Here’s to Mt. Fuji

Standard

‘My favorite “Nope-I-Don’t-Eat-Sushi” Sushi Place’

I was in the Liquor Store Next To The IGA the other day, looking for my bourbon—”Hey, where’s Jim? Are you out of Jim?”—when Maureen Who Works There, after directing me to the spot on the shelf where Jim Beam now resides—”You moved Jim?”—remarked that she had recently been to Zakura.

“Zakura?”  I asked, thinking this must be some sort of Buddhist retreat or something. “What’s Zakura?” “You know,” she said. “The sushi place.”

“Oh! You mean Mt. Fuji.” Another customer in the place nodded along, “Yup, she means Mt. Fuji.”

Hungry for sushi stories? Here’s a yummy Ad World story: “Radio Days

Maureen was actually right; the sign outside this place does indeed say “Zakura,” and has for fifteen years or so. But, before that—ages before that—it was called Mt. Fuji. And that’s what everybody who goes there still calls it, “Zakura” sign be darned.

Could this be a sign that sushi’s for dinner?

Now, Zakura/Mt. Fuji may not be the best sushi restaurant around—or maybe even the better of our family’s two fabled sushi haunts. The late, lamented Shabu Shabu, the very restaurant where The Dude and I had our first date (and where I polished off a plate of sashimi for the first—and only—time in order to impress him) was probably better. (He said he loved sashimi, so by gum I was gonna order sashimi, not actually realizing that I was about to be confronted with a whole platter of raw fish without even any rice or little wrappers to kind of mitigate it.)

My prize for being a good sport and polishing off that sashimi: Dude Man on our honeymoon

Well, “Mt. Fuji” is still in business, though takeout only these days. But Maureen said it was pretty good so we’ll probably give it a shot. You know, to help things keep going—though it won’t be the same till we can sit there by the fish tanks and order up some gold flake saki.

Gold Flake saki. Yup, it has actual flakes of actual gold in it. They keep a stash of it at Mt. Fuji (excuse me, Zakura) just for us

But just talking about Mt. Fuji, though, unleashed a whole passel of pre-pandemic memories.

In the Before Times, we would go there almost every Sunday night. His Dudeness—and eventually, when she got older, The Child—would polish off huge platters of sushi and/or sashimi. When she was little, Her Childness would order the same thing each and every time: beef teriyaki with no sauce, white rice on the side. The staff knew her—and her order—so well, they would have it in the works before we even sat down. And you who’ve had little kids know how important it is to get them their food—and fast.

Speaking of getting food into hungry children fast, sometimes, on our drive out to Amagansett from New York City, which can take anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, I kid you not, we would have to stop at Mt. Fuji’s Southhampton outpost (still called Mt. Fuji) in order to tank up. There too they would have that beef teriyaki in the making before we even scored a booth.

Mt. Fuji was The Child’s very first restaurant. Though she didn’t have the beef teriyaki that time. That’s the glow of the sadly-departed fireplace in the background

Mt. Fuji is a real locals’ place—hence my spotting of Maureen Who Works at the Liquor Store there on more than one occasion. You will find no glitzy entourage-encumbered Hamptonites within, even though the place has gone through three or four attempts to gussy it up. It had a fireplace when we first started going there. Then the rustic interior was scrapped for a minimalistic vibe, which eventually made way for rows of tropical fish tanks. Which I like a lot, though it’s somewhat disconcerting to watch people eating raw fish next to live fish—just think what it’s like for the fish.

The Child and I at another East End fave, Gosman’s Dock. It’s a lobster shack. No beef teriyaki, so she ordered the pork chop

In fact, locals frequent the place so much that the entire menu of rolls is named after the “regulars.” There’s the Ted Roll, the Roger Roll, the Sam Roll. By golly, I bet there’s even a Maureen Roll.

The Child, ordering dinner. It must be pizza, since we never ordered sushi. It was more fun to go out for it. And we could

I doubt if I’ll ever get a roll named after me, “regular” though I am, since I never order rolls—or even sushi, for that matter. I’m strictly a chicken yakitori and steamed shumai girl. Sometimes, if I’m feeling wild, I’ll get an inside-out California Roll. Yes, for a person who lists a sushi restaurant as one of her faves, I don’t like sushi. But I do like everything else about Mt. Fuji/Zakura. Including the fact that one time I asked them if they had a raw egg I could take home.

