Galapagone

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‘Adoring Ecuador — in spite of spooky caiman, scary towers and claustrophobic lava tubes.’

Yes, we made it. To the Amazonian jungle, the Andean peaks and the Galapagos Islands. There was plenty of excitement, though perhaps the most hair-raising bit was American Airlines cancelling our 6AM flight at midnight the night before.

That’s our lodge in the distance. Yes, it’s accessible only by water

We spent the first ten days in a remote lodge in the middle of the jungle, where swimming was allowed only in a caged area since there were caiman and piranha and sea otters roaming the waters. (Tempted to swim? I was most decidedly not.)

Lucy, the caiman who lives under the breakfast pavilion at Sacha Lodge

Though I did indulge in some tower climbing. For those unfamiliar with jungle birding (which may be most of you), towers and walkways suspended high above the jungle are pretty much a necessary evil, since the canopy is where the cool birds hang out. And with some tree heights well over 100 feet, there’s really no way to see, say, a paradise tanager without taking the plunge (hah) and hightailing it up a tower.

Me, after shimmying up one of the two canopy towers

There were seven of us participating on this jungle adventure, five of whom went on to the Galapagos. After more than a week of muddy-trail-and-scary-tower togetherness, we’d formed a pretty tight bond. I’ve often said that these birding trips are like jury duty. You show up when and where you’re told; you eat together, talk together, pay attention to authority figures. And the Galapagos trip was almost literally like a jury since there were 13 of us (12 jurors and an alternate).

Our Galapagos Group. There was no one who was The One. Unless it was me, of course

Usually on these trips there is a participant who is The One. He/she is maybe a little too loud or too whiny or who has some other personality trait that’s, well, annoying. Like, there was a woman on a Panama trip who insisted on being called “Raven,” though she had a perfectly good normal name (Rebecca, I think it was.) I responded to this request by “mistakenly” referring to her as Sparrow.

No sparrows, but plenty of iguana. So many that you had to be careful where you stepped

And then there was the famous instance of the vegan on the East Africa Tour. In those days it was pretty tough to provide for a vegan in the wilds of Africa while traveling from lodge to lodge every day. Every time we unpacked our tasty lunches, we’d look to see what nasty surprise Jodi would find in her box labelled “Vegan” (or sometimes just “V”). The funniest was the day she found her box filled with a hand of bananas — and nothing else. Well, nothing else but the giant tarantula nestled inside. And then, on our last night together, Jodi, like the rest of us, ordered a pizza. “You’re having pizza?” inquired our baffled guide Terry. “I thought you were vegan.” “Oh, I was just trying out being a vegan on this trip, just to see if I liked it.” she replied, as Terry’s face grew red and his head spun around on his neck.

Decidedly non-vegan lunch on board the Nemo III, our floating Galapagos home

We had a vegan on this tour too. But he was very nice. And got to eat a lot of avocados.

Dude Man makes a couple of new Galapagan friends. I don’t think they’re vegan either

Suffice it to say that the Galapagos Islands themselves lived up to all the Bucket List hype. I will have more than enough material for several more blog posts. (Oh, and remind me to tell you all about when we almost drove off a cliff up in the Andes.) But before I sign off today, let me tell you about the Lava Tube.

The Galapagos. We got to visit ten of the islands. Only three of them had any people living there

This is pretty self-explanatory. The Galapagos being volcanic in nature, there are lots of big ole “tubes” where lava once flowed. We had just finished a rather lovely lunch (no hands of bananas with clinging tarantulas) at the tortoise preserve when Willy, our guide, suggested a post-prandial stroll — through a nearby Lava Tube. “How long is it?” someone asked. “About two football fields. Silence. Asked for a show of hands, only Dude Man raised his. Then one other guy raised his. It was only after one other woman raised her hand that I figured “what the hell,” and raised mine too.

Another new Dude Man buddy

Our intrepid little band set out. There were many steep stairs to the entrance, but the beginning wasn’t too bad. There was even lighting. But, as we forged on, the tube got narrower — and shorter. Until, at one point, we had to sort of “limbo” our way under a rock outcropping. Here I was, scrunched up under a ten-foot span of cooled-off lava that was 3 feet from floor to ceiling. Literally a once in a lifetime experience.

Trying not to think about Tom Sawyer while in the Lava Tube

Whew. More adventures next week. Now I really need to get back to Barbara Pym. 

Thinking longingly about English villages and vicars

Amagansett, New York. August 2022

 

Social media, Sixties-style

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‘My Mom and Magazine Club’

A couple of weeks ago I told you about how my Dad loved to go out on his houseboat, the Sir Launch-A-Lot. He’d fill ‘er up with clients and/or family members and tool around Carlyle Lake for hours, regaling one and sundry with jokes and stories.

