Lactose Intolerant: The Pros and Cons of Cereal Milk

Warning: This story is funny, but it’s a little gross. You’ve been warned.

Yesterday, Kris and I went to Big Lots! for the first time. A neighbor had told us they had cheap bird seed, and we wanted to stock up. While there, I picked up a box of “Tooty Fruities” breakfast cereal for seventy-five cents.

This morning we rose to find ourselves snowed in once again. So much for playing Santa today. While Kris and I discussed what we should do, I sat in my chair, eating a bowl of Tooty Fruities. As we talked, Simon came into the room, sniffing. His “cereal milk” radar had gone off. There are few things Simon likes more than cereal milk. And although I know it’s bad for him, I always let him indulge.

Today he was a little bossy. Usually he sits patiently, waiting for me to finish my cereal. Today he pushed his striped head into the bowl, lapping up the milk as I was finishing the last few spoonfuls. I set the bowl down so that he would have easier access.

“Simon loves that stuff,” I said, laughing. He was lapping it up.

But he wasn’t loving it five minutes later.

Kris was in the other room, just starting her yoga for the day. “Oh no!” she shouted. “Simon’s throwing up.”

We’re not unused to cat vomit in this house. We do have four cats, after all. And Toto is the queen of vomit. She goes through periods where she vomits every day for weeks. It’s exasperating. But at least when she vomits, it’s confined to one spot.

Simon never vomits. Until today.

Today he stood on Kris’ yoga mat and projectile vomited fur and cat food — and cereal milk. He sprayed it all over the room. Then, to make matters worse, he ran away. While continuing to vomit. Because he’d never vomited before, he didn’t know how to handle it. Most cats would just stand still. Not Simon. He ran from the yoga mat into the dining room, to the front door. He ran over to his chair and jumped up, continuing to vomit. He ran around the table, vomiting. He was like a firehose.

I did the only thing I could think of. I opened the door and called, “Simon!” He ran outside, vomiting. He’s probably standing out in the snow vomiting even as I type.

Poor guy.

And poor us. It took three towels to mop up. It wasn’t a pleasant task.

Now I face a tough decision for the future. I know that Simon loves cereal milk, but I’m not sure I should let him have it. He seems to be lactose intolerant!

The Man with the Meaty Claw

I borrowed the neighbor’s pressure-washer on Friday. After five years at Rosings Park, I decided it was time to clean the gunk and the moss off the sidewalks. It was fun, actually, and strangely satisfying.

I encountered a problem, however, while working next to the house. As I sprayed the sidewalk, the mud and grime splashed onto the siding. This meant I had to spray down one wall. Unfortunately — and unbeknownst to me — this also meant that I was spraying down a nest of bees (or wasps or hornets — whatever the stupid things are).

I was merrily spraying away when I felt a sharp pain in my hand. I shook my hand a little, but kept on spraying. The pain continued. I looked at my hand. There were two bees (or wasps or hornets), backs arced, driving their stupid stingers into my stupid fist. Ouch!

Swearing forcefully, I dropped the pressure-washer and shook my hand as hard as I could. The stupid bees (or wasps or hornets) continued to sting me. Finally, I brushed them off, and then danced around, cursing and swearing. After I got that out of my system, I moved the pressure-washer away from the nest and finished my work.

“Poor sweetie,” Kris said when she saw my hand. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes it hurts,” I said. “It hurts like hell. Remember my adhesive capsulitis? That pain was a 9. This is an 8. It sucks.”

Fortunately, the pain subsided. Unfortunately, it was replaced by swelling.

Swollen Hand

On Saturday, we drove to the hardware store. “What happened to you?” asked the checker as we were paying for our stuff. I told her I’d been stung. She sort of freaked out. “Oh my god. You’ve got to go to a doctor. Why haven’t you gone to a doctor? With swelling like that, you need to go to a doctor.”

As we were driving home, Kris said, “Maybe you should go to the doctor.”

So we drove down to Canby — the only place we could find that offered “urgent care” for our insurance network — and I went to the doctor. Though she assured me that there was nothing to worry about, she seemed duly impressed by the swelling. She prescribed a couple of drugs and asked me to return on Sunday.

