Social media, Sixties-style

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‘My Mom and Magazine Club’

A couple of weeks ago I told you about how my Dad loved to go out on his houseboat, the Sir Launch-A-Lot. He’d fill ‘er up with clients and/or family members and tool around Carlyle Lake for hours, regaling one and sundry with jokes and stories.

My Dad was pretty entertaining on land, too. Here he demonstrates his favorite trick

Mom liked the houseboat, too, but her favorite thing was to go up on the roof with a nice big stack of women’s magazines — Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Family Circle. and the like. There were seven of these magazines that were extremely popular back in the Sixties — they were actually referred to as “The Seven Sisters” — and my mom took several. She liked company while she did this, and I was happy to oblige. We’d work our way through the stack making small talk — jumping in the Lake every once in a while to cool off.

Favorite Sister Laura and me up top of the Sir LAL, demonstrating an early selfie, courtesy Oldest Younger Bro Scott

While paging through the issues, we’d make (mostly snarky) comments on the fashions and the celebrities — no Kardashians, but plenty of Kennedys — and the ads. This was back when they ran those ads that showed some gorgeous woman in a bra with a headline that said, “I dreamed I painted the town red in my Maidenform Bra.” And there was a feminine hygiene ad that showed a box with just one copy line: “Modess: because.” I used to wonder, “because why?” We’d even make comments on the magazine covers, which always seemed to feature both an outrageous dessert — “Scoop Up Double Chocolate Brownie Sundae!” — and a fad diet — “Get Ready for Swimsuit Season in One Week!”

I don’t have a lot of photos of the inside of the house in summer — it was so darned hot, we spent most of our time outside

There were also cool regular features in these magazines that were fun to read bits of aloud. One of our faves was “Can This Marriage Be Saved” from the Ladies Home Journal. We also liked to scope out interesting recipes — leafing though women’s magazines was how we discovered Jello Cake, which is one of the most delightful creations ever. I was going to say “dessert” creations, but in our family, Jello Cake never made it to dessert. It got eaten as soon as it “set.” One Jello Cake that was destined for dessert (to grace a client houseboat outing) was found marred with a big bare footprint right in the middle. It got eaten anyway. (Jello Cake is that good.)

Mom on the porch with Grandkids Leo and The Child. Look closely at the coffee table and you’ll see a big ole stack of magazines

Mom and I could go for hours paging and commenting, paging and commenting. It was Sixties Social Media, you see. We were being social while engaged with media. And we were hooked on it well before the internet was a gleam in some nerd’s eye.

As entertaining as those houseboat social media sessions were, Mom’s Magazine Club took the whole thing up a notch. She and her friends would meet once a month and trade magazines and stories while eating a nice lunch. (Serving a nice lunch meant a chance to try out some of the recipes they found in those magazines. They’d also serve lots of coffee. I couldn’t find a shot of my mother actually present at Magazine Club, but the shot at the top of this post does show her wielding a coffee pot.)

The closest I can get to a picture of Mom at Magazine Club. I bet she wore outfits kind of like the one in this family portrait

Mom and her friends would take turns being the hostess and also giving talks about articles they’d read in the magazines. Mom told me she remembered giving a particularly well-received presentation on evolution inspired by a magazine article. I’m betting it wasn’t from Ladies Home Journal.

Oh — before I go, a little announcement. The blog and I will be on vacation until the end of July. Here’s hoping you find plenty of social media (preferably the in-person kind) to keep you occupied till Lutheran Liar Looks at Life returns.

New York City. July 2022

 

 

Remembering Dad and the Sir Launch-A-Lot

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‘A boatload of memories on this longest day of the year’

I was going to write about this crazy squirrel who’s been entertaining our Amagansett guests with his determined efforts to reach our bird feeder. But then I remembered. It’s June 21 — which is not only the longest day of the year, but a sad day too. It’s the day our Dad died 13 years ago.

This guy will have to wait till next week. But he’s good at waiting

I’ve written about Dad many times, of course. About his jokes (“Kangaroo Walks into a Bar”), his napping (“Let Sleeping Dads Lie”), his obsessions (“There Go the Roses”) and even his comb-over (“Hair Hacks of the Follicly-Challenged”). Just last week I wrote about how The Dude is, in many ways, so much like him that sometimes I feel like I married my Dad (“Of Mugs and Men.”)

Dad knew his way around a kitchen, having been a short-order cook (among other things) in his college days. (See “Dad Eggs and Ham”)

Sir Launch-A-Lot — yes, that was this boat’s actual name — has made it into my stories before too, most notably in 2018’s “Yet’s Go to Ye Yake.” Sir L-A-L was a pontoon boat that Dad bought for what he called “business reasons.”

