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.”

The scariest thing that happened on one of these trips: almost not making it home when the airports locked down

I don’t mind, not really. His attitude provides a nice balance for my possibly too perky POV. And we get to go on a lot of cool adventures.

Another example: Hiking down into the Grand Canyon on Christmas Day. Which you can read about in “Taking Motherhood to a Whole New Level”

My Dad was kind of negative too. (“Kind of”?!? I can hear my sibs saying.) Once he reached a Certain Age, he used to rather grumpily intone, usually while trying to hoist himself out of a chair, “Don’t get old.” And we’d shoot back something snippy like, “Oh? What’s the alternative?” Good thing we were too big — and too quick — to get smacked.

My Dad — before he “got old”

Of course, now that we are seventyish, we kind of do need to rack up those experiences “while we still can.”

Hey, my passport is still good — even if my stamina isn’t what it used to be.

Dude Man and I celebrating a 75th birthday — somebody else’s, which is why we look so happy

New York City. January 2022

Why Dude Man’s not dead

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‘The crucial importance of a room of one’s own’

What with fun City events like birthday parties and opera performances and colonoscopies, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Ken & Barbie House. I was there digging its leafy wallpaper and garden views all last week, in fact.

Me, snuggling into a birthday gift amidst the leafy wallpaper

It’s less than 500 scare feet, but this clever little hideaway has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. When I get a chance to show it off, like the other day when I ran into Barbara and Danielle and Ann (hi neighbors!) in the lobby, I often point out that I am awfully glad the place, though small, is not a studio.

K & B floor plan. We still have each and every one of those precious walls

“Here’s my husband’s room,” I say, “and here’s mine.” Oddly (or maybe not so oddly), if my guest is a woman — a woman who has been married for at least ten years or so — she never suggests “knocking down that wall to join the bedrooms.” Oh no. She just smiles and nods. Maybe looks a tad wistful.

“If The Dude and I had to live in a one-room studio, he’d be dead and I’d be in jail.” is my comment while sliding open the pocket door leading to my private little lair.

Added perk of a room of your own: any light fixture your little heart desires

Oh, it’s not that I don’t absolutely adore Dude Man. I do, I really do. And he is, actually, quite easy to get along with. For a man.

Look! He’s even pals with TR. (Note companionable man-spreading)

But there’s something about a man — a man “around the house,” as they say — that is just not, well, peaceful.

After a hard day spent descaling toilets and wrestling with bedsheets and swiffing floors and stamping bills and downloading boarding passes (See “Darn! I didn’t get last month’s issue of Toilet Today for more female fuming) I can easily sink into a chair and disappear into a book.

Instructions I gave The Child on how to make my “bed:” back cushion comes off, sides fold down, sleep sack on top. Voila! And pleasant (solitary) dreams

But not Mr. Man. Is that the vacuum cleaner? In the basement? At Cocktail Hour? “What are you doing?” I yell down the stairs. “Somebody’s got to vacuum down here!” he insists. (“Actually, no. It’s the basement,” is what I’m thinking.)

But at least he does that sort of thing in Amagansett, where there’s plenty of room for me to escape from these sorts of restless male shenanigans.

Dude Man blowing leaves in his wetsuit. Notice he is wearing protective ear gear as well

At the K & B House — which new Best Buddy Ann remarked should be relabelled the Alice in Wonderland House, bless her — we have no such spatial luxury. But, on the other hand, we don’t have a basement to vacuum. Nor a driveway to blow leaves from.

We do have a piano. But it has earphones. And, yes, by golly, we have plenty of walls — and pocket doors.

Amagansett, New York. December 2021

 

 

I was positive I was negative

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‘But my Covid test said, “Not so fast.”‘

Was it the hairpin turns at 13,000 feet? The overturned tractor-trailer along the road to Buga? Or the super-sized snake being mobbed by birds?

Perhaps I should have appealed to Mary instead of taking her picture. (Note snake with an apple in its mouth at her feet not being mobbed by birds)

Nope. The scariest part of our trip to Colombia was when I got the results of my Covid test:

See, a negative Covid test is one of the many requirements to regain entry to the United States if you have been anywhere outside its borders, not just Colombia. And, yup. This triple-vaccinated person — along with two more of our group — tested positive.

