Swimming Upstream

Detail from “Woman Before a Fish Bowl” ~ Henri Matisse (1922)

Walgreens is an impulse shopper’s paradise.

Established in 1901, after Charles R. Walgreen purchased the Chicago drugstore he’d served as pharmacist, the chain grew slowly, but steadily. In 1926, a hundred stores existed. By 1984, there were a thousand.

Over the years, Walgreens moved beyond filling prescriptions: as a way to accommodate people who needed something to do while waiting for their prescriptions. Greeting cards appeared, along with hair brushes and shaving soap. Eventually, detergent, envelopes, candy, and socks were added to the inventory, and a newer, more modern version of the general store was born.

Even in these days of online ordering and drive-through pick-up, the stores have continued to thrive. People do run out of toothpaste, get sudden cravings for chocolate, or need single sheets of yellow and red construction paper at 9 p.m. on a Thursday night, and Walgreens fills those needs.

Customers know they can count on the staples being there: colored pencils, bird seed, batteries, and milk. Seasonal items abound — fleece throws in winter, flip-flops and straw hats in summer — as well as holiday items that appear months before the holiday itself. On February 15, you’ll find old-fashioned, wind-up Easter chicks that cluck and lay jelly bean eggs. Halloween’s cobwebs and witches will be stocked by August, and the wholly predictable Christmas stockings and candy will be on the shelves long before Thanksgiving.

But not everything is so predictable. Occasionally, lucky shoppers stumble across kitschy, inexplicable treasure.

As I practiced patience in the checkout line one day, a flash of orange caught my eye. It was a fish, swimming for all it was worth inside a tiny plastic bowl. It wasn’t alone. An extraordinarily blue friend followed in its wake, and both seemed to be giving me the eye.  Beyond the pair of fish, six tiny bowls lined the counter. Each held one or two plastic creatures — crabs, lobster, turtles, crawfish — crawling, swimming, and climbing over one another as though possessed.  

Mesmerized, I asked the clerk, “How do they do that?”  “I dunno,” she said. “I know it takes batteries, and the manager gets really mad if we forget to turn ’em off at night, ’cause then the batteries die.” I picked up a box that claimed to contain One BOWL One BASE Two Assorted FISH and looked at it. From what I could tell, a pair of AA batteries and some water would do the trick. I was hooked.

Five minutes and $3.95 later, I had my very own Pet-Quarium, complete with a clown fish, a parrotfish, and a textured rock base.  I headed home, to see if I could persuade my fishies to swim.

It wasn’t hard. After tucking the batteries into the bottom of the base, I filled the bowl ONLY to the INDENTATION for fish to function properly THANK YOU and swirled Two drops ONLY of dishwashing liquid into the water. A little experimentation revealed that the Pet-Quarium people knew their business. Too much water, or no dishwashing soap, meant a serious lack of action. with the fish bumping along the bottom rather than circling their bowl.

Once I had the bowl up and running, I put it on a corner of my desk. After a day or two, I no longer heard the faint hum of the motor, or the clicking of fish pushing the boundaries of their world. While I knew vibrations from the base were making the fish move, it was easy to be tricked by the illusion of life. 

The fish certainly fooled the cat. She spent hours on a chair next to the desk, watching them swim.

Once, I woke to plaintive, after-midnight murmurings at the bedroom door.  Clearly distressed, Dixie Rose led me to the living room, where I discovered the problem.  Like a forgetful teen-aged store clerk, I’d left the fish swimming, and the batteries had died. The fish weren’t floating at the top as proper dead fish do. They’d sunk to the bottom, and were lying motionless in their plastic gravel. After I installed new batteries and flipped the switch, the fish revived, the cat purred even more loudly than the motor, and I went back to bed.

One afternoon, feeling a little sorry for my motionless fish, I brought them to life with a flip of the switch and watched them circle the bowl. On impulse, I flicked the switch off. They fell to the bottom, glaring at me from their plastic seabed. 

“You silly things,” I said. “You’re not real fish. You’re faux-fish. You don’t do anything unless someone gives you a nudge.  See?”  I flipped the switch again, and watched the fish stir back into action. But it only was action: not life. No matter how often I filled their bowl with water, added drops of soap, or changed the batteries, those fish weren’t going to swim on their own.

Contemplating my poor, awkward bits of fish-shaped plastic, I couldn’t help comparing them to the tropical fish I met on Caribbean reefs.

Real parrotfish — painted by life with azure, turquoise, cyan and sapphire; brushed with magenta and lavender; touched with emerald, and highlighted with yellows as pure as sunlight — seem lit from within. Glowing and pulsing with life, they set own course through forests of coral and stone, coming and going as they please through their watery neighborhood.  

No one needs to throw a switch to make those fish go. They’re go-fish by nature: chips off the old pelagic block, creatures perfectly attuned to their environment and constrained only by the limits of their nature.

Parrotfish ~ Trunk Bay, St. John

Though less striking in appearance, the curiosity, sociability, and responsiveness of the sergeant majors is unrivaled. Flocking to bread crumbs like pigeons in a park, seemingly as attuned to one another as any flock of birds, they wheel and spin through the water in great, flickering waves. Swimming alongside humans with no apparent anxiety, they cast half-humorous glances at their lumbering companions, as if to say, “This is our life. Isn’t it great?”

Sergeant majors ~ Staniel Cay, Exumas

Even the more solitary and shy angelfish, the apparent grump of the reef, shows remarkable speed and agility when it decides not to be seen. Slipping into the narrowest crevice with the flick of a fin, it leaves an impression of independence, and a preference for setting its own course.

French angelfish ~ Curacao (Photo by Barry Brown)

Today, while the reef fish continue to swim, the Pet-Quarium languishes in a box: destined for donation. The cat lost interest, as cats will, and the novelty wore thin for her human, as well.

For a time, the faux-fish served as an amusing reminder of the broad range of uses for AA batteries, and the power of marketing. But when fragrant spring evenings fill with the crystalline breaking of glass minnows against the surface of the water, or summer nights resonate with the slap and shimmy of mullet, the comings-and-goings of real fish always satisfies more deeply than any bit of plastic.

The schooling sergeant majors, the pouting, iridescent parrotfish, the grace-filled flights of angelfish: all point to the gulf separating reality from artifice, the “go-fish” of the world from the “faux-fish” of the marketers.

Occasionally, I remember that gulf as I turn to look into the kitchen, and see a 1920s print sitting next to the coffee pot.

A little tattered, still in its original frame, it looks just as it did when it graced a corner of my father’s desk. I remember it from my earliest years, and I remember it from his last years, and I’ve come to understand something of the reasons he kept it at hand.

