My niece, Lynnae, is in Long Beach—her first trip to California and the West Coast. We visited last evening and breakfasted this morning, when I used iPhone 7 Plus to capture a portrait. Her family lives on a 7-acre “homestead” in Vermont, where she works part-time for a local company but also operates her own small business—making (and selling) fresh, natural cosmetics from her own recipes; eh, formulas.

Lynnae’s energy, geniality, and clarity are irresistibly endearing. She’s a social butterfly, too. After looking around the Hyatt for a place to eat, and finding nothing appealing to either of us, I suggested dining at the hotel. About an hour earlier, Lynnae told me about trying to beat back jet lag the previous night, her first; she snacked and sipped at the restaurant pub. Ha! The woman makes friends easily. She could have been a regular for years judging from the hand waves and by-name greetings received as we walked in together. 

My sister Nanette used the visit as opportunity to send precious heirlooms that had belonged to my mother. These included a treasure trove of irreplaceable family photos and momma’s Toshiba Chromebook 2 and Nexus 6—both of which I had given to her. If not for her death on August 5th, I would have replaced the smartphone with Google Pixel XL next month. I passed along what would have been mom’s new Chromebook to Lynnae, for her 7th-grade daughter; the local middle school, like so many others, has adopted Google’s platform.

My wife is the consummate researcher,  who loves to uncover alternatives. She had one to my driving from San Diego to Long Beach: Greyhound bus, traveling for two-and-a-half-hour ride, arriving at a depot 2.7 km (1.7 miles) from the hotel, and purchasing a ticket for a mere $16 one-way. Hotel parking would cost more. How could I refuse an adventure?

Legs stiff and needing some movement, I walked from the bus depot to the Hyatt. I booked a room, too, so that we would have more time together—so long ago was the last visit that my niece was much younger than her daughter is now. Yikes! I confess to being a bad uncle—and, yeah, can make no legitimate excuses.

Jet-lag weariness overcame Lynnae sometime after 8 p.m., leaving me about 35 minutes to prowl the outdoor outlet mall across the street from the hotel. I had long wanted to peruse a Columbia store, but frigid air-conditioning kept shopping short and I left empty-handed. Shopping continued elsewhere. I needed something—perhaps sack or backpack—to lug home the heirlooms. The Cotton On outlet had just the thing: 2-buck tote bag.

While I stood in line to pay, two African American brothers—lanky, handsome pair who towered over me—argued about making a donation to help kids in Uganda. The cashier asked the one paying if he would like to give a buck. Of course! That’s when a complaint from the younger man toppled my perceptions. He called, in somewhat mocking tone, the other guy “dad”. Hey—what? That dude paying did not look like “Who’s your daddy?” material to me. The cashier agreed after the two left, when I asked for his opinion about the youthful appearance.

Oh, but I digress.

I must commend the dad for sticking to his conviction to donate to the Cotton On Foundation. His son insisted that trying to help the Uganda kids would only hurt them. I don’t recall if he called it economic or American imperialism—or perhaps both. But that was the meaning.

The cashier didn’t ask me to make a donation, which seemed odd—until I got the bag back to the hotel. As you can see in the photo, where the sack is turned sideways to show front and back text: “Not Just a Tote. It’s 40,000 litres of clean drinking water for an entire community”. Proceeds from the sale go to the Foundation. Considering the color, it’s kind of like (Product) RED in white.

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