Chili today, hot tamale

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‘Laura and Dave’s 40-year fiesta’

You haven’t heard anything till you’ve heard my mother snort with derision. Even over the phone, the sound is, well, distinctive.

What prompted this snort? I was pulling together a photo book for my Favorite Only Sister and her Favorite Only Husband to commemorate their (gasp) forty years of marriage, and was doing a little fact-checking.

Forgive me for choosing this wedding photo to share, but you simply must see me in my one and only turn as a bridesmaid

I had heard from a friend of theirs from Carlyle, where we grew up, that he was the one who had introduced the Happy Couple to each other. “It was at the Lake,” this guy maintained, meaning Carlyle Lake, the large flood-control project that was part of our Dad’s legacy as an engineer and a recreational — and employment, in Laura’s case — focus of our youth.

Happy Family Dip in said Lake. That’s Phil, Mom, Natalie and Dave bobbing about. Oh, say 25 years ago

I’d already heard a story — a different one — about how Laura and Dave got together, romantically, that is. I’d heard that the flames of their passion were kindled when Dave drove her to college her freshman year. (My Mom and Dad were “too busy,” they said. And perhaps they were. Or perhaps the excitement of delivering a freshman to college had worn off by the time this, their fourth freshman, needed to be driven.)

I don’t have a photo of this car ride, so I’ll use this cute cake-cutting shot instead. From 40 years ago. And yup, it’s in the book

Well, when I fact-checked that story, my Mom gave a snort, then said, “Hah! Laura and Dave were dating all through high school.

But that snort was nothing to the one I got when I mentioned the story of the friend allegedly introducing them at the Lake. “Hah! Laura and Dave have known each other all their lives.”

Another shot from the book. This one shows Dave and Laura with Mom and Dad’s stuffed deer head, the one Mom wouldn’t let him keep in the house so he built a porch to put it in

Well, sorry Friend From Carlyle. Our mother has snorted. But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter how they met or even how long they’ve known each other. What matters is that they have been a truly amazing couple for many years — the last forty of them married to each other.

I love this photo of Dave and Laura. Almost as much as I love the one with the sombreros at the top of this post

And, as I said in the book I gave them — punctuated with many nostalgically fantastic photos contributed by my sibs (thanks to all!) — “wherever you found Laura and Dave, you found fun. And still do.”

Happy Anniversary! Keep the fun — and the fiesta — fired up. Ole!

The Happy Couple on their actual anniversary: June 30, 2024

Amagansett, New York. July 2024

It’s not easy being Big Green

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‘Nah. I take it back. It’s actually pretty sweet.’

Last weekend I got to catch up with Gouda and Crud and JookBock and Sex and The Mole. Because last weekend Dude Man and I went up to Hanover, NH, to attend his 50th reunion at Dartmouth College. Yes, folks, I said 50th.

Dude (circled) in the bosom of the Class of ’74, in front of Dartmouth Hall

It was very well-attended, especially by The Dude’s pack of pals, the aforementioned Gouda et al. Dude Man was in a fraternity there, once known as Kappa Kappa Kappa, or, affectionately, Tri-Kap, but renamed Kappa Pi Kappa a few years ago. Why? Just picture them attending intermural sporting events decked out in sweatshirts with KKK on the front.

A Big Green gaggle (Dude circled) in front of the once-called Kappa Kappa Kappa House. Look closely, and you’ll see one of them sporting a freshman beanie

There were other renamings that got most of the 50-year classmates’ heads spinning around. Like, not only did they stop calling the sports teams “Indians” and rename them “Big Green” (which I kind of understand), they also renamed the medical school the Geisel Medical School — after Theodor Geisel, the children’s book author. (Yes. A medical school named after Dr. Seuss.) I guess the Geisels gave them a ton of money. When this guy came up to us in one of the buffet lines soliciting class donations — “Hey! Let’s get the class to 100% participation!” — we asked how much money we’d need to give to rename the medical school — no, not the Dude Man Medical School (or even the Whitmore Medical School), but to put it back to what it was: the Dartmouth Medical School.

