Why Dude Man’s not dead

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‘The crucial importance of a room of one’s own’

What with fun City events like birthday parties and opera performances and colonoscopies, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Ken & Barbie House. I was there digging its leafy wallpaper and garden views all last week, in fact.

Me, snuggling into a birthday gift amidst the leafy wallpaper

It’s less than 500 scare feet, but this clever little hideaway has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. When I get a chance to show it off, like the other day when I ran into Barbara and Danielle and Ann (hi neighbors!) in the lobby, I often point out that I am awfully glad the place, though small, is not a studio.

K & B floor plan. We still have each and every one of those precious walls

“Here’s my husband’s room,” I say, “and here’s mine.” Oddly (or maybe not so oddly), if my guest is a woman — a woman who has been married for at least ten years or so — she never suggests “knocking down that wall to join the bedrooms.” Oh no. She just smiles and nods. Maybe looks a tad wistful.

“If The Dude and I had to live in a one-room studio, he’d be dead and I’d be in jail.” is my comment while sliding open the pocket door leading to my private little lair.

Added perk of a room of your own: any light fixture your little heart desires

Oh, it’s not that I don’t absolutely adore Dude Man. I do, I really do. And he is, actually, quite easy to get along with. For a man.

Look! He’s even pals with TR. (Note companionable man-spreading)

But there’s something about a man — a man “around the house,” as they say — that is just not, well, peaceful.

After a hard day spent descaling toilets and wrestling with bedsheets and swiffing floors and stamping bills and downloading boarding passes (See “Darn! I didn’t get last month’s issue of Toilet Today for more female fuming) I can easily sink into a chair and disappear into a book.

Instructions I gave The Child on how to make my “bed:” back cushion comes off, sides fold down, sleep sack on top. Voila! And pleasant (solitary) dreams

But not Mr. Man. Is that the vacuum cleaner? In the basement? At Cocktail Hour? “What are you doing?” I yell down the stairs. “Somebody’s got to vacuum down here!” he insists. (“Actually, no. It’s the basement,” is what I’m thinking.)

But at least he does that sort of thing in Amagansett, where there’s plenty of room for me to escape from these sorts of restless male shenanigans.

Dude Man blowing leaves in his wetsuit. Notice he is wearing protective ear gear as well

At the K & B House — which new Best Buddy Ann remarked should be relabelled the Alice in Wonderland House, bless her — we have no such spatial luxury. But, on the other hand, we don’t have a basement to vacuum. Nor a driveway to blow leaves from.

We do have a piano. But it has earphones. And, yes, by golly, we have plenty of walls — and pocket doors.

Amagansett, New York. December 2021

 

 

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Buga

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‘A quick birdy peep at Colombia’

No, I didn’t pack The Skirt for our trip to Colombia. In fact, I packed hardly any clothes at all. Not that I was being racy. Oh no. It’s just that the priority for the bags was gear.

Binoculars, of course. But also backpacks and daypacks and water bottles and camera bags and headlamps and bird guides and carabiners. Many many carabiners.

Birder Dude festooned with some of his gear, utilizing many many carabiners

For those of you not familiar with this amazingly versatile device, a carabiner is a thingie that pinches open and shut and can be used to hang practically anything from anywhere. We use carabiners to hang a walking stick from a pack or a flashlight from a belt or — just yesterday — a coffee cup from a pant loop. (This coffee cup happened to be red plastic and proved to be a big hit with the hummingbirds, who kept buzzing my backside thinking I was a source of tasty nectar.)

Where the heck is he? Birders patiently stalking a skulking bird. Some sort of Ant Bird, I think. I honestly can’t recall — we’ve already seen more than 200

Forgive me in advance, oh Delightful Faithful Readers, but I am now working within a very narrow window of shared WiFi service and am not be able to populate this post with my usual array of photos. Let’s see if this movie will upload. It was taken along the roadside leaving Buga for the Andean slopes. Busy road? Who cares? Birders gotta bird.

I’m working on a vacant corner of a rustic trestle table on an outdoor deck next to the hummingbird feeders, and, speaking of feeding, may need to abort this mission so that the staff — a very cool female entrepreneur and her extended family — can set up for dinner.

