Monday, December 15, 2014

Merrymaking with the Bandito

I'll be completely honest here.
Marc and I are huge Bandito fans.
We've attended the Bandito shows in the Pickleville Playhouse in Bear Lake.
We've followed him to Salt Lake for his annual Christmas shows and so when we learned he was doing an original Christmas show in Logan, we asked TJ Davis for tickets.
We arranged to be in Logan on opening night so we could see "Juanito Bandito's Christmas Carol" for ourselves.
We weren't alone. The Ellen Eccles theatre was sold out with fans of every age and size waiting for the Bandito and wearing their mustaches!
The energy was electric.
The anticipation was high.
So when the Bandito and his sidekick guitar player came out and took seats on a pair of bar stools to play "I Don't Like Christmas!" we all celebrated. As he moved into "I Don't Like Christmas, I Love It Like a Fat Kid Likes Cake!" it took off.
The Bandito barely had to make a move.
Every Spanglish word he spoke, everytime he threatened to "Chute you!," it was funny.
We all hung on every word and enthused over the Banditos rewriting of Charles Dicken's classic story.
"This has three of the scariest things," he explained, "ghosts, nightmares and vocabulary words!"
The Bandito starts out trying to make sure everyone knows he's not pregnant and cannot be pregnant and is NOT a woman. (I have no buns in the ovens and

I can prove it!" he says. "What's Pinterest?")
Then Jordan Todd Brown comes into the picture as one of Santa's underpaid and overworked elves and he is insane.
He never stops improvising or cracking up both the cast and the audience.
Even the Bandito can't help laughing as Brown shudders, contorts his body into impossible shapes, mangles his lines and takes a turn at being the young Bandito.
Whitney Folkerson as Gratilda is also crazy. She's over the top in every scene and handles a rifle with ease. Her facial expressions and body language add immeasurably to everything she does: hiding under her invisibility clock, untangling the Christmas lights and climbing back into her coffin in Christmas Future.
It's a fun ride, even though the musical numbers and Christmas raps get a touch long and the chairs in the Eccles theater are spent.
"This is an exact copy of Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol," sputters the Bandito.
Not even close but who cares?
The Bandito's Christmas Carol plays at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake on Dec. 18-20 starting at 7:30 each evening and on Monday the 22nd as well.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Social insecurity

Several months ago, looking ahead to our financial future, I decided to register for retirement benefits from the Social Security system.
I had a lot of reasons to do so, one being that I like to feel prepared and even though I will lose a little by taking retirement funds before I'm 66, it would give me peace of mind to have it in place.
I noted the instructions that told me I needed to get the application in three months ahead of when I expected payments to start.
Feeling quite proud of my attention to detail, I filled out the online form and sat back to wait.
I even got a little letter in the mail telling me my attempt to register with the system online had been a successful attempt.
But that was in October and since I hadn't heard anything since, I decided to circle back and see if all was in order.
I went online with my little "re-entry" number and tried to find my application.
I logged in all right but then I was to provide a confirmation number which I did not have. I tried my "re-entry number" but the system couldn't make it work to find my application.
I then started trying to call for help.
The system was overloaded and after numerous holds and switches, I was told to call back at a less busy time.
Then I found my application and this time, there was a little line in red that said "You may have to provide a marriage certificate. We will inform you if this is the case."
I hadn't been informed but I went back through my application and made sure there was nothing else.
I made sure the "i"s were dotted and the "t"s were crossed.
I put in another call.
This time I was allowed to make an appointment for someone to call me back.
I cancelled some plans. I sat on my phone.
When the call came, the nice lady told me that, indeed, I needed to show somebody my marriage certificate...the original, please, not a person.
That meant in Provo between the hours of 9 and 3 weekdays.
I looked at the clock. I could make it if I left now!
.....No one told me the office is open weekdays EXCEPT for Wednesdays when it closes at noon.
I fumed.
I drove home.
I drove back the next morning to join a line of folks waiting outside the doors at 8:59 a.m. When we finally got in the door, we each got to take a number and sit down to wait.
Ultimately, my number was called and it took about 10 seconds to prove I was legally wed.
Now I wait some more. My application is in cyberspace circling the planet. Once it lands, I'll join the ranks of those counting on the U.S. Government for financial security.
What can go wrong?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A cheery story