What Dude Man (circled) looked like as a frat boy

Other than griping about names, did we have fun? You betcha. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen Seventy-Somethings parading around in Dartmouth-green bedecked straw boaters. Why, some of the attendees, including Dude Man himself, dug out their freshman beanies for the occasion.

That’s the best shot I have of beanied Dude Man…seen walking ahead while pal Lex points out a shadow

Incidentally, as I’ve mentioned before, the Nickname Thing is a Dartmouth Thing. The Husband Known as “Dude” got his moniker because he wore a tie to the Freshman Mixer. (Not sure if he also wore his beanie.) The others got theirs in various colorful ways. “Gouda” because his mom sent him cheese. “The Mole” because his last name is Molinari. I don’t want to know how “Sex” got his. (That’s Sex and his long-suffering wife posing in front of the guys’ dorm in the photo at the top of this post.)

That’s Chee-Hee with Dude Man sporting (and holding) reunion merch

In case you’re wondering, not many guys — and it was all guys at Dartmouth till about halfway through Dude Man’s tenure there, when girls were admitted and dubbed “Cohogs” by the welcoming male student body — not many guys lived in the Tri-Kap house. There wasn’t room. The Dude and his roomie Sex lived in a dorm called Gile Hall (the doorway of which is pictured at the top of this post). Trust me, even though the rooms at Gile were teensy, they were worlds better than the accommodations at Tri-Kap. One of the other wives (hi, Susan!) couldn’t even go inside the frat, it was so junked-up and smelled so bad.

A couple of Tri-Kap wives seated in the only place one could sit with impunity: outside

Me, brave soul that I am, not only when into the frat house, I went down into the basement. Where, after countless beer pong games, your feet stick to the floor and your nostrils are assailed with an aroma equal parts beer, pee, and cake. (There was plenty of beer and pee; I’m not sure why the smell had cakelike topnotes, but it did.)

The rest of the place wasn’t much better. There was another 50th reunion attendee who oversaw the renovation of the Tri-Kap house a few years ago who wandered around going “Oh noooooo!” and shaking his head from side to side in wonder at the destruction and disorder. If Kappa Kappa Kappa wasn’t the model for Animal House (It was Alpha Delta), well, it should have been.

Dude, sporting his reunion straw boater, with a few other intrepid guests inside the frat house. That’s the moaning man in the background

Speaking of “Goats,” Roger Federer (Greatest Of All Time, in my opinion as well as many others) was the commencement speaker. The whole Class of ’74, spouses included and topped with those Class Straw Boaters, was supposed to lead the graduation procession. Dude Man and I were game — and thrilled to see Fed speak — but we woke Sunday morning to rain. Not just a sprinkle, either. It was coming down in proverbial buckets.

Me, not in the rain in a graduation processional

So we scored some Starbucks, and watched the rain come down on Occom Pond, right outside the window of the gorgeous house that one of Dr. Dude’s patients loaned us for the weekend. 

Thank you, Dartmouth, for a terrific Reunion Weekend. Sorry I didn’t keep my straw boater.

New York City. June 2024

 

When told your age, people say, “Gosh, you look GOOD.”

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‘And other things that make you realize that you are really, truly, finally OLD.’

Dude Man had another birthday Sunday. But still, no matter how many birthdays he has, I will always have more.

His Dudeness celebrating his 70th birthday — six months after I did

See, I am six months older than Dr. Dude. I guess it didn’t bother him back when we met, because, well, we got married. And, no, I wasn’t an heiress or even a rich widow.

Of course, back when we met, I looked younger. Not just younger than I look now, but younger than most people my age. “You’re kidding” or even “You can’t be serious,” is what people would say on those rare occasions when I had to divulge my age. “You look much younger.”

Me, back when I wanted to look older than I really was. Gosh, that was a long time ago

Not anymore. Now, when pressed for my age or when I must recite my birthdate (something that happens with more and more frequency as I pick up a prescription or check in for an unpleasant test of some sort) I get no reaction. None.