With the faux-fish grown quiet, and the ceaseless obligato of a million silvery minnows rising and falling through the air, I sit between two worlds: smiling again at words lively enough to endure through generations.


Comments are welcome, always
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112 thoughts on “Swimming Upstream

  1. What a lovely story, once we had too, my son when he was a child… But it didn’t work, because he was being so sad when fishes died… I can imagine how cat watches them :) So lovely dear Linda, you took me into my memories too. Thanks and Love, nia

    1. It’s always hard for the children, isn’t it? I remember helping a friend feed her fish when I was young. She thought if some food was good, lots of food would be better. That didn’t work out so well, and she lost her fish.

      I waited for the cat to try to catch the fish, but she never did. She just liked to watch — until she’d had enough, and that was that.

      I’m glad to have brought you some memories! ~ Linda

  2. I see your dad’s picture as something that surely was an excellent reminder that anyone can drift through life; as many people do; but if you want to be an accomplished being then it takes effort to get your work done. Unfortunately it takes a great deal of effort to get somewhere in life, as my mother used to say and some people have it and some people do not- the desire to live and work and lead a meaningful life.

    I like this post very much There are subtle instructions about work and insight and deeper thoughts here. How easy it is to get bored or tired of something but “the something” in the beginning actually had no worth- it was merely a temporary toy and that is how some folks go through life. Everything is a fad and quickly discarded.

    ~yvonne

    1. Yvonne, it wasn’t until some years after my father’s death that I began to appreciate how naturally talented he was, and how determined he must have been. With only a high school diploma, he worked his way into the industrial engineering department at Maytag, and became a supervisor.

      Eventually, promotions stopped because he didn’t have a college degree: it was an issue for more than a few of his friends, as well, and it caused them no end of frustration. But he persevered, and enjoyed his work, if not the office politics.

      Some years ago, there was a saying: “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” I’m as fond of a nice toy as anyone (think kitchen gadgets, for example) but dedicating our lives to their accumulation, or worse, allowing marketers to define what we must have to be happy, is sad.

      Walgreens doesn’t carry the Pet-Quarium now, but it’s available online — for as low as $7.01, plus shipping. Apparently, demand is high.

  3. Linda, every time I read you, I think this is the best yet. This story has everything – beauty, emotion, life lessons, even a touch of destiny – all written with such grace. Grace is rather an odd word to use but it is what I feel. Great writing.

    1. Grace may seem an odd word, Oneta, but it’s one I’ll happily accept. We seem to be a little short on graciousness in our society these days, not to mention graceful speaking and writing. If I can provide an occasional alternative to the “let’s beat them over the head with an insult stick” school of writing, I’m willing to do my part.

      I’m really glad you enjoyed this. In a way, it’s a small example of what I think Lawrence Durrell was talking about in the first pages of his novel, “Justine,” where he writes:

      “I spoke of the uselessness of art but added nothing truthful about its consolations. The solace of such work as I do with brain and heart lies in this: that only there, in the silences of the painter or the writer can reality be reordered, reworked and made to show its significant side.”

      Many thanks, for your encouraging words.

  4. I love this post, Linda. I’ve been sidelined this summer with what I hope is only a strained knee, and I’ve found myself beguiled by pretty shiny things I see online. With a jolt I’ll remember there is a vibrantly real world out there. Will I have the will to rejoin it?

    1. You’ve had a hard summer, haven’t you, Melissa? I hope your knee’s only strained — not that a strain is anything to fool with. As for your rejoining the real world, I’ve no doubt about that. That’s where your inspiration lies: the source for so much of your painting. I can’t imagine you trading the pleasures of the internet for time spent in nature.

      On the other hand, it has crossed my mind that Amazon Prime might be a tool of the devil. A friend challenged me once to find something — anything! — they don’t sell. I couldn’t.

      Of course, the difference between “search” and “browse” is part of the charm of a store like Walgreens. I never would have found the Pet-Quarium searching on Amazon, but browsing the store aisles? You never know.

      1. You know, my knee has been trying to tell me for awhile now to give it a rest. I’m so glad I finally listened, because it wasn’t just my knee. Everything is feeling stronger~I can already feel the desire to be active returning. Thank goodness, because I was thinking it was gone forever. I think you are right about Amazon Prime. Yikes! But the shelves of Walgreens can make for a beguiling afternoon. Remember the old 5 and dime stores?

        1. I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling stronger, Melissa. Sometimes our bodies give us cues that we need to slow down for a while — the physical aches and pains are like a little tap on the shoulder from life. :)

          I certainly do remember those five-and-dime stores. We had two in my home town. One was Woolworth’s, and I think the other was just a local store. Here in Houston, there was a variety store near Rice University that was the same as a dimestore. They kept it going until only a few years ago. It was great. It had everything from the metal “cricket clickers” to Tinker Toys to penny candy. You could have a lot of fun for not very much money.

  5. I don’t go to the pharmacy any more for my Rxs, but when I used to, I remember Walgreen’s and their seasonal merchandise. I sometimes think that if the brain wattage used to come up with some of these things, like your fish, were applied to improving the human condition, how the world might be a better place.

    1. Ah, but you see — the little plastic bowl with the funny fish did improve my world, primarily because it improved Dixie Rose’s world. Sometimes a little frivolity, fun, and flat silliness is fine — especially for $3.95. It was as cheap as any toy I’ve purchased for her, it kept her interest for several weeks, and it gave me a few smiles, too.

      Even my mother found the thing fascinating. She was the one who pointed out that, for someone in a nursing home, cut off from most of life, something that moved, made noise, and was colorful might have provided some real pleasure. I never would have thought of that, but her perspective was different.

        1. Finches seem to be the thing here, although there was a large acquarium in a rehab hospital where a friend’s mother stayed for a few weeks. A large, well-maintained one is beautiful, and certainly interesting, and now that I’ve done a bit of exploring, I see they’re being added to Alzheimer’s care facilities, too.

          And, it had to happen. You now can have a fully-functional aquarium on your computer, as a screen saver. If you don’t want to download Windows Aquarium 3.2, you always can run a youtube acquarium full screen. With virtual fireplaces common, could the fish tank be far behind?

          1. At the dentist today. The dentist is having his rooms redecorated. Reading this, I now realize that I missed an opportunity to ask him to put a virtual fish tank on the ceiling for the patient’s amusement and soothment.

  6. One of your best, Linda, written with love and understanding. I’m sure the little plastic fish will give others pleasure as well, but I’m with you, there is nothing like the real thing. Even Dixie Rose figured that out. I liked the little poem at the end too. It has a lot of truth in it.

    1. There are varieties of that saying, Kayti, but I do like this one: probably because it’s poetic. As for Dixie, I’m pretty sure fine distinctions between real and not-real didn’t play into her eventual dismissal of the fish. She just has a really low threshold for boredom.