And you betcha, like any wonderful local hangout, they were happy to oblige.

The Egg and I. I’m ashamed that I didn’t take them some of the brownies. But, heck. They got “gone” real fast

New York City. January 2021

 

 

 

Deeds of Derring-Don’t

Standard

‘The Child is at it again’

First, before you even think about correcting me in the comments (though commenting is always welcome) the term is indeed “derring-do” — not “daring-do.” I googled it. Middle English term, first used in 1579. And it means just what you think it means.

An early example of Childlike derring-do. BTW, If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump too? (Pretty good story, incidentally)

Second, I’m sorry to be so goldarned late with this post. (That is, if you noticed.) Yesterday, my regular Tuesday Posting Day, was also Old Apartment Closing Day, and I was sweating bullets until those funds got wired — anything can happen with a sale, you know — that I couldn’t even think about being amusing.

There was some serious celebrating chez Ken and Barbie

I’m not sure I can crank it up so well today, either. We did a bit of celebrating last night and well, um, let’s just say I was feeling no pain — until this morning.

Luckily, with The Child in my world, I never lack for a topic. This one was handed me on a silver platter, via Instagram.

Well. It’s a good thing that The Child and The Beau found each other. If either of them tried to marry anyone else, he/she would expire on the honeymoon

Yup. The Child and The Beau did this thing called Rim2Rim2Rim (or even R2R2R). Which means that you run down one side of the Grand Canyon, across the canyon floor, up the other rim, then run back down, back across the canyon floor — and then back up the first rim. We’re talking 40-something miles, plus the ups and downs. Doing this is sort of like running two marathons while climbing Mt. Everest.

For those of you who like stats

It’s not really bragging to write about The Child doing this. It’s more like utter astonishment. With my lumbar issues, I consider it an accomplishment to climb the stairs. Is there a B2K2B (Bedroom2Kitchen2Bedroom)?

That little speck is The Beau doing something you will never catch me doing — running along the edge of a cliff

I don’t know why I was so surprised that The Child did this Thing. For one so young, she has a pretty impressive record of derring-do-type deeds: swinging from bars, scrambling up walls, trekking on trails. She enjoyed jumping from planes so much she did it twice. (Photo at the top of this post shows her grinning mid-leap.)

Swinging from bars. When she was in high school. Though this was not part of the curriculum

Here she was last summer, beginning her 200-mile, 3-week solo hike of the John Muir Trail

Because I am lazy and nursing a hangover, here are a few more shots from this latest adventure. Incidentally, they started at 5am and finished at 7pm.

 

More fun facts for stats fans

Oh. I almost forgot. The point of this post, other than to brag about The Child, is supposed to be how cute it is when couples share a hobby. You know, like Scrabble or golf. Dude Man and I both dig birdwatching. Which sounds like a pretty tame hobby, I know. Except that we like to do it in really remote, fairly dangerous (leeches! armed guards!) locations. So maybe the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Essential birding gear in Uganda: binoculars and an automatic weapon

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that The Child likes to do stuff like this. After all, there was some foreshadowing:

Amagansett, New York. November 2020

 

 

 

“I’ve got belts older than you.”

Standard

‘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?

Standard

“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

 

 

 

 

 

She had a hat

Standard

‘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

Standard

‘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

Yes, we have no bananas

Standard

‘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

I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me for dinner.

Standard

‘Well, on second thought, maybe don’t call me “Karen”‘

Big surprise: my name isn’t actually “Lutheran Liar.” It’s Alice, a name I didn’t like much when I was a girl. Back then I wished my name was Linda or Debbie or Nancy or Sandy or Barb. Cool girl names. Cheerleader names. Girls-with-flips names. (That’s me, without a cool name, but with a reasonably-cool flip, in the picture at the top of this story.)

Instead, I got saddled with the name Alice. Which is a perfectly lovely name, really. But at the time I thought it was a “Grandma Name.” Maybe that’s because, in my case, it actually was a Grandma Name: the name of my Peterson Gramma. To add insult to name injury, my middle name was also a Grandma Name: Celia, the name of my Henry Gramma. (I couldn’t — and didn’t — do this to The Child. Her name would have been Bertha Myrna.)

