It’s the end of the workday and I’m thinking ahead to tomorrow. I remember drinking the last of the almond milk with my morning snack.

DSC02939I hate to admit shortcomings, but confess I have some quirky rituals surrounding food. For example, I must have a latte and a treat around ten o’clock each workday morning or I get more than a little fussy.

Another food ritual involves the refrigerator. It must contain only the bare necessities. I become disturbed when it gets packed during the holidays or when we have visiting guests. The requirement to eat all that food is overwhelming. I feel the need to quickly rotate food in and out like a cafeteria vending machine. My comfort zone lies in seeing the glow of the light bulb through the empty spaces of glass shelves.

So I’m out of almond milk and won’t have time to buy any in the morning to prevent a guaranteed no-latte-meltdown at ten.

mycarTime to hit The Purity.

The almond and other faux milks are located opposite the entrance on the far wall of the store. It’s five pm with a rush of people who need to replenish their cache of bread, cereal, and beer.

As I leave the car, I brace myself to navigate the obstacle course of dawdling old people, candy-begging children, short-tempered mothers, and itchy alcoholics.

Just inside the entrance I encounter a man standing behind a card table wedged between the doors and a refrigerator case.

Hark! What is this?

My first thought is that he’s a petition signature gatherer. In Fort Bragg, there are always controversial issues that spur people to erect tables and ask for your autograph.

mendosoupBut this guy is offering samples of soup. In 22 years of being a Purity patron, I’ve never encountered a food tasting.

His name is Dan and he owns Mendocino Soups. As I toss back a shot of Thai Fish Stew, he explains that each variety is gluten free and made from organic ingredients. It’s super yummy. I grab a quart jar from his table and head for the almond milk.

After going through the checkout line, I walk towards the door. A scruffy-looking young fella wearing a black hoodie topped by a worn jean jacket and draped with an impressive number of heavy metal chains enters the store. Trailing behind is a mid-size black pit bull mix.

The fella pauses to give Dan an inquisitive look. Dan offers a sample which is declined as the fella moves past. Dan then says, “I don’t think your dog is allowed in the store.”

beercornerBy this time the fella is about five feet away, heading towards Beer Corner. He turns his head, cocks it slightly, and narrows his eyes with a look of you’re not the boss of me. “I know the owners,” he says and continues on, the dog by his side.

Dan chuckles and shakes his head.

He’s been Purified.soup

The Purity Survival Guide

Tip #1: How to make a thumb splint from comfort food

_DSC8890When I think of comfort food, my mind gloms onto Cyrus O’Leary’s Chocolate Cream Pie. Then I think of The Purity. Before I know it, I’ve grabbed my car keys and it doesn’t matter if I’m in my pajamas, I’m on my way to the store.

A recent surgery to remove a hooty from my left thumb placed me in need of a mild sedative, daytime sofa lounging and comfort food. Forty-eight hours into recovery, I went to The Purity to buy a chocolate cream pie. A couple of hours after returning home, I had an epiphany—in addition to putting heft on my backside and a few dabs of plaque on my arteries, that pie could save my life.

thumb2I’d been instructed to remove the impressive-looking thumb wrapping two days after surgery. I hesitated. That covering made me look like I’d been through something horrendous and garnered much sympathy.

People exclaimed, “What happened to you?” I’d respond with a dismissive wave, “Oh it’s nothing” when it was truly something. I’d had surgery! My thumb throbbed in pain. It throbbed! All the attention made me feel like a warrior woman—so brave and strong.

If I replaced the wrapping with a couple of wimpy latex bandages, nobody would even notice. I would suffer in silence.

I obeyed the doctor’s orders and took off the bandage. My thumb, forgetting it had a major gash running the entire topside length, started to bend. Up to that point in my life, I’d not given much thought to how it might feel to have a nail driven through my left thumb knuckle.

Now I know.

PieI needed to splint the back of the thumb to prevent it from bending and tearing the stitches. But I had no splint or substitute. As I mulled over a solution, I pulled the chocolate cream pie from the refrigerator and started eating. Whatever chemicals—I mean, natural ingredients—they put in these pies to supercharge brain matter allowed me to come up with a brilliant idea.

In case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, let me share my step-by-step instructions:

1. Buy a Cyrus O’Leary’s Chocolate Cream Pie (or any other variety, but chocolate cream is the best).
2. Have surgery on or do some serious damage to your thumb.
3. Write some gibberish on your hand with purple permanent ink. (Mine vaguely resembles the former USSR flag or an upside down Ritual Coffee logo.) (If anyone asks, say it’s a tattoo you got in the 80’s while in prison.) (After a certain age people stop talking about you, so it’s imperative to devise new and interesting ways to keep yourself an object of gossip.)thumb3
4. Take the cardboard thingy off the pie. (I’m certain it has a name, but who cares?) Cut off the front section.Pie2
5. Fold it a few times.
6. Apply it to the back of your injured thumb.thumb4
7. Place some gauze on top of the wound.
8. Wrap tape around the whole caboodle.thumb9
9. Enjoy your new hokey—yet still impressive—bandage and the attention you’ll receive for another week until you go to get the stitches out and the doctor asks what the hell…?
10. Eat one Cyrus O’Leary’s Chocolate Cream Pie a day until you’re completely healed.

