Her Personal Truck

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‘From zero driving to truck driving in no time at all’

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.

Please forgive this long meander down Memory Lane. It was inspired by the fact that The Child — yes, that Child — just bought a truck. A F350 pickup, in fact. (You can admire it in the photo at the top of this post.) Which makes my Personal Child only the second New Yorker I’ve ever known to own a Personal Truck.

That’s a diploma she’s clutching, not a driver’s license

What’s truly amazing about this truck-buying is that, until recently, The Child has shown absolutely no interest in driving, much less vehicle ownership. And the fact that her very first vehicle is a truck is, well, to say that I am gobsmacked is putting it mildly.

You gotta crawl before you can walk. But I guess you don’t need to own a car before you own a truck

This truck is, apparently, such a gonzo vehicle that an excited male cousin appeared over his Dad’s shoulder during our weekly Henry Family FaceTime to pipe up with, “Hey! About that truck. We have questions!

Well, so did I, Cousin Joe. So did I.

Turns out that she, The Child, being a Worker in Tech, can perform her job-related duties from, basically, anywhere. So she and her BF (with a similar do-from-anywhere-type job) decided to give up their Boston rental and, well, take off. They’re gonna hit the road and live pretty much wherever they want. (Ideas include Montana in the summer and Arizona in the winter.)

Here they were, driving in Alaska. Well, BF was driving in Alaska

Again. I cannot stress enough how surprising this is. We are talking about a person who had to be forced to take driving lessons. She: “But I live in New York and take public transportation. I don’t need to drive.” Us: “Driving is a Life Skill. Besides, you might not always live in New York.” She: “You don’t need to drive in Boston or even San Francisco! And where else would I live?”

She jumps out of airplanes (on purpose). But does she drive?

She wins alumni awards. But does she drive?

She scuba dives — in Iceland — but does she drive?

She finally did get her driver’s license. After taking the course — and the test — twice. But I’m guessing that she’s logged (and I’m being charitable here) maybe 100 hours of driving in the ten years since she got it. Incidentally, she did drive on that trip to Iceland. But the door of the rental car blew off in a gale, which kind of put a chill on driving for a while.

I don’t know what happened. At one time, she enjoyed driving

But during the last couple of years, now that I think about it, she has indeed done a bit of driving. For one thing, she went to Hawaii by herself to attend Laird Hamilton’s fitness camp. (She must have gotten her taste for pickup trucks on that trip; she rented one which famously got a flat tire outside a fire station. The Fire Guys — of course — insisted on changing it for her.)

So now she’s the proud owner of a 2019 F350. (She saved a chunk of change getting last year’s model. Girl does her research.) We’ll get to meet this truck in a few weeks. She and the BF are driving it down to store some belongings in the attic while they pursue their itinerant lifestyle. (We just cleaned out that attic, but who can resist The Child?)

Ridding the attic of things like this: the World’s Ugliest Vase

I have to admit, now that I’ve gotten over the shock of The Child not only driving but owning a truck — and not only owning a truck but planning to basically, travel the country in it with no fixed address — well, I’m pretty darned proud.

Now let’s see if she can handle the Honda.

She can drive an F350, but can she drive our ’91 Honda (which, yes, we still have)? Three guesses. Hint: It has a stick shift

Amagansett, New York. July 2020

Time is indeed fluid

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‘Coffee Time flows smoothly into Wine Time’

When I was a kid you’d see signs advertising Dr. Pepper in places like gas stations or in the drugstore (where there was a soda fountain and racks of ten-cent comic books). These signs would say “10-2-4,” and it meant that you should give yourself an energy boost at those times by quaffing a bottle of Dr. P.

Kenya dig it? Dude Man loves Dr. Pepper, but he loved Stoney even more. Too bad you can only get it in Africa

Well, around my house these days we don’t limit ourselves to sipping occasions at ten, two and four.

I’m basically drinking something all the time.

Many mornings I reach for my trusty Incest Mug. You can get the story about why it’s called that right here

I roll out of bed, go for a “health-giving walk,” then grab one of my collection of mugs. Which I fill, and fill again. And sometimes fill again again. In between refills I Accomplish Chores. (When I retired, I decided that a Healthy Structure For My Day would be to do things I have to do in the morning and things I want to do in the afternoons.)