But if I’m in a social situation where ages are shared, like when I celebrated my birthday on a birding trip to Brazil a couple of years ago, I get, “Gosh, you look GOOD” — with the “good” emphasized and sort of drawn out. Like GOOoood. Trust me, this doesn’t mean that you look “good.” It means that you look old. And if someone says, “You look amazing“? You might want to pick out your burial outfit.

I got a lot of “You look GOOOooods” that night. The cake helped. So did a few caipirinhas

Dude Man has yet to get “You look GOOOooood.” He’s much more likely to hear “Has anyone told you that you look like James Taylor?” Um, yeah. Like a zillion times. James Taylor’s brother Livingston even told him he looks like James Taylor. I’ve mentioned this doppelganger deal before, of course. In “I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Birthdays,” and “Sweet Baby Wayne,” among other posts.

No comment

And if being told you look “good” isn’t bad enough, just wait until you’re mistaken for your parent’s sibling. Yup. That’s happened to me. More than once. And people don’t ask, “Are you two sisters?” No, they look at Mom and me and go, “Sisters, right?” (Check out the photo at the top of this post for irrefutable proof that this is the case.)

Oh well. It could be worse. People could mistake me for my Mom’s brother.

Happy Birthday, James. Er, Wayne. Er, Dude.

Dude (71) and Cousin Charlie (72) youthfully yuck it up on yet another birthday

Amagansett, New York. June 2024

 

The client who wanted to have breakfast at Tiffany’s

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‘Memories and more for Memorial Day’

Nah, that’s not a Tiffany’s breakfast special in that photo at the top of this post. That’s a typical breakfast at the diner we used to go to on our Cape May birding trips. I say “used to go to” because this place, our beloved Uncle Bill’s — which we had frequented faithfully for 30 birding years or so — was under new (very crabby) management last time we went. (They wouldn’t seat us till our “entire party” was there! And we were literally the only ones in the joint!) So we took our business elsewhere.

Three of our intrepid birding group — full of delicious Flight Deck breakfast — just a couple of weeks ago.

Now we go to the Flight Deck Diner, with much better food (Real fruit! Not canned! And they have grapefruit juice!) and service so thoughtful and sweet (Our waitress brought me real milk for my coffee on the second morning! Without me asking!) that we tipped 20 bucks on a 15-dollar tab.

But back to the point of this story.

As most of you know, I used to work in advertising. Back in the glory days — or at least my glory days — the eighties and nineties at Ogilvy, New York. Ogilvy was exciting and sophisticated; New York was exciting and sophisticated. The clients, sometimes not so much.

Annie (who never ever changes) and unrecognizable me, back in our Ad World Glory Days. We’re on an AmEx shoot on Okracoke Island

We had this one Kimberly-Clark client who liked to abuse his clienthood. Not only did he always want to go to the most expensive places, once there he would always order the most expensive things on the menu. I say “things” because sometimes he’d get the steak and the lobster — because he couldn’t decide, he’d say. It was really because, as a client, he could.

I spotted these signs from my Jitney window on the way to A’sett for Mem. Day. I don’t know which is sillier: “Waxing Facial Lashes” or “Walking Tea”

He was greedy, but not necessarily lacking a sense of humor. Once, while dining at the Palm, a very pricey steakhouse indeed, he excused himself to use the men’s room. Well. Apparently, there was something going on in there that is usually done by adolescent boys alone in their rooms, because after he reported it to our shocked-into-silence table, he added, “Well, I guess that’s why they call it the Palm.” Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I wonder if what he said happened really did happen, or if he just wanted to make up a dirty pun?

Anyway. One time he came to town and asked if we could go have “breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Honest. None of us knew where to look.

