Boats? Dad had yachts of them

Standard

‘And not all of them were in the water’

Okay, okay. I’ll apologize for the terrible “yachts” pun. Sorta. I did win a contest with it, though, back in the Olden Days.

See, New York Magazine used to run a contest in every issue that involved wordplay, something I enjoy very much indeed, as evidenced these days with my compulsive playing of both Spelling Bee (every morning with coffee) and Wordle (every cocktail hour with, well, a cocktail).

Mom shucking corn. Which has nothing to do with this story. Except that I always enjoy a cocktail as part of my perfect corn cooking method (here you go)

This particular contest was to come up with funny definitions for words beginning with “y.” My winner? Yachts: many many boats. (Which is also a title of one of my pieces you can check out after this one, if you’re not too tired of being amused.)

Enough about me and my love of word games. Let’s talk about my Dad and his love of boats. I’ve written about his famous houseboat, the Sir-Launch-A-Lot. (He, ahem, loved puns too.) Today I’m going to talk about his landlubbing boats — his cars.

I’ve used this photo before, but I can’t resist. It shows Dad (courtesy of Scott, the camera’s owner) operating a remote shutter to take an early selfie.

See, Dad didn’t like just any ole cars — he liked really big cars. Cars so big that they were like boats. He favored Chrysler New Yorkers and Lincoln Town Cars — cars so big and boatlike they were like piloting the Queen Mary. I swear you’d turn the wheel on one of those babies and it would take several seconds for the car to actually turn.

And how was the ride? If you were seated in one of these, you not only couldn’t hear any outside noise, you couldn’t feel anything on the outside either. No bumps, no potholes, no speed bumps — even those wakey-uppy grids they put before you come to a big intersection just felt like you rolled over some sandpaper.

Here’s a car we actually owned. (It was a Ford; I remember going to the showroom.) That’s me in the back having a tantrum and refusing to participate in the Peterson family photo

Speaking of Town Cars, once Dad and Mom were visiting me in New York and Dad noticed many big black cars tooling around.¬† “Look! New Yorkers love a nice big Town Car too!” Little did he realize that these Town Cars belonged to car services, not to Actual New Yorkers.

To be fair, Dad didn’t actually own his Town Cars. (Nor his Chrysler New Yorkers). He leased them as part of his business. Of course I never paid any attention to this — until I was a freshman in college and Dad told me he’d get me a car if I got straight A’s. I did, and he did. I got a cute little Chevy Vega. Bright blue. But, after a year I had to give it back. No, my grades didn’t plummet. I didn’t realize Dad had leased it. (My Oldest Younger Brother Scott was a wiser bargainer; when he got his straight A’s from Northwestern, he made Dad buy his Datsun. It was orange, I think. But it was his, I know.)

“My” Chevy Vega, getting accessorized with cans and such on the occasion of my first wedding. (Yes, I was married before the Days of the Dude. Read about it here.)

So, how big were Dad’s boats. Er, cars? They were so big that Dad hung a tennis ball (at least I think it was a tennis ball; it might have been a golf ball) from the ceiling of the garage, placed so that it bonked gently on the windshield when the boat (er, car) was pulled in enough to close the garage door without crunching any fenders.

Sadly, I have no photographic evidence of the inside of the ball-bedecked garage. But here’s what was outside: a nice comfy swing

They were also so big that once we lost a child in one. True story. A big ole batch of Henrys was visiting — maybe for Dad’s retirement party. At any rate, it was back when we sibs all had little kids in tow. We were rounding everyone up and someone had told my nephew Leo to go get in Grampa’s car, then neglected to see him sitting in the back seat. Everyone left (in other cars, no one wanting to drive the boat), and it was hours before anyone remembered about Leo. Yup. He was still in the back seat, waiting. Gosh. Maybe he’s still there. I know I haven’t seen him in a while.

This time it’s Doug having a tantrum. And who could blame him? Yikes. At least we weren’t in old-timey costumes

Amagansett, New York. August 2023

 

 

“This old thing?”

Standard

‘How to respond to a compliment’

Perhaps you’ve noticed this: women are funny about compliments. Approach one with “Wow, what a pretty dress!” or “Gee, I love that coat” or — as I exclaimed at a recent party — “I seriously want to bonk you over the head and steal that bag!” and she is apt to reply with an abashed “This? I’ve had this for years.

Or, if you live in New York, like I do, she may very well reply with “This? It was an absolute steal at a sample sale.” Or “My brother-in-law is a furrier.” Or, simply, “I got it at Loehmann’s.