They used to call coffee the “Think Drink,” which might explain my winning NY Times entries, for which I received several of these mugs

I must say, though, that hopping up to presoak the whites or write an email to my senator or call FedEx to find out what the heck happened to my wallpaper can make me pretty absent-minded. Yesterday I left my beloved Incest Mug outside on the deck all day. When I found it I thought, “OMG, I’m turning into Dad.” Who famously left coffee mugs everywhere: not only on decks, but behind grills, under rose bushes, and once, famously, wedged into the notch of a tree. (Oh! Excuse me. That last example was what he did with the cordless phone.)

My Dad liked coffee at ANY time, day or night, even when everyone else had moved on to wine

When in The City I cheat and grab a Starbucks. Sometimes, as you can see below, my vente quad skim latte comes spiked with hilarity. Incidentally, I haven’t been in The City since March. I sure hope the barista who calls me “Elas” is doing okay.

Yup. That drink is for me, “Elas.” Reminds me of the story about the guy who said his name was “Marc with a ‘C’.” His cup came Sharpied with “Cark”

Like I mentioned, my Dad would pretty much stick to coffee, and pretty much all day long. Once, when I was fresh to New York and trying to impress my visiting parents, I took them to dinner at Windows on the World. Dad gave the waitress his order, ending with “and coffee.” When she brought his salad he asked, “Where’s my coffee?” She didn’t understand that he wanted that coffee not as a meal-capper, but right now.

This time Dad has his coffee simultaneously with his Rob Roy. And a cigarette

And the Petersons were even more all-coffee-all-the-time than my Dad’s family. They were Swedes, after all. And Swedes, they say, have the highest per capita intake of coffee in the world. (Also alcohol. Though somehow my teetotaling Grandparents P missed that memo.)

My Grampa P and my Mom with their bottomless coffee cups. Note how they are drinking coffee with food — and it is not breakfast food

Nope. What’s new in These Times is how seamlessly Coffee Time turns into Wine Time. Whereas there used to be a break between beverages — a break where one might, say, go to the Frick or the Film Forum or Bloomie’s or either one of the Mets (hmm, make that three Mets if you count baseball) — now there is no place to go, really, except for the kitchen. Where you switch your coffee mug for your wine glass.

Could this be wine my Mom is sipping on that couch while I, clad in sandals with socks, peruse a Doonsebury book? How scandalous

I don’t have photos of myself just hanging around puttering and reading and sipping wine, more’s the pity. But I do have some others I can share. Because why not? Wine is fun, and documenting people having a fine old wine time is almost as fun.

Now in this shot, I know that’s wine. I was Mom’s Scrabble victim. Yes, I had wine too. I needed it

Younger Middle Brother Roger and I sipping wine during the day, pre-pandemic. Well, it was a birthday. At least that was our excuse that particular afternoon

A wine-infused Thanksgiving back in The Days Before Social Distancing. Seeing this (sob) is sending me straight to the kitchen for some wine

OK. All good. Looking at this picture makes me feel (almost) as happy as drinking wine 

Some people might feel a little, well, guilty about segueing seamlessly between Coffee Time and Wine Time. Well, if you’re one of them, may I offer this clever way to divvy up your beverage day parts?

Cocktail Time. Nothing like a Manhattan to break the day into two clean time periods. Oh, if you feel guilty, knit a baby sweater while you sip

Amagansett, New York. June 2020

Small place, big personalities

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‘The Colorful Characters of Clinton County’

I was watching a clip of Donald Trump slip-sliding his way down that ramp at West Point and immediately thought of Dennis Rose. “Gription,” Dennis would have said. “Trump’s shoes ain’t got enough gription.

Well, if “gription” isn’t a word, it oughta be. Dennis used it to describe what was wrong with his own sneakers during a basketball practice one afternoon long ago in the Carlyle High School gym. (I didn’t witness this word coinage myself, those being pre-Title IX days, when the sportiest we girls could get was playing dodge-ball in that same high school gym. While wearing bloomers. Honest. Bloomers.)

Dennis’ locution was colorful, but, trust me, there were other Clinton County denizens who made him seem pasty-pale in comparison.

There was the guy named Bill who rode his bike everywhere. Sure, no one bats an eye at an adult on a bike now (even sealed in Spandex), but back then a grownup riding a bike caused, well, comment. Indeed, we kids were told to “stay away from that man.”

Kids riding bikes was another kettle of handlebars entirely. We went everywhere on bikes. Well, except not to school. Bike riding to school–even on a swell banana bike like Rog’s–was considered very uncool and just was not done

Come to think of it, there was at least one other bike-riding adult in my very small town — Orie, the guy who ran the Linotype machine at the Carlyle Union Banner. And yes, I stayed away from him too. But mainly because he didn’t suffer summer-job-holding high school girls gladly. (Read about these, my first workplace adventures, in “Those Were Banner Days Indeed.”)