      I’ll take the fish and an extra set of batteries to a resale shop in a small community on the bay. As hard as it is to believe, there still are families recovering from hurricane Ike, and the poor economy isnt helping. Some child surely will get a smile from it, as will the parent who can afford the twenty-five cents or so for a little gift.

  7. When I was about 10, the county decided to pave the long 5 mile gravel road that ran past our farmhouse. The land there was flat. No streams or creeks were within several miles of us. After the ditches were graded out and deepened and the road completed, heavy rains would fill the ditches for long periods of time. The water had no where to go.

    Our amusement came with the zinc coated bathtub in the ditch of water. We paddled up and down along the road. One day to our surprise we found a 6″ long fish swimming in the ditch with us. Talk about needing to swim up stream. It had to have covered nearly 5 miles from some creek to a ditch to another to another and finally to ours. It ended up in the horse tank along with the catfish.

    1. Those zinc-coated tubs were the best. Grandma used them for laundry, and so did Mom for a while, but the thought of you setting off, Huck Finn-like, in yours, is just great.

      Your tale of the fish that made it to your ditch is amazing. I suppose if you’re a fish, and you’re in water, and you’re finding things to eat, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Do you remember what kind of fish it was? Did it survive in the tank? I know that channel catfish will eat other fish, but you may have had a different species, or they may have been too small to take on another fish. (It was a tank, after all, and not the Mississippi.)

      After a flooding rain in the hill country, we found Koi in some pools behind a dam. We assume they were in someone’s pond, and got sent on their way by the flood. They were around for a while, until the balance of nature took over: more raccoon tracks, fewer fish.

      1. An older brother called it a sucker. I don’t think it lasted long in the tank. The catfish was there a few years.

        We had great fun boating in the ditch. Another ditch denizen was a 12″ snapping turtle.

  8. I went through the better part of 60 years without ever stepping into a Walgreens. We then had one move into our local health center only to leave for two towns over last year. It was just an abbreviated version and I was surprised that it fits your description when I visited the full blown store in Northampton, MA.

    Several moons back..a few hundred or so…I shared a house with a nice lady whose grandson would stay for long periods of time. One of his favorite toys was this. No batteries required.

    1. Wind-up toys are the best. I had a wind-up chicken that walked across the floor, but it was metal. Speaking of no batteries, did you ever have Mexican “jumping beans”? Those would have been perfect, if you already were an insect lover in your younger days.

      From what I can tell, Walgreens stocks pretty much the same merchandise in their stores, but managers have some freedom to determine how it’s arranged. There are three stores relatively near to me, and sometimes it takes an extra minute to find what I’m looking for if I go elsewhere than my regular store.

      That’s all right. There’s no telling what’s hidden away on those shelves for the intrepid retail explorer.

      1. Nope…I only heard about them but never actually saw any…to this day.
        Speaking of not finding things…we really like Trader Joe’s, but they also really irritate the heck out of me. I don’t know if it is every store or just our local franchisee, but every time I go in there the stock has been rearranged. I know it is to create spur of the moment purchases, but it really rankles when I have to search for what I get on a regular basis. Not high on the list of what’s important in life, but still an itch I can’t scratch.

        1. I’ve never been to a Trader Joe’s, but every grocery store I frequent does the same thing — moves stock around on a regular basis. Everyone hates it, but it doesn’t seem to matter. No one bothers asking a clerk for information, because they’ll give you a best guess rather than an answer. Other customers generally are the best guides to the current location of the rice cakes or marmalade.

        2. Steve, We have TJ’s here in the Bay Area and yes, they do this often. I use their rearranging as a way to test my memory…trying to put a positive spin on what in fact, is irritating! :)

          1. Although irritating, I am able to find what I am after. But my wife has cognitive issues and it is hard enough for her to find things when they are where expected. TJ’s just makes it harder for her and she will often just say the heck with it. So I go there most often…and I can be just a bit impulsive.

            1. I hadn’t thought about the effects of moving everything around for a person with cognitive issues. Thanks for sensitizing me to that, Steve.

            2. It may not be an exact parallel, but when I still was caring for Mom, I had to be careful about putting things back exactly where they had been. If I put the can opener in its usual drawer, but put it on the left side of the drawer rather than the right, sometimes she would find, it but very often she didn’t.

  9. What a sweet post, and you told it perfectly. I bought a few windup bath toys for the grands: scuba diver, boat, fish. A few twists and they swim happily along. They’ve all been enchanted by them, but the youngest still uses them every time she takes a bath.

    1. Well, my goodness. I did a search for windup bath toys, to see what’s on the market these days, and discovered that my orange and blue fish probably are knock-offs from “Finding Nemo.” Who knew? Not me, since I tend to miss a lot of things targeted for kids.

      I’m not sure there were windup bath toys when I was young. I did have the usual plastic duckies, and the first year Santa came to the house in person, he brought a floating soap dish that was made of rubber and shaped like a duck.

      I know this. If you were my grandma, I’d want to be visiting your house all the time.

  10. I love that Matisse, and of course it’s perfect for your story. What I’m NOT doing is letting on about this to our cat, as she’ll want those faux fish in an instant, and, as you so justly note, forget all about how compelling they are in the next instant!

    1. I like the Matisse, too. Sometimes I see the woman as raptly attentive, and sometimes I see her staring blankly at the bowl, while she ponders something unrelated to the fish.

      It’s probably better than you keep the fishbowl to yourself. Cats have their ways, you know, and I’ve heard rumors that some have discovered the wonders of Amazon Prime.

    1. I’m glad you were charmed, Sammy. And, yes — a little reminder about the importance of perseverance always is in order, I think. I certainly can use the reminders.

  11. I love this most of all: “I dunno,” she said. “I know it takes batteries, and the manager gets really mad if we forget to turn ’em off at night, ’cause then the batteries die.”

    Walgreens. They pop up like mushrooms. But I confess that I am delighted to be able to walk to the nearest one. And the other one that’s not too far from that…

    I keep my purchases to strict necessities such as Excedrin, Benadryl, bandages. I’ve often felt bad for the plants they sell there…

    Funny that the colorful floaty fish caught your eye. I’ve been contemplating a lava lamp. Seriously. Hang in there Dixie. There’s more where those fishies came from.

    1. In 2012, the chain opened their 8,000th store in Los Angeles, so the mushroom analogy is a good one.

      Like you, I can walk to the one nearest me, and that’s a very good thing. The other thing I like is that they seem to have almost no staff turnover. I know the clerks by name, and we have nice chats. It’s a bit of an irony that a store that’s part of a huge chain has the feel of an old-fashioned neighborhood store. I suspect they nurture that.

