Happy Birthday to my Selfie


‘Reflections on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone.’

Honest Injun. I was going to write a piece about iPhones and ringtones anyway. But as I was reading the Times (er, procrastinating) with my zillionth cup of coffee, I happened upon the news that the iPhone came out ten years ago today.

My my my. It seems like just yesterday that I was sharing a (very tiny, so it’s a good thing we got along) freelance office with an art director I dubbed Svenska Boy, who was the very first person of my acquaintance who had an iPhone. He waited hours in line outside the Apple Store in Midtown Manhattan to get it. Sigh. Technological memories are so bittersweet.

Take that early selfie at the top of this post. Please (!) It’s not only fuzzy, it’s taken in a mirror. Because the phones back then didn’t have that reverse camera. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized it was there. Oh well.

Selfies before iPhones. I take a picture of my reflection with a thing called a camera. Actually it was a Flip Video Camera. Remember those?

But back to the reason I was going to write about phones in the first place. It has to do with sounds. I was at the Amagansett IGA a few days ago, stocking up for my umpteenth wave of weekend house guests, when I spied a woman who used to date one of The Dude’s cousins. (Hey, I’m alone all week. When I run into someone I know, even vaguely, they simply must be prepared for a bit of social interaction.)

I approach this woman, gaily waving, when I realize she doesn’t know me from Adam. But when I hail her by name, she responds “Oh! It’s you!” And then she calls me by my name (which is not actually ‘Lutheranliar’) and says “Of course it’s you. I’d know that voice anywhere.

Hmmmm. Two things are a tad disconcerting here. 1. Has my physical appearance changed that much in thirty years? And 2. Has my Midwestern accent not changed that much in thirty years?

Well, Sally (not her real name) and I engaged in some awkward conversational byplay, bid each other adieu, and I went on home to whip up bean salad, put out fresh beach towels and make myself a stiff G&T. I forgot all about this whole matter of ID-ing people by sound until my house filled up the next day with people and phones.

For surely you, and not just the Apple People, must realize that no one goes anywhere these days without his or her phone. (Just try sitting pingless or beepless or itsy-bitsy-lights-going-off-less through play or movie or concert.) So several guests meant several phones, all emitting (mostly) different ringtones. So Cousin A could say “No, that’s not mine” if a ‘marimba band’ started marimba-ing. And Cousin B could go “that’s probably my daughter” when we heard a ‘doorbell’. (Things did get a bit cacophonously complicated when one cousin’s daughter’s baby monitor started bleeping and her dad tried to answer it.)

A gaggle of cousins admires The Dude’s (very large, very up-to-date) phone

Like a lot of Apple fans, I not only have a basic ringtone I recognize as ‘mine’ (‘Old Phone’), I’ve assigned tones to all my near and dear. I don’t even have to glance at my screen to know it’s Mom calling (‘Classic’, because that’s what she is). Or my Favorite Sister (‘Bark’, because she loved her dachshund).

No technological grass growing on my Mom. She can phone and text and emoji, all while petting a cat

And of course I know when The Dude is on the phone. Because his ring is ‘Motorcycle’. Which is sort of a dumb joke, because his motorcycle actually makes no sound at all.

The Dude on his Zero. Which is an electric motorcycle. It has a really really long cord (kidding) and makes no sound (not kidding)

Which brings me to a tone-related story. When The Dude isn’t riding his soundless motorcycle, he likes to ride his equally quiet bicycle. He goes on long rides — I mean really long. His ‘usual’ Sunday ride can be anywhere from 30 to 60 miles. And last year he and The Child participated in a ‘century’, which is (of course) a 100-miler.

If it quacks like a duck, it’s The Child, ring-tone-dubbed thusly because she sounded just like one when she was little. Here she is, with The Dude, after last fall’s Century

These rides can last for hours and of course Things Can Happen. Like flat tires and spinouts and spills due to cracks in the pavement and whatnot. (A cat was once the ‘whatnot’, but I am so not going there today.) I am often called to the rescue when these things happen. I hop in the hatchback and go gather up the injured, whether it’s a bike or its rider, or both.

One fall day I got back from a non-phone-accompanied walk and see that I have a message. It’s The Dude, saying “I got a flat on my way back from Montauk. Can you pick me up? Call me so I know you got this message.” I call, get no answer, and leave him a message: “I’m on my way!” (I think it’s a little weird that he’s not answering, seeing as how he told me to call when I was on my way, so I keep trying every few minutes or so. Still no answer.)