Yup. I got that dress at Loehman’s. Wore it to so many parties that, at one, a woman said, “Oh, we’ve met; I remember that dress

Whether a dress, a coat, earrings (“They were my grandmother’s”) or even a haircut (“I know a guy in Chinatown”) — whatever draws your compliment, it seems to be a feminine gambit to deflect it.

Sporting the fur that a blog fan sent me (seriously!)

Guys don’t do this. Or at least not many of them do. At The Child’s wedding (which was amazing, and which you can read about here), when I complimented a man on his dinner jacket (It was also amazing; white silk), I got, “It was my father’s.”

Amazing white jacket at the amazing wedding

But that’s pretty rare. Usually you just get a “whah?” look, like they completely forgot what they have on. Which, if we’re talking about The Dude, is probably the case.

No one complimented Dude Man on his “raincoat.” Though it would have been fun to hear his reply

I won’t try to analyze or explain why it is that some women have such a hard time with compliments. I say “some women” because my mother has it down. You say, “Omigoodness, those earrings are gorgeous!” and she’ll smile and say, “thank you.” That’s it. “Thank you.”

Mom showing off the earrings Favorite Only Sister Laura brought her from Mexico

I wrote a piece called “How Much is Too Much to Pay for a Party Dress?” that proved pretty popular. (Thank you!) It was about my CPW Theory, “CPW” standing for “cost per wearing.” Basically, it means that you divide the cost of an item by how many times you wear it. That 20-buck purple H&M top costs a full $20 if you wear it once; whereas that Burberry coat I’ve worn hundreds of times? It’s practically free by now.

And the compliments I get? Priceless. In fact, another way to interpret “CPW” is “compliments per wearing.” Which, thanks to my mother, I’m learning to accept with a smile — and a modestly murmured “thank you.”

Or maybe not-so-murmured (!)

Amagansett, New York. May 2023

 

 

 

 

Time to undeck those halls

Standard

‘Christmas is a wrap.’

No, I didn’t have to go to the City last week.

There I was, comfortably ensconced on our well-worn Amagansett couch — pile of knitting on my left, stack of New Yorkers on my right — when I realized that I had not seen the Metropolitan Museum Christmas tree.

That’s me, making like a Medieval ornament at the Met

I had nary a doctor’s appointment or lunch date or party invitation. My calendar was clean. But I knew that if I didn’t get myself back to the City and up to the Met, I would miss seeing the Christmas tree. Because, like almost every other Christmassy Thing in New York City, it would disappear after January 6.

January 6, you see, is Epiphany. Or Three Kings Day. Or the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Whatever you call it — well, except for the Day The “Patriots” Stormed the Capitol — it is more or less the end of Christmas. (Hmmm, I guess the Day They Stormed the Capitol was kinda the end of Christmas, too.)

Continue reading

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Wombat

Standard

‘Camouflage for kitties. Er, cities.’

“I’d pass the stuffing, but I can’t see you,” I wise-cracked to a Young Relation at the Thanksgiving table this year.

He was wearing a teeshirt in a camouflage pattern, you see. (Or don’t see; hahaha.)

I get my sense of humor — and of the absurd — from my mother, who once famously remarked that she would have bought that set of camo sheets on sale at Target but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to find her bed.

Look closely; that ornament in front is actually Yours Truly

But back to the Relation in the camo shirt. His was the pattern that one wears while hunting. You know what that looks like; it’s that woodland/jungle pattern that’s not only on teeshirts, but on cargo shorts and leggings, raincoats and totes. Pretty much everything has been “camo’d,” including those sheets on sale at Target. In fact, I’m sticking my neck out and saying that camo print is the young version of animal print. Instead of leopard or zebra, the under-MediCare Fashionista slink around sporting U.S. Woodland or Desert. (See my “At Least it’s not a Dead-Squirrel Stole” for a riff on the Elegantly Mature and their penchant for animal prints.)

In my humble opinion, the only person who ever looked good in this hat is The Child. When she was five.

Continue reading

Tawking the Tawk

Standard

‘”New York” as a second language’

I once worked with a fabulous art director named Jayne. (Hi, Jayne!) She was — and probably still is — not only visually talented, but verbally funny.

I forget now where she grew up, but she was living in New Jersey when we were working together and she was concerned that her daughter was picking up the accent.

“Mommy, Mommy,” the Little Cherub cried while playing on their outdoor deck. “I have a splintah!” It says something about Jayne’s devotion to good diction that she corrected her daughter’s pronunciation before extracting the “splin-ter.

My boss Harvey, the master of New Yorkese. Read about him in the ever-popular and hilarious “Harvey and the Grilled Half Goat Head”

Speaking of accents, you may have a good idea of what a New York accent sounds like even if you’ve never spent time here in the City. (Note: New Yorkers never refer to their town as the Big Apple; it is “the City.” But, yes, some do refer to it as “New Yawk.”)