Anyway. We’re on the fourth day of our Colombian Adventure. The title of this piece comes from our second destination, a town called Buga, which, I was told, was founded as a religious Mecca. This made sense; the hotel we stayed for just one night on our way to the outer slope of the Western Andes felt like The Overlook meets a monastery: old and vast and stucco. The long creepy hallways made me want to peddle on a plastic Big Wheel. Needless to say, I took the stairs instead of the elevator. If the noise that night was any indication, there are plenty of religious pilgrims who enjoy discos. But, alas, no WiFi.

But this place was merely a way station on the way to the birdy — and steep — slopes of the Andes. Where we are right now. There’s no one here right now to ask how high we are, but let’s just say I’m glad that it’s dark when we hop in the 4-wheel drive vehicles for the ride up the trail each morning. The road, incidentally, was made to erect a cell tower. There are Army Guys up there who guard it. It’s so remote and the one skinny little road is so bad — the road we took, with many scary washed-out bits — that the Army Guys’ supplies are delivered by helicopter. I hope they get a large booze ration.

The hummingbirds also like our guide’s red hat. They not only buzzed him, they kept landing on his hat

We saw the Army Guys up at the top the other morning. They looked lonely. Maybe they should start wearing red hats.

Montezuma Lodge, somewhere in the Western Andes. November 2021

BaBaRaRaCuCuDaDa

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‘The one (and only) time I swam into an underwater cave’

I’m pretty sure I mentioned that my Bro-in-law Bill stayed with us recently. (He is mentioned — in a good way — in “The House Guest Hall of Fame.”)

It all started when Dude Man had been on the phone with said Bill and announced to me, “Bill and Carol are having work done on their condo in Sarasota and he needs a place to stay while it’s going on. I told him he could stay with us. For two weeks.”

I don’t have a ton of photos of Bill. So here’s one of his brother, The Dude. Oh, and me

Well. I’ve always liked this guy, even though we did get off to a rather rocky start. He’s, um, bossy. But then again, so am I. We had a sort of Clash of the BossyPants.

I chalk it up to us both being Eldest Children. Not only are we bossy, but it’s our way or the highway. Here’s an example. We were lunching en plein air and the wives (Carole and me) had gone on ahead to set things up. Bill sees where we’ve arranged the picnic and says, “That’s not a good spot. Over there — that’s a good spot.”

Well, we did what most people would do — ignored him, filled our plates and dug in — while Bill served himself, then went over to the “good” picnic spot and ate all by himself.

Nope. Bill isn’t in this shot either. That’s Dude Man, me, Joe (who was married to Polly) and Polly, Sis of The Dude

As the years went by we mellowed. Or, as I like to think, I learned to appreciate the Billness of Bill. As he learned to appreciate the Ways of Alice.

But there is a limit. Two weeks? My mother doesn’t even stay with me for two weeks. So I said he could have two weekends and the week in between. Well, what with him arriving on a Thursday and leaving more than a week later on a Tuesday, he effectively stayed for two weeks, bless his little heart.

My Mom, during her last long visit chez moi — which was about one week. Mom! Come back! Stay longer!

As things turned out, he was an ideal guest: Didn’t expect to be entertained, didn’t track sand everywhere (thought there were copious quantities of bread crumbs) and loved what I cooked. He was amazed when I did things like wash his clothes. (Don’t be too impressed; I was doing ours anyway.) “Even Carol (his wife, remember) doesn’t fold my clothes!” he exclaimed.

Nope. Neither of these lovely people is Bill, either. But that IS a lovely shot of the bread he would buy — each and every day. And eat it all himself. Seriously

The snarky part of me (which is a very large part, I admit) must point out that we have never stayed in their condo. When invited to Sarasota for a visit, it is assumed — nay, a requirement — that we stay elsewhere. “We’re not set up for guests,” says Carol.

Dude Man and Dude Bro, during out visit to Bill’s where we had to Stay Elsewhere. Note similar bro-wear, including socks

But who’s keeping score? Bill’s almost-two-weeks went well, and besides, there was that one time we were invited to stay on Bill’s boat. And not just stay on it — to use it. You know, sail it around — and without him there.