      Funny you should mention the plants. I have four African violets I bought there for Mom years ago. They need to be repotted, but they’re still going strong. Now, the store seems to stick to heavenly bamboo, and lilies at Easter time. It’s probably just as well.

      Funny you should mention lava lamps. I remembered them just the other day. There’s a bit of discussion here that I suspect you’ll enjoy. I had no idea how they worked, but it’s interesting. As we like to say, “What goes around, comes around.” I had one of those in a college dorm room.

  12. A delightful tale and beautifully written. “Flocking to bread crumbs like pigeons in a park, seemingly as attuned to one another as any flock of birds, they wheel and spin through the water in great, flickering waves.” Now that is writing.

    But on another deeper matter, I am a huge fan of faux fish. Being a father who has flushed many a flesh and fin fish down the toilet, I appreciate a creature who can be revived with fresh AAA batteries.

    1. It’s a fact: sometimes my best lines just appear. There’s no sitting around, anguishing over a dictionary and thesaurus. When it happens, I’m as amazed as anyone. Maybe one of the rules for writing should be: “Get out of your own way.”

      Since I never had goldfish, there never was the need to flush those fish right out of their lair, but it might have been worth it, just for the pleasure of a parody.

  13. Perhaps my mother would like one of these. In the meantime she is busy with the colouring activities I send to her. Lately, I have been stumped a bit for colour suggestions for her. Your list of colours ” azure, turquoise, cyan and sapphire” remind me of the alternatives to blue, light blue and dark blue. I can’t wait to ask her to colour something sapphire blue.

    1. Before I forget, Gallivanta, look at today’s Word of the Day. I was so tickled to see “your” word highlighted.

      As for the colors: yes. I started paying attention on my first trip to the Bahamas. I’d always assumed the waters I saw in photos from the Caribbean had been manipulated. Surely, I thought, nothing could be that pure, and that varied. Well, the colors were real, and finding a way to describe them required far more than just “blue.”

      Today, green isn’t just green, and yellow ranges from lemon chiffon pie to sunflower. It’s great fun, and really does help to make the world shine in a different way.

      1. What fun to see my word! My gallivanting has been curtailed this past month on account of the bug/flu. I am about ready to return to frivolous pursuits. Of blue….I was reading about Harald Bluetooth, ruler of Denmark (and Norway for awhile) and was curious about the blue in the tooth. Several suggestions were given but the one which interested me most was that blue used to mean ‘dark’ in Scandinavia.

        1. That’s especially interesting since I’ve recently learned of the “blue hour” — the still-dark time before dawn that’s favored by photographers.

          I confess Harald Bluetooth was new to me. But, it seemed curious that a Danish king should have the same name as a common technology. Here’s part of the story of that:

          “Intel proposed that the SIG be called by the “codename” Bluetooth until the SIG’s marketing group would come up with a formal technology name. When asked about the name Bluetooth, I explained that Bluetooth was borrowed from the 10th century, second King of Denmark, King Harald Bluetooth; who was famous for uniting Scandinavia, just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.”

          You can read the full story of how a book and a pub crawl led to the Bluetooth tech name here.

          1. Ah, I did not know that about the blue hour. About Bluetooth technology and Harald Bluetooth I did know (but only very recently). However I had not read the link you gave me which added more to the story. When I mentioned Harald Bluetooth to my daughter she said “He was a bit ahead of his time.” “No, no, I said, it’s the other way round.”

  14. In Chicago’s Loop there are Walgreens every block or so, in buildings that must have high rent. Appropriately, the chapel in the sky (top floor chapel in the Chicago Temple, a Methodist church building) was donated by the Walgreen family in the early 1950s. Jim and I had the good fortune to take a tour there a couple of years ago. If you get to Chicago, please make the effort to see it, too. It is one of so many hidden gems in the city.
    http://chicagotemple.org/architecture/

    1. I didn’t realize until I read the history that Walgreens is so closely associated with Chicago. I love that the Methodists decided to stay in the city. The building reminds me of the way St. Peter’s Lutheran in New York is tucked in beneath the Citicorp buidling. And both have wonderful art, by extraordinary artists.

      I can see why you enjoyed the tour. The photos online are striking, and the articles by architects are so interesting. I remember your trip. Didn’t you post some photos at the time? If I ever go to Chicago, I’ll certainly visit.

  15. Linda, this is brain candy!! My nerd self keeps wondering about the mechanism of the plastic fishes’ movement, and the importance of the dish soap. I keep thinking magnets and viscosity…
    And the contrast between the real and the representative–like photos of mountains compared to real, on-the-summit vistas–and the value of both–feels both profound and intuitive. Both serve a purpose, and we could not fully appreciate one without also knowing the other.
    And of course, the retail experience, *sigh*. Another almost daily opportunity to practice mindfulness and intention with our money and attention! I’m such a sucker for small things, especially if they have to do with writing (shiny pens, pens with fun ink, notepads, journals, card sets)… I always figure I’ll use it eventually…now I realize it would take me a lifetime or two, so I need to exercise better self-control!
    Thanks for this!

    1. You mentioned viscosity. By coincidence, about half an hour ago in James Gleick’s book Chaos I came to this ditty by Lewis F. Richardson:

      Big whorls have little whorls
      Which feed on their velocity,
      And little whorls have lesser whorls
      And so on to viscosity.

      1. I’ve heard of chaos theory, of course: but I hadn’t heard of Gleick. I found an introductory article about the theory that was almost understandable, and filled with other names and terms I also recognized: e.g., Edward Lorenz, and fractals.

        Best of all, I found Gleick’s blog, which is delightful. I was especially taken with an entry titled “You Are Old, Father Feynman. Between that and his piece about auto-correct and the global prosthetic brain, I’m about ready to pick up one of his books.

    2. I think the fishes’ movement is related to surface tension, Cathy. I haven’t figured out precisely how. If you want to do a little experiment at home, here are the instructions, and a really nice explanation. You can make a paper fish move without having to shell out $3.95.

      Your reference to the real and the representative reminds me of the interplay of experience and reflection. It used to drive my mother crazy that I’d revisit places I found interesting. But each visit was more interesting, and more productive, because I’d come home and read about them — sometimes even doing real research. Research before travel is good, too: even if I’m only going to the next county.

      The people who design store displays certainly understand what makes people “bite” on various items. There’s a reason there’s candy, not broccoli, at the checkout counter, and all of those little doo-dads we never shop for but pick up “just because.” I’ve gotten over pens and journals, but show me a cute little tin box, and I’m thinking….

  16. Martha! Those Walgreens do pop up like mushrooms.

    I really enjoyed your story. Especially the fish attitudes and your poetic description of the myriad of bright gorgeous colors.