My Dad was pretty entertaining on land, too. Here he demonstrates his favorite trick

Mom liked the houseboat, too, but her favorite thing was to go up on the roof with a nice big stack of women’s magazines — Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Family Circle. and the like. There were seven of these magazines that were extremely popular back in the Sixties — they were actually referred to as “The Seven Sisters” — and my mom took several. She liked company while she did this, and I was happy to oblige. We’d work our way through the stack making small talk — jumping in the Lake every once in a while to cool off.

Favorite Sister Laura and me up top of the Sir LAL, demonstrating an early selfie, courtesy Oldest Younger Bro Scott

While paging through the issues, we’d make (mostly snarky) comments on the fashions and the celebrities — no Kardashians, but plenty of Kennedys — and the ads. This was back when they ran those ads that showed some gorgeous woman in a bra with a headline that said, “I dreamed I painted the town red in my Maidenform Bra.” And there was a feminine hygiene ad that showed a box with just one copy line: “Modess: because.” I used to wonder, “because why?” We’d even make comments on the magazine covers, which always seemed to feature both an outrageous dessert — “Scoop Up Double Chocolate Brownie Sundae!” — and a fad diet — “Get Ready for Swimsuit Season in One Week!”

I don’t have a lot of photos of the inside of the house in summer — it was so darned hot, we spent most of our time outside

There were also cool regular features in these magazines that were fun to read bits of aloud. One of our faves was “Can This Marriage Be Saved” from the Ladies Home Journal. We also liked to scope out interesting recipes — leafing though women’s magazines was how we discovered Jello Cake, which is one of the most delightful creations ever. I was going to say “dessert” creations, but in our family, Jello Cake never made it to dessert. It got eaten as soon as it “set.” One Jello Cake that was destined for dessert (to grace a client houseboat outing) was found marred with a big bare footprint right in the middle. It got eaten anyway. (Jello Cake is that good.)

Mom on the porch with Grandkids Leo and The Child. Look closely at the coffee table and you’ll see a big ole stack of magazines

Mom and I could go for hours paging and commenting, paging and commenting. It was Sixties Social Media, you see. We were being social while engaged with media. And we were hooked on it well before the internet was a gleam in some nerd’s eye.

As entertaining as those houseboat social media sessions were, Mom’s Magazine Club took the whole thing up a notch. She and her friends would meet once a month and trade magazines and stories while eating a nice lunch. (Serving a nice lunch meant a chance to try out some of the recipes they found in those magazines. They’d also serve lots of coffee. I couldn’t find a shot of my mother actually present at Magazine Club, but the shot at the top of this post does show her wielding a coffee pot.)

The closest I can get to a picture of Mom at Magazine Club. I bet she wore outfits kind of like the one in this family portrait

Mom and her friends would take turns being the hostess and also giving talks about articles they’d read in the magazines. Mom told me she remembered giving a particularly well-received presentation on evolution inspired by a magazine article. I’m betting it wasn’t from Ladies Home Journal.

Oh — before I go, a little announcement. The blog and I will be on vacation until the end of July. Here’s hoping you find plenty of social media (preferably the in-person kind) to keep you occupied till Lutheran Liar Looks at Life returns.

New York City. July 2022

 

 

If at first you don’t succeed, pretend you’re a squirrel.

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‘Third time’s the charm for this tenacious little critter.’

Apologies for being late this week, but I’ve got a good excuse. Rather, several good excuses — and they’re all named Whitmore. Basically, we had Whitmores coming out our ears — staying with us (Dude Man’s sis and squeeze), eating with us (cousins and such) — and celebrating with us (various and sundry).

The fete at the Eleanor Whitmore Early Education Center had Dude Man and Cousin Girl rapt (Hi, M! It was great seeing you!)

We were dining out and going out till I, for one, felt quite like copping out.

The inimitable Aunt Eleanor, founder of the EWEEC, in a rare moment of repose

But, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Because now I’m sitting here all by my lonesome, wishing for all the hub and the bub — and the people who caused it — to come back.

The Child *sniff* just about an hour ago. I’ve already cleaned her room, erasing all traces of her recent occupation — a technique I highly recommend for beating the just-left blues. (See “To Clean, or Not to Clean?”) 

Of course a little blog-writing can also help keep me from deeply sighing as I pass The Child’s empty room. So here goes.

This is the story about the crazy squirrel that I was going to tell you last week — until I remembered that June 21 was the anniversary of my Dear Dad’s passing on to the Great Rosebed in the Sky. (See “Remembering Dad and the Sir Launch-A-Lot.”)

