Feed on

Bad enough being aroused from a deep sleep at 5a.m. by a family of a couple of adult raccoons and their rambuctious offspring. That’s NOTHING compared to flinging myself bolt upright wondering “What the hell…???” as I’m groggily trying to ‘get’ the shaking of the house, rattling of the windows and loud, deep-throated whirr-whack-whirr-whack-whirrrrrrrr above my head! Nope…no mosquito this…couple of seconds awake and I knew it was a helicopter…State Police chopper. At that time of the morning, no question they were on a purposeful mission so I jumped up to look out the bedroom window. We’ve had such occasions before and, checking out among our trees, seen the bright searchlight sweeping around yards, roads and woods behind us…hasn’t happened very often but it’s not unfamiliar. No searchlight, though…just this whirrr and I’m telling you they were LOW! “What the heck is that…chopper?” came the groggy voice behind me. Yep…but no light so I don’t know what’s going on…perhaps just heading out the inlet, hopefully no poor soul and a boating accident. Back to bed I jumped…not five minutes later…back they came, again with the shake, rattle and whirr. I think I got up twice more, KW once. At no time did we see any spotlight, searchlight…not even a flashlight!…so we can only assume our State Trooper helicopters now have infra-red/night vision for they were assuredly on a mission in our immediate area. It’s semi-rural communities, couple of golf courses, lots of woods…easy for anyone to hide but of course that leaves one to wonder who, what, where and why. The dogs were very unsettled by the activity…so were the raccoons! In their panic they knocked over the cat butler, some cans of food and who knows what else! KW fell back asleep. Meanwhile, my niggling concern was she was due to get up and out to work any minute…in the dark, our house backed by woods and little glades of trees on both sides of the house. Somebody hiding out there? After about an hour the activity stopped, KW had left for work and I was back in the land of nod but of course soon as I got up, went to check news, police reports…nothing. KW called as she usually does…”Did you hear anything it might have been?” I asked. Not a thing…”How about you?” Nope. Called our friend “D” who lives about five minutes away and in the direction the chopper was circling along with us. Fat lot of good she was..lolol…she didn’t even know it had happened. But the thing is…couple of years ago she was awakened by the same thing. She lives on a creek and the helicopter was flying low enough down the creek it was churning up the water, searchlight blazing, making it’s sweeps back and forth between woods and channel. She nothing reported next morning, either so she called the State Police barracks where she was finally told they had been out looking for a serial rapist, thought to be on the run in that area. You know what…I’m with her and what she suggested to the officer. The helicopters make enough noise to wake the dead, never mind a very sound sleeper…residents in the neighbourhood for sure get up, look out windows, open back/front doors to see what the commotion might be (her’s took place around 2a.m.)…since everyone is awake anyway, could they use a loudspeaker to inform residents what they are about and to stay indoors, doors and windows locked until they get the perv?? And if not, why not…for as it is, we never usually have this information until a couple of days after the fact.

Well, about lunchtime, still checking, I came across something which had been posted within the hour on the local radio station’s web site. Apparently a home invasion had taken place about ten-twelve miles from us, late last night. The perps were foiled by a couple of pit-bulls but as they were escaping one fired a shot. There were four men involved…one was caught, three got away. Okay…that’s probably what they were doing at five this morning… Not so…finally learned around 8pm that there was a hit-and-run close by the house…the drive got out of his car and took off on foot. Pretty bad and I hope they caught/catch him but not quite as worrisome as the possibility of some panicked idiot with a gun running around the neighbourhood. I do realise that to be living in LA or NY, Chicago, Miami, this night’s disruption is a regular thing and, most likely, folk have are inured to the noise, lights, whatever. Which is not to say it’s no pity…it obviously is that these things are so frequent in the major metro areas that people barely notice…but it doesn’t happen here very often at all and, yeah…since we are all awakened and up anyway, why not give us a shout from on high? I mean when the chopper’s go out here…aside from the even more rare occasion of it being a boater in trouble…it’s due to serious criminal activity. A walk-away from the local detention centre, sexual predator on the loose or someone who has committed serious bodily harm/murder. I don’t think I like waiting two-three days to find four or five lines in the corner of the newspaper.