The Child et moi not at Tiffany’s. But on Amagansett Main Street some Memorial Day in the misty past

These and other stories came up in breakfast-time conversation over Memorial Day Weekend because our nephew and his wife were here visiting. Not only do they like coming to Amagansett, they like hearing our stories. Here’s an excerpt from their thank-you email: “You and Wayne have so many interesting stories. I think Sally [Mrs. Nephew; not her real name] is going to be dealing with some snake trauma (from the things that can f**king kill you segment) for the next few weeks 😄”

Nephew and Mrs. Nephew hiding from snakes

Of course, this nephew is referring to “Crocodile Dumdee,” my piece about how everything in Australia can kill you. Read it and see what else can kill you, not just snakes. If you dare, that is.

We also told a bunch of awful jokes. If you’re in the mood, you can get a taste of these in “Kangaroo Walks Into a Bar.” Here’s one that’s not in that piece and probably shouldn’t be in this one, either, but I can’t help myself. Middle Younger Brother Roger gets the credit. (Or the blame.)

The Child, ready for her standup routine, is introduced by her Grampa at his retirement party. Get the gist — and the jokes — in “Kangaroo Walks into A Bar”

This guy is visiting his friend when he notices his friend’s dog “giving himself a bath.” (If you get my drift.) The guy sighs, looks at his friend and says, “Gee, I wish I could do that.” The friend replies, “You might want to pet him first.”

Mr. and Mrs. Nephew loved that one. They’re welcome here any time.

Amagansett, New York. May 2024

Vancouver, I miss you already

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‘And my Mom and Sister too, of course’

Guess what? This plane has WiFi (!) And I’m stuck here for upwards (hah) of four hours with a choice of watching a movie or writing this post. Heck, the flight is so long I’ll probably have time for both.

Anyway. I wrote last week about how lucky I was to get to go visit my Mom. I’m lucky because A) I actually have a Mom, and B) she’s very nice to visit. Time spent with her at her senior living place in Vancouver, Washington, is very mellow.

Mellow random shot of Gary Cooper from Instagram. Just because *sigh*

So mellow that, when Oldest Younger Brother Scott phoned to tip us off to the presence of a great basketball playoff game on TV, Mom and I ended the call with, “Thanks! Now we need to get back to doing nothing.”

The school still hasn’t hired a proofreader. I’m available

We did watch that game. Forgive me, for I am not a dyed-in-the-wool hoops fan like Mom and Scott (and Laura, for that matter). I believe it was the Timberwolves and the Nuggets. The Wolves basically gnawed those Nuggets to shreds. Must’ve hurt their teeth something fierce.

Hit “Guide” a couple of times, and a whole TV World reveals itself

We also watched the Kentucky Derby. Which I found by discovering a cool trick on Mom’s remote. If you hit “guide” twice, you get a menu of little icons for stuff like movies and game shows and news. Then, if you choose the “sports” one — it looks like a little football — you can find any sport you like. Even horse-racing. (I know, I know. This is super-boring. Sorry. But it made our day, which should give you an inkling of what our days were like.)

First three-way Derby photo finish ever. Or practically ever; forget which. Mom picked the winner!

My days started with my walk through Mom’s nabe. If it was raining, I waited for “the window.” You’d be surprised how many people do the same thing. I said “hello” to a nice mailman one otherwise-raining morning, who merrily said, “Gotta take advantage of the window!” right back at me.

Blossoms and trash bins adorn this Vancouver street during a “window”

We didn’t get around to Scrabble this visit. Too many sports events to watch. Lots of Happy Hours too. There were two regularly-scheduled ones during my visit, plus one Mexican Fiesta in honor of Cinco de Mayo. They have entertainment (besides wine and cheese, and margaritas for the Fiesta) at these hoedowns. You know you’re getting old when they play “All The Leaves Are Brown” and “Downtown” at your Mom’s senior living facility.

I’d love to know the story here. Or maybe not

There is a hardcore group of line-dancers who never fail to get up and do their line-dancing thing at Happy Hour. I swear they’d line dance to the Star-Spangled Banner. They kinda drive my Mom crazy; we have to position our chairs so as not to see them.