It’s kinda hard to see, but “Sir Launch-A-Lot” is there above the front window, behind my Sister, Gramma Henry and Mom

At this time in his life and career Dad was well into his “Deej” period, details of which, including photos of his famous “Poop” phone, can be found in last week’s “Of Mugs and Men.” As “Deej,” he was the partner in the Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende engineering firm tasked with growing the business. “I’ll take clients out on the boat,” said Dad (er, Deej).

Nope, those aren’t clients. That’s Dude and Youngest Younger Bro. But they are wielding HMG-branded beer holders

And so he did. He tootled around on Carlyle Lake with boatloads of clients, regaling them with cool stories as well as cold beers, steaks on the grill and clams and lobsters “baked” on sandbars. Once he mistakenly hit “reverse” when pulling into the dock after one of these outings, bonked a piling and watched as the grill flew off the deck and into the drink.

Sir Launch-A-Lot safely docked. Look closely and you can spot the grill up front on the port side

Sir Launch-A-Lot was acquired well after I’d flown the nest — the lake itself didn’t exist when I was a kid — so I missed out on many a sunbaked watery adventure. But the boat was there during my college summers for topside sunbathing and women’s-magazine-reading with my Mom. And for fireworks-watching with whatever family members were around on the 4th of July.

Dad in the “bass boat,” which was also used for water-skiing, Sir L-A-L in background. Not sure if the bass boat was acquired for “business reasons”

And, I’m glad to say that good ole Sir L-A-L was still afloat when The Child came along. I’ll have to ask her if she remembers jumping off the boat roof with her own Dad. (Uncle Scott, who took the jumping-off-the-boat photo at the end of this story, was very “into” jumping off the boat roof, but I’m pretty sure our Dad felt the same way I did about that. Which was “No thanks.”)

The Child up top the Sir Launch-A-Lot

Sir Launch-A-Lot was eventually sold (or given?) to a family friend. And my Dad (and Mom) eventually moved far away from Carlyle Lake. But when summertime rolls around I often find myself reminiscing about those long summer days on the boat with Dad.

The Dude and The Child jump off into the sunset. RIP, Sir L-A-L. And Dad

Amagansett, New York. June 2022

Hair hacks of the follicly-challenged

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‘Male creativity reaches the top. Of their heads’

Last week I wondered about why men never ask for directions. (See “Okay. You know where the jail is, right?” for anecdotal proof.)

This week I’m wondering about the hair-raising (they wish) contortions men put themselves through when they become follicly-challenged. (Incidentally, I thought I made up this term. Nope. It’s in the Wiktionary, right here.)

As for what men cook up topside when their locks get, well, meager, I’ve got a lot of experience here. I come from a long line of follicly-challenged men. Both my Grampas, Henry and Peterson, were thin — one on top and one all over.

My thin-all-over grampa, demonstrating a hair hack — and sporting a pretty spiffy suit to go with it

And then there was my Dad.

Dad was the first man I knew with a comb-over. Both my Grampas were unabashedly baldish. Never tried to disguise it, as I recall. Perhaps they were too busy milking cows (Peterson) and making plum wine and playing poker (Henry) to care much about hair — theirs or anyone else’s.

But my Dad was a principal in an engineering firm — Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende, which exists to this very day — and he was what you might call the “rainmaker.” He travelled all over the State of Illinois securing contracts. So he dressed nattily (See “The Days of Double-Knit Dad” for deets on his sartorial splendor) and cared a lot about grooming.

My very well-groomed Dad in (probably) an HMG company portrait

Dad wore after-shave. And lots of it. If ever I get a whiff of Old Spice (which doesn’t happen very frequently these days) it takes me back like Proust’s madeleine. And he cared about his hair. When it started to thin, he carefully combed what was left across the offending bare spots and sprayed the heck out of it. (Though the stuff he used wasn’t “hair spray;” it was called “grooming spray or something equally non-girly.)

He performed this hair trick — not fooling anyone, mind you — until one day he was zipping around on the water-skiing boat on Lake Carlyle and the breeze flipped his comb-over up like the hatch on a Delorean. One of my brothers took his picture, showed him the result — and bye-bye comb-over.

Dad on the houseboat with his comb-over — and Mom. Since this was a slow-moving boat, there was no danger of his hair doing a Delorean

Delorean-like as my Dad’s comb-over was, it couldn’t compete with one grown and maintained by a former boss of mine in Kansas City, MO. This guy, Bud Bouton, had the most elaborate comb-over ever. (I’m breaking my rule here and using his name A) because it’s “Bud Bouton,” and B) because good ole Bud is surely gone from the Advertising Arena by now — and even if he’s still with us I doubt he’s doing much blog-reading.) Bud grew his hair from the nape of his neck, swooped it up and over the top of his head and arranged it so that it looked (sort of) like he had a full head of hair, part and all. It was like he was wearing a hoodie, but made of hair.