Continue reading

“Okay. You know where the jail is, right?”

Standard

‘Lost in America’

What is it with men and asking for directions?

Dude Man and I can be circling the same golf course for the third time, listening to GPS Girl intone “recalculating” over and over — but will he stop, roll down the window and ask that nice gas station guy how to get to 98th Avenue?

If you are a woman and know any men, I bet you can answer that question.

Me, looking surprised at something on a Cape May trip. Maybe a man just asked for directions

The above incident actually happened when we were driving our rental from PDX to my Favorite Sister’s house in Vancouver WA. Apparently, that golf course obliterated a former road that had been programmed into the GPS, and GPS Girl had us driving in circles trying to find it. Oh, and what is it with GPS Girl’s voice? (We were once in the car with The Child, who asked, “Why is she telling you to ‘drive to higher ground?'” GPS Girl was actually saying “drive to highlighted route.”)

Anyway. I thought of GPS Girl and the golf course just the other day when we were on our way to Cape May for our annual birding excursion. This is when we team up with a bunch of friends to trail around the woods and fields to catch the annual spring migration — of both birds and birders.

Doing a little car birding on the way to Cape May

This trip we scored many sightings, including indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, bald eagles and a batch of Belgians who attached themselves to us for a while, delighting us with their excitement over even our la-di-dah birds. “Oh! Eeet eez a cardinal, n’est-ce-pas? Oooo-la-la!!!” said the Tall Belgian. “That eez a lifer for me!”

Our group is advanced upon by a gaggle of Cape May birders

But before we could find the birds and the Belgians, we first had to make it out of the City. Which is surprisingly hard to do, even at 5:30 in the morning. Part of why it is hard is because Dude Man insists on competing with GPS Girl. She will suggest a route, and he will say something like, “She wants us to go crosstown. I think it’ll be faster taking the Drive.” (The Drive is actually the FDR Drive, a road that loops all around the tip of lower Manhattan.) It is much longer to go via the Drive, but “there won’t be any lights.” Oh. Okay. Whatever. You’re driving, not me.

The blue dot is where we live. We were on our way to the Holland Tunnel, which is where that ’78’ is. Would you loop around the tip of Manhattan? Or drive crosstown then down? Hmmm

So we drive east to ultimately go west, zooming down the Drive. Which was actually very beautiful and movie-set-like, what with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and all. But somehow, instead of the Holland Tunnel, we ended up entering the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (Naughty, naughty, GPS Girl.) Which not only goes to Brooklyn, but is really really long. There was a moment when Dude Man seriously considered pulling a U-ie. But I pointed out that not only were there were giant trucks whizzing by between us and the return route but a rather high concrete barrier.

So we drove through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which, at 9,117 feet, is the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in North America. Dude Man’s ears were spouting steam. Then, when we emerged, we had no idea how to find the entrance to the Manhattan-bound side. I saw a police car and insisted we stop and ask for directions. This time he did not argue. The nice policewoman told us to turn left at the next two stop signs, then take the ramp. But did Dude Man do this? Of course not. He drove to the next stop light instead, before finally giving in and following the route she suggested.

Being a woman, I have absolutely no problem asking for directions. (My mother, pictured at the top of the post piloting my Dad’s green truck, doesn’t either.) Once — and this was waaay before GPS Girl or any type of navigational tool except maps — I was driving a gaggle of girlfriends out to Amagansett for the weekend. We were having a high old time in the car catching up and telling stories, and I missed the Manorville exit. I figured no problem, I’d just go to the end of the LIE and drive from Riverhead. Easy-peasy.

If I saw this woman on the road, I’d ask her for directions

Except that Riverhead has this roundabout where the LIE ends, and I took the wrong “spoke,” as it were. I ended up in a rather sketchy neighborhood, and it was getting dark to boot. I really wanted out of there. So I pulled up to a woman who looked somewhat the worse for wear — but not too scary — rolled down my window and asked, “How do I get to Route 27?”

Then she starts her directions by saying, “Okay. You know where the jail is, right?”

New York City. May 2022

It’s been an Apocalypto kind of day

Standard

‘On watching movies more than once’

I know I know. I’m not the only person who watches the same movie more than once. For instance, many people have special Christmas movies. “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “Love Actually.” “A Christmas Carol” in one of its many variations. (I like the Muppet One best. Those rat muppets in the hula skirts singing “We’re Havin’ A Heat Wave” after Michael Caine’s Scrooge threatens to fire them for asking for more coal are eminently re-watchable.)