I do, for sure!!!  Last week Tuesday’s Challenge was  “What’s on Your Fridge” and, really, there is little can be on any fridge without one..or many…magnets.  I guess everyone has at least one.  Myself, I never cared for any but the fridge is always a good hub of the house…grocery lists, memos from kids, husband, moms and likewise to all of the above.  We always know where to first look  for emergency phone numbers so I did have a few I tolerated…back in the day, as they say.  Then we moved here to open a restaurant but I’d already seen my secret love.  Penny Lane, Rehoboth…Magnet Junction was for sale and I felt the pull.  Initially it didn’t seem a good economic choice which is why we decided to go the restaurant business but I hankered after that little “shoppe” until, three months later, we bought it too.  It was to be mine to run while KW took care of the coffee house/restaurant.  I didn’t need staff other than myself.  We’d come in early morning to open the restaurant at 6a.m, I’d help through the morning rush and at 9a.m. was off to my own little corner of this world.  When we bought it there was very little stock and we’d been told by a number of our business neighbours that it really had seldom been open…pretty much hit and miss.  It was a small store by any standards…maybe  15′ x 20″.   Two main walls were panelled in sheet metal framed by lathing…so each panel was 8′ x 4′    with five panels on each.  Each panel I had a theme….only one was souvenirs of the area.  The others were flowers/trees/fruit;  birds/wild animals/domestic animals;  ephemera and movie/pulp fiction cover magnets took up another;  sports…NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL team logos filled a panel.  Military and transportation panel was very popular and then we had the geographical magnets…maps, etc.   We had tools, miniature appliances, cartoon characters, magnetic notepads, dry-erase boards.  Of course, we also had the spinners, holders on the brick walls, anywhere we could put a magnet, there at least one was.  And, yes…I knew where to find any particular magnet.  I don’t believe there was a magnet made we didn’t have…and, eventually, we even had magnets not to be found anywhere else for we got into the business of making some ourselves.  A customer asked for something specific..if we couldn’t find it amongst our dealerships we found a way to make one….from wood, clay, tiles.  Pet magnets were..and are…very popular but it’s impossible to replicate “your” Fido or Pussface.  In the beginning we had more than a couple of customers looking for a Jack Russell, Dalmation, Himalayan or Siamese and upon directing them to where they might find the breed, they’d be disappointed.  “Well…it IS a Jack but Skippy has a black patch over his right eye…”  ????  Ummmm….well….sadly we can’t get Skippy.  Or they’d have a mixed breed.  Nobody makes mixed breed magnets.  But we did understand what they wanted and why soooooooo…we invested in equipment to make personalized magets from a specially coated ceramic tile.  We didn’t use decals…we employed the process of dye sublimation – special inks, paper, special printer, polymer coated ceramics.  Customers would bring or send whatever they had in mind for a magnet and we’d make them.  Given the cost of the equipment..special printer, presses etc…we began doing mugs, also.  Came a time when some asked if we would do T-shirts, bags etc. but we hadn’t the time or space to do this though we did do mousepads.  Still…the magnets were my favourite.  When things slowed down after the tourist season I’d be pouring over manufacturer/reps catalogues for the newest and most unusual or browsing the web, sending out emails to various countries to see what they might offer in magnet lines.  And of course we went to many trade shows.  The ephemera were my favourite magnets…either in the typical “card” shape or magnetic ‘button’ but close on their heels were the 3-D magnets…mostly animals.  Beautifully done…a couple of years there we sold tiny snowglobe magnets and I have to say those were our most expensive.  Most magnets ran from a couple of bucks to $3.99.  The 3-D a bit more but the snowglobes were almost $12 so, trust me when I tell you there really ARE dyed-in-the-wool magnet collectors!  To this day  I even have a couple of the highly detailed 3-D…for example, a white tiger, mouth open and each tooth visible.  Or, one of my most favourites from France, a tray with wine bottle, platter of cheese, crusty bread, glass, fruit…all seperate pieces on the tray, on the magnet.  We had magnetic dress-up dolls sets…complete and add-later accessory kits.  Michelangelo’s David, Venus, I Love Lucy, Cat, Dog, Barbie, Jackie O. Marilyn Monroe.    We have remnants of David and Venus…those are the ones where we often amuse ourselves by interchanging their clothing lines..lolol.    David looks great in a kilt but in the Venus skirt and shirt…you have to see to believe…lolol.    We had art works on magnets…Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Maxfield Parrish or, if your preference was more fantasy art, Boris…Frank Frazetta and a couple of female fantasy artists.  We had a section on one of our panels of long-ago movie actors and actresses.  Not a big selection for they were really difficult to find..one in particular I looked for, for a customer, for the six years we had the store…Joan Crawford.  Still haven’t found it and about two months ago I ran into the guy looking for it…still!  A young woman wanted any and every Jody Foster magnet I could get…found two.  Then a gentleman came in one day asking if we had any Betty Paige magents.  Didn’t…not only didn’t but I had no idea who she was, never had heard of her…but I made it my business to find out and within six months, voila…Betty adorned our wall in all…or very little of!…her finery.