Well. I finally spot him, anxiously pacing by the roadside. He’s so mad there’s practically smoke coming out his ears. “Why didn’t you call me? I told you to call me!”

“I did call you. A bunch of times. You didn’t answer! I left you tons of messages. Check your phone and you’ll see!”

“Oh.” He looks at me, suddenly sheepish. “I kept hearing crickets. And I thought it was just, um, crickets.”

Needless to say, he changed my ringtone. I’m no longer ‘Crickets’, but I haven’t had the nerve to ask what my new tone is. Maybe ‘Boing’?

Amagansett, New York. September 2017


Stars in stripes


‘Looking back and forth on the Fourth’

For the past several summers we’ve had this fun Fourth of July tradition where we let The Child fill up our house with as many of her friends as we have beds to lay their pretty little heads on. Sometimes it’s guys and girls; sometimes ‘just’ girls. The Dude and I are happy with either arrangement, though we have noticed that when it’s girls-only, the Young Friends seem more inclined to activity — like going to the beach, hopping on the bikes, or heading into town to catch what’s up at The Talkhouse.  

Last year’s crop of Nation’s Birthday Beauties. Haven’t wrestled this year’s photo out of The Dude’s camera yet. But, trust me, they’re equally sparkly

(The guys, when the guest list includes them, seem content to hang around The Compound, sipping beer and, well, being content. Sometimes they bestir themselves to demonstrate their CrossFit routines; there was a Matt-shaped indentation in our lawn for a few post-Fourth days one year. Oh, and one other memorable Fourth, Somebody’s BF soaked his iPhone in our hot tub, though not intentionally. BTW, putting a soaked iPhone into a jar of rice does not dry it out, no matter what you may have read on the internet.)

Speaking of food, this year I inaugurated a new tradition: The USA Birthday Cake. From Carvel, of course. No, we didn’t sing

But hey, anything anybody wants to do — or not do — is A-okay with me. I’m happy to provide food — beaucoup de food — and stay the heck out of the way. I was in the kitchen in the midst of doing just that when one of this year’s Young Lovelies (and they are — lovely — each and every one of them) strolled by on her way to the pool, and I happened to catch the unmistakable whiff of — Coppertone.

Continue reading

Sixteen Candles. Plus another sixteen. Or so.


‘Thinking flaming birthday thoughts today.’

I would light the candles on my cake this year, but I’m afraid I’d trigger the sprinkler system. I have reached a remarkable age. An age that is somewhere between ‘Can I please have a tea set for my dolls?’ and ‘Can I please leave a tea set for my Child?’

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t appreciate having a birthday. After all, as our good friend Andy (who is a heck of a lot older than me) says: ‘Any day above ground is a good day’.

Andy, in fact, doesn’t just say this. He has it printed on birthday pens and birthday tee shirts and even birthday chocolate bar wrappers. Andy is into birthdays, big time. He’s also a Trump Supporter. So there’s that.

Andy’s attitude toward the inevitable accumulation of more and more birthdays is, alas, the opposite of my own late lamented father’s. He, when wished ‘happy birthday’ (or even when not wished ‘happy birthday’, like just on any ordinary, random day) would often remark: ‘Don’t get old’. Which, um, sort of triggers a response of ‘Hmmm. Okay. But I’m kind of not into the alternative.’ Continue reading

‘Here’s your trouble’


‘My upside-down Kit Kat Birthday’

It’s a well-known fact that Swedes don’t age, we just shrivel and sort of turn into the human equivalent of beef jerky. But we do have birthdays, whether we like it or not.

By this point in my birthday-blessed life, I’ve had all kinds: dressed-up and dressed-down birthdays in restaurants (one was at our favorite Japanese place where the waiter, dressed in a bunny costume, presents you with some fruit with a candle stuck in it) and extremely-dressed-down birthdays in jammies.

I’ve celebrated birthdays at work, on vacation, at my Mom’s. I even spent part of one natal day waiting in line at Immigration. (Taciturn customs agent checking my passport: ‘Why, happy birthday, Alice Henry Whitmore.’)