Dude Man tends the rose bush that Dad gave us

There are several species who frequent our feeders — but they’re intended for birds, not squirrels. In fact, The Dude has fortified these feeders with very efficacious squirrel deterrents.

The Dude hand-feeding the species for whom the feeders are intended. (Yes, they land on his hand!)

So, imagine my surprise when, while devouring my New York Times one morning, I spied a squirrel wrapped around the bottom of the biggest feeder, holding on to the bird perch thingies with three paws while transferring bird seed from the little feeder holes to his mouth with the remaining paw.

Squirrel taking a break from hanging from the feeder, no doubt getting ready to chomp on a deck chair

How on earth did he get there? I wondered, as, having eaten his fill he casually dropped to the ground. I went back to reading about the untimely death of Roe vs. Wade (no, we’re not going there today) and — wouldn’t you know it — I glanced up and there he was again.

This time, The Child parked herself in front of a window and waited, iPhone camera trained on the scene, to catch Mr. Squirrel in the act. Here’s the surveillance footage. Be sure to watch till the end:

Well. Dude Man was not having this. For one thing, they are definitely not going hungry — there is so much seed that gets spilled on the ground, those squirrels are practically round they’re so well-fed.

Fat sassy Squirrel Man digesting on our deck

These are the same furry culprits who have been eating our deck furniture and even our house. Seriously. I caught them red-pawed one day, gnawing away at the siding.

Gnawed-upon corner of the house. Fortunately, a friend told us about a spray that makes the wood taste nasty to squirrels (Thanks, Ken!)

So. You think you can just jump up there and devour all our bird seed, Mr. Squirrel? Hah! Let’s see what happens when we raise the feeder a couple of inches. I mean really. Let’s see what happens:

Kinda looks like somebody threw him from behind that tree trunk like a furry little football, doesn’t it? But you’ve got to hand it to that squirrel. He never — ever — gives up. Remember him when you’re feeling frustrated or ineffectual. Or just hungry.

Speaking of hungry, I could use a taste of those berries The Child is offering her Whitmore Grampa. Actually, forget the berries, I could use more Child

Amagansett, New York. June 2022

 

Remembering Dad and the Sir Launch-A-Lot

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‘A boatload of memories on this longest day of the year’

I was going to write about this crazy squirrel who’s been entertaining our Amagansett guests with his determined efforts to reach our bird feeder. But then I remembered. It’s June 21 — which is not only the longest day of the year, but a sad day too. It’s the day our Dad died 13 years ago.

This guy will have to wait till next week. But he’s good at waiting

I’ve written about Dad many times, of course. About his jokes (“Kangaroo Walks into a Bar”), his napping (“Let Sleeping Dads Lie”), his obsessions (“There Go the Roses”) and even his comb-over (“Hair Hacks of the Follicly-Challenged”). Just last week I wrote about how The Dude is, in many ways, so much like him that sometimes I feel like I married my Dad (“Of Mugs and Men.”)

Dad knew his way around a kitchen, having been a short-order cook (among other things) in his college days. (See “Dad Eggs and Ham”)

Sir Launch-A-Lot — yes, that was this boat’s actual name — has made it into my stories before too, most notably in 2018’s “Yet’s Go to Ye Yake.” Sir L-A-L was a pontoon boat that Dad bought for what he called “business reasons.”

It’s kinda hard to see, but “Sir Launch-A-Lot” is there above the front window, behind my Sister, Gramma Henry and Mom

At this time in his life and career Dad was well into his “Deej” period, details of which, including photos of his famous “Poop” phone, can be found in last week’s “Of Mugs and Men.” As “Deej,” he was the partner in the Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende engineering firm tasked with growing the business. “I’ll take clients out on the boat,” said Dad (er, Deej).

Nope, those aren’t clients. That’s Dude and Youngest Younger Bro. But they are wielding HMG-branded beer holders

And so he did. He tootled around on Carlyle Lake with boatloads of clients, regaling them with cool stories as well as cold beers, steaks on the grill and clams and lobsters “baked” on sandbars. Once he mistakenly hit “reverse” when pulling into the dock after one of these outings, bonked a piling and watched as the grill flew off the deck and into the drink.

Sir Launch-A-Lot safely docked. Look closely and you can spot the grill up front on the port side

Sir Launch-A-Lot was acquired well after I’d flown the nest — the lake itself didn’t exist when I was a kid — so I missed out on many a sunbaked watery adventure. But the boat was there during my college summers for topside sunbathing and women’s-magazine-reading with my Mom. And for fireworks-watching with whatever family members were around on the 4th of July.

