On fillers and dingbats

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‘Fun facts I’ve gleaned from newspapers read aloud’

Who knew so many people keep chickens? Dude Man has a pal named Andy who has chickens. He’s always begging us to take some eggs, but we turn him down because with no little kids we could dye Easter eggs with (for example) the two of us don’t really go through that many eggs. Besides, Dude’s cousin’s son’s fiancee just gave us a dozen from her chickens.

My Favorite Sister gets ready to use up some eggs. Too bad she doesn’t live close enough to get regifted some Andy Eggs. (And for other purposes)

Our recent eggs-plosion prompted The Dude to ask just how long eggs keep. (I think he was wondering if we could reasonably accept Andy’s offer.) I didn’t know exactly, but I told him that I’d read somewhere that you can tell how fresh an egg is by putting it in water and seeing if it floats. Apparently, the older an egg is the more air it has inside it. Old eggs float.

You can also tell if an egg is raw or cooked by spinning it around. Raw eggs wobble; cooked ones don’t.

Frittata. It’s what’s for dinner. Sometimes, but not often enough to justify egg gifts

Both of these fun facts were things I learned from “fillers.” See, back when newspaper pages were set in lead type, more often than not the pages would come out uneven. There would be a little gap at the bottom that would need to be filled so that the page could print. (If you left the gap, all the type on that page would fall out; not a happy outcome.)

So the typesetters had a stock batch of what they called “fillers,” which were little bits of oddball news (“Man with no teeth shoots family when served pork chops”) or stray information (“How to tell if an egg is fresh.”) They’d stick in a filler, et voila! The page could print.

[Sometimes, if the space was sparse, they’d stick in a dingbat. Which, originally, was a little bit of decorative type. These days “dingbat” means something incomprehensible (to me, anyway) about coding.]

Youngest Younger Brother Doug searches the paper for upside-down dingbats

Well, fillers, like lead type, have gone the way of the dodo. Heck, lots of people don’t even bother with newspapers-on-paper anymore, opting to consume news electronically. What do they put in the bottoms of their birdcages? How do they send a dead fish as a warning to a rival mobster? Inquiring minds want to know.

But back to my egg-fact filler. I fudged a bit earlier when I said that I’d read that fun fact about fresh vs. rottenness, egg-wise. More likely, it was read to me by my mother.

See, my mother (pictured at top devouring a newspaper while lying on a couch in a ski lodge) is The World’s Most Avid Newspaper Reader. She will read every newspaper she can get her hands on, from big-city dailies to small-town weeklies to those free shopping circulars that stuff up your mailbox.

Mom consuming media the good ole Midcentury Modern Way. (No, that’s not a cigarette she’s holding. At least I don’t think so)

And she doesn’t just read those newspapers — she reads the interesting bits aloud to one and sundry, usually while consuming copious quantities of coffee. (Swedes are the World’s Highest Consumers of Coffee; not sure where they rank, newspaper-reading-aloud-wise, though my late lamented Mother-In-Law, she of the Stuffed Peppers With No Peppers, also read the paper out loud. And no, she was not Swedish.)

I used to find this habit somewhat annoying. Not super annoying, like gum-chewing. More annoying along the lines of tuneless humming or singing popular songs with the wrong lyrics. But in these pandemic times, I would give anything to be sitting at a kitchen table listening to my Mom warble “On Top of Spaghetti, All Covered With Cheese.”

Or read aloud a filler about old eggs. 

Missing you, Mom. Hope you had an Easter filled with fresh eggs and even fresher newspapers

Amagansett, New York. April 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Song of My Selfie

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‘A Whitman’s Sampler’

“I am large, I contain multitudes.” So sayeth the Internet, no doubt referring to those self-portraits otherwise known as “selfies”. Now I should point out, before I get too carried away with my mangling of Leaves of Grass, that the portrait at the top of this post is not actually a selfie. It may be difficult to imagine in this age of the ubiquitous hand-held device, but there were no cellphones in Seventeenth Century Holland. Though it sure looks as though those burghers are hamming it up for Instagram, doesn’t it?

