4-TJ’s Portal

TJ’s Portal

There are portals in this world. Some believe in portals to other worlds, other planets and even to other universes. I don’t, at least I didn’t. I am not one of those misguided souls searching for a better life elsewhere in the cosmos. I know the old saying, wherever I go, I’m still there. I mean with whatever baggage you carry, it will be with you no matter where you go.
I’m just happy to be where I am, at home, tinkering around in the garage on some broken Briggs and Stratton engine or working on an old coo coo clock that hasn’t coo cooed in a very long time. There is an old crank style telephone hanging on the wall next to my workbench. It still works believe it or not. Well after I opened it up and repaired a couple of wires an industrial grade mouse had chewed through. Hope he got his little belly full on that insulation. It rings and everything, that is if you turn the crank. That little generator in there will produce a healthy ninety volts with a vigorous turn.
Just let me keep my war time Fridgidaire full of PBR and call me for supper, or dinner if you happened to hail from the west or left coast. They don’t know what supper is nor do they mow the grass. It’s a lawn, you mow the lawn they’ll tell you. You can keep your lawn and your dinner and your earthquakes and your hundred plus temperatures in the summer. I’d like to stay right where I am, thank you very much.
This is precisely my point. I didn’t, I mean stay where I was comfortable, at home in my garage tinkering away to my hearts content.
I ventured out and went to the store. Trader Joe’s to be exact. I like the store because it has things your average supermarket doesn’t carry. There a ton of healthy foods there and it starts one to thinking, maybe I should begin taking better care of my health. Like cheetoos and hoho’s aren’t good for you. Remember the Twinkie scare? Thank God and the baby Jesus they didn’t take them from us. If these foods weren’t good for you then the FDA would have forced them off the grocery aisle a long time ago right. Am I right in saying the FDA has our back when it comes to unscrupulous marketing practices? Don’t bet on it.
I don’t give it much thought, I fought in two wars contracted malaria and still came home alive and I’m slowly growing old in my garage tinkering. I count myself one lucky SOB to be able to grow old. The number is staggering each year how many have their lives cut short and refused the luxury of getting old with the aching muscles and sore bones. Better than pushing up daisies. It’s better to be seen than to be viewed.
So let me tell you what I believe about portals. They do exist. Not the traditional ones like to Satan’s lair mind you, though that probably exists too somewhere. I’m talking about portals between different cities in different states. The one I have personal experience with is a direct conduit between Cary a city in North Carolina and a small town in Southern California. Rancho Santa Margarita to be exact.
It’s not that I started noticing alarming similarities in the two locations some 2540 miles from each other, though you would agree if you counted them. No I’m talking about the Trader Joe’s. One in Cary and the other in RSM. The first thing you will notice is that they have the exact same floor plan. No big deal you’re probably saying. I’d have to agree.
One day I entered the store in Cary and immediately made my way past the cashiers to the wine aisle to pick up some two buck chuck, though he has been promoted from the two buck shelf to the three buck shelf so I loaded my basket with 5 bottles of three buck chuck. Why not. I don’t make it to TJ’S very often so I stock up when I do, should have made it an even six pack. A bottle of chuck will last me three maybe four Italian nights when I cook up some killer sauce and pasta. Gotta start making my own pasta.
I picked up some sun dried tomato pasta a bottle of olive oil and a large can of San Marzano tomatoes. I have Adriatic Sea Salt at home, that’s the secret ingredient. The cashier cashed me out and bagged my purchase. They always look young and somewhere between a hippie and a surfer, always happy. I wonder if there is a connection?
Unexpectedly there seemed to be like a flash bulb exploded in my eyesight and I felt as though I was falling down a long staircase head first. I lost my balance but luckily saved the wine from destruction. I went to my knees and an elderly lady put her hand on my neck and silently helped me back up. I thanked her and started walking.
I made my way to the door and as I approached it, the glass slid open as it always did in the past. This time my senses went into overload. I wasn’t sure if I was having a heart attack or maybe a stroke. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me like what just happened in the store or maybe it was a joke someone else was playing on me. Whatever the case may have been, I didn’t recognize anything familiar in my immediate surroundings.
“Where the hell am I?” I said out loud. I probably looked pretty stupid standing just outside the door to Trader Joe’s with two paper TJ grocery bags, with their paper handles in each hand. Everyone was wearing shorts and tee shirts and flip flops. Here I stood with jeans and boots with my Ohio Buckeyes 1997 Rose Bowl sweatshirt on and it was freaking hot where I now stood.
I stepped out into the parking lot and looked back to see the store sign above the store next to the Traders and it read in big blue letters BIG FIVE SPORTING GOODS.
I was not in Cary anymore Toto. Of course Toto was truly in my imagination at this time. I wasn’t even in North Carolina anymore. I some how went into my local TJ’S and came out of the Trader Joe’s in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. Talk about a flashback from the 70’s. Then it was just an optical illusion, now it’s more like check my pulse, did I have a stroke or am I dead with the ability to travel anywhere in the twinkling of an eye?
Immediately I thought of the five bottles of three buck chuck. That would only make matters worse. I clearly wasn’t going to make it home for supper tonight. How was I going to explain this. Hell I couldn’t even get my own head around this one.
I went back inside the store mainly because I didn’t know what else to do. His eyes were on me from the time I reentered. Sitting in a wheelchair with a POW/MIA patch on his green fatigue jacket he said as I approached him, “I know what you’re doing here and I know how you get back.”
How do you know?” I said. I got to keep an eye on this shifty character I thought.
“Doesn’t matter how I know, but this is how you return, Keep those bags in your hands and walk backwards around the middle section of food shelves. Talk to no one and after three times around, just walk out the door and you will be back to where you came from.”
“I’m supposed to walk three times backwards? I’m going to look pretty stupid walking backwards and that won’t draw any attention?”
“You want to get back don’t you?” He said in a stone cold voice. “Just do it very slowly and you won’t be noticed.”
I felt stupid, but this is what long-shots are for. I did as he said and slowly made my way around the center aisle which was frozen foods on one side and chips and vitamins on the other. Careful not to bump into any one, I moved like I was in slow motion looking from side to side and watching with my peripheral vision so as not to run over any old ladies or screaming little children running through the store.
On my third pass I made it back to where I started this backtracking experiment and looking around the store nothing seemed out of place, my wheelchair bound friend was nowhere to be seen, so I started for the door. The girl with the question mark on a stick smiled at me and said, “thank you for shopping with us, come again soon.”
I took a deep breath and stepped outside. I look around at familiar sights and sounds. The smell of pine trees filled my lungs and I said under my breath, “I’m not sure if I’ll come again soon but, if ever I want to travel to California and cheat the airlines out of the exuberant cost of a ticket then as the Terminator always says, “I’ll Be Back!”