The swelling continued. By Saturday night, my entire right forearm was swollen. It was as if I had a grotesque meaty claw instead of a hand. I certainly could not type.

By Sunday morning, however, the swelling had begun to decrease (and the pain had returned). As requested, I returned to the doctor’s office in the afternoon. She seemed pleased that the swelling had begun to subside, but surprised that it hadn’t gone down completely. She prescribed another medication (actually, a second steroid).

Now, on Sunday evening, the swelling is mostly gone (though not completely) and has been replaced by a dull ache throughout my hand and wrist. Plus everything itches. As you can see, I’m able to type, though it hurts to do so for very long. That’s bad news because I don’t have anything written to go up at GRS in the morning!

Meanwhile, I have a little present for the bees (or wasps or hornets — whatever the stupid things are). While we were at the hardware store on Saturday, I bought three cans of long-range (27 feet!) poison. Those bastards are dead in the morning.

Those Sorts of Movies

After watching Michael Clayton and re-watching Casino Royale for the fourth time, I told Kris I “like those sorts of movies”, though I couldn’t really put my finger on what “those sorts of movies” were. I decided that the Bourne films probably fit the bill, so I put them on the our Netflix queue.

I waited patiently for The Bourne Identity to crawl to the top of the list. Kris was in the midst of her Foyle’s War obsession, so it took a couple of months. Eventually, however, Netflix shipped my movie.

The other night we sat down to watch Matt Damon in an action role. We grabbed some dinner, plopped in the disc, and sat down on the futon. The disc didn’t work. “Crap,” I said, pulling the disc from the player. It was damaged. We sent the disc back and waited for a replacement.

In the meantime, I joined Paul J. for a trip to the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace. As you’ll recall, I recently watched all 22 previous Bond films back-to-back-to-back, and thought the previous film (the afore-mentioned Casino Royale) was the best Bond film to date. It effectively reset the films’ continuity, starting from day one. The new film picks up immediately where that one left off: it’s as if its part two to the story, and this story exists in a parallel universe to the other 21 Bond films.

The problem is that while the new movie has the same writers as Casino Royale, it has a different director. I don’t like him. And for the first half hour, I didn’t like Quantum of Solace. It was a flurry of quick-cut chases that were impossible to follow. No, I’m serious. They were impossible to follow. With cuts twice every second, the film becomes disorienting, and that’s not fun. Toss in bad acting and terrible dialogue, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, the film eventually changes tempo. It never truly becomes good, but it does become enjoyable in its own way, with one truly great chase scene (in airplanes!).

Anyhow — a couple of days later, the replacement Bourne Identity disc arrived in our mailbox. On Saturday night, we watched the film. It was okay — almost good. I have trouble buying Matt Damon in this role, but that’s a personal problem. The story was interesting. I like “this sort of movie”.

As the film was ending, I said to Kris, “You know, I think we own this DVD.”

“What?” she said, dumb-founded. I stood up, dug in the stack of DVDs on the TV, and sure enough: there was a copy of The Bourne Identity.

“When did you buy that?” Kris asked.

“I didn’t,” I said. “I got it in a white elephant gift exchange last year or the year before. I forgot about it until just now. See? It’s still in the wrapper.”

All she could do was shake her head, and I don’t blame her. I was shaking my head, too.

Half Full or Half Empty?

Kris and I are taking a short vacation to Washington State’s San Juan Islands.

“What time does the ferry leave from Anacortes?” I asked last night before bed. We were planning our agenda.

“5:25,” Kris said. “And if we miss that, the last ferry is at 6:00. What time do you think we should leave?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “How about ten? Then I can go to the gym first.”

“How about nine?” Kris said.

I went to the gym when it opened this morning at eight. I lifted weights. I ran on the treadmill. When I got home at 9:15, Kris asked, “How long until you’re ready to leave?”

“About half an hour,” I said. “I still need to pack. What’s the rush?”

“I don’t want to miss the ferry,” she said.

In true J.D. fashion, I dragged my feet. I answered some e-mail. I made a post at Get Fit Slowly. I debated which sweater to bring. “Come on,” Kris said.