The birthday spent trying not to cower with fear on top of the Duomo in Florence

The birthday spent trying not to cower with fear on top of the Duomo in Florence

Sunday’s was a drinking-champagne-in-sweatpants-while-watching-the-Mets-lose-the-World-Series kind of birthday. (Sorry Mets. Maybe you should have sent me a card.) Continue reading

‘Roger did it’


‘It’s a wonder every Middle Child isn’t an ax murderer’

To have a Middle Child in your family you need, at minimum (duh), three kids. Mine had five. We had the Big Kids (Scott and me), the Little Kids (Laura and Doug). And poor Roger — who, incidentally, just had a birthday Saturday– was the one stuck in the middle.

That's Roger, right there in the middle. Literally, and figuratively

That’s Roger, right there in the middle. Literally, and figuratively

I say ‘poor Roger’ because this is the kind of thing he’d hear all day: ‘Roger! Stop bothering those Big Kids. They have homework to do.’ Or: ‘Roger! Stop teasing those Little Kids. They might get hurt.’

Well, we Big Kids didn’t really mind our homework getting interrupted. And the Little Kids? They didn’t get hurt. Not physically, anyway. Though that Roger was a world-champion teaser/tormenter. I can still picture (and hear) him trailing Laura all around the house blowing on his trombone: ‘Blat blat blaaaaaat…blat blat blaaaaat!’ Over and over and over again. It drove her absolutely wild. Laura: ‘Moooooooom!!!!’ Mom: ‘He’s just practicing, dear.’ Laura: ‘But he won’t stoooooop!’ Mom: ‘Just ignore him.’ Like that would work.

One of the Big Kids (me) condescends to 'play' with Roger. That's Laura lurking by the picnic table. And that's Doug's playpen. (Remember those?)

One of the Big Kids (me) condescends to ‘play’ with Roger. That’s Laura lurking by the picnic table. And that’s Doug’s playpen. (Remember those?)

Poor Roger. Stuck in the middle. Not only did he get squeezed out of exclusive Big Kid and Little Kid activities, he got blamed for pretty much every naughty thing that happened:

Continue reading

‘Where do you keep your cake?’


‘Questions for my Oldest Younger Brother on his Day’

Those of you who are my Devoted Readers (bless your hearts) know by now that I like to speak softly and poke fun at my Family with a big stick. Today, because it’s your birthday, it’s your turn, King Tut (er, Scott).

It’s been a long time since you and I fought over who got the top bunk. (Yes, Scott was my first Roommate of the Opposite Sex.) And a long time, even, since you and I smuggled a motorcycle into a motel room. (I see a pattern of co-habitation here. If you readers are curious and/or titillated, you can check out that story here.)

But, back to you and your birthday. And those questions.

1. Did you recover fully from having watermelon ‘jammed down your throat’? See, when Scott was just a tyke, he, like many small children, was not into trying new, unfamiliar, or weird-looking foods. He thought that red food — tomatoes, watermelon — looked particularly unappetizing. Our less-than-patient father got particularly exasperated one hot suppertime, and told Scott to ‘try that delicious watermelon right now, or I’ll jam it down your throat’. Not sure I’d recommend this technique to some of you New Parents, but hey, it worked. Continue reading

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen birthdays


‘But I’ve never seen James Taylor and The Dude in the same room at the same time’

If you run into James Taylor today, you might want to wish him “Happy Birthday”. Because, if you happen to be on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it’s probably The Dude that you’ve run into, and it is indeed his birthday today.

James Taylor’s was in March, and he is a few years older. But, if The Dude’s heard it once he’s heard it a thousand times: “Hey! Did you know you look just like James Taylor?!?” Who knows? Maybe people are constantly stopping JT with: “Hey! Did you know you look just like this guy called The Dude who turns up in Lutheranliar’s blog?!?”

Even James’s ex, Carly, did a double-take when she passed His Dudeness on the street one day. (I heard this straight from The Dude’s mouth. And he would never ever tell a lie, not even a Lutheran one.) And I once went to a Yo Yo Ma concert here in New York (the real Yo Yo Ma, not my invented syndrome), where guess who was a surprise guest performer? Yup. Someone who looked just like my personal husband, dressed in a very expensive-looking tux over a black tee shirt. After that, I got The Dude a black tee shirt. That’s one great look on a tall baldish guy, tux or no tux.

Enough kvelling. Let’s truck out some photographic evidence, and let you be the judge. Don’t these two look rather incredibly similar, diabolical eyebrows and all?

Continue reading