This was what made the store and the work fun…looking for whatever a customer wanted and when we found it…whooopeee!  That was as exciting as making the sale!  One young woman…actually, as many people did…came into the store every year when they were enjoying their vacation (quite a number made us very happy when they told us we were their first stop…it was like a pilgrimage..lolol)…and on one occasion, told us she was getting married the following year.  We had such a variety of magnets she wondered if we could provide the favours for her reception…her husband-to-be was a contractor and she would love to have tiny tools as favours…and in magnet form.  We couldn’t find anyone who sold them but she got her 150..with a few extra…after we’d searched and found miniature planes, saws, wrenches, hammers, vice grips…all perfect, all real working miniatures.  Ordered the smallest magnets we could get and made them.  Not that there was anything to making them but…the customer was overjoyed and especially that we could do them for a price no magnet distributor could match, even if they had them.  Someone asked us, once, for an anniversary magnet, another for a birthday magnet…”something different”.  Okay, so we figured if one person asked more would likely be interested so…another theme was born.   We sold magnetic paint…yep, paint!  With more and more appliances being either plastic fronted or steel (which generally will not hold a magnet) customers were complaining they could no longer buy magnets for they’d nowhere to put them.  We’d suggest framing a thin piece of plywood and painting it with the “magic” paint…and we’d painted our back wall of the store to demonstrate it’s efficacy…and there you have a place for your collection.  We were especially interested in selling the paint to several teachers coming in frequently.  They loved to have magnets in class but nowhere to put them…paint!   There are a few classrooms in MD, PA, NJ, DE we serviced.  Needless to say, the pain wasn’t cheap but teachers, especially, did get a good discount. 

Before the magnet store, though, I had had a long-standing interest in therapy magnets.  I’d used them, believed in them, for most people they did work to relieve pain, diminish bruising…even  help quit smoking.  With the store I did a small line, initially, in Nikken…probably the most popular of all therapy magnets.  I tried them…they worked but they were expensive and, to boot, one could not sell the product out of a retail business.  When customers began asking “Well…you seem to have everything else, how about magnets for health?” I set about finding a smaller, less expensive alternative. Found one and I still buy from them.  Have to say, too, that the success rate of my customers who bought them was more than encouraging.  Even my own doctor sent a couple of his patients to me.

