Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Visit with Aunt Clare

Cousin Missy!

Stopped at Eckerd’s in West Chester to call Clare. I didn’t have her number, so I asked to borrow a phone book. “Don’t go far with it” I was told at the pharmacy. No answer at her house. I remembered Missy works for QVC and that it’s somewhere in the area.

Asked directions of one of the salespeople. Outside, a young lady approached and said the directions given by the clerk were incorrect and she offered to guide us there. Followed her to the corporate campus, a couple of miles away. It's a strange place, nestled in a suburban business park. Fancily-dressed, beautiful people. Lots of "flash". There is a "cultish" feel in the atmosphere. Inside, at the reception desk, I inquired after Missy. The rather humorless gentleman said his directory showed a "Melissa Grotz". "She’s a packer – that’s a different location."

“Can I take a photo to show I’ve been here?”

He gently, but unequivocally said "you can take a photo outside.”

In search of our cousin Missy, Jeff and I stopped by the QVC Corporate Campus in West Chester, Pennsylvania

We followed his directions to the order fulfillment center, clearly a more "working-class" operation. We were told Missy was on second shift and would be in around 3:30, so we decided to get some lunch. A QVC employee directed us to West Chester’s downtown business district. In the quaint village, we found a bar (Teca?) that served paninis. Dined at a table out on the sidewalk (and close to the bumper-to-bumper downtown traffic.) Soon it started sprinkling and we were forced to move under an awning. An expensive and not very satisfying meal. The tab was over $30!

Returned to QVC. According to the first shift manager, the second shift would not be in until 4:30 or 5:00.

Jeff then suggested we just swing by Aunt Clare's house. At first a bit reticent about dropping in unannounced, he now seemed determined to follow through. There was no answer when I knocked on Clare's door. Jeff noticed a neighbor working on his classic cars. He went over to ask if Clare was in town. (It looked like she may be away.) We met Dave and Betty Mayo. When Dave learned I was from Santa Rosa, he asked “have you heard of Mayo Winery?”

"Of course. I know Mayo's winemaker, Mike Berthoud."

Dave has relatives in Santa Rosa, his nephew Bill and Sandy Mayo. They have nothing to do with the winery, he added. I was left scratching my head.

Dave confirmed Clare is around and said he’d try to call her cell phone. No response. He then called the house and Bob answered. He told Bob “you have company”. Bob opened the garage and stepped outside. He had been in the shower when I knocked.

Bob told us to pull the bikes into the garage, as the rain was steady now. He invited us in. A reporter covering the Philadelphia Eagles, he was working on an article regarding the current NFL draft. In his living room, with the TV tuned to the draft trials, working on his laptop and talking with us, Bob was the modern multi-tasker incarnate.

Cousin Bob working on a Philadelphia Eagles story

Clare arrived a short time later. Missy came over, on her way to work. It turns out she works only part time at QVC. I had forgotten that piece of the puzzle.

Are we staying, Clare wondered? We really didn't know. We have no plan.

"Of course!"

Aunt Clare at home in West Chester, PA

Missy blew off working, joking that she will just say that she heard there were two men stalking her at the corporate campus. Bob excused himself to work on his deadline.

Jeff and Missy

Clare collected an order for a local Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai) restaurant – and had it delivered. On the dining room table, Jeff noticed the glass sugar jar in the shape of a castle. It had been Nanie and Papa’s, and Jeff had fond memories of it from his childhood. Clare insisted he take it home.

We sat around the table, eating dinner and sharing stories. Learned (for the first time) that there are "Borks" in our genealogy. Though she married into it rather than being born into it, Clare knew more about our side of the family than we did. She outlined how Papa, Margaret (the chiropractor), Theresa (the teacher), John (the doctor) and Fred were all siblings.

Somehow we ended up discussing Sylvester Stallone’s height. I’m sure it’s 5’6” or something like that (according to my recollection of comments from my "Hollywood contacts", Mary and Janie.) The Grotzes claim "no way!"

Up past 11:00. Clare insisted that Jeff and I occupy the master bedroom (and share the bed???) But Jeff and I wouldn’t permit her to vacate for her guests. After much wrangling, we claimed the small room I used during my previous visit. Jeff took the bed, and I laid my sleeping bag on the plush carpet. It was quite comfortable.

Only 93 miles traveled today!

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