Take me home, country road

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‘You can pick your friends, and you can (urk) pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose’

Apologies for the less-than-elegant subhead, but it seemed perfect for this piece. So I just had to (urk again) pick it.

See, we just spent another glorious Columbus Day Weekend in glorious Upstate New York with friends we must certainly have ‘picked’ most carefully, since we have been together for decades now. For the purposes of this story, and to protect their identity and their feelings (though they both hate social media and are sure never ever to even glimpse this story; why, they wouldn’t even click on it if I sent them the link), they shall be known here as J & P.

Truckin’. Even the trip Upstate has its charms. Here we are in the ‘passing’ lane

We do this thing where we go to Their Place for Columbus Day, and they come to Our Place for Thanksgiving. This has been going on since The Child was an actual child — she learned how to ride a bike at J & P’s; also how to drive (sort of) in a thing they called the ‘Ute’ (for ‘utility vehicle’) — so it made me a tad Mom Sad that she didn’t join us this year.

I looked and looked for this really cute photo of The Child learning to ride her bike on this very road, and couldn’t find it. So this’ll have to do. Couldn’t find the Ute shot either, darn it

But time marches on, as is its wont. The Child is now A Grownup (though I refuse to re-nickname her that) and had her own carefully-picked friends to hang out with this nice long weekend.

But back to the picking-your-friends-to-be-like-family thing. As you Faithful Readers know by now, I do have a most marvelous family. I was exclaiming on the phone to my mother just the other day how lucky I feel to not only get along with my various and sundry family members — even my by-marriage ones — but to actually look forward to seeing them. It’s amazing to me — and my mother — how many people we know who don’t like their sister or hate their brother or can’t stand their (gulp!) mom.

So, our ‘adoption’ of J & P as honorary family members does not mean that we find our blood relations in any way faulty. J & P are rather the icing on the family cake, as it were. And as you may recall from an earlier story of mine involving my Middle Younger Brother Roger, I definitely believe that your family is who you think your family is.

Me, as the turkey in a Thanksgiving Sandwich. On the left is real-relation ‘P’ (The Dude’s sister). On the right is hand-picked-relation ‘P’ of this story

Just how close are we? J & P and We have watched the Oscars in our jammies in a hotel room in Telluride. We’ve marched around Cape May stalking birds at dawn. We’ve been jolted awake by celebratory fireworks in a farmhouse in the middle of a vineyard during harvest time.

J & P know what I look like without under-eye concealer, and either of them would be my first choice to escort me home from a colonoscopy. Granted, like other family members, even the really-related ones, they are less than perfect. They do things like eat in bed and vote for Trump. And even my idiosyncratic Uncle Arlyn doesn’t eat in bed.

Speaking of eating. Dig the Dude’s cowboy steak bone, foreground. And yes, that smiley face belongs to J

But love them we do. And look forward to seeing them on both big Days, Columbus and Thanksgiving. Any other time in between, for that matter.

So, J & P. You will no doubt never clap eyes on this post, but I thank you anyway. For another gobsmackingly gorgeous Columbus Day. And for being part of our chosen family. See you two turkeys at Thanksgiving!

May the sun never set on our friendship

New York City. October 2017

 

Happy Birthday to my Selfie

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‘Reflections on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone.’

Honest Injun. I was going to write a piece about iPhones and ringtones anyway. But as I was reading the Times (er, procrastinating) with my zillionth cup of coffee, I happened upon the news that the iPhone came out ten years ago today.

My my my. It seems like just yesterday that I was sharing a (very tiny, so it’s a good thing we got along) freelance office with an art director I dubbed Svenska Boy, who was the very first person of my acquaintance who had an iPhone. He waited hours in line outside the Apple Store in Midtown Manhattan to get it. Sigh. Technological memories are so bittersweet.

Take that early selfie at the top of this post. Please (!) It’s not only fuzzy, it’s taken in a mirror. Because the phones back then didn’t have that reverse camera. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized it was there. Oh well.

Selfies before iPhones. I take a picture of my reflection with a thing called a camera. Actually it was a Flip Video Camera. Remember those?

But back to the reason I was going to write about phones in the first place. It has to do with sounds. I was at the Amagansett IGA a few days ago, stocking up for my umpteenth wave of weekend house guests, when I spied a woman who used to date one of The Dude’s cousins. (Hey, I’m alone all week. When I run into someone I know, even vaguely, they simply must be prepared for a bit of social interaction.) Continue reading

Looks like we got ourselves a HooHah!

