“I’ve got belts older than you.”

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‘Freelance was such fun. Until it wasn’t’

As you may recall, last week I was all set to share a crabby/funny story about when I was a freelance writer — when, all of a sudden, this happened:

Needless to say, I’m still plenty excited. In fact, so excited I just can’t help treating you to another shot of the Happy Couple.

No one should be allowed to look this all-fired gorgeous on a plane, for heavens’ sakes

All in all, it was a darned exciting week, what with my umpteenth birthday, the afore-mentioned engagement, and the firing of President You-Know-Who (name rhymes with “dump”). There was some sad news, too — the death of Alex Trebeck, the beloved Jeopardy! host. Who was, of course, Canadian. (I say “of course” because I’m convinced, since The Engagement, that all the very best and very nicest men come from Canada.)

At our house, though, the game show of choice was the other really popular one. (Answer: “PattanVanna” Question: “What did The Child call “Wheel of Fortune?”) It was almost as fun to watch her point at the TV and squeak out “PattanVanna” as it was to watch her point at the TV in my Dad’s Clinton-hating presence and squeak out “BillKinton! BillKinton!”

The Child, in the very room and in the very slippers, where she’d squeak “PattanVanna”

But back to the point of this story.

As I mentioned, I celebrated yet another birthday last week. I say “yet another” because I’ve reached a rather extraordinary age. It’s a number that has rather unfortunate dirty-joke connections. Though I was so naive that I didn’t “get it” when people snickered if I mentioned I was “Class of ’69.” (Yes, my age now matches my high-school graduation year. I’m more of a ‘Senior’ now than I was when I was a ‘Senior’ then.)

Me, long ago — but still long after high school graduation — sporting my CHS sweatshirt. (It does not have a ’69 on it)

You regular readers (whom I adore with all my heart) know that I used to be an advertising copywriter. Which was “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On.” (You can read more about the glam life I led Back Then by clicking on any story in the Adland Lore tab.) Advertising was such fun, for me anyway, that after my regular career ended I kept on cranking out copy as a freelancer.

I was a very successful freelancer. I’d come in, bat out some brochures about sheet metal or some letters to disease-sufferers. In record time and without whining. (Most of my freelance was for what they called Direct-to-Consumer advertising — DTC in Biz Lingo — which is what Regular People call “Direct Mail” or even “Junk Mail.”)

Freelancers just wanna have fun. And not get run over by a bike while taking a selfie

I wrote my stuff and didn’t complain — even if the assignments were, well, less than glamorous. The bosses loved my cheerful attitude. Boss: “You used to write for American Express; you don’t mind doing these letters for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?” Me: “Hey, I’m freelance. You pay me, and I’ll wash your darned car.” Except I didn’t say “darned.”

All went swimmingly until one assignment where this assistant account executive kept changing my copy. Without telling me. The nerve. For those of you not in The Biz, an “assistant account executive” is a person so low on the account side totem pole that he/she carries your bags and drives the car. (They can rise to the top alarmingly quickly, though. There was this assistant AE named Bill Gray who ended up being the President of Ogilvy. So it pays to be nice.)

Me, back in my Ogilvy Days. When assistant AEs carried my bags and drove the rental cars. Among other things

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care if even a lowly assistant AE changed my copy. I was a freelancer. No strings, no emotional involvement. I didn’t really work there. I’d take my check and forget about it. Except that she was changing it so it was awful. I had my pride. And my reputation. If people thought it was me writing with such atrocious syntax and horrible word choices, my lucrative career might go south.

So I did what I hated to do: I complained to my boss. (He was a great boss named Rob; super nice, even though he wasn’t Canadian.) Well, Rob called that little whippersnapper of an assistant AE into his office and told her to stop already with the changing of my copy. She was way too wet behind the ears, he explained, to presume to mess with a seasoned writer’s work. “Young Lady,” he went on, “I’ve got belts older than you.”

Me, at the beginning of a very long — and mostly very happy — advertising career

End of colorful crabby/funny story. And, incidentally, the end of my career. Even though good ole Rob fixed things, for me the freelance well had been poisoned. I was still lucratively-paid, but I couldn’t summon up that old satisfaction-at-a-job-well-done feeling any more.

But hey — I’ve got an Engaged Kid, a New President, another birthday under my ancient belt, and a bunch of people reading my finely crafted and carefully honed blog every week. What’s not to feel satisfied about?