Dad in the “bass boat,” which was also used for water-skiing, Sir L-A-L in background. Not sure if the bass boat was acquired for “business reasons”

And, I’m glad to say that good ole Sir L-A-L was still afloat when The Child came along. I’ll have to ask her if she remembers jumping off the boat roof with her own Dad. (Uncle Scott, who took the jumping-off-the-boat photo at the end of this story, was very “into” jumping off the boat roof, but I’m pretty sure our Dad felt the same way I did about that. Which was “No thanks.”)

The Child up top the Sir Launch-A-Lot

Sir Launch-A-Lot was eventually sold (or given?) to a family friend. And my Dad (and Mom) eventually moved far away from Carlyle Lake. But when summertime rolls around I often find myself reminiscing about those long summer days on the boat with Dad.

The Dude and The Child jump off into the sunset. RIP, Sir L-A-L. And Dad

Amagansett, New York. June 2022

Of mugs and men

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‘I think I married my Dad’

“If my eyes are not deceiving me, your Dad looks like your husband?!? Hmmmm.”

This is what a friend (hi Leslie!) commented after reading my birthday tribute to Dad on Facebook. (You can read it, too, even if you hate FB: “Kissing Daddy Good-night.”)

And you know what? Leslie might be right. Dad and Dude not only look somewhat alike — right down to the blonde lock of hair over one eye — but they act alike too.

Take this Thing About Mugs. I’ve scoured the house from basement to attic and still can’t find a mug that Dude Man liked to use. I would say that it was his favorite mug, but that would be a lie. This mug actually belongs to The Child. Which makes it even worse that it is MMIA. (That’s “Mug Missing In Action.”) He’s lost a mug that isn’t even his.

Mug shot of The Child. Tho this is not the mug in question. I couldn’t take a photo of that mug — because it’s, well, missing

My Dad was famous for doing the same thing. After a visit from him and Mom, I would find mugs scattered around the house in the unlikeliest of spots. On arms of couches and chairs, of course. But also under couches and chairs, even beds. Once I found one balanced on the pipes of our furnace. Mugs would turn up outside too. On and under the outdoor furniture, natch. But also nestled in bushes and and on the tops of cars.

Dude Man liked to use The Child’s mug because it was very similar to his favorite mug.

Dude’s favorite mug. The Child’s was remarkably similar — with coyotes instead of hippos — probably because it was made by the same potter, tho purchased in Santa Fe, not Africa

The Child’s mug found its way here when Child and Beau (now SIL) took off in the Summer of ’20 on their camper-van adventure. They stored their household goods here “temporarily” while they road-trip roamed. (Note to Child: better come get your stuff before Dad gets his paws on it and it all disappears.)

Child and Then-Beau hit the road, leaving wordly goods — including now-missing mug — behind

But back to Dad and Dude.

They also have (or had, in my Dad’s case) a propensity for misplacing phones. Just last week, The Child was a witness more than once to Dude’s Thing About Phones. Almost every day he’d say, “Say, I can’t find my phone; could you call me?” — so he could listen for the ring and zero in on it.

Nine times out of ten it was in the bathroom.

Dad, too, was always misplacing phones. Once, when “portable phones” — remember those? — were all the rage, he took his outside so he wouldn’t miss an important call while working on his roses. The phone was missing for weeks before they found it in the crook of a tree.

I don’t have a photo of Dad with his portable phone — so this one will have to do

Oh, speaking of phones and bathrooms, my Favorite Sister shared a hilarious Dad story with us last Sunday on our Family Facetime. Dad went through a phase when he liked to be called “Deej.” This was a squooshing-together of his initials, D for Dale and J for Joseph. I think he liked the zingy, hip sound of it. His friends and colleagues must’ve liked it too, since they all started calling him “Deej.” Mom even used “Deej” as part of her email address. The only holdout was Regina, the (very colorful) local woman who “cleaned” our house. She called him “Henry Dale” — a reverse of his first and last names, and at a high volume at that.

Dad early in his “Deej” phase, showing off his spoon-balancing technique — a talent The Dude does not share. At least I don’t think he does

Anyway. It seems that one day Laura’s girls had some stick-on letters and suggested labeling Grampa’s phone (by then, cutting-edge as usual, he had a flip phone) with his nickname.

But when their cousin Aaron spied the phone on a table (or maybe in the bathroom or on top of a car) he asked, “Aunt Laura, why does Grampa have “poop” written on his phone?

Good question, Aaron.

Before I close, I’d just like to say that there’s one other thing my Dad and Dude Man share. Like my Dad, Dude has shown himself to be an incredible — and memorable — father.

I’m thinking it turned out pretty great that I “married my dad.” We can always get more mugs and phones.

