2. Mr. Joe's Corner Store

Dear Boomer,

As you go through life, be sure to take time to sniff the hydrants.

Last month, my Alpha lost his friend, Mr. Joe.  Or at least, I think Mr. Joe is no longer there.  It's hard to tell what goes on inside the corner store because the windows are blocked up with signs, produce, notices of community events, and family pictures.  Not to mention the plethora of plantlife on the inside.  But as you know, these plants -- Norfolk pines, Diefenbakia, potted palms and the rest -- are pretty useless as plants go.  The humanoids won't let you leave your mark on them.

When he wants to pick up something quickly, my Alpha goes to either of two stores: the one in the middle of the parking lot, or Mr. Joe's store on the corner.  It's easy to see inside the parking lot store: big windows, bright lights, wide aisles. When people come in and out, you can smell paper, chocolate and floor soap, but it's all very antiseptic.  Alpha never stays in there very long -- just in, get something, pay at the counter, and out again.

At Mr. Joe's corner store, he takes his time. I'm left outside beside the racks of newspapers and bedding-out plants. The noise from the traffic passing nearby is loud, but I prefer it to the exhaust of the cars in the parking lot at the other store. Every time Alpha leaves me outside and goes in through the corner store's door, he comes out with a bigger smile on his face, chatting his goobyes as we leave for home.  And whenever Alpha takes the Lump in there, the little guy comes out with a big smile and a lollipop. Seems that Mr. Joe always kept lollips on hand for lumps.

The humoids like to gather there, even if they must leave us outside. You can tell they like to spend time there, just like they now linger longer at Windsor Park with the snow gone.  But with Mr. Joe no longer at the corner store, my Alpha wishes he spent more time in that store on the corner -- wishes he had stayed to chat more, getting to know Joe and his family and his friends better.

Alpha let me come into the corner store once. We didn't stay long, but sometimes you can intuit a whole universe with just one moment of sniffing the air.  Have you seen inside Mr. Joe's store -- even for just a moment? You know what I'm saying? Coffee beans -- lots of different coffee beans. Nuts and chick peas. Homus and tabouleh. Olives. Some thing there's only one smell to olives but it takes only one whiff at Mr. Joe's store to tell you there's a big difference, say, between Greek and Lebanese olives. And sound. Usually some music coming out of the tv in the corner above the counter, but nothing like the music Alpha and She Who Must Be Obeyed play at home.

You don't see too many of these little stores any more -- the one up the hill has now become a coffee shop. But we pass a lot of the other kinds of store on our trips up the Big Street.  Some of them have parking lots. Some don't. Somer are on corners. But you can always tell the difference between these stores and the ones like Mr. Joe's store by whether the humanoids want to linger and savor time.  They don't do this very often, our humanoids. And with the passing of these little stores, and the people who run them, I wonder where the humanoids will go to slow down -- or whether they'll ever learn why it's important.

See you in the park tomorrow.  Take time to sniff the hydrants.