No explanation for why this tree was studded with locks. Good luck for Covid testing, maybe?

(We were on the bus when this happened. Dude Man opened my testing lab email for me — my glasses were in my backpack — and there was a sickeningly long pause before he announced, “Alice is positive.” Our guide barked with laughter, thinking he was kidding.)

One of the places our bus took us was this way-high-up lodge surrounded by hummingbird feeders. We saw so many hummers — more than 30 — that we started saying “Oh. Another hummer” when looking for other birds

The Dude had warned us of this. “This test (the antigen one) has a twenty percent false positive rate,” he said while we were waiting to get our nasal passages probed.

The reservoir where we spotted a long-billed dowitcher — which is much rarer in Colombia than a positive Covid test

Turned out it was even worse. Though I was the first Bad News Recipient, three of the eight of us — which is almost forty percent — got nasty surprises in our inboxes. All of us, I must note, had been vaxed and boostered up the kazoo. And all of us spent a very rocky 18 hours until we could get tested again. To give you some idea of how stressful this was, the picture at the top of this post shows me enjoying a meal — something I absolutely could not do during this period. And forget about sleep.

Miles to go before I sleep. Good thing there were some chirpy distractions

Here I must give a grateful shoutout to Field Guides, our amazing birding company. Turns out Jesse, our guide, whom I lovingly call Hipster Birder (see “Gorilla My Dreams” and/or “Planes, Boats and Sorta-Kinda Automobiles” for previous Jesse stories) has a heart of gold and nerves of steel as well as birding blood running through his veins. He offered to stay behind if we had to stay behind.

Guide Man (sans man bun this trip) shares a birdy moment with The Dude

And our local guide, Daniel? He said that if the worst should happen and we actually had Covid, the Infected One(s) could use his company apartment in beautiful, birdy Manizales for the duration. He gave us a tour of the neighborhood on our way to our second test — which, thank the Lab Lord, turned out negative (whew!) for all three of us — pointing out grocery stores and parks for walking. Jeez. What a guy.

Our birding itinerary. Manizales was almost our new home

Well, “All’s well that ends well,” or so they say. We saw birds. Many many birds. I think 359 species. (Forgive me for not including photos of any of them. I am waiting for Dude Man to retrieve them from his camera. I am not, however, holding my breath.) Plus agouti, a red howler monkey and that aforementioned snake.

Better than the fanciest bird: a Big Fat “Negativo”

Best of all, our little band of eight contained not a single Annoying Person. I guess a Covid Test Scare makes for beautiful bonding.

Our merry band waaaaaay up in the Andes. Not a baddie in the bunch

They also say, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Forgive me if this post is less than hilarious. There just hasn’t been enough time. Instead of a laugh I’ll leave you with this peek from a peak of the Central Andes:

Amagansett, New York (whew!) November 2021

BaBaRaRaCuCuDaDa

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‘The one (and only) time I swam into an underwater cave’

I’m pretty sure I mentioned that my Bro-in-law Bill stayed with us recently. (He is mentioned — in a good way — in “The House Guest Hall of Fame.”)

It all started when Dude Man had been on the phone with said Bill and announced to me, “Bill and Carol are having work done on their condo in Sarasota and he needs a place to stay while it’s going on. I told him he could stay with us. For two weeks.”

I don’t have a ton of photos of Bill. So here’s one of his brother, The Dude. Oh, and me

Well. I’ve always liked this guy, even though we did get off to a rather rocky start. He’s, um, bossy. But then again, so am I. We had a sort of Clash of the BossyPants.

I chalk it up to us both being Eldest Children. Not only are we bossy, but it’s our way or the highway. Here’s an example. We were lunching en plein air and the wives (Carole and me) had gone on ahead to set things up. Bill sees where we’ve arranged the picnic and says, “That’s not a good spot. Over there — that’s a good spot.”

Well, we did what most people would do — ignored him, filled our plates and dug in — while Bill served himself, then went over to the “good” picnic spot and ate all by himself.

Nope. Bill isn’t in this shot either. That’s Dude Man, me, Joe (who was married to Polly) and Polly, Sis of The Dude

As the years went by we mellowed. Or, as I like to think, I learned to appreciate the Billness of Bill. As he learned to appreciate the Ways of Alice.

