How many people can you pack into a gazebo?

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‘No one knows — because no one has ever tried.’

Some time ago (in a piece called ‘What’s Not To Lichen?’) I wrote about stuff that families find funny. (Usually, but not always, it’s only the people actually in that family who find these things funny.) Sometimes, like in the Henry Clan, it’s bad puns. My Grampa Henry had a whole collection of particularly-awful puns. Plus dirty limericks. He wrote one once about his gall-bladder operation. He survived; fortunately, the limerick did not.

Me. Doing stand-up in a bed of you-know-what. Check out ‘What’s Not To Lichen?’ for more punishment (er, examples)

Besides awful puns (and sometimes limericks) there’s usually a set of inside jokes — groaners that never fail to amuse, at least when told (and retold) within the confines of the family itself. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “How many dead people are in that graveyard?” (Answer: “All of them.”) I know, I know. If you can stand it, a good selection of both Henry and Whitmore specialties can be found in ‘Kangaroo Walks Into A Bar’. Just don’t take a sip of coffee before you read it; there’s a Whitmore urology joke that’s killer.

Sometimes this funny family stuff can’t be categorized as a pun or a joke or even a limerick. Sometimes what’s funny just is.

Take gazebos. For some reason, if you’re a Henry, the mere sight of a gazebo is sure to crack you up. (If you’re not sure what a gazebo is, you can click here or just look at the photo at the top of this post.) If a Henry sees a gazebo, and points it out to a fellow Henry, both burst out laughing. If there’s a non-Henry along, he/she can look a bit baffled.

Two Dudes in front of an empty gazebo. Yup, I am laughing right now

Thinking gazebos are funny has just always been one of our Family Things. Partly it’s that ‘gazebo’ is such an inherently funny word. Also, they invariably look, well, silly. Kind of ornate and effete and ridiculous. It doesn’t help that they are — always — empty. Go on; try to remember the last time you saw anybody actually occupying a gazebo.

We Henrys used to try to imagine scenarios when we’d make use of a gazebo if we had one, say, in our yard in Southern Illinois. (Sit there and read a book? Nah. You’d get eaten alive by mosquitoes. But what if the gazebo had screens? Cue screams of Henry laughter.)

We thought gazebos were so silly we used to make a game of pointing out all the (empty, every single one) gazebos we could find. We’d point, then make a ‘zero’ (to indicate no one was in said gazebo). We didn’t have to say anything; we’d just ‘get it’. I once took a bike ride with my Mom and Middle Younger Brother Roger all around his lovely gazebo-dotted hometown of Geneva, Illinois. We almost fell off our Schwinns.

We Henrys are not the only ones, apparently, who find gazebos innately hilarious. Recently, John Mulaney did a Gazebo Riff during his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live. Here, I’ve cued it up for you:

Nice to know the Mulaneys were a silly family too. I can’t wait to see if he works a gall-bladder limerick into a future monologue.

Before I go, I must admit that there was one time a Henry actually used a gazebo. That I witnessed, anyway. This was a few years ago out in Petaluma, CA, where my Oldest Younger Brother Scott made an appearance at the Butter and Eggs Festival (yes, that’s a Thing) with his band, Bad Neighbor.

Bad Neighbor plays. Yes, that’s a gazebo and the band is in it. You can’t see the whole thing. But I did; I was there. But I was never in the gazebo myself

Quick note. His band got the name ‘Bad Neighbor’ because one night when they were practicing in his garage, the guy next door came over to complain about the noise and said, “You are a really bad neighbor!” To which my Bro said, “Thanks, you just named our band.” Sometimes, when just two of the four band members do a gig, they call themselves Half-Bad Neighbor.

But why play in a gazebo? Isn’t that what band shells are for?

Oh. I guess the band shell, like this one in Central Park, was otherwise occupied

New York City. May 2018

One from Column ‘A’

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‘Alice’s Adventures in Astoria. Free Schmeeg lesson included’

No, I didn’t climb the Column. Nor did I hike up the Head. (I have done both — the Column climbing and the Head hiking — but being deathly afraid of heights, believe me, once was enough.)