We finally left the house at around ten. On our drive north, we listened to This American Life. We listened to The Decemberists. We chatted. We made good time.

“We’re making good time,” I said. “But we still have to make it through Seattle.” Seattle’s traffic is a nightmare.

But this time, we only had a five-minute patch of stop-and-go in the city, and then it was smooth sailing. We left Seattle at about 1:30.

“Huh,” I said. “Is there a ferry before the 5:25?”

Kris checked. “There’s a 2:45,” she said. “Do you think we can make it?”

“It’s going to be very very close,” I said, and I stepped on the gas. We flew through Everett. We flew through Mount Vernon. We tried to fly to Anacortes, but our progress was slowed by a minivan from Pennsylvania and a pumpkin festival.

“I don’t think we’re going to make it,” I said, as we marched through the lights in downtown Anacortes. “I guess we’ll have to settle for being 2-1/2 hours early.”

As we crested a bluff, we saw the 2:45 ferry pulling away. Kris gave me a look.

The good news is:

  • We’re first in line for the 5:25 ferry to San Juan island.
  • There’s a picnic table we can sit at while we wait.
  • For $3.95, I was able to purchase two hours of wireless so that I could share this funny story with you.

As a footnote for the Ice Queens in the audience, Kris has decided it’s too cold at the picnic table, and she’s gone to sit in the car. I bet she’ll be back to join me sometime in the next two hours!

She Rules a Crowded Nation

It’s one o’clock when we reach the house. Neither Mom nor I have eaten all day. She took her meds sometime before I picked her up at nine; I ate half a bag of peanut M&Ms on the drive to Salem. When we walk into the kitchen, she sets her purse down and says, “I’m hungry.”

“What would you like to eat?” I ask.

“Peanut butter,” she says.

“Just peanut butter?” I ask.

“And bread,” she says.

“A peanut butter sandwich?” I ask.

She thinks about it. “Yes,” she says. She shuffles her feet and looks down.

“Would you like me to make the sandwich?” I ask, pulling the bread and peanut butter from the fridge.

“No,” she says. “I can make it.” I watch as she slathers the bread with thick gobs of peanut butter. “And milk,” she says. I pour her a glass of milk.

While she works, I prepare a place for her at the kitchen table. “Why don’t you sit down,” I say.

“I’m fine,” she says. She stands at the counter and devours the sandwich in great gulps. She chases it with the milk.

When she’s finished, I show Mom the computer at the kitchen table. She sits down and types in a URL. She clicks the button. She clicks the button. She clicks the button. “It’s not working,” she says. I look. She’s not actually clicking the button.

“You’re pressing the space bar,” I say. “You need to click the button.” She presses the space bar again. And again. She looks at me, and I know that I’m making her uncomfortable, so I leave.

Moments later, she’s up again. I can see her pacing. She’s pacing, as if she can’t make up her mind where to go or what to do. I hear her walk into the next room and begin rummaging on the bookshelf. She comes in to my room. “You said I could borrow books,” she says.

“Yes,” I say. “What would you like to read?”

“How long will I be gone?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “A few days.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “Anything.”

I giver her My Antonia by Willa Cather, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and a couple of others. She sits down at the kitchen table again, in front of the computer. She opens her e-mail program. I go back to my chair.

Moments later, she’s up again, pacing. “I don’t like it here,” she says. “Can’t we just go someplace and drive around?”

“Yes,” I say. “I have to go upstairs for a minute first.”

“Is the car unlocked?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say. I go up upstairs to send e-mail so the family knows where we are. When I get in the car, Mom is sitting at attention in the passenger seat. She has everything with her: her purse, the pile of books. I start driving.

Tony and Kamie pass us going the other way. They turn their truck around to follow. Tony calls me on my cell phone. “We’re behind you,” he says.

“I’m scared,” Mom says. Her hands are fidgeting uncontrollably. She’s sweating.

“Yes,” I say. “I am too. But it will be okay. It will be fine.” We drive in silence for a few minutes. Mom fidgets.

“Can we go to the hospital now?” she asks at last.

“Yes,” I say. “We’re almost there.”