Other than the line-dancers and the bossy woman who planted my mother’s paper whites outside in the January cold and who Mom has sworn to never speak to again, everyone is terrific chez Mom. At this point, I’d like to give a special bye-bye shoutout to Jeff and Leonard and Carole and Betty and Renee and all the various Shirleys: Shirley with the dog, Shirley with the purse, short Shirley, Shirley who lives down the hall, and Shirlee with the two “ees.”

I miss you all already!

Bye bye, Mt. Hood and Mt. Whatsits. I also saw Mt. St. Helens

En route from Vancouver to New York. May 2024

“Lucky”

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‘I have a mom and I get to go visit her today’

Whenever somebody in our family does something that my Middle Younger Brother Roger wishes he could do, he says, “Lucky.”

So I’m crediting him with the comment before making it myself. But this time I get to do the lucky thing, not just hear about it: I get to go visit my mother.

Me, hanging around JFK prepping for a previous Mom Visit

I’m getting on a plane in a few hours — writing this post is one way to keep from pacing around the very small Ken & Barbie House and wearing a path in the tile — so I may have to cut this post short. But maybe not, especially if I keep it short.

I should take this card along with me. Or maybe get a “keep calm” tee shirt. Or maybe just get a manhattan in the Delta Lounge

Basically, what I do when I visit my mother is sit around with her, drinking coffee and/or wine and reading and knitting. Talking a lot too, of course. Reminiscing. Gossiping. Solving the world’s problems.

Oh, there’s also walk-taking. Since I get up super-early (I’m on Eastern Time but even at home I’m up irrationally early), I go for a long walk through Mom’s nabe while she’s still sleeping. Then later, fueled up by coffee, we go on walks together. I do a lot of walking on these trips.

I can hardly wait to walk by this school again so I can check the grammar on their sign

Sometimes, if we’re feeling really frisky, we play Scrabble. (That’s me celebrating a seven-letter word in the photo at the top of this story. Talk about lucky.) But Scrabble is more fun with more players, so we usually skip it and do more reading.

My lucky necklace. I wear it every time I fly. Guess who gave it to me? No, not Mom. But close: my one and only Sister

Oh, did I mention that I sleep on Mom’s pullout couch? Actually, it’s much bigger than my bed at the Ken & Barbie House. But it is in rather close proximity to Mom’s fridge, which rumbles off and on through the night.

But hey. Those are not problems. Not at all. I have a Mom — and I get to go see her. Nyah nyah nyah.

Added bonus: A Sister Sighting! Here’s Mom and me with Laura

New York City (but not for long). May 2024

 

 

“What’s that bird?” “Heck if I know.”

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‘Confessions of an Experiential Birder’

I’ve often said that birding is like jury duty with feathers. (See “Jury Duty, Only with Feathers.”) Or that bridge is indoor golf. (See “Bridge? It’s Basically Indoor Golf”.) I also used to say that Hell is other people’s children. But I must be getting soft in my old age — or maybe I’m just craving grandkids — because other people’s children don’t bother me as much as they used to. Unless they are seated behind me on a plane. (See “The Four Seatmates of the Apocalypse.”)

One thing I haven’t said much is the name of a bird if someone asks me.

This is what one of our guides would call a “fancy bird.” Some kind of woodpecker; just don’t ask me which one

That’s basically because, unless it’s some bird that the asker probably already knows the name of — think “robin” or “blue jay” or “wren,” if you’re not too picky about the type of wren — I won’t know. I’m a birder, but I’m not the kind of birder who keeps track of names, much less genus and species and other technical whatnot.

I do keep track of funny signs. (See “Oh no, Danger Man!”) Like this one somewhere in Brazil indicating parking for those over 60

Why, I don’t keep track of anything about the birds. Unless it’s some really interesting experience associated with that bird. Like, on our Northeast Brazil trip, there was this macaw — the Lear’s, or Indigo Macaw — that lives only in a very specific type of canyon. You can read more about this macaw here, but basically, there are only a few hundred of them, they weren’t recognized as a species until 1978 — and, if you want to see them, you have to go to this one sandstone canyon via four-wheel-drive at daybreak to watch them come out of their nests and swoop around. Now that’s an experience — and that I remember.

