failure is not an indication of what will happen later,” warns Heisbourg. The conflict could be long and something could tip the balance of war again.
Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain, returned to London with a signed agreement from Hilter and Mussolini, where they agreed to not invade anymore countries. It was signed Sept 30, 1938. Germany invaded Poland on Sept 1, 1939. It would appear to the layperson, the agreement was signed primarily to give the Germans time to cement their plans.
Comparisions to those times and what we are seeing today with Russia/Ukraine are chilling in their similarities.
In 1966, I attended high school in small backwater place, San Bernardino, CA. I was a sophomore and was invited to attend a new Humanities course that would combine history, English, art and music instruction in one set of classes with four separate teachers. I accepted the invitation and it turned out to be one of the best courses I have ever taken. I still remember things I learned back then. (Ionic pillars anyone?)
Although all the teachers were good, one teacher stuck out to me as the very best. Elka Ellison was one of the history teachers and breathed life into those lessons in a whole new way.
Years later, I found out that Dr. Ellison (didn’t know she had a Phd), was from Lithuania, I country I had never heard of. I discovered that was because Lithuania had been absorbed into the Russian USSR and was a Soviet-block country from 1944 to 1990. I was pretty sure Mrs. Ellison was Jewish, but I did not know she had smuggled Jews out of her home country during the war. If she had been caught by the Germans, she would have been shot. After the war, it appears she decided the climate was a little too chilly for a practicing Jew, and immigrated to the US.
Many people today are too young to remember much about WWII, the Cold War, the Berlin War, the USSR and the rest of it. So, why in the world is Joe Biden asking for so much money to help a little country called the Ukraine and what difference does it make? This is the first of several articles to help reacquaint us with some facts.
Biden asks Congress for $33 billion in aid for Ukraine as war drags on
Updated April 28, 202212:17 PM ET
NPR WASHINGTON DESK
President Joe Biden speaks about the war in Ukraine in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Thursday.
The Biden administration is asking Congress for $33 billion in funding to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than double the $14 billion in support authorized so far.
The money is intended to last until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 and provide Ukraine with a more sustained guarantee of support as the war drags on. President Biden urged Congress Thursday to approve his request as quickly as possible, saying the security assistance was coming at a “pivotal time” for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.
“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden told reporters at the White House.
“The costs of this fight, it’s not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” he said.
Biden also said the U.S. was working with Korea, Japan, Qatar and others to help fill the energy import needs of Poland and Bulgaria after Russia threatened to cut natural gas exports to those countries. He said Poland has significant reserves, and that there are plans to divert U.S. shipments of natural gas sold to Japan and other places to Bulgaria, if needed.
And he said he was concerned about recent Russian comments that paint the conflict as being between NATO, the U.S. and Russia.
“They’re not true — they do concern me — because it shows the desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure,” he said. “No one should be making idle comments about the use of nuclear weapons, or the possibility that they’d use that.”
“We are prepared for whatever they do,” he said.
Biden also addressed an earlier White House announcement calling on Congress to pass legislation making it easier to seize assets of Russian oligarchs.
What’s in the aid request
The bulk of the request is for military and security assistance, a total of $20 billion to provide weapons to Ukraine, replenish U.S. arms stockpiles and help other countries shift away from a dependence on Russian weapons, the officials said.
An additional $8.5 billion is being requested in economic assistance to the Ukrainian government and another $3 billion for humanitarian and food security funding, including supporting refugees from Ukraine and countries who are taking them in.
Biden administration officials said they are also requesting funds to address global economic stress due to the war, in part to increase U.S. production of wheat and soybeans, as well as using the Defense Production Act to expand reserves of critical minerals needed in the manufacture of defense machinery, automobiles and more.
Congress will not be able to act immediately to pass the funding as the House is about to leave on a weeklong recess. There have been deliberations about whether to attach the Ukraine funding to COVID aid that the White House has requested and has been stalled.
“It certainly makes sense for them to move together,” an official said, adding that Biden will address the need for both pools of funding in his remarks. Pentagon leaders in recent days have urged Congress to move without delay on the funding, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., indicated to reporters Wednesday he would support moving the Ukraine aid independent of the COVID package if it meant avoiding a delay. The COVID aid has been caught up in disagreements between the parties, including over extending the Title 42 pandemic border controls.