“I’ve got fillings older than you.”

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‘Eventually, you have to find a new dentist.’

I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I hate more than going to the dentist, it’s having to find a new dentist.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. The first time I had to find a new dentist was related to jury duty. I was in a huge pool of potential civil-court jurors when the Court Guy asked if “anyone knew the defendant, Dr. Blank,” who was being sued for dental malpractice. I raised my hand; Dr. Blank, until that moment that is, happened to be my dentist.

I stuck with the next dentist for ages. He was Dude Man’s dentist. (Interesting side note. Dude Man is an ophthalmologist. I wish I had a dime for every time someone thinks he’s a dentist. Close enough. “Eye-teeth,” right?)

Dude Man, long before medical school, displaying a nice set of young pearly whites

Anyway, Dude Man’s dentist, Dr. B, and I got along like a house afire. For one thing, Dr. B had a sense of humor. (His name, which I am withholding for my usual privacy reasons, started with a B. But everyone actually called him “Dr. B.”) Good ole easy-going Dr. B had funny dental posters on the walls and a silly animated skeleton that writhed around in a toy dental chair. He didn’t mind that I called the room where he did his work (as opposed to the room where the hygienist did hers) the “Pain Room.” And he thought the new specialty I came up with — “dentacology” — was pretty funny: a dentacologist being a doctor who took care of women exclusively, combining dentistry and gynecology in one easy visit. (The exam chair would tilt both ways.)

About the only thing more nerve-wracking than going to either the dentist or the gynecologist? Walking on a scary-ass swinging bridge

Speaking of the hygienist, I liked her even more than I liked Dr. B, which was saying a lot. In fact, I liked her so much that when, eventually, I had to change dentists again — Dr. B died — I didn’t pick the dentist that Dr. B’s widow sold the practice to. I picked the dentist where the hygienist went to work. (She — the hygienist — didn’t like her — the widow. And, heck, if I trusted her to poke around in my mouth with that Sharp Pointy Thing, well, I trusted her judgment in widows and the dentists they sold my name to.)

The grownup Child’s remarkably perfect teeth. Because who wants to see a photo of someone at the dentist? (Much less the gynecologist?)

Why, on my first visit to the New Dentist, I told everyone who’d listen — including The Dentist Herself — that I was there because of The Hygienist. Oh, I liked The Dentist too, but she was disconcertingly young. In fact, when introduced, I removed that little Sucky Thing out of the corner of my mouth, looked her up and down and said, “Why, I have fillings older than you!” She didn’t laugh. But The Hygienist sure did.

Another cute shot of Dude Man and his cute shiny smile. Because why not?

This was a couple of years ago, but, like I say, I told everyone who’d listen about the wonderfulness of The Hygienist — and collaterally, of The Dentist. In fact, I got an email from Google last week telling my that my review had been viewed more than a thousand times.

I’m going in for a routine checkup next week. Wonder if I can get a discount?

Amagansett, New York. February 2024

 

 

 

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Bridge? It’s basically indoor golf.

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‘Why I am not a fan of either game.’

When I was a little girl, I liked hanging around while my parents played bridge. My mom belonged to a ladies’ bridge club that played during the day. (Much laughter and coffee-drinking.) And both parents belonged to a group that met at night. (Much laughter and smoking. Drinking, too, and not just of coffee.)

I don’t have any photos of me — or anyone else — playing bridge. But I do have this nice one of a Scrabble game at my Mom’s 90th birthday party

The couples took turns hosting, and my sibs and I loved it when it was our parent’s turn. Then we got to “bartend” and pass around bowls of Bridge Mix. (Do they still make Bridge Mix? That was good stuff.) As I recall, this was one of the few times — other than Halloween and Easter — that we kids got to eat candy. And, yes, I can’t say this enough, that Bridge Mix was good stuff. Sophisticated, you know? At least if you’re twelve.

Bridge is really serious, too. There is studying involved. From books like this one. Not exactly a page-turner

So I grew up associating bridge with Adult Fun. But when I finally got a chance to learn bridge, I got a rude awakening. Bridge was really serious. And took up large chunks of time. Two-hour lessons one morning a week, plus four-hour duplicate events one afternoon a week. The only bridge I liked was the Tuesday afternoons I played with three friends where we took turns hosting. Talking and laughing (along with wine-drinking) were allowed.

