Vancouver, I miss you already

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‘And my Mom and Sister too, of course’

Guess what? This plane has WiFi (!) And I’m stuck here for upwards (hah) of four hours with a choice of watching a movie or writing this post. Heck, the flight is so long I’ll probably have time for both.

Anyway. I wrote last week about how lucky I was to get to go visit my Mom. I’m lucky because A) I actually have a Mom, and B) she’s very nice to visit. Time spent with her at her senior living place in Vancouver, Washington, is very mellow.

Mellow random shot of Gary Cooper from Instagram. Just because *sigh*

So mellow that, when Oldest Younger Brother Scott phoned to tip us off to the presence of a great basketball playoff game on TV, Mom and I ended the call with, “Thanks! Now we need to get back to doing nothing.”

The school still hasn’t hired a proofreader. I’m available

We did watch that game. Forgive me, for I am not a dyed-in-the-wool hoops fan like Mom and Scott (and Laura, for that matter). I believe it was the Timberwolves and the Nuggets. The Wolves basically gnawed those Nuggets to shreds. Must’ve hurt their teeth something fierce.

Hit “Guide” a couple of times, and a whole TV World reveals itself

We also watched the Kentucky Derby. Which I found by discovering a cool trick on Mom’s remote. If you hit “guide” twice, you get a menu of little icons for stuff like movies and game shows and news. Then, if you choose the “sports” one — it looks like a little football — you can find any sport you like. Even horse-racing. (I know, I know. This is super-boring. Sorry. But it made our day, which should give you an inkling of what our days were like.)

First three-way Derby photo finish ever. Or practically ever; forget which. Mom picked the winner!

My days started with my walk through Mom’s nabe. If it was raining, I waited for “the window.” You’d be surprised how many people do the same thing. I said “hello” to a nice mailman one otherwise-raining morning, who merrily said, “Gotta take advantage of the window!” right back at me.

Blossoms and trash bins adorn this Vancouver street during a “window”

We didn’t get around to Scrabble this visit. Too many sports events to watch. Lots of Happy Hours too. There were two regularly-scheduled ones during my visit, plus one Mexican Fiesta in honor of Cinco de Mayo. They have entertainment (besides wine and cheese, and margaritas for the Fiesta) at these hoedowns. You know you’re getting old when they play “All The Leaves Are Brown” and “Downtown” at your Mom’s senior living facility.

I’d love to know the story here. Or maybe not

There is a hardcore group of line-dancers who never fail to get up and do their line-dancing thing at Happy Hour. I swear they’d line dance to the Star-Spangled Banner. They kinda drive my Mom crazy; we have to position our chairs so as not to see them.

Other than the line-dancers and the bossy woman who planted my mother’s paper whites outside in the January cold and who Mom has sworn to never speak to again, everyone is terrific chez Mom. At this point, I’d like to give a special bye-bye shoutout to Jeff and Leonard and Carole and Betty and Renee and all the various Shirleys: Shirley with the dog, Shirley with the purse, short Shirley, Shirley who lives down the hall, and Shirlee with the two “ees.”

I miss you all already!

Bye bye, Mt. Hood and Mt. Whatsits. I also saw Mt. St. Helens

En route from Vancouver to New York. May 2024

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“Lucky”

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‘I have a mom and I get to go visit her today’

Whenever somebody in our family does something that my Middle Younger Brother Roger wishes he could do, he says, “Lucky.”

So I’m crediting him with the comment before making it myself. But this time I get to do the lucky thing, not just hear about it: I get to go visit my mother.

Me, hanging around JFK prepping for a previous Mom Visit

I’m getting on a plane in a few hours — writing this post is one way to keep from pacing around the very small Ken & Barbie House and wearing a path in the tile — so I may have to cut this post short. But maybe not, especially if I keep it short.

I should take this card along with me. Or maybe get a “keep calm” tee shirt. Or maybe just get a manhattan in the Delta Lounge

Basically, what I do when I visit my mother is sit around with her, drinking coffee and/or wine and reading and knitting. Talking a lot too, of course. Reminiscing. Gossiping. Solving the world’s problems.