New York City. November 2020

 

 

 

 

How on earth did THIS happen?

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“The Child is about to become The Bride”

I was all set to write a crabby-yet-funny post about Whippersnappers having the nerve to change my copy when I was a freelance writer and how annoying that was. But then this happened:

Ruby with pavee diamonds. And yes, he picked it out himself

So, heck with that! Maybe next week, if my feet are touching the ground by then and my fingers have recovered from hitting “love” on Facebook, like, nine zillion times in reply to the scads of congratulatory comments this news has inspired. (What the World needs now is you-know-what sweet you-know-what. Most definitely.)

The News. As announced on Instagram. Of course

One of the comments was from a Great Friend and “roommate” from those freelancing days. Dear Renee posted “Alice. How did this happen? I clearly remember you letting me feel her kick around in your tummy just yesterday.”

I hear you, Renee, I hear you.

First day of preschool. Just yesterday, in Mom Time. Oh — I could never get her to wear those amazing blue loafers after that. Sigh

A quick footnote on “letting me feel her kicking around in your tummy.” Renee was a Good Friend Indeed if I let her do that. One of my Pet Peeves When Pregnant was when people would pat my tummy to “feel the baby kicking” — without being expressly invited to do so. When this happened, I would reach over and pat their tummies. Touche.

Another shot of The Child from ten minutes ago

But yes. Renee is right. It’s pretty darned amazing that a person to whom I dispensed nourishment and bathed and dressed and diapered and burped and carried around hither and yon both inside and outside my “tummy” should now be (gasp) getting married. Now I know why people cry at weddings.

The Child. Taking The Plunge with her Dad years ago. They were jumping off the houseboat into Lake Carlyle. (Or is it Carlyle Lake?)

Quick note on weddings. I adore them. I honestly have never ever not had a fabulous time at a wedding. I even like those really long, really religious ones. (Yes, I’ve written of my Wedding Love, here in “I Do, I Do Really Like Weddings.” Read it and weep.)

The Child and her Beau have assured me that, yes, they are going to have one. A wedding, I mean. I can hardly wait. I wonder if they’ll let me wear my tiara.

Child and Beau looking gorgeous as all get out a couple of summers ago

Incidentally, everyone loves The Beau. He is Canadian and handsome and smart and sporty and loves adventure. He is the one The Child has been traveling around the country with in their Ford F350 with the camper shell on top.

Child and Beau the day they left on their RV Adventure

In fact, when The Happy Couple FaceTimed me to inform me of their Happy News, I remarked that everyone who is thinking of getting hitched should hitch up an RV and go live in it together for several months. Then — and only then — should they be allowed to get married. Ultimate Road Test for a relationship.

The Beau on a typical workday, tormented by The Child

In addition to the Patience of a Saint Test, The Beau has passed the Mom Test and the Dad Test and the Aunts and Uncles and Gramma Tests as well. In fact, he took time off work last fall so he could attend my mother’s 90th birthday celebration.

I need to wrap this up — I don’t want to miss my Jitney back to Amagansett; I was here briefly to supervise our couch delivery here at the Ken and Barbie House. Incidentally, guess how many times I’ve bought a couch? This would be Time #1. (You can read about that in “I Have Never Bought A Couch.“)

Gosh. The Child is going to be a Married Lady. No matter how happy I am, it’s a little hard to wrap my head around. So it’s nice seeing evidence like this that she is, in fact — and no doubt always will be — The Child.

Yup. She’s still a Cheddar-Goldfish-Lovin’ Child at heart

New York City. November 2020

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown with a capital “L”

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‘When my Mom did some prison time’

My Mom was a nurse when she married my Dad, and she worked for a few years at Regular Nurse Jobs.

My Mom when she got “capped,” which is like graduation for nurses

I remember when I was in kindergarten and we lived in Memphis, she worked at Methodist Hospital, which my three-year-old brother Scott mispronounced as “Memphodist.” Mom didn’t correct him; she thought it was cute. (She also didn’t correct us when we referred to the “Entire State Building.”)

Mom, with one and a half kids

Well, after a while, nursing while “momming” got to be a bit too much, so she hung up her white cap and devoted herself to bringing up us kids. 