After I'm finished with this pie, I'm out the door to go buy another!

After I’m finished with this pie, I’m out the door to buy another!

Another Purity Tour

For those of you who live here and have never shopped at The Purity, shame on you. You need try it once, you really do.

1601216_10152514599931844_6959477211714285536_nWhen you walk into the store, head to the right. Lift your gaze. You are now officially welcomed to The Purity.

The welcome sign happens to be above my favorite section of the store—the place where the Cyrus O’Leary’s cream pies are displayed. Buy one. Do not read the nutrition label. Eat it. Go bonkers with delight.

beercornerAlso toward the back of the store is The Beer Corner! I don’t know of any other store that has such a special place to gather between 8-8:15am with those who ran out of supplies overnight and again between the hours of 4-6:00pm with those who need to refresh their inventory.

icemachineThink all they have is chocolate cream pies, beer and Taaka Vodka? Think again. They also have ice!

coffeeYou can even buy a cup of coffee. I must confess I’ve never tried it, but it’s at The Purity so it has to be good.

purityatniteFor extra fun, venture to The Purity after dark. It’s sometimes my favorite time to shop because it’s so mysteriously beautiful and I can sneak in and buy a chocolate cream pie while wearing my pajamas.


The Purity is open until 8:00 every night; 7:00 on Sunday.

Go now. Buy something yummy. I guarantee it’ll make you happy.

Meth Head Comes A-Callin’

Voted Fort Bragg’s Fun Couple by The Purity patrons for five years in a row, Gary and I ramp things up on Friday nights by challenging each other to stay awake past 9:00. I usually win. Gary slips into a snoring coma in his easy chair about the time 20/20 gears up.

On this particular Friday night, a knock on the door at 9:30 sends a shock wave through my heart. What the hell?

I turn on the porch light. The door’s top quarter panel is leaded glass and I can see a young man standing on our porch. I recognize him as a former high school classmate of our son. It’s rumored he’s a meth addict. I have not seen or spoken to him in at least six years. I keep the door closed.

“Are you Harrison’s mom?” he asks.

“Yes. And who are you?” (Pretending I don’t know him makes me feel like a shrewd detective.)

“I’m Fred Murphy.” (Not his real name.)

“What can I do for you, Fred?”

“Rita threw me out and I need $12 for a motel room.”

Twelve dollars? Such an odd figure. Maybe a hit of meth costs $12. I don’t know. In retrospect, if he’d asked for $20, I might have given it to him. I’ve never had anyone ask for $12.

“I can’t help you, Fred.” I remain detective cool and collected.

“But Rita threw me out. I don’t have anywhere to go. I’ll have to sleep in my car if I can’t get $12 for a room.”

“I can’t help you, Fred.”

“It’s only $12. You’ve got $12 don’t you?”

I’m growing more than a little annoyed by his persistence.

A special note to meth heads: You do not want to mess with a menopausal woman. She, like you, probably hasn’t slept in several days. She, like you, is probably not feeling rational. She seriously hates anything that stands between her and the potential of a good night’s sleep. When you show up on her porch at 9:30 at night, you’ve definitely lessened that potential and have put yourself in grave danger.

“You need to leave now, Fred.”


“Now! Leave now!” I’m a real bad ass, my wits drawn taunt, a commanding edge to my voice. Back off, son—there’s no telling what I might do.

I shut off the porch light and tiptoe into my dark office. I peer out the window and watch him move slowly down the stairs and along the walkway. At the gate, he stops and turns towards the house.

I duck down and grab the phone, prepared to call 9-1-1. My heart races and my breath comes in short gasps. Piddle leaks into my pajamas.

I slowly raise my head above the window sill and watch him get into his car. I wait until he drives away.

I race to the living room. “Gary!”

“Huh? What?”

“Fred Murphy was just here asking for $12.”

“Who? What?”

Fred Murphy! He used to go to school with Harrison. He’s now a meth head.”

“Oh him,” Gary says, as in no big deal. “Why are your pants wet?”

“He asked for money!”

“He’s gone now, right?”

“Yes, but he wanted money for meth!

“Call the cops.”

I’m certain the cops won’t do anything more than what I did—with the exception of peeing their pants.

They’d probably refuse my request for 48-hour surveillance even though I fear retaliation in the form of Fred breaking in, tying us up, setting the house on fire, and letting our bound bodies fry to a crispy crunch.

I change my pajamas and go to bed, but don’t fall asleep until well past midnight, setting a personal best record in the Friday night challenge.