I’d never been in business for myself before.  Never really cared whether I was or not but coming here, KW leaving a lucrative career behind, owning our own business was pretty much a necessity.  The restaurant was okay…we sold it after our first year…the magnet shop was my baby.  I loved it…it was fun, fascinating…and believe it or not educational… for there was more to just finding the magnet for a customer but…as with art, pulp fiction, political or historical if I didn’t know then I would learn as much as I could while I was on my search.  Many older men wanted planes…specifically of the WW11 or Vietnam eras.  I didn’t have much of a clue…I knew B52’s, C5’s, even the B29 but P-61, B-17…not a chance.  I learned!  But, no matter the attitude of 99% of the people coming in just to look, when they left..if they weren’t laughing they were at least smiling.  Magnets are not a “must have”…not even for vacationers.  Nothing necessary or even really useful about them.  They don’t bop their heads into a water glass like those little birds do;  the kids can’t hold onto the handles and walk them as they do “invisible dogs”.  At best, as you pass by the fridge they create a smile or give you pause for thought.  They are just a little bit of nonsensical fun and it seems like everyone wants at least one regardless of being on vacation or not.  I had one customer who brought his elderly mother in  about every two months from Dover.  Each time he carefully browsed and selected magnets which he would pile up on the counter.  When he’d reached about a dozen or so and was done, I’d select an extra one or two I’d seen him look at and put back, to add to his pile…customer appreciation…lol!  He did this every couple of months each year we had the store.  Another lady came in one day and needed a basket!  We didn’t have BASKETS?!!  Who even needs a basket to buy a couple of magnets…………..whoever buys enough magnets to NEED a basket?  Well, she did.  Luckily, we had a spare cube basket and off she went.  $295 later she was walking out into the lane, grinning happily.  She had been remodelling her kitchen…loved magnets so much that she had her wooden cabinetry taken out and replaced with metal cabinets but..she didn’t have enough magnets to cover them so….Magnet Junction, here she came.  We didn’t have many such days with single sales as that…but we did have more than a few customers who spent around $100 each visit.  No…I couldn’t believe it, either…lol.   It really was a sad day when we closed the doors to the store for good but retail in a shore town is tough.  No, wait…it’s brutal.  Six months of the year we were open fourteen hours a day or more..depending on how long it took the last customer to leave before we could close for the night…and that was seven days a week.  The rest of the year it was every weekend for 8-10hrs. and weekdays for 9hrs.  In the depth of winter, we took one day off.  Eventually, after about three years of this, we did close right at New Year’s until Valentine’s Day…but it was a rough haul.  Some places do or did close after Labor Day or even Thanksgiving but at the same time you do have a lease to pay whether open or not so you might as well be there and…there is the customer.  I remember one snowy Christmas I REALLY didn’t want to go open the day following but..I did.  And I was about an hour late.  Well…who would figure anyone would be so desperate for a magnet they’d be waiting for the store to open??  An elderly couple were sitting on the bench outside the store as I walked up.  We greeted each other, they asked if the store was mine.  Yes..and could I help??  They had bought their young grandson a bike for Christmas…had just arrived in town with the gift and wanted one of those little novelty name licence plates to put on before giving it to him.  Ours was the only store in town they knew had them.  It was my only sale of the day…but I have to tell you it was worth it to me.  They had planned and had this idea of what to give the little boy for Christmas down to that licence plate…they were excited to be doing it…and at the last minute they were able to pull it all together.  Doesn’t get better than that!  I miss my little store.  I don’t want a pile of magnets on my fridge but I miss the magnets, the searching…lol.  I just don’t miss the hours…or the fatigue!  Even now I’d do it all again but on my terms…bankers hours!  Nine to five…we’d be open six days a week, three days apiece…that’s do-able.  Only thing…not in this town!  We’d starve…so we’d have to do this in a city…and you know what?  Ya never know!    


This weeks theme is going to be a fun one we all put stuff on the refrigerator… So this is an easy one, do you have lists, photos, nothing – you just can’t stand anything on it?

What’s on my fridge…hmmm…well, now here’s something no-one would guess.  One of three cats at any given time!  Not that any of the them lie on it..no, it’s simply part of their route to get to the hidey-spot at the far end of the cabinets, furthest FROM the fridge but it is a busy route.  There’s a library up there (cookbooks) and who knows, maybe even a bar for if more than one cat at a time makes the ascent/descent a fisticuffs breaks loose.  Of course, on the top of the fridge is where we keep the snacks…pretzels, potato chips…though I’m not really sure why because with the traffic and the fights, we end up opening a bag of crumbs.  Can’t really remember when I last had to buy breading for fish, chicken etc.  And of course, look out anyone daft enough to be standing at the corner of the island counter when food is being served, cans being open for it’s likely that same anyone ends up with a cat on her head in the rush to descend.  But none have ever overshot their ‘runway’ yet.