Me, in the Carlyle Union Banner office. I wish I still had that dress

In addition to Bill and Orie, the bike-riding adults, we had Skinny Man and Skinny Lady. (Note the capitalization; this is what they were called, by one and sundry.) Skinny Man and Skinny Lady was a mother-and-son duo — and we are talking a grown son here, like in his forties — who were indeed very skinny. Maybe because they walked everywhere. They walked to church. They walked to church chicken-and-noodle suppers. They walked to church fried chicken suppers. They ate a heck of a lot of pie at those suppers. And still they were very skinny.

Alas, I have no photo of Skinny Man or Skinny Lady. So I will share another shot of my colorful Dad. Not eating pie, but balancing a spoon on his nose

Oh, before I forget, there was also Regina, whom I dubbed the “uncleaning lady.” Regina had the most colorful language of anyone in Carlyle or even Clinton County. What came out of the mouth of that tiny little lady would make a sailor blush. I missed most of her tenure, my mother not having “help” when I was growing up. But I sure heard the stories. “Out of your nests, you $%#&%&* kids!” she’d shout as she stomped up the stairs to move dust around and gather laundry to shrink. Bless her heart, she was a terrible cleaner, but no one had the heart to tell her, much less fire her. Besides, she adored my Dad, whom she called “Henry Dale.”

Henry Dale and his clan at a hot sweaty Henry Reunion in hot sweaty Carlyle sometime in the early aughts

One of our town’s most colorful characters — besides my Dad himself; we’ll get to him in a sec — just passed on to the Technicolor Land On High. My Middle Younger Brother Roger, he of the scandalously short shorts in the photo above, sent me the obituary. Until I read it I never knew his real name was Clarence. This guy, known by one and all, young and old alike as “Dugie,” was a legend in his own time.

When Dugie wasn’t playing wiffle ball (“He put the game of wiffle ball on the map,” Roger says) he was hanging out at the Texaco Station, trading stories and Dugie-isms with the other local characters. One day, completely out of the blue, he announced he was getting married. “Man can’t spend his whole $#@!!! life hangin’ out at the Texaco Station,” he famously proclaimed.

Here, just to break things up, is a rather colorful float in a Clinton County Fair Parade, mid-90s

Speaking of the Clinton County Fair. My Dad, as previously mentioned, was pretty darned colorful himself. Not only did he have a wide circle of Coffee Buddies he would regale with stories every morning at the McDonald’s at the edge of town, he did things like compete in a Clinton County Fair contest called “Mr. Legs.” Well, maybe it was the Chamber of Commerce. But at any rate, some civic group cropped the heads off photos of a bunch of local men wearing shorts and displayed the photos around town, whereupon the citizenry was urged to vote for the one with the prettiest legs. Dad, of course, won.

I don’t have a photo of him holding his Mr. Legs trophy. Darn it. But here he is in his pickup truck. Too bad he’s not wearing shorts

Now it’s time for me to wave bye-bye too. Until next week, here’s wishing you shoes with great gription, a banana bike to tool around town on, and a bunch of buddies to hang out with at the Texaco Station. Or whatever colorful equivalent floats your particular boat.

Amagansett, New York. June 2020

“How about never? Is never good for you?”

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‘Managing one’s schedule in these Corona Calendar Days’

I’m featuring a photo of Wombat here because my “date” with her is the only event on my calendar since March 14 that’s taken me further west than the town dump. Or taken me out of the house, for that matter.

Calendars may be empty, but the roads out here sure aren’t

Yes, I had to get in the car, yowling cat carrier in hand, and drive to the vet clinic in Bridgehampton. I called from the parking lot; gloved and masked vet came out, gloved and masked me handed over the cat. This transaction felt even more like a drug deal than when The Dude and I scored that Mexican meal back in late March.

While I was waiting for poor little Wom to be poked and prodded, I got to thinking about how different my calendars look for this Spring and last.

“Dr. Katz” (Yes, my vet’s name is Dr. Katz) on May 30 is the only calendar entry that’s taken place offsite (“site” being within my own four walls) since mid-March. Now let’s take a look at the same calendar “page” for May/June 2019, shall we?

