“Do we have any snacks?”

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‘If a husband says this, it means “Get me some snacks”‘

We were recently graced with a visit from The Young Couple, formerly known as The Child and The Beau.

The Young Couple share a few-days-into-marriage moment

Yes, in case you have been holed up in a blogless burrow, here’s the news: Child and Beau made the plunge on the rim of the Grand Canyon on May 1. (You can revel in the details — and drool over the gorgeous photos — in “Runaway Bride” and “Tough Act to Follow.”)

One of many cinematically-gorgeous bridal shots

It was fun having them here, and for more than just a couple of days. It gave us all a chance to get into some normal hanging-out rhythms. Like, they both were working like crazy and commandeered sections of the house for no-go zones. Unfortunately, New Son-In-Law (whom I will henceforth refer to as “The SIL”) chose the kitchen, which is already my no-go zone. Or was.

Roses from a bush my Dad gave us, foreground. The SIL’s work setup, background

We worked alongside each other companionably enough, though more than once The SIL’s concentration was broken by whatever I was working on. SIL: “What is that?! It smells amazing.” (He ultimately decamped to the library, which has no windows for looking out, but also has no cooking aromas wafting in.)

In the kitchen again. But this time, decidedly not working

Speaking of food, one afternoon I heard The SIL ask The Child, “Do we have any snacks?” Well. I couldn’t help but overhear her response: “You mean ‘get me some snacks!‘” Clever girl. She is a quick Bridal Study. It only took her a couple of weeks to realize that when a husband asks if we “have” anything — beer, ketchup, a needle and thread — it really means he wants you to go get it. (In the case of the needle and thread, it means he wants you to sew on a loose button.)

Two husbands and a bride on a birding walk. Nope, that’s not a rare bird they’re looking at — it was a bunch of locals trying to get their truck unstuck

I must admit that it warmed the cockles of my heart to realize that “Husbandese,” as I’ll call it, knows no age (The SIL is not quite 30) and no boundaries (he is Canadian). I also caught him saying to Her Childness after a minor disagreement — I think it was about the title of a movie, which they googled to check — “You might be right.” This, of course, is Husbandese for “You are right.” I know because His Dudeness says this to me all the time when confronted with irrefutable proof that I am absolutely correct about whatever-the-heck it is.

Newlywed Us, probably arguing about something. But in a cute newlywed way

We once had an epic argument about whether Frank Langella was alive or dead. We happened to be walking in the theater district at the time and I had only to point to a sign advertising the play Frost/Nixon to prove my point (um, “alive”). His response? “You might be right.”

Dude Man demonstrates his sunglass method. This has nothing to do with this story, but I like it — and the fact that The Child appreciates it (!)

I didn’t get a chance to discover whether The SIL shares the pants-avoidance Husband Thing. Thank goodness he remained suitably be-trousered whenever I was around. And so, mostly, did The Dude, who was on his best we’ve-got-company behavior. (If you want to know what the heck I’m talking about, you can find out in “I’m the Sheik of Araby.” Warning: It’s a little racy.)

Dude Man wearing a motorcycle helmet — but no pants

Sigh. It’s been a couple of days since both The SIL and The Child (er, The Bride) decamped for home. And of course I miss them. There is one thing, though, I don’t miss:

Waiting in epic lines for snacks — and other comestibles — at the IGA

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

The time crickets ate The Dude’s shoes

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‘”Eat or be eaten,” or so they say.’

So last time I told you about how We Whitmores were recruited to help save some purple martins from starvation. The martins were huddled in their gourd condos out at SoFo (the South Fork Natural History Museum, founded by Idiosyncratic Family Friend Andy), having been caught in an unseasonable cold snap during which their regular flying-insect food supply was grounded.

We rescued them by tossing crickets into the air — crickets which had been bought in bulk from a pet supply place. Overheard: “Do we have more crickets coming in?” “Yes, 1500 are due tomorrow.”

 

(At which point I’m picturing chirping boxes being unloaded by a quizzical UPS guy — or maybe just crickets, 1500 strong, marching en masse up to SoFo’s front door and volunteering for duty.)