Oh, there’s also walk-taking. Since I get up super-early (I’m on Eastern Time but even at home I’m up irrationally early), I go for a long walk through Mom’s nabe while she’s still sleeping. Then later, fueled up by coffee, we go on walks together. I do a lot of walking on these trips.

I can hardly wait to walk by this school again so I can check the grammar on their sign

Sometimes, if we’re feeling really frisky, we play Scrabble. (That’s me celebrating a seven-letter word in the photo at the top of this story. Talk about lucky.) But Scrabble is more fun with more players, so we usually skip it and do more reading.

My lucky necklace. I wear it every time I fly. Guess who gave it to me? No, not Mom. But close: my one and only Sister

Oh, did I mention that I sleep on Mom’s pullout couch? Actually, it’s much bigger than my bed at the Ken & Barbie House. But it is in rather close proximity to Mom’s fridge, which rumbles off and on through the night.

But hey. Those are not problems. Not at all. I have a Mom — and I get to go see her. Nyah nyah nyah.

Added bonus: A Sister Sighting! Here’s Mom and me with Laura

New York City (but not for long). May 2024

 

 

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Only connect

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‘Reflections on small town life in New York City’

Well. I’m either really late with this week’s post, or extremely early for next week’s. I guess I’m not much like Larry McMurtry, the Lonesome Dove guy, who died not long ago. Here’s what his biography, which I just finished, had to say about good ole Larry:

“When he’s in public, he may say hello and goodbye, but otherwise he is just resting, getting ready to write.”

Larry sure sounds like a good guy. And his small town was even smaller than mine

I do spend a good part of each day writing — mostly emails, but still, it’s writing. Problem is, I spend a good part of each day doing bunches of other stuff too. Today I rode my bike to East Hampton and back, finished a baby sweater, made a vat of pea soup, and did my Vector. (Which is what I call my one car trip per week: to the dump, the IGA and the post office.) Oh, and I read one of Larry’s novels, All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers. See, I like to read a writer’s biography while reading — or re-reading — his or her books. I just finished “doing” Larry. I think Alice Munro‘ll be next.

One of today’s many projects

Anyway. Here’s the real subject of today’s post. (Not how busy I am nor how quickly the days go by when you’re retired. Kitty Carlisle Hart nailed that one: “By the time you get to be my age it’s like you’re having breakfast every fifteen minutes.”)

It’s how living in big ole New York City (sheesh! I’m channeling Larry!) is really like living in a small town. True, a small town that’s butted right up against many other small towns, but still. See, in New York, your neighborhood — the four- or five-block area in which you live — is just like a small town. You have your grocery store, your post office, your dry cleaner, your coffee place. Your locksmith, too, which you might not find in an actual small town, but in NYC they repeat every four or five blocks just like drugstores do.

You don’t go to the Gristede’s ten blocks away; it’s not in your neighborhood. It’s not your Gristede’s. I’ve written about this before, in “Small Towns, Big City.” (Getting older means you repeat yourself, too.) But I haven’t touched on the emotional aspect of New York City small town-ness.

I’m talking about how the City rewards you with little moments of personal contact. Since it’s a street town, like small towns are, you actually encounter people. People who are not in their cars. People who are free to connect with you.

And they’re off. At the very least, their dogs will connect with other dogs

Now, this doesn’t happen all the time. After all, if you made contact with everyone you met on the street in New York City, you’d be exhausted, at the very least. But when you do make smiling eye contact with the guy whose dog is staring down a squirrel, or share cousin stories with a car service driver, or get a hug from your doorman when you share a piece of family news, it’s pretty nice. And, to a small town girl like me, feels like home.

I haven’t been in the City all week. The baristas at my Starbucks are going to wonder where I’ve been.

Amagansett, New York. April 2024

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“Is is safe to watch the eclipse on TV?”

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‘Honest-to-God questions for my eye doc hub’

Unless you live under a rock or on the West Coast, you were probably watching the solar eclipse yesterday. Dr. Dude and I were out in Amagansett, where we peered at it through a fancy-schmancy sun scope.

