Category Archives: My own little world

It changed my life

I livew in my own little world

In 1979, at the age of 24, I discovered that my juvenile record in the State of Utah was long, very long.

My juvenile problems resulted in the State, in 1965, removing me from the care of my mom and stepdad, and placing me in the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden. It was at “The Dee” where I met Barbara Hunt, an 18-year-old woman, also a resident, from Bakersfield, California. She befriended me and helped me write a letter to my paternal grandmother in Kingsville, Texas. A month later, my grandmother arrived at The Dee to tell me that she was going to adopt me and take me back to Kingsville. All she needed was my approval. Although it took more than just my approval, by Christmas 1965 I was living with my wise old grandmother.

As we walked in the front door of her home in Kingsville, I noticed a huge picture hanging over the sofa. Elements of the picture included the corner of a house, an elderly couple sitting on lawn chairs under an old oak tree, a dog at their feet, and flowers blooming in the gardens. That picture has stayed with me although it took me many years to figure out why. I now know that it showed what I wanted—a love of life, a love of flora, a love of fauna. When my grandmother died in 2003, my oldest uncle asked me if I wanted the picture. I did. Sadly, he never sent it to me.

A few years ago, during my career as a home inspector, the house I was inspecting reminded me of my grandmother’s picture. My camera captured it:

House & chairs

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My favorite novels from 55+ years of reading

I livew in my own little world

The first school I attended was Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah (picture below, ca. 2011, from Google Street View).

Lake View Elementary School, Brigham City UT

The school library was separated into grade sections. I had read the complete Grade 1 section by Christmas of my first year and had to get the Principal’s approval to start reading the Grade 2 section. By the end of Grade 3, I had read the complete collection in the school library, except for the encyclopedias and atlases.

San Diego TrolleyPart of my reading success was my reading speed. The other part was my willingness to read anywhere, and that I still do. I have reading material with me whenever and wherever I go. Waiting on car maintenance at the shop? I read. Standing in line at the post office or grocery store? I read. Sitting in the doctor or dentist’s office? I read. Riding the Trolley? I read.

Time and Again by Jack FinneyCurrently, I am reading Time and Again, a 1970 work by Jack Finney about time travel. Being quite an interesting book with an interesting premise and plot, it is a good read, but my senior English teacher in high school would be appalled by his love of the dangling participle. (Oh, how I had fun writing that sentence….)

I chose it because of Stephen King’s recommendation on the last page of his book, 11/22/63, which now ranks as my favorite Stephen King book of all time.

At the request of an unknown person from a craiglist advertisement, here is a list of my favorite novels, books that I specifically remember from my life of reading, in alphabetical order:

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen KingAny book by Stephen King (or Richard Bachman). Stephen King has never failed to immerse me in his writing, to take me to other places, to make me think about the known and unknown, to wonder. The books that particularly stand out for me are 11/22/63, The Dark Tower series, The Stand, and Under the Dome.
  • The Box-Car Children by Gertrude C. Warner. When I read this at the age of 9, I already had it in my mind that my mom and stepdad didn’t love me. I could identify with these orphans.
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web by E. B. White. This book taught me an appreciation  for all life, regardless of how small (and some might say, “icky”) it might be. As my wise old grandmother told me when I was reading this book: “All life has a right to live.” To this day, when I find a spider visiting me inside, I capture it in a cup and simply move it outside so it can go on living, perhaps even becoming part of the food chain for life that is bigger than it.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. This is the only book that I have read multiple times—1973 as a high school senior, 1984 (to see how close Orwell came), and in 2013 after watching “The Hunger Games.”
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I wanted my own secret garden, a place where I could go to get away from the bullies at school and parents who did not love me. This book was the start of my lifelong interest in gardening, an interest that continued to develop under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother after she adopted me.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I did not read this book until 1995 after I had left Texas and moved to California. I was in the process of changing my life, and this book helped me change my perspective and understanding of the many different people around me.

As an aside, I do believe I’m back!

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It’s upside down. So what?

I livew in my own little world

One of my goals for delivering people for Uber and delivering packages for Amazon is to discover the nooks and crannies of San Diego County, the places where I have not been and probably would not go under normal circumstances.

With Amazon’s Prime Now service, I get to go to restaurants and stores that I definitely would not have gone to because I’m so stuck in my rut of a routine.

Yesterday, I had some pickups at Northgate, a Hispanic food market.

As soon as I walked in the door, there they were, two of them calling my name, begging me to take at least one of them home.

But I was working, on a time-sensitive delivery, and the register lines were long long long.

I couldn’t take time out to buy one.

Well, this morning, I went back to Northgate.

There they were, about forty of them, each wanting to go home with me.

Well, one did:

Pineapple downside up cake

Trust me when I say it doesn’t look like that anymore.

25% of it is gone. Poof! Like magic! Gone, gone, gone….

….and good, good, good.