Amagansett, New York. June 2022

 

 

The Dude shares a bird-day

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‘Felicitations to a newly-minted 70-year-old, his cousin — and some future purple martins’

Last Thursday Dude Man celebrated a Very Big Birthday — his seventieth. (Gosh, that birthday is not only big, it’s really hard to type.)

Oh. If any of you are shocked — shocked, I say! — at my “outing” my husband’s age in this public way, let me assure you that I’ve already outed myself. I turned big ole scary 70 last November — and boldly and unabashedly wrote about it too. See my story “Skirting the Issue” for proof. (And fun party details.) See also “Doing the Math” for how one’s attitude changes upon reaching this hoary landmark.

 

Me, celebrating 70 in style — and with a heck of a lot of veuve

But enough about my birthday. We’re here to celebrate Dude Man and his 70 trips around the sun. Speaking of the sun, he happens to own a gizmo called a “sun scope” which he sets out on the second-floor deck and commandeers all and sundry to come up and squint through. Yes, you can see the sun. Okay, fine. But somehow I don’t quite get it.

The sun scope wasn’t a present. No, we’ve reached the stage in our relationship where we pretty much get what we want on our own. (Like that, um, sun scope.) Though I did get a request from The Dude. He wants a nice notebook in which to record the antics of his gift from Mother Nature — a flock of martins.

Dude Man’s martin house. There are martins in there. Finally. And yes, that’s the ocean in the background. I mean, what martin wouldn’t want to live here?

It was about fifteen years ago when The Dude got his martin house. And every year he’s cleaned it and doctored it (more gourds, fewer gourds, higher gourds) and watched over it. He’s opened the little doors, closed the little doors, mounted some of the gourds on the roof. Last year he played a loop of martin songs on an old iPhone that he rigged to a tree. (Incidentally, you can see the martin house over The Child’s shoulder in the photo at the top of this post.)

Nothing. For fifteen looooong years.

Then, this year two showed up. Then three, then four. They chased away some wren interlopers and kicked out a pair of flycatchers who’d settled in, eradicating their nesting materials with contemptuous tosses of their beaks.

And, on Dude Man’s birthday, this happened:

Martin eggs. Yes, you can lower the whole martin rig and open little doors on the gourds to look inside. The martins don’t mind. At least I hope not

Even more exciting (for me anyway) somebody else besides martins flew in. Last Sunday I got a call. Child: “Hey, what are you doing for Dad’s birthday?” Me: “I offered him a party, but he said no way. So we’re going to Smith & Wollensky.” “Really? Would it be okay if we came? It’s a Big Birthday.” “Of course you can come. He’d love that!”

News spreads of The Child and Hub joining us. But no, that bird is not a martin

Now, Her Childness lives in Flagstaff, Arizona — which is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away. Which is why I hadn’t bothered to mention this dinner to her. But guess what? She booked herself and the SIL on a flight that got in the afternoon of the dinner. And when that flight was cancelled, they drove to Tuscon to catch a flight that would get them there.

“But what about the cousin?” you may well be asking.

Here’s the cousin (in back) sharing a snake — instead of a cake — with Young Dude (in front)

This cousin — a Whitmore; no doubt he puts his hands on his hips Backwards-style — has a birthday a couple of days after Dude Man, so we often get together in Amagansett to commiserate (er, celebrate.) And this year was no exception.

The other end of the birthday table, featuring Dude and SIL — and Carvel cake

So. Birds flew in. Kids flew in. And a cousin was the icing on the cake. Happy Birthday times were had by all!

Amagansett, New York. June 2022

 

 

 

Hands on clocks, hands on hips

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‘All right; assume the position’

Until that glorious day when I get some of my own (hint hint hint, O Child), I borrow my bro-in-law’s grandchildren.

He has three; all extremely adorable girls. This Memorial Day was the tenth anniversary (gulp!) of their coming to Amagansett for an action-packed visit.

Since they’re not my grandchildren, I won’t show the little girls’ faces. But, as you can see, they have pretty adorable backs. And their Grampa, seen giving them fond good-bye hugs, is pretty cute too

While hanging out on the deck one morning perusing the paper, my also extremely-adorable (and extremely perceptive) niece-in-law pointed something out to me.

Watch faces in ads always have the time set to 10:08. Sometimes 10:09 or 10:11. But always thereabouts — she told me

I’m ashamed to say that I’d never noticed this. Have you? Extremely perceptive N-I-L had a few theories about why this is so. 10:10, she said, whether it’s AM or PM is a kind of hopeful, nonstressful time. You’re not rushing to work or school or hurrying to get dinner on.

Here’s another, from a magazine this time. Note uplifting, positive hand position

Of course Dude Man had his own theory. “They do it that way so the hands don’t cover up the name of the watch,” he pointed out in his oh-so-practical way. “Okay,” countered N-I-L, “then why don’t they use 7:20?”

