Was Friday July 29th weird where you are?
It sure was here!
We got up a bit early and made our way into the big city... well OK... into Oroville. But hey, when you live on the side of a butte surrounded by pot fields even Oroville (population 14,660) can seem big...
Anyway....Going down the freeway something felt wrong. When people passed us they looked somehow... not there, like their bodies had forgotten to wake up their souls. We tended to our business, piece of pie, everything was good and successful. Then we decided to stop at Wallmart real quick (I know we're all supposed to be boycotting them... but who really is?). In the parking lot we were nearly hit several times. People were backing out of spaces without looking, cutting across the lanes, going the wrong way on one way lanes...And in the store... nothing was really "wrong" but.... nothing was right either. It just felt creepy.
So we headed up to our second appointment 20 miles north to meet a friend. We were helping him with something but when we got there no one was home, even though we had arranged the meeting just the night before. We go to his front door, knocked... and the door opened! He NEVER leaves his door unlocked let alone open. I looked out toward the street and an elderly woman was raking a leafless lawn and staring at us. It felt like Castle Rock! We went into the house to make sure everything was OK. No one was home and everything seemed normal. We wrote a quick note and left.
Driving away there was that same ominous sense of not-rightness. This wasn't Mr. Rodger's neighborhood ("wont you be my neighbor") this was more like Steven King's neighborhood ("won't you be my ghoul!").
We hadn't found what we wanted at Walmart so we stopped at K-Mart in Paradise (can you believe Sears is now part of KMart! Wouldn't Mr. Roebuck be proud!). Good news, Kmart had what we wanted.
All of a sudden we (Hakham Ahuva and I) were absolutely famished (which was odd, neither of us usually eat much in the mornings but we were both so hungry we would have eaten almost anything --- almost ....).
This Kmart has a Little Caesar's restaurant in one corner (now that I think of it that's interesting too! Ceaser's on a day like this...). Turning right beside a display case of ghastly clothing for the restaurant there was the friend we were supposed meet! But he was in a wheel chair and looking as sickly as I'd ever seen him. After a very brief conversion he suggested the Nathan (kosher) hotdog special , asked us to come back to his house and rolled unceremoniously away. Again, not wrong, just weird.
The woman behind the counter had a blank yet harried expression on her face. Hakham Ahuva asked for the Crazy Bread and the woman stared at her blankly. Ahuva told her again what she'd like and the cashier said, "I wonder what that costs" in a deadpan voice and almost staggered out from behind the counter to look at the display sign. I wont bore you with the details of our fruitless attempt to be fed, but none of the three women working there had any idea how much anything cost, what the difference was between the regular nachos and the supreme nachos (which I was considering), nor apparently how to cook anything being sold at Little Caesar's. Par the course this day... but odd all the same.
It literally took the woman at the cash register ten minutes, I am not exaggerating, to enter our order into the computer. Meanwhile behind us customers came, paused and left as they saw the absolute incompetence of the staff. It was as if they were ... dare I saw it... zombies. that was the sense. The lights were on, dimly at least, but no one was home.
At one point Ahuva suggested the cook might want to go ahead and get started on her order while the cashier struggled with pushing the number buttons, but the "cook" barked, "Sometimes employees do bad things, things we can't ignore and when that kind of thing happens we in management have to step in and replace them (the emphasis she placed on "replace them" was another tip of the hat Steven Kings -- of maybe Dean Koons). Management had replaced them which, presumably, was a good thing... except that... the replacements were utterly untrained for their tasks!
I whispered to Ahuva that perhaps we should go elsewhere but she, a kind hearted and patient soul... and a person keenly aware of the absolute weirdness of this day thus far... shook her head. "No, we should give these women a chance." Surely they were doing their best --- insert rude comment here --- so we waited, and again explained that Crazy Bread and Crazy Sauce really do go well together and that since the bread cost $2.00 and the sauce $1.50 perhaps she might consider just adding the two figures together -- since she couldn't find the combo button on her register (she nodded at the suggestion and said under her breath that's $2.00 plus $1.50 = $4.50 (no dear... it equals 3.50)....