Anyway. Martin Man, who directed our feeding efforts, would put a big ole Teddy Grahams container full of crickets into a freezer for seven minutes to stun them, after which we would throw them into the air (Martin Man used a slingshot) where the hungry martins would chomp them (you could actually hear their birdie jaws snapping) mid-swoop.

One weakened female got her crickets via cute kid and tweezers

Now, in case you’re feeling sorry for those crickets being eaten, let me share a story about how they’re not all that, well, innocent.

Back in the Day, when The Child was an actual child instead of a glamorous just-married grownup, we lived in a very tiny house on a spit of land called Gerard Drive. (We now live in an even tinier apartment called the Ken and Barbie House, which you might enjoy reading about if you get a kick out of picturing people squeezed into cramped quarters.)

Living Room slash Child Bedroom. Oh, plus Music Room

How small was this house? This house was so small that the living room was also the dining room which was also The Child’s bedroom. It was so small that we couldn’t fit in a staircase so we had a boat ladder attached to the wall to climb to the sleeping loft. The good news was that I could clean it stem to stern with a toothbrush in about ten minutes.

Child and Dude next to boat ladder. Which was also our telephone table and pumpkin display shelf

So. About those crickets. One night we had just settled in to our tiny bedroom (no closet; clothes were stashed in drawers built into the bed) when this chirping starts up. Now, you may think chirping would be a comforting, soothing sort of sound. Nope. It’s more like a dripping faucet with insect overtones. You lie there, listening. And waiting. Until you can’t stand it anymore and just have to get up and find the darned thing. And, since crickets throw their voice, that can be murder. (So glad I cleaned the house with that toothbrush, since I’m scooting around under the bed on a cricket hunt.)

That’s me, not crawling around under the bed looking for crickets

Speaking of murder, I didn’t want to harm the crickets — I just didn’t want them chirping in my bedroom. So I would painstakingly scoop them up using what I called the Cricket-Catcher Kit, which consisted of a plastic cup and a magazine blow-in card. Clamp the cup over the cricket, slide the card under, then carry the whole Kit and Kaboodle to the door and toss the cricket out. Voila!

Well. This system worked pretty well until one Friday night when I arrived at the house after a long week toiling in the City. I opened the door and saw that the floor was moving. I turned on the light to see what the heck was going on, and saw nine zillion (give or take a zillion) crickets hopping up and down — completely covering every inch of the floor. (Not a great deal of floor; it was a small house, remember. But still.)

Child at the front door of the once cricket-infested house

No Cricket Catcher Kit this time. Nope. I grabbed our vacuum cleaner and sucked those little critters right up. I figured it was them or me. And when Dude Man arrived he caulked all around the baseboard so none of their cricket friends could sneak in.

This episode happened in the fall when the crickets were looking for a nice warm home. Next summer when The Dude was looking for his flipflops he discovered they had been nibbled down to the soles. (Rubber is cricket for “dinner,” I guess.) But we discovered that, for dessert, they really like paper mache. The Child’s set of Madeline finger puppets — Madeline, the Torrero, Miss Clavel — had been nibbled down to nubs. Yup. “Eat, or be eaten.” Only not by us — by purple martins.

No photos exist of the Madeline finger puppets, even pre-chewing. But here’s a cute one of the Child reading

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

Nesting Instinct

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‘At long last, bicoastal birdies come home to roost’

It had been 599 days since I had last hugged my Mom. And, gosh-darn it, I wasn’t going to let another momless, hugless day go by. I zoomed one last time — in an airplane instead of on a screen — and got myself out to Vancouver, Washington, where my Mom was settling into her new nest.

Mom shows off her nest, including her new Smart TV

The newly-hitched Child dragged herself away from her (sounds so weird to say it) husband to join us. And, bless her, she handled everything: Air bnb, car rental, the works. Once we got there, she even did an InstaCart. All I had to do was be where she said to be at the time she said to be there.

One of many beautiful trees adorning the grounds at Mom’s place. Anybody know what it is?

Our visit did not disappoint. In addition to multiple sessions of much-anticipated hugging, it was packed with Scrabble (I managed to win a game!), Cubs games, gabfests and even some Corner Gas (Canada’s answer to Seinfeld).