Marc and I have been contemplating the purchase of new outdoor Christmas lights for a while now.
We have some snowflake lights we bought a few years ago that we've never really liked.
They're "cold" lights instead of "warm" and they look kinda chintzy.
Since Marc is the one in the household who puts them up every year it seems he ought to get a say in what we do.
So when he found some icicle lights he liked at Lowe's we started seriously planning to buy them even though they were a bit pricey.
We shopped around and didn't find any others we liked better.
We measured the house and determined how many strands we would need.
We waited for Black Friday to see if they went on sale. (They didn't.)
We stood at the display looking them over until I got a migraine from the strobe effect.
Today we bit the bullet.
We gathered up our three boxes and headed to the checkstand.
The cashier looked over our cache and rang them up.
It came to $160 and change.
"Whoa!" she said. "Those are expensive lights."
"We know," we said. "We're replacing some we bought a few years ago that we've never really liked."
"I wish I could spend that kind of money on Christmas lights," she said sadly. "But I don't even know if my kids are going to have any Christmas this year. My sister died and there's no money for anything."
Marc and I looked at each other, uncertain as to what to do or say so we said nothing.
We handed her our credit card, took our lights and left.
All the way to the car and home we felt badly.
Should we have ditched our plan and given her $160 instead of buying lights we can't eat or share with the starving children in China?
Should we go back and ask her how we can help?
Should we feel ashamed of wasting our hard-earned money?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I need to let it go

I only needed one more Elsa doll.
So when the lady at the local Disney story said she had some, I jumped in the car and headed south.
I had an appointment at 10 a.m. but it was only 9 a.m. when I left and I figured, what, the mall is 20 minutes away, I could pop in and grab my doll, pop out and be back in American Fork in time, right?
And since I hadn't seen any authentic Elsa dolls since we returned from Europe, it warranted the effort.
I needed a match for my last Anna doll for a granddaughter.
So off I charged.
I arrived in good time. I headed to the mall doors only to find little red signs hanging on the handles.
The signs said the mall wouldn't be open until 10 a.m. and until then only the doors on the north side would be unlocked.
I sighed and headed to the north side. The doors weren't open.
Apparently there was a magic north door.
I went back and moved my car over to the north side and started trying doors until I found one that opened.
I headed inside to the Disney store which was also not open until 10.
Now I had a choice, wait until 10 and make my trip worthwhile or come back another day.
I didn't really dare leave because I wasn't sure I'd find another Elsa.
I decided to call my 10 a.m. appointment and get a delay except my phone was not in my purse. I figured I left it in my car.
So I went out and in the north door once more
No phone in my car. Apparently I had I left it home.
I returned to the Disney store. Now I only had about 15 minutes to wait so I stood there with a growing, restless crowd.
We watched while the sales clerks inside ignored us. I would have considered giving it up but I could see my prize just inside.
We waited somewhat patiently.
Finally, it was 10! But no one came to open the store.
At 10:05, a lady rolled a table up to the door and hung up red ropes to cordon off the doorway.
"What's the magic word?" she chirped at us.
The small children in our crowd looked at her in silence.
"Please?" one said.
"Nope, guess again!" said the saleslady cheerfully.
"Mickey?" guessed one mom holding an unhappy baby.
"Nope! What's a magic word that will open the store?" she said. "Think hard!"
"Abbracadabbra!" I whispered to the little kid.
He repeated the word and like magic the lights went on and the lady moved the box. It was wonderful.
We all rushed in and I grabbed my Elsa doll. I paid for it, sacked it and borrowed the store phone to call my appointment.
I was 20 minutes late but hurray, I accomplished my mission. I'm the proud owner of yet another Elsa doll and I'm done chasing Frozen ware!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rocking in grandma's chair