But there is a limit. Two weeks? My mother doesn’t even stay with me for two weeks. So I said he could have two weekends and the week in between. Well, what with him arriving on a Thursday and leaving more than a week later on a Tuesday, he effectively stayed for two weeks, bless his little heart.

My Mom, during her last long visit chez moi — which was about one week. Mom! Come back! Stay longer!

As things turned out, he was an ideal guest: Didn’t expect to be entertained, didn’t track sand everywhere (thought there were copious quantities of bread crumbs) and loved what I cooked. He was amazed when I did things like wash his clothes. (Don’t be too impressed; I was doing ours anyway.) “Even Carol (his wife, remember) doesn’t fold my clothes!” he exclaimed.

Nope. Neither of these lovely people is Bill, either. But that IS a lovely shot of the bread he would buy — each and every day. And eat it all himself. Seriously

The snarky part of me (which is a very large part, I admit) must point out that we have never stayed in their condo. When invited to Sarasota for a visit, it is assumed — nay, a requirement — that we stay elsewhere. “We’re not set up for guests,” says Carol.

Dude Man and Dude Bro, during out visit to Bill’s where we had to Stay Elsewhere. Note similar bro-wear, including socks

But who’s keeping score? Bill’s almost-two-weeks went well, and besides, there was that one time we were invited to stay on Bill’s boat. And not just stay on it — to use it. You know, sail it around — and without him there.

It was a long time ago, back when my Youngest Younger Brother Doug was a fresh (high school? college? Memory fails) graduate. As it happened, the Dude’s youngest brother was about the same age, and we thought it would be a fun graduation present to take them with us on the sailing trip on Bill’s boat, the Mariposa. (Which means, I think, “butterfly”. (Could have been worse. See this New York Times piece for a funny take on boat naming.)

On a boat, on a party. But not Bill’s boat, alas. And no, I don’t know what this boat’s name was. “Party McPartyface?”

Sadly, I have no photos of this boat — except the one at the top of this post, which shows me and Bill on the deck — but I remember this as being a pretty great trip. We sailed around the Bahamas stopping at little islands and beaches and pretty much living the life of Riley — if Riley were a sailor. Oh there were a few glitches; I recall an occasion where His Dudeness commandeered one of my knitting needles to unplug the head.

I knit everywhere in those days — on the beach, on the boat. That could indeed have been the needle that doubled as a plumbing tool

I even tried some snorkeling. Those of you you’ve followed me for a while (thank you, Sweet Things!) know that the ocean and I have a healthy respect for each other. That water? It’s someone’s home. I don’t go in their living room; and they don’t come into mine. (See “Getting Along with the Neighbors” for deets.)

The kind of water I grew up swimming in. Lakes don’t move — much — and only a few bluegill call this one home

So. We’re in the Bahamas. Near the place where they filmed the James Bond movie Thunderball — the one with the underwater cave. Dude Man and the Boys all decided it would be great fun to swim in there. Only thing: you had to swim under a ledge before you emerged in the cave.

I had prepped myself for this excursion by removing my (small in carats, but big in heart) channel-set diamond wedding band. Dude saw me do this and asked why. “Because barracuda are attracted to shiny objects,” I said. “Not something that tiny,” was his retort.

 

Youngest Younger Bro Doug well before our boat trip. Nope, those are NOT barracuda, but a local fish called “crappy” — or “crappie”

Well. We get to the Thunder Ball cave and I’m, well, not so enthusiastic. I signal that I’ll wait while the Boys swim under the ledge and into the cave. They dive down and disappear. I’m sort of swimming in place when I feel a presence. I look over each shoulder, and there are not one, but two barracuda — each at least four feet long — hanging around, checking me out.

I swam under the ledge and into the cave.

Oh, before I go. If you’re wondering about the title of this piece, congratulations. You are officially a Young Person. It’s a line from an old Plymouth Barracuda radio commercial. This guy can’t pronounce the name, so this other guy coaches him: “Okay, repeat after me: Ba (guy says “ba”) Ba (“ba”) Ra (“ra”) Ra (“ra”) Cu (“cu”) Cu (“cu”) Da (“da”) Da (“da”). Got it?