The Child plays outdoor golf. She was pretty good at it. Better than me, at any rate

So basically I discovered that bridge is like golf. This is not a compliment. Over the years I have tried to play golf. Not very hard, I must admit. I think I tried exactly twice. I remember both occasions vividly because I became extremely frustrated at not being able to hit a satisfying drive. To be honest, I couldn’t even hit a puny drive. I failed in every attempt to even connect with the ball. It just sat there on the tee while I whiffed and puffed and swore. I finally gave up and just rode up to the green in the cart and sort of tossed the ball up toward the flag and putted it into the hole. That was the only part I liked — the putting.

Dude Man is very good at golf. He is very good at every sport. Grrrrr

The rest of golf I hated. You should have seen my face when I realized I couldn’t just go home — but had to wait until the other members of my party were done playing. (This was Dude Man and our BF Jim; it’s amazing he’s still speaking to me and coming to Thanksgiving after this awful Golf Outing. To this day, I can get a reaction by saying, “Hey, Jim! Remember that time we played golf?)

Another fun indoor game: Sorry! You get to be sort of mean, even

My Dad loved golf. He even liked to watch it on TV. I remember him supine on the couch with a cat nestled somewhere, snoring away with a golf game on. When you tried to change the channel to something well, more exciting, he’d startle awake — “Hey! I was watching that!” The thing that was sort of funny about golf on TV was how the commentators would whisper. Because you’re supposed to be quiet when someone’s lining up a shot and whatnot. But, um, the commentators were somewhere else, in a booth, right? Even the clapping after a good shot was quiet. We kids had a name for it: “golf clapping.” Basically, the only thing loud about golf was the pants.

At least golf was on TV. I doubt very much that bridge is on TV. Televised bridge: now that’s a concept.Tune in to watch people seated around a table not talking and not doing much else either. Poker is on TV. There have even been poker scenes in movies. Remember the poker games in The Odd Couple with the green and brown sandwiches? That’s because poker is fun.

If I want to spend a chunk of time inside doing something boring, I can do this. At least I have a clean stove when I’m done

But bridge? Nah, it’s basically golf. No talking. No drinking or smoking. Takes huge chunks of time. Involves keeping track of numbers. So. I say bridge is golf. And the heck with it. At least with golf, you get to be outside.

Being outside is the best — especially when you’re outside in Brazil. Where I saw absolutely no one playing bridge. Or golf, for that matter

New York City. February, 2024

 

 

 

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The night we drank all the beer in the restaurant

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‘And there were only six of us.’

Birding is thirsty work. You can rack up a lot of miles during the course of the day, mostly on rough, steep trails. And when you get out of the vehicle to hike, you get even thirstier.

A stretch of hot empty road somewhere in the hot empty Brazilian countryside

Sometimes you hike for four or five hours — before lunch. Then, because Brazil is so goldarned hot — so hot even the birds don’t move midday — you take a break. Then you’re out for more hiking, binoculars and cameras in tow, until it’s dark. Sometimes you’re not done even then — you clamp on a headlamp, and hike around looking for nightjars and owls.

Birder Dude at the beginning of a particularly hot hike

You can drink water like crazy all day long, but when push comes to shove — and there can be quite a bit of both at those Brazilian buffets — nothing hits the thirsty spot like a nice cold beer. Oh, sometimes a caipirinha is nice, but you can polish off a Heineken (or maybe two) while they’re still mashing up all those limes or making garnishes to hang on the rims of the glasses. (Yes, one of the places did that; made little animals and flowers out of strawberries and orange slices and such. Delightful to the eye; a dreadful delay for your thirst.)

A particularly lovely pousada. They would probably put fruit animals on your caipirinha if you asked nicely

So, on a bird trip? I say bring on the beer.

Now, you must understand that I am really a Wine Girl. But on these birding trips, forget the grape. It’s hops I crave. It’s really the only time I have beer, except once in a while in the summer with a hot dog. The other drink I have on these trips is Coca Cola. Real coke, not diet. For that caffeine/sugar high. It’s the only time I drink it, and boy, is it fantastic. I swear: drinking real Coke is like unprotected sex.

Also a rush: hiking practically straight up a cliff to get to the Hooded Visorbearer, a particularly lovely — and very rare — hummingbird

But I digress.

What about drinking all the beer in the restaurant? you might reasonably be asking right about now. Well. we were in this itty bitty town called Canudos, staying at the kind of pousada that has a chain on the toilet and on the bare lightbulb fixtures too. (But delightful, mind you.) We were there because it’s literally the only place in Brazil — and the entire world — you can see the Indigo Macaw.

