Guys and their Gear

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‘They can never have too much’

I was once in the back seat of our beloved ’98 Toyota 4Runner (our new car; our old car is a ’91 Honda) eavesdropping on a conversation about GoreTex.

I did not join in. Partly because I’m not that into GoreTex, but mainly because I wanted to see just how long two guys — The Dude and his Best Friend Jim (pictured at the top of this post garbed in almost-identical gear) — could actually talk about GoreTex.

All that GoreTex Talk, and guess who forgot to bring any on our Texas birding trip? (See “Along the Rio Grande with the Birder Patrol” for more makeshift gear hilarity)

Well. It turned out to be a long time indeed. The GoreTex Chat lasted the entire Montauk Stretch — which meant at least half an hour, actually more like 40 minutes. Discussed were the different varieties of GoreTex; the structure and quality of the little bitty holes that make up GoreTex; various garments one can buy made of GoreTex (GoreTex pants: smart or sweaty?); which manufacturers give the best GoreTex bang for the buck.

And so on and on and on.

Not only can guys talk about gear — boy, can they collect it.

Me with new Girl Gear. i.e., a thoughtful birthday gift accessory

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the power of accessories. (See “Accessories After the Fact” for that scoop.) Well, gear is to men what accessories are to women.

Is this gear fusion? Or confusion?

If a woman has a dozen pairs of shoes, a man has a dozen camera lenses. And/or binoculars. Goggles. Those vests with zillions of pockets.

Nope, dear SIL. It’s called “gear”

Think she has a lot of handbags? There aren’t enough fingers or toes on a troop of Boy Scouts to tally up all his camera bags and backpacks — not to mention daypacks and fanny packs and belt packs. Oh, and all those straps and holsters and slings with clips to carry all the gear that won’t fit in the pockets or packs.

If boys have their toys, then men most definitely have their gear.

But that’s okay. I’d rather have a gear-collecting guy than one who is into, well, accessories. I once had a boyfriend who sorted his closet by color. But that’s a story for another time.

Helmet, check. Wicking biking shirt, check. Pants? Most certainly not organized by color. Here they’re not even worn

Let me close by pointing out that it is very easy to make a gear-collecting guy happy on Christmas or his birthday. No, not by “gifting” him some gear — you’d never know which camera widget or spotting scope thingie he wants or needs. No, you just declare that his most recently-purchased piece of gear was your gift to him. Bingo.

New York City. April 2022

 

 

 

 

Doing the math

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‘When the twenty-year deck will do just fine’

A couple of months ago I celebrated a large, rather alarming birthday. (See “Skirting the Issue” for festive details.)

How large? How alarming? Well, when people assure me that I am still “middle-aged,” I say, “Middle Aged, huh? Sure. If I’m planning to live to 140.

Doing it up big on my Big Birthday. That’s The Child, who is now bigger than me. Partly because I’m shrinking

Nah. Let’s face it. I’m old. Even if I didn’t have that big number staring me in the face I’d realize it.

Because I’ve started doing the math.

Here’s what I mean. When we needed to replace our deck — it was splintering, it had holes in it, it sort of “sproinged” when you walked on it — we consulted with the Deck Builder Guy, who gave us two estimates. One was for a deck that would last thirty years; the other (cheaper) alternative would last twenty.

Dude Man and I didn’t even have to consult with each other. We both did the math, then looked at Deck Guy and said, “The twenty-year deck will do just fine.” Because, of course, by the time we’re 90, a deteriorating deck will be the least of our problems. And probably somebody else’s problem at that.

The new deck, juxtaposed with a corner of the house, which is being gnawed on by squirrels. Guess the siding’s next. *sigh*

The thing that really makes one’s head spin, math-wise, is that this is the second time we’ve replaced that deck. (Kind of makes you go into “joke mode.” You know: “How old was she? She was so old, she’d replaced her twenty-year deck twice.

The Child with her Whitmore Grampa on the Original Deck. The one before our first twenty-year deck

Another time one “does the math” is with trees. I once did a commercial for a cholesterol drug that had this older couple planting a tree. (Interesting trivia: Older Man was played by none other than Rance Howard, who was Ron Howard’s dad and who was often given cameo roles in Ron’s films. He was the guy who delivered mangoes to John Candy’s character in Splash, for instance.)

Anyway. This older couple is planting a tree that’s, oh, three or four feet high, and the voiceover is talking about how this new drug could help you control cholesterol and prevent heart disease so that, basically, you could live to see the tree all grown up nice and big.