Mom had plenty on her plate, with kids ranging from Big (me) to Little (Toddler Doug) and three more in between. That’s Middle Bro Roger sporting a muscle tee on the left

But then, after years of carpooling and band recitals and PTA, the big kids flew the coop and the little kids turned into high schoolers. And Mom found she wanted to exercise her nursing muscle once again. And earn a little coin besides.

I was gone by then, both physically — off to college — and emotionally — totally absorbed in turning into a Grownup — and I wasn’t very tuned in to what was happening with the folks back at home.

Was Mom working at the prison when this was taken? I was getting ready to bolt for New York, so of course I have absolutely no idea

For example, there was a period when a foreign exchange student was living in our house — a foreign exchange student  (from Chile? Peru?) who came and went — and I never even met him.

So, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I wasn’t all that up to speed about the various nursing-related jobs my Mom had. I do recall that, for a time, she drove around to people’s houses conducting physicals for an insurance company. I remember that job because my Mom said that, invariably, the people she was supposed to give physicals to lived on remote farms with furiously barking dogs. Huge dogs that would lunge at her car door, leaving scratches on the finish and drool on the glass. “Come on out, he’s friendly,” these people would insist as my Mom cowered inside.

Mom and getting-pretty-big Doug visiting Independent Scott (who took this photo) in Oregon

So no wonder the job in Vandalia sounded more, well, normal. She could drive to work, park in a parking lot, and do her nursing in a nice clean nurse’s office. The fact that the office was inside a prison didn’t faze her in the least. Mom became a prison nurse. Which is kind of like a school nurse. Only they don’t send you home when you have a fever.

(Speaking of prisons, if you haven’t read my piece “That’ll Teach You,” you might want to take a look. It’s about the time I spent in prison — locked in a cell.)

Like I say, I was gone from home by then and starting my climb up the Advertising Ladder, so I was a tad fuzzy on the details. I knew my Mom “worked in a prison,” but somehow I pictured this as one of those “campus”-type institutions. You know, those places where they put the Bernie Madoffs and the Enron Guys.

Well, the years went by. I was sitting around the kitchen chatting with my Mom — back when Times were “normal” and I could actually visit her — and she happened to mention that she gets a pension from “The State.” Having reached “pensioner” status myself by this time, I was rather interested. “Was that from the time you worked in the prison?” I asked.

Sometimes I feel like I’m catching up to Mom, age-wise. People have ahem) mistaken us for sisters. Mom, of course, loves this

“Yup,” she replied, taking a sip of warmed-up coffee.

“You know, I never asked, but what kind of prison was that, anyway? What kind of criminals were there?”

“What kind? Well, I remember there was this one guy who killed his wife, then cut her up and fed her to the pigs.”

It’s a good thing I hadn’t just taken a sip of coffee myself.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

 

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.

Don’t worry, I do not own this Keebler Elf hat. I borrowed it when we were up in the Catskills last weekend.

Not that I am not interested in fashion. Oh no. I love dressing up, dressing down, even dressing medium. True, like most everyone I know, I am a pandemic-pants wearer. But I wear these really cute Tory Burch athletic pants I got on sale. I have my standards, even when in self-isolation.

All dressed up for a Birthday Toast. Wearing a Birthday “Hat”

But, darn it, I have never been able to wear hats well. Not fashion-y ones. And not even functional ones. Maybe it’s my Swedish Head. The Swedish Head Thing is real, and pretty interesting. I wrote a whole post about it (See “What’s that in the road — a head?“) back in the good old days when I wasn’t downsizing or having shots in my spine and things like head shape seemed very important. (Quick update: shot — actually two shots — not as bad as I thought. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to get one every day. And, yes, my back feels much much better.)

Oldest Younger Brother Scott rocking a fashion hat at the wedding of his nephew — son of Middle Younger Brother Roger, who looks pretty darned snappy even hatless

But other members of my family — and not just the Whitmores — are champs at hat-wearing. Check out the picture at the top of this post, par example. The Child doesn’t even look silly in that sombrero.

She doesn’t look silly in the fake fur number I wore intermittently for years, much to Dude Man’s amusement. It was not flattering. Not on me, anyway

The Child, it should be noted, takes after her father, Dude Man, in many extraordinary ways: math prowess, piano playing, fearlessness at sports. I take that last one back: fearlessness at anything. She’s hiked the John Muir Trail — alone and jumped out of planes — on purpose.