A calendar so chockablock, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And, dear reader, I’m sure I’m not the only one with huge calendrical contrasts. Why, last year I had bridge classes and museum tours and lunches with girlfriends and the French Open to watch. This year the event that occurs most frequently is “Call Mom.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Last year I had “Call Mom” on my calendar too. But I also got to see her–and my sister–which, trust me, is waaaay better

Last year, I climbed the Vessel, prowled the Kipp’s Bay Showhouse, flounced around the Frick Garden Party in the requisite floral attire, and took in the Met Museum’s “Camp” show — twice.

The Vessel gets filled by me and my galpal

I even graced a couple of fancy events and special occasions with my presence. Like a Stuyvesant High School gala where The Child received a Golden Pegleg Award. (I am not pulling your — ahem — leg; the school’s sports teams are called the “Peglegs” because Peter Stuyvesant, the school’s namesake, had a peg leg. Let’s hear it: Go, Peglegs!)

The Child, clutching her parents and her Golden Pegleg Award

There were also three birthday parties, two of which we smooshed together. The Dude and his Cousin Charlie being two natal days apart, we rustled up a Carvel Cake and had a (big, for us) party. (The traditional Carvel Cake was on hand for Dude Man’s birthday this year, too. I managed to pick one up on the way back from her vet adventure. But no, Wommie didn’t get a piece.)

Which brings me to the theme of this, er, piece. Last year, with its densely populated calendar, it was fairly easy to dodge the kind of invitation you’d rather lie in the street in the path of a bus than accept. “Would you like to go with me to my granddaughter’s piano recital?” could simply–and graciously–be met with “Darn (not so honest), I have a conflict (totally honest).”

I so did not have a conflict for this swanky Frick benefit, where you see Dude Man and Rembrandt hanging out

This year, when a person could drive that same bus through the big empty holes in her calendar, what to do? (Ironically, scheduling my sibs’ weekly FaceTime call with our mother was tricky. The time suggested was the only time–during the entire week--that I was actually booked. We figured it out. But what a waste of a perfectly good conflict!)

I did not pass on a chance to see the “Camp” show with The Child — even though I’d already seen it

So what does one do when one wants to dodge an event these days? The Oh-I-Have-A-Conflict Thing is hard to (credibly) pull off. So, do you own up to the fact that you’d rather swallow ground glass than join that poetry reading webinar? Do you actually confess that, no, you really don’t think that hosting a Monday morning Zoom coffee would be “great fun?”

One option, of course, is to not even try to explain, but to follow the lead of the great cartoonist Bob Mankoff, who said, in what I believe is the Funniest Cartoon Ever (which you can see by clicking here), “No, Thursday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you?”

Till next week. Or “never,” whichever works best for you.

Amagansett, New York. June 2020

 

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” said my wise mother.

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‘”You’re going to be a grownup for a very long time.”‘

I had my heart set on using this seriously cute photo of The Child wearing my shiny brown hand-tooled cowboy boots. (They look more like hip boots on her three-or-four-year-old form.) In this lost photo she is also sporting a pair of big ole dangly pearl clip-on earrings. Painfully cute.

Never fear. I have a plethora of painfully cute Child photos

I could keep on looking, but the clock just keeps on ticking and it’ll be Wednesday before this Tuesday post is done if I don’t just forge on ahead.

Speaking of clocks ticking, I’ve had time on my mind as well as on my hands during this period of pandemic pandemonium. Mostly as in “gosh time goes by so quickly.” I don’t know about you, but it seems like the part of the day where I’m drinking coffee turns into the part of the day where I’m drinking wine alarmingly fast.

The Incest Mug. Grab a cup of java and read all about it here

But back to the bit about The Child dressing up. She was, of course, pretending to be a grownup. I used to do the same thing, only with my Mom’s high heels instead of cowboy boots. (I doubt if my Mom ever owned a pair of cowboy boots, though nothing would surprise me. She was once thought to be what was known at the time as a “Party Girl,” which wasn’t in fact the case, but sure made a great story.)

Not only did I raid Mom’s closet, I begged to paint my nails and wear lipstick. And don’t get me started about the Bra Thing. I wheedled my way into a “training bra” (training for what exactly?). Oh, and I used to round my age up to the next year. To this day I have to stop myself from doing this. “No! You are not 69 yet. That’s not until November.”

Me, flanked by my Peterson Grandparents, proudly sporting my “training bra.” You can read about that in “I Seen Smallah”

At any of these antics, my wise mother would simply shake her head and say, “Don’t be in such a hurry. You’re going to be a grownup for a very long time.”