She was still thinking about this on their way home. As for 3:10, I told her I thought that was a very discouraging time: too late for coffee and too early for cocktails

Thinking about the position of hands sparked another thought of mine. “Stand up and put your hands on your hips,” I said to her.

Dude Man standing with hands on hips. Notice anything different from the photo of me doing the same thing at the top of this post?

“What?!”

“Go on,” I encouraged. “Don’t think about it. Just stand up and put your hands on your hips.”

So she did, and her pose looked pretty much like mine up there at the top of this story. Except that she is oodles younger and prettier.

I don’t have a photo of Bill doing this, but here’s another one of The Dude demonstrating what I mean

See, Whitmores always put their hands sort of backwards on their hips. To demonstrate, I got her husband (Dude Man’s nephew and son of bro-in-law Bill, the Grampa of the adorable girls) to do it too. Yup. Same deal.

Here’s the first person I noticed doing this: Grampa Whit, the father of Grampa Bill. And yes, that’s The Child frolicking in the surf with him

It’s kind of like that Asparagus Pee Thing. Or that Rolling Your Tongue Thing. Hereditary. Go ahead; try it. Are you a Frontwards or a Backwards?

There’s my dad, far right in the back row, demonstrating the Frontwards. Henrys are all Frontwards. Note one of my cousins, Frontwards in the front row, striped shirt

Once I started searching, I found tons of photographic evidence of both Frontwards and Backwards — and of how consistently people did one or the other.

Honestly, I couldn’t find anybody who switched around — or at least any pictures as proof that they did. The best I could do was to find some people (like me at the top of this post) who sometimes mixed things up by balling their fists in Frontwards position, a pose I like to think shows determination and power.

Here’s The Child, showing her Whitmoreness in a crowd of Petersons and Henrys

And here she is again, demonstrating that you don’t grow out of your hands-on-hips position

I could go on and on. But I have to get my act together to drive back to the Very Hot City, where I have places to go and people to see. You can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on where everybody puts their hands.

Sometimes it’s fun to put your hands on somebody else’s hips (!)

Amagansett, New York. May 2022

Everybody’s got to start somewhere

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‘My humble Ad Biz beginnings in Kansas City’

Last night at dinner I sat next to the only other graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism in New York City. Or at least the only one I know about. (Hi, Kim!) Incidentally, that’s me at graduation from the U of Mo in the photo at the top of this post. I don’t know where Kim was. Actually, I didn’t know Kim at the time; it was a big school.

Kim and I traded a few stories about some of the professors there — Hi, Mr. Dobbins, if you’re still smoking your pipe and pontificating! — which reminded us of the old saying “Those that can, do; those who can’t, teach” and got me to thinking about my start in advertising way back when.

This is me at my Actual First Job, which was at my hometown newspaper, the Carlyle Union Banner. You can read about this in “Those Were Banner Days Indeed,” if so inclined

I touched on my first ad job last week when I wrote about the contortions some men go through to disguise their balding little noggins. (See “Hair Hacks of the Follicly-Challenged” for some crazy examples.) One of the guys I mentioned was a KC adman named Bud Bouton, who sported a style we Youngins at the agency dubbed “hair topiary.”

Bud was just one of many colorful characters I remember fondly from Barickman Advertising, where I snagged my first agency job. There was also Cleota Dack (who I called “Miss Tadack,” since I’d never heard the name “Cleota” before) and Doris with the bad wig and the art director who drove a Karmann Ghia and painted a picture of a window for my first (windowless) office. And, of course, Mr. Hoffman, my boss.

Mr. Hoffman was a Lou Grant type who kept a bottle of something brown in his desk drawer and who, when I told him I was accepting another, bigger, job in Kansas City, said not to waste my time but to go to New York. (He had been a New York City copywriter at one time.) Eventually, I took his advice. (See “Take a Letter, Miss Henry” for the story.)

Me looking all creative-directorish at the job Mr. Hoffman told me not to take

But back to my first ad job. There is something very heady about first jobs. The whole idea of putting in the work and getting paid for it. Hanging around with a bunch of equally fresh-at-their-jobs twenty-somethings is, of course, pretty heady stuff too.

Sadly, the only photographic evidence I have from my first job is this shot, taken after a promotion that scored me a real window

We Youngins hung out together. There was Larry, a Black guy who started in the mail room and graduated to copywriter. There was Tory, who lived with an ex-Radio City Rockette who could kick so high she could knock herself in the forehead. Tory’s dad worked for a paint company and named a shade after him: Tory Blue. Oh, and there was a rather scandalous girl, Dana, who wore a cape so she could bestow sexual favors in the car on the way to lunch.

