“If you’re cold, put on a sweater.”

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‘And keep your paws off that thermostat.’

The other day I rushed home from an event and found myself stripping off layers as I strode through the door, said event having taken place at a particularly overheated venue. Every stitch I was wearing had to go in the laundry or the (ka-ching) dry cleaning pile. (The Child, on her last visit home: “Mom! Do you know what they charge at that dry cleaner’s on Lex?”)

Honestly. I swear I don’t know what’s happened this winter. Every place I go — restaurants, museums, busses, the subway, the opera even — has the heat cranked up to the absolute max. Could it be that people are cold from all those outdoor activities during Covid? (I must admit I did not take part in these, at least not voluntarily. Oh, there was the occasional outdoor restaurant date with Concerned Covid-Avoiders, but few in my cohort really got into Outdoor Covid Stuff — unless it was something that usually happens outdoors anyway. Like, say, a picnic. In summer.)

Here’s someone who looks really cold. An not because I turned down the heat, but because it was, like -29 up there in Canada

While I can’t control the heat in public places, I like to think I can do so at home. But there’s the indisputable fact that I do not have exclusive control of the thermostat.

Nope. Dude Man lives here too. And, as I like to say, our marriage runs hot and cold. As in I’m always hot, and he’s always cold.

(And before you get all kinds of snarky ideas about the state of my hormones, my overheatedness has nothing to do with that.)

One of the reasons he’s always cold: Dude Man wears a tee shirt, no matter the weather. At least here he has a nice warm kitty to hand

It’s just that I’ve always “run hot.” My mom was the same way. In fact, she’s the one who used to say not to touch the thermostat and if you were cold to go put on a sweater. Of course back when I was growing up, keeping the thermostat on the low side was done more to save money than because everybody liked a cool house. This was even more apparent in the summer, when the air conditioning was not only set to a high temperature, but only turned on when company showed up.

Sometimes, instead of sweaters, my family would put on spoons

So yes. I tell Dude Man to go put on a sweater when he’s cold. Of course this is a guy who likes to sit around in a tee shirt even in the depths of winter. Often clad only in his underpants as well. (See “I’m the sheik of Araby.” for hilarious — and swear-on-a-stack-of-Bibles-true — details.)

Helmet: check. Shirt: check. But pants?

You may or may not know this about me, but I am never not knitting a sweater. And, trust me, I’ve knit The Dude dozens: pullovers, argyle vests, grampa sweaters with pockets, even a camel number with leather buttons stamped with little camels. Which he never ever wears.

My latest sweater, featured in an Instagram post by the pattern designer. Nope, it isn’t for The Dude

On the rare occasion when I can get Dude Man to put something on over his tee shirt, it’s invariably something in polar fleece. So, no. I don’t knit him sweaters anymore. (See “Is that for me?” for more.) And while I’m beefing, what is it about Cold People always marrying Hot People? Personally, I have yet to meet a couple who is thermostatically matched.

Someone who actually wears the sweaters I knit. (And not just for a photo, like His Dudeness is in the shot at the top of this story)

Someone else who actually wears my sweaters. But then, he is a baby and has no choice

But, as I’ve pointed out in the past, I am rapidly turning into my mother. (Heaven knows I am looking rather uncannily more and more like her every day.) And Mom has gone from running hot — to She Who is Always Cold.

That’s Laura on the right. That person on the left morphing into my mother — is me. (Note Mom swathed in warm scarf)

Perhaps, one day, it will be my turn to be She Who Is Always Cold. Until then, I’m hogging the thermostat.

Amagansett, New York. January 2023

 

Time to undeck those halls

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‘Christmas is a wrap.’

No, I didn’t have to go to the City last week.

There I was, comfortably ensconced on our well-worn Amagansett couch — pile of knitting on my left, stack of New Yorkers on my right — when I realized that I had not seen the Metropolitan Museum Christmas tree.

