“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

 

 

Narrowing the Generation Gap

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‘Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom get together again’

Pictured above are a daughter, a mom (who is also a daughter) — and her mom. Three generations of a family who, like many others, loves nothing more than to get together but hasn’t been able to in ever so long.

Same trio, same positions — Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom — on another visit long ago. Which doesn’t actually feel that long ago

The last time this threesome was in the same room¬†at the same time — not to mention the same positions — was in October of 2019. When the extended Henry Clan gathered to celebrate our matriarch’s ninetieth.

Same room, same time, some celebration (!)

That was some shebang. (You can read all about it in “So far, so good.”) There was cake, there was wine, there was dancing and joking and all-around foolishness and hijinks.

Dancing in pjs. A must at any Henry party

One can only wonder what we would have done differently had we known it would be the last time we’d see each other for more than a year. I certainly can’t think how we could possibly have enjoyed ourselves more.

I can think of one thing I’d do differently: have waaaay more of those delish deviled eggs, seem here being created by the Amazing Jen

Funny how you can take in-person stuff for granted. A hug, a kiss, a game of Scrabble, or even a family-gathering tussle over who gets the next turn in the shower or the last cup of coffee. From now on, slap me if I pass on any of these again.

Scrabble chez Mom. She’s smiling because she’s winning. She smiles a lot when she plays Scrabble

Trust me, the only way I want to Zoom these days is to get on a plane and go see my Mom. Which is what I am doing this Sunday.

We crack each other up at one of our weekly Family Zoom sessions

Yes, at long last — and fully vaccinated (see “My Morning at Jabits Center”), I am jetting out for a real, in person Mom Visit. And I’m not the only one. When I mentioned this visit to The Child, she asked to go along. (Or “go with,” as they say in the Heartland.)

The only way to “go with” back in the day. The Henrys visit the Peterson Clan

“Of course you can come,” was my pleased-as-punch reply. The Considerate Child even offered to drive. (She has had beaucoup de practice tooling around in that F350, and I am woefully unfamiliar with the operation of any vehicle newer than a ’98 4Runner. “What’s this thing do?” was my response to seeing one of those newfangled key thingies the last time I rented a car.)

So. Next time you hear from me I will have had actual, physical contact with both my mother and my daughter — my mother in her new home; my daughter in her new status as a Married Person. (See my last two posts for glorious wedding — er, “elopement” — details. More than one person remarked that the photos were so gorgeous it looked like a movie. “Yes, a movie that I couldn’t go to,” was my retort.)

Daughter in F350 as Married Person

But I do get to go see the two most important women in my life. And soon. Watch this space for a brand new Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom photo. Everybody in it will be smiling. Even those of us who lost at Scrabble.

Amagansett, New York. May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Proustian Popcorn Pan

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‘My brain explodes with salty, fluffy memories’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of Doug, this piece is kind of about him. He is the one who used to wield the titular popcorn pan. He was the youngest of us, the littlest of the Little Kids, and yet he was allowed — nay, encouraged — to be the Popcorn Maker. I can still see him — or the top of his head anyway — standing at the stove, vigorously rattling away making that night’s popcorn.

Doug on the living room floor, with Major, not popcorn (this time anyway)

We would scoop our portions from the big pan into cereal bowls, then settle on the living room floor for a night of TV watching. Dad controlled the remote, so thank goodness we all liked the same shows: Bonanza, I Spy, Batman, Mission Impossible, Laugh-In. Heck, Dad even liked Hullaballoo.

Kids still enjoy sprawling on carpeted floors — at least the ones in my Mom’s living room

I say this piece is “kind of” about Doug, because, like most of my stories, it’s really about memories. Today’s is about how crazy it is that they can be triggered so easily by something as beaten and battered as an old popcorn pan.

Why, when I saw that picture of Mom holding that Proustian Pan, I was hit by a virtual memory tsunami. I could see the light of the glowing TV flickering off our faces, I could feel the knotty texture of the wall-to-wall carpet, I could hear my brothers hissing “Get down! You make a better door than a window!” And yes, I could taste that popcorn. Which, enhanced no doubt by the lens of nostalgia, I consider the best popcorn ever popped, any time anywhere.

Mom and her personal Popcorn Popper, AKA Doug

Which is true, since it wasn’t pre-buttered or pre-salted or pre-packaged or pre-anything’d. It was popcorn grown by my Grampa Henry on his farm. It came “packaged” on cobs that we would shuck onto newspapers on that self-same living room rug. We’d put the just-shucked kernels into mason jars that we kept in the fridge. (Pro Tip: popcorn pops best when it’s cold; the kernels “escape” the husks with greater force, thus yielding a bigger “puff.”)

Grampa with his Shuckers. Er, kids and grandkids

It’s funny. When I was doing my own sorting and sifting and tossing, what were the things I just had to keep? Why, the things that triggered memories, of course. Well, as long as they could fit into 550 square feet and do their triggering.

I’m not sure what Mom kept –well, except for an inordinate number of shoes — but I sure hope someone hung on to that popcorn pan.

Doug (at left) in the kitchen on a long-ago Thanksgiving. I’m betting the Popcorn Pan got a workout even after the pie

Amagansett, New York. April 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

 

 

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

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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The time I stole the Vice Presidential couch

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‘From way back when people had actual offices. With actual furniture.’

It’s been ages since most of us have seen the inside of an office. And not just because the Pandemic has had many working folks working virtually.

See, even before The Great Scourge sent office workers scrambling for work-from-home kitchen counter space, actual offices were on the wane.

The Child, complete with laptop and lapdog, at work a couple of years ago in her modern open-plan Boston office. True, she was such a Big Cheese that she had her own space with a door that shut. But the door was glass

I’m talking here about “offices” as not just places where people work, as in “the New York office,” but your very own space at work. A place with four walls and an actual door—where you could shut said door and adjust your slip in complete privacy before settling down at your desk to tackle that Huggies copy.

The Child getting some work done, pandemic-style

Yes, there was a time when even the lowliest copywriter, wet behind the ears and fresh from the Midwest, had an office. The only people who didn’t were the secretaries, who sat outside in the hall. I know this because I was mistaken for a secretary on my first day at Ogilvy. Seated in the hall and handed a sheaf of letters to write, too. (You can read more about this in “Take a Letter, Miss Henry.“) Incidentally, they were indeed called “secretaries;” they even had a “Day” when you brought them flowers.

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My morning at Jabits Center

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‘It gave my trip to the City a real shot in the arm’

If you have attended a trade show in New York City — like my Taza-chocolate-founder nephew Alex or my former-freelance-partner Terril — then you’ve been to the Javits Center. It’s a super-huge convention center that was repurposed into a vast field hospital during the peak of the pandemic and is now one ginormous Pfizer booth. Well, er, vaccination center.

The ticket that ticket scalpers can’t scalp — not for any price

In honor of its new role, it’s been redubbed the “JAVax Center,” which I suppose is pretty clever, though Jacob Javits, who was kind of a male Bella Abzug, might roll around in his grave to hear it. They should have asked me; I would have offered up “Jabits Center.” After all, you go there and get what they call, rather cutely in the UK, a “jab.”

Well, I got my first jab this morning. It was super quick and super easy — in fact, it took me longer to book the appointment than it did to get the vaccine, including travel time. (I took an Uber, which is an indulgence for public-transportation-loving me, but I was — of course — nervous about being late.)

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