Five Eight (and a Half)

On my recent visit to the doctor’s office, a nurse weighed me and measured my height.

“How tall am I?” I asked. “I can’t ever get a good measurement.”

“You’re five-eight,” she said.

“Ah,” I said. “I thought I was five-nine.”

She laughed. “You’re like every other guy — always trying to say you’re taller than you really are.”

If I were a cartoon character, a little black cloud would have formed above my head. I don’t give a rat’s ass how tall I am. I’m not trying to be macho by claiming to be five nine. I weigh more than 190 pounds, for goodness sake! If I’m going to lie about something, it’s going to be my weight. I say I’m five-nine because that’s how tall I think I am.

Today I finally went to the sidebar at Get Fit Slowly to change my vital stats. Heaven forbid people believe I’m five-nine when I’m only five-eight!

As I was changing my data, I took a look at the vital stats from the doctor’s visit. I noted that the nurse had indicated my height was 174 centimeters. “That’s strange,” I thought. “Wasn’t I 175 centimeters before?” I checked.

Sure enough, when I measured my own height, I had come up with 175 centimeters. The nurse came up with 174 centimeters. But you know what? Here’s how those numbers convert to Imperial units:

  • 174 centimeters == 5 feet, 8.50393704 inches
  • 175 centimeters == 5 feet, 8.89763135 inches

So, not only was the nurse quibbling over about one-half of once percent of measurement, but she was also truncating instead of rounding. That is, she was lopping the fraction instead of rounding up to the nearest whole inch. I really am five-nine.

But just so you don’t think I have some sort of macho need to overstate my height, let’s all agree that I’m five-eight-and-a-half.

Three out of Three

Here’s a good old-fashioned Foldedspace post for you long-time readers who pine for them.

Last weekend I exercised my heart out. On Saturday I went for a 12 mile run and a 29 mile bike ride. Before my ride with Paul and Susan, I prepped my bike for the road.

“That’s strange,” I said as I futzed with the gear. “I can’t find my bike computer.”

“What’s a bike computer?” Kris asked. How long has she lived with me? And she still doesn’t know what a bike computer is?

“It’s a little square electronic device that straps to the handlebars,” Susan explained. “It tracks how far you’ve gone and how long you’ve been on the bike. It’s pretty cool.”

“And I can’t find mine,” I said. “Somebody has misplaced it.” I didn’t name names, but I knew that I had left it on the kitchen table, but it wasn’t there now. I went for the ride without it.

On Wednesday, I paid bills. Kris and I have gotten in the habit of paying our mortgage a month early (and we pay a little extra to principal, too). This makes us feel good. But it also means we received June’s bill in mid-April. That, too, I had left on the kitchen table, but now that it was time to pay it, I couldn’t find it.

“Do you know where the mortgage bill is?” I e-mailed Kris. “I want to pay it, but somebody has misplaced it.” I was pretty cranky actually. First the bike computer and now the mortgage bill. I looked online. I could pay the mortgage bill via the web, but it cost $11 to do so. Ugh.

“I wish I could find my bike computer and the mortgage bill,” I said every night for the rest of the week. “I sure wish I could find them.” I never named names, but I knew that Kris was responsible. I had checked everywhere for both items: my desk, my books, my pockets.

This morning I was preparing to go to the gym. Because it’s a glorious day, I decided to ride my bike into Milwaukie. “It sure would be nice to have my bike computer for this ride,” I said. “And where are my biking shorts, anyhow?”

“Your biking shorts are where they’re supposed to be. They’re where I put them. In your exercise drawer.” I checked the drawer. Sure enough, the biking shorts were there.

“Now all I need are the bike computer and the mortgage bill,” I said.

“Well, one out of three ain’t bad,” Kris said.

I sat down at the chair in my office to put on my socks. “Yes, I really wish I knew where the bike computer and the mortgage bill were,” I said. I wanted Kris to admit that she had misplaced them. Then, for no reason whatsoever, I opened my desk drawer.

“Huh,” I said. “What do you know?” There was my mortgage bill, exactly where I had put it. (But why had I put it there? That’s what I want to know.)