Dude Man checks to see that his daughter has indeed inherited his lovely round head

Yes, she, like The Dude, looks terrific in hats. Functional, fashionable. No matter. He/she look amazing with any kind of topper.

This doesn’t bother me too much. I still wear a hat — when I need to. And I get to watch them wearing hats because they want to.

Tillamook Head. Times two. Note how my hair — and ears — stick out. Sigh

Oh — before I forget. The title of this piece comes from one of my Mom’s favorite jokes. It seems this crusty little ole gramma (probably about my age, hah) is in charge of watching her little grandson at the beach one Sunday. The little guy’s, oh, about two, and he’s happily shoveling sand into a pail when a big rogue wave rolls in and sweeps him out to sea — pail, shovel and all.

The gramma leaps to her feet, clasps her hands, and entreats the heavens, “Oh please, O Lord! Please take mercy upon your humble servant and return my precious grandson to me! Please, O Lord, I beg you!”

Well. Another wave rolls in and deposits the boy right back where he was, completely unharmed, pail and shovel in hand.

The gramma looks up once again at the heavens and says, “Hey! He had a hat!”

Yup. She even looks good wearing the equivalent of a bucket on her head

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

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.)

Cute Baby Francesco

Cute Baby Paul

And if cute babies are not your thing, here’s another smile-inducing shot. (Oh no! I said “shot.”) I can’t imagine any of my readers being this way, but maybe there is someone out there reading and smiling along who actually is kid-averse. Just don’t tell me, okay?

Wombat tests the next baby sweater-in-progress for comfiness

Want more cute kitties? Here’s something I saw on Instagram that made me not just smile, but laugh out loud.

Okay, enough with kitties. Here’s another baby. Mine. She may be all grown up, but I think she’s still cute as a button. I’m limiting myself to just two adorable photos, though it pains me to ration them.

As you may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck,” she and her BF are out exploring the country in a camper shell perched on a Ford350. Way to go, kids, way to go. Literally.

The Kids perched on the edge of the Badlands. Look closely and you can glimpse BF brushing his teeth in the doorway of their RV

Before I forget, the photo at the top of this post was taken earlier this year (note snow). I can only assume that the person who dumped this dinosaur was also downsizing. (See “The Tunnel at the End of the Light” for purging details.) At least I hope that’s the case and he/she wasn’t just a mean baby-hating toy-tossing ogre.

Another happy photo. Because why not? This was taken Sunday in the Catskills. If you look closely, you can peer into my sleep-deprived bloodshot eyes

Update on downsizing and purging: we’re definitely seeing the tunnel at the end of the light. We have a few more closets to empty, some artwork to move, and then there is this plant. Those of you who know me know that not only do I not have a green thumb, I am averse to houseplants. Don’t get me wrong–I really like plants. I just think they belong outside, and not in the house where I have to fuss around with them.

Our one blooming plant

But. When Wayne and I got together he already had a plant. One he inherited from his mother when she (sadly) died in 1985. So we have had this plant for quite some time. And guess what? A couple of weeks ago, it bloomed. Dude said it had never bloomed — not in all the years he’s had it. Now if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. Unless it’s this cartoon. Which captures my pre-injection state of mind perfectly.

Until next week. Gulp.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

“Lean to the left, lean to the right. Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight!”

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‘Feeling the pain; paying the price’

I’m a day late with this post — and, it would seem, way more than a dollar short. I was in the City yesterday seeing a Pain Guy about my herniated disc. Turns out I need to have a rather pricey procedure involving an injection in my spine.

(Of course it’s not just the $$$ that was distracting me from coming up with a Fun Tuesday Topic; I am beyond nervous about getting a shot in my back — I’m sweating so much my fingers are sticking to the keys on my poor ole Mac.)

In the midst of my last marathon. I’m enjoying myself immensely, believe it or not

My more than twenty years of running around sixty miles a week is probably the culprit — though the packing, lifting, shifting and so forth that goes into moving apartments certainly hasn’t helped matters much.

The only way I am supposed to be moving furniture around the new apartment

And there’s the fact that, unlike Young People Today who “cross-train,” back in my Running Days, I would basically just get up in the morning, throw on my running duds, and take off. No stretching, no limbering up, not even any cooling down — and definitely no “working on my core.”