Twenty-First Century Burgher Selfie. As you can see, I am not immune to the lure of the self-portrait. Even when being run down by a bike messenger

Speaking of hamming it up, I’ve been known to indulge in the odd selfie. In fact, I’ll be peppering this post with a few of my favorites — because why not? Continue reading

Driving the Unicorn

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‘I’ve never bought a car. Not a new one, anyway.’

A couple of weeks ago I revealed to all and sundry that I have never, in all my grownup life, bought a couch. (See the aptly-named “I have never bought a couch” for deets.) Not buying a couch, I mused, meant that I’m probably not really a grownup.

Well, today I’m going to admit that I have never bought a car, either. Well, I have bought a car — an old Austin America, which I’ll tell you about in a sec — but I’ve never bought a new car. Where you go in a showroom and talk to a car dealer. You know, like that guy Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo”.

I remember going to the showroom with my whole family to buy this Ford station wagon. It was brown and cream and smelled amazing

I got to thinking about this whole new-car thing because we just got back from our annual Best-Friends-in-the-Catskills Visit. (See “Take me home, Country Road” for a nice tale about them.) Said Best Friends always have a new car — they lease a brand-new Mercedes every year. (Something to do with business or some such.) Continue reading

The Coat of Many Stories

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‘Ratty and faded, but I just can’t bear to part with it’

I can understand why some people might be into the so-called “life-changing magic of tidying up”. But I’m no Marie Kondo. Not when it comes to discarding certain tattered treasures in my closet, at any rate.

Take this coat. Please. I bought it at the Gap, along with a teensy matching version, way back when The Child was actually a child. As you can see, we had a kind of Mother/Daughter Thing going on.

Two peas in their pods. Er, bright, shiny, new, and very red coats

Well, time went by and The Child grew out of hers. I’m sure we “handed it on” to some even-smaller child somewhere. So we never got a chance to see it get faded and tattered. But mine?

The Child, still childlike here, has outgrown and passed on her coat. Not me. Not sure if Middle Younger Brother Roger and gorgeous Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jen still sport those snappy jackets

Why do I stubbornly hang on to this coat? Is it because it’s…red? I ask this because I have another article of clothing I can’t bear to part with which happens to share the same hue — as well as some of the same history. Continue reading

Gorilla My Dreams

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‘The Silverback makes my previous Ape Alpha Male look like Chimp Change’

You may recall my relatively-recent story about that Playboy Monkey the Alpha Male Chimp. (It’s called ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’.) Mr. Alpha was one fascinating fellow; he postured, he posed, and he made satisfyingly movie-sound-track-like crazy chimp sounds as he ran around slapping tree trunks to show off his chimp cojones.

One of our merry Birding and Chimp-Tracking band made a little movie on his iPhone and was just about to play it back when the leader of our Primate Patrol cautioned him against doing so. The crazy chimp squeals on the soundtrack would cause Said Alpha to attack us. Oh.

But intimidating as he was, Mr. Head Chimp was an organ-grinder’s sidekick compared to the Silverback. Who is Head Dude of the gorillas, and well, a whole different animal. (The ‘gorilla’ featured in the picture at the top of this post is about as real as a unicorn. Though we did get to see Real Gorillas. And we were much much closer to them than we were to that silly gorilla statue.)

No, we weren’t camping. Nor were we in ‘executive budget rooms’. But we did find us some gorillas

This get-to-know gorillas experience occurred when we were in the Buhoma area of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Our tour company, the inestimable Field Guides, had warned us that the Mountain Gorillas were hard to find, even though they were “habituated”. Which meant that they were (sort of) used to people. We could spend an hour with a gorilla troupe, provided we could find one, and, um, provided with suitable protection.

No, she is not a guerrilla leader — she was our gorilla leader. And yes that is a machete she’s holding

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The A-Hole Car

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‘Dealing with a gang of turkeys on Amtrak’

Actually, I wasn’t sure what to call that bunch of turkeys. Except not to call them for dinner (ba-da-bum). So I checked good ole Google. Turns out there are a variety of terms: ‘muster’, ‘posse’, ‘rafter’ being among them. The only one I decided against was ‘school’, since the ‘gang’ I’m going to describe seemed decidedly uneducated. At least in the mores and folkways of polite train-riding.

The story I’m going to tell happened when Dude and I were Amtraking our way home after spending a most delightful day and a half with The Child up in the Boston/Cambridge area where she lives and works. Continue reading