    Also, the painting your Father kept on the side of the desk is fantastic! Your Father also reminds me of a fading generation of hard working, honest people. I’m accustomed to gossip, some lazyness, but mostly this attitude of, “I’ll stab you in the back in a heartbeat to take your job//get the promotion!” Office politics I don’t do.

    Great atmosphere to your story!

    1. Dad certainly was the embodiment of hard work and honesty, as was my mother. But he knew how to play, too: his wicked sense of humor and love of exploration shaped me more than I realized during those early years.

      One of the great things about running my own business is the nearly complete absence of bickering or office politics. Occasionally, I have to call myself into the office for a little discussion, but things generally get resolved, and I haven’t fired myself yet.

      I’m especially glad you enjoyed those fishy attitudes. They were fun to describe. And thanks for taking the time to comment. You’re always welcome here.

      Linda

    1. In the category “News You Can Use,” there’s this: Blowfish is an FDA approved and highly publicized hangover remedy available at Walgreens. I had no idea, but now I’m all informed. In the unlikely event one of my friends drinks like a fish and later regrets it, I’ll have some free advice to offer.

      Faux-fish certainly can be oafish. While I was laughing at your verse, I remembered some lines penned by Eva Williams Raymond, in the “Boston Herald,” as her response to the 1939 goldfish-swallowing fad that began at Harvard:

      “To end this paranoiac prank,
      O Harvard, how I wish
      You’d put the students in a tank
      And graduate the fish!”

      1. I had no idea that blowfish contain elements useful for treating a hangover. I saw my first blowfish while still in single digits (I, and probably the fish as well), when my family spent a few days at the beach on the north fluke of Long Island.

        As for what human students “graduate” knowing, I’m tempted to say that fish learn at least as much in their schools.

    1. I went back and forth about those apostrophes. I started out with Walgreen’s. Then, after seeing it written Walgreens, I went to the company sites, and found Walgreens the preferred form: though they also refer to it as The Walgreen Company.

      That San Antonio sign is great. If they don’t like apostrophes, maybe they could just go back to Walgreen Drug. They’d only need about 8,000 signs.

  17. I haven’t seen these before, but I do know the pull of Walgreens. “But I only meant to get cough syrup!” I say as I leave with a bag of knick-knacks. It happens every time and will, I suspect, until I have no more time. :)

    1. The knick-knacks are a small price to pay for the convenience. Target is too big, and Wal-Mart’s impossible. Dollar stores of any sort will do for some things, but they require a half-hour’s worth of travel time.

      It’s so easy to run into Walgreens, pick “it” up, and go. Of course we leave the store from time to time with things we didn’t know we needed, but clearly Walgreens, in their infinite wisdom, knew we did. As a friend likes to say, “It’s Walgreens world, and we’re just living in it.”

  18. I love this one, Linda. And yes, compared to the reefs, well, how CAN the battery fish compare? And yet for $3.95 it was good for grins for you and Dixie for a time and really, haven’t you spent much more on much less to entertain the cat? I know I have!

    One of the things I actually look forward to at the lake is watching Chip, my neighbor’s chocolate lab, hunt minnows. He’ll throw his head into the water and out, and you can almost see him smile! He’ll stick his face close to the water and then like a flash, go for the gulp; then walk around in a circle or two, following them, stopping, diving. He is the happiest dog I’ve ever seen.

    He reminds me that the joy of trying to achieve — whether it is the snatching of minnows from a lake or doing a job well or savoring a new passion — is partly in the trying. It doesn’t always work but if you learn and have fun, like Chip, it’s OK.

    I wonder what fun Lizzie might have for a week if I get her a $4 fish… I may have to see!

    1. Aren’t we lucky that life doesn’t have to be either/or, Jeanie? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying both the reef fish and the faux fish. But, if you want a fish that’s going to get somewhere — no question that the live ones win.

      Labs are such great dogs.Do you know if Chip hunts with his? Chocolate labs are getting more popular down here, although I’ve heard a few owners say they have only two speeds: 500 mph or asleep. It sounds like this Lab’s hunting instinct is strong, even if he has to make do with minnows from time to time.

      As for trying to achieve — I read the most amazing post a couple of weeks ago about Florence Foster Jenkins, a woman who was determined to sing. Her story is at once sad, intriguing, and amusing. Here’s just a snippet from the post:

      “Mrs. Jenkins was under the impression that she was a talented soprano, but the fact was that she couldn’t sing at all. She had no command of tone, pitch, rhythm, or diction. But she continued to study voice, and she gave periodic invitation-only recitals attended by friends who would not have told her the truth.”

      She seemed to be making your point about trying, learning, and having fun when she said, “People can say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”

      And there you have it.

      1. Have you ever heard Florence Foster Jenkins? She was a true character and much to be admired! I’ve heard several recordings and I always feel badly if I chuckle because there isn’t a thing I do that someone couldn’t say the same about me. I don’t swim pretty, well, fast or probably correctly but today I did 25 lengths; I dance like Elaine in Seinfeld but it doesn’t stop me from being the first on the floor. It’s the doing that is fun — if you try to do better, all the more commendable but still — it’s the doing it and keeping on that matters!

        I don’t know if Jim takes (Chocolate) Chip hunting or not. I’ll have to ask him.

        The goldfish reminded me today (when I re-read it) of the two fish my co-worker Gina and I used to have in the office. We named them Pledge and Freebie and nursed them through numerous bouts of acne and fed them regularly (though maybe a bit slack on the weekend). When they became floaters, they ended up down in the great vast sewers of Michigan State University, but they were good pals while they lasted! Maybe we should have been better entrusted to a Walgreen’s version!

        1. I have heard Florence Jenkins. There are several YouTube testaments to her talent, and the rough road she traveled. Her personal life was fraught, too. It’s even more reason to admire her — and, yes, to have a little laugh at her expense. Given what she had to put up with, I don’t think she’d mind a little laugh, at all.

          Fish emulsion often is recommended for plants. Did you ever think of recycling your buddies that way? You might have had the best greenery in the office!

  19. Marcello the Cat would understand. He will chase a catnip mouse or even a plastic ball, but he seems to do it out of a sense of obligation: he gets fed and sheltered because he is the court jester. But when he spots that moth — the real thing! — that buzzes around the hanging plant outside our kitchen window, then he forgets we exist and is truly engaged with his place in the natural scheme of things.

    1. Every now and then, a small lizard will make it up the walls of my building to a bedroom window screen.How she hears it, I don’t know, but Dixie will come to full alert from the depths of a living room nap, and be in the bedroom in only seconds. Her whiskers quiver, her nose twitches, and she gives me a look that clearly translates, “If you would open that window, I’d take care of that intruder for you.” So brave, she is.