Speaking of lunch, we Youngins ate together almost every day. At the health food place where the servers all lived in a yoga commune — and where Mike the Art Director liked to refer to the dessert as “monkey c*m” — or the Greek place where they served the fish with the head still on or at Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, where the guy who made your sandwich left four fingerprints in the bread because he was missing one. A finger, that is.

We also goofed around and pulled pranks. (See “Pranks for the Memories” on the joys of prank-pulling.) At Barickman, we liked to tease this one girl whose name I cannot recall — perhaps because she didn’t use her own name, but referred to herself as “BK” (“Boss’s Kid”), which she was. She was also as annoying as you probably think she was.

Oh yes, we worked too. I started by writing “donuts” for Safeway radio commercials. “Donuts” are the “holes” in the middle of an otherwise canned spot where the copy says, “Chicken breasts 89 cents a pound” or some such. I worked on Philips Petroleum, writing ads for the stuff they put in natural gas to make it smell like “gas.” And I wrote for Fleischmann’s Yeast, which is the job that took me to New York for the very first — and fateful — time.

But enough. Going down Memory Lane can be a long winding road indeed. If you’re still out there, Larry and Tory and Mike and Dana, I hope you’re enjoying lunch. And Dana? I sure hope you wisened up and ditched the cape.

New York City. May 2022

 

 

Hair hacks of the follicly-challenged

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‘Male creativity reaches the top. Of their heads’

Last week I wondered about why men never ask for directions. (See “Okay. You know where the jail is, right?” for anecdotal proof.)

This week I’m wondering about the hair-raising (they wish) contortions men put themselves through when they become follicly-challenged. (Incidentally, I thought I made up this term. Nope. It’s in the Wiktionary, right here.)

As for what men cook up topside when their locks get, well, meager, I’ve got a lot of experience here. I come from a long line of follicly-challenged men. Both my Grampas, Henry and Peterson, were thin — one on top and one all over.

My thin-all-over grampa, demonstrating a hair hack — and sporting a pretty spiffy suit to go with it

And then there was my Dad.

Dad was the first man I knew with a comb-over. Both my Grampas were unabashedly baldish. Never tried to disguise it, as I recall. Perhaps they were too busy milking cows (Peterson) and making plum wine and playing poker (Henry) to care much about hair — theirs or anyone else’s.

But my Dad was a principal in an engineering firm — Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende, which exists to this very day — and he was what you might call the “rainmaker.” He travelled all over the State of Illinois securing contracts. So he dressed nattily (See “The Days of Double-Knit Dad” for deets on his sartorial splendor) and cared a lot about grooming.

My very well-groomed Dad in (probably) an HMG company portrait

Dad wore after-shave. And lots of it. If ever I get a whiff of Old Spice (which doesn’t happen very frequently these days) it takes me back like Proust’s madeleine. And he cared about his hair. When it started to thin, he carefully combed what was left across the offending bare spots and sprayed the heck out of it. (Though the stuff he used wasn’t “hair spray;” it was called “grooming spray or something equally non-girly.)

He performed this hair trick — not fooling anyone, mind you — until one day he was zipping around on the water-skiing boat on Lake Carlyle and the breeze flipped his comb-over up like the hatch on a Delorean. One of my brothers took his picture, showed him the result — and bye-bye comb-over.

Dad on the houseboat with his comb-over — and Mom. Since this was a slow-moving boat, there was no danger of his hair doing a Delorean

Delorean-like as my Dad’s comb-over was, it couldn’t compete with one grown and maintained by a former boss of mine in Kansas City, MO. This guy, Bud Bouton, had the most elaborate comb-over ever. (I’m breaking my rule here and using his name A) because it’s “Bud Bouton,” and B) because good ole Bud is surely gone from the Advertising Arena by now — and even if he’s still with us I doubt he’s doing much blog-reading.) Bud grew his hair from the nape of his neck, swooped it up and over the top of his head and arranged it so that it looked (sort of) like he had a full head of hair, part and all. It was like he was wearing a hoodie, but made of hair.

Ah. Those KC Ad Days. There was another person there named Cleota Dack (who has also no doubt gone to Ad Person Heaven by now). When I was introduced, I had never heard the name “Cleota” before, so I kept calling her “Miss Tadack,” as in “Cleo Tadack.” She didn’t become one of my Work Friends.

But back to men and hair. The Dude is also somewhat follicly-challenged, but he has never attempted a comb-over. And he’s certainly never attempted that dreaded male hair hack, the (ugh) ponytail. (I honestly don’t get the male ponytail, not on balding men anyway. Is the theory that a ponytail is so distracting that we won’t notice the baldness?) Anyway. Count me grateful that Dude Man has not attempted this.

