The time crickets ate The Dude’s shoes

Standard

‘”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

 

 

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly

Standard

‘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

Turns out I had good reason to feel safer with him. One night the pain was so bad I had to go to the emergency room. “I’d better go with you,” he said. “If there’s a surgical resident on call, he (residents were almost always a “he” back then) will want to ‘open you up to see what’s going on.'”

He went on to explain that doctors want to do what they’re trained to do: surgeons wanna cut, radiologists wanna x-ray, gynecologists wanna, well, you know.

Dude Man is an ophthalmologist. Er, excuse me, “the best eye doctor in town”

This all came back to me because, like 80% of the U.S. adult population, I’ve been coping with a bad back: three herniated discs (L4, L5 and S1, as if you care) plus spinal stenosis. (If you really care, you can read about my spinal woes in “Lean to the Left, Lean to the Right. Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight Fight Fight!”

I’ve been to see a neurologist who had me get a brace for my spine, an anesthesiologist who gave me injections, and a physiatrist (not “psychiatrist;” if I saw one of those, he might say it’s all in my head) who prescribed physical therapy.

Sporting my snappy back brace, per neurologist’s instructions

The pain was so bad a few weeks ago that I called a surgeon. The wise woman (Hi, Mickey!) who took my call said, “Honey, you don’t want to see Dr. Hatchet (not his real name) — he’s a surgeon. Surgeons do surgery. Trust me, stick with the PT.”

The brace made my aching back stiff, hot and sweaty; the injections cost as much as a car and didn’t last. So I took Mickey’s advice and stuck with the PT.

The One and Only Reason for Zoom: PT Girl working her magic

I shouldn’t say “stuck” though, since I absolutely adore my PT Girl. We’ve bonded over the internet (as far as I’m concerned, Zoom was invented for one thing and one thing only, and that’s PT) and over topics as wide-ranging as pets, holiday cooking and visits to our mothers. I even shared photos of The Child’s wedding dress with her. (No, I won’t share them with you; her Childness would kill me, and rightfully so.)

I told PT Girl that she should charge extra — for head shrinking as well as butt shrinking

Before I leave you to join PT Girl for our 10AM session, I want to share the story of a doctor who took “doctors gotta do what they’re trained to do” to a whole new level.

This guy was an instructor at Dude Man’s medical school. Named Dr. Stanley Brown. He is long gone, but he’s very much alive in The Dude’s memory.

See, Dr. Brown was a parasitologist. Wrote the definitive textbook on parasitology, in fact. And what, you may ask, do parasitologists use as a diagnostic tool? Nope, it’s not x-rays or EKGs — it’s stool samples.

According to Dude, Dr. Brown would begin every course by introducing himself as “Dr. Stanley Brown, but everyone calls me ‘Stoolie.’ And you know why? Because it’s all about the stool.

Patient has a fever? Check the stool. Rash? Check the stool. Why, I bet if I went to Stoolie Brown for my back pain, he’d ask for a stool sample. I wouldn’t hesitate; Dude says he was a genius. And, who knows? Maybe a little parasitical critter is at the root of my problems. Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, do we think The Child needs to visit The Dude? As a patient, I mean

Amagansett, New York. April 2021

 

 

 

Here’s to Mt. Fuji

Standard

‘My favorite “Nope-I-Don’t-Eat-Sushi” Sushi Place’

I was in the Liquor Store Next To The IGA the other day, looking for my bourbon—”Hey, where’s Jim? Are you out of Jim?”—when Maureen Who Works There, after directing me to the spot on the shelf where Jim Beam now resides—”You moved Jim?”—remarked that she had recently been to Zakura.

“Zakura?”  I asked, thinking this must be some sort of Buddhist retreat or something. “What’s Zakura?” “You know,” she said. “The sushi place.”

“Oh! You mean Mt. Fuji.” Another customer in the place nodded along, “Yup, she means Mt. Fuji.”