Kris looked at me and shook her head. “Two out of three ain’t bad,” she said.

“I guess I misplaced that,” I said, setting the bill on my desk. I idly began to clean up the gadgets in the far corner. “But I’m still missing my buh —”

I stopped.

There, underneath my Skype headset (which I had used last week to interview Tim Ferriss), was my bike computer. Just where I had left it.

“You know what I think is the best part of this story?” Kris asked. I didn’t really want to know, but she told me anyhow. “I wasn’t responsible for any of those.”

“I know,” I said, sighing. “But you’ll notice I never named you explicitly.”

“Oh, I know, but you were blaming me in your heart. I could tell.” She’s right. I was blaming her in my heart. I was certain she had misplaced the things that it turns out I had misplaced. But what have we learned over the years, dear readers? Kris Gates is always right. And that’s part of why I love her.

Lost in the Woods

On Saturday, I got up for a long run in the woods. Normally I would have joined the marathon training group in Portland, but we were on our annual vacation in Sunriver, so I decided to be disciplined and run on my own. While my compatriots were scheduled to do a seven-mile road run, I tried to map out an eight-mile run on forest trails along the Deschutes River.

After a lot of fuss (I can’t seem to get out the door for a run without a lot of fuss), I left the rental house at 6:15. Before I headed out, I posted the following on Twitter:

On a long weekend vacation. Off for a solo 8-mile run in the woods. My biggest fear? Being eaten by a bear. I’m bear-phobic.

I was only half joking. I’m always worried of bears.

It was cold out. There was frost on the windshields of our cars. My breath was puffy. But I was bundled up against the elements, and knew that once I started running, things would be okay. I made my way along the paved roads to the beginning of the hiking path to Benham Falls. I had scrawled a rudimentary version of this Forest Service map to help me navigate the network of trails:

At first the run was difficult. Runs always seem to be difficult for the first ten or twenty minutes. The ground was a curious mix of too hard and too soft. Because it was below freezing, the dirt was crunchy. But the soil was also “airy”, with a lot of compression when I stepped on it. It was confusing &mdahs; my body was forced to make all sorts of micro-adjustments.

I followed my hand-drawn map along FS655 to FS600 and into the old campground. Everything was fine. I found the hiking trail along the river. But then things got a little hairy. There was snow on the ground. I continued along what I believed was the correct path, but found myself completely surrounded by a sea of white. There was not way to tell where I was or where I should be going. Yikes. I backtracked to a known landmark, and tried to figure out what to do. Eventually I found another path that seemed to go in the right direction and resumed my run.

I ran up the hillside and through the woods, occasionally having to deal with patches of old, crusty snow. (This stuff was icy, so I walked over it, and gingerly.) The brush along the side of the trail chewed up my ankles. I couldn’t really tell where I was.

Eventually I came to a long, wide straight path dominated by power lines. “This doesn’t look right,” I told myself. “I don’t think I’ve come far enough.” I pulled out my map. I couldn’t tell if this was the right place to head south or not, but neither did I have any better options. I couldn’t see that my current trail continued further. I followed the power lines south.

About ten minutes later, I encountered FS600 coming in from the side. “That’s strange,” I thought. “Aren’t I already on FS600?” I decided to have faith. I continued south on FS600. When it turned northeast, I continued to follow it. “Aha!” I thought. “This looks familiar.” I had run this path half an hour before. I now began to suspect that I’d taken the mini loop option marked on the map. (I was wrong, but I had the right idea.) But then I took a wrong turn and followed FS600 southeast to paved road 9702.

I was confused.

Ultimately I decided that I should just head north along the paved road, which I knew led to the campground. And it did. I followed the path up the hillside again and then southwest to the powerlines. When I went to pull out my map again, it wasn’t there. It had fallen out of my pocket. “Argh,” I thought. “I’m lost in the woods without my map.”

I wasn’t too worried, though. I knew that if I followed the Deschutes River west and south, I’d eventually come to parts of Sunriver that I knew. I was more concerned with continuing my run. Because I knew the powerline road had been wrong, I searched until I found another trail heading southwest. This trail led me to another confusing junction, but I was able to puzzle out the correct path, and then find my way back to the start.