It was lovely enough for a walk along the Columbia River

Favorite Sister Laura had us all over for a backyard barbecue, which was, of course, amazing. And in more ways than one. While Best Bro-in-Law Dave was working his grilling magic, Laura showed us a nest that a robin had constructed in the wreath on her front door. (See photo at the top of this post.) Laura has an eye and a talent for interior decoration, so at first we all thought she had constructed the wreath/nest as a stylish accent.

“No, no!” she insisted. “The nest is real.” (Even Dave was fooled. “Come on, you can tell me,” he whispered to me as I ferried a glass of wine to him grillside, “Laura made that nest. Right?“)

“Hey, I made this nest,” says Mama Robin

Nope. Laura didn’t make the nest. But she and the rest of her brood sure made the evening special.

Mom and Me, with matching closed eyes, whoop it up at Laura’s (That’s her behind Mom). Grillmaster Dave and Cousin Aaron flank Niece Natalie

Next day, it was more flying. For The Child and I as well as the birds. We JetBlued back to the East Coast to be able to greet Nephew Alex and his family, whom I hadn’t hugged in 713 days.

Vaxed and masked and in the air

They — Alex, Kathleen, and their three beyond-adorable little girls — have been visiting us on or about Memorial Day since Cora, the oldest, who is nine, was crawling around in diapers.

Reconnecting with the grand-nieces at long last. Tessa introduces me to Georgie, her monkey, whose nose was rubbed raw from kissing

We too played loads of games (it rained all weekend) and, oddly enough, also had an up close and personal bird encounter. The aforementioned rain, plus chilly temperatures, meant that the purple martin colony at the South Fork Natural History Museum needed human help. Rain and cold mean no flying insects. And no flying insects means no food for the martins.

We loaded ourselves into two cars and headed off to help. At SoFo, we took matters into our own hands — literally. We tossed chilled-but-alive crickets (chilled so they can’t hop away, poor things) into the air, where the starving martins swooped in, snapped them up and ate them mid-flight.

 

There was one stunned, very weak, martin we fed with tweezers until she was strong enough to fly away.

Eventually, the skies cleared, the sun shone, the kids played outside — and it was time to say good-bye.

Uncle Wayne gets into the swing of things

Just as they drove off, I got a West Coast nesting update from my sister. Not only had my Mom settled in nicely, so had Mrs. Robin.

The eggs in the nest in the wreath on the front door

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

How to make friends and influence people

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‘On connecting. And Random Acts of Friendship’

My Mom often says that the way to make a friend is to be one. She ought to know; she’s moved many times in her life — to different houses, different towns, different states. And made new friends in each and every place.

She’s moving again, in fact, this very week. To an apartment in a complex that caters to “seniors.” I hate that word, but I honestly can’t think of a more attractive alternative. Besides, I’m a “senior” too. I often tell Mom that I’m catching up to her — she’s a mere 22 years older — and that if I weren’t her daughter we could still hang out as you know, friends.

Sometimes people mistake my Mom and me for sisters. She gets a kick out of this

I’m not worried about Mom making new friends. She’s got it down. The other thing she said was that when she moved to a new place she would immediately join the church and the bridge club. Instant friends. I’m not a church-joiner, but I certainly did make a batch of new buddies when I started playing bridge a few years ago.

Mom with a bunch of Fifties Friends not in church or playing bridge

Nowadays — and not just because of the pandemic, though the scourge did give these sites a boost — you can make friends online. I got an email a few weeks ago telling me I’d been “selected” to join a thing called Lunchclub. That joining this group was “by invitation only” and that I should be thrilled. Of course I thought it was spam. But The Child happened to be visiting, and she said that no, this outfit was legit. In fact, her friend, whom I have written about (See “Jeans are No Longer Tops”) as the Most Glamorous Person I Know, belongs to this group. Well, that clinched it for me.

Most Glam Girl, with other fab friends, including The Child, on a Glam Trip

I was in the car with The Dude and telling him all about my first Lunchclub meet — with a guy who used to work for Comedy Central — and he got all alarmed. “Is this a dating service?!?” he queried in alarm. “If it were a dating service, would I be telling you about it?” was my reasonable reply. Though I have to say I was somewhat flattered by his alarm.