He has, however, tried this distracting ploy: the unfortunate mustache. And he had hair at the time (!)

Maybe The Dude leaves his poor head alone because he’s not vain. (See “Clothes Don’t Make the Dude” for hilarious proof.) Or maybe it’s because he knows I like him the way he is — hair or no hair.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind if he would just go for it and shave off what vestigial hair remains. But, as one of my brothers put it the other day, “White men with shaved heads look like thumbs.”

And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

Dude Man at a party — decidedly not looking like a thumb

Amagansett, New York. May 2022

“Okay. You know where the jail is, right?”

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‘Lost in America’

What is it with men and asking for directions?

Dude Man and I can be circling the same golf course for the third time, listening to GPS Girl intone “recalculating” over and over — but will he stop, roll down the window and ask that nice gas station guy how to get to 98th Avenue?

If you are a woman and know any men, I bet you can answer that question.

Me, looking surprised at something on a Cape May trip. Maybe a man just asked for directions

The above incident actually happened when we were driving our rental from PDX to my Favorite Sister’s house in Vancouver WA. Apparently, that golf course obliterated a former road that had been programmed into the GPS, and GPS Girl had us driving in circles trying to find it. Oh, and what is it with GPS Girl’s voice? (We were once in the car with The Child, who asked, “Why is she telling you to ‘drive to higher ground?'” GPS Girl was actually saying “drive to highlighted route.”)

Anyway. I thought of GPS Girl and the golf course just the other day when we were on our way to Cape May for our annual birding excursion. This is when we team up with a bunch of friends to trail around the woods and fields to catch the annual spring migration — of both birds and birders.

Doing a little car birding on the way to Cape May

This trip we scored many sightings, including indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, bald eagles and a batch of Belgians who attached themselves to us for a while, delighting us with their excitement over even our la-di-dah birds. “Oh! Eeet eez a cardinal, n’est-ce-pas? Oooo-la-la!!!” said the Tall Belgian. “That eez a lifer for me!”

Our group is advanced upon by a gaggle of Cape May birders

But before we could find the birds and the Belgians, we first had to make it out of the City. Which is surprisingly hard to do, even at 5:30 in the morning. Part of why it is hard is because Dude Man insists on competing with GPS Girl. She will suggest a route, and he will say something like, “She wants us to go crosstown. I think it’ll be faster taking the Drive.” (The Drive is actually the FDR Drive, a road that loops all around the tip of lower Manhattan.) It is much longer to go via the Drive, but “there won’t be any lights.” Oh. Okay. Whatever. You’re driving, not me.

The blue dot is where we live. We were on our way to the Holland Tunnel, which is where that ’78’ is. Would you loop around the tip of Manhattan? Or drive crosstown then down? Hmmm

So we drive east to ultimately go west, zooming down the Drive. Which was actually very beautiful and movie-set-like, what with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and all. But somehow, instead of the Holland Tunnel, we ended up entering the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (Naughty, naughty, GPS Girl.) Which not only goes to Brooklyn, but is really really long. There was a moment when Dude Man seriously considered pulling a U-ie. But I pointed out that not only were there were giant trucks whizzing by between us and the return route but a rather high concrete barrier.

So we drove through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which, at 9,117 feet, is the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in North America. Dude Man’s ears were spouting steam. Then, when we emerged, we had no idea how to find the entrance to the Manhattan-bound side. I saw a police car and insisted we stop and ask for directions. This time he did not argue. The nice policewoman told us to turn left at the next two stop signs, then take the ramp. But did Dude Man do this? Of course not. He drove to the next stop light instead, before finally giving in and following the route she suggested.

Being a woman, I have absolutely no problem asking for directions. (My mother, pictured at the top of the post piloting my Dad’s green truck, doesn’t either.) Once — and this was waaay before GPS Girl or any type of navigational tool except maps — I was driving a gaggle of girlfriends out to Amagansett for the weekend. We were having a high old time in the car catching up and telling stories, and I missed the Manorville exit. I figured no problem, I’d just go to the end of the LIE and drive from Riverhead. Easy-peasy.

If I saw this woman on the road, I’d ask her for directions

Except that Riverhead has this roundabout where the LIE ends, and I took the wrong “spoke,” as it were. I ended up in a rather sketchy neighborhood, and it was getting dark to boot. I really wanted out of there. So I pulled up to a woman who looked somewhat the worse for wear — but not too scary — rolled down my window and asked, “How do I get to Route 27?”

Then she starts her directions by saying, “Okay. You know where the jail is, right?”

New York City. May 2022