It was a long time ago, back when my Youngest Younger Brother Doug was a fresh (high school? college? Memory fails) graduate. As it happened, the Dude’s youngest brother was about the same age, and we thought it would be a fun graduation present to take them with us on the sailing trip on Bill’s boat, the Mariposa. (Which means, I think, “butterfly”. (Could have been worse. See this New York Times piece for a funny take on boat naming.)

On a boat, on a party. But not Bill’s boat, alas. And no, I don’t know what this boat’s name was. “Party McPartyface?”

Sadly, I have no photos of this boat — except the one at the top of this post, which shows me and Bill on the deck — but I remember this as being a pretty great trip. We sailed around the Bahamas stopping at little islands and beaches and pretty much living the life of Riley — if Riley were a sailor. Oh there were a few glitches; I recall an occasion where His Dudeness commandeered one of my knitting needles to unplug the head.

I knit everywhere in those days — on the beach, on the boat. That could indeed have been the needle that doubled as a plumbing tool

I even tried some snorkeling. Those of you you’ve followed me for a while (thank you, Sweet Things!) know that the ocean and I have a healthy respect for each other. That water? It’s someone’s home. I don’t go in their living room; and they don’t come into mine. (See “Getting Along with the Neighbors” for deets.)

The kind of water I grew up swimming in. Lakes don’t move — much — and only a few bluegill call this one home

So. We’re in the Bahamas. Near the place where they filmed the James Bond movie Thunderball — the one with the underwater cave. Dude Man and the Boys all decided it would be great fun to swim in there. Only thing: you had to swim under a ledge before you emerged in the cave.

I had prepped myself for this excursion by removing my (small in carats, but big in heart) channel-set diamond wedding band. Dude saw me do this and asked why. “Because barracuda are attracted to shiny objects,” I said. “Not something that tiny,” was his retort.

 

Youngest Younger Bro Doug well before our boat trip. Nope, those are NOT barracuda, but a local fish called “crappy” — or “crappie”

Well. We get to the Thunder Ball cave and I’m, well, not so enthusiastic. I signal that I’ll wait while the Boys swim under the ledge and into the cave. They dive down and disappear. I’m sort of swimming in place when I feel a presence. I look over each shoulder, and there are not one, but two barracuda — each at least four feet long — hanging around, checking me out.

I swam under the ledge and into the cave.

Oh, before I go. If you’re wondering about the title of this piece, congratulations. You are officially a Young Person. It’s a line from an old Plymouth Barracuda radio commercial. This guy can’t pronounce the name, so this other guy coaches him: “Okay, repeat after me: Ba (guy says “ba”) Ba (“ba”) Ra (“ra”) Ra (“ra”) Cu (“cu”) Cu (“cu”) Da (“da”) Da (“da”). Got it?

“Yes! Babararacucudada!!! (Click here to hear the commercial)

Amagansett, New York. September 2021

No one ever notices what a man is wearing. Until they do.

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‘The Dude makes a sartorial splash’

I’ve written before about how Dude Man has a purely functional attitude toward clothing. If it “fits” (and by this he means he can’t tell he’s wearing it, not that it actually fits) and if it “does the job” (keeps him cool or dry or warm or covers his manly nakedness) then whatever he’s got on is a great outfit.

Hat to protect head: check. Long sleeves to protect arms: check. More thought goes in to the gear around his neck than to the rest

(My story from a few years ago called “Clothes Don’t Make The Dude” is worth another look — if only for the miner’s-light-on-the-jitney anecdote alone.)

He doesn’t really care how he looks in clothes. Which, after dating a guy who organized his closet by color and sneaked glances of himself in every mirror or store window he passed, I found rather refreshing.

He does clean up nice, though. Here he is in a serviceable suit at a wedding

And, most of the time, his clothes are so, well, the same that I honestly can’t remember what he wore or when he wore it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I mind. I’m not much of a clothes horse myself. Left to my own devices I pretty much go from workout wear to big ole sleeper tees every single day.