      Is Marcello named for Marcello Mastroianni? I know you were watching quite a few of his films a while back. I thought I remembered that you had reviewed “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” but I couldn’t find it. I recently found that and “Sunflower” on Amazon Prime, and am looking forward to watching both.

      1. It doesn’t appear that I reviewed “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” but now it may happen if Amazon or Netflix have it. My wife named Marcello, whom we met on a street in North East, a little town on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, when he was a few months old. Whenever he does something wrong, I remind him that Maryland is only a two-hour drive from here. He knows I’m bluffing. I don’t think Pat had Mastroianni in mind; more likely, she just liked the sound of the name.

  20. Lovely story, Linda.
    And, I agree wholeheartedly with you that while the ‘faux’ things of life can, and sometimes do, provide some entertainment or amusing distraction (albeit temporarily), one should never discard or ignore the meaningful things of real life for soulless fads or empty baubles.
    Your father’s print speaks volumes!

    1. One thing’s for sure, Andrew — those faux fish weren’t going to go anywhere on their own. They were wholly dependent on outside forces to set them in motion. No matter how much or how often I encouraged them, they just sat there, until the switch got thrown. Encouragement and support from others is so important, but for real accomplishment? We have to be the ones doing the swimming, which means (in a manner of speaking) we have to learn how to throw our own switch.

      Besides, you’ve known enough fish to know the truth. Most fish who drift with the current are dead. It is the live ones who swim, with or against the stream.

  21. Although not related to your delightful triptych, I have a little ditty that still brings a smile to my face upon reflection. At a formal Judicial Retirement Dinner, one of the judges (who was the MC of the event) misused the word “faux.” Instead of saying that he didn’t want to make a “Faux pas,” he said, ” I don’t want to make a “fa poux.”

    Little Cheri was in attendance at a table with many distinguished guests. I got the giggles almost to a point of disease, could not stop laughing, and had to leave the room. Needless to say, the man with whom I attended this august affair was embarrassed to the nines.

    1. Oh, Cheri. I can only imagine. Not being able to stop laughing can be terrible. I was in the lead car of a funeral procession once, and when we got to the cemetery gate, there was a huge sign that said, “No Planting Without Permission.” It seemed screamingly funny to everyone in the car, which probably was a good thing.

      Your story reminded me of some famous Spoonerisms: e.g., “fog as thick as sea poop,” or (one of my childhood favorites), the “runny babbit.” I can’t help wondering if the poor fellow’s confusion wasn’t an example of a Spoonerism.

  22. Maybe nerves, maybe a Spoonerism…let’s give him that one.

    My husband’s grandfather, Orton, married (for the second time) a woman named Doris. They went by Ort and Doris but I was forever calling them Dort and Oris. Family didn’t think it too funny. :D

    1. It took a while, but I finally figured out how I know the name “Orton.” It’s the Orton family that runs the Vermont Country Store, one of the last purveyors of really good stuff from the 1940s and 1950s.

      Dort and Oris sound like they should be a couple from a Saturday morning cartoon show. I’m in favor of your change.

  23. That’s a beautiful quote, and so touching. The illustration was also really nostalgic for me… reminds me of a storybook I used to have, something called “The Midnight Boat” or some such thing….

    Walgreens is a treasure. I used to rely on them for toy drive last minute buys when I worked at Starbucks. The toys were always better than the ones I could find for the same price at Target or Walmart, and changed frequently enough, didn’t rely on brand power, or well-known characters to be fun.

    I still go there to get my yearly supply of $9 coverup, and $4 mascara.

    1. I enjoy the vintage illustrations, too, Alex. I still remember some of my books, like “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” as much for the illustrations as for the writing.

      It’s absolutely true that Walgreens doesn’t depend on the latest marketing fads. It may be that they miss out on some things because of licensing agreements with the big chains, but if you want a nice sand pail and shovel, or an old-fashioned china tea set for dolls, you can find it there.

      One of their best items is the big, fleece throw they stock once cooler weather sets in. They’re inexpensive, warm as can be, and make really great donations for nursing homes and homeless shelters. Even Dixie Rose has one she’s particularly fond of.

  24. Another really fine story, Linda. I am sure there would be many who could enjoy the plastic fish… without even comparing to the real thing. Just as your cat enjoyed watching them for hours. I’m sorry I never ran into something like that… though I have my distractions too. Best wishes. Hope the summer is treating you well.

    1. All things considered, Shimon, I can’t find any good reason to eliminate enjoyment — or even a little mindless fun and frivolity — from our lives. Heaven knows there are serous matters all around, and worries enough to keep anyone awake through the night. Sometimes, life itself makes enjoyment nearly impossible. But a cut flower, a cat’s purr, a swimming mechanical fish – all of these help to balance things out.

      As for summer? Let’s just say I’ll be happy to see September and especially October roll around. I enjoy the heat less than I once did!

  25. What wonderful thoughts. So true.
    I was hiking with my kids yesterday, and can definitely assure, live world keeps their attention forever, until they drop down tired, while little plastic toys, exciting and amusing, get old in 5 minutes…
    As usual, I will come back for reading round 2, to read the comments. :)
    In Chicago here, we have Walgreens on every corner, every intersection. I rarely go, and that is for one reason only, to pick up occasional photo prints I order through them online.

    1. Your comment about the little plastic toys brought to mind a word I haven’t heard used in decades: “gimcracks.” One of the definitions is “flimsy, or poorly made, but deceptively attractive.” It was a word my grandparents used, a lot. Sometimes, they used it to caution me about spending my allowance on such things.They probably would have considered my fish bowl a gimcrack.

      I don’t remember seeing a Walgreens store until I moved to Texas. Of course, when I was still in Iowa, the chain was developing, and it may well be that they hadn’t made many inroads into our state. All of the pharmacies I remember were independent, and many of them were compounding pharmacies — they’d mix up your potion for you.

      I did like Walgreens when Mom still was alive. The stores, being relatively small and self-contained, were easy for her to navigate. She could browse to her heart’s content, pick up this or that, and enjoy the experience of shopping. She wasn’t able to deal with malls or busy stores any longer, so it was a good solution.

  26. Truly delightful, Linda! I haven’t seen those faux-fish at Walgreen’s, but I can appreciate your acquiescing to purchase them. Funny the things we “have to have” while we’re standing in a check-out line!

    As one who used to keep tropical fish (the fresh water version only), I loved the memories your post brought back. Once, one of my suckerfish (a bottom feeder that cleans the tank of algae) grew to an immense size, so big I thought it would harm its tank-mates. My mom volunteered to scoop it out, but oh, you should’ve seen the water splashing and heard us both squealing! Somehow, “the deed” got done; shortly after, as I recall, Dallas came to live with us and the fish went away. Hard to love something like that when there’s a furry, warm-blooded pup around!