Me, modeling my racy Quick-Draw back brace. Didn’t help. Not nearly as much as bourbon

Oh, before I forget. The photo at the top of this page shows me not only slouching like the Teen that I was, it shows me back when I dearly wanted to be a cheerleader, cheerleading being the surefire fast-track to popularity back then. (Maybe it still is.) But, alas, I was — and am — singularly uncoordinated. I could barely follow the directions for the cheer in the title, much less execute a “cartwheel.” Goodness knows I never even tried a “split.”

Payoff to all that training: The Time I finished the New York Marathon in 3 hours, 23 minutes (in the top 100 women that year). Maybe my back hurts as punishment for all this bragging (!)

Until last month, when I started doing physical therapy (via Zoom, which is a virtual miracle for PT, and, honestly, the only way I ever want to “Zoom” — cocktails are meant to be sipped in person, if you ask me. Or all by myself, thank you very much.) Until last month, if you told me you were “working on your core,” I would think you meant you’d just about finished your apple.

PT…or not to PT…that is the question

Funny story about PT. (Yes, even Physical Therapy has its silly side; mostly when I’m trying — and failing — to do something like The Bridge.) Jennifer, PT Instructor Extraordinaire, in my very first session, had me lie on my back and asked me to “tighten my abs.” So I say, “Where on earth are my ‘abs’ — and how the hell do I tighten them?” Honest. I had no idea.

No problem locating this person’s “abs”

Well, after doing PT with the Amazing Jen twice a week since August and faithfully following my at-home program every single day I can now not only find my abs, they are my new Best Friends. I am constantly aware of them and can pretty much keep them nice and tight all the time. And after doing all those Bridges and Chair Squats? I now proudly claim Buns of Steel. Why, these cheeks could positively crack walnuts. (No worries, I don’t have a video — or even a photo — to prove this.)

Out on the trail, demonstrating both birding zeal and abysmal coreless pre-PT posture

But (pun actually intended) my pain, alas, has not subsided. Hence the specialist Pain Dude consultation yesterday. And (gulp) the appointment to get That Shot next week.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on keepin’ on with the PT. And I’ll try my best to summon up something at least moderately amusing on Tuesday.

Goodness knows, since Tuesday is Injection Eve as well as my regular posting day, I’ll need some sort of distraction. Other than cocktail knitting, that is.

It doesn’t count as drinking alone if you have some knitting to keep you company

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

 

The tunnel at the end of the light

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‘I’ve changed my mind about Swedish Death Cleaning’

The Peterson half of me is very put out with the Henry half — blaming those French forbears for allowing drawers to fill, shelves to overpopulate and closets to clutter up.

Why, it must have been the Henry side of my brain that foolishly ignored the call of Swedish Death Cleaning back in 2018 when this book came out:

Premise: Get rid of your stuff now so your kids don’t have to deal with it after you’re dead. Suffice it to say that it is not a comic memoir

I even wrote a piece pooh-poohing this phenomenon, called “Out with the Old Year, but not out with the Old Stuff. Yet.”

Oh, silly silly me.

Those of you who read my stuff regularly — bless you — know that we’re downsizing, and that I’ve had two sweeps of movers come to remove things from the Old Apartment. The first time was when all my most beloved belongings got purged by the Stagers. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for heart-breaking details.)

This was pretty much the only piece of furniture that made it into the new apartment. It used to be a bridge table. Now it is the only table

The second time was a couple of weeks ago when my posse of wiry Big John’s guys carted all the Big Stuff — buffet, dining table, china cabinet, designer anvils, and so on and so forth — out to the Amagansett House (which could use a little Death Cleaning itself, I’m thinking).

A really big (and seriously heavy) piece was this 9-foot dining table, seen strewn with lamps and shades. You can almost hear the moving men panting

But the Big Stuff was just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the stuff — the contents of all those drawers and shelves and closets I mentioned, and the cubbies and pantries and medicine cabinets I didn’t — would sink the Titanic faster than you can say “Jack Dawson.”

The (partial!) contents of One. Single. Cabinet

I found this (my Ad Biz sample reel) in a drawer, took a picture of it, then (gulp) threw it out

Dude Man and I have been packing and unpacking and repacking boxes of 27-years-in-residence detritus and toting it thither and fro for weeks now. (Note: those “banker’s boxes” you can get online? Worth every darned penny. We’ve used and reused ours till we’re blue in the face — but they’re still holding up.)