And, boy was she right. It seems like it’s been about a century since I declared myself a Grownup with a Capital G. (It wasn’t when I turned twenty-one; it was when I got married. Which was at Age Twenty; early marriages also being a Thing in the Olden Days.)

So, at this point in my life I’ve been a Grownup for, like my mom said, a very long time. Of course, she has been a Grownup for even longer.

Grownup on the left is The Child. Grownup on the right is my very wise Mom

Anyway. The Corona Craziness has had me thinking about all this more than I usually do. And hoping against hope that my Mom’s saying holds true — that we all can keep on being grownups for a very long time.

Amagansett, New York. May 2020

“I’m the Sheik of Araby”

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‘Everybody sing: “with no pants on”

So my Mom and I were on the phone the other day and I happened to mention that while The Child and her BF were playing some card game she (The Child) kept singing “Do your ears hang low” with (intentionally, I gather) the wrong lyrics. As in “Do your ears hang low…do they dangle on the floor” and so on and so forth.

But, instead of driving him quaran-crazy, she just got that song stuck in her head.

So then Mom and I started talking about those songs she’d sing when we were little and how they would get stuck in our heads: “Ay yai yai yai…O, My Sombrero” was one, and so was “On Top of Spaghetti.” (Ask your mom; she’ll probably know these too. Just don’t ask her to sing them — they’ll get stuck in your head.)

Then Mom happened to mention “The Sheik of Araby, ” which is the one where you insert “with no pants on” after every line, comme ca: “I’m the Sheik of Araby (with no pants on)…at night when you’re asleep (with no pants on)…into your tent I’ll creep (with no pants on)”

Well, after we sang a bit and cracked ourselves up (don’t judge; we don’t get out much anymore), I said, “Hey Mom, what is it about men and pants?”

It seems like all these men keep getting caught doing Zoom meetings with no pants, or hosting TV shows with no pants, or broadcasting the news with no pants — whatever, guys everywhere seem to be up to all kinds of sans-pantdemic shenanigans.

But it’s worse than that.

Even before Corona Craziness, men had a problem with pants. At least the men in my life did. I remember that my own dad would shed his pants whenever he had the opportunity. Don’t be shocked; he would be wearing his boxers. And they were kind of cute. I particularly remember a pair with ducks printed on them. Not Donald Duck type ducks; manly hunting type ducks.

That’s me with my Dad. You can’t see his tightie whities. Thank goodness

But, as the years went by, his taste switched from boxers to briefs. And not just briefs, but tightie whities. Now you can be shocked.

If any psychologists are reading this, they can probably make some clinical hay out of the fact that, yes, I have married a man who resembles my father — at least in the pants-averse area.

The Dude models one of many a pair of natty boxers

Yup. Dude Man sheds trou at any and every opportunity. When we were first married, this meant stripping down to his boxers. And, like my Dad, he had a pretty snappy boxer wardrobe. Then he went through a Hanes-ish phase, though his hue of choice was never white: he sported black, mostly, with a shot of red now and then to liven things up. He still looked snappy, if not a bit chilly when he was relaxing around the house.

I don’t have a shot of Dude Man wearing briefs. Even if I did, I’m above sharing it. But here he is in a Speedo. You get the idea

These days he’s into (literally as well as figuratively — and don’t get me started on “figuratively”) those under-trou that go from waist to kind of mid-thigh (which is the good part) but are, well, clingy. Under Armour makes a model called the BoxerJock. Uh-huh.

I don’t think The Dude owns any Under Armour (lately it’s been Saxx in the laundry), but I do know he has this style in all shades and patterns. (The camouflage pair is my favorite. When he’s sporting these I like to say, “Where are you? I can’t see you!” He is not amused by this.)

Very hunky Young Dude wearing (for some reason) a sport coat with no shirt. I have no idea if he is wearing pants

I think the camouflage was the pair he was wearing Sunday when I snapped the photo at the top of this post. Incidentally, when I asked him why on earth he was wearing a motorcycle helmet, he answered, “I’m checking the electronics.” Oh.

Now, what with the two of us thrown together in semi-forced social isolation, I’ve become very familiar with his non-pants wardrobe. In fact, I can tell the days of the week by which underwear he’s got on. (See previous paragraph’s Sunday reference for proof.)

As for myself, I can’t recall feeling all that comfortable clad only in my unders. (I’m more of a sweatpants girl.) But (pun intended), while searching for photos for this post, I did happen to come across this gem.