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‘The Family Reunion, taken to a whole new (Henry) level’

Well, no one who appeared in one of my commercials died this week. (Are you still out there, Betty White?) Or not that I know of, anyway. So “HooHah” story it is.

Now let me be clear. The Henrys did not invent the “Family Reunion.” Family reunions have been around, oh, I’d say probably since the invention of Large Extended Families. No doubt some of you readers can recall sticky gatherings of seldom-seen aunts, uncles, and cousins featuring picnic tables laden with summer dishes like jello salads (urk) and glorified rice (yum). Games like Corn Hole (a real “thing”, I kid you not) and wiffle ball and sometimes even croquet would be played (though our “croquet” was decidedly non-Downton-Abbey-esque, involving lots of violent “sending” of opponents’, i.e. younger cousins’, balls, resulting in much wailing).

Gathering of the Henry Clan featuring sweaty, crying cousins (I’m down in front next to the boy sucking his thumb)

The other side of my family, the Petersons, had Family Reunions too. They even gave theirs an idiosyncratic name. I dimly recall attending something called the PAL Reunion in Belvidere Park. (This was in Belvidere, Illinois, the closest metropolitan area/gathering place for my farm-residing relations.) The “PAL” stood for, I believe, Peterson, Anderson, and Lindstrom. Yup, these were the Swedes.  Continue reading

What’s not to lichen?

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‘When it comes to family humor, everything is relative’

If that title up there involving a “composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi in a symbiotic relationship” tickled your funny bone, then maybe you are a long-lost Whitmore cousin. Puns featuring obscure scientific terms tend to run in The Dude’s family.

In addition to the lichen pun, which is recited every single time a patch of it is crunched underfoot on a hiking trail, there’s the one featuring euonymus. You’ll be out riding in the car some fine fall day when The Dude, spotting this fiery red bush alongside the road, intones in a sing-song voice “I wanna miss, they wanna miss…you wanna miss”. His Dad did the same thing. Cracked him up every time.

The Dude’s family, cracking each other up. ‘Smile and say euonymus, everybody!’

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Something everybody but me knows how to do

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‘And what happened the one time I tried to do it’

I grew up in The Midwest, where people drive. A lot. I can remember all seven of us piling in the station wagon and making the more-than-six-hours drive up to my Gramma Peterson’s and back — for the weekend.

So yes, I know how to drive. I can handle not only one but two stick-shift cars (’91 Honda and ’98 Toyota, if you’re curious). And I have my motorcycle license, besides.

But — embarrassing though it is for me to admit — I never learned how to pump gas.

See, when I was growing up, there were people at the gas stations whose job it was to pump your gas. They also checked your oil and washed your windows. While wearing snappy uniforms. Seriously! Here, if you find this hard to believe, is a TV commercial from the Sixties that now, darn it, I can’t get out of my head:  Continue reading

Great Aunts and Glorified Rice

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‘Summer foods that did not come from a farm stand’

Some of you have read my Ode to Corn, and no doubt share my fondness for what can be enjoyed pretty much straight from the garden. (Or, in my case, the farm stand.) But there was a whole other category of deliciousness to be savored during summers where and when I grew up. And that was the food made by Great Aunts and dished out at Family Reunions.

My favorite of these was a dish called Glorified Rice. Here it is, in all its (sorry, I can’t help myself) glory:

I picked this photo because I have these dishes. Now I just need to fill them

I picked this photo because I have these dishes

Now, the Wikipedia entry for Glorified Rice is pretty hilarious, on a couple of levels. For one, the dish is described as a ‘dessert/salad’. For another, one of its sources was a website called lutheransonline.com, which I clicked (of course) and found is now defunct. Probably all the Lutherans grew up and moved to New York.

But more about these family reunions. They were always held in the summer, mainly so they could be outside. These were the days of Big Families, people. (No way these reunions would fit into a dining room or kitchen. Or a normal back yard, for that matter.) One of my earliest memories is of going to something called the P-A-L (Peterson/Anderson, and Lindstrom?) Reunion, held in Belvedere Park. (There was a swinging bridge that terrified me, but that’s another story.) Continue reading