Another bare-bones accommodation. This one had a view of a blank wall out the one and only window. But it did have a nice shower

There are only three colonies of these bright blue birds and one of them — the only accessible one — is in a canyon a few miles from town. And yes. We found them. Got up at 4:00 in the morning to four-wheel-drive our way up into the mountains to be there at dawn when they left their nests in the holes in the sandstone cliffs.

Dawn at the sandstone cliffs to see the Indigo Macaws. Yes, there were plenty. Dude Man got photos! Stay tuned

The rest of the day passed in a heated blur of dusty birdy pursuit. The pousada didn’t serve dinner, so our guide, Marcelo, got a friend to open his restaurant just for us. It was a couple of tables on the second floor of a building in town, and we were literally the only patrons. They cooked us a special selection of fish and chicken and rice and beans, which was very good indeed. And the beer was delicious and very very cold. It went down so well that we drank every bottle they had — which was seven. (There were six of us; I can’t remember who got to have seconds, but I know it wasn’t me.)

In closing — and in further defense of beer — let me point out that Paul Newman drank a case a day. And lived to be a still-pretty-darned-gorgeous 83. Cheers!

Dude Man striding toward an empty hot gazebo. Gazebos are always empty, tho not always hot. Maybe this one has a cooler full of beer

Back in New York City. February 2024

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We spot a Svenska Birder

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‘A rare species indeed. At least for us.’

Back in my heady freelancing days, I would sometimes share an office with another copywriter. He was a charming fellow who knew how to share a (very small) space without triggering any of my defense mechanisms.

For privacy reasons, I will not share a photo of Svenska Boy. (Not that I have one.) Instead, here is a photo of another charming man who can share a small space without triggering my defense mechanisms. Or not often anyway

This charming fellow-freelancer was from Sweden. So of course I called him Svenska Boy. He didn’t seem to mind. His Swedish parents visited him one time at his (er, our) office and, when I referred to him as Svenska Boy, they didn’t seem to mind either. Of course, they spoke no English, so I couldn’t really tell if they minded. They were smiling, anyway.

More smiling. This time from Dude Man, taken on Day 2 of our current birding trip

Svenska Boy moved on and up and out to Austin, Texas, where he got married and settled right in. I doubt that he’s the only one, but I’m betting Swedes aren’t exactly thick on the ground out there. I still call him Svenska Boy, but only on Instagram. He still doesn’t seem to mind.

Which brings me to the Svenska Birder. We have a Swede on our Northeast Brazil Trip, the trip I am on even as we speak. It’s our, like, 16th Big Foreign Birding Trip, and it’s the first time we’ve encountered a Swedish birder, a fact I made known when we met. He didn’t seem surprised to hear this. (Swedes are notorious for not showing surprise, so it was hard to tell if he was.) Though he did seem somewhat surprised when I referred to him as our Svenska Birder. Turns out the term “Svenska” is, shall we say, not exactly complimentary. Oh.

Nope. That’s not the Swedish Birder. It IS, however, the back of the Swedish-Chef-Speaking Birder

He was surprised indeed when, during the introductions, another member of our group started talking to him in a “Swedish” accent and mentioned that the only Swedish he knew he learned from the Swedish Chef on The Muppets. Oh.

Incidentally, Swedish-Chef-Accented Guy turns out to be one of those birders who brags about how many birds he’s seen. How long his “life list” is, and so on and boringly so forth. By noon on Day One of our trip he’d told us that when he hits 3400 birds (he’s on 3397) he’s going to hold up a sign to that effect and take a group picture. Little does he know that Svenska Birder had confided in Dude Man and me that his list approaches 9000. I can hardly wait till he finds this out. With any luck, it will be after the group picture.

Our group not in a group photo, but on the hunt for some bird or other. It was yesterday, it was hot. That much I can tell you

See, Svenska Birder (I’ll continue to call him that since I never use real names and also because I doubt he’ll ever read this) is quiet and self-contained. He most certainly doesn’t brag. He keeps himself to himself, as they say. Which is a trait I associate with other Swedes I’ve known. (And I’ve known many. My mother is 100% Swedish, and so’s her whole side of our rather large family.)

Speaking of families, here’s a hummingbird nest. How’s that for a segue?