When we were at The Child’s for the holidays, she insisted on watching “White Christmas.” She even sang along to “Snow.” Which warmed the cockles of my tradition-loving motherly heart– see “Taking Motherhood to a Whole New Level” for non-movie-watching activities involving scary heights–since we used to watch this every Christmas when she was an Actual Child. She sang along to “Snow” then, too.

She also insisted that the new James Bond film was a Christmas movie. And who am I to argue? I think Die Hard is a Christmas movie

And I know a lot of people–besides myself, I mean–who have watched really good, really classic movies more than one time. I’m talking “The Godfather” here, folks. Which, in my humble opinion–plus a lot of other not-so-humble people’s–is The Best Movie Ever Made. Seriously. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this stupid blog post and load ‘er up. There’s a restored 50th anniversary version (gasp! fifty years!) but any ole version will do. I just watched it again for the umpteenth time on my iPad because I couldn’t figure out how to use the “universal control” on the Big New TV that basically ate the den in Amagansett. Sigh.

Anyway. Back to movies. In this really good, really classic category I also include “All About Eve” and “Fargo.” And hey, “Jaws.” Seriously. Just because “Jaws” has sharks and such doesn’t mean it isn’t a classic. I just wish Spielberg had dispensed already with the mechanical shark. It was silly and he didn’t need it. Boys with their toys. (Another big sigh goes here.)

Marge “SunofaGunderson” in “Fargo.” Hey. It’s a beautiful day. And is that your buddy there? In the chipper?

I love these movies so much I could “do” them for you. By which I mean I could quote huge chunks of dialog while mimicking the actions too. All it takes is a cocktail. One cocktail.

No, what I am talking about in the title of this piece is the kind of movie that really doesn’t have any rhyme nor reason to be repeatable. Like, it isn’t a “classic,” in the sense of having film-school classes organized around it. (See anything Orson Welles.) And it isn’t inextricably linked to a Major Holiday. (See “Bad Santa.” Or not.)

No. This kind of movie is the antidote to a mood. Like, today I had one of those kinds of days where little irksome things kept happening. Blinky warning lights on devices. Pieces published on websites with question marks in odd places. Not being able to locate a record locator. That kind of stuff.

So. I had an irresistible urge to watch “Apocalypto.” Now, this is a movie I had never heard of until I happened to be visiting Second Oldest Younger Brother Roger one time and he happened to have it on hand. “Want to watch Apocalypto?” he asked. “Not my kind of movie,” I replied.

The DVD case for Apocalypto doesn’t exactly make a case for watching it

“Not your kind of movie, eh? We’ll just see about that,” Middle Younger Bro wisely said, slipping the DVD into the little slidey thingie.

Of course he was right. From the opening scene where a huge boar gets trapped and gobbled up raw by extremely attractive scantily-clad men (Jaguar Paw is, well, grrrr!) to the wild treks through the jungle and the Mayan rip-their-hearts-out (literally) sacrifice scene to the really ironic ending, it’s a keeper. And, oddly enough, an antidote to whatever nonsense is happening in your life. It puts being on interminable hold in proper perspective for sure. (See “A Life on Hold.” Or not. Maybe just watch “Apocalypto.”)

My fairly routine need for an “Apocalypto Fix” has even entered the Henry Family Lexicon. When we are on our Sunday Night Family FaceTime calls, if I happen to look a little downcast, one of my bros will say something like, “Looks like you could use a little Apocalypto.”

The weekly gathering of the Henry Clan. “Apocalypto” may be mentioned

Incidentally, The Dude claims not to understand how I can want to watch a movie more than once. He says you don’t need to because “you already know what happens.” But then, this is the same guy who once watched “Four Weddings and a Funeral” twice–in one session. (He was having a particularly bad day.)

But did I watch “Apocalypto” last night? Nope. I went to the opera to see Rodelinda. Which is a rarely performed Handel opera. With two count-’em-two countertenors. I hadn’t seen it when I took the rather grim selfie at the top of this post. And now? Those Handel-y rhythms soothed this savage breast so well that it pushed “Apocalypto” right out of my head.

Well, until tonight anyway.

New York City. March 2022

Let there be light

Standard

‘Just make sure there are dimmers’

I’ve written before about how people who like to keep stuff are invariably married to people who like to purge. Well, same deal with light.

Those who prefer a soft and lovely ambient glow are sure to be paired with those who insist on lights so glaringly, wincingly bright you could perform cataract surgery at the dinner table.