I’m kicking myself that I tossed my reel — the one with that commercial on it. But here are some trees drawn by The Child. Which will never grow old. And always will be there

(This was, of course, implied, not explicitly stated. The copy said something like, “The fruits of your labor should be yours to enjoy, even if you have high cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about new treatments available now.” The tagline was quite brilliant, if I do say so myself: “It’s your future. Be there.”)

Here in Amagansett we’re reminded of the Tree Effect daily. We have evergreen trees all over the property in various states of largeness. They are all Former Christmas Trees; some of them were originally quite tiny and fit on tabletops.

Naturally, in recent years we’ve started getting bigger ones.

But the best solution to doing the math with Christmas Trees? Doing like last year — opting out and enjoying someone else’s Christmas Tree.

Christmas in Flagstaff with The Child, her fam — and her tree

Recently The Child celebrated her (gasp) thirty-first birthday. Happy Birthday, dear Child. May you live long, enjoy many full-grown Christmas trees and replace more than two sequential decks.

Amagansett, New York. April 2022

 

 

Governor’s Pen Is Busy

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‘A funny story about…editing.’

Editing is kind of like housekeeping. When you’re doing a good job, nobody notices your work. But put that comma in the wrong place or flub up on “it’s vs. its,” and it’s like you left dirty dishes in the sink, the laundry unfolded or the bed unmade.

There were many comments on this recent Facebook post. Mine was: “No, it means you don’t know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re'”

There was a book that came out a few years ago called Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, commas really do make a difference that showed how misplaced punctuation can not only feel untidy but can cause some pretty funny misunderstandings. To illustrate, just take the comma out of that title, (or the subtitle, for that matter) — completely different meaning.

Does this mean that “Live alligators stay on boardwalks”? (In which case that’s the last place I’d want to be) or that I should stay on boardwalks?

Another example from the book: a sign saying “Eat here and get gas” instead of “Eat here, and get gas” could make you drive right on by, even with an almost-empty tank. 

I was chatting just the other day with the Only Person I Have Met in New York Who Also Went to The University of Missouri Journalism School (hi Kim!). We were reminiscing about those Golden Olden Days and about how we both worked at the Columbia Missourian, which was an actual daily newspaper — not a campus paper — where J-School students were required to work in order to graduate. Kind of a cool trade: free labor for the paper in exchange for real-world work experience.

Rare photo of me while attending the U of Mo. That’s my BF Larry, he of “Larry and the Nose Holes” fame

We talked about our professors — Kim: “Mr. D was a terrible teacher.” Me: “U of Mo J-School advertising professors were the living definition of the adage ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.'” (nice comma workout, that.)

I don’t really have a quibble about this sign or its comma placement. I just get a kick out of it — and wonder what the heck the “etc” snakes are. Anaconda? Vipers? Spitting cobra?

But I completely forgot to tell Kim my editing story. Like I mentioned, we all had jobs on the good ole Columbia Missourian. For we students with hopes for an advertising career, this work was pretty grim. Because it was a newspaper, there wasn’t much chance to flex our creative muscles. Nope, we worked in Ad Sales, which was kind of the college equivalent of selling Girl Scout Cookies. I was terrible at this. “You wouldn’t want to buy any cookies today, would you?” didn’t translate very well to selling ads to shoe stores.

Me, in my dorm room, having a blast between bouts of (not) selling ads

But it sure looked like the kids who worked as editors had fun. There on the wall of the newsroom was a framed front page of a bygone issue. Featured there, above the fold, was a story about a flurry of legislative activity — Columbia was the state capital as well as the site of the university. The headline? Governor’s Pen Is Busy.

Only the editor left out the space between “pen” and ‘”is.”

Amagansett, New York. March 2022

 

 

Accessories after the fact

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‘And ode to those pieces of personality that spice up your wardrobe — and your life’

During the last big ole bad recession, there was a piece in The Times about how handbag sales hadn’t been hurt. Even though they had less money to put inside them, City Ladies were still toting It Bags like that Chanel number with the chains. There were even waiting lists to get Birkins and Kellys.

Well. Having lived and worked in Manhattan for over 30 years, this didn’t surprise me one bit. In fact, I wrote a letter to said Times after reading this piece saying, essentially, that it’s no wonder that accessories are recession-proof. After all, in Manhattan your coat is your car, your shoes are your wheels — and your handbag is your trunk. Yes, they printed it.

Me, demonstrating the Mary Tyler Moore trick: throw a scarf over a turtleneck for instant workplace polish

Speaking of It Bags and speaking of work, I once had a freelance gig at Grey Advertising. The gig paid well but was very boring. It was so boring that I asked for extra work to kind of spice things up. No dice. They wanted me to work on whatever the heck it was and be quiet about it. (This was when Grey had a reputation for work so mundane that headhunters would tell you to take it off your work record — otherwise your resume would have “the stink of Grey.” I mean, this was an ad agency that put posters of their frozen turkey ads in the elevator.)