Dude dressed for an Occasion: same as the wedding, pretty much. But with a bow tie

Once in while, though, we do have an Occasion. Last summer, of course, there were no “occasions” to dress for, so my few summery frocks languished in the closet looking sad and lonely.

But this year, things were looking up. We had a Big Party to go to on a Saturday night. His Dudeness had pulled out his Short-Sleeved Party Shirt, when he realized the night might be nippy.

Dude rocking his Short-Sleeved Party Shirt a couple of summers ago

He was all ready to pull on a sweater when I said, “Hey, why not wear that really cool jacket that was your Dad’s? You keep meaning to wear it and it looks like tonight’s the perfect night to break it out.”

Well, he got out the jacket and proceeded to put it on over the Short-Sleeved Party Shirt.

“Oh no,” I said. “That’s waaaay too much ‘party.’ With that jacket, you need a more subdued shirt; a shirt that’ll let the jacket take center stage.”

We settled on a subtle stripe that picked up some of the green in the rather (ahem) noteworthy jacket. And I must say: This was one successful outfit. I thought my ensemble was on the attention-getting side — but no. All eyes were on The Dude.

The eyes of The Press were on Dude Man too. Here we are in Dan’s Papers

There were appreciative murmurs as he passed through the crowd in search of pigs in blankets. Many admirers commented on the fabric, the cut, the skill of the tailoring and attention to detail (sumptuous lining, meticulous pattern matching at seams and pockets). I could have been wearing a flour sack.

I tell you, that jacket was a real ice breaker. It seemed like everybody wanted to know its story. “It was my Dad’s.” “A grateful patient gave it to him.” “Yes, the label says ‘Singapore.'” “It’s hung in the closet for years; this is the first time I’ve worn it!” And “thank you” — repeated many many times.

That jacket was such a success that he wore it to another party the very next week.

Admiring comments were coming his way from every direction. This time, though, he learned the pitfall of dressing with drama.

“Hey! I remember you! How could I forget that jacket?!?

Amagansett, New York. September 2021

 

 

Darn. I didn’t get last month’s issue of “Toilet Today”

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‘I was too busy cleaning bathrooms to renew my subscription’

The ink was barely dry on last week’s “Do we have any snacks?” I was dragging the vacuum out of the closet to start in on the latest post-guest cleaning job when Dude Man pops his head in and says, “Hey, you’ve gotta come out and see how I raked the driveway!”

Dude Man, blowing leaves off the driveway while wearing a wetsuit

So now you’re getting another post about husbands and their wacky ways.

Perhaps you are half of an enlightened couple where you equally divide household chores. Your husband does laundry. Or the dishes.  Maybe he cooks once in a while–or even all the time. Well, bully for you.

At my house, I’m more or less responsible for the inside of the house: laundry, cooking, cleaning. And The Dude is responsible for the outside: lawn stuff, driveway stuff, deck stuff. Which is okay, really. Because I’m better at the indoor chores than he is, and vice versa. (Read “Random Acts of Kidness” for Dude Man’s hilarious bed-making method.) What gets my wifely goat is the fact that his chores need praising. 

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Party of Two

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‘Another anniversary celebrated in singular style’

Dude Man and I didn’t have a reception when we were married. We didn’t even have a wedding. Not really. We pledged our troth in front of a Unitarian minister in the United Nations nondenominational chapel with our parents as witnesses.

With one of our wedding guests — my mom

But, barely-boned wedding be darned, we are indeed married, and have been for 36 years. Thirty-seven years tomorrow. You can read all about this long-ago non-event — and our Carvel wedding cake — in “Winning the Dude-A-Thon.

Carvel wedding cake — and hot dog stand wedding photo

Back then we decided it would be smart — and financially prudent — to blow our teensy wedding budget on the honeymoon and have a party for our friends when we returned.

Another reason for no wedding: I’d had one before. Satisfy your curiosity with “My Polio-Shot Marriage”

Well, that didn’t happen. (The party, not the honeymoon. The honeymoon was fab. We spent part of it in a palace in Morocco owned by Malcolm Forbes. Yes, you can read about that in “Malcolm and the Duchess.”) And then we thought we’d have a first-year anniversary party. Don’t worry; you didn’t get invited because that didn’t happen either. Neither did the fifth-anniversary party. Or the tenth. Twenty-fifth? Uh-uh.