Ah. Those KC Ad Days. There was another person there named Cleota Dack (who has also no doubt gone to Ad Person Heaven by now). When I was introduced, I had never heard the name “Cleota” before, so I kept calling her “Miss Tadack,” as in “Cleo Tadack.” She didn’t become one of my Work Friends.

But back to men and hair. The Dude is also somewhat follicly-challenged, but he has never attempted a comb-over. And he’s certainly never attempted that dreaded male hair hack, the (ugh) ponytail. (I honestly don’t get the male ponytail, not on balding men anyway. Is the theory that a ponytail is so distracting that we won’t notice the baldness?) Anyway. Count me grateful that Dude Man has not attempted this.

He has, however, tried this distracting ploy: the unfortunate mustache. And he had hair at the time (!)

Maybe The Dude leaves his poor head alone because he’s not vain. (See “Clothes Don’t Make the Dude” for hilarious proof.) Or maybe it’s because he knows I like him the way he is — hair or no hair.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind if he would just go for it and shave off what vestigial hair remains. But, as one of my brothers put it the other day, “White men with shaved heads look like thumbs.”

And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

Dude Man at a party — decidedly not looking like a thumb

Amagansett, New York. May 2022

Film at eleven

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‘Preserving those memories, then and now’

Some of you may have noticed that I played blog hooky last week. That’s because Tuesday, which is the day I usually dazzle my followers with my wit, was also the day I traveled to visit my mom. The trip went very smoothly. But I am one of those people who finds the process of travel all consuming. It’s hard for me to think — much less be amusing.

On the carpet at Portland International Airport

I wish I were more like The Child, who takes travel bumps in stride. She was scheduled to join me at mom’s for the weekend, but there was a strike at the Amsterdam airport (Amsterdam being where her techie business conference was held) and it took her about 24 hours to make it back to the States and PDX. If this happened to me, I’d probably implode.

Same carpet, different feet. The Child’s very tired ones

But back to Mom’s. The visit was well worth skipping a blog post. We did all my favorite stuff: played Scrabble, drank coffee and went for walks. Oh, we also did a lot of what we call “solving the world’s problems,” sometimes switching out the coffee for wine.

Guess who got a seven-letter word right out of the gate? (And with a wet head straight out of the shower)

This trip was my latest round in what we call the Kid of the Month Club, where we four sibs who don’t live close to my mother take turns visiting her for a week each month. This gives everyone — Mom included — something to plan around and look forward to. We’ve also continued the Family FaceTime Sundays we started during the dreaded Lockdown.

Be there or be square. (Or, um, be in the square?)

We’d also like to do some sort of Recorded History Thing with Mom. She has tons of cool stories — like When Electricity Finally Came to the Farm and When Your Father Took Me to the Prom in a Milk Truck — stories that some of us kids know (See my piece “Confessions of a B-Team Mom” for how kids in the same family can have entirely different family memories) and that some don’t.

Youngest Younger Bro Doug (here seen reading the paper upside down) has completely different family memories from mine

We’d like these memories to live on and be shared — with each other, our kids and their kids.

Dude Man’s family had the same idea. I remember they gathered a bunch of home movies — mostly black and white, mostly silent — and got their Dad to narrate them. My favorite was the one where Dad-of-Dude took a toddler (not sure which one; he had six from which to choose) and tossed him (or her) into the ocean waves like a little shrieking football. (There was no sound, but you could tell there was shrieking going on by the big round “O” in the middle of the poor kid’s face.)

Now I know we Henrys had some dandy home movies too. I remember that it was a Big Production to screen these. There was a projector to thread and a big screen to put up. I distinctly recall one in which Oldest Younger Brother Scott is happily splashing in an inflatable wading pool when I appear stage left and unceremoniously dump him out onto the lawn.

Not the infamous wading pool, but pretty close. I’m not sure who that other kid is. Mom?

My Dad, who, incidentally, loved gear, (Guys love gear; see last week’s post, “Guys and their Gear”) was one of the first guys in our town to get a video camera. It was huge; you had to schlep it around on a shoulder, for heaven’s sakes. But I remember he did just that for a whole weekend once.