One way we made “professional contacts” — and friends — in the Olden Days: on TV shoots

I’m still new at the Lunchclub game, but it seems to be geared toward people who want to make professional contacts rather than, well, friends. I say if you want to make actual new buddies, it’s best to stick with the tried-and-true. If it’s too late to make friends in school or at work (good methods, both) — and neither church nor bridge are your Thing, here’s an idea.

If you want new friends, take some action. You can’t just sit around waiting for people to discover just how fun and cool you are. Do something. Most people won’t connect, much less rub up against your leg (like the cat at the top of this post) without at least a little nudge.

Another cat who made friends with us and remained one till the bitter feline end. Read about his extreme friend-making talents in “Lost Cat: Answers to the Name Mango”

Believe it or not, simply talking to people works. You’d be surprised how easy it is to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know from Adam. Say you’re standing in front of an Alice Neel painting. (Run, don’t walk to her exhibit at the Met). It’s perfectly fine to make a comment or ask a question of another Neel gazer. (Most of the time they won’t think you’re creepy. Unless you are creepy.)

Definitely not creepy: neighbors who turn into friends

Next thing you know, you’re having a conversation — a conversation that might lead somewhere. I’ve had interesting chats — and made more than a couple of new friends — at opera intermissions, book talks and while waiting in line for a Covid shot. Even if you don’t make a new friend, you’ve made a connection. Which feels very Howard’s End (“only connect”) and good all around.

Making friends at a Book Talk. That’s author Sheila Kohler on the left

In closing, let me remind you that, once you’ve made your friends, you are not done. Friendship is not static; you’ve got to put in some work. And I don’t mean sending Christmas Cards. (Confession: I actually stopped doing this when The Child grew up.) I’m talking about what I call Random Acts of Friendship.

A Random Act of Friendship if ever there was one

Which means, in a nutshell, that it’s one thing to do something nice for a friend on her birthday — but you take it to a whole other level if you do nice things at random. Just the other week, a friend gave me some candles that she thought would look nice in the Ken and Barbie House. And they do.

Random Act of Candles

Another friend — someone I have never met in actual person — sent me a gift right out of the blue. She happens to be a reader of this blog, and she just felt like sending me a present. So, hey. I guess another way to make friends is to write a blog. Works for me. Sorry, Lunchclub.

Amagansett, New York. April 2021

 

 

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly

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‘Surgeons gotta, well, do surgery’

Years ago, when The Dude and I were dating (well, actually, we were more than just “dating,” but that’s what one called it then), I went through a rather nasty spell of tummy trouble.

The pain was sometimes so severe, and attacks of gastric distress so sudden, that I would stay over at Dude Man’s place. Aside from the fact that I was smitten with him, I felt safer there since he was a doctor and all.

(The photo at the top of this post is what he looked like when I met him. He told me he grew that rather unfortunate mustache to “look older” to his patients. I suppose it worked, if you were the sort of patient who thinks a 31-year-old with an orange mustache looks “old.”)

Young Doctor Dude-In-Training (right) and his Med School buddies experimenting with “medical” marijuana

Turns out I had good reason to feel safer with him. One night the pain was so bad I had to go to the emergency room. “I’d better go with you,” he said. “If there’s a surgical resident on call, he (residents were almost always a “he” back then) will want to ‘open you up to see what’s going on.'”

He went on to explain that doctors want to do what they’re trained to do: surgeons wanna cut, radiologists wanna x-ray, gynecologists wanna, well, you know.

Dude Man is an ophthalmologist. Er, excuse me, “the best eye doctor in town”

This all came back to me because, like 80% of the U.S. adult population, I’ve been coping with a bad back: three herniated discs (L4, L5 and S1, as if you care) plus spinal stenosis. (If you really care, you can read about my spinal woes in “Lean to the Left, Lean to the Right. Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight Fight Fight!”

I’ve been to see a neurologist who had me get a brace for my spine, an anesthesiologist who gave me injections, and a physiatrist (not “psychiatrist;” if I saw one of those, he might say it’s all in my head) who prescribed physical therapy.