His English is very good — much better than my Swedish, at any rate. He did tell me (again, he didn’t brag about or even volunteer this information till I’d asked) that he’d gone on more than 150 birding trips, including American ones to Alaska (beautiful scenery, not so many new birds), Hawaii (too many introduced species) and to what he called “The Great Seas.” Out of respect for his avian accomplishments, I did not laugh, or even go “heh heh heh” like my Swedish Grampa used to do.

I do hear him muttering in Swedish under his breath quite often. He ends sentences with “yup yup yup yup yup,” a mannerism I’ve heard my mother use. And he exhibits a bunch of undefinable “tells” that growing up around Petersons like Aunt Nellie and Uncle Ed and Cousin Vic, and Carlsons like Aunt Florence, Aunt Emily and various and sundry others would attune one to.

See you later, somewhere down the birding road

Good old Svenska Birder. He’s making me feel right at home. He’s a vegetarian, or I’d ask him how he likes his lutefisk.

Back to birding. And, next week, back to blogging — if and when the internet holds out.

Tamandare, Brazil. January 2024

 

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“You’re not made of sugar; you won’t melt.”

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‘Or so my mother assures me.’

It was so wet out in Vancouver this last trip. So wet that if I had been made of sugar, I would have melted into a Wicked-Witch-style puddle.

Now, you may be thinking, “Gosh, what did you expect? Vancouver, Washington, is in the Pacific Northwest, for heaven’s sakes.” I mean, they have businesses that specialize in moss removal out there.

Who ya gonna call? Moss Busters!

Well, believe it or not, this is really the first time I’ve encountered classic Pacific Northwest wet  — at least the kind of rainy wetness that the area is famous for: steady, unrelenting, unvarying, and mostly sideways.

Wet out? Stay inside and finish another hat!

On most of my other trips, I’ve seen sunny skies. Honest. My Beloved Only Sister has lived out here for more than thirty years, and you can practically bet your bottom dollar that when I visit the sun will come out. I like to think I’m the cause of all this solar energy, but it’s no doubt just dumb luck. Whatever it is, we’ll take it.

Most of my trips require sunglasses and hats — and not the rain-hat kind

But the usual state of weather affairs out there is so consistently wet that everyone pretty much gets used to it. Why, my nieces famously squinted and shrieked, “Too bright, Mommy, too bright!” one sunny spring morning and begged for the curtains to be drawn.

People who live there, my sister included, just kind of walk around in the mist and/or rain with their shoulders shrugged up to their ears. I have yet to see an umbrella. A major concession to the universal damp is to pull one’s hoodie hood to the upward position.

Me with my hoodie hood up. Note: Peanuts characters in the background are not carrying umbrellas

That’s how I’d see the pods of kids in the mornings waiting for the school bus: shrugged into their hoodies, staring at the phones cradled under the “awnings” of their chins. Of course, I had options for my walks. I’d check the weather, then look for a “window” of clear weather. (Or at least a window of not-so-much rain.) Then I’d scamper out for my walk. One day, though, my window closed before I could get back and, if I had indeed been made of sugar, I would have dissolved right down to a nub.

Turns out that everyone in the Pacific Northwest waits for a “window,” then they dash about doing their grocery shopping, dog-walking and whatnot. Of course, at Mom’s place, the population being older, they just stay inside. Mom and I got our exercise by walking the hallways inside instead of the walkways outside. Hey, it was better than nothing — and we got to admire the various and sundry Christmasy-decorated doorways.

Mixed messages decorate a doorway in Mom’s building

To end on one last precipitation-soaked note, I got a surprise the last day I was there. I got up early, as is my wont, and peered out the window to assess the degree of wetness. But hey! There was snow!

The view out my Mom’s bedroom that last morning. Most of the snow had, alas, melted by the time I got this shot. Then, of course, it started raining again

But, my feelings of delight (fresh tracks! flinging snowballs!) rapidly turned into forebodings of danger (flight delays! falling!) I guess that’s how you know you’re officially old.

New York City. January 2024

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What do you call the father of your daughter’s husband?

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‘Other than a really nice guy, I mean.’

So, okay. It’s been ages since I checked in with you lovely readers (hi Sally!) and I’d better get a wiggle on before this year runs its course too.

“Enough already” you’ll be thinking if I start whining about how fast time has been whizzing by, so I won’t go there this time. Suffice it to say that I just put my Christmas-tree-scented candle away — and I didn’t get around to lighting it even once this season.

No need to put up a Christmas Tree; there’s one right outside our window. Have to go outside to sniff it though

So what was I doing instead of sniffing fake evergreen? Well, Dude Man and I got a snootfull of the real thing out in Flagstaff, Arizona, where The Child and her hub The SIL have put down roots.