I had run (and walked when confused) for ninety minutes. “I don’t think I’ve gone eight miles,” I thought. “Maybe I’ve gone five.” So I turned around and ran back the road I’d just travelled until I reached the river again. Then I ran home. It turns out my guess-work was about right.

When I returned to the rental house, I used MapMyRun to determine the distance I’d travelled. I had actually traveled 6-1/2 miles after ninety minutes. With my extra run to the river and back, I had brought the distance to 8.47 miles in one hour and 51 minutes.

Best of all? I hadn’t encountered any bears.

Goodbye My Lover

Last fall on our trip to Lincoln City with Mac and Pam, I witnessed one of those small perfect moments that linger in memory.

After clam chowder at Mo’s, we stopped at Cold Stone Creamery for dessert. It was about 7:30 on a Friday night, and the place was dead. We were the only customers.

We placed our orders with the young woman at the counter, While she scooped and folded our ice cream, I noticed her co-worker in the back room. This other young woman was making an ice cream cake, shaping it with a long spatula-like tool. As she worked, she sang to the music on the loudspeaker. She was completely absorbed in the moment: building the cake, singing with passion. She was unaware of our presence.

The song was a plaintive story of love and loss. The male vocalist had a thin, high voice perfectly matched to the subject matter.

“Who’s singing this?” I asked.

“I think it’s James Blunt,” Mac said. I had never heard of him. “Pam likes another one of his songs — ‘You’re Beautiful’.”

I continued to watch the young woman as she sang and built her cake. When the song was over, she set down the spatula, pulled off her gloves, walked to the stereo, and played the song again. She walked back to her work area, pulled on her gloves, and picked up her spatula. And she sang: “Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend. You have been the one, you have been the one for me.”

This little scene occurred five months ago, yet I think of it at least once a week. What was the story there? Had the young woman recently suffered some sort of heartbreak? Or did she just love the song? Either way, the moment is burned on my brain.


This entry was written by Kris.

I’ll admit it: I’m obsessed with jars. I’m not a collector or anything, but I have a strange attraction to smooth glass objects, especially those I can fill with pickles or salsa, jams, tomato soup or summer fruit. Of course, canning jars are reusable, and J.D. and I have emptied many during our winter and spring meals, but I also gave about a hundred away last Christmas for various gifts and I wanted to replace them — cheap.

When our street had its annual garage sale last Thursday though Sunday, that was my quest: canning jars. I found a couple nice ones for $1 apiece up the road but they were “for pretty”, too old and irregular for actual use. I was still in need of jars for canning this year’s batches of goods when Amy Jo forwarded a Craiglist posting for jars for sale. I glanced through the ad — very detailed, lots of jars, decent prices — but it was farther than I wanted to drive. After deliberating, I decided to call anyway and see what was up.

“Hi,” I say “I’m calling about the jars you’re selling through Craiglist. I’m interested in buying some and wondered if I could come out today.”

“What kind of jars do you want?” asks a powerful male voice.

I explain that I want wide-mouth pints and half-pints.

“Fat chance,” he laughs, I’ve only got about nine cases of those — you better come today or there won’t be any left. How many do you want?”

Well, I want four or five cases, so it seems like there is plenty for me, but it makes me wonder: Are people thronging to this jar sale? Am I going to be left out?

Then he proceeds to quiz me on what I’m going to use the jars for. My answers (pickles, jams, salsas) meet only halfway approval. He is skeptical. I try to laugh it off and explain I also am interested in seeing some of his more decorative vintage jars. Again, I get the third degree.

“I won’t sell ’em to you if you’re using them for wedding candles or something and are just going to throw them away. You’ve got to understand, these are jars of quality.”

I reassure him. I get long and very detailed directions to his house.

Then he tells me to bring boxes. And he tells me exactly what kind of boxes to bring: whiskey bottle boxes and chardonnay boxes — with dividers. “Stop at the liquor store on your way,” he orders. “I won’t sell you any jars if you don’t have the right kind of boxes. And if your boxes are dirty, you’re not getting any jars.” Wow. Okay, now I want more than ever to meet this guy with the jars. I tell him I’ll be there around noon. J.D.’s up for the adventure and we pick up Rhonda, who actually knows a lot about jars and has a varied collection of her own, and head east. [J.D.’s note: Rhonda actually has a book about jars, a price guide. She’s the one who is obsessed.]