That’s me, making like a Medieval ornament at the Met

I had nary a doctor’s appointment or lunch date or party invitation. My calendar was clean. But I knew that if I didn’t get myself back to the City and up to the Met, I would miss seeing the Christmas tree. Because, like almost every other Christmassy Thing in New York City, it would disappear after January 6.

January 6, you see, is Epiphany. Or Three Kings Day. Or the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Whatever you call it — well, except for the Day The “Patriots” Stormed the Capitol — it is more or less the end of Christmas. (Hmmm, I guess the Day They Stormed the Capitol was kinda the end of Christmas, too.)

But back to decorations. After January 6, people untrim their trees, dismantle their mantels, take down their lights. Well, except for the Russian Tea Room. They famously leave theirs up all year ’round.

She’s not Russian, and this isn’t a tea room, but I have a friend who decided to leave this up all year round. And who wouldn’t?

To be honest, taking down the decorations used to be my favorite part of Christmas.

Oh, I enjoyed looking at decorations. As long as someone else put them up. For some reason I’ve never been fond of hanging shiny balls or strewing tinsel. And don’t get me started about stringing lights. (See one of my takes on this in “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly.”)

The extent of our Amagansett Christmas decor: a bowl of ornaments

Why, back in the day I disliked decorating so much that I used to bribe my friends with champagne and pot roast to get them to come over and decorate the tree for me. (See “(N)o Tannenbaum” for delicious deets.) This went on for years until The Child grew up and left the house — taking my Tree Trim urge right with her.

Our last Tree Trim Party. We held it on Jan. 6 and “undecorated” the tree. Needless to say, this tradition did not “stick”

But somehow this year felt different. I liked looking at all the pretty lights. I liked smelling all the evergreens. I even liked setting out my bowl of ornaments and my little ceramic tree with the teensy train that goes round and round its base.

And I kinda didn’t want to put them away.

But put them away I did. Then went and poured myself a bourbon.

The little ceramic tree, before I (sniff) put it away

New York City. January 2023

 

 

Governor’s Pen Is Busy

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‘A funny story about…editing.’

Editing is kind of like housekeeping. When you’re doing a good job, nobody notices your work. But put that comma in the wrong place or flub up on “it’s vs. its,” and it’s like you left dirty dishes in the sink, the laundry unfolded or the bed unmade.

There were many comments on this recent Facebook post. Mine was: “No, it means you don’t know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re'”

There was a book that came out a few years ago called Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, commas really do make a difference that showed how misplaced punctuation can not only feel untidy but can cause some pretty funny misunderstandings. To illustrate, just take the comma out of that title, (or the subtitle, for that matter) — completely different meaning.

Does this mean that “Live alligators stay on boardwalks”? (In which case that’s the last place I’d want to be) or that I should stay on boardwalks?

Another example from the book: a sign saying “Eat here and get gas” instead of “Eat here, and get gas” could make you drive right on by, even with an almost-empty tank. 

I was chatting just the other day with the Only Person I Have Met in New York Who Also Went to The University of Missouri Journalism School (hi Kim!). We were reminiscing about those Golden Olden Days and about how we both worked at the Columbia Missourian, which was an actual daily newspaper — not a campus paper — where J-School students were required to work in order to graduate. Kind of a cool trade: free labor for the paper in exchange for real-world work experience.

Rare photo of me while attending the U of Mo. That’s my BF Larry, he of “Larry and the Nose Holes” fame

We talked about our professors — Kim: “Mr. D was a terrible teacher.” Me: “U of Mo J-School advertising professors were the living definition of the adage ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.'” (nice comma workout, that.)

I don’t really have a quibble about this sign or its comma placement. I just get a kick out of it — and wonder what the heck the “etc” snakes are. Anaconda? Vipers? Spitting cobra?