My Gramma, the original-in-my-family-anyway-Alice

At my age it’s kind of hard to wrap my head around what’s happened with the name Karen, which was perhaps the coolest Cool Girl Name of all. As you probably can’t help but know, “Karen” has become a not-so-great all-purpose name for women caught exercising their white privilege muscles. Preferring an upbeat blog, I won’t go into this now, but you can read this New York Times piece for sad sociological details.

One of the nicest of the Nice Karens I know

Me, I only know Nice Karens. Like my cousin Karen. And my bridge buddy Karen. The very sweet Karen I babysat for in high school. There’s snappy-smart Lustre Karen. I even know a Field Guides Tours Karen. All nice as nice can be.

A gaggle of nice cousins with Cool Names: Debbie, Sandy, Kathy, Cindy, Nancy and — yes — Karen — all at my Mom’s 90th birthday party last fall. And no, dear Cousin Sandy, we did not name our dog Sandy after you (!)

Of course, no one really called me “Alice.” Except my Mom when I did something wrong. Then I got the whole darned name: “Alice Celia Henry, get in here this minute.” Ooops. I was “EO” to my Middle Younger Brother because he couldn’t say “Alice” and instead tried to spell it. I was “AE” to my Dad, because he remembered the spelling incident, only with with different letters.

Middle Younger Brother (the one who called me EO) competing for treats with Hermie, who was never ever called “Herman”

And, of course, The Child called (and still calls) me “Mom.” I know some families where the kids call their parents by their first names. Which is fine; just don’t try it at my house.

The Child modeling a sweater her Mom (me) knit for her. In the background is a painting that she used to point at, saying “Mommy! Mommy!” Hmmm

And The Dude? He calls me “Pie.” In fact, sometimes when he leaves me a note, he just draws a little pie wedge in lieu of a signature. Sometimes he draws steam coming out of it.

My Dad, who called me AE, called The Child “WalMart” because I made a crack one day about people naming their kids after stores (“Tiffany”)

As for the name “Alice,” not only did I learn to like it — especially after I moved to the East Coast, where I met several other Alices my own age — but I’ve grown into it.

In fact, the only other name I’d rather be called now would be “Gramma.”

Amagansett, New York. August 2020

Groundhog Gal

Standard

‘Caught in the continuous Corona Lockdown Loop’

Ten minutes ago when The Child was ten years old she was allowed — nay, encouraged — to invite friends out to Amagansett for weekends.

How many friends? As many as the car had seat belts for. If somebody didn’t mind a middle seat, that meant three. The car ride from the City could take ages, but those kids were pretty good at entertaining each other. They’d play car games, like Count The Cows (you lose all your cows if you pass a graveyard) or that one where you say a word starting with the last letter of the previous word. Some smart aleck would invariably contrive to use the word “xerox.”

See all that traffic on the left? Guess which direction they’re going

Once we got to the house, things were fairly easy too. At that ten-to-twelveish age — kind of the sweet spot of kiddom, in my opinion — the Host Mom (at least a Host Mom like me with an easy breezy parenting style and a safely-isolated home location) could pretty much just throw those tweens outside and let them fend for themselves. 

The Child (right) with one of her easy-to-entertain pals

Continue reading

Her Personal Truck

Standard

‘From zero driving to truck driving in no time flat’

Back in the early 80s I dated this guy who also worked in the New York City Ad Biz — he was a producer; I was a copywriter — but he, unlike me, owned a vehicle. This was (and still is) somewhat unusual for a New Yorker.

The few New Yorkers who own cars are all out here

Anyway, this guy was really cool. Still is, I imagine. He was so cool that he not only owned a vehicle, he owned a truck. This was so unusual — and, to me, so cool — that I dubbed this vehicle — I don’t remember the make but it was white — his Personal Truck. As in, “Oh, do we get to go wash your Personal Truck?”

Yup, that’s me. During my ride-around-in-the-Personal-Truck period

I say “go wash” because Cool Guy did not keep his Personal Truck in the City. He kept it at his childhood home in New Jersey. We would hop on the train, pick it up (well, it was a pickup truck, after all), wash it (this was back when you could ride through a car wash, which I enjoyed immensely) and then he would drive it around while I made those swoopy hand-fish motions out the window and felt the wind in my hair.

Continue reading