On the fridge itself…curious.  I’ve never really liked having ‘stuff’ on my fridge yet every one I’ve owned has had a mish-mash of bits and pieces.  When we owned our magnet store the customers were sure our fridge would be nothing but magnets and, even at that time, not so.  Still, little by little something gets added.  The auto insurance I.D. cards come in…nobody has a wallet handy to stuff them in…”okay…remember they are on the fridge” (and we never do).  A memo board with no memos but a pile of phone numbers we never use…because now there are so many they run into each other.  For instance the digits from my sister in Scotland’s number share the same crowded space with family in Minnesota so when making a call it’s like figuring out a game of Sudoku and, to boot, more than a few of those numbers aren’t even active any longer.  Erase them you say?  No can do…you’re not paying attention here!  The numbers are all mixed up and we might lose a couple of digits we still need and can use.  We did have a couple of pics of the pet crew up there but when a cat continually used the front of the fridge as a ski-slope, they’d end up on the floor and a dog…or two…would chew them.  Our FIN numbers for fishing are there…somewhere…the only reason I don’t know for sure is because we never remember where I put them.  I have a couple of business cards…okay, five or six.  Three we’ll likely never use but one never knows and…where else do you put such cards?  The other two have doc appts for me but just as well my memory is excellent or I’d have missed the appt….chances are they are at least a year old.  (YES…we clean the fridge!  We just happen to put all the ‘stuff’ back “in case we need it”…).  Two little booklets of measuring conversions…so excited when I found them in the kitchen store for when making a British recipe I really do need a converter.  Doesn’t matter that the last time I used a UK cookbook was……..ummm…was it REALLY before they went metric?  No matter, now I have both and if I ever decide to use them I’ll know where they are.  Oh!  We do have a few magnets…actually, we have two magnetic dress-up dolls.  One a cat with her own wardrobe of outfits, hats, gloves where we can safely and kindly be passively aggressive when our own felines are just toooo much.  The other, androgenous Venus…because there are outfits for her and some which had belonged to Michelangelo’s David.  She really does look better in them, though.  Hooks…a couple of magnetic hooks which are always very handy…not sure for what, yet, but don’t doubt that one day I will find out.  And the cow magnet!  That is my favourite, given to me by a sales rep some years ago.  Fascinating thing and, then, I didn’t even know they put magnets in cows!!  It also gives me the shudders, knowing the trouble I have in swallowing one of the horse-pill supplements I take while a bovine has to just suck it up!  This thing is suppository shaped, about three inches long….and heavy.  Ranchers and dairy farmers feed such magnets to their cows at branding time and the magnet remains in the cow’s rumen throughout it’s life.  This is to prevent hardware disease…since cows have a knack for eating tramp iron as they graze the magnet catches any such and prevents nails, staples, barbed wire etc. becoming lodged in the tissues.  Now see…and y’all thought that owning a magnet store was simply fluff and refrigerator art when, indeed, there was also the studious aspect.  No…we didn’t sell cow magnets and this really was a sample from a company who made/sold magnets for practical and scientific purpose.  But I sure had a lot of fun showing this magnet to kids and explaining it’s use! 

How about menus from the local restaurants?  Yeah?  Well, we have two…from the same place and the only restaurant from whom we order take-out.  The local Chinese.  And why do we have them on the fridge?  I have no idea because every single time we order Chinese we order exactly the same thing.  Lo Mein, Chicken or Shrimp Curry, Crab Rangoon.  That’s it…nothing else…ever.  We know the number to dial, the dinner we want all by heart.  But…just in case……

There are a few animal magnets, a couple of collector magnets (yes, really, Viginia…there ARE such things) which, safe to say I’m sure, neither of us ever so much as look at.  I know the very new fridges now have memo voice recorders built in the door, even tiny tv’s.  Guaranteed we’ll never have either.  I mean why?  As much as we pay attention to what IS on the fridge at the moment we’d make memos to which we’d never listen and a tv we’d never watch!  In any case, whilst in the kitchen we’d as soon borrow the birds’ tv…it, at least, has a  fifteen inch screen.

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