I was crossing the parking lot, my arms laden with almond milk (Capers was having a sale!) when an elderly woman approached and asked: “Did you vote for me?”. I stopped and eyed her uncertainly. Now whenever I’m approached by strangers, my first instinct is to either a) ignore them or b) feign some pressing commitment that prevents me from engaging them in conversation (“Gotta get this liver to the transplant bank pronto!”) – unless, of course, she’s cute in which case I have all the time in the world for idle chit-chat. Well, while the elderly woman in this instant wasn’t exactly cute (okay, maybe in that adorable old granny way), I did break with protocol to respond with a: “Pardon me?”
“Did you vote for me?”she repeated.
She certainly didn’t look familiar. I tried to place the face – and came up empty. “Uh, what party were you running for?”
“I wasn’t running,”she informed me. “I was walking!” She guffawed, slapped my arm, then ambled off, chuckling to herself.
What the hell -? I kept an eye on her, half-expecting her to start up a conversation with some passersby or begin rooting through the contents of a nearby garbage can. Nope. She simply grabbed a seat on a nearby bench and quietly waited for the bus.
Hunh. Maybe she wasn’t crazy after all, just some incredibly affable local/eccentric who elected to approach me because…I seemed friendly and/or approachable, a caring and kind-looking individual who instantly put her at ease with my palpable sincerity and obvious warmth?
Nah. If she wasn’t trying to distract me while her partner lifted my wallet, then I’m going with crazy.
Tonight, I watched a Frontline report on the Bernie Madoff affair. Fascinating- and, frankly, more than a little scary for anyone who invests (which is pretty much everyone but Carl who keeps his cash in the shoebox buried in his backyard). Madoff is accused of running one of the biggest Ponzi Schemes in history. To those of you who don’t know what a Ponzi Scheme is, it’s essentially a scam that pay out investors with monies from subsequent investors. So long as new investors are brought in to replenish the cash pool, the system works and all those who came before keep getting paid and are non the wiser – but eventually, the system grows too top heavy and collapses. Coincidentally, we were talking about this very subject at work the other day and my writing partner Paul was quick to point out that, even though the Madoff is reputed to have cost investors upwards of 65 billion dollars, it cannot be considered the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. According to Paul, that honor belongs to Social Security.
Hate to say it but he may be proven right.
Some recommended reading –
The Drowned Life, by Jeffrey Ford
Blog regulars know that I’ve been a big fan of author Jeffrey Ford since discovering him, alongside many of you, through a former Book of the Month Club selection: The Empire of Ice Cream. I have yet to read a Ford book I haven’t liked – and that’s saying a lot. His latest collection of short stories, The Drowned Life, is no exception. Some beautifully told tales headlined by the surrealistic opener concerning a regular Joe who can barely keep his head above water and ends up going under – both figuratively and literally. Interestingly, this one struck me as Ford’s most personal collection to date.
The Unwritten #1, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Tom Taylor, son of the late author Wilson Taylor whose wildly popular children series (that, amusingly enough, bears more than a passing resemblance to the tales of a certain bespectacled boy wizard), has it good. The inspiration for his father’s literary hero (Tommy Taylor), the adult Tom enjoys a sort of cult status among the books’ many fans. Until, that is, evidence surfaces suggesting he may not be the son of the late author after all. As his one-time fans turn against him, a flustered Tom scrambles to make sense of the baffling turn of events – only to have things go from worse to weird when elements of his father’s book series begin to take on a life of their own. A whole mess of fun.