“I can’t believe I read the whole thing.”

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‘Literary taste: The Food Theory of Books’

I’ve actually written about this before — how books are like food. Check out my fifth-ever post from (gasp) 2014. I called it “Tolstoy is So Tasty,” because, like beets, I didn’t know how delicious War and Peace would be until I actually tried it.

It’s no War and Peace, but this book was also waaaay more delicious than you’d think (!)

But tonight I am going to an event featuring Andre Soltner, he of the late lamented Lutece fame, and I got to thinking about this whole topic — how reading is a lot like eating — and decided to give it another go. (Also, it’s the Christmas season, and though I do very little decorating — see “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly” — and send absolutely no cards, I have been holiday-busy, mainly going to a lot of holiday-themed events. Which involves little work other than dressing up, but does make me blog-lazy, to say the least.)

Holiday Decorating, Ken & Barbie House style

So. In “Tolstoy is So Tasty”, I explain how some books are like a good dinner: satisfying, filling, memorable. As a bonus, they inspire conversation.

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The birthdays just fly on by

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‘What happened to “You sure don’t look it!”?’

I’ve whined (er, written) about birthdays before. (Thank you, Loyal Readers, for your patience with my elderly musings: “Sixteen Candles. Plus Another Sixteen. Or So.” “All Saints’ (Birth)Day.” ¬†“Skirting the Issue.” There are way too many — kind of like the number of candles on my cake.)

A scene from one of many random birthday celebrations. I believe this one was not actually mine — I was just trying on the tiara for size

I’m actually grateful for reaching the astounding age that I have reached — especially when I consider the alternative. One of our friends, even older than I, has a motto: “Every day above ground is a good day,” with which I heartily concur.

Having a very nice time above ground with a tiara and a glam group

Last year I celebrated a Landmark Birthday — seventy, it was, for heaven’s sakes — with a fancy party and all the glam trimmings. I was riding high on birthday glory when — about a week later, it felt like — I turned seventy-one.

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Tawking the Tawk

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‘”New York” as a second language’

I once worked with a fabulous art director named Jayne. (Hi, Jayne!) She was — and probably still is — not only visually talented, but verbally funny.

I forget now where she grew up, but she was living in New Jersey when we were working together and she was concerned that her daughter was picking up the accent.

“Mommy, Mommy,” the Little Cherub cried while playing on their outdoor deck. “I have a splintah!” It says something about Jayne’s devotion to good diction that she corrected her daughter’s pronunciation before extracting the “splin-ter.

My boss Harvey, the master of New Yorkese. Read about him in the ever-popular and hilarious “Harvey and the Grilled Half Goat Head”

Speaking of accents, you may have a good idea of what a New York accent sounds like even if you’ve never spent time here in the City. (Note: New Yorkers never refer to their town as the Big Apple; it is “the City.” But, yes, some do refer to it as “New Yawk.”)

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Hands on clocks, hands on hips

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‘All right; assume the position’

Until that glorious day when I get some of my own (hint hint hint, O Child), I borrow my bro-in-law’s grandchildren.

He has three; all extremely adorable girls. This Memorial Day was the tenth anniversary (gulp!) of their coming to Amagansett for an action-packed visit.

Since they’re not my grandchildren, I won’t show the little girls’ faces. But, as you can see, they have pretty adorable backs. And their Grampa, seen giving them fond good-bye hugs, is pretty cute too

While hanging out on the deck one morning perusing the paper, my also extremely-adorable (and extremely perceptive) niece-in-law pointed something out to me.

Watch faces in ads always have the time set to 10:08. Sometimes 10:09 or 10:11. But always thereabouts — she told me

I’m ashamed to say that I’d never noticed this. Have you? Extremely perceptive N-I-L had a few theories about why this is so. 10:10, she said, whether it’s AM or PM is a kind of hopeful, nonstressful time. You’re not rushing to work or school or hurrying to get dinner on.

Here’s another, from a magazine this time. Note uplifting, positive hand position

Of course Dude Man had his own theory. “They do it that way so the hands don’t cover up the name of the watch,” he pointed out in his oh-so-practical way. “Okay,” countered N-I-L, “then why don’t they use 7:20?”

She was still thinking about this on their way home. As for 3:10, I told her I thought that was a very discouraging time: too late for coffee and too early for cocktails

Thinking about the position of hands sparked another thought of mine. “Stand up and put your hands on your hips,” I said to her.

Dude Man standing with hands on hips. Notice anything different from the photo of me doing the same thing at the top of this post?

“What?!”

“Go on,” I encouraged. “Don’t think about it. Just stand up and put your hands on your hips.”

So she did, and her pose looked pretty much like mine up there at the top of this story. Except that she is oodles younger and prettier.

I don’t have a photo of Bill doing this, but here’s another one of The Dude demonstrating what I mean

See, Whitmores always put their hands sort of backwards on their hips. To demonstrate, I got her husband (Dude Man’s nephew and son of bro-in-law Bill, the Grampa of the adorable girls) to do it too. Yup. Same deal.

Here’s the first person I noticed doing this: Grampa Whit, the father of Grampa Bill. And yes, that’s The Child frolicking in the surf with him

It’s kind of like that Asparagus Pee Thing. Or that Rolling Your Tongue Thing. Hereditary. Go ahead; try it. Are you a Frontwards or a Backwards?

