Valencia Gardens

By Tom Erikson

An African-American woman in an apron opened the door and looked at me quizzically. I introduced myself as a representative of her afternoon paper who was interested in opinions on improving service, and most importantly as the bearer of a ten-dollar honorarium. I asked if anyone else was at home who might want to join our session. We could conduct the interviews simultaneously to save all of our time, but each participant would still get paid. I was given a seat in the kitchen and my host picked up the phone. Within minutes, five subjects were assembled at the table. A two-liter bottle of Coke came out of the fridge and a fifth of rum came down off of the shelf. A joint was rolled and passed around and general discussion of the Examiner’s failings soon moved on to more interesting subjects as I explained that I would fill out the overly detailed and confusing questionnaires on my own time. Signatures were collected and money disbursed; the rum bottle was emptied a splendid time was had by all.