As they might say at Northgate, “Bueno! Bueno! Muy bueno!”

I’m not a big fan of cakes, for the most part, me being a pie person. But I do love my pineapple downside up cakes.

My question, though, is, Why does a Hispanic food store have forty pineapple upside down cakes while regular grocery stores like Vons, Albertsons, Ralphs, Kroger, Food4Less, etc., have nary a one? Does Northgate buy them all before the other stores wake up? Do Hispanics really eat pineapple upside down cakes like that? Hmmm. Maybe I have some Hispanicity in my background that I’m not aware of….

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Obviously named after me

I livew in my own little world

Back ca. 1993, I was sitting in Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans, during Mardi Gras, with my brother, sister, and mother. I had not seen my mom in 25 years at that time. As we were drinking Hurricanes, my mom said to me, “Russel, I have to tell you something.” Ears around the table perked up because it sounded serious.

“What?” I asked.

“I misspelled your name on the birth certificate,” she said.

“Huh?”

“It was supposed to have two L’s.”

I was 38 at the time.

I had never met another Russel using only one L.

Met a lot of people named Russell, though.

Well, yesterday, one of my Uber riders was going to an address on Russell Road.

Wrong!

He was going to Russel Road!

Proof:

Russel Road

Obviously named after me, yes?

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Drive Tales

I livew in my own little world

One of my many jobs right now is delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now. It’s a little different from Amazon Prime where packages are delivered at Amazon’s choosing by USPS, UPS, and FedEx. With Prime Now, YOU choose when you want your goods delivered. You can choose any two-hour window between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., seven days a week at no extra charge. If you need something in the next hour, you can pay $7.99 and get it within an hour of paying for it.

Amazon Prime Now also has partnerships with several local businesses, such as Sprouts Farmers Market, Bristol Farms (organic and whole foods), and Sprinkles cupcake factory (seems ironic to throw Sprinkles in there with Sprouts and Bristol Farms….).

I’ve been doing this since November 18, 2015, and it provides a lot of what I call “Drive Tales.” Following are a few.

  1. Whenever I deliver packages, I ask for a name to go with the order. Since no one has to sign for the order, this verifies that the correct person is receiving the order.
    I delivered two packages full of groceries from Sprouts to a cute Craftsman home. A lady answered the door and I said “Sprouts delivery from Amazon” as she took the two bags.
    I asked her, “Can you provide a name to go with this order?”
    With a puzzled look on her face she said, “No, I can’t. I don’t know what this is.”
    From behind her, a guy on the couch play computer games yelled, “It’s under John Doe!”
    The lady turns around, looks at him, turns back around and says to me, quietly, “In 11 years of marriage this is the first time he’s gone grocery shopping.”
    I’m thinking that Amazon Prime Now might have saved a marriage….
  2. I was training a new employee and we were following the GPS when we had to come to a stop at a fence. The GPS wanted us to go through the fence, over the cliff, into the canyon, and up the other side to that house that we could see. Unfortunately, in order to actually get to the house, we had to drive 1½ miles around the canyon.
    GPS navigation technology is great but the best technology still resides in the upper part of our heads. Sadly, the GPS doesn’t recognize fences, walls, bollards, spike strips, canyons, or cliffs, so it’s not unusual for the Amazon app to tell us to stop at the side of a freeway to deliver the order. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if I didn’t have to climb that 150′ cliff….
  3. I wasn’t a real convert to whether or not delivering packages in 2-hour windows was a business model that could succeed. Then, one day, again while training a new employee, we delivered 18 bags of groceries to a house with a front door with several glass panes and a curtain. My first thought was, “Lazy. Go to the store!)
    We rang the doorbell and could see the curtain moving and hear someone “playing” with the doorknob. I thought it was a child.
    After several minutes the door finally opened. Standing there was a woman with twin newborn sons in her arms.
    Now I understood. It’s not the product; it’s the person’s situation. I’ve delivered to many elderly who don’t drive anymore, people just home from the hospital, people on crutches or in wheelchairs, etc.
  4. How come the extraordinarily wealthy don’t have visible address numbers on their homes? Perhaps they don’t want to be found….
  5. In one huge, prestigious condominium complex I couldn’t find address numbers anywhere. I got out my 500 lumens flashlight and was shining the light all over the buildings trying to find addresses. Suddenly, three police cars pulled up and surrounded me. They wanted to know what I was doing. I said that I was delivering packages for Amazon and was simply trying to find address numbers. One of the officers said, “Oh. You’re not the first. They are up there” as he pointed to the top of the 4-story building. Yep, way up there where they are not visible to anyone….
  6. At another condominium complex the address numbers were there but….
    The buildings were painted a dark gray. The address numbers were painted a shade of gray that was 1% lighter than the building. Yeah, those are really readable at night…..
  7. One condominium complex of eleven 6-story buildings doesn’t have address numbers. When I’m having difficulty finding an address, I can call the customer. I did that and told the customer, “Russel from Amazon here with your Sprouts order but I need help finding your condo.”
    “Where are you?” she asked.
    “I don’t know because there are no address numbers on the buildings.”
    “Oh, yeah. Drive to the nearest street and then drive down to the nearest intersection and tell me where you are.”
    “I’m here at McCartney Drive and Lennon Avenue.”
    Oh. You went the wrong way. Make a U turn and drive to the other intersection. I’m in the building on the corner of Harrison Parkway and Starkey Boulevard.”
    Why didn’t she just tell me that to begin with?
  8. One guy lived on the fifth floor of a 5-story building. I couldn’t find any elevators; quite unusual for a 5-story building.
    I lugged two heavy bags up 10 flights of stairs, 2 flights per story. My knock on the door was answered by a 6′-5″ guy weighing about 300 pounds (think defensive lineman for a professional football team), standing there in his tightey whitey underwear briefs. After handing him the two packages I asked where the elevators were. They were in the building but they only connected to the garages.
    “Could you let me into the garage to get these other six packages to you?”
    “I’d have to get dressed. What’s the purpose of delivery if I have to get dressed?”
    No, he didn’t let me into the garages, so I made three more trips up and down ten flights of stairs. With all that exercise, though, I didn’t feel guilty about eating a pizza that night….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Perhaps she just needed someone to listen to her….

