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

 

Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

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‘I know because I had my share of stinkers.’

I don’t want to embarrass The Child. Well, not any more than I have to. But I must say that she has excellent taste in boyfriends. So far, fingers-and-all-toes fervently crossed, she has managed to choose ‘dates’ who have not inspired The Dude or me to put on that Fake Nice-to-Meet-You Face. Or not very often, anyway.

(I put ‘dates’ in quotes because I don’t think that’s what Young People call ‘guys you go out with’. But, for my purposes today, it’ll have to do.)

Now, before I dig myself in deep here, let me say that this is not going to be a story about The Child and her ‘dates’. (I can hear her ‘whew’ all the way from Cambridge.) Nope. It’s going to be about me and mine.

See, I was about as opposite from The Child as a young dating girl could be. It seems I had a rather bad habit of picking ‘dates’ that my poor long-suffering parents most definitely found, well, ‘inappropriate’ if not downright cringe-worthy.

Part of this, I’m convinced, had to do with the fact that I was the oldest child — and a girl to boot. My mother has actually gone on record (see the comments section of ‘Double-Dating at the Drive-in with Bonnie and Clyde’ for proof) admitting I was her Test Cookie.

Me. Age 14, but I look all of 11, when I was allowed on my First Date. Bowling. On a Sunday afternoon. But still, it was a date

But, speaking of ‘testing’, if I’m honest — as honest as a Lutheranliar can be — I must admit that I was testing them a little. The more they showed their disapproval/dismay/disgust with a boyfriend, the more I liked him. I call this the Romeo and Juliet Syndrome. Because, young and naive as I was, I thought it was infinitely romantic to cling to a ‘love’ that my parents opposed.

Some of these guys I honestly couldn’t see anything wrong with. That guy in the picture at the top of this post, for example. Brad was his name. He was handsome, he was popular, he was sexy. Oops. Now I get it.

Speaking of ‘handsome, popular, and sexy’, here’s The Dude during his high-school days. Though if my parents liked him, I might not have. Or would I? OK, now my hair hurts. You can read about how I met him here

And then there were the guys who were so obviously wrong that I can’t imagine (now) why I ever gave them the time of day, much less went out with them — some of them for Very Long Periods of Time.

There was the Really Old Guy Who Wasn’t-Even-Divorced-Only-Separated Who Had Kids Closer To My Age Than He Was. But much funnier than That Old Guy (and who wouldn’t be?) was the Walloon. So here goes.

In my defense, the Walloon was the Very First Guy I Met When I Moved To New York. He was handsome. He had a big important job. He was a few — but not too many — years older than me. And he spoke French. I thought he was very sophisticated. And, to my parents’ dismay, allowed myself to be totally swept off my feet.

See, my parents could see right through that accented veneer to the creep within. In fact, their nickname for him was (and is) ‘Philippe the Creep’. Well, they had learned (by then) that to outwardly oppose any of my Bad Choices only served to bind me more closely to them, so they kept their nickname — and their dismay — a secret from me.

But just the other day I was on the phone with my Mom, praising The Child’s BF, and talking about some of my, er, lemons, when Mom said, re: the Walloon, “Yes, no one could stand him. That time you brought him to Gramma’s for Christmas? When he had you carrying the suitcases? And when he brought his own coffee and coffee maker? Marilyn (Mom’s sister) and I would have to go out and walk around the block, he made us so mad!”

It was Marilyn’s husband, my Uncle Arlyn, who coined the (kept secret from me at the time) epithet “Philippe the Creep”, and my Gramma who muttered “I thought so” when I explained that he was a Walloon. No, I’m not going to share a photo of myself with said Walloon. But I will tell you that the romance crumbled when I visited his family in Belgium and his mother served our dinner, then ate by herself in the kitchen.

Mom and Me. Not talking about the Old Guy, or even The Walloon. Or at least I don’t think so

Anyway. Belgian Bullet dodged. Now, back to The Child. So far, she has not exhibited any of those unfortunate Romeo-and-Juliet tendencies. And, like I mentioned, we’ve liked her boyfriends. But, even after she’s moved on, we make it a point never to say anything negative, even if prodded. Because you never know. She just might get back with Mr. Whomever, and we will have said something bad about him. Which can never ever be unsaid.

Couldn’t resist this pleasant pictorial interlude: The Child at her prom. Dates not shown to avoid embarrassment (mine, not the dates’)

We know this for a fact because The Dude had this extremely close friend, his college roommate in fact, whom we adored. He spent weekends in Amagansett. We visited him in Arizona. He even came to Thanksgiving. (And you Faithful Readers know how I feel about Thanksgiving.)

He was dating this Woman We Could Not Stand. And they (whew) broke up. He told us all about it, sobbing, over dinner. We did our best to console him, patting him on the back and saying soothing things like “No one liked her. She was really mean to you behind your back. You deserve much better.” I think we may even have muttered something (god help us) about there being “plenty of fish in the sea.”