Hungry for sushi stories? Here’s a yummy Ad World story: “Radio Days

Maureen was actually right; the sign outside this place does indeed say “Zakura,” and has for fifteen years or so. But, before that—ages before that—it was called Mt. Fuji. And that’s what everybody who goes there still calls it, “Zakura” sign be darned.

Could this be a sign that sushi’s for dinner?

Now, Zakura/Mt. Fuji may not be the best sushi restaurant around—or maybe even the better of our family’s two fabled sushi haunts. The late, lamented Shabu Shabu, the very restaurant where The Dude and I had our first date (and where I polished off a plate of sashimi for the first—and only—time in order to impress him) was probably better. (He said he loved sashimi, so by gum I was gonna order sashimi, not actually realizing that I was about to be confronted with a whole platter of raw fish without even any rice or little wrappers to kind of mitigate it.)

Continue reading

“Straight up from the warthog”

Standard

‘Oh, how I miss those wacky birding trips.’

I know I’m really late with this week’s post. But just today New York lowered the age requirement for getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and I wanted to make sure I got a shot (haha, very funny) at it.

Among other reasons to get poked, like not getting sick or dying and being able to see my friends and family in 3D, we have a birding trip coming up.

Our last birding trip–last weekend, at Sagg Main Beach–was a wild goose chase. Literally. We went looking for the White-Fronted Goose and didn’t find it

See, last year’s all-bought-and-paid-for exotic birding adventure (to the Galapagos) was, of course–like everything else fun in 2020–cancelled. But the good news is it’s rescheduled for this summer. Except you can’t go if you’re not vaccinated. Being a physician, Dr. Dude got his shot a couple of weeks ago so he’s all set. But, unless I wanted him gallivanting off without me, I had to score mine too.

I was on that website for about an hour and a half. The slots kept disappearing while I was applying for them; I guess I wasn’t the only newly-qualified 65-and-up banging away on her computer.

Continue reading

Silver linings in a Covid Cloud

Standard

‘I count my blessings instead of sleep’

According to my new Apple Watch (which, incidentally, does everything except the dishes), I slept 10.1 hours the other night. I mentioned this dubious figure to Dude Man the next morning.

“I didn’t go to bed until around 2, and then I got up before sunrise. So what’s with this 10.1 hours of sleep?” “It’s counting all the sleeping you do during The Crown,” he said, going on to explain that good ole Apple can tell when I “nod off” on the couch and adds that time to my total sleep. I, like my mother before me, am rather famous for my ability to “sleep read” or “sleep watch” without spilling a drop from the glass of wine clutched in my somnolent paw.

Latest creation-in-progress. Yes, I can do this while Crown-watching

And while I think Apple counting upright sleep is totally cheating, I suppose I should feel somewhat comforted knowing I’m getting more shut-eye that I thought I was. Ever since The Corona Craziness, I, like many others, have had trouble getting adequate Zzzzzs. All that wondering what the heck to cook for the 269th straight dinner, not to mention when in heaven’s name I’ll get to hug my Mom again will do that to a person.

Sometimes when tossing and turning, I try to think of some good things that have come out of this time of Conflict with a Capital C. Now, with New Year’s coming, it seems like a good time to count them up.

Here, in no particular order, are some silver linings, the first of which is actually silver:

Continue reading

She had a hat

Standard

‘Wearing headgear well runs in the family. Too bad I didn’t get that gene.’

As you, dear Reader, know only too well, we’ve been slowly and-oh-so-surely settling in to the new Ken and Barbie House. All the Big Stuff has found a new home, and we’re on to clearing out the Little Stuff. (I am having nightly horrors about the Junk Drawer.)

We Henrys have been holding regular Family Facetime Calls with our dear Mother every Sunday, and on one of these, not too long ago, I happened to be in the middle of clearing out the coat closet. (How many mismatched gloves can one person have?!?)

My Oldest Younger Brother looks over my Facetimed shoulder and says, “Hey! There’s the Hat!” And goldarnit. There it was.