But I completely forgot to tell Kim my editing story. Like I mentioned, we all had jobs on the good ole Columbia Missourian. For we students with hopes for an advertising career, this work was pretty grim. Because it was a newspaper, there wasn’t much chance to flex our creative muscles. Nope, we worked in Ad Sales, which was kind of the college equivalent of selling Girl Scout Cookies. I was terrible at this. “You wouldn’t want to buy any cookies today, would you?” didn’t translate very well to selling ads to shoe stores.

Me, in my dorm room, having a blast between bouts of (not) selling ads

But it sure looked like the kids who worked as editors had fun. There on the wall of the newsroom was a framed front page of a bygone issue. Featured there, above the fold, was a story about a flurry of legislative activity — Columbia was the state capital as well as the site of the university. The headline? Governor’s Pen Is Busy.

Only the editor left out the space between “pen” and ‘”is.”

Amagansett, New York. March 2022

 

 

It’s been an Apocalypto kind of day

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‘On watching movies more than once’

I know I know. I’m not the only person who watches the same movie more than once. For instance, many people have special Christmas movies. “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “Love Actually.” “A Christmas Carol” in one of its many variations. (I like the Muppet One best. Those rat muppets in the hula skirts singing “We’re Havin’ A Heat Wave” after Michael Caine’s Scrooge threatens to fire them for asking for more coal are eminently re-watchable.)

When we were at The Child’s for the holidays, she insisted on watching “White Christmas.” She even sang along to “Snow.” Which warmed the cockles of my tradition-loving motherly heart– see “Taking Motherhood to a Whole New Level” for non-movie-watching activities involving scary heights–since we used to watch this every Christmas when she was an Actual Child. She sang along to “Snow” then, too.

She also insisted that the new James Bond film was a Christmas movie. And who am I to argue? I think Die Hard is a Christmas movie

And I know a lot of people–besides myself, I mean–who have watched really good, really classic movies more than one time. I’m talking “The Godfather” here, folks. Which, in my humble opinion–plus a lot of other not-so-humble people’s–is The Best Movie Ever Made. Seriously. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this stupid blog post and load ‘er up. There’s a restored 50th anniversary version (gasp! fifty years!) but any ole version will do. I just watched it again for the umpteenth time on my iPad because I couldn’t figure out how to use the “universal control” on the Big New TV that basically ate the den in Amagansett. Sigh.

Anyway. Back to movies. In this really good, really classic category I also include “All About Eve” and “Fargo.” And hey, “Jaws.” Seriously. Just because “Jaws” has sharks and such doesn’t mean it isn’t a classic. I just wish Spielberg had dispensed already with the mechanical shark. It was silly and he didn’t need it. Boys with their toys. (Another big sigh goes here.)

Marge “SunofaGunderson” in “Fargo.” Hey. It’s a beautiful day. And is that your buddy there? In the chipper?

I love these movies so much I could “do” them for you. By which I mean I could quote huge chunks of dialog while mimicking the actions too. All it takes is a cocktail. One cocktail.

No, what I am talking about in the title of this piece is the kind of movie that really doesn’t have any rhyme nor reason to be repeatable. Like, it isn’t a “classic,” in the sense of having film-school classes organized around it. (See anything Orson Welles.) And it isn’t inextricably linked to a Major Holiday. (See “Bad Santa.” Or not.)

No. This kind of movie is the antidote to a mood. Like, today I had one of those kinds of days where little irksome things kept happening. Blinky warning lights on devices. Pieces published on websites with question marks in odd places. Not being able to locate a record locator. That kind of stuff.

So. I had an irresistible urge to watch “Apocalypto.” Now, this is a movie I had never heard of until I happened to be visiting Second Oldest Younger Brother Roger one time and he happened to have it on hand. “Want to watch Apocalypto?” he asked. “Not my kind of movie,” I replied.

The DVD case for Apocalypto doesn’t exactly make a case for watching it

“Not your kind of movie, eh? We’ll just see about that,” Middle Younger Bro wisely said, slipping the DVD into the little slidey thingie.