Dude Man’s favorite kind of lighting: ceiling cans, only turned up to eleven

Maybe it’s because he actually was a cataract surgeon that Dr. Dude likes his lighting so, well, megawatt. But I bet there are plenty of you out there who are married to doctors, lawyers or even Indian chiefs with similar taste in luminosity.

It’s just one of many funny things about marriage. And another reason I am so gol-darned happy here in the Ken & Barbie House. Just as I am grateful for the pocket doors sealing off its teensy-but-separate bedrooms (See “Why Dude Man’s Not Dead”), I am happy about my ability to dim as low as I want to go.

I can also have a bathroom light that looks like a giant diamond. Not to mention a framed lipstick-print watercolor. And (in the photo at the top of this post) a disco-ball ceiling light

Speaking of lighting, remember that character on Seinfeld called the Soup Nazi? He was the really crabby food-cart vendor who, if you didn’t place your order just right, wouldn’t give you your soup. (Oh, and speaking of Seinfeld, I saw Larry David on my walk this morning. I almost stopped to ask him what the heck he was doing on the East Side.)

Another thing I saw on my walk this morning. And no, I don’t want a dimmer on that forsythia

Well, there’s another New York Institution that was featured in a Seinfeld episode. It’s called Just Bulbs. (Forgive me for not finding that episode for you. I’m already a day late with this story and time’s a wastin’.)

Anyway. Just Bulbs is to lightbulbs as the late lamented Gracious Home was to basically everything. Gracious Home had bedding, they had pots and pans, they had candles and paint and placemats and gadgets galore. In fact, when she was little, The Child and I played a game called “Stump Gracious Home.” We’d go in and ask for, say, a sink strainer. And the Gracious Home Greeter would lead you to a whole wall display of them.

Well, Just Bulbs is like that, only with bulbs.¬†They have every single kind of bulb you can possibly imagine, even the teensy ones that go inside your car’s glove compartment. (Does anyone really keep gloves in there?)

I don’t know what happens in the Just Bulbs Seinfeld episode, but I can tell you about an actual episode I witnessed there not long ago.

One of my adorable glam-girly lamps needed a new bulb. (The crystal one with the beaded shade.) So I marched on over to Just Bulbs. There was one other customer ahead of me, who was clutching a big ole ginger-jar lamp.

“Do you have any lamp harps?” she asked.

In reply, and with an expression befitting the Soup Nazi, Mr. Manager pointed at the illuminated sign over his head. Which read, of course, “Just Bulbs.”

“Do you get that a lot?” I asked when it was my turn. He responded with a world-weary Larry David-esque sigh. Then went to get me my bulb.

After which I went home, screwed it into my pretty little lamp — then promptly dimmed it.

Me. Happy as a female clam with my Glam Girl lighting. Dimmed, of course

New York City. March 2022

 

Lean on me

Standard

‘Another Dog Day Afternoon. Er, Morning’

One of the nice things about the Ken & Barbie House, teensy though it may be, is its proximity to Central Park. Every morning I’m here, I roll out of my itty-bitty bed, tie on my sneakers and go for a walk.

That’s when I like the Park best — in the mornings when pretty much the only people there are the ones walking their dogs. Oh, there are the crazy runners and bikers, but they’re on the road. On the paths, it’s the dogs who rule.

The doggie brigade leaving my building this morning

They run around tossing balls to their masters, doing high jumps over the fences, terrorizing the squirrels (who just laugh at them), and gleefully sniffing each others’ butts. Continue reading

Remembering Betty White

Standard

‘She was a real softie in a couple of Q-Tips commercials’

Okay. So maybe her work as Sue Ann or Rose is more memorable, but I will always treasure the experience of working with Betty White.

Q-Tips — along with Shake ‘n Bake, another brand blast from the past — was one of my first writerly assignments when I came to Ogilvy in 1979. (Read all about how I got there in “Take A Letter, Miss Henry.”)

70s KC Me, dreaming of a job in the New York Ad Biz

In those days (and probably now, too) you couldn’t write a commercial for Q-Tips that mentioned cleaning your ears — even though that’s what most people did with Q-Tips — without including a rather harshly-worded warning:

An actual Q-Tips Box with the actual warning. Only it’s too small to read, so I’m putting it here, too:

So we did these rather namby-pamby spots with mothers and babies that talked vaguely about “softness” and included cloying scenes of an adoring mother tapping the Q-Tip on, say, a little girl’s nose. I was responsible for at least one of these, called “Still My Baby.” Forgive me; here it is:

Well. After my co-workers and I got through cracking ourselves up with parodies like “Not My Baby,” “No More Baby” and the lovely “It’s Not Really A Baby,” my partner and I decided to break out of the Baby Box and try something new. Continue reading