Banker’s boxes. Use ’em once, use ’em again and again. And one more time after that   

I almost forgot — in case you are wondering why I switched things around instead of saying “the light at the end of the tunnel,” here’s the story. Besides the fact that it seems like no end is in sight re: our move — Dude, yesterday: “Let’s finish packing tonight; we’re about done, after all.” Me: “Are you kidding? We haven’t touched the cleaning supplies. Or the pantry. Or the closet in the hall with the sheets and towels and laundry stuff.” His Dudeness: “Oh.”

Some fancy clutter finds a new home. Yes, yes, I’m going to prune this collection. Somewhat

Besides that fact, it reminds me of the first time I switched the phrase around. Which was back in the Before Times when Dude Man and I were on a birding tour of the Brazilian Amazon Basin. It is wildly gorgeous there, but, in all seriousness, the hottest place I have ever been. Even hotter than Borneo, and that’s saying something. We were mostly in the shade, it being the rainforest and all, but at the end of a particularly sweltering morning, we had to cross a field that had been cleared for growing something-or-other. (Manioc?)

As we staggered, Bataan Death-March-style across the sun-blasted field, I said, pointing to the shady trail on the other side, “Oh look! There’s a tunnel at the end of the light!”

Yup. A tunnel at the end of the light

New York City. September 2020

The one about the Indian and the teepee

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‘It was one of my Dad’s favorite jokes.’

Last week I regaled you with tales of my wiry little moving crew schlepping huge heavy loads up multiple flights of stairs. Did you know there is a moving company in New York called Schleppers? I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t use them for their name alone, though those Big John’s guys were real sweethearts. (“Ma’am, where do you want me to put this anvil?” is something they were probably thinking but had the good grace not to say.)

Some of the tons and (literally) tons of boxes our movers moved

This week I’ll take a break from toting multiple loads of shopping bags, wheelie suitcases, and boxes stacked on dollies — to regale you with tales of toting shopping bags, wheelie suitcases, and boxes stacked on dollies.

Well, hello dolly. You’re lookin’ swell, dolly. Also quite loaded

See, we didn’t think it made sense to hire movers to move our stuff over to the Ken and Barbie House. After all, it’s only three blocks away from our former digs. And, since it’s so small, we couldn’t move any big furniture there. (The biggest thing we moved is my former bridge table — now turned (ahem) dining table. And it’s, oh, about 2′ x 3′.)

Our very long, very narrow wallpaper-bedecked hallway. Just begging to be bonked and battered

Also, there’s the fact that our hallway is seriously narrow. Even really careful moving guys have been known to bump and bonk. (The guys who moved stuff for the stagers when we put the old apartment on the market — see “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for the sad sad story of “staging” — dropped my green buffet, gouging a chunk of floor. Ooops.) Now we have that gorgeous wallpaper in the new place, and thought it best to hold ourselves responsible for any gouging that might occur.

So, The Dude Man and I are, like, “Hey, we can do this move ourselves! We’ll just move a little bit every day, and it’ll be done in no time!” Well, the “little bit every day” has turned into five or six trips per diem, because, basically, moving all the big stuff out of the old place meant we had no bed, no table, no chairs, no nothing. So we had to start staying in the new place. Which, until we schlepped it over box by dolly-fied box, had no bedding, no tableware, no — well, you get the idea.

A stack of toted boxes ready to be dealt with. That’s me — or at least my Van’s-clad foot — contemplating the task at hand

I have to wonder what the friendly cops at the 19th Precinct think. We see one or two of them out surveying their domain every time we trundle past. With my bad back (herniated disc; I don’t recommend it) I usually am “toting”, say, a vacuum cleaner tube or a lamp. (Last night I cradled my ostrich egg painted like a globe.) This is while Dude Man is pushing or pulling the dolly, which sometimes has six or seven boxes stacked on it. Yesterday, he dollied over the safe.

Still life with lamp and Starbucks

Of course, once we start unpacking (which because my toting is limited I’m pretty much in charge of) we jolly well have to repack a lot of it and tote it right back — because, goldarn it, it just won’t fit. It’s kind of like when you over-order at dinner, that is if you can remember what it was like to order dinner. This has happened with a couple of pans, a rolling pin, a (what I thought was small) mixer, a meat-loaf tin, and assorted other odds and too-big ends. My kitchen “eyes” were bigger than my kitchen “stomach.”