The end

Amagansett, New York. May 2020

Bean me up, Scotty

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‘At the end of my rope. Er, supply chain’

So The Dude went by the new apartment — the very tiny one we bought late last year and were in the midst of spiffing up when we got locked down — well, he just popped his head in for a peek and, lo and behold, something peeked right back.

It was a rat. A really big rat. Now, our soon-to-be living room is small — very small. As in 11 by 13 (feet!) So even a run-of-the-mill rat would look pretty large. But, huge as he was, Mr. Rat took one look at Mr. Dude and took off. He ran right into the bathroom and disappeared down the waste pipe where the old toilet used to be and where the new toilet is supposed to, er, go.

What will eventually block Mr. Rat’s private entrance into our apartment

Well. I figured that even Andrew Cuomo would agree that getting somebody to block off Mr. Rat’s personal subway entrance into our apartment would count as “essential,” so I got our contractor on the case.

As much as I hate vermin, I must admit it made a nice change of pace to worry about something besides what to make for my 59th dinner in a row. (In case you think I am superficial or callous, of course I worry about the sick and the dying. The unemployed and desperate too. But this is a humor blog, for heavens sakes. And, trust me, I am distracting myself as much as trying to distract you.)

I am totally nostalgic for the Olden Days when choosing the right shade of grout kept me up at night

Even in the Olden Days I turned to cooking for solace in times of stress. (Turn back time by taking a look at “And Then There Were None, ” a piece from what feels like a hundred years ago.)

Dancing to Van the Man while cooking up Dinner #58

I also must admit that I actually enjoy cooking. Maybe not 60-some dinners in a row, but these, of course, are what the Chinese call “interesting times,” and I’ve tried to make the best of it. Which isn’t easy when, basically, you never know what you’re going to find at the ole IGA. As I mentioned before (in “Pots and Pandemics”), as a “senior” I get in to the store early — but that means the shelves haven’t been restocked. Pretty much anything you might have on a list is, as they say, a “serving suggestion.”

Broccoli rabe was on my list. Brussels sprouts ended up in my cart

So I grab what I can and figure out what to do with it later. And usually it works out pretty well. With the possible exception of the pork shoulder calas I tried a couple of weeks ago. Let’s just say it made a nice addition to my pot of pea soup.

Speaking of pea soup, like everyone else on the Planet, I’ve been cooking with lots of peas and beans. And, speaking of beans, NY Times Cooking (an app) is absolutely genius and life-saving when it comes to beans, and just about anything else you find on the shelves — either in the store or in your house. In fact, its guru, Sam Sifton, is my new Hero. Honest to goodness, I worship him even more than Dr. Fauci.

That’s my bible in the background; my bread and butter in front

Speaking of Dr. Fauci, check out my Mom in the picture at the top of this post. It looks like she’s following his advice and putting a mask on Dad. Always ahead of the trends, my Mom. Oh, incidentally, the “Scotty” in my title refers not only to Star Trek, but to my Dad. His nickname when he was little was “Scotty.” (Even though he wasn’t Scottish. I’ll have to ask Mom what was going on with that.)

Don’t ask me why the parsley and cheese are only on one half of this serving of White Bean and Cherry Tomato Stew. Which is darned delicious, BTW. Made it six times

NY Times Cooking has 1629 recipes for “beans” — 16 of which I have saved (and cooked). And so, I guess, has everyone else. Because guess what? Beans are getting scarce.

But never fear. NY Times Cooking has 842 recipes for “pasta.” Just don’t tell anyone else who goes to the Amagansett IGA.

Amagansett, New York. May 2020

 

“No one goes there nowadays; it’s too crowded.”

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‘Yogi must have had a crystal ball.’

I’m sure there are many of you who do not remember Yogi Berra. Maybe you do remember Yogi Bear, one of the most cleverly-named cartoon characters of all time, or at least in my opinion. (Incidentally, I just found out by reading this Wikipedia entry that the Human Yogi sued the Cartoon Yogi’s creators, who claimed the name was “just a coincidence.” Yeah, right. And the Kirwood Derby wasn’t a goof on Durwood Kirby. Read more about him in my piece “Eenie Meanie Chili Beanie.”)

But back to the Yogi of Yogi-isms fame.

A study in checkerboard: my foot and the floor of the Mexican Place in Amagansett that was so crowded that no one went there. Well, except that one time

To cut to the chase, Yogi was a Hall of Fame baseball player and manager. (You can read more about his amazing career right here.) But even if you’re not a fan (and, yes, there are people out there who don’t like baseball; they also hate tv and eat pizza with a fork) — yes, even if you’ve never even seen a baseball game I bet you know some Yogi-isms.