Waiting around the sandstone canyon for the Lear’s Macaw to show up. They did. And so did some listers

I’m most definitely not a “lister.” Listers are birders who keep a list of all the birds they’ve seen. And, trust me, they care about that list. I’ve had encounters with listers a few times on our trips. Mostly, they’re okay. Though it can get a bit old to have someone constantly piping up “6499!” (the number of birds in their Life List just achieved) or “Lifer!” (meaning the bird just spotted is the first time the person has seen it in his/her life). Variations on this rack-’em-up theme include “day bird,” which is the first time that bird has been seen that day, and “trip bird,” same thing, only for the trip. “Day bird” can also mean a bird that’s been seen every day of the trip. On our most recent excursion, it was the black vulture. Which should tell you something about that trip.

Iguazu (or, in Brazil, Iguacu) Falls. Another terrific experience, especially with these swifts that go dive-bombing through the falls every evening

At the end of every birding day, the group gets together with their checklists and the guide/leader goes through all the birds seen that day. Fortunately for me, this happens at cocktail hour. I dutifully check birds off as I sip, say, a cold local beer or a  caipirinha.Three guesses what happens to the lists.

Paddling on a hot river where there were many caiman — and lots of cool birds too

So. If you see me after one of our birding trips, feel free to ask me about my experiences. (I have lots of good stories — like the one where we had to go to a water park on a Sunday to find a certain rare mannikin. The beautiful Brazilians in their bikinis didn’t quite know what to make of us.)

Just don’t ask me the names of any of the birds.

Amagansett, New York. April 2024

“I’ve got fillings older than you.”

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‘Eventually, you have to find a new dentist.’

I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I hate more than going to the dentist, it’s having to find a new dentist.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. The first time I had to find a new dentist was related to jury duty. I was in a huge pool of potential civil-court jurors when the Court Guy asked if “anyone knew the defendant, Dr. Blank,” who was being sued for dental malpractice. I raised my hand; Dr. Blank, until that moment that is, happened to be my dentist.

I stuck with the next dentist for ages. He was Dude Man’s dentist. (Interesting side note. Dude Man is an ophthalmologist. I wish I had a dime for every time someone thinks he’s a dentist. Close enough. “Eye-teeth,” right?)

Dude Man, long before medical school, displaying a nice set of young pearly whites

Anyway, Dude Man’s dentist, Dr. B, and I got along like a house afire. For one thing, Dr. B had a sense of humor. (His name, which I am withholding for my usual privacy reasons, started with a B. But everyone actually called him “Dr. B.”) Good ole easy-going Dr. B had funny dental posters on the walls and a silly animated skeleton that writhed around in a toy dental chair. He didn’t mind that I called the room where he did his work (as opposed to the room where the hygienist did hers) the “Pain Room.” And he thought the new specialty I came up with — “dentacology” — was pretty funny: a dentacologist being a doctor who took care of women exclusively, combining dentistry and gynecology in one easy visit. (The exam chair would tilt both ways.)

About the only thing more nerve-wracking than going to either the dentist or the gynecologist? Walking on a scary-ass swinging bridge

Speaking of the hygienist, I liked her even more than I liked Dr. B, which was saying a lot. In fact, I liked her so much that when, eventually, I had to change dentists again — Dr. B died — I didn’t pick the dentist that Dr. B’s widow sold the practice to. I picked the dentist where the hygienist went to work. (She — the hygienist — didn’t like her — the widow. And, heck, if I trusted her to poke around in my mouth with that Sharp Pointy Thing, well, I trusted her judgment in widows and the dentists they sold my name to.)

The grownup Child’s remarkably perfect teeth. Because who wants to see a photo of someone at the dentist? (Much less the gynecologist?)