Dude Man strolling around Flagstaff. That’s the giant pine cone hanging from that building across the street. On New Year’s Eve, they “drop” it

It’s a really fun town (cool shops! hot restaurants! wine bars! more wine bars!) and in the middle of a lot of Natural Wonders. The last time we were there (Christmas 2021, which, yes, feels like two weeks ago, not two years) we climbed down a mile into the Grand Canyon. (And yes, climbed back up.)

Me, looking determined but mighty relieved, climbing out of the Grand Canyon

This time, we “did” the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and the Meteor Crater. After all that we were just too goldarned tired to make it to the Lowell Observatory. Next time.

We also did a bit of Christmas shopping. Here we check out the display of Cheap Plastic Shit (Note Child decked out in non-plastic Mom-knit hat)

We also hung out around the house, where I continued my Hat Attack by knitting one for The Guy Who Is My SIL’s Dad, otherwise known as The Child’s Father-in-Law. I love this guy; I really do. No sooner had I whipped it off my needles, revealing that it was for him, when he grabbed it and put it on his head. “I love this hat,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. (Conversely, my SIL, whom I adore in spite of this, took one look at his hat, thanked me, then dropped it into a basket of many many hats. Sigh.)

Mark and his son James (my SIL) not wearing their handknit hats, but looking extremely cute anyway

Which brings me to the ostensible subject of this piece: what to call this guy. “The Child’s Father-in-Law” is accurate, but not very snappy, though I suppose it could be shortened to “The Child’s FIL.” Nah, no one will get it. Then, as noted above, there’s “The Guy Who Is My SIL’s Dad.” Still no good.

Huge petrified log — and Co-Father-In-Law, Dude

I googled, and here’s the best I could find: “A father-in-law is the father of a person’s spouse. Two men who are fathers-in-law to each other’s children may be called co-fathers-in-law, or, if there are grandchildren, co-grandfathers.” For mothers-in-law, same deal.

They used to train astronauts at the Meteor Crater, hence the spacecraft

But google as hard as I could, I could find no citing for the relationship between me (a mother-in-law) and him (a father-in-law). “Parents in law?” Blech. I guess I’ll just call him Mark. (And yes, speaking of the name “Mark,” I did tell him the one about the guy at Starbucks who told the barrista he was “Marc with a ‘C'” and got a cup labeled “Cark.”) He laughed, which is yet another reason (other than wearing the handknit hat) that I like him.

Painted Desert and Mother-in-Law, Moi

Oh, he’s not perfect, by any means. He leans Libertarian (which endears him to The Dude), and, at one point, he regaled the occupants of the Ford 350 with the entire history of the iPhone which he read from the screen of (yes) his iPhone.

Christmas Hike: The Child and Me, flanked by two Co-Fathers-In-Law

But he’s sweet and funny and a great cook who cleans up after himself (see top photo for proof) so he’s aces in my book. I doubt if he really cares what you call him. As long as you call him for dinner. Or a new knit hat.

Mark’s hat during a rare moment not on his head (It’s topping a teapot)

Amagansett, New York. January 2024

 

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I’m having a hat attack

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‘Getting ahead of the Christmas gift situation’

This is gonna be a quickie, ‘cause I’ve got to get back to my hats. See, I had this brainstorm this past weekend. (Yes, I mean the weekend before the weekend that has Christmas at the end of it.)

I was working away on my umpteenth sweater while watching Friends when I needed something from my knitting closet. While fishing out whatever the heck it was, I was almost smothered by bags of leftover yarn from all the sweaters I’ve knitted already.

One of the sweaters I’ve knitted already. Yes, there is yarn left over. Yes, there is some going into a hat

I looked at all those partial hanks and semi-depleted balls and thought, “Hats!” (Actually, I think I said this aloud: “Hats!)

It was a real Eureka Moment for a person who has friends with chilly heads. Friends who, like my follically-challenged husband, are hard to buy gifts for because they already get themselves anything and everything they want or need. But hey, they can always use a hat.

Someone who can definitely use a nice warm hat. Maybe two

So I turned our guest room into a hat factory. Gathered all the odds and ends of worsted and sport and heather, grouped them into interesting little piles of colors and textures, downloaded a bunch of hat patterns from Ravelry — and got to it!