Dude Man demonstrating some gear: boots, shades and two ballcaps. Oh, and that’s him at the top of this post, demonstrating a Sony video camera his dad gave him. The only issue? It was from a Japanese patient — and all the controls were in Japanese

Yes, for three glorious days Dad followed everyone around, documenting everything. And I mean everything. Scott eating (“Look at that sweet corn, Alice. See what you’re missing?!”), Laura on the couch (“Say hey, Laura!” [glare]) Mom in the garden (“Get a load of those tomatoes!”). But by far the best was Mom at the sink. “There’s Myrna, doing dishes.” “Stop it, Dale.” “What?” “Stop following me around and recording everything I do.”  “I’m doing this for the kids.” “Kids Schmids. Stop. You’re driving me crazy.”) None of this was edited out.

Dad and Mom going somewhere. Dad, of course, is loaded with gear

Oh, yeah. And when he was walking around outside with that big ole camera on his shoulder he kept bonking his head on the bird feeders. So you’d hear, “Oh look! There’s Myrna dead-heading the…(bonk)…damned bird feeders!” This happened three times in the course of one video. And nope, it wasn’t edited out either.

Mom chilling — well, if you can “chill” under a blanket — at Laura’s just a couple of days ago. Where was my microphone?

I would love to record my mother narrating any of these. But, alas, somewhere along the line, these and the other films have gone AWOL. Yes, even the one where someone (Roger? Scott?) is pretending that the Sir Launch-A-Lot — which was a houseboat Dad owned; and yes, that was its real name — is in a storm by tilting the camera back and forth while someone else (Laura? Patty?) runs back and forth on the deck.

Dad tries out new technology on the deck of the Sir Launch-A-Lot: A remote camera (note “clicker thingie” in his hand)

If you, O Beloved Sibs, know where any of these films are hiding, speak up. And, next time you’re the Kid of the Month, maybe record a story or two. I promise to do my bit this summer when I’m out there for my next turn — if I don’t get too involved playing Scrabble, drinking coffee and taking walks.

New York City. April 2022

 

Your face is gonna freeze that way

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‘With any luck, not quite so literally.’

I just got back from a chilly, wintry walk out here in Amagansett. It was bracing, but not brutal, since almost all of the two feet of snow we got last week has turned into sodden slush. (See my post “S’no Problem” for freezing deets.)

Another snowstorm, another snowy beach walk. This time at dusk

So, no. That’s not a picture of me looking like a human icicle at the top of this post. That’s Her Childness, taken after an evening run in nippy Saskatchewan, where she and her Hub are visiting his Fam. It was a frosty twenty degrees — below zero.

But this post isn’t about literally freezing your face. It’s about sayings you probably heard from your Mom. Real classics like the above frozen warning, given when your face is arranged in a sad frown, petulant pout or angry scowl.

It pains me even to look at this. (Good Lord! What if her face froze that way!)

And remember what your mom said when you picked up, say, a stick out in the yard and started pretending it was a sword? Yup: “Be careful or you’ll poke somebody’s eye out.” Why wasn’t it ever “…crack somebody’s ribs“? Or even “…give somebody a bad bruise“? Continue reading

The Days of Double-Knit Dad

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‘A wrinkle-free wrinkle in time’

It’s tennis time, as in the Australian Open. But no, I’m not going to write about the Novak Djokovic Affair. There’s been entirely too much chatter about that already.

Nope. I’m going to write about knits.

See, when I’m watching tennis I knit. It keeps me (relatively) calm, and also from eating junk and drinking. (Well, I guess it doesn’t really keep me from drinking.)

Yes, I can knit and drink and watch tennis — sort of all at the same time

I can look at a sweater — any sweater — and tell you which tournament it goes with.

Wimbledon 2021

But this piece isn’t about that kind of knits. This is about double knits. Which was a fabric-fueled craze back in the late sixties and early seventies. Back then (and maybe even now, for all I know) double knits were made of polyester and were used to make groovy garments like jumpsuits. These were really fashion-forward — if your idea of fashion was to look like someone on an album cover — but I remember that polyester was pretty sweltering to wear. Double knits don’t exactly breathe.

There you’d be at a dance at the American Legion, say, trying to look cool while doing the Swim and meanwhile sweating like you’re dressed in a plastic garbage bag.

Almost everyone at my first wedding was sporting double knits: Me, my Dad, my Grampa Henry (well, maybe not Grampa), Uncle Mark and Mom. First Hub too. It was a jillion degrees that day. Think about it. Then read “My Polio-Shot Marriage”

Pretty much everyone in my family back then had a double knit item or two, but my Dad was the all-around Prince of Polyester. At one point he owned double-knit suits — with top-stitching, like on the jacket in the photo at the top of this post. Also double-knit slacks and double-knit ties. “They don’t wrinkle!” he would exclaim when asked why he had so many polyester items.