But the Peeps who tagged along on my recent Visit to Mom and Sis were more than game, so up they went, a-climbing and a-hiking. (The pic at the top of this post shows said Peeps peeping over the top of the Column. Which is in Astoria, Oregon. In case you’re craving column background, you can read all about it here. )

Me. Not climbing the Column (seen looming in background)

My Head. Next to the Tillamook One. (Which I am most def not hiking)

View from the top of Said Head. (Photo not taken by me)

Turns out that abstaining from heights can have its dangers too. I was pooped on by a seagull while not hiking the Head. I swore the darned thing laughed at me afterward but The Dude says there are no Laughing Gulls in the Northwest, so I guess it was my imagination. Though the icky white streak on my track pants was definitely real. Good thing I learned from previous Birding Adventures to always carry Kleenex in my pants pocket.

‘Hey! That’s Haystack Rock!’ And no, I have absolutely no idea what it is I am pointing at

Yup. We had loads of adventures on our Trip West, some not even involving heights (or bird poop). The Child and her BF and The Dude and I met up in Vancouver (the Washington One, not the British Columbian One), where my Beloved Younger and Only Sister lives, then scooted out to Seaside to see my Mom.

Seen on one of my morning Seaside Coffee Walks. My ‘free advice’? Don’t get a tattoo. Oh, and avoid seagulls — or at least walking under them

Incidentally, ‘cannibis’ (AKA ‘pot’), like tattooing, is legal Out West, and we also saw plenty of places to score (er, ‘buy’) weed on our trip. The biggest Pot Place in Seaside is located next to the police station. Though there is also one on Route 26 right next to the Dairy Queen, which seems even more appropriate. We noticed lots of activity at many emporiums like these on our drive to Seaside, since it happened to be 4/20,Though the kids did have to explain that all that pot-buying had absolutely nothing to do with Hitler’s birthday.

Chamber of Commerce nightmare. Seen across the street from the Best Mexican Restaurant ever. I forgot the name, but it’s in Seaside. Just, um, find this sign and go across the street

I’m a bit fuzzy and jet-lagged (and somewhat daunted by the prospect of washing loads of poop-festooned clothing), so I’m going to cheat a bit this week and offer you less text and more photos. Here’s some more fun signage, seen on our side trip to Astoria. Which, incidentally, was once its Own Country (sort of, anyway), founded by John Jacob Astor as a fur-trading post and his own personal kingdom.

Worlds of caffeinated options also abound in Astoria. You can’t walk 20 feet without passing a coffee shop. This one was in a converted garage

These days Astoria is a Kingdom of Hipsters, its streets studded with thrift shops, micro-breweries, and more coffee shops than you can shake a gluten-free pretzel stick at. But, predating hipsters by a long espresso shot is a place we affectionately call the Bong Store, where we made an obligatory visit. This is a place located right under the Scary-Ass Bridge (actually, the Astoria-Kegler Bridge) that sells cigars, porn, all kinds of jerky — and, yes, has a whole room full of bongs. (They also used to sell swords and scabbards. But when I asked about them, they said sorry, no more swords, but they did stock crossbows and dart guns. Oh.)

Before I forget. Here’s Mt. Hood — twice. Nobody in our group climbed it. But not because they didn’t want to

This post is getting looooong, and I have to get cracking on that laundry. But I did promise a Schmeeg lesson. This is a crazy game that involves hiding quarters and slapping tables. Here’s how my sister ‘splains it:

And here’s what it looks like when you play it:

As you can see, a Good Time Was Had By All. Save the quarters you get in change from that Pot Purchase, and go ahead and try out some Schmeeg. See you next week — and thanks again for your hospitality, Sister and Mom!

Our Seaside Selfie Selves say ‘so long and see you soon!’

New York City. April 2018

“I see by your outfit that you are a birder”

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‘On the Streets of Laredo, way back when — and now’

Nobody goes to Laredo,” says my Texan Friend. Well, call me ‘Nobody’ then, because I’ve not only been to Laredo, I’ve been there twice.