Yogi’s the guy who said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And “It gets late early out here.” Also “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

“Take it with a grin of salt,” Yogi would have said

And Yogi’s the genius who came up with “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” — the inspiration for today’s photo at the top of this piece. I came to that particular fork in the road when I was out on my morning walk the other day. Yes, I took it. And then put it in the trash.

My beloved Favorite Sister Laura doesn’t throw her corks in the trash: she uses them to make smiles. Follow her at uneedtheschneed on Instagram

But the Yogi-ism I find myself pondering most in these days of sheltering-in-place is “No one goes there nowadays; it’s too crowded.” Which kind of sums up social distancing, n’est-ce pas? (And yes, please pardon my French.)

“Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.” Which I hope to be doing again sometime in the not-too-distant future, along with having coffee with a person — in person

As I say in my subhead: Yogi must have had a crystal ball. Because no one is going anywhere much nowadays — everywhere we used to go is just too darned crowded for our own good.

There was nothing in this road — not even a fork — but this was rural Illinois, where every day is social distancing day

Which brings me to my last Yogi-ism for today: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” You can sure say that again, dear Yogi.

Amagansett, New York. May 2020

 

The Zoom Zoom Room

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‘Connecting in the Time of Corona’

I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning these days. No, it’s not from the craziness of the News Cycle — though the suggestion of ingesting bleach or zapping the inside of my body with “light” is rather mind-boggling — no, my noggin is spinning from all that Zooming.

I’ve been Zooming (or FaceTiming or Facebook Messengering) with West Coast Cousins of The Dude, members of my New York City Ladies’ Club, the Curator of the Frick Museum, and even Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. (I’ve already written, in “Apocalypse Now,” about Zooming with John Krasinski.

Why, the whole Earth is zooming! (Thanks, New Yorker)

And that was just this week. It’s kind of funny, actually (if anything about this Corona Crisis can be funny), but I’ve been feeling more connected than ever during these weeks of isolation.

Somehow I thought that isolation would be more, well, isolating. But, as it turns out, I’ve got my coffee with the ladies on Mondays, my art lecture on Tuesdays, my Family FaceTime on Wednesdays. And this week, I’ve added a Cocktail Hour with my Bridge Buddies on Thursday. I hardly have time for those endless hours of curled-up-in-a-big-chair-under-an-afghan reading I’d pictured myself doing.

I have, however, found plenty of time to knit. Turns out I can do it while Zooming

Why, if I wanted to, I could be Zooming every single day — and not just once. I’ve turned down Zoom Bridge and Zoom Birdwatching and even a Zoom Birthday Party. Why, a girl’s gotta make time for her new Best Friend:

I have forged an intimate and satisfying relationship with my Garland Range

I’ve written enough already about Cooking in the Time of Corona. There’s some funny stuff — and great recipes — in last week’s “Pots and Pandemics”, in case you missed it. Oh, that pork shoulder calas? Let’s just say that tonight I’m back to chicken thighs. Specifically, NY Times Cooking’s “Sheet-Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes and Pancetta,” only I’m using bacon, “pancetta” being a bit frou-frou for this Midwestern Gal. (Besides, if my IGA doesn’t have TP, I doubt it’ll have pancetta.)

Back when kitchens had people in them, and not just bacon

My favorite Zoomarific weekly activity is the aforementioned Family FaceTime. Every Wednesday, at 10 AM PDT, all five of us Henry sibs get on the virtual horn to our mother. (You can see us — all of us, divvied up like Hollywood Squares — in the photo at the top of this story.)

Mom lives alone and has been sheltering safely in her Oregon apartment ever since This Nonsense began. Mom has fantastic, caring neighbors who get her mail, run her errands and bring her goodies. But still: she is alone and has been alone for what seems like a century now.

We spend about an hour on our Zoomy call, sharing our experiences and fears, showing off our pets, looking out each other’s windows. It’s not like actually being together, certainly. But we live so far apart — New York, California, Maine, Washington, Illinois — that being “together” once a week is the most we kids have seen or talked to each other in, well, years.

A non-virtual moment from our last non-virtual get-together: Mom’s 90th birthday party last October

Speaking of Family, there is an exception in my Inner Circle to the Zooming Craze, and that’s The Child. She’s not that into FaceTiming or Zooming, maybe because she has to do it so much for work. But she has graduated from texting to talking. That’s right — The Child calls us up to speak to us. And this is a person so unfamiliar with talking on the phone that she had no idea what to do with a dial on an old phone we found in a closet. Seriously. You can read about it in “Touch M for Murder.”