Why, on my first visit to the New Dentist, I told everyone who’d listen — including The Dentist Herself — that I was there because of The Hygienist. Oh, I liked The Dentist too, but she was disconcertingly young. In fact, when introduced, I removed that little Sucky Thing out of the corner of my mouth, looked her up and down and said, “Why, I have fillings older than you!” She didn’t laugh. But The Hygienist sure did.

Another cute shot of Dude Man and his cute shiny smile. Because why not?

This was a couple of years ago, but, like I say, I told everyone who’d listen about the wonderfulness of The Hygienist — and collaterally, of The Dentist. In fact, I got an email from Google last week telling my that my review had been viewed more than a thousand times.

I’m going in for a routine checkup next week. Wonder if I can get a discount?

Amagansett, New York. February 2024

 

 

 

Bridge? It’s basically indoor golf.

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‘Why I am not a fan of either game.’

When I was a little girl, I liked hanging around while my parents played bridge. My mom belonged to a ladies’ bridge club that played during the day. (Much laughter and coffee-drinking.) And both parents belonged to a group that met at night. (Much laughter and smoking. Drinking, too, and not just of coffee.)

I don’t have any photos of me — or anyone else — playing bridge. But I do have this nice one of a Scrabble game at my Mom’s 90th birthday party

The couples took turns hosting, and my sibs and I loved it when it was our parent’s turn. Then we got to “bartend” and pass around bowls of Bridge Mix. (Do they still make Bridge Mix? That was good stuff.) As I recall, this was one of the few times — other than Halloween and Easter — that we kids got to eat candy. And, yes, I can’t say this enough, that Bridge Mix was good stuff. Sophisticated, you know? At least if you’re twelve.

Bridge is really serious, too. There is studying involved. From books like this one. Not exactly a page-turner

So I grew up associating bridge with Adult Fun. But when I finally got a chance to learn bridge, I got a rude awakening. Bridge was really serious. And took up large chunks of time. Two-hour lessons one morning a week, plus four-hour duplicate events one afternoon a week. The only bridge I liked was the Tuesday afternoons I played with three friends where we took turns hosting. Talking and laughing (along with wine-drinking) were allowed.

The Child plays outdoor golf. She was pretty good at it. Better than me, at any rate

So basically I discovered that bridge is like golf. This is not a compliment. Over the years I have tried to play golf. Not very hard, I must admit. I think I tried exactly twice. I remember both occasions vividly because I became extremely frustrated at not being able to hit a satisfying drive. To be honest, I couldn’t even hit a puny drive. I failed in every attempt to even connect with the ball. It just sat there on the tee while I whiffed and puffed and swore. I finally gave up and just rode up to the green in the cart and sort of tossed the ball up toward the flag and putted it into the hole. That was the only part I liked — the putting.

Dude Man is very good at golf. He is very good at every sport. Grrrrr

The rest of golf I hated. You should have seen my face when I realized I couldn’t just go home — but had to wait until the other members of my party were done playing. (This was Dude Man and our BF Jim; it’s amazing he’s still speaking to me and coming to Thanksgiving after this awful Golf Outing. To this day, I can get a reaction by saying, “Hey, Jim! Remember that time we played golf?)

Another fun indoor game: Sorry! You get to be sort of mean, even

My Dad loved golf. He even liked to watch it on TV. I remember him supine on the couch with a cat nestled somewhere, snoring away with a golf game on. When you tried to change the channel to something well, more exciting, he’d startle awake — “Hey! I was watching that!” The thing that was sort of funny about golf on TV was how the commentators would whisper. Because you’re supposed to be quiet when someone’s lining up a shot and whatnot. But, um, the commentators were somewhere else, in a booth, right? Even the clapping after a good shot was quiet. We kids had a name for it: “golf clapping.” Basically, the only thing loud about golf was the pants.

At least golf was on TV. I doubt very much that bridge is on TV. Televised bridge: now that’s a concept.Tune in to watch people seated around a table not talking and not doing much else either. Poker is on TV. There have even been poker scenes in movies. Remember the poker games in The Odd Couple with the green and brown sandwiches? That’s because poker is fun.