There’s my dad, far right in the back row, demonstrating the Frontwards. Henrys are all Frontwards. Note one of my cousins, Frontwards in the front row, striped shirt

Once I started searching, I found tons of photographic evidence of both Frontwards and Backwards — and of how consistently people did one or the other.

Honestly, I couldn’t find anybody who switched around — or at least any pictures as proof that they did. The best I could do was to find some people (like me at the top of this post) who sometimes mixed things up by balling their fists in Frontwards position, a pose I like to think shows determination and power.

Here’s The Child, showing her Whitmoreness in a crowd of Petersons and Henrys

And here she is again, demonstrating that you don’t grow out of your hands-on-hips position

I could go on and on. But I have to get my act together to drive back to the Very Hot City, where I have places to go and people to see. You can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on where everybody puts their hands.

Sometimes it’s fun to put your hands on somebody else’s hips (!)

Amagansett, New York. May 2022

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

 

 

S’No Problem

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‘Is it a Snow Day if there is nothing to cancel?’

Gosh. It’s already after 4pm on Tuesday. And it’s either write this post or go clean grout. So sue me if it’s not up there with “The Time I Had a Blind Date with an Eye Doctor,” “Sex is Like Santa,” or even “Radio Days.”

Here goes.

When I was a freshman in college, my Middle Younger Brother gave me a record album for Christmas. It was Moondance by Van Morrison. It was the coolest album I owned. Also the only album I owned.

I remember that I used to kid around and say things like, “Want to go back to my place and play record?” You know. Singular. “Record,” not “records.” Then, when the target of my jest looked puzzled, I would admit that I didn’t own anything to play it on anyway. So ha-ha. Big joke.

Me, having fun in my freshman dorm not listening to my record

I was thinking about that again today while I was looking out on the vast sea of snow surrounding my house here in Amagansett. There’s no much snow here — we got over two feet, honest — that everything’s cancelled. For everyone who has things to cancel, that is.

Lots of snow. LIke muffin-tops of snow

But is it a Snow Day if you don’t have anything to cancel? It kind of takes the fun out of getting outside and making first tracks — like I did on Sunday, filling my boots with snow in the process — when you’re not doing it instead of Something Important That Was Scheduled. Like school. Or work. Or a colonoscopy. Continue reading

How to make friends and influence people

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‘On connecting. And Random Acts of Friendship’

My Mom often says that the way to make a friend is to be one. She ought to know; she’s moved many times in her life — to different houses, different towns, different states. And made new friends in each and every place.

She’s moving again, in fact, this very week. To an apartment in a complex that caters to “seniors.” I hate that word, but I honestly can’t think of a more attractive alternative. Besides, I’m a “senior” too. I often tell Mom that I’m catching up to her — she’s a mere 22 years older — and that if I weren’t her daughter we could still hang out as you know, friends.

Sometimes people mistake my Mom and me for sisters. She gets a kick out of this

I’m not worried about Mom making new friends. She’s got it down. The other thing she said was that when she moved to a new place she would immediately join the church and the bridge club. Instant friends. I’m not a church-joiner, but I certainly did make a batch of new buddies when I started playing bridge a few years ago.

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The tunnel at the end of the light

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‘I’ve changed my mind about Swedish Death Cleaning’

The Peterson half of me is very put out with the Henry half — blaming those French forbears for allowing drawers to fill, shelves to overpopulate and closets to clutter up.

Why, it must have been the Henry side of my brain that foolishly ignored the call of Swedish Death Cleaning back in 2018 when this book came out:

Premise: Get rid of your stuff now so your kids don’t have to deal with it after you’re dead. Suffice it to say that it is not a comic memoir

I even wrote a piece pooh-poohing this phenomenon, called “Out with the Old Year, but not out with the Old Stuff. Yet.”

Oh, silly silly me.

Those of you who read my stuff regularly — bless you — know that we’re downsizing, and that I’ve had two sweeps of movers come to remove things from the Old Apartment. The first time was when all my most beloved belongings got purged by the Stagers. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for heart-breaking details.)

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Yes, we have no bananas

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‘I’m thinkin’ bananas just wanna be bread’

A couple of weeks ago I chauffeured The Child up to the Big Ferry at Orient Point so that she could catch the train back to Boston. (You may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck” that not only can The Child drive now, she drives an F350. But it’s not a stick, and both our cars — the “new” ’98 Toyota 4Runner, and the old ’91Honda wagon — require stick-shifting skills.)

The Child and her BF pose in front of their new home. Yes, that’s a honkin’ big truck — but it’s not a stick

Anyway. The drive up to the Big Ferry is a pretty one (you ride on two little Shelter Island ferries on the way) but it does eat up a good chunk of time — it’s an hour and a half each way. To stave off starvation, I tossed a banana on the back seat.

Well. What with feeling sort of Mom-sad about bidding my one and only Child good-bye, I never did feel peckish. So when I got home I reached around to retrieve the unneeded, uneaten banana. But, instead of it being at its beginning-of-the-trip peak of tasty ripeness, now — just three hours later — it was looking rather, well, brown and bedraggled.

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