FaceTiming in the Olden Days: Thanksgiving 2013, when The Child was studying Across the Pond. Gosh, maybe this was Skyping. Remember Skype?

So gosh. I guess if there is a silver lining in the Corona Cloud, it would be this new craving for connection. And, even though it’s virtual, I’ll take it. For the time being, that is. I hereby make a resolution to get on an actual plane so I can make an actual visit to my actual mother — as soon as Dr. Fauci says I can.

Amagansett, New York. April 2020

 

Pots and Pandemics

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‘Cooking for the Apocalypse’

Okay. How many of you out there know what “pork shoulder calas” is? Hint: it’s not pork butt.

Pork shoulder calas is what I scored from the almost-empty meat case the other day when I made my once-weekly foray, gloved and bandanna’d, into the local IGA. I go at around 8:30 because, even though it’s “seniors only” from 9:00 to 10:00, they only let in 30 shoppers at a time. (I found out the hard way that getting there at 9:00 means standing — er, shivering — in a socially-distanced line, waiting until one of the lucky First Thirty exits the store.)

A fully-laden shopping cart in Happier Days. When it was filled with what I wanted rather than what I could get. I would kill for those paper towels

While I’m waiting, either in the car (when I’m early) or on the line (when I’m not), I go over my shopping list.

Then, when I get inside, I realize my list isn’t worth the scrap paper it’s scribbled on because, basically, nothing on there is in there.

Empty bread aisle, also from happier days. Then it was 4th of July hoarding, which was at least temporary

As a senior who’s earned her early-groceries stripes, I didn’t think much could surprise me anymore. But every week when I go IGAing, I’m stunned at the total absence of once-familiar items. There are whole sections of the store that are empty. The usual suspects — peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, canned tuna — have been missing for weeks, not to mention toilet paper. Which is such a classic Corona MIA that my Beloved Only Younger Sister joined in the TP fun. Yup. Her post went, ahem, viral.

And yeah, I get it. Everybody’s cooking at home so soup stocks and dried beans and flour are gone. And then they’re doing the dishes, so the sponges and dishwasher pellets are gone. After that, they’re storing the leftovers, so ziploc bags and plastic wrap are gone.

Even The Child is buying flour. She’s made this NY Times bread, like, eight times. In one week

But who’s taking the frozen lima beans? And what gives with no seltzer? I can’t even find the Polident thingies I use to clean what I call my “biter” and my dentist insists on calling my “nightguard.”

I can’t resist a shot of The Child doing another cooking-related activity

So, with whole categories of formerly-stocked stuff virtually gone, I’ve had to get whatever I can get and make do the best I can.

I buy a bunch of parsley and use it in everything from soup to salad. No frozen spinach? Frozen kale was (sort of) fine. Oh, you’d be amazed how many recipes there are for chicken thighs. Like, a zillion. And who knew squash was so versatile? You can turn it into soup, you can roast it, you can even slice it and cook it with — you guessed it — chicken thighs.

I’ve made that recipe for chicken thighs and squash twice. And yes, that red wine is for cooking. It just doesn’t go in the recipe

Which brings me to the pork shoulder calas. I was craving a bit of a break from chicken thighs, and there was this big ole Pork Object. It wasn’t pricey, so in the cart it went. Well, when I got home and after oh-so-carefully doing the Unpacking and Sanitizing Thing, I googled it. Turns out it isn’t what I thought it was — a cut of shoulder called “pork butt.” Which is awfully confusing since I wouldn’t have guessed a “butt” is on the “shoulder.” The “butt” is what you use to make pulled pork. Which I must admit I was kinda hungry for.

Something else I get hungry for: Magic Meat. The recipe is right here

But — and I use that word intentionally — this was no butt. I googled some more and found that the “calas” is lower down on the shoulder, more towards the leg, and is used to make a classic Puerto Rican dish called “pernil.” 

This “pernil” isn’t something we Swedish Americans from Southern Illinois had every week. But it’s in the oven even as we speak. And smells pretty darned delicious. I’ll let you know next week how it turned out. And whether I’ve got to return to an all-chicken-thigh-all-the-time menu.

In the meantime, here’s another photo of Kitchens from Non-Distancing Times. Enjoy. And if you get a sec (hah), try any of these NY Times chicken-thigh recipes. Trust me; you’ll be able to find winter squash just fine.

Best thing to have in your kitchen: a sister

Amagansett, New York. April 2020