If I want to spend a chunk of time inside doing something boring, I can do this. At least I have a clean stove when I’m done

But bridge? Nah, it’s basically golf. No talking. No drinking or smoking. Takes huge chunks of time. Involves keeping track of numbers. So. I say bridge is golf. And the heck with it. At least with golf, you get to be outside.

Being outside is the best — especially when you’re outside in Brazil. Where I saw absolutely no one playing bridge. Or golf, for that matter

New York City. February, 2024

 

 

 

The night we drank all the beer in the restaurant

Standard

‘And there were only six of us.’

Birding is thirsty work. You can rack up a lot of miles during the course of the day, mostly on rough, steep trails. And when you get out of the vehicle to hike, you get even thirstier.

A stretch of hot empty road somewhere in the hot empty Brazilian countryside

Sometimes you hike for four or five hours — before lunch. Then, because Brazil is so goldarned hot — so hot even the birds don’t move midday — you take a break. Then you’re out for more hiking, binoculars and cameras in tow, until it’s dark. Sometimes you’re not done even then — you clamp on a headlamp, and hike around looking for nightjars and owls.

Birder Dude at the beginning of a particularly hot hike

You can drink water like crazy all day long, but when push comes to shove — and there can be quite a bit of both at those Brazilian buffets — nothing hits the thirsty spot like a nice cold beer. Oh, sometimes a caipirinha is nice, but you can polish off a Heineken (or maybe two) while they’re still mashing up all those limes or making garnishes to hang on the rims of the glasses. (Yes, one of the places did that; made little animals and flowers out of strawberries and orange slices and such. Delightful to the eye; a dreadful delay for your thirst.)

A particularly lovely pousada. They would probably put fruit animals on your caipirinha if you asked nicely

So, on a bird trip? I say bring on the beer.

Now, you must understand that I am really a Wine Girl. But on these birding trips, forget the grape. It’s hops I crave. It’s really the only time I have beer, except once in a while in the summer with a hot dog. The other drink I have on these trips is Coca Cola. Real coke, not diet. For that caffeine/sugar high. It’s the only time I drink it, and boy, is it fantastic. I swear: drinking real Coke is like unprotected sex.

Also a rush: hiking practically straight up a cliff to get to the Hooded Visorbearer, a particularly lovely — and very rare — hummingbird

But I digress.

What about drinking all the beer in the restaurant? you might reasonably be asking right about now. Well. we were in this itty bitty town called Canudos, staying at the kind of pousada that has a chain on the toilet and on the bare lightbulb fixtures too. (But delightful, mind you.) We were there because it’s literally the only place in Brazil — and the entire world — you can see the Indigo Macaw.

Another bare-bones accommodation. This one had a view of a blank wall out the one and only window. But it did have a nice shower

There are only three colonies of these bright blue birds and one of them — the only accessible one — is in a canyon a few miles from town. And yes. We found them. Got up at 4:00 in the morning to four-wheel-drive our way up into the mountains to be there at dawn when they left their nests in the holes in the sandstone cliffs.

Dawn at the sandstone cliffs to see the Indigo Macaws. Yes, there were plenty. Dude Man got photos! Stay tuned

The rest of the day passed in a heated blur of dusty birdy pursuit. The pousada didn’t serve dinner, so our guide, Marcelo, got a friend to open his restaurant just for us. It was a couple of tables on the second floor of a building in town, and we were literally the only patrons. They cooked us a special selection of fish and chicken and rice and beans, which was very good indeed. And the beer was delicious and very very cold. It went down so well that we drank every bottle they had — which was seven. (There were six of us; I can’t remember who got to have seconds, but I know it wasn’t me.)

In closing — and in further defense of beer — let me point out that Paul Newman drank a case a day. And lived to be a still-pretty-darned-gorgeous 83. Cheers!

Dude Man striding toward an empty hot gazebo. Gazebos are always empty, tho not always hot. Maybe this one has a cooler full of beer

Back in New York City. February 2024