Of course he was right. From the opening scene where a huge boar gets trapped and gobbled up raw by extremely attractive scantily-clad men (Jaguar Paw is, well, grrrr!) to the wild treks through the jungle and the Mayan rip-their-hearts-out (literally) sacrifice scene to the really ironic ending, it’s a keeper. And, oddly enough, an antidote to whatever nonsense is happening in your life. It puts being on interminable hold in proper perspective for sure. (See “A Life on Hold.” Or not. Maybe just watch “Apocalypto.”)

My fairly routine need for an “Apocalypto Fix” has even entered the Henry Family Lexicon. When we are on our Sunday Night Family FaceTime calls, if I happen to look a little downcast, one of my bros will say something like, “Looks like you could use a little Apocalypto.”

The weekly gathering of the Henry Clan. “Apocalypto” may be mentioned

Incidentally, The Dude claims not to understand how I can want to watch a movie more than once. He says you don’t need to because “you already know what happens.” But then, this is the same guy who once watched “Four Weddings and a Funeral” twice–in one session. (He was having a particularly bad day.)

But did I watch “Apocalypto” last night? Nope. I went to the opera to see Rodelinda. Which is a rarely performed Handel opera. With two count-’em-two countertenors. I hadn’t seen it when I took the rather grim selfie at the top of this post. And now? Those Handel-y rhythms soothed this savage breast so well that it pushed “Apocalypto” right out of my head.

Well, until tonight anyway.

New York City. March 2022

If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the hardware store

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‘Shopping local means lots of local color’

It’s been really hot here in Amagansett, though not as hot as it was the last time my Middle Younger Brother Roger was here.

That time it was so hot that you couldn’t walk on the sand without burning your feet. My poor wilted sister in law, the amazing Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn, was loath to leave the library, the one air-conditioned room in the house. (The AC is for the books, you see. To keep them from molding. People, at least most of them, don’t mold. So the rest of the house doesn’t need it.)

Before Roger and Jenn melted down into viscous puddles like the Wicked Witch of the West, they did manage an outing. Roger: “Where can I get an Amagansett hat?” Me: “Herb has Amagansett hats. Go see Herb. At the hardware store. Herb’ll fix you up.” (Now, I don’t have a photo of Herb’s hardware store — inside or out — but the shot at the top of this story shows The Child and me standing out front a few years ago.)

Everyone knows you can’t wear your Amagansett hat in Amagansett. Here Dude Man is seen wearing his on a plane to Borneo

Now, my Brother Roger is the kind of guy you could drop into the middle of the Sahara Desert and he’d make ten new friends in the first ten minutes. And Herb? Well, suffice it to say that Herb is a Local Character who defies easy description.

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The one where my life is like a Friends episode

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‘Art imitates Life. Or is it the other way ’round?’

After I wrote last week’s smoke-alarm story — “Things That Go Shriek In The Night,” in case you missed it — I got a message from my pal Nancy (hi Nancy!) who said it reminded her of the Friends episode where Phoebe tried to bash and smother her crazy smoke alarm into submission. Here’s a taste:

So who came up with this bit first, Friends — or me? My friend Terril (hi Terril!) remembers that she was a houseguest back in the nineties when my bashing-with-the-broom incident occurred. She said, “I woke up in middle of the night and through a window I could see you downstairs — standing on a chair while wearing just a t-shirt and swatting at a screaming smoke alarm with a broom. I thought it best not to get in the middle of the warfare. Might have gotten clobbered with a broom handle if I’d gone downstairs and said ‘So, Alice…what’s up?'” Good call, Terril. Good call.

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And now for something completely different

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‘Trying desperately to distract myself from thinking of tomorrow’s (gulp) shot’

Last week I promised to come up with something fun today, in spite of the fact that it is Injection Eve. (For those of you who didn’t read last week’s post, here it is, but basically it’s me whining about having to get a steroid shot to help me deal with herniated discs. To say that I am “nervous” would be like saying Trump is “unpleasant.”)

