What’s not to lichen?

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‘When it comes to family humor, everything is relative’

If that title up there involving a “composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi in a symbiotic relationship” tickled your funny bone, then maybe you are a long-lost Whitmore cousin. Puns featuring obscure scientific terms tend to run in The Dude’s family.

In addition to the lichen pun, which is recited every single time a patch of it is crunched underfoot on a hiking trail, there’s the one featuring euonymus. You’ll be out riding in the car some fine fall day when The Dude, spotting this fiery red bush alongside the road, intones in a sing-song voice “I wanna miss, they wanna miss…you wanna miss”. His Dad did the same thing. Cracked him up every time.

The Dude’s family, cracking each other up. ‘Smile and say euonymus, everybody!’

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What’s that in the road — a head?

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‘On Swedes and their noggins’

Last week, in ‘Close, but no cigarette’, I wrote about malapropisms. You know, like when someone warns about ‘upsetting the apple tart’ or says they put too much ‘canine pepper’ in the soup. (Thanks for that one, Ruth!) Infamous Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once mentioned ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ in a speech. And, of course, Donald wants our nuclear weapons to be ‘top of the pack’.

This week, I’m going to write about Swedes and their heads, a subject dear to my heart, since I am in possession of a classic example. But first, speaking of heads, did you ‘get’ the title? ‘What’s that in the road — a head?’

When I was a kid, our mother would regale us with stuff like this all the time. Like, she would say (or sing, actually) ‘She has freckles on her but…she is nice’ (with extra dramatic flourish on that word ‘but’) and we kids would absolutely crack up. There’s nothing like the word ‘but’, with or without that extra ‘t’, to make a little kid weep with laughter. Incidentally, the next verse was ‘and when I’m in her arms, it’s paradise’. Continue reading

“I’m watchin’ him!”

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‘The “Playdate”, back in Midcentury Modern Times.’

Last week I wrote about the Midcentury Modern custom of sending a high-school social studies class on a field trip to a maximum-security prison. I say “custom” because, frankly, I was astonished to find that many of you readers out there had done the very same thing. (And that’s not counting those of you who went to the very same high school as me.)

This week I’m curious to see how many of you grew up experiencing the Midcentury Modern version of the “playdate”.

“Playdates”, for those of you who don’t have, haven’t had, or don’t know anyone with children, are when parents or caregivers (what we used to call “babysitters”) set up specific times and places (“dates”) for kids to get together to “play”.

I just love that there is an actual Wikipedia entry for “playdate”. If you don’t feel like clicking, here’s what it goes on to say: Playdates have become common because the work schedules for busy parents, along with media warnings about leaving children unattended, prevent the kind of play that children of other generations participated in.

Hmmm. Just what “kind of play” was this? Continue reading

That’ll teach you

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‘My high school field trip to the state penitentiary’

So I was having my hair cut last week and telling Anthony about last week’s post — the one about driving and road trips — and had gotten to the part about how in my high school the Drivers’ Ed teacher was always the same guy who taught gym and something called ‘social studies’.

Drivers’ Ed/Gym/Social Studies teacher Mr. K

We got to talking about how different high school was way back when, even in Brooklyn, where he grew up. How we had classes like Industrial Arts (AKA ‘Shop’) and Home Economics (‘Home Ec’) and organizations like FFA, which stood for Future Farmers of America.

I don’t know whatall went on in Shop (except that it looks a tad oily) since Shop was strictly for boys. In fact, boys were required to take either Shop or Agriculture. Girls had no choice, but were similarly required to take the aforementioned Home Economics. I don’t know where the ‘economics’ came in, since basically we were taught cooking, sewing, setting the table — all skills designed to make us better wives and mothers. Interesting note: Home Ec was taught by a Miss Ford, who was neither. Continue reading

“Drive,” she said.

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‘On the glories of the Open Road’

Last week’s tribute to my Male Parent and his napping powers included a memory of Dad piloting us on those long drives up to Gramma’s house. (Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked that Dad was the only person he knew who could ‘simultaneously nap and smoke a cigarette while driving.’)

So true, Scott, so true. But I failed to mention why Dad would get so sleepy on those drives. It was because it was at least six hours to Gramma’s — on charming-but-small-town-clogged two-lane highways — and we wouldn’t start the drive till he got home from work. Sometimes, I remember, we would pull over to the side of the road so everybody, not just Dad, could sort-of-safely sleep. I remember that when we lived in Memphis, and the trip to Gramma’s was more like twelve hours, we had a mattress in the back of the Ford station wagon for the kids to crash on. Very Joad-like, but that’s the way it was. Continue reading

Let sleeping dads lie

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‘Remembering my Dad, who took napping to a whole new level — mainly horizontal’

Last Friday would have been my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary. I say ‘would have been’ not because they didn’t stay married. No, it’s because my dad, alas, is no longer with us. Dad made it to 80, which made him pretty happy. But just barely, which made the rest of us pretty sad.

The last photo my Dad ever took. That’s Older Younger Brother Scott — and Me — at Dad’s 80th Birthday Party. Taken with my camera, by Dad

Anyway. This past January 13 got me thinking about my Dad. And if you too knew him, whether as ‘Dad’, ‘Uncle Dale’, ‘DJ’ or ‘Deej’, ‘Henry Dale’ (which is how his mail was often addressed and how our friend Regina insisted on addressing him), or even as ‘Scotty’ (he apparently had a tartan plaid fixation as a child), you know that you can’t think about him without also thinking about some of his, well, ‘quirks’.

Yes, quirks. Dad was full of them. For example, he couldn’t stand the sound of crunching. Raw vegetables being consumed in his presence made his head spin around. (Ice? OMG.) He hated crunching so much that when he went on a trip to drum up business for the civil engineering firm he helped found, the still-going-strong Henry, Meisenheimer and Gende, we Stay-at-Home Henrys would take advantage of his absence to go crazy chomping down on every raw carrot or celery stick and/or pretzel or cracker we could get our teeth into. Continue reading

Many happy returns

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‘Observing Boxing Day, the American Way’

Yes, yes, I know. ‘Many happy returns’ is something you say on someone’s birthday, not Christmas. But yesterday was ‘Boxing Day’ (and, incidentally, Monday, which is when I start pondering what the heck I’m going to write about on Tuesday).

I sort of knew that December 26 was a British Holiday that originally had to do with boxing up Christmas goodies for the servants. Who had to work (duh) on Christmas Day (see Holiday episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ for colorful detail) so they did their celebrating the day after, with the help of said donated largesse from The Master.

But — voila! — when I looked up ‘Boxing Day’ on good ole Wikipedia, there was this secondary explanation:

In modern times, it has taken on the meaning of boxing up unwanted Christmas gifts and returning them to the shop.

Yesterday I also happened upon an article in the Wall Street Journal about stores gearing up for our kind of Boxing Day. Apparently, about 10% of all gifts bought in stores are returned, and 30% of gifts bought online are. But guess how most are returned? In stores. So the smarty-pants stores stock up on stuff that you might really like in exchange for That Thing Uncle Joe Got You. Continue reading