I’m a fast worker, so I’d do whatever boring project they wanted done, then roam the nabe. On one of my sigh-filled ramblings I discovered a designer resale shop. A really good designer resale shop. This was about twenty years ago, but I still get compliments on the stuff I bought when I was taking Boredom Breaks. A Pucci jacket. A Chanel pants suit with tulle trim. A hot pink boucle Dior number with a detachable mink collar. (Some of these have been “downsized,” mainly because I came to realize that when you wear “vintage” at my age no one gets the irony. They just think you’ve owned that gold brocade Christian LeCroix for a very long time.)

One of the coats I “downsized” to The Child. I had to borrow it back recently. She didn’t mind. Or, if she did, she didn’t let on

One of the things I kept eyeing in that shop was a Kelly bag. Now, if you know anything about the Kelly, you know that it was named after Grace Kelly and is very ladylike and very cool. Also very expensive. This one was also Kelly green. I mean, how cool would it be to own a Kelly green Kelly bag? Well. I did the math: How many days would I have to be “bored Grey” to earn that bag? (That’s how I’d decide whether I could afford something: I’d take the price and divide it by my day rate.)

I started a little negotiation with the proprietress. “That’s a nice Kelly” I said, hoping to hide the glee in my voice. “But I wish it was in a more basic color. LIke black.” To which she replied, “Are you kidding? If you carry a Kelly green Kelly, everyone will think you have a black one at home!” Brilliant. But nope. I didn’t buy it. Which is probably a good thing, because we had another recession around then and my Grey gig dried up. At least I could stop being bored.

A curated selection of things I don’t get bored looking at. Including some handbags on the top shelf

Now I admit to a certain accessorial (is that a word? if not, it should be) obsession. Not only are coats and shoes and handbags practical when your commute involves walking — and yes, even if you take subways and buses, you still do a great deal of walking when you live and work here — they can help you make your clothes work a little harder.

Given a good arsenal of accessories, why you could basically wear the same thing every single day and look different each and every time. The picture at the top of this post is a demonstration of my Wedding Outfit. I swear I’ve worn that same pale green dress to dozens of weddings. I just change the jacket and the shoes. And yes, some of the weddings have the same people in attendance. No one’s noticed. Yet. Though I suppose I should spring for something new for The Child’s Real Wedding in August.

Same dress, different wedding. I have no idea who those people are, tho they could have easily been at one of the other weddings too

Yes, I love accessories. Bags and shoes and coats and scarves and jewelry. Heck, I even treat glasses as accessories. I have frames in red and blue and black and tortoiseshell. They transform a look — and hide the bags under my eyes.

But there is one accessory I haven’t collected and am decidedly not in love with:

Nope, it’s not the hat. I love that trapper hat. It’s the mask. Even tho I did get that one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it’s definitely not going on any curated shelf

New York City. March 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been an Apocalypto kind of day

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‘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

Lean on me

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‘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

A Life on hold

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‘”Your estimated wait time is approximately…”‘

Well, I should be feeling really fit. Because today I had way more than my usual exercise–in frustration.

It all started when I couldn’t find an extremely cute photo that I was determined to showcase at the top of this post. It shows Yours Truly at about age two holding a telephone receiver up to her teensy little shell-like ear. On the back of the deckle-edged black and white Kodak print is written, “Hello, Daddy.”

What’s on the back of this milestone shot? “Big Girl”

That photo was taken by my Mom and sent to my Dad, who was serving in Korea, along with more shots showing other milestones: me riding a hobbyhorse, feeding myself, holding a baby (Oldest Younger Brother Scott, whom my father didn’t even meet till poor Scott was almost two.) You can read about what happened when he came home in “Kissing Daddy Good-night.”

Instead, I decided to feature another extremely cute photo of The Child. Because, why not? Though in her photo she is not even “fake-calling” her daddy. Mainly because he is standing right behind her. If I remember right, she was ordering pizza to fuel up for her night of impersonating a Bloomingdale’s bag for Halloween. (See more about her penchant for dressing as objects at “Happy Ho-Made Halloween.”)

The Child as a Strawberry. Her parents as, well, Parents

Anyway. My ultimately fruitless search for this photo was interrupted by a low bonging sound. You guessed it: “lobat 2nd floor fire,” an alarming situation (literally) I have also written about before. Twice. Check out “Things That Go Shriek in the Night” or “The One Where My Life is Like a Friends Episode” if you feel like sharing my pain. Continue reading

Your face is gonna freeze that way

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‘With any luck, not quite so literally.’