“Please fill out one form per body part” Um, okay

Other than filling out forms and sweating bullets, there’s nothing more to be done to prepare myself for this procedure. So I’m just going to try to distract myself by thinking of nice and/or silly things. Like being at my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration last year, which was both silly and nice.

Two of my very favorite women: my Mom and my Personal Child

Speaking of nice things to think about, just try not to smile and/or “awwww” over these little guys. (Yes, I made those sweaters. And already posted pictures of them. But now you can see how much better they look with cute babies filling them out.)

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Queen Elizabeth and I both put our tights on one leg at a time

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‘And we both sit down on the bed first’

I’m not all that cagey about revealing my age. Though it does bug me to be asked. Usually, unless the person asking is a government official or someone hinting that I deserve the Senior Discount, I just smile and say that I’m old enough to remember when Sir Paul was a Beatle. They get the idea. And I get the discount.

Note to Young Persons in Positions Serving the Public (movie ticket sellers, museum fee gatherers and the like): if someone wants the Senior Discount, she will ask for the Senior Discount. MoMA won’t make any new Friends if you suggest that discount to someone you in your dewy-eyed wisdom deem eligible. Trust me; I know whereof I speak.

The Dude and me on a recent tights-wearing occasion. It was me wearing the tights

But back to Queen Elizabeth and me. You know that old (speaking of old) saying, don’t you? The one about The King of England and the lowliest commoner both putting their pants on one leg at a time? Well, I realized last Tuesday that I am now just like Her Highness, at least in the Getting Up There Department. Because, when I put on my tights, I sat down on the bed first.

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A rose by any other name is, well, a rosé

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‘More fun with mispronounciation’

Yes, yes. I know that it’s really “mispronunciation”. I just wanted to mess with you a little. And to see if you (like me) are operating on less than all your mental cylinders.

Red, white, and blue-sky blue. That’s me in Summer Mode

See, it’s hard to focus on stuff like a Weekly Blog when it’s as gorgeous as it is here, both weather-wise and scenery-wise. Though having one of my stories published in an actual newspaper — the kind that uses actual ink and is sold on actual newsstands and lands ker-plunk on actual doorsteps — gave me a nice boost. Here’s the story in case you are not one of the East Hampton Star’s many discerning subscribers: it’s called House Guest Hall of Fame.

One of the ways it’s NOT so gorgeous out here. Traffic like this is one of the reasons I almost never leave The Compound

Speaking of house guests, it’s also been hard to focus because I’ve had my share of them lately. And, thank the Hospitality Gods, they were all good guests. First I had my Bridge Buddy Pajama Party. (No photos exist, thank the Embarrassment Gods, since we did get up to some negroni-fueled hijinks.) Then the Chocolate-Company-Owning Nephew and Niece with the Three Adorable Daughters paid a visit.

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Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

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‘Lutheran Liar here with some late-breaking news’

Those of you who have followed my blog lo these many moons (thank you, and bless you all) may have noticed, popping up here and there in my stories of growing up in the Mid-Century Midwest or in my tales of cohabiting with The Dude and The Child in New York or even in my reports of tangling with snakes in the jungles of Africa and Advertising — a certain dream of mine. Which is a wish to be published. Well, published other than by me.

Me, when I “published” my first pieces. In a newspaper I wrote and ran off on the Carlyle Grade School mimeograph machine

See, writers (writers like me, anyway) not only love writing, they love knowing that people are reading their writing. After posting these stories each week, I try not to compulsively check my stats to see how many readers I’ve snagged. There Writer Madness lies. But, every once in a while when I sneak a peek, I must admit that I get a complete and total rush when something that I’ve written strikes a spike-in-stats chord.

Me, when I see a spike in my stats

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