Sporting my snappy back brace, per neurologist’s instructions

The pain was so bad a few weeks ago that I called a surgeon. The wise woman (Hi, Mickey!) who took my call said, “Honey, you don’t want to see Dr. Hatchet (not his real name) — he’s a surgeon. Surgeons do surgery. Trust me, stick with the PT.”

The brace made my aching back stiff, hot and sweaty; the injections cost as much as a car and didn’t last. So I took Mickey’s advice and stuck with the PT.

The One and Only Reason for Zoom: PT Girl working her magic

I shouldn’t say “stuck” though, since I absolutely adore my PT Girl. We’ve bonded over the internet (as far as I’m concerned, Zoom was invented for one thing and one thing only, and that’s PT) and over topics as wide-ranging as pets, holiday cooking and visits to our mothers. I even shared photos of The Child’s wedding dress with her. (No, I won’t share them with you; her Childness would kill me, and rightfully so.)

I told PT Girl that she should charge extra — for head shrinking as well as butt shrinking

Before I leave you to join PT Girl for our 10AM session, I want to share the story of a doctor who took “doctors gotta do what they’re trained to do” to a whole new level.

This guy was an instructor at Dude Man’s medical school. Named Dr. Stanley Brown. He is long gone, but he’s very much alive in The Dude’s memory.

See, Dr. Brown was a parasitologist. Wrote the definitive textbook on parasitology, in fact. And what, you may ask, do parasitologists use as a diagnostic tool? Nope, it’s not x-rays or EKGs — it’s stool samples.

According to Dude, Dr. Brown would begin every course by introducing himself as “Dr. Stanley Brown, but everyone calls me ‘Stoolie.’ And you know why? Because it’s all about the stool.

Patient has a fever? Check the stool. Rash? Check the stool. Why, I bet if I went to Stoolie Brown for my back pain, he’d ask for a stool sample. I wouldn’t hesitate; Dude says he was a genius. And, who knows? Maybe a little parasitical critter is at the root of my problems. Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, do we think The Child needs to visit The Dude? As a patient, I mean

Amagansett, New York. April 2021

 

 

 

Party of Two

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‘Another anniversary celebrated in singular style’

Dude Man and I didn’t have a reception when we were married. We didn’t even have a wedding. Not really. We pledged our troth in front of a Unitarian minister in the United Nations nondenominational chapel with our parents as witnesses.

With one of our wedding guests — my mom

But, barely-boned wedding be darned, we are indeed married, and have been for 36 years. Thirty-seven years tomorrow. You can read all about this long-ago non-event — and our Carvel wedding cake — in “Winning the Dude-A-Thon.

Carvel wedding cake — and hot dog stand wedding photo

Back then we decided it would be smart — and financially prudent — to blow our teensy wedding budget on the honeymoon and have a party for our friends when we returned.

Another reason for no wedding: I’d had one before. Satisfy your curiosity with “My Polio-Shot Marriage”

Well, that didn’t happen. (The party, not the honeymoon. The honeymoon was fab. We spent part of it in a palace in Morocco owned by Malcolm Forbes. Yes, you can read about that in “Malcolm and the Duchess.”) And then we thought we’d have a first-year anniversary party. Don’t worry; you didn’t get invited because that didn’t happen either. Neither did the fifth-anniversary party. Or the tenth. Twenty-fifth? Uh-uh.

Anniversary party to which you did not get invited? Nah. Here we’re partying like it was 1999. Because it was — a Millennium-Turning “Do”

Nope. No parties. If two’s company and three’s a crowd, I guess you’d say we’ve had company for our anniversary every single year.

Sometimes we muster the energy to go out for our anniversary. Here’s dinner (for two, natch) at Felidia. (Thank you, Theresa, for the gift cert!)

We don’t really mind. We like each other’s company. And, yes, we really do like weddings. Other people’s weddings. (Dig into “I Do, I Do, I Really Do Like Weddings” for some nice nuptial examples.)

Me, digging the heck out of Another Person’s Wedding

Speaking of Other People’s Weddings, we have a very special one coming up fairly soon. Her Childness, as you may have read here in “How On Earth Did THIS Happen?” is (gasp) getting married. And she’s not even a Child Bride. (See “Never Trust Anyone Over Thirty” for that stupefying story.)