This most recent time shouldn’t really count, since The Dude and I were there not even a whole day, Laredo being merely the ‘end point’ of our birding adventure to the Rio Grande Valley, tales of which I will regale you with another time. Or not. But count it I will, since we did in fact “go walking on the streets of Laredo”, to quote the Immortal Johnny Cash.

We didn’t spy any “young cowboys all dressed in white linen”. Or any cowboys at all. Well, except for these hombres:

The only cowboys we spied. And they were hanging out at the airport, not walking on the streets like any self-respecting Laredo cowboy

No, the time I spent in Laredo that really counts is the time I went there as part of a trip made with my Gramma and Grampa Peterson and my Aunt Marilyn. Continue reading

The Red Shoes (on)

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‘When saying it wrong is too cute to correct’

I was feeling kind of empty, the Australian Open being over and all (oh where will I get my Federer Fix?), so I called my Mom.

(Let me say right off the bat that I am ever so grateful to have a Mom, and that having one as smart and funny and almost-always-available by iPhone as mine is, well that’s just cosmic icing on the cake.)

So, anyway. After discussing various relatives and their illnesses and books and movies and baseball (she doesn’t follow tennis, but I love her anyway), and the Fate of the Nation in General, we got around to my blog. And the fact that my Mom had, yet again, tried to post a comment that didn’t ‘take’. (We won’t go into technical details, except to note that my Mom is extremely tech-savvy, more than I am, in fact. She has personally designed her own emoji. So I am stymied about why/how she can’t post comments. Sigh.)

My Mom and Dad and my Peterson Grandparents, when I was adorably small and in no need of shoes, red or not red

Her comment? It was in reference to last week’s post which, if you recall, was about me feeling like it was about time already to be giving away certain stuff in my closet and was titled ‘At least it’s not a dead-squirrel stole’. Continue reading

Is that stocking half full, or half empty?

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‘The Philosophy of Gift-giving. It’s all how you look at it.’

One of the few times I saw my mother weep was one Christmas when she opened a gaily-wrapped package only to discover that my well-meaning father had given her an electric toothbrush. “It’s the latest thing,” he protested as he tried to comfort her. It didn’t help when he pointed out that it came with different heads, one for each member of our family.

Poor Dad. He was one of those well-meaning people who give gifts that they really want. He loved gadgets; ergo, Mom got gadgets. I think it was the next Christmas that he gave her the electric knife.

My Mom later told us about a Christmas when she was very little — a Christmas when she really really wanted roller skates. There was a largish, heavyish roller-skate-appropriate box under the tree that looked promising. But her Uncle Warren Who Liked To Tease (didn’t everyone have one of these?) kept telling her it was a hair ribbon. Poor Mom.

I’m not sure if this was the Christmas Of The Electric Knife. Or the Christmas Of The Electric Toothbrush

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“I’ll take a hot foot sandwich, please.”

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‘It’s August. Grab those beachy memories while you can.’

Somebody wise once said that August is like the Sunday of Summer. (I think it was me, actually, but it’s the kind of thing that more than one wise person certainly could have come up with.)

Now I’ve written about this bittersweet end-of-summer stuff before, in ‘Yup. Even Slackers Get the Labor Day Blues’ and ‘The Days Are Long, But the Season is Short’. But, hey, it’s my blog and I’m feeling, well, a tad ‘Augusty’.

How many times did I get out the boogie boards this summer? Do you have to ask?

I’m pretty sure you know what I mean. It’s like you’ve just dusted off your white bucks on Memorial Day and then you realize Labor Day is coming up and you’ll just have to put them away again without having worn them even once. Or like you told yourself you’d have plenty of time to go through all the photos from that birding trip to Africa and make a book out of them already. And, speaking of books, please don’t get me started on yes, this summer I’ll get my act together and find an agent and/or a publisher to turn my stories into a real pages-and-ink book.