Some sad items that didn’t make the kitchen cut

But, you are probably asking by now, what the heck does all this have to do with an Indian and a teepee? Now, please don’t judge me too harshly. It’s a pretty awful joke, but if you knew my Dad, you probably heard him tell it. Most likely while doing his “whoa back” move, where he gets closer and closer to you while winding up to the punchline. (You can read about this in “Let Sleeping Dads Lie.“) And if you like silly jokes (most much better than the one I’m going to tell you), check out “Kangaroo Walks Into A Bar.”)

Okay, here goes. There was this Indian who really loved living in his teepee on his little patch of wilderness. His life was simple, but it suited him just fine. Well, along came some City Folk who wanted to buy his land, probably for some dumb development. They offered him a good price, but the Indian — whose name was “Bowels” (Don’t say I didn’t warn you) — said, “No deal. Bowels no move.” The City Folk offered him more money. Still the same answer: “No deal. Bowels no move.” This happened again and yet again. The City people were desperate (and devious). They really really wanted that land. So they slipped some Ex-Lax into Bowels’ hominy. And lo and behold, next time they offered to buy his land, he stammered out, “Bowels move now. Teepee full of S**T.”

Well, Dad. Lately I’m reminded of you — and your joke. Because, goldarnit, our teepee is definitely full of S**T.

In closing, here is a concert by Piano (Dude) Man. You can’t hear it because he’s using headphones. Yes, that’s a vacuum cleaner to his left. And yes, that’s a bourbon on the floor next to me in the picture at the top of this post

New York City. September 2020

As my Favorite Sister says, “The only way I’m leaving this place is toes up!”

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‘Only she doesn’t say “toes”‘

I’m really sorry I didn’t do a post yesterday. (This apology is for those of you who count on and eagerly await my Tuesday missives. Bless you.) But I have a good excuse.

Where I am resting in the photo at the top of this post: our new “Eames Chair.” It’s a reproduction; so sue me. Have you priced the real ones?

Yesterday the guys from Big John’s Moving came to move our old-apartment stuff that’s too big to fit into the Ken and Barbie House. (Which is pretty much everything we own that hadn’t already been “disposed of” by the stagers — see ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ for tales of staging woe.)

Ready for you, Mover Guys! The tip of the iceberg, box wise

Three intrepid (but, oddly, not really very big) guys showed up promptly at nine. Then packed, trundled, dollied, and hoisted unwieldy furniture and sundry boxes all morning then drove the load out to Amagansett.

Where they did this all over again, only backwards and up two flights of stairs (sometimes three if the stuff was destined for the attic.) The rest of the house was already pretty darned stuffed from having been lived in for 25 years.

So most of it went to the attic. The heaviest stuff for sure, like around a zillion shelving units involving metal poles and thick wood planks. 

Said shelving units being taken down a few months ago. They then went into the basement storage room — and now they are in the attic in Amagansett. Why? “We might need them.”

Me: “Can’t we get rid of all those extra poles and shelves?” Dude Man: “We might need them.” 

Important Note. When you are sorting belongings for a move, divide things thusly: 1. Things you need. 2. Things to give away. 3. Things to trash. Trust me; you really don’t want a Number 4. Things you might need. 

Guess which category this chair fell into? (And I do mean “fell”) It was literally the only place to park while the movers toted, wrapped and trundled

But if you’re married to a Dude Man Type, you’re going to have skinny wiry moving guys straining up three flights to an airless attic bearing seemingly countless loads of iron and wood like little ants bearing loads of leaves. (They didn’t complain; I tipped them generously.)

And, when all was said and done, they got done. And sooner than I thought they would — though it was around 6 PM. I’d had nothing to eat all day but a pricey Starbucks banana (no wonder it’s called Star “bucks”), scarfed mid-morning while “supervising” the movers — and a granola bar I gnawed during the three-hour drive, left over from our trip to Borneo in March. (Who knew those things got so stale? I almost broke a tooth.)

I was starving, but I made myself unpack a few boxes before I showered and ate. (I thought about combining these activities, I was so tired. But I did not relish eating soggy food, no matter how hungry I was.)

Instead, I poured myself a bourbon, put my feet up, and thought cheerful thoughts about the Ken and Barbie House and about how I am never ever moving again. Cheers! And I promise to be on time with a new story next Tuesday.