Well. You guessed it. They not only got back together, they got married.

And no, we did not get invited to the wedding.

New York City. October 2017

 

 

 

The Movie Disease

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‘More and more beautiful as you reach The End’

Some people say Fall is here when you spy your first red leaf. I say it’s when I need to whip out the grill light to cook my dinner. The Best Sister on The Planet gave me this gizmo a couple of years ago, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it as summer winds down.

My handy dandy grill light. I can’t show it to you on my actual grill, since Hurricane Irma or Jose or Maria or Whomever is out there whipping up a wet mess

A couple of nights ago, as I was out there sizzling up a weenie or two and engaging in a bit of grill-light-assisted reverie, I got to thinking yet again about Summer Turning Into Fall. Which I know I’ve written about more than once, but, darn it, I do find the topic fascinating. Bittersweet and sometimes even outright sad, but fascinating all the same.

Oh. Here’s that Sign O Fall of which I spoke. Thanks MJS!

I’ve compared the shortness of summer to the fleetingness of childhood. I’ve likened August to Sunday night, and September to Monday morning. And now I’m going to tell you how Fall is like the Movie Disease. Continue reading

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

Crime ‘n Stuff

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‘Waves of summer mayhem out East Hampton Way’

Well. No turkeys-storming-the-birdfeeder excuses today. I’m late because Labor Day Weekend brought me a full complement of competent Twenty-Somethings to liven things up here around The Compound. And after they left I had to immediately erase all traces of their occupancy (change the sheets; wash the towels; wipe up the avocado-toast crumbs) — or feel super sad.

These turkeys are welcome at my ‘feeder’ any ole time. I miss ’em already

So now that I can walk around the house without feeling assaulted by reminders of a rollicking good weekend (oops, somebody left her wineglass out by the pool; er, that would be me), let me get down to the actual topic of the piece. Which is crime.

Now this is a crime: floaterless pool floats

Yes, crime. Out here on the Eastern End of Long Island, otherwise known as The Hamptons, we do have our share of crime. In the summertime much of it has to do with road rage, which is understandable when you consider that the local population explodes from around 20,000 to upwards of 60,000. Some sources say 100,000, even. All I know is that they all have cars and that all summer long it’s impossible to leave my driveway without doing that queen-wave-with-a-smile gesture that means “You’d better let me out now, if you know what’s good for you and that shiny finish on your passenger door!”

Why, just the other day I watched in wonder as a Range-Rover-wielding Botox Fan backed out of Brent’s Deli (home of the Best Fried Chicken on the Planet) right into a hapless Camry waiting at the red light. I hope she at least bought him a bucket. With sides. Continue reading

“I’ll take a hot foot sandwich, please.”

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‘It’s August. Grab those beachy memories while you can.’

Somebody wise once said that August is like the Sunday of Summer. (I think it was me, actually, but it’s the kind of thing that more than one wise person certainly could have come up with.)

Now I’ve written about this bittersweet end-of-summer stuff before, in ‘Yup. Even Slackers Get the Labor Day Blues’ and ‘The Days Are Long, But the Season is Short’. But, hey, it’s my blog and I’m feeling, well, a tad ‘Augusty’.

How many times did I get out the boogie boards this summer? Do you have to ask?

I’m pretty sure you know what I mean. It’s like you’ve just dusted off your white bucks on Memorial Day and then you realize Labor Day is coming up and you’ll just have to put them away again without having worn them even once. Or like you told yourself you’d have plenty of time to go through all the photos from that birding trip to Africa and make a book out of them already. And, speaking of books, please don’t get me started on yes, this summer I’ll get my act together and find an agent and/or a publisher to turn my stories into a real pages-and-ink book.

Stories? You bet I have stories. Some didn’t have such a happy ending. Just ask that Belgian guy in the back

But enough whining. Speaking of summers and beaches, here’s a joke that’s a favorite of my mom’s. She tells it best, but I’ll give it a shot. Continue reading

“I wouldn’t say no to a piece of pie”

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‘What to do when you’re stuck in traffic’

So The Dude and I driving back to The City last night, and of course there is horrible traffic, it being the height of summer and all. The Dude is working Google Earth to discover a back road to the Back Roads, which these days are as clogged as the Montauk Highway since Jerry Della Femina’s daughter saw fit to publish a back-roads map a couple of years ago, earning her the wrath of every Local from Southhampton to Montauk. Oh well. One Percent Problem, I know.

The scenery in the Hamptons is gorgeous. That is, if you’re into gazing at the backs of cars

But the one promising lead — a teensy dirt road invisible on Apple Maps — turns out to dead-end at a golf course. In our quest, we happened to pass over and under the railroad tracks several times, which got The Dude to thinking about how he really really needs more railroad ties for our driveway. (Someone, ages ago, probably The Dude’s Dad, lined our driveway with railroad ties. But they’re really old, and crumbling, and they never did go all the way down the drive anyway. Somebody got a hernia putting them there, no doubt.) Continue reading