What I used to knit with leftovers: vests! But, gee, his head looks cold

I had never knit a hat before. Which, in a wacky way, made it all the more fun. The first one got off to a rocky start, because it’s not so easy determining whether the circumference is going to work. But once I frogged it a couple of times, it went swimmingly. In case you’re interested, the term “frogging,” which means to undo your knitting and roll it back up into a ball and start over comes from “rip it rip it”, which some knitting wag thought sounded like a frog: “ribbit ribbit”. I guess.

The first hat, all done and getting blocked. After I ripped it out a couple of times. Grrrrrr

Incidentally, I’ve been test/playing with The Child’s whiz bang new product, Dot, which another tester said is “like an operating system for your life.” Dot, which you can read about here, is not available to the public yet, but I’ve been putting her through her paces with all kinds of tasks. This morning she entertained me with an article about playing “Yarn Chicken,” which is when you’re in a race with your yarn. Will you win, and have enough to finish? Or will you run out somewhere toward the end? To which quandary I have the perfect answer: Stripes.

Running out of yarn? Throw in a couple of stripes!

Well, I warned you. I have one more hat to knit before Thursday. So I’ve gotta get at it. Good thing Friends ran for so many years!

I’ll leave you with this holiday photo from my favorite yarn source, Catskill Merino. Most of my hats (and their parental sweaters) started out on the backs of these lovely merino sheep.

There’s gotta be a manger in there somewhere

May your Christmas be merry and bright. And your head be toasty and warm — topped with a nice new hat.

New York City. December 2023

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Counting my cocktails instead of sheep

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‘Oh, yes. I have plenty of blessings to count, too.’

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, thank you. I appreciate your giving me and my measly little blog any thoughts at all (!)

No Namibia excuse. Not this time, anyway. For a real trip, read “The Four Seatmates of the Apocalypse”

Confession: I haven’t been anywhere (except maybe off the rails). I just haven’t been feeling very funny lately. (Well, maybe I’ve been feeling “funny,” just not “funny haha funny.”)

There’s the fact that my wonderful friend and shirt-tail relation, Aunt Eleanor, left us to go hit Saint Peter up for a donation to the Eleanor Whitmore Daycare Center. Eleanor: “What do you mean, you’re short of cash? What about those pearly gates, mister?!”

Eleanor wangling a donation out of Dude Man 

And, not as earth-shatteringly important — not even close — but all the Christmas goings-on can make me feel, well, melancholy. Yesterday I cranked up a Christmas playlist on Spotify and found myself tearing up over Dean Martin doing “Let it Snow,” for heavens sakes.

Sometimes opera makes me cry. But that makes me happy

Thanksgiving doesn’t have that kind of effect on me. Maybe because I’m too busy planning and organizing and cooking. And maybe the very things about it that make it (IMHO) the Best Holiday Ever — no gifts, no decorations, no carols — mean there are fewer “triggers,” if you will. Though the aroma of pumpkin pie can do me in. Maybe that’s really why I didn’t make one this year. (And not the fact that nobody but me will touch it.)

I mean, what’s not to like about Thanksgiving?

So I decided to list some blessings. Some things I can think about to turn those blues into red and green sparkly lights.

    1. Having a family I really like. You’d be surprised (maybe) at how many people don’t. I wish I had a dime for everyone I know who’s said something like: “Oh, I have a sister, but we don’t speak.” Or: “No, my father won’t be joining us this year. Or ever.” Oh, I do have a few in-laws who are not exactly my favorite people — if you are reading this, you are definitely not among their number — but we can be in the same room without bloodshed.

      I even like the Whitmore side of my family. Maybe not each and every one, but definitely the ones you see here!

    2. Not having to wear a housedress. When I was a kid, all the older women wore those. With orthopedic shoes. And support hose. Now we in the 70-Plus Crowd are clad in leggings. Hmmm…maybe housedresses should make a comeback.

      My mom is, fortunately, still going strong — and still has a hand in the fruitcake-making. Tho she does NOT sport a housedress. Or leggings, for that matter

    3.  Being able to boast that I’ve taken a bath with a cousin and an aunt — at the same time. Now that people have such small families — not to mention waaay more bathrooms! — the chances of this happening are slim to none.

      Rub a dub dub — three kids in a tub! Left to right: aunt, me, cousin

    4.  Not having to pass the lutefisk. True, I miss my Gramma’s Christmas dinners. (Even the time my Aunt Marilyn read about roasting the turkey in a bag, so she put ours in a paper grocery bag and it caught fire.) But I don’t miss having that big ole bowl of cured fish buried in custard. Yes, some people ate it. My Gramma and my Uncle Ronald, to name two.