Dude Man with a solar scope. This was an earlier, easier-to-use model. The one he has now is waaaay more complicated

I also had a backup device: a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 copier paper that I punched three holes in with a letter opener. It was delightful projecting tiny little crescents all over our upstairs deck while Dude Man hogged the scope. “Get me a black tee shirt! I need to block the light from coming in around my head!” “Okay,” I said, while gaily waving my paper around, making my “mini-eclipses” dance.

The Paper Plate Method. One step up from the copier paper

But more annoying than orders from Mr. Fetch-Me-This-Fetch-Me-That were texts and calls from his patients.

See, Dr. Dude, as you may already know, is an ophthalmologist, which, you certainly must know, is a fancy word for an eye doctor. And, to experience an eclipse, one must use one’s eyes, preferably shielded by eclipse glasses, which you could get pretty much anywhere for free or practically nothing. Some libraries gave you a pair if you checked out a book. My friend T scored hers when a helpful library patron in Summit, NJ, upped his order from two to three when he realized the librarian was not going to let T have glasses without checking out a book — even though T volunteers at said library for umpteen hours a week. (Stingy librarians. No wonder people are turning to e-books.)

But back to safe viewing. I don’t know about you, but in the days leading up to The Eclipse, I found it hard to miss instructions and advice on safe viewing. It seemed like every piece of news I encountered had tips, pointers — and warnings.

Yup. You can use a straw hat to make teensy little mini-eclipses

There were articles about how to make your own viewing devices: Cheerios boxes figured big here, as well as colanders — here’s a piece from Fox News, for heavens sakes. There was even a piece in The Times about how to safely watch without eclipse glasses. Here it is if you want to save it for the next U.S. eclipse, um, twenty years from now. In addition to fun facts about straw hats, sieves, straining spoons and loosely-laced fingertips, there was this at the end: Do NOT look directly at the sun during the eclipse with your naked eye.

Basically, the warnings were everywhere.

An example of viewing tips — and a warning — from the East Hampton Star

But, swear to God, Dr. Dude got calls from patients asking things like: “Can I look at the eclipse through my fingers?” Or “Is it safe to go outside?” There was even a guy who traveled up to Maine so he and his family could experience totality and asked if it would be safe to drive home. But my absolute favorite — and no, I am not making this up — was “Is it safe to watch the eclipse on TV?”

Oh — yes. Lest I forget. Later in the afternoon there were several calls from panicked patients who — in spite of all the warnings — had looked directly at the eclipse and wanted to know what to do now that their eyes burned and hurt and their vision was blurry. “Not much you can do at this point,” was his reply.

I only hope that none of these people has passed on any genetic material.

Looks like an emoji for “I looked directly at the sun during the eclipse”

Amagansett, New York. April 2024

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“What’s that bird?” “Heck if I know.”

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‘Confessions of an Experiential Birder’

I’ve often said that birding is like jury duty with feathers. (See “Jury Duty, Only with Feathers.”) Or that bridge is indoor golf. (See “Bridge? It’s Basically Indoor Golf”.) I also used to say that Hell is other people’s children. But I must be getting soft in my old age — or maybe I’m just craving grandkids — because other people’s children don’t bother me as much as they used to. Unless they are seated behind me on a plane. (See “The Four Seatmates of the Apocalypse.”)

One thing I haven’t said much is the name of a bird if someone asks me.

This is what one of our guides would call a “fancy bird.” Some kind of woodpecker; just don’t ask me which one

That’s basically because, unless it’s some bird that the asker probably already knows the name of — think “robin” or “blue jay” or “wren,” if you’re not too picky about the type of wren — I won’t know. I’m a birder, but I’m not the kind of birder who keeps track of names, much less genus and species and other technical whatnot.