Many friends have showered me with congratulations, and with well-meaning questions like: “Where/when will the wedding be?” “What is the color scheme?” “What are you wearing?” culminating sometimes with “Oh, what fun! You get to plan a wedding! 

To which I reply, “Wherever/whenever they decide” or “I have no idea, though I’m guessing not black,” “Anything that goes with my tiara,” culminating sometimes with “Hey, it’s not my wedding!”

Hmmm. I guess black is fine, wedding-wise. The Child is one of the beauties in red

So, are Dude Man and I celebrating all by our lonesomes again this year? Looks that way. Aside from the fact that 37 years is no Big Anniversary Deal celebration-marker-wise, we have the pandemic as a skip-the-party excuse. Stay tuned for 40. But don’t buy a gift yet. And don’t hold your breath.

What 40th Anniversary Celebrations look like. (Grandparents P at theirs.) Better start saving for my corsage

New York City. March 2021

“Never trust anyone over thirty.”

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‘Unless, perhaps, she is your own daughter’

I’ll always remember my very first Big-Time Ad Biz TV commercial. It was for Q-Tips, and was called “Still My Baby.” I didn’t even try to find it on YouTube, not just because this was ages ago, but because it was a pretty awful commercial.

It featured this mom who has a baby on a changing table and a jealous preschooler sulking alongside. To mollify the older child, she asks her to “help” by handing her a Q-tips Swab. Then Mom reassures the child (a girl, natch) by thanking her and saying, “Such a big girl. But you’re still my baby.

Here is The Child at sulky older sister age. She is not sulky, though, since she didn’t have a baby sibling to be jealous of

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Location location location

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‘When “zooming” meant jetting off to a shoot in Paris.’

I cheated a little with the photo at the top of this post. Oh, it’s Actual Paris, all right. But this shot of Dude Man strolling oh-so-Gallicly along the Seine was taken on a long-ago vacation, not on a shoot. He did accompany me once on a shoot; it was for Hershey, and it was in London. I looked for photographic evidence, but the envelope labeled “London with Alice for shoot” in our old-fashioned photo stash was, alas, empty.

Here’s London, with The Child this time. Nope, no shoot then either. Tho we did visit some Ad Biz Buddies

But back to zooming around the world on somebody else’s dime to have a simply fabulous time while making a television commercial.

I’ve written previously about how incredibly cool it was to work in advertising back when I was working in advertising. See pretty much any entry under the “Adland Lore” tab, or jump right to “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On,” to name just one. Of course, the Biz did have its downside. See “The Naked Boss and the Pussycat Lounge” for a darker view.

Here I am in Africa. I’m “working” on a Huggies commercial

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Jeans are no longer tops

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‘Thoughts on my pandemic “Quardrobe”‘

The absolutely most glamorous person I have ever clapped eyes on is a fabulous FOC (Friend of Child) I will call Glam Girl.

Yes, Glam Girl is a young person — younger than thirty, even — but with a sense of style in all things — food, friends, and yes, of course, fashion — that ordinarily would take decades of sophisticated living to acquire. (See reference to peacock-blue-lizard-Maud-Frizon-wearing boss in “Take a Letter, Miss Henry.”

Why, even when GG was in high school, which is where I first got to know her — I drove her and The Child to Stuyvesant every day during a transit strike — she had a certain je ne sais quois.

Not sure if GG (right) and Child (left) were in high school, but they sure were looking glammer than their years

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Once upon a time, I thought underwear was redundant

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‘I still don’t trust any enterprise requiring a bra.’

Apologies for being so late with my story this week. My morning was consumed by getting my second Covid-19 vaccination at good ole “Jabits” Center.

Me, this morning in line to be jabbed. No coffee yet, which might explain my masked — and hooded — look

It went a lot smoother than the first time, since I knew where to go and all — and I wasn’t quivering from First Timer Anxiety. (Speaking of the First Time, you may wish to revisit “My Morning at Jabits Center.” Or not.)

There were oh-so-many more people there for shots today. So it was a good thing there were plenty of kind, polite and younger-than-springtime National Guardspersons to guide us, quite literally, through the ropes.

Many people, many lines. Nope — it’s not coach class checkin at JFK — it’s the vaccination line at Javits Center

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