      Yup. There was a bowl with lutefisk on this table. Gramma and Ronald (to her left) loved it

    5. Living in a city that decorates itself. I really don’t enjoy putting up decorations. (See “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly” for my Grinch-like take on holiday decor.) But I do enjoy looking at them. So thank goodness we have plenty of done-by-others Holiday trappings to admire.

      I had absolutely nothing to do with decorating this tree

Well, that’s it for now. Gotta go get ready for a party. Actually, two parties. Which is another thing I’m counting as a blessing: that I still get invited to places where festivities occur. Cheers!

Nor did I decorate this tree. And I don’t even have to go to the Met –it’s right out my window!

New York City. December 2023

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She put the “giving” in Thanksgiving.

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‘Thank you for everything, dear Aunt Eleanor’

It’s blowing a gale here in Amagansett. The bird feeders are down, the grill’s been knocked cattywompus and the windows that Dude Man painstakingly washed on Sunday? Well, let’s just say they’re clean.

I say all this because I can’t possibly go for a walk, much less a bike ride. And it’s too early to start baking the pies. (My SIL, who arrived late last night from San Fran, is still jet-laggedly sleeping.)

So I have no excuse to postpone (yet again) writing about Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor died almost two weeks ago. And, though she was 98 years old, I still can’t believe she’s gone. I’ll spare you all the cliches. But suffice it to say that even when a person is very very old, it can still be a shock when they die. Maybe even more of a shock, since you’re so used to them being around. (And note that I say “die,” because that’s what she did. I know this may be an unpopular view, but I bristle at the use of the term “pass” when you really mean “die.” Please say “die” when I do it. Please.)

The last time I clapped eyes on Eleanor. Last summer, at a family cookout, holding court, as usual, glass of champagne at hand

Anyway. You can read her obituary in The East Hampton Star right here for the public details of Eleanor’s extraordinary life. How she didn’t just read to kids, she founded a day care center. How she didn’t just bake, she baked cookies to lure kids to Sunday School. And how, at the age of 45, she set out to “do everything I’ve always wanted to do.”

Eleanor with her daughter Christine at her 90th birthday party. By this point, she had accomplished most of “everything I always wanted to do”

I’ve been putting off writing about her because it’s so hard to sift through all the memories I have of her. See, she was more than “just” an aunt. Dude Man’s parents died quite a while ago; his mom in 1985 and his dad in 1995. Eleanor’s house was just a couple of blocks away, so she and Uncle Buddy became like surrogate parents to us. Especially since mine were so far away.

Speaking of my mom, she and Eleanor got to know one another rather well. We got together when Mom came to visit. And there was the memorable occasion of The Child’s college graduation, when we experienced the nightmare of an out-of-control GPS system (it directed us on the “shortest route,” which meant navigating downtown Providence, RI, an experience which, trust me, you do not want to replicate) and sharing an Airbnb in Inman Square which was supposed to be “conveniently located” to the Harvard campus but which was most decidedly not. If they hadn’t bonded before then, well, they were now effectively joined at the hip.

The scene at The Child’s graduation. Eleanor and Mom are in there. Somewhere

The Dude has some particularly good Eleanor stories, since he spent many summers at her house when he was small. He recalls her dropping him and his two cousins off at Reed Pond with nothing but sleeping bags, fishing poles and a couple of cans of beans and picking them up the next day. She’d honk the car horn and they’d emerge from the woods. They were seven, eight and nine at the time.

Dude Child practicing his snake-handling as his Bro Bill and Cousin Charlie look on

My memories are more recent ones, of course. She and I bonded over books. I’d ride over on my bike to drop one off, and she’d invite me to sit with her on the screened-in porch and dish. “He can’t marry that woman,” being one of her more famous observations on the fiancee of a shirt-tail relation. And we’d speak on the phone fairly regularly. She didn’t dish out sentimental remarks, but I treasured the time she ended a call by saying that she “loved talking to me” and “wished we lived closer.” Me too, Eleanor, me too.

Eleanor with her niece Amy and her pseudo-niece Me, at her house a couple of blocks away

Oh, and even after Eleanor sold her house nearby, we would get together in the summers at her son Charlie’s and wife Chini’s infamous Taco Tuesdays out on Lazy Point. At one of these, one of Chini’s incredibly hunky sons walked by after a surfing session, his wetsuit stripped down to the waist revealing his perfectly-toned vee-shaped torso (these are casual affairs, these Taco Tuesdays), when Eleanor remarked, “He has a nice figure, doesn’t he?”