I do keep track of funny signs. (See “Oh no, Danger Man!”) Like this one somewhere in Brazil indicating parking for those over 60

Why, I don’t keep track of anything about the birds. Unless it’s some really interesting experience associated with that bird. Like, on our Northeast Brazil trip, there was this macaw — the Lear’s, or Indigo Macaw — that lives only in a very specific type of canyon. You can read more about this macaw here, but basically, there are only a few hundred of them, they weren’t recognized as a species until 1978 — and, if you want to see them, you have to go to this one sandstone canyon via four-wheel-drive at daybreak to watch them come out of their nests and swoop around. Now that’s an experience — and that I remember.

Waiting around the sandstone canyon for the Lear’s Macaw to show up. They did. And so did some listers

I’m most definitely not a “lister.” Listers are birders who keep a list of all the birds they’ve seen. And, trust me, they care about that list. I’ve had encounters with listers a few times on our trips. Mostly, they’re okay. Though it can get a bit old to have someone constantly piping up “6499!” (the number of birds in their Life List just achieved) or “Lifer!” (meaning the bird just spotted is the first time the person has seen it in his/her life). Variations on this rack-’em-up theme include “day bird,” which is the first time that bird has been seen that day, and “trip bird,” same thing, only for the trip. “Day bird” can also mean a bird that’s been seen every day of the trip. On our most recent excursion, it was the black vulture. Which should tell you something about that trip.

Iguazu (or, in Brazil, Iguacu) Falls. Another terrific experience, especially with these swifts that go dive-bombing through the falls every evening

At the end of every birding day, the group gets together with their checklists and the guide/leader goes through all the birds seen that day. Fortunately for me, this happens at cocktail hour. I dutifully check birds off as I sip, say, a cold local beer or a  caipirinha.Three guesses what happens to the lists.

Paddling on a hot river where there were many caiman — and lots of cool birds too

So. If you see me after one of our birding trips, feel free to ask me about my experiences. (I have lots of good stories — like the one where we had to go to a water park on a Sunday to find a certain rare mannikin. The beautiful Brazilians in their bikinis didn’t quite know what to make of us.)

Just don’t ask me the names of any of the birds.

Amagansett, New York. April 2024

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Sweet Baby Wayne

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‘I may call him The Dude, but it’s not Jeff Bridges he gets mistaken for.’

I was going to write about our most recent trip to Brazil. This last trip was our fifth time there, and some people I know (well, Oldest Younger Brother Scott, actually) were starting to call us the Brazil Nuts.

But heck. Maybe it’s because we just got back and I’m sort of Braziled out. Or maybe it’s because my gal pal Debi (Hi, Debi!) said Dude Man’s picture on Facebook (the one at the top of this post) reminded her of James Taylor. Whatever the reason, I’d rather write about The Dude.

(Hey! Maybe it’s because our — gasp — 40th wedding anniversary is coming up this weekend. Yeah, let’s settle on that.)

Brazil has been there for a long time. It’ll keep. For a week or so, anyway

Other people besides Debi have noticed Dude Man’s remarkable resemblance to James T., Carly Simon, his once-wife, among them. She once passed him on a New York City sidewalk and did a romcom-worthy double-take.

In fact, I’ve written about this uncanny twinship before. If you like, you can skip over to “I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Birthdays” for some cool comparison photos.

Which twin has the Toni? (er, shiny head)

They even looked alike in more, ahem, tender years. With intact heads of hair:

As I’ve also recounted before, in “Hangin’ with Gouda, Jook and The Dude,” “Dude” was a nickname bestowed upon Wayne when he was at Dartmouth. He unwisely wore a tie to the freshman mixer, and The Dude was born.

Hey. I just realized I’m writing about not just one, but two things I’ve written about before. Gosh. Maybe it’s time to quit this blogging thing and run for the Senate or something. Everybody else is.

I know I haven’t written about where the heck the word “dude” comes from. That’s because I just found out. Oldest Younger Brother Scott called my attention to a feature that the NY Times runs about words and their origins. While we were in Brazil, they dug into the history of “dude.” You can read the whole thing by clicking here.

Basically, the piece says that “’dude’ probably came from ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and the British slang ‘fopdoodle,’ meaning a foolish dandy.” There’s also some stuff in there about dudes being “young, slender, brainless and imitating what they thought was high British culture.” After a while, dudes were associated with dude ranches and suchlike. But it wasn’t until Jeff Bridges came along in The Big Lebowski that the word took on its present-day totally dudified dudeness.