I livew in my own little world

I have been driving for Uber every day for a couple of weeks, a few hours each day.

Here’s what happened this morning:

Uber app: Rider request, National City, 12 minutes

Russel: “12 minutes? Are there no Uber drivers on President’s Day?” (as he swipes the app to accept the rider request.)

Uber app upon arrival at pickup location: “Wait for rider. Rider has been notified.”

Rider’s name is Honey. Remember that.

Female person as she opens the passenger side door: “Are you Russel?”

Russel: “Yes! Are you Honey?”

Female: “Yes.”

Russel: “Great! We found each other! Get in and let’s go!”

Honey: “First I have to ask if you’re a cop.”

Russel: “One of the few professions I have never been in.”

Honey: “Why should I believe you?”

Russel: “Well, you’re trusting a total stranger to pick you up just because he’s driving for Uber….”

Honey: “What do you want to do?”

Russel: “I don’t quite understand. Where would you like to go?”

Honey: “We could stay right here are the Clarion.” (which is the pick-up location)

Russel: “So you don’t need a ride anywhere?”

Honey: “I would love a ride!”

Russel: “So where to?”

Honey: “So you don’t want anything?”

Russel: “I’m just here to take you to wherever you need to go.”

Honey: “So you don’t want anything?”

Russel: “I don’t think we’re understanding each other.”

Honey: “I better go.” (as she gets out of the car)

Well, I did get paid a whopping $2.25 for driving 12 minutes (9 miles) to talk with her for 5 minutes. Perhaps she just needed someone to listen to her….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Officially an Uber driver!

I livew in my own little world

I’m not a very good hourly employee because companies limit me to working a mere 40 hours a week.

I guess you could say that I’m not a very good 40-hour-a-week employee either.

Thus, since Amazon will only schedule me for a maximum of 40 hours a week, and no more than 5 days a week, that leaves a lot of time over the course of the week to do other things. So……….

As of today, I’m officially an Uber driver!

The only thing I could ever think of regarding Uber was drivers picking up the drunks at midnight. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to do that. When upper-management executives, such as Benjamin Golden of Taco Bell, go into a drunken rage and attack the Uber driver (see Benjamin Golden attacks Uber driver), well, that’s not something that I want to be part of.

However, after talking to some co-workers at Amazon, I thought, “I don’t have to work at the midnight bewitching hour….”

UberThis morning, I made myself available to Uber at 7:00 a.m. just to see what would happen. Almost immediately I had a rider, and as soon as I dropped that rider off, I had another rider. In the course of 32 minutes and 24 miles, I made $14.00. Not a lot, but my Excel spreadsheet tells me that is $26.25 per hour, more than Amazon pays…. My 2015 Toyota Corolla LE Plus gets 35 miles per gallon, and gas right now is $2.659 per gallon, so my expenses there were a mere $1.82, leaving me with a net after expenses but before taxes of $12.18. I can handle that.

After reading more this morning of the Uber documents, tips, and tricks for being a successful Uber driver, apparently I am in a pretty good location. Within a five-mile radius of where Jim and I live are:

Major medical center.
Two major malls.
Two major downtown areas.
Three Walmarts—a super store, a neighborhood market, and a regular Walmart.
A major university with 35,000 students.

I’m going to make myself available to Uber each morning from 6:00 a.m. to noon for a week and see what happens, just how busy I can be and how much money I can make. I’m not anticipating many drunken idiots between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and noon so Benjamin Goldens shouldn’t be a problem….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

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