Eleanor and me at a Taco Tuesday. (So sorry the wetsuit-suited son isn’t also in the picture)

Well, as they say on TV, there’s “much much more.” But I can’t handle any more.

Besides, there are pies to bake.

Pies from a Thanksgiving repast, past

Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Eleanor. You gave us a whole hell of a lot to be thankful for.

Amagansett, New York. November 2023

 

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East is East. And West is San Francisco

Standard

‘Gamboling around the Golden City’

Some wag once said that when you get tired of walking in San Francisco you can always just lean against it. Which I am here to attest is entirely true.

Dr. Dude and I were on our third day of his AAO meeting when he decided it would be a good idea to “drop my bag off at the room before we go to the museum.” The bag in question being the one where he was stowing exhibitor swag — Starbucks gift cards! Eye drop samples! More Starbucks gift cards! — as well as toting meeting materials like schedules and maps. I must admit that it was looking a bit on the heavy side.

To be sure, the meeting venue, Moscone Center, wasn’t all that far from the Pacific Union Club, where we were staying. And we both had strolled on down from the tippy-top of Nob Hill where the Club, affectionately known by one and all as “the PU,” is perched to get to our activities each day. But, thanks to Uber and accommodating relations with cars, we hadn’t strolled back up.

Me, almost blocking the view of the PU. I’m waiting for Scott and Susan to pick me up for an outing to SFMOMA

Trust me when I say that walking up Nob Hill is not for the faint of heart or the high of heel. All I can say is that it’s a good thing they don’t get snow. No wonder there are so many Ubers. And driverless cars. One of our Uber drivers, after picking us up at 1000 California Street, said that he “thought the place looked familiar. I’m starting a new job there tomorrow!” He said he was going to be a waiter and that he’d spent an afternoon learning how to fold the napkins so the “PU” shows.

Susan and I join our friend Frida at SFMOMA

Another of our drivers expressed dismay and consternation that we lived in New York. “You actually live in New York?!” I hauled out my stock answer (the same one I gave Mom’s new pal Bill a couple of weeks ago): “Well, yes. A lot of people do.”

I found this particularly interesting since I got a parallel reaction from my New York friends when I told them I was going to San Francisco. “You’re going to San Francisco?!? Gosh! Be careful!

Scott exercising caution — and shooting some “sculpture” — at SFMOMA

Well, I’m happy to report that San Francisco is alive and well and is still a pretty peachy place to spend some time. Other than go to the Moscone meeting (yes, I went too; it was pretty sociologically interesting watching the doctors and the exhibitors interact), we ate at some pretty great restaurants: a pizza place with a gorgeous and gorgeously-accented Italian waitress, an Argentinian grill and, best of all, a place called State Bird where people start lining up at 5:15 to snag an unreserved table. (We were first in line; we scored.)

Digging the vittles at State Bird. (Yes, we had some quail — the “state bird” — too)

Sadly, we could not get into Lazy Bear, which is one of The Child and The Hub’s faves. (We had told Her Childness that we didn’t want to go to any of the Academy’s suggested restaurants where we’d be eating with a bunch of old doctors, and she lived up to her brief, and then some.)

But back to stowing the bag and (thank god after that uphill walk) Ubering to the museum. The museum that I intended to go to was the one up high on a hill where they shot some of Vertigo. Instead, we pulled up to one in Golden Gate Park. I had gotten the names confused, and, instead of the Palace of the Legion of Honor, we were at the de Young. No matter. We toured the de Young — especially loving the 8-story tower — then headed up to the Palace of the Legion of H. They are both part of the Fine Arts Museum of SF, and one admission covers both. Score!

Dude and I face off with camera phones in the Palace of the Legion of Honor

But there was more confusion to come. When we told The Child we were on our way to the Palace of the L of H, she thought we said we were going to the Palace of Fine Arts. Which is neither of these places, and has no art at all inside.

The Child points out a point of interest on our post-Legion of Honor walk

We polished off the afternoon hiking down a (moderate, compared to Nob Hill) hillside with spectacular views of Golden Gate Bridge. All in all, we worked up quite an appetite. Lining up like early birds at State Bird was definitely the way to go.

Dude Man makes like Rodin’s The Thinker at the Palace of the Legion of Honor

Back in New York City. November 2023

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