Anniversary party to which you did not get invited? Nah. Here we’re partying like it was 1999. Because it was — a Millennium-Turning “Do”

Nope. No parties. If two’s company and three’s a crowd, I guess you’d say we’ve had company for our anniversary every single year.

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She had a hat

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‘Wearing headgear well runs in the family. Too bad I didn’t get that gene.’

As you, dear Reader, know only too well, we’ve been slowly and-oh-so-surely settling in to the new Ken and Barbie House. All the Big Stuff has found a new home, and we’re on to clearing out the Little Stuff. (I am having nightly horrors about the Junk Drawer.)

We Henrys have been holding regular Family Facetime Calls with our dear Mother every Sunday, and on one of these, not too long ago, I happened to be in the middle of clearing out the coat closet. (How many mismatched gloves can one person have?!?)

My Oldest Younger Brother looks over my Facetimed shoulder and says, “Hey! There’s the Hat!” And goldarnit. There it was.

The Hat. Basically, the only one I wear. And not for “fashion”

It was easy to spot because not only is it large and furry and rather assertive and unmissable on a closet shelf, it’s pretty much the only hat I wear — being as how I only wear hats for function, not fashion.

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“Can’t we just pretend we’re dating?”

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‘There is such a thing as being too comfortable’

I was glancing through my notes looking for something fun to write about this week—yes, I keep a list of things that might go into a blog post, a practice The Child finds, for some inexplicable reason, hilarious—when I came upon this fragment: “The lady who’d take her teeth out to scare us.”

Now who would want to scare a cute little girl like this one?

See, when we were very little–little enough that a woman pushing her false teeth halfway out of her mouth would scare the bejesus out of us—we were allowed, nay encouraged, to run around our neighborhood. We respected no boundaries, rampaging across front and back yards with impunity. Apparently, this one Neighbor Lady didn’t cotton to us free-ranging around her magnolia trees (we would use the buds as ammo in our “wars”) so she used her partial plate as ammo against us.

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“I’m the Sheik of Araby”

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‘Everybody sing: “with no pants on”

So my Mom and I were on the phone the other day and I happened to mention that while The Child and her BF were playing some card game she (The Child) kept singing “Do your ears hang low” with (intentionally, I gather) the wrong lyrics. As in “Do your ears hang low…do they dangle on the floor” and so on and so forth.

But, instead of driving him quaran-crazy, she just got that song stuck in her head.

So then Mom and I started talking about those songs she’d sing when we were little and how they would get stuck in our heads: “Ay yai yai yai…O, My Sombrero” was one, and so was “On Top of Spaghetti.” (Ask your mom; she’ll probably know these too. Just don’t ask her to sing them — they’ll get stuck in your head.)

Then Mom happened to mention “The Sheik of Araby, ” which is the one where you insert “with no pants on” after every line, comme ca: “I’m the Sheik of Araby (with no pants on)…at night when you’re asleep (with no pants on)…into your tent I’ll creep (with no pants on)”

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Love in the Time of Corona

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‘Stir Crazy After All These Years’

Yes, that’s a picture of Dude Man and me with underpants on our heads. It was taken during a somewhat-normal-for-Whitmores Christmas celebration way back when. I’m not sure we were even married at that point.

This one was for sure taken before we got married. Bonus points to me for going through with it in spite of that stache

Speaking of “married”, today is our wedding anniversary. Yup, 36 years ago today we said our vows in front of a grand total of four people (five if you count the Unitarian minister). Seems we were way ahead of our time, crowd-size-wise. Though we broke the social-distancing rules, big time.

Me, dewily-newily married, with half our wedding guests. Touching was okay back then — even encouraged

We may have had a teensy wedding (see my story “Winning the Dude-A-Thon” for teensy details about the Big Day), but it seemed to have “taken”, since we’re still together and still (mostly) having a grand old time.

Hanging around Malcolm’s house on our honeymoon

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