Upon arrival, I ring the doorbell. The three of us look up at a voice coming from the upstairs window and see a bearded face peering down. “I’m Kris,” I say, “I called about the jars.”

“Oh! You’re early! Let me put some pants on!” The time is exactly 11:53. We are seven minutes early.

Once he meets us at the garage, the jar-man’s first words are, “Let me see your boxes.” I cringe.

We have two boxes with dividers from my basement, but the boxes from the liquor store (which we were amazed was even open on a Sunday) are divider-less. For a moment, all hangs in the balance, and I fear he will turn us away. I hold my breath. But hurray, the boxes are at least clean and he permits us to stay and buy his jars.

For the next two hours, we hear more than we ever wanted to know about jars, lids to jars, boxes for jars, where to find old jars, how to clean jars, how to protect jars, what to use certain types of jars for, and so on. The jar-man knows jars. He is seemingly torn between the necessity of selling the jars (this appears to be his livelihood) and the overwhelming desire to keep every jar currently in his garage (which he numbers at 4000). We learn that Oregon is a much better source of old jars than his previous state of residence, California. And we learn why.

Boxes of jars and loose jars fill the garage. To show us the contents of any particular box involves moving the loose jars stacked on top of the boxes. When Rhonda and I try to help, he takes the jars from our hands. Wisely, J.D. (who is not clumsy), gets out of the way and assumes the task of carefully packing our purchased jars into our boxes according to the jar-man’s instructions (involving newspaper, strips of corrugated and brown paper sacks). We are not allowed to take the jar-man’s boxes, which are of a type that is not longer produced. I don’t really blame him, but it makes the purchasing and packing process very long.

Rhonda and I both choose some modern jars for canning and take a look at various types of run-of-the-mill vintage jars. The jar-man keeps a handwritten tally of our purchases.

After a while, the jar-man decides we are okay. He takes us inside to see the “good jars”. This is what Rhonda was hoping for. It appears he does actually have some rare collectible jars, but as he proudly shows them to us, one by one, he seems to decide they cannot be sold. Each jar is special and precious, and cannot be parted with. In the end, he does sell Rhonda two nice jars, not especially rare, but for a good price.

Time drags on and now I have seen enough to know which jars I want, but getting them is another story. It takes me almost another hour to wheedle and cajole him into releasing the jars. It is while he is tallying my purchases that I notice he is wearing two different shoes, both repaired. I can barely keep from laughing. Also, I keep noticing that for such an odd man, he appears to have surprisingly good teeth. I think at this point I am delirious for lack of lunch.

We make our way to the car but the jar-man follows, telling the tale of an old woman who has a monster load of jars, but she won’t sell them to him. “She thinks they’re worth way too much,” he sneers, “but wait till she drops dead. Her people will sell me the jars for cheap.” J.D. starts the engine, but the jar-man is still clinging to my open door. I make a move for the handle and he gets the message. I shout, “Thanks! Thanks for the great jars.” And I’m not kidding.

I am very happy with my jars; they are just what I was looking for, at a reasonable price, clean and in good shape. And although jar-man was odd, I sort of admire him. What a passion for jars! I imagine his frugal lifestyle, completely supported by jar commerce. Not a bad way to live. Now I really know what it’s like to be obsessed with jars.

[J.D.’s note: Two hours at the jar-man’s house was far too long for me, especially since I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I zoned out by taking in my surroundings. He had amazing tomato plants. And peppers. And nine eggplants. His home was sparesely furnished. The living room had red shag carpet, a seldom-used sectional, a stack of vinyl records, and boxes filled with rare jars. On the side of his fridge he kept a calendar on which he recorded the temperature three times each day, as well as the overall weather conditions and the amount of rainfall. The jar-man apparently did a lot of canning himself; his shelves were full of jams and jellies and pickles. His lawn needed to be mowed.]