I just got back from a chilly, wintry walk out here in Amagansett. It was bracing, but not brutal, since almost all of the two feet of snow we got last week has turned into sodden slush. (See my post “S’no Problem” for freezing deets.)

Another snowstorm, another snowy beach walk. This time at dusk

So, no. That’s not a picture of me looking like a human icicle at the top of this post. That’s Her Childness, taken after an evening run in nippy Saskatchewan, where she and her Hub are visiting his Fam. It was a frosty twenty degrees — below zero.

But this post isn’t about literally freezing your face. It’s about sayings you probably heard from your Mom. Real classics like the above frozen warning, given when your face is arranged in a sad frown, petulant pout or angry scowl.

It pains me even to look at this. (Good Lord! What if her face froze that way!)

And remember what your mom said when you picked up, say, a stick out in the yard and started pretending it was a sword? Yup: “Be careful or you’ll poke somebody’s eye out.” Why wasn’t it ever “…crack somebody’s ribs“? Or even “…give somebody a bad bruise“? Continue reading

Doomsday Dude

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‘”While we still can” and other Dude-isms’

Gee, last week I wrote about “Doubleknit Dad.” And this week it’s “Doomsday Dude.” What’s next? “Downer Debbie?” (I actually have a lot of material for that one.)

Anyway. Alliteration aside, I see nothing wrong about writing about the two most important men in my life — though I suppose I could have spaced them out a bit. But Tuesday’s getting long in the tooth and I don’t really want to write about Wordle, so here goes.

The Dude, as lovely as he is — and he truly is a lovely man — has, you see, a rather negative view of Life. You know the saying about seeing the glass half full or half empty? Well, for his Dudeness, the glass is broken. And he’s clutching the shards in an underground bunker filled with gold bars.

Proof that the world isn’t all that horrible: this plant bloomed recently for the first time in 30 years

See, for Mr. Dude, we’re well on our way to The End of The World. But, before that, the population will explode and there will be crazy shortages of resources that will spark class warfare. When you point out that he’s being a bit grim, he begs to differ. “I’m just realistic,” he’ll say. Why, he probably thinks Station Eleven is a reality show.

Of course, he’s not always negative. He teamed up with me to bring a baby into this soon-to-be-ending world

On a more, say, granular level, he insists that we do things “while we still can.” This gives us a rationale for doing things like going on rigorous birding trips to remote places, sometimes with dicey accommodations and/or no hot water.

And often with dangerous and/or scary stuff that must be joined in on or you’ll look like a total loser. (Yes, I did this; I’m the one toward the back looking up, not down

There will come a time — not too far into the future because, after all, “we’re not getting any younger” — when we will no longer be able to do these things. So we need to do them now. “While we still can.” Continue reading

The Days of Double-Knit Dad

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‘A wrinkle-free wrinkle in time’

It’s tennis time, as in the Australian Open. But no, I’m not going to write about the Novak Djokovic Affair. There’s been entirely too much chatter about that already.

Nope. I’m going to write about knits.

See, when I’m watching tennis I knit. It keeps me (relatively) calm, and also from eating junk and drinking. (Well, I guess it doesn’t really keep me from drinking.)

Yes, I can knit and drink and watch tennis — sort of all at the same time

I can look at a sweater — any sweater — and tell you which tournament it goes with.

Wimbledon 2021

But this piece isn’t about that kind of knits. This is about double knits. Which was a fabric-fueled craze back in the late sixties and early seventies. Back then (and maybe even now, for all I know) double knits were made of polyester and were used to make groovy garments like jumpsuits. These were really fashion-forward — if your idea of fashion was to look like someone on an album cover — but I remember that polyester was pretty sweltering to wear. Double knits don’t exactly breathe.

There you’d be at a dance at the American Legion, say, trying to look cool while doing the Swim and meanwhile sweating like you’re dressed in a plastic garbage bag.

Almost everyone at my first wedding was sporting double knits: Me, my Dad, my Grampa Henry (well, maybe not Grampa), Uncle Mark and Mom. First Hub too. It was a jillion degrees that day. Think about it. Then read “My Polio-Shot Marriage”

Pretty much everyone in my family back then had a double knit item or two, but my Dad was the all-around Prince of Polyester. At one point he owned double-knit suits — with top-stitching, like on the jacket in the photo at the top of this post. Also double-knit slacks and double-knit ties. “They don’t wrinkle!” he would exclaim when asked why he had so many polyester items.

I think he really just liked to be trendy and hip. Why, he even owned a pair of double-knit sneakers. Continue reading