Amagansett, New York. September 2020

Yes, we have no bananas

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‘I’m thinkin’ bananas just wanna be bread’

A couple of weeks ago I chauffeured The Child up to the Big Ferry at Orient Point so that she could catch the train back to Boston. (You may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck” that not only can The Child drive now, she drives an F350. But it’s not a stick, and both our cars — the “new” ’98 Toyota 4Runner, and the old ’91Honda wagon — require stick-shifting skills.)

The Child and her BF pose in front of their new home. Yes, that’s a honkin’ big truck — but it’s not a stick

Anyway. The drive up to the Big Ferry is a pretty one (you ride on two little Shelter Island ferries on the way) but it does eat up a good chunk of time — it’s an hour and a half each way. To stave off starvation, I tossed a banana on the back seat.

Well. What with feeling sort of Mom-sad about bidding my one and only Child good-bye, I never did feel peckish. So when I got home I reached around to retrieve the unneeded, uneaten banana. But, instead of it being at its beginning-of-the-trip peak of tasty ripeness, now — just three hours later — it was looking rather, well, brown and bedraggled.

The untimely demise of my banana got me thinking. Have I ever been able to transport a banana successfully for later consumption? I mean, I can get them home from the store okay. But I have never been able to put one in a packed lunch or in a bag of foodstuffs to transport back or forth to Amagansett — even if I nestle said banana(s) carefully on top of whatever food-transporting receptacle I’m using and don’t close the top. (A closed brown paper bag being a tried-and-true method of ripening bananas.)

My version of the Banana Art at Art Basel. An Art World sensation that feels particularly quaint in these Pandemic Times

But, no matter what precautions I take, my bananas always look the worse for wear. Which seems to be the way things go, banana-wise. Why, I just checked, and even the banana in the infamous Art Basel Banana Installation looked, well, like it would rather be in a batch of banana bread batter than duct-taped to a wall.

So what is it about bananas?

Don’t do it!! You’ll be wasting a perfectly-good perfect banana!

I know that there are certain other foods that I’m told “don’t travel well,” which is why you can eat wineberries to your heart’s content from the bushes around our house in Amagansett — that is, if The Child or The Dude’s Sister don’t beat you to them — but you cannot buy them in stores. Not even at farm stands. That’s because wineberries “don’t travel well.”

Those wineberries were able to travel from bush to Grampa Whitmore. But no further than that

But you can find bananas at stores. Sometimes even at farm stands. Though the story about the City Lady asking the farm stand hand if their bananas were “local” shows how humor travels well even if bananas don’t. Get the whole funny story here: “The Forty-Dollar Farm Stand.”

What’s not to like about a farm stand with a surfboard for a sign? Well, maybe, ahem, the prices. But they only carry what’s “local,” which means (ahem, City Lady) no bananas here!

So. How do the people who ship the bananas keep those bananas from going all spotty and black on the way to the IGA? Can’t be refrigerated trucks; banana-bread lovers who want to speed things up (like me when The Child was an Actual Child and wanted that B Bread now) know that putting bananas in the fridge makes them blacken in no time at all.

I do know that they ship them on the green side. But that can’t be the only thing they do

Speaking of banana bread, that’s what The Child clamored for when we unpacked the freshly-blackened bananas she’d carefully stowed — along with umpteen boxes of household goods — for the trip down from her now-empty apartment in Boston (those really icky ones on the right up above). I dug out my mom’s recipe, and we went to town. Here it is if you happen to have any squishy bananas hanging around. Which you probably do.

Bake at 350, unless you’re using a glass loaf pan. In which case go for 325

Notice the recipe just says “bananas.” We used three. But the recipe is pretty flexible. Unless you’re going to use bananas like the ones we found in Panama (see photo at the top of this post). Then you’d need, like, eight. Oh, you squish them up with a fork; I add them before the dry stuff. But that doesn’t really matter either.

Looks like my Favorite Younger Sister was going to use two, not three. Whichever. I bet her banana bread made her People smile

But enough with the Banana Mystery. My mind is more occupied with following The Child (virtually; through Instagram) on her RV wanderings. Hey! I should have snuck a perfect banana into the kitchen of her camper to see how it fared. Would have made a nice experiment — as long as she didn’t eat the subject.

Morning in the Badlands. Maybe there’s a banana sitting on the counter of the kitchen in that camper waaaaay off to the right

New York City. September 2020