    Have you seen those solar flowers that wave or the birds whose heads rotate back and forth — all to solar batteries?? I don’t know how long those plastic imitators last, but one of my older neighbors has a windowsill full of them!

    1. Funny you should mention those solar-powered birds, Debbie. The motion-activated owls are quite the ticket around the marinas. People put them on their boats to keep the seagulls and other birds at bay. Every time one comes in for a landing, it sets off the owl, which turns to look at the intruder. Some people say it works, but it seems to me the birds get used to the faux-owl pretty quickly, and ignore it.

      Dixie Rose’s two favorite toys do come from Walgreens: a little square pillow filled with catnip, and white tissue paper. The catnip pillow is usually good for a week, but the tissue paper’s a huge favorite. I give her a few sheets, and she shreds them over the course of a few days . Eventually, I take away the mess, and give her fresh tissue, and she starts all over again. But will Dollar Store tissue work? No, of course not. Only the good stuff, from Walgreens.

      I think tropical fish would be fun, but it seems a cat or dog would be less trouble. I do think some of the salt-water acquariums are beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to spend the time and money one would require. I’ll just visit the big ones in Galveston and Houston.

  27. I enjoyed this….gosh yes, the things we buy on impulse! Living critters are far more interesting, I do agree and I just loved the real fish pics and that marvelous print of your Dads at the end!xxx

    1. It’s really kind of fun to think back over some of my impulse purchases, snowbird. Some turned out really well, like the tiny, leaf-shaped piecrust cutters I use every Thanksgiving for the pumpkin pie. Others, like the clip-on halogen reading light, weren’t even close to being worth the cost.

      Seeing any live creature in its natural habitat is special, and finding one that’s a little outside its range can be, too. I’ve never had cardinals, since we just don’t have the kind of cover they prefer. But this year I have a famly: mom, dad, and two babies. I think one of the babies is female and the other male, since their coloring is so different. But, in a couple of weeks, their feathers will turn even more, and it will be easier to tell.

      I have a platform feeder just outside the window, so now Dixie Rose can watch live birds instead of plastic fish!

  28. At the first two sentences of your story, I thought of Drug Emporium, a drug-and-everything-store much like today’s Walgreens. I remember a college friend deciding to take me on an adventure to the Drug Emporium near our campus. Travel sized everything was the aisle that met each customer. I think I resisted the battery powered fish and went for a charming purse that looked a little like a wicker fishing basket.

    And I’m not surprised Miss Dixie Rose (was it she?) was soon bored with the floppy fish.

    1. Believe it or not, I remember when the small, travel-sized “everythings” were introduced. What is it about “small” that’s so entrancing? There was a time when my mother and all of her friends carried the first tiny cans of hairspray in their purses. I’m not sure they ever used them, but there they were — just in case.

      A friend gave me one of those little wicker basket type things once. I loved it. I never used it as a purse, but, no more sewing than I do, it made a perfect sewing basket.

      And yes, it was Dixie who grew bored with the fish. She’s happy now with a piece of coiled-up, plastic covered wire that she chases around the house.

  29. I was most taken with this quirky, fishy post Linda – quite a bit of quality philosophy slipping and sliding in there too…

    The post reminded me of our one and only pet goldfish, who had a lot to cope with in a short life. Each New Year, s/he had a small dribble of whisky ceremonially trickled into the bowl by my Dad, who believed in excess in most things. And the poor creature was at last found deceased, floating belly-upward in the bowl. I stuck my finger gingerly in…the water was hot. Over months, it had slowly come to the boil on top of our ancient TV without any of us noticing…

    1. Oh, Anne! Your fish story reminds me of the old cautionary tale about how to boil a frog: start it in cool water, and bring it to a boil gradually, so the frog doesn’t jump out. I suppose a frog out of water would have a better chance of survival than your fish out of water, but still…

      Anyone who grew up with televisions and radios filled with tubes certainly remembers that heat. Even my first CRT computer monitor put out a lot of heat, though whether it would simmer a goldfish, I’m not sure.

      As for the whiskey — I had a friend whose cockatiel was quite fond of sharing his owner’s scotch. When the friend stopped both smoking and drinking, it was as hard on that bird as on the human. At least he still got his morning sips of coffee!

    1. It just came to mind that we sometimes call an uncomfortable or forced smile a “plastic” smile. It’s not too hard to tell a real smile from a plastic one, either. Thinking about your recent photograph of the lovely young girl, it occurs to me — that’s part of the photographer’s art, too: to evoke real smiles from real people.

  30. My parents have that same Pet Aquarium in their kitchen window. I occasionally clean the little beads on the bottom and refill with fresh water when I visit. Otherwise it has more than little fish living in there. Ouuu!!

    Also, the sight of those goldfish in the fishbowl remind me of a favourite card my sister-in-law received from someone. The front has a picture of the gold fish bowl and gold fish swimming around. Inside of the card says “Eat, sleep, swim around the bowl; eat, sleep, swim around the bowl…..that’s pretty much my life!! Don’t be depressed; its hilarious!!

    :)

    1. I knew there had to be someone out there who shares my affection for the little fishies, but I never expected it would be your parents, Judy. I love that. I never got any “growth” in my bowl, but when it still was in action, the water tended to evaporate from it pretty quickly. Every time I refilled it, I’d give it a wash. That probably prevented the growth.

      That card’s amusing. To be frank, it sounds like August around here, when it’s so beastly hot the only thing to do is move through the days a bit mindlessly. I thought of you a couple of days ago when a bluejay showed up at the water bowl and just sat there with its wings in that cooling position you’ve shown with the egrets and herons. There’s not a movement or sound in the afternoons, that’s for sure. Everyone’s hidden away, waiting for the sun to drop.

  31. Once I was standing in line at the nearby drugstore. The displays near me were assorted: slippers, candy, etc.

    However.

    Placed in the slipper display was a beautiful, close to life size plush rabbit. It was tragic. Surely someone had been standing in line, fully intent on purchasing it. But before reaching the register this person clearly had a change of heart, placing it in the most convenient bin, with the slippers: both insulting and disappointing the poor bunny.

    It was so sweet to look at (and reasonably priced!) that I knew I had to give it a home.

    When I was tiny, I had a small aquarium. My brother (younger, but still no excuse) decided to scoop the fish out and place them in my pencil box. At around the same time he took my pet turtle – a miniature one – for a ride on the back of his tricycle. He lost it.

    I love your ‘fish story’ – when Boyfriend gives me my “surf” lesson, it’s always amusing to see the tiny bait fish glittering in the water all around you. Not so amusing to think of the predatory fish that are probably loitering nearby.