I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
At least I thought I did.
I just didn't really know who they were.
I have a CD of their Christmas music I play over and over from Halloween through to New Year's and beyond.
I have my favorites that I put on "repeat" and listen to at full volume when I'm in the car or home alone: "Christmas Canon Rock," "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Boughs of Holly."
I just love what I thought was a choir boy singing his heart out.
So when Marc and I got the opportunity to attend their concert in the Energy Solutions Center Wednesday evening, we jumped at the chance.
It was short notice but we rearranged our schedule to be in our seats for the show with bells on!
And what we found was a visual treat with fire heating up the stage, real snow falling on us, moving towers that carried a couple of the band members high above us and plenty of rocking out rhythm.
I luxuriated in the sights and sounds and bathed in the energy they radiate.
I was interested to "meet the band" with their electric guitars, their flowing hair and their big smiles as they worked the audience and charmed the houseful of fans.
The only thing that set me back a bit (and I realize I shouldn't have been surprised) is the fact that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is actually a heavy metal band that plays rock Christmas music.
Why was that a revelation to me?
Maybe there's a clue in the tracks I routinely skip when I listen to my CD. I thoroughly enjoy the instrumentals but I mostly skip the vocals.
So when the second half of the three-hour concert turned to more raucous and invigorating music sung by sweaty guys in leather, they kind of lost me.
I also would have preferred less story, less heavy rock and more of the familiar numbers.
But I'm the first to admit, this grandma is a little dated in her musical tastes and probably is not the best judge of this kind of fare.
People all around us were in heaven while I kind of plugged my ears at one point.
Even so, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening and I'm hauling out the CD to play while I write this!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A penny tax saved

At our house, we rarely talk politics because one of us is Republican and the other is wrong-headed, one of the few Democrats in the state.
We tend to stick to safer topics.
And, since we have both been journalists for most of our married life, we don't usually get very involved in the local politics either.
But we care about parks and the library and theater arts and recreation programs.
So when a flyer came around advertising a meeting about the proposed PARC tax for American Fork, we wanted to know more.
Marc got on his bike and rode on over.
I was at a library board meeting so I left him to gather the information.
When we got home, he told me we needed to go to a local park in the next couple of days to pick up a yard sign promoting the tax.
This tax would be a penny out of every $10 spent on goods, materials and services which is 1/10 of 1 percent. It would raise $600,000 from shoppers who live here and those who just come through.
It would go toward cultural and recreational programs, programs that seriously need the additional funding if they're going to thrive.
Salt Lake City has the ZAP tax.
Orem has the CARE tax.
They're basically the same thing as this proposed tax.
We're in favor of it.
It would cost us so little and do so much.
But the minute we put up our signs supporting the tax, our neighbors put up a sign opposing it.
And around town, the signs asking for passage of the tax starting disappearing.
One lady came to our door to ask if she could take one of our two signs, leaving the one on the main road and moving the other to a place with higher visibility.
We had no problem with that.
We DO have a problem with people taking the signs supporting the PARC tax.
Why do that?
Why not believe in and promote fair play?
Cheap shots and unfair practice just makes us more determined to prevail.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A balance of zero

It's never a good thing when you check your bank account balance and find it's at zero.
But some times are better than others.
Like today, for instance, I knew there had to be a mistake.
I was doing my routine Monday morning chores and looking at my credit union statement.
(I do that almost every day since the Home Depot and Target hackings.)
I wasn't expecting any trouble. I've not been shopping with my daughter recently.
Marc and I have been homebodies for a while.
So I was shocked to see my balance at exactly zero dollars.
And there was a little overdraft thingy of about $300.
I looked at the list of charges.
I went into "fix it" and "call about it" mode.
There was a charge of almost $2,000 for things bought and used and done in Europe in August.
I had paid that charge once already and set up automatic payments so I wouldn't forget about this card.
Now here it was back again.
I called up the Mastercard people.
After a number of lengthy explanations and security questions and a lot of listening to bland music while I waited on hold, I was connected to a nice woman.
She heard me out and confirmed my suspicions.
"Looks like you've been double-charged," she said.
"That's what I think," I replied.
"We'll give you a credit on your account," she offered.
I didn't want a credit.
I wanted my nearly $2,000 back in my checking account.
I wanted my good name restored.
I wanted the credit card company to pay any overdraft fees this might has created.
I wanted reassurance that this wouldn't happen again.
I wanted my former calm and peace of mind back.
To their credit (pun intended), they promised to send me my money...within 2-5 business days and they said it probably wouldn't happen again.
Just so they know, I will be on guard on the 24th of every month for some time now!