“Yes! Babararacucudada!!! (Click here to hear the commercial)

Amagansett, New York. September 2021

My polio-shot marriage

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‘Mommy has something she sort of forgot to tell you’

(This story was originally published in honor of my would-have-been 43rd anniversary in August of 2015. Since many of you haven’t had a chance to read it — but mainly because I’m out in the Pacific Northwest enjoying the company of my mother, daughter and my sister’s family — I’m posting it again. Think of it as a summer rerun, Lutheran Liar style. Enjoy!)

Last week I told you about how once I dated Steve Martin. Now I’m going to tell you about how once I married a guy — a guy who was not The Dude.

The Guy in question is the one pictured in the rather awkward wedding photo at the top of this post. I doubt very much that he reads my blog, but, for all intents and purposes and in this story, he’ll just be ‘The Guy’. (That rather downcast-looking young girl — the one who’s not me — is my sister Laura, she of ‘Larry and the Nose Holes’ fame.)

Why am I telling this story now? Well, tomorrow would have been my, like, zillionth wedding anniversary if indeed I had stayed married to The Guy. The other is that it’s August. Which is like Blog Siberia, except that it’s so hot. So if I embarrass anyone, including myself, the collateral damage will be relatively minor.

I was married so briefly to The Guy, and had been married for such a long time to The Dude, that I sort of forgot all about my ‘previous marriage’. Until one August about 15 years ago when The Child was getting ready for her annual visit to her grandparents in Carlyle, my home town. Continue reading

Things that go shriek in the night

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‘This never happens when The Dude is here’

Everything was going so well.

Feast your eyes: Even the Taco Tuesday table setting was delicious

I was happily full of beans (both literally and figuratively) from a delightful Taco Tuesday. I’d watched my fill of fabulous first-round Wimbledon tennis, and had just tucked myself into bed with a copy of Fatal Vision. (The book about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder trial that I was re-reading after reading Janet Malcolm’s New Yorker essay The Journalist and The Murderer.’)

Some light summer reading about murders, trials and journalistic ethics

Anyway. It had been a marvelous day — and I was looking forward to an equally marvelous (and restful) night. As far as I could tell, there were no partying neighbors present, and even the helicopter and jet traffic had settled down.

I’d just plopped down my book and popped in my mouthguard (which I call my “biter,” much to my dentist’s chagrin), when I hear this terrible shrieking sound.

Was it coming from the neighbors? Fourth of July Weekend was coming up; maybe what I was hearing was a new form of pyrotechnical display.

I closed the bedroom slider. But that only made the noise louder — and, if possible — even more ear-piercingly shrill.

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My Almost Arkansas Commute

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‘How I narrowly escaped working at WalMart’

It’s hot here. So hot my brain is mush and my funnybone has rickets. I’m so filled with Summertime Lassitude that I tried to republish a post from a couple of summers ago called “Who Wants To Go On A WalMart Run?”

It’s a zillion degrees out. So glad I just finished this sweater

This is the first time I’ve tried to do a sort of “rerun,” and, since it didn’t work and I hate to disappoint, I’m gonna compromise. Instead of dreaming up an entirely new story, I’ll tell you another one about WalMart.

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Darn. I didn’t get last month’s issue of “Toilet Today”

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‘I was too busy cleaning bathrooms to renew my subscription’

The ink was barely dry on last week’s “Do we have any snacks?” I was dragging the vacuum out of the closet to start in on the latest post-guest cleaning job when Dude Man pops his head in and says, “Hey, you’ve gotta come out and see how I raked the driveway!”

Dude Man, blowing leaves off the driveway while wearing a wetsuit

So now you’re getting another post about husbands and their wacky ways.

Perhaps you are half of an enlightened couple where you equally divide household chores. Your husband does laundry. Or the dishes.  Maybe he cooks once in a while–or even all the time. Well, bully for you.

At my house, I’m more or less responsible for the inside of the house: laundry, cooking, cleaning. And The Dude is responsible for the outside: lawn stuff, driveway stuff, deck stuff. Which is okay, really. Because I’m better at the indoor chores than he is, and vice versa. (Read “Random Acts of Kidness” for Dude Man’s hilarious bed-making method.) What gets my wifely goat is the fact that his chores need praising. 

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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.

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Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly

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‘Surgeons gotta, well, do surgery’

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

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

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

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

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