I think he really just liked to be trendy and hip. Why, he even owned a pair of double-knit sneakers. Continue reading

How could she forget about “Grampa crackers?”

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‘On little kids and how little they remember from being little.’

Some young friends of ours are going through the Nursery School Application Thing. Which, in New York, is like applying to the Ivy League, only way more stressful.

It’s felt that getting into the “right” nursery school can set your child on the road to not just academic success but life success. So the whole process is, well, somewhat fraught.

Me, not attending nursery school — enjoying the School of Hard Knocks instead

Fortunately for Dude Man and me, almost 30 years ago — when The Child was an actual child — the process wasn’t nearly so stressful, at least not for us. This was mainly because, having not grown up in New York City — and, in my case, having been unaware of even the existence of nursery school — we didn’t realize how cutthroat and competitive it all was and blithely went about things in a relaxed and matter-of-fact manner. “Hey, this school looks good — it’s close to our apartment!” was kind of how we rolled.

Our Child at her Very Good Nursery School when Aunt Eleanor was visiting

(You can read about our experience in “The Bears are Watching a Movie.”) Sometimes ignorance is bliss, especially when the ignorance involves education. Continue reading

My polio-shot marriage

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‘Mommy has something she sort of forgot to tell you’

(This story was originally published in honor of my would-have-been 43rd anniversary in August of 2015. Since many of you haven’t had a chance to read it — but mainly because I’m out in the Pacific Northwest enjoying the company of my mother, daughter and my sister’s family — I’m posting it again. Think of it as a summer rerun, Lutheran Liar style. Enjoy!)

Last week I told you about how once I dated Steve Martin. Now I’m going to tell you about how once I married a guy — a guy who was not The Dude.

The Guy in question is the one pictured in the rather awkward wedding photo at the top of this post. I doubt very much that he reads my blog, but, for all intents and purposes and in this story, he’ll just be ‘The Guy’. (That rather downcast-looking young girl — the one who’s not me — is my sister Laura, she of ‘Larry and the Nose Holes’ fame.)

Why am I telling this story now? Well, tomorrow would have been my, like, zillionth wedding anniversary if indeed I had stayed married to The Guy. The other is that it’s August. Which is like Blog Siberia, except that it’s so hot. So if I embarrass anyone, including myself, the collateral damage will be relatively minor.

I was married so briefly to The Guy, and had been married for such a long time to The Dude, that I sort of forgot all about my ‘previous marriage’. Until one August about 15 years ago when The Child was getting ready for her annual visit to her grandparents in Carlyle, my home town. Continue reading

August: the ‘Sunday night’ of summer

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‘The season winds down while I’m still winding up’

I was on the phone with my mother the other day, discussing the fact that most of the 2016 championship-winning Cubs players had been traded — one, my fave, Javier Baez, is now playing for the Mets — when we interrupted our solving of the world’s problems with a big…heavy…sigh.

We didn’t even need to ask each other what the sigh was for. It was August, after all.

If June is spiked with the thrill of Friday-like expectation, and July is packed with the pleasures of an endless Saturday, then August is tinged with Sunday’s bittersweet longing.

The Child and her Whitmore Grampa solve the world’s problems on an endless July afternoon

It’s like when you were a kid and you were doing your homework at the dining-room table while Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was playing in the next room. It was Sunday night. Where on earth did the weekend go?

Continue reading

The Proustian Popcorn Pan

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‘My brain explodes with salty, fluffy memories’

I mentioned last week that my One and Only Mom was moving to new digs. All went smoothly, thanks to Only Sister Laura and Oldest Younger Brother Scott, who wrestled furniture and wrangled boxes.

Heck, they even unpacked, which in my experience (most recently with our dreaded downsizing, which you can read about in ‘The Tunnel at the End of the Light’) is way way worse than packing.

Boxes ready to be unpacked in the Ken & Barbie House. (Note that I only show my own unpacked boxes)

Mom to OYB Scott while putting things away in her new closet: “I need to go shoe shopping.” OYB Scott to Mom, after opening box containing literally dozens of pairs of footwear: “Um, what about these?!” Mom: “Well, I like shoes.”

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Youngest Younger Brother Doug, while not present for the Unpacking, played a big part in Mom’s Move too — he was one of the Intrepid Ones who sorted and boxed and toted the stuff from her Seaside apartment. (You can just glimpse him taking a much-deserved Baseball Break in the photo at the top of this post.)

A better view of Doug as he and Mom take a Scrabble Break

Continue reading