I suppose it would be more fitting if the celebrity My Dude looked like was Jeff’s Dude instead of James’ Sweet Baby. But heck. I like him just the way he is. And there’s one person he looks like more than anybody:

Happy Anniversary, Dude Man! (Ours, not hers.)

New York City. March 2024

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The creative director who put my kid through college

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‘RIP, dear Bob Neuman’

“What’s she doing writing a blog post on a Saturday?” you might be thinking. Though no doubt you have better things to think about.

Well, I haven’t posted in a while. And besides, Dude Man and I are heading off on our fifth Brazilian Birding Adventure (Oldest Younger Brother Scott calls us the “Brazil Nuts.”) Our airport car is picking us up in a few short hours (!) so it’s good for an antsy traveler like me to have something to do besides pace.

Me, pacing the balcony on the last day of our last trip to Brazil — which was just a month ago (!)

So. Bob Neuman. Bob left us for the Great Creative Department in the Sky just a few days ago. When I found out (Thank you, Richard E!), all kinds of memories popped into my head. Like how Bob collected wine corks and kept them in the most humongous glass beaker I ever saw. How he smoked big ole cigars. How he was droll and witty and had a sense of humor drier than the driest martini. (He liked those almost as much as cigars.)

Me, back in my Ogilvy Days

I worked for a lot of creative directors back in my Ogilvy Days, and Bob was one of my faves. One day he stepped into my office — and shut the door. Well, in advertising (or in any kind of business, I imagine) your boss closing your door is not a harbinger of good news. I was definitely wary.

No, this isn’t Bob. This is another late lamented CD. Read about him in “Harvey and the Grilled Half Goat Head”

Then Bob says, “I understand your husband is an ophthalmologist.” “Yes, he is,” I replied. Then Bob — who was in his late forties or early fifties at the time and wore thick thick glasses — tells me that he’s been to two eye doctors about his cataracts. One told him to have them removed; the other told him to wait. “I need a tie-breaker,” he said.

So I gave him Dr. Dude’s info, and the next thing I know he’s not only seen The Dude, but he’s having his cataracts removed by none other than The Dude. “You’re still a young man,” His Dudeness had told him. “You deserve to be able to see.

Me, at an Ogilvy reunion, clutching a martini and looking alarmed while hearing about how I almost died on a shoot. (The speaker had mistaken me for some other Ogilvy alum)

Needless to say, the night before Bob’s surgery, I made sure Dr. Dude got plenty of rest. “You don’t want to mess up,” I needlessly reminded him. “That’s my boss you’re operating on.”

Also, needless to say, the surgery went beautifully.

One of my favorite shots of those golden Ogilvy Days (again not featuring Bob; I, alas, have no photos of Bob)

After a few weeks, when both his eyes had been successfully rid of their vision-clouding cataracts, Bob again stepped into my office. And again — shut the door. What now?

Well, Bob just wanted to thank me. And while doing so, I see tears in his newly clearly-seeing eyes. He was that overcome with emotion at having his vision back.

And that’s not the end to this lovely Bob Tale. Bob was so pleased with how his surgery turned out — and so pleased with Dr. Dude in general — that he told all his friends and all his colleagues to go to Dr. Dude. Pretty soon, Dude Man was seeing everyone in advertising: not only creative directors (Hi, Tom R.!), but writers (Hi, John G.!)  and art directors (Hi, Grant P.!) and producers (Hi, Nancy V. and Annie L.!). They all told their friends and colleagues and soon we got directors and editors and actors and even clients. Basically, everyone who is anyone in the Ad World now goes to Dr. Dude.

My Ogilvy sample reel. I’m pretty sure at least one of the editors there started going to Dr. Dude

And we owe it all to Bob. So yes, you could say that Bob Neuman put our kid through college.

Thank you, Bob. I hope the angels don’t mind cigar smoke.

New York City. March 2024

 

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“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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