The Hat. Basically, the only one I wear. And not for “fashion”

It was easy to spot because not only is it large and furry and rather assertive and unmissable on a closet shelf, it’s pretty much the only hat I wear — being as how I only wear hats for function, not fashion.

Continue reading

And now for something completely different

Standard

‘Trying desperately to distract myself from thinking of tomorrow’s (gulp) shot’

Last week I promised to come up with something fun today, in spite of the fact that it is Injection Eve. (For those of you who didn’t read last week’s post, here it is, but basically it’s me whining about having to get a steroid shot to help me deal with herniated discs. To say that I am “nervous” would be like saying Trump is “unpleasant.”)

“Please fill out one form per body part” Um, okay

Other than filling out forms and sweating bullets, there’s nothing more to be done to prepare myself for this procedure. So I’m just going to try to distract myself by thinking of nice and/or silly things. Like being at my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration last year, which was both silly and nice.

Two of my very favorite women: my Mom and my Personal Child

Speaking of nice things to think about, just try not to smile and/or “awwww” over these little guys. (Yes, I made those sweaters. And already posted pictures of them. But now you can see how much better they look with cute babies filling them out.)

Continue reading

As my Favorite Sister says, “The only way I’m leaving this place is toes up!”

Standard

‘Only she doesn’t say “toes”‘

I’m really sorry I didn’t do a post yesterday. (This apology is for those of you who count on and eagerly await my Tuesday missives. Bless you.) But I have a good excuse.

Where I am resting in the photo at the top of this post: our new “Eames Chair.” It’s a reproduction; so sue me. Have you priced the real ones?

Yesterday the guys from Big John’s Moving came to move our old-apartment stuff that’s too big to fit into the Ken and Barbie House. (Which is pretty much everything we own that hadn’t already been “disposed of” by the stagers — see ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ for tales of staging woe.)

Ready for you, Mover Guys! The tip of the iceberg, box wise

Three intrepid (but, oddly, not really very big) guys showed up promptly at nine. Then packed, trundled, dollied, and hoisted unwieldy furniture and sundry boxes all morning then drove the load out to Amagansett.

Continue reading

“Can’t we just pretend we’re dating?”

Standard

‘There is such a thing as being too comfortable’

I was glancing through my notes looking for something fun to write about this week—yes, I keep a list of things that might go into a blog post, a practice The Child finds, for some inexplicable reason, hilarious—when I came upon this fragment: “The lady who’d take her teeth out to scare us.”

Now who would want to scare a cute little girl like this one?

See, when we were very little–little enough that a woman pushing her false teeth halfway out of her mouth would scare the bejesus out of us—we were allowed, nay encouraged, to run around our neighborhood. We respected no boundaries, rampaging across front and back yards with impunity. Apparently, this one Neighbor Lady didn’t cotton to us free-ranging around her magnolia trees (we would use the buds as ammo in our “wars”) so she used her partial plate as ammo against us.

Continue reading

“I’m the Sheik of Araby”

Standard

‘Everybody sing: “with no pants on”

So my Mom and I were on the phone the other day and I happened to mention that while The Child and her BF were playing some card game she (The Child) kept singing “Do your ears hang low” with (intentionally, I gather) the wrong lyrics. As in “Do your ears hang low…do they dangle on the floor” and so on and so forth.

But, instead of driving him quaran-crazy, she just got that song stuck in her head.

So then Mom and I started talking about those songs she’d sing when we were little and how they would get stuck in our heads: “Ay yai yai yai…O, My Sombrero” was one, and so was “On Top of Spaghetti.” (Ask your mom; she’ll probably know these too. Just don’t ask her to sing them — they’ll get stuck in your head.)

Then Mom happened to mention “The Sheik of Araby, ” which is the one where you insert “with no pants on” after every line, comme ca: “I’m the Sheik of Araby (with no pants on)…at night when you’re asleep (with no pants on)…into your tent I’ll creep (with no pants on)”

Continue reading