Stories? You bet I have stories. Some didn’t have such a happy ending. Just ask that Belgian guy in the back

But enough whining. Speaking of summers and beaches, here’s a joke that’s a favorite of my mom’s. She tells it best, but I’ll give it a shot. Continue reading

Stars in stripes

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‘Looking back and forth on the Fourth’

For the past several summers we’ve had this fun Fourth of July tradition where we let The Child fill up our house with as many of her friends as we have beds to lay their pretty little heads on. Sometimes it’s guys and girls; sometimes ‘just’ girls. The Dude and I are happy with either arrangement, though we have noticed that when it’s girls-only, the Young Friends seem more inclined to activity — like going to the beach, hopping on the bikes, or heading into town to catch what’s up at The Talkhouse.  

Last year’s crop of Nation’s Birthday Beauties. Haven’t wrestled this year’s photo out of The Dude’s camera yet. But, trust me, they’re equally sparkly

(The guys, when the guest list includes them, seem content to hang around The Compound, sipping beer and, well, being content. Sometimes they bestir themselves to demonstrate their CrossFit routines; there was a Matt-shaped indentation in our lawn for a few post-Fourth days one year. Oh, and one other memorable Fourth, Somebody’s BF soaked his iPhone in our hot tub, though not intentionally. BTW, putting a soaked iPhone into a jar of rice does not dry it out, no matter what you may have read on the internet.)

Speaking of food, this year I inaugurated a new tradition: The USA Birthday Cake. From Carvel, of course. No, we didn’t sing

But hey, anything anybody wants to do — or not do — is A-okay with me. I’m happy to provide food — beaucoup de food — and stay the heck out of the way. I was in the kitchen in the midst of doing just that when one of this year’s Young Lovelies (and they are — lovely — each and every one of them) strolled by on her way to the pool, and I happened to catch the unmistakable whiff of — Coppertone.

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“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”?

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‘Not so fast, Facebook Friends. Not so fast.’

I was all ready to write an amusing Memory Lane type tale about my first Real Summer Job (the kind that did not involve babysitting, but did involve the procurement of a Social Security Card), when I saw this on Facebook:

Posted on June 25. Exactly six months before Christmas. I get it, I get it. But I don’t want to play, OK?

So, excuse me, but the First Real Job at the Carlyle Union Banner story will just have to wait. Because (speaking of waiting) I plan to wait till at least after Thanksgiving to begin my own Countdown to Christmas. A “countdown” that will be “brutish and short”, if not “nasty” (sorry, Thomas Hobbes).

Those of you who have read my rants (er, pieces) for a while know that Thanksgiving — not Christmas — is my absolute A-Number-One Favorite Holiday. Christmas, with its obligatory gift-and-tip-giving and endless trapped-in-an-elevator playings of “Little Drummer Boy” doesn’t even come close. (For an amusing and non-crabby recounting of Five Big Ways Christmas can’t hold even a red cinnamon-scented candle to Thanksgiving, just click here.)

‘Little Children Forced to Greet Benevolent Uncles dressed as Scary Santas’ isn’t on my list, but probably should be

The other reason I’m not even close to being ready for a Countdown to Christmas is that I haven’t even begun my Countdown to the Fourth yet. And the Fourth of July is coming up this very next weekend. So I’d better get a wiggle on, as they say where I come from. Continue reading

“I do, I do. I really do like weddings.”

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‘After all, what’s not to like about a big ole party with champagne and dancing?’

There was a long dry spell there for a while. But I’m happy to report that not only is June bustin’ out all over, but so are the weddings. Not only are we going to a dandy weekend-long affair in a couple of weeks, but we just found out Nephew Chris and Squeeze Sarah are engaged. (I was going to use some corny euphemism like ‘getting hitched’, ‘tying the knot’, or maybe even ‘making things legal’, but restrained myself. Though I could not resist saying ‘Squeeze’. Oh well.)

Nephew on the left: engaged to be married. Nephew on the right: just got married. Yes, this is how I picture them in my Auntly Mind’s Eye

The long dry spell was because The Dude and I are long past the stage of going-to-friends’-and-relatives’ weddings and have finally broken into going-to-friends’-and-relatives’-kids’ weddings.  (There was a blip in there with a few do-overs, including my own, but not many, I’m sad/happy to say. My First Wedding is now a fond memory and funny story called ‘My Polio-Shot Marriage.’) Continue reading

“I’m watchin’ him!”

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

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

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

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

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

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