    1. Isn’t it interesting to see what’s left near the checkout counter? Sometimes you know it was left because a parent said a firm “no.” Other times, someone decides the item is too expensive, or they don’t have enough money. And I suppose common sense sometimes overrides impulse, and the impulse gets put aside — like your plush bunny.

      I’m glad you took the rabbit home. I still remember the Easter I found a big pink and white bunny in the oven. It was more than half my size, and I didn’t stop carrying it around for quite some time.

      I do hope you found your fish fairly quickly. I suppose it’s possible the turtle fared somewhat better. At least it might have had the chance to crawl off to a place of safety. I’ve always thought it would have been fun to have a brother, but of course those who had them tell stories suggesting it might have been a mixed blessing.

      There have been a lot of smaller sand and nurse sharks around this year, and a lot of wade fishermen are being reminded of an important lesson: don’t put your fish on a stringer attached to your belt. At that point, every shark in the area thinks, “Oh look. It’s another easy meal!” and it’s close encounter time.

  32. Whenever I am south of the border I find myself in a Walgreens and find them rather hospitable. As for the toy, your tale reminded me of a recent acquisition. I was at Ten Thousand Villages, a store run by the Mennonite Central Committee to pick up some of their coffee for my office, and at the counter saw a couple of tops. I gave one a go, and couldn’t let it go, so it came to my office, where it was wed to a small square blue Scandinavian platter that sits on my desk. This same platter (about 3 inches square) is fitted with upturned edges, which means I can spin my top (a finger rather than string top) and it stays in its place. This $ 3.00 purchase brings me an obscene amount of pleasure. I’m planning on taking it with me to the retirement home (in due course!).

    1. That’s really a good word: hospitable. I think Walgreens must try to nurture a welcoming environment, because I’ve never been in one of their stores where the clerks weren’t friendly and approachable.

      Your top sounds wonderful The portability of small, simple toys is one of their great virtues. Some of my favorites as a child included a set of jacks and a bag of marbles. You could play by yourself, or with someone — perfect.

      And how clever of you to pair your top with the little dish (no doubt a souvenir from your trip — was it last year?) A top is good, but a top that you don’t have to chase every time you give it a spin is even better!

      1. Actually, the dish is from my wife’s Danish family, which collected numerous blue plates, dishes and saucers. We have so many that I decided to take one to work and am now happy to put it to good use!

    1. You’re back! I’ve been wondering about you, happy that you had the pleasure of such an extended trip. I’ve been waiting to see a post pop up, but of course you’re no doubt busy with getting settled back in.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this journey, and I’m looking forward to reading about yours. Surely there will be posts (and posts and posts….)

  33. Sitting between two worlds. Beautifully written as always.

    12 years ago we sold our house in Florida and moved to Virginia. But because my employment there had not yet ended, I needed a place to stay. So we bought a small condo near downtown and that become my homebase while in Tampa. Cherie stocked it with the necessities.

    Eventually I began to need things, and because of the way we divided household responsibilities it had been many years since I’d done any shopping. When I ran out of shampoo I asked Cherie where I should go to get some. Walgreens, she answered. It’s close and convenient. Isn’t that a drug store, I asked. They sell everything, she responded.

    So off I went to Walgreens for a bottle of shampoo. I wasn’t prepared for what I found–an entire aisle of shampoos, row after row of brands and variations of brands. There were easily 100 different kinds of shampoo in that store. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t remember the brand I’d been using and had absolutely no idea what to do. I can’t remember now if I called home like a helpless child and asked Cherie what to buy or if I just took one at random. But I clearly remember to this day how blown away I was by the number of options for something as simple as shampoo. The little country store we went to when I was growing up probably had one or two choices.

    Now we use a shampoo bar that Cherie gets from a friend who makes soap. It is the same bar we use as our bath soap and our shower (which once housed soap, shampoo in plastic bottle and conditioner in plastic bottle) is much less cluttered. Meanwhile I’d wager Walgreens has more shampoo now than it did 12 years ago.

    Beautiful post Linda. I just couldn’t resist sharing my silly Walgreen’s story.

    1. My gosh. How I missed commenting, I don’t know, because I read this wonderful story when you posted it. I’ll plead a heat-addled brain, rather than old age.

      It’s true that a person could be spoiled for choice in Walgreens. On the other hand, my suspicion is that the number of brands for any item, like shampoo, actually have decreased. They’ve increased the variety of items they offer, so, with shelf space the constant, it puts some limits on how many brands of soap, shampoo, sunscreen, etc., can be offered. Still, what Cheri said still holds true: they sell everything.

      Your story does remind me of my first grocery shopping trips once I returned from Liberia. One was, “Good grief. Who buys all this stuff?” The other was, “Everything in the country is covered in plastic.” That, at the meat counter. I’d become accustomed to walking up to the butcher’s stall in the market and having him pull out the cleaver. There weren’t any cuts of meat there. There were mostly undefineable hunks of meat: and we were happy for them.

      Given what I’ve learned from you about some of the meat processing in this country, I’m not sure now if the plastic is to protect the meat, or to protect us from the meat.

      Thanks again for the story, and for starting my day with a smile.

  34. Great post, Linda. I get my RX filled at Walgreen’s, so I’m not sure how I missed the faux fish. Like you, I would’ve been tempted by the show. Heck, I’m going in there later today, and you can bet your clown fish that I’ll be looking for this box, and will end up watching and listening to mullet jump in the bayou instead. BTW, gator season starts tomorrow!

    1. Inquiring minds want to know: are gators like deer? Do they mysteriously disappear on the first day of hunting season, for all the world as if they have a calendar pinned up somewhere? I’ll be interested to see if you get out into the swamps and bring one home for supper — or at least for some good photos.

      I took a look the last time I was in Walgreens, and the fish were nowhere to be found. I suppose it makes sense for them to keep changing their stock. Everyone needs shampoo and envelopes on a regular basis, but once you have your faux fish, you’ve got them. Honestly, I suspect they came out as a “Finding Nemo” gimmick. But they surely were fun!

      1. The gators do not disappear! They’re greedy, so the sudden appearance of hunks of beef tallow, or rotted chicken, or gross offal hanging from an innocent-looking string piques their olfactory senses and their curiosity. No, they don’t have much brain, so it’s more greed than curiosity! Didn’t get any great photos, but did hear a great gator tail, just not sure it’s blog appropriate.

      2. I’m sorry to say I don’t know who Adam Carroll is, but I really enjoyed that song and will have to listen to more of his stories. Reminds me a little of Dylan . . as crazy as that sounds. Anyway, made me tear up, too, but Lord knows it doesn’t take much to make me cloud up and rain these days.

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