So finally the untrained cashier, manager, mathematician asks, "Would you like to sign up for the K-Mart Club and save money on your next purchase?" Her zombied countenance suddenly shifted to that of a Stepford Wife and her former gray countenance became positively aglow! For a few seconds.
Instinctively we both took a step back.
Yet our ever patient Hakham Ahuva paused and replied completely deadpan, "No thank you. But I would like my food if you think that's possible!"
"Huh? Oh sure..." she murmured..
So now the cashier cum coupon seller cum rain (wo)man called out in her best greasy spoon accent: "Crazy Bread, Crazy Sauce and..."
At that the oh so charming cook said, "I don't know how to make Crazy Bread, let me check the book..."
At that I figured we had three viable choices:
1. We could rush off to the Goth section (this Kmart actually had one!), grab an upside-down crucifix and put the zombie out of her (and our) misery
2. We could fall to the floor in hysterics, while asking where the Candid Camera was hidden (you'll understand if you're over 30)
3. We could quietly back away and leave -- hoping that nothing undead emerged by the back room to block our departure.
We went back to our friend's house, had a nice visit, did what we needed to do, and then drove back to Oroville -- noting every few miles how amazingly badly many of the people (if that's what they were muhahah) were driving (it was like driving in downtown Berkley or DC only in slow motion! ... cars were swerving across the lanes, double and triple parking for no apparent reason, passing when it was not safe to do so...and always VERY painfully slowly....
Needless to say we took extra care, finished our business with about 2 hours to get home for Shabbat. Easy as pie....
But as we drove along highway 70 and back into the buttes we came around a curve and then upon a short line of cars. A policemen, dripping sweat in 109 degree temperature, was going car to car with unwelcome news and turning everyone back. I rolled down my window.
"Where you heading?"
"Can't get there from here."
"Nope, been a wreck. Bodies strewed all over the highway up there. Road's closed from Penz to Cherokee."
Checking for alternative routes we realized there was no way we could home in time for the broadcast of our Shabbat service. We'd have to drive all the way around the lake (and its a big lake!). The way things were going we figured Bigfoot or one of his buds would probably step out of the woods on that remote route and pounce on us... not really... but today I would not have been that surprised had that happened!
So... since we had our laptops and MacDonald's offers free WIFI now I figured I could broadcast an abbreviated Shabbat service from there... might be interesting.
As we pulled into the parking lot an SUV was straddling two of concrete parking lot dividers and rocking back and forth. As we -- and an interesting looking homeless guy in his early 70's I'd guess, sitting on the curb sipping a coke and munching fries -- watched the SUV it suddenly roared and jerked with a mighty bolt over the curbing and drove away. Where its rear tire had been a large broken hole in the blacktop remained. We pondered whether the hole could have been caused by the SUV and decided that this day... yeah, probably was...
We also kept tract of the Highway Patrol report on the Net and eventually discovered that one person had died in what was apparently a pretty serious accident... the cop had surely exaggerated about the strewn bodies... but given the day and the zombies that were driving all over town it seem plausible enough that highway 70 might be strewn with corpses and that those might be reanimated... The ride home might be interesting....
So, we hurried back home uneventfully -- none of the Undead barring our way -- and get here with ten minutes to spare. I quickly set up the camera, did my sound check etc. and at 8:01, just a minute late, I clicked the broadcast button to go live...
And... well, its not that nothing happened... something happened. Its not that we didn't have internet access, the connection was weak but strong enough... But when I clicked "Broadcast" the button greyed out but did not give a fail to connect not the connected display, but nothing happened. Same with the record button... But the main screen said "Connected." I looked for the live feed at TempleBethHaShem.org... nada. I restarted, tried a couple of times and decided to just record the audio (which you can hear above).
After the broadcast I came inside to upload the audio to my website and thought, I wonder... so I tried the broadcast live button... and of course it worked fine...
So wonders of wonders... only a couple of minutes uploaded to my website even though the whole service did record. I gave up and went to sleep (I need my beauty sleep!).
Oy!!! Such a day!
This morning I tried again and everything is completely as its supposed to be.
So... here (I hope!) is the audio of last night's Shabbat service from Beth Yachad and Temple Beth HaShem.